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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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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Rhyme & REASON – Now Available

 

The importance of the work in this collection could easily be overlooked, but I’ll say why later in the post. For now, I will tell you that most of the contents have never been published outside of a poetry site.

My first efforts at creative writing (where it would be seen), were with poetry in 2007. It took a few individual pieces to get the hang of it and then I felt the need to take things a stage further—the serial poem, or as some call it, ‘story’ poem.

Again, my early efforts were relatively short, at perhaps a series of two, three, or four poems, but I always aimed to have a logical introduction and a satisfactory ending. The stories got longer and the plots more intricate and in a short time, I was recognised as the ‘serial’ poet on the website. The acclaim I received must have gone to my head because the serial poems got longer.

Why do I suggest that the work in this collection is important?

Honey, my New York detective was born and raised in a poem series. Yes, the main character in the novel A Taste of Honey. The story may not be the same, but the idea and the general background supplied the idea of a young woman capable of deadly vengeance.

Anybody who has read my Beyond the Law trilogy will be acquainted with Hawk, the codename for the main character. The Hawk was an individual poem, but it was so well received I had to go on—for twenty-six poems.

Many of my short stories started life as a simple poem, long before they evolved into detailed stories within an anthology. Pawnee Express, and Anne: Illegal Alien both come to mind.

As I do with all of my writing, I aim to entertain, but with my poetry, I work hard to demonstrate that anybody can write poetry and on any topic. Many of the poems in this collection were written to meet a poetry challenge, like tackling a certain subject, and this to me was a crucial lesson–you don’t know until you try.

What can you expect to find in this anthology?

Romans, Cowboys and Indian, Medieval England, Fantasy, Terrorism, Thriller, Military, Sci-Fi and more. For those who’ve never read my poetry, I’ve included a selection of work from my genre-based poetry anthologies.

I know, I know—I’m holding you back from downloading the book.

If you’re curious, I’ve added three samples to the Rhyme & Reason sub-menu on this blog.

Amazon Preview/Buy

BookLinker – Universal

Thank you for reading.

Ten Days in … paperback … soon

 

A special place exists in my heart for this story for many reasons, but appropriately, it means a lot because it was my first attempt at romance.

I’ve spent a month working on the manuscript to convert it to a paperback. Fortunately, now that I’m retired, a month in writing terms doesn’t mean every odd hour I can squeeze in—it means an average eight-hour writing day; every day.

 

Why so long for a simple task?

Any author who has performed such a task will know the change from digital format to paper would normally be a case of rearranging the front and back matter. This story had already been subject to two makeovers since the original version in December 2013, but it needed a total overhaul.

The new version will have the same cover but with a revised strapline.

As in all aspects of life I felt I had evolved sufficiently as a writer to appreciate where I had got it right, and crucially—where I’d continued to get it wrong.

What’s different in the new edition?

My first pass was to print the manuscript and perform a brutal red-pen edit on hard copy.

Judging from many comments on Facebook and recent reviews, my style has changed, or as I like to think; improved.

a) I removed most of the dialogue tags and replaced them with character activity.

b) I amended the sexual scenes from what was bordering on ‘erotica’, and reduced it to ‘steamy romance’. For the most part, it is now closer to ‘romance’.

Suffice to say it’s been quite a journey. The characters continue to enjoy the story, but they’re subtle in what they tell the reader about their private moments together.

 

Okay, so why did I ‘reduce’ the level of sexual matter?

There were a number of reasons, but mainly, it didn’t belong. The story is a romance and not intended to perform the same role as strong erotica. As with a couple of my books I’ve been fortunate in hearing from readers privately, and more than one was concerned by explicit sex.

I enjoy writing in a wide variety of genre and just as I like to have guns, explosives and fights, I also like to write about tenderness, relationships and let’s face it—sex. 

My Tom Benson – Erotica site has now been up and running for a year, so if you’d like to see how I indulge my literary desire in that direction; take a look. The catalogue is growing steadily and the next erotic novel will be released in May 2018.

