My Writing Year – 2019

 

A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firm believer that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.

Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.

 

 

I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.

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Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.

During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.

The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.

Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for the IASD horror anthology Depths of Darkness.

To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.

I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superb Connections eMag produced by fellow author, Melanie P. Smith.

 

 

 

I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.

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My Series’ are boxed off

 

How to attract more readers and give them a reward—that was my quest.

I have individual novels, a trilogy, and a five-part novel. My poetry titles come in the form of a bumper book of serial poetry, my five-part, multi-genre series and, of course, a collection of rhyming erotica.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

Erotica, not usually mentioned on this blog—apart from poetry I have several novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of novellas.

I was looking at an opportunity hidden in plain sight—box sets.

I could offer a series at a cut-price. Yes, it would mean I lose a small amount in royalties from the individual book sales, but providing entertainment to a greater readership is more important to me than the money—which of course would be the spin-off; I know. 😀

Four questions came to mind.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How many people are keen to have a series available in one download?

How many people will take the opportunity of saving about 15-20% on the overall price?

How many of my series should I prepare as box sets?

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How hard would it be to create them, and how long would it take?

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The good news is, the graphics in this post are not simply for show. The first part of the job is done—four box sets completed, although while working on the project it felt like forty. Amendments to front and back matter was tedious, but worthwhile.

In each case, there is at least a free book when comparing prices to individual purchases.

These box sets are available on Kindle Unlimited.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

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I have no intention of going along the audio route so it will be interesting to see if this idea works.

Things got off to a good start with the erotica—a box set sold within three hours of publication.

I’ll write a post giving any useful information if the idea takes off, and in which area/genre.

A Life of Choice is available as five individual eBooks, a box set of five, and as a paperback trilogy.

If you’re new to my brand, all of my eBook titles are available on Kindle Unlimited.

In my meantime, I’ll be happy to accept question, comments and suggestions.

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My Shorts are Expanding

It’s now five years since my first collection of multi-genre short stories and two years since my most recent. Don’t repeat it too loud, but I also have erotic shorts. Now, armed with such random anniversaries, and a host of new ideas, I’m well on the way to releasing my next anthology.

 

What can be expected in One Man, Two Missions and other stories?

The use of firearms features prominently, and there will be more than one tale about hostage taking, but of course, those incidents don’t always end well for the kidnappers.

Police officers, special operatives, and soldiers of fortune make appearances with some strange outcomes.

For good measure, I’ve slipped in a sci-fi tale, only because it fits the general theme. There will be no steamy romance, erotica or humour.

When will the new anthology be published?

My target date is 6th July 2019.

As I tend to do with these stories, I will work on them, rest them, edit and rework until I’m content, and then they’ll be farmed out to a few beta readers for opinions and suggestions. A couple of the tales have been in my files for three or four years, but have undergone massive makeovers.

Reasons I’ve been drawn back to short stories are that I thrive on variety, and it’s good to break away from spending too long on the same project.

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My priority and biggest WIP is my next thriller, Codename: Nightshade, which is coming along but to ensure it has an original feel I have reached the point where I have to leave it aside often. When using characters from a successful trilogy it’s essential to avoid the trap of reusing previous scenarios to create a credible standalone.

I would like to publish this thriller by the end of 2019, but it must be ready.

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What have I got in store with the new anthology?

1. One Man, Two Missions – a tale of terrorism, and counter-terrorism

2. Hunter – a young gamekeeper is repaid for his devotion

3. A Fair Cop – the law works in mysterious ways

4. Target Practise – assassins should avoid role reversal

5. The Meeting – karma, it just comes around

6. Taken for a Ride – do your homework before kidnapping

7. Dealing with Conflict – a run leads to a run-in

8. Changing Tides –  when all around is darkness …

9. The Hostage – impulsive decisions can be fatal

10. Finger of Suspicion – the small things matter

11. The Beginning of the End – how far would you go for science?

12. Escape – you must know when to get out

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Why have these books taken so long to reach this point?

Over the past two years, I’ve been working on something special which I’ll blog about before the end of the year. The secret project has caused me to sideline several other things, but in my opinion, this serves to maintain a freshness to all of my work.

In the meantime, thank you for your visit, and your patience.