On the subject of releasing things, Ten Days in Panama (revised April 2018) is now available in eBook, and the paperback will be available within the month.

I’ve remained true to the original story with regard to character development and the plot.

It would be wrong not to say a public thank you to fellow author and distant friend, Carmen Lopez (author of Alone: and other short stories). We became acquainted through reviewing each other’s poetry on an international poetry site. I moved on into the world of short stories and novel writing, and Carmen performed the duties of being my first beta reader.

The inspiration for Ten Days in Panama evolved from learning about Carmen’s profession and where she lived. Indeed, the first cover for the book was designed by Carmen’s partner, Bryce.

For anybody who is now so excited that they can’t wait for the paperback, here are links to the digital version of Ten Days in Panama:

Amazon preview/buy                      BookLinker – Universal

Thank you as always to those who stop by.

Introducing – A Life of Choice

 

Part celebration of an anniversary, and part promotion of my longest running project.

It was 7th November 1969, on my 17th birthday, when I signed ‘on the dotted line’ and joined the British Army. On that momentous day 48 years ago I left the family home in Glasgow, Scotland. I took a train for my first journey to England. I wasn’t sure if I’d be gone for a week, a month, or a bit longer. As it turned out, it was a bit longer …

 

Not in my wildest dreams could I have envisaged the next stage of my life. Within the story are: violence, sex, alcoholism, humour, drugs, bullying, armed conflict and a lot more besides. Having since built a collection of books on modern warfare penned by the men and women who lived through it I have altered my tale of life in uniform in two ways.

First, I felt a greater freedom to expand on certain topics by making the work fact-based fiction.  I also wanted to focus on the humorous outlook of the average serving soldier and his progression – or lack of it. My view of soldiering is told through the eyes of a fictional character.

Secondly, I do not call this an autobiography; it is a five-part novel.

I have written a tale I’ve researched in considerable depth. The interesting ingredients are still there and in the same measure but with a more light-hearted view.

I sincerely hope it leaves a sense of intrigue and not frustration in the mind of the reader to ponder whether some events actually took place or are fictitious. The story is told from the point of view of a variety of ranks, and not all by a Private soldier, but if you choose to read this tale, you’ll see how I’ve achieved varying points of view.

 

If you should decide to take this journey I would ask that you read the books in sequence. Should you read my efforts please leave a review. My intention is to entertain and I’d like to know if I’ve achieved my aim.

 

The initial covers have been designed and produced by me. If you are not ex-military and you’re wondering what the three background colours indicate – they are the ‘Corps colours’ of the Royal Corps of Signals. There is a brief explanation within the story. I’ve used graphics and sub-titles appropriate to the stages of the journey.

Clickng on any cover takes you to the book’s individual page and the links to preview/buy. Clicking on the ‘series’ picture below will take you to the Anthologies page of my author website.

 

As 2017 draws to a close I am in touch with Aimee at Author Design Studio to arrange professionally-designed covers for the series. Next year I’ll be investigating the idea of producing the series in papaerback. There are many people who enjoy reading, but are not fans of eReading devices.

Many thanks for taking an interest in my work,

Tom

P.S. For those who like detail, the bio picture in this post was taken yesterday – 6th November 2017.

Shy and Retiring …

 

       A ‘fresh’ early morning – October 2017

Okay, so the ‘shy’ is no longer accurate, but ‘retiring’ will provide me with a renewed freedom. My second career (retail), has now ended and I’m a few days away from my 65th birthday. I’ve worked and paid my dues for fifty years, and I’m ready to chill-out.

What lies ahead?

I’ve listed a handful of projects to get me underway which includes a couple of days revisiting the various items in my garage, shed, and of course the attic. Apart from those small, ongoing jobs I’ve got a couple of major redecorating tasks lined up.

I’ll be continuing to draw and paint, but new hobbies on the horizon are baking and organising a vegetable patch. If the baking idea works out and I’m not totally useless I’m not worried about weight issues because I’ll also be continuing with my cycling. As recently as the weekend past I’ve ordered a new mountain bike to complement my racing bike. There are times when a writer who rides, needs to tangle with tough terrain.

In keeping with the purpose of this blog, this post is about my writing, but I’ve given an introduction to put recent followers in the picture about the person behind the titles.

I will no longer be going out to play my public part in the rat-race, but I believe my writing will be enriched by a more relaxed attitude to each day. When I stepped down from management a couple of years ago I felt a weight lifted, and my creative output rapidly increased in volume and quality.

Where will my writing go in the future?

I began with poetry and moved on to short stories before novels and novellas. My best work has been in the area of Thrillers and Romance, but I’ve also ventured into Sci-Fi and Erotica. Having attempted and realised the difficulties, I’ve left behind the option of writing for children – which is a very specialised craft. I believe we should all be aware of our limitations as well as our abilities.

I’m considering attempts at Horror, Paranormal, or Fantasy, but I’ll be leaving them until early next year, by which time my three present WIPs will be at an advanced stage.

 

How will I tackle such things as new genre?

Personally, I find an early morning, long, solo cycle ride an ideal environment to let the mind wander. While getting dressed I listen to appropriate classical music, and as I set off on my ride I consider the genre on which I want to focus. I’ll report back as and when I have new ideas developing.

 

 

What else is in the pipeline?

I’ve created many of my own covers, but used a designer for the thrillers and romance novels. I’ve been in touch with my cover designer and as we reach the new year I hope to have professional covers to support my fact-based fiction series, A Life of Choice.

What about paperback versions of my books?

This is an idea I’ve toyed with over the past two years, but I’m cautious.

It is a time-consuming task, and from all I’ve heard, the pricing is too high and not competitive. Yes, it would be nice to have my work in a physical format, but I’d prefer to be producing stories.

What’s in the mix for the near future?

To celebrate 48 years since I signed up to serve ‘Queen and Country’, there is a military theme to my final freebies. I will then end the monthly giveaways. As a thank you for all who read this post, there follows a couple of dates for your diary.

What else is cooking?

I’ve no doubt a few of you who have read my work will have smiled at the thought of me baking. At the present time I have no intentions of creating a new blog based on my new hobby, but for amusement I might slip in the odd photo of my efforts – successes and failures, although I hope to have many more of the former.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and intentions. All comments are welcome.

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My Study – 2017

When the present year became a reality so too did several personal targets. As I tend to do, I had my year planner created, complete with weekends highlighted. A crucial difference to any other year was the month of October, when I’d retire from regular work.

I had considered changing from my PC to a Mac. As with all things I’d heard the positives and negatives for both systems which meant I had a lot of research to do before making such a big leap. Whatever I decided would affect my writing production.

It was my wife, Olive who suggested I should treat myself to a new look for my study. On several occasions after the idea was put to me, while working on a project I’d stop typing and stare at the wall in front of me.

We agreed it was affordable and settled on June as the month to do the makeover. I made a twenty-point plan and gave myself provisional dates for the individual phases. I’d be hoping to keep up with my writing with the exception of perhaps a couple of key days, like when the room was empty for redecoration, and assembling new furniture.

Yes, within the red boxes and behind the white doors is organisation.

Now in the first week of July the main task is completed. In the near future I’ll add a potted plant or two, but I’m now ready to learn how to use my Mac – and I’m eager to be writing again.

January 2017 saw minor adjustments …

I took a few ‘before’ pictures and ‘after’ pictures but I believe it only needs one to demonstrate that the effort to make the changes was worthwhile.

June 2017 saw a major makeover …

Until I sat here with my Mac at my new, larger desk in the centre of the room I didn’t realise how trapped I must have felt previously.

 

 

 

The stage is set to get back to work, so what lies ahead in my personal targets for the year?
I have the final edits to perform on Highland games – 4 before publication. By the end of this year I propose to publish Highland Games – 5 and A Life of Choice: Part Five, and both books are at an advanced stage.