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No more sex for a while

 

For a few years, I’ve conducted mini-experiments, and ‘surveys’ if you like. Nothing extensive which would include other authors or their work, simply a record of how my output is doing. Among my tinkering, I’ve changed formatting, book covers, and tried genre to see if I was capable of writing whatever it might be.

I’ve had positive feedback on the latest poetry covers, and the erotica covers—in particular how I’ve sub-branded them in colour for an anthology, novella, or novel.

I started my creative writing with poetry, moved on to short stories, and then novels. Since mid-2014 I’ve dedicated some of my writing time to erotica. I got underway with a novel and a single collection of erotic short stories, so I never expected much success—the market is flooded with 25-page, and 40-page ‘books’. I’ve seen book ‘bundles’ which in their entirety amount to about 100 pages.

Why am I stressing the erotica output when I removed it from this blog over a year ago?

Using the six-month period from September 2018—February 2019, I started my latest check on how things are shaping up for my books. When I include KENP (the page reads recorded on Amazon), and the sales, I’ve found that the popularity of my genres in descending order is: 

Erotica, Military, Thriller, Romance, Short Story Anthologies, and finally Poetry Anthologies.

When I’ve dug a little deeper I’ve found that the KENP brings me in three times as much money as outright sales of any of my work. KENP related to my erotica titles brings in more than half of all the money I earn on Amazon.

This tells me that although erotica receives the fewest public reviews overall, it earns the most money, and it’s from people who don’t want to buy books—they want to borrow them. They don’t want anybody to know … so they borrow, read, and get rid.

Having said all of the above, my next erotica title is Woman to Woman, a prequel to Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica—my most popular book in the genre. When the next erotica title has been published, I’ll be giving the sex angle a rest and concentrating on my mainstream writing.

Why do I intend to stop erotica when I have successful titles?

I’m not in the writing game for the money—if I was, I’d set higher prices. 🙂

I do have another experiment underway but to get accurate results I’ll need another couple of months. I will report my findings later, whether good or bad.

And there you have it—if you are using Kindle Unlimited and enjoying my erotica (which like all of my books is on KU), you’re in good company.

Don’t be bashful … leave a review.

Until next time, thank you for dropping by.

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P.S. If you haven’t been over for a look at my other blog:

https://tombensonerotica.wordpress.com

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One step beyond … Beyond The Law

 

Originality is relatively easy when an author is working on a single title. When the title/premise goes to a second, third or more, the idea must be examined closely to see how far it can be taken without repetition.

Certain sub-genres can run for several books and if the author is careful and inventive the fictional world will remain exciting to the reader. This must be paramount in the mindset of the creator of the work. Reader satisfaction is everything.

Beyond The Law: Formation was published in 2013, Beyond The Law: Retribution in 2015, and Beyond The Law: Consequences in 2017. In terms of timing, I’d be on target now to produce the next if it were an ongoing series.

I have no worries about a continuing story, but I enjoy stretching my writing creativity in different directions, which is why I ended the Beyond The Law (BTL) idea and proclaimed it a trilogy.

As a reader and a writer, certain characters lend themselves to the spotlight and become favourites. For me as an author, one such character is Rachel Donoghue. When the BTL trilogy ended, the door was left open for several characters to make another appearance. Rachel was crying out to be given a standalone adventure. From this premise was born Codename: NightshadeRachel’s antics will provide continuity, closure in certain areas, and further entertainment for those who have enjoyed the BTL trilogy.

As a precursor and to get me in the right frame of mind I recently reread and made several edits to each book of the BTL trilogy. Plot and detail were not affected, but some dialogue and narrative were tightened to improve the reading experience.

In the new story, a few names from the past from both sides of the law will show up, combined with new good guys, and new bad guys. This will not be a fourth BTL story, but by its nature, it will lean in that direction. The key aspect of the tale for me is to highlight an individual character.

The first five chapters of Codename: Nightshade all appear in my Work in Progress menu. They’re not the finished article, but they give a flavour of how this individual character will demonstrate her skills and how much promise she has as a central protagonist. As an author, I’m thoroughly enjoying expanding my notes and ideas, many of which have been made over the past year. For me, Rachel is already real, and out there doing her best … to the worst.

I aim to produce the book in June 2019, which means that by May I hope to be asking for beta readers to help refine the tale.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and in particular, thank you to the followers of the BTL story. I have to go now … gangsters, guns and a girl are waiting for me. 🙂

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Amsterdam Calling – with options

There is no excuse for not reading certain books and Amsterdam Calling is now included in that ‘certain’ category. It matters not if you use a smartphone, eReader, computer screen or prefer to handle a physical book — the options are all there. If you have a Kinde eReader you can even read the book for free on Kindle Unlimited.

As the author it’s not for me to say whether it’s a good story, but here is the selection of review excerpts I’ve included on the back cover. I’m delighted to say that the reviews are by three exceptional authors: Lesley Hayes, Patrick Christopher Power, and Barbara Fagan Speake.

Research in Amsterdam

The seed was sown by my distant friend and fellow author, Carmen Lopez. She suggested my knowledge of Amsterdam and its many attractions would lend itself to a good story. In the latter part of 2012, the first notes were made, hundreds of photographs perused and a simple plot devised. A few weeks later I had the makings of a thriller, but as an author will tell you, strong characters have a way of messing with your head; and your story idea.

By the spring of 2013, my tale was a romance with thriller undertones, so thanks for that, Dan and Crystal, (the main characters).

The final version took a year of rewrites, double-checking of facts, emails to businesses and reaching up to pull out hair that was no longer there. Amsterdam Calling was no longer one of several optional title ideas and a hard-fought manuscript. By the summer of 2014, it was an eBook.

This year, having revised all of my books at least twice I was prepared to do so again, starting with Amsterdam Calling. After all, the paperback version was going to be more expensive and I wanted them to look professional in every respect. My aim was to deal with formatting so I purchased the Vellum program. I asked Aimee Coveney a professional cover designer to deal with the solution for the exterior of the paperback. I gave myself a target of four weeks for completion, and that was how long it took.

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It was halfway through my final year at school, in May of 1966, the Beatles released what was to become one of my favourite tracks – Paperback Writer. I recall there was a big football tournament on TV at the time, but it took second place to my loves of music and reading. It would take a little over fifty years before I fulfilled my dream and published a paperback.

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My creative writing commenced in earnest in 2007, so I spent ten years working at my craft and only publishing eBooks. For the past two years I’ve suggested I’d get into paperback versions of my books, but each time I’ve started work on the project it’s been postponed to write more stories.

To see this story in paperback is a thrill, and sales are being made which is heartwarming, but unlike many authors, I have something else which will give me a buzz. In the summer I’ll be heading to Amsterdam, so I’ll be taking a few copies of the book; gifts for people who gave me permission to use their enterprises in the story.

I’ll leave you with useful links in case you’re one of those yet to find a comfortable way to read this story:

Amazon Preview/Buy      Amazon Paperback      BookLinker Global

You’ll notice in the graphic of the paperbacks, I finally have the excuse to make bookmarks. They’re double-sided and laminated, which means anybody who uses one won’t forget what I write and where to find my books.

As always, thank you for reading my post, and those of you who do; my books.

Happy New Writing Year – 2018

 

I’d like to start this new year by celebrating ‘firsts’.

This is the first month of 2018, and the start of my first full year of retirement. I’ve had a few weeks practice to get accustomed to the idea. To celebrate, I’ve reduced the price of all of my ‘first‘ in series to a mere 99p (or equivalent), and it’s an ongoing promotion.

Click on graphic to go to my website

 

What are my main targets for the writing year ahead?

– I have novels underway and intend to publish them this year.

– I aim to resurrect pages of notes and compile another anthology of short stories.

Czech Mate – a thriller set in Scotland and the Czech Republic.

Codename: Nightshade – a spinoff from my successful Beyond The Law trilogy.

One Man: Two Missions, and other stories – a collection of short stories and flash fiction.

What could be better than two more novels and another anthology?

I also intend to produce:

Curious and Camping – an erotic novel.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories – a collection of 12 short stories.

The updates and details of these two titles appear on Tom Benson – Erotica.

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Apart from my titles:

–  I’ll be assisting my distant friend and fellow author Carmen Lopez to compile her second anthology. Carmen is the author of Alone: and other short stories

– More reading and reviewing will be in order.