 

 

My next novel is underway and will continue to be developed over the coming months. However automated, updated and organised my desk feels, I enjoy the comfort of a notice board which keeps me in control.

As always, I thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, and for any comments or feedback you may leave.

 

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Kindle, or Kobo?

The aim of this piece is to look at the two systems as a writer, and not a reader.

Why?

When it comes to eReaders there is a wide choice, and the prices reflect that choice.

As a writer, I first published with Smashwords, but apart from learning a lot about formatting, and how difficult it was to be paid for my sales … well, let’s not go there.

I moved on to Amazon and tried the KDP route. It took an hour to read the Terms and Conditions, but at least I knew where I stood by the time it came to ticking, or un-ticking little boxes.

Sales were reported, and hey, I was paid regularly. I continued to publish my work through Amazon, and when it was offered, I ventured into the KDP Select programme to gain from the many benefits offered … yeah, whatever.

Having spent many months with Amazon, I published three titles with Kobo, believing that with the big advertising campaign in the UK, it had to be a winner. Perhaps I was the only person in the country seeing the ads, or my work didn’t appeal to anybody with a Kobo.

Three months later I dropped my titles and put all my eggs in the Amazon basket, and topped off the basket by also placing them on the KDP Select listing.

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Three years have passed, and I’ve commenced building a portfolio with Kobo. If you’re familiar with KDP Select you will know there is a 90-day exclusivity clause involved. All of my titles were ‘locked-in’, but now as they are available I am publishing in both Amazon and Kobo, but not in any of the select programmes.

What has changed?

Kobo has improved, having ironed out many of the issues which existed three years ago, and now I find myself with twenty-plus titles, many of which sell regularly. I’m confident in my work, and I’m giving Kobo a six-month trial with a selection of my titles. Later in this post I’ll explain which are being left out of the equation, and why.

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If you’re a writer and you didn’t already know, Kindle and Kobo both have an exclusive loyalty programme to which you can assign your titles.

Kindle has the KDP Select:

1 – Earn higher royalties from *Kindle Unlimited and *Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, plus 70% royalties when your titles are bought in a handful of selected countries.

*Both programmes are subscription based for those who are reading the books.

2 – Use of two promotional tools (Kindle Countdown, or Free Book).

Kobo Writing Life has the Kobo Plus programme.

Kobo Plus equates roughly to KDP Select, in that the author is paid if a title is borrowed by a subscriber to the programme.

On the author side of Kobo I’ve found plenty of services. The distribution for Kobo published material is wider across the globe without having to enter into any ‘exclusive’ programme.

Kobo appears to concentrate the ‘loyalty/reward’ aspect of the business on the readers, which is fine, because those of us who write and self-publish are (or should be) readers.

If you should know differently on any of the aforementioned, please let me know.

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Tom Benson – Amazon Author Page              Tom Benson on Kobo

I’m watching closely for the first month as I select and publish titles with Kobo, and if I see sales, I’ll add more titles. When I have most of my titles in both camps, I’ll monitor sales until end October 2017.

I will not be publishing my erotica titles with Kobo due to their strict guidelines, and I’d prefer not to get into a legal tangle because I disagreed with their opinion of what is, or isn’t erotica.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting.

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Beyond The Law – The Trilogy

The trilogy is completed with the publication of Beyond The Law: Consequences.

My character Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, was born in an experimental poem in July 2008. Due partly to the nature of the writer’s craft and to the evolution of a story it has taken until now to complete this trilogy of novels.

Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216The first book Beyond The Law: Formation (originally titled Beyond The Law), was intended as a standalone when published in 2013, but as I received feedback it was plain to see I should develop the idea and the characters.

In the second story, Beyond The Law: Retribution, in order to maintain balance and credibility I took the story beyond the streets of Glasgow, and introduced more characters on both sides of the fence which separates good from evil. I continued with the aspects of the original story which had appealed to many readers.BTL Retribution

It will come as no surprise, to bring a successful story to a close is a difficult decision, and no less difficult