– I will continue to work with the other members of the IASD to produce the next anthologies we’ve planned.

– This may be the year I finally tackle the idea of a paperback version of my titles. I have the first in mind, but I’ll keep the title under wraps until I’ve made progress — or I need help.

– I’ll continue to go out on my bike rides to do a lot of my thinking and planning. My choice of ride affects my thought process, but more of that in a later post.

– I’ll also be drawing and painting, which are wonderful pursuits to allow ideas to develop.

– This year I will try my latest hobby – baking. What has that got to do with writing, you might ask. It depends on the results, but at present, I’m hoping that like cycling, it will allow my mind to wander. I can’t promise to publish pictures of my early failures, but I will no doubt let you see my successes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

May the new year be as good to you as you wish.

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My Writing Year – 2017

 

I’m exhausted, but content as we are teased to the end of the writing year.

Completed in 2017

In many ways, this has been a productive and enjoyable year. My writing aims were achieved with the exception of two areas.

– I placed a variety of my titles on Kobo for four months and saw nil return for my efforts.

– I postponed tackling paperback to allow more time for producing my target titles.

What were my reading and writing achievements?

– I read thirty books – twenty of which, were by IASD authors.

– I published all seven titles which I had either in progress or intended for this year.

– I created the early stages of Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller which is a spinoff from the Beyond The Law trilogy.

The ‘Tom Benson – Author’ catalogue at end of 2017

 

– In March, I separated my erotica titles from this blog and set up Tom Benson – Erotica

– In July, my study received a makeover, and I got an early birthday pressie – a Mac.

More views available on slideshow to top right

– In September, our son, Andrew treated me to a four-day break in Prague, Czech Republic – to celebrate my retirement year. This spawned the idea for a new thriller — Czech Mate. Many photos were taken and pages of notes written in research.

 

 

 

 

– In the first week of November, I turned 65 and finally retired from regular work. Another celebration trip was made, and on this occasion, I went to Edinburgh, Scotland with my wife. While there I took photos, made more notes and walked miles in research for Czech Mate. The main character is from Edinburgh. 🙂

 

– As this year comes to a close I will cease to hand out my work for free. For over two years I’ve given away one, or a number of titles for a weekend each month. How much impact the venture has had on my sales is unclear, but somewhere along the way I’ve had reviews from folk generous enough to give their time. My freebies were worthwhile for that if nothing else.

 

– When December got underway I dropped the price of A Life of Choice: Part One. Now that the series is complete and there are a few sales, I thought it might stimulate interest if the first volume in the series was only 99p (and equivalents).

 

– During December, my Highland Games erotica novellas are available at 99p each. If you haven’t ventured into reading this genre, you know what they say — don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 😀

 

 

 

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– Throughout the year I was proud to be a part of, and play my part in the Admin of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group. For me, this involved assisting in the maintenance of the group website, and the updating of the monthly Featured Author.

– During 2017, I continued as mentor for my distant friend, Carmen, to help produce her first collection, Alone: and other short stories. The stunning cover was designed by Carmen’s partner, Bryce. I supplied three of my stories to support this debut title.

Carmen was my key resource and support during the writing of Ten Days in Panama. She is also one of the guest authors in my collection, The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What lies ahead for my new writing year?

All will be revealed in my first post of 2018, but suffice to say, I’m going to be busy.

I will take this opportunity to thank all who read my work, and those who make the effort to read my thoughts and check on my progress. I sincerely hope your old writing year has been good to you, and your new year will be better yet.

Tom

 

Czech Mate – early moves

 

Any creative writer who is honest will admit that it would be nice to make it big, but while we wait for a movie producer to call – we continue to work, honing our craft.

Blog posts made by our fraternity are wide-ranging. Depending on how things are going with the Work in Progress (WIP), it could be a post about how the previous book is selling (or not), ideas for the new one, a review on somebody’s book, or many other topics.

If it’s a promotion, it might be shouting about the latest idea, or trying to push it when the work is done, and it’s available. I thought it would make a change to talk about a new novel in those introductory stages of its life.

 

How did I come up with the idea for my latest?

This is the year I retire, and our son, Andrew, (who lives in Amsterdam), got in touch a few months ago and suggested that we had a father and son reunion to celebrate my special year. We’ve both seen a lot of Europe, although he’s seen more than me. I was delighted when he said Prague was our destination for a four-day stay. I decided I’d write a story using the Czech capital as a backdrop.

Within twenty-four hours (and an early morning cycle ride), I had considered romance or thriller and had a basic idea for my plot.

What came next?

It took less than two days before I had my working title, Czech Mate, and I began creating my main character, a Scottish artist called Bryce. As my morning cycle rides were conducted each day I considered locations, action sequences, other characters, and crucially who were the good guys and the bad guys.

I dedicate a notebook to each of my projects and this one was no different. When I went shopping with my wife, or we went somewhere for a day out, my Czech Mate notebook went too. I listed names, ages, nationalities, and a few personal details for each new character.

What about research?

Google is good, but, in mid-September I flew from the north of England to Prague in the Czech Republic, to meet Andrew, who had flown from Amsterdam.

Andrew is a keen photographer with an eye for detail, so when he was setting up his tripod, I had ample opportunity to take pictures, make notes, and gain a ‘feel’ for my surroundings.

To us, streets, restaurants, pubs, theatres, galleries, churches and regular tourist attractions are not simply places of interest, they are ‘subjects’, or ‘locations’. For four days we were both able to indulge in our chosen passions.

Prior to the trip, I spent hours reading up on the history of the Czech Republic and had several pages of notes on people, places, and political events.

How did I follow up my great trip?

Since my return, I’ve written four thousand words, invented a few action sequences, and worked out who is good, bad, or on the fence. A few locations will be in the UK which will help to balance the story.

What about character detail and development?

I’m presently filling out my characters’ details as I let the early part of the story rest. Each person will have a date of birth, a physical appearance, a profession, an allegiance, a background, and certain skills. No, not all detail will be brought into the story, but it’s important to create a rounded character in the author’s mind which helps to develop the character for their part.

When will the story be published?

I aim to have the basic storyline completed by end December 2017. Like all my projects, it will be printed and left aside for three weeks, or perhaps a month. During that time I’ll work on something else. There are three main projects in my stable at present which is healthy, because they will each be allowed at least three weeks between drafts.

At present, I’d like to see Czech Mate being published in the spring of 2018.

As always, thank you for taking an interest in my work and my words. All feedback is welcome.

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A Stage further …

 

Yes, I’m a happy man. I’m filled with a sense of achievement as I compose this post. This is not something about which I’d normally boast, but hey, it’s special.

As I reach this point in my life I have already put a sequence in place for my monthly freebies on Amazon.

It’s only three weeks until I give up my retail job, and one week later I’m officially retired. The act of retirement is a conclusion of sorts, and my other achievements are also conclusions in their own way.

Some time ago I suggested I’d try to write a sequel, which was done and then followed by a series. This of course refers to Beyond The Law, the trilogy.

I have over the years insterspersed my other other writing with a long-term project. My factual autobiography and military memoirs was fraught with issues when I first wrote it – apart from the standard of the writing.

Now, with reasonable writing experience and success, I’ve completed my five book series, A Life of Choice. The fifth book is not due publication until November, because I would like to use completion of the series to celebrate the 48th year since I signed up to join the British Army.

I tried my hand at erotica in short story format, moved on to novel, and following success with both, I recently completed a series of five novellas. Highland Games is the result.

My September give-away was the first in my Beyond The Law trilogy, and with three months to the end of the year, I’m giving away books with connections.

Over the next three months, on two occasions the weekend freebie will be the first in a series, and the remaining weekend freebie will be a pair of books which complement each other.

Military Matters is a book of poetry which contains 80 verses which reflect aspects of life in military uniform. This book will be accompanied by A Time for Courage: and other military stories. In an attempt to avoid any hitches they will be offered separately, but over the same few days.

At the end of this year I will be terminating my monthly, freebie weekend. If you haven’t yet sampled my work, this is a good time to try a variety for free.

As we come into the final three months of the year it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have three WIP. Two of the new stories are thrillers, Czech Mate, and  Codename: Nightshade. The third is erotica, Curious and Camping. All three books will be published in 2018.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words and taking an interest.

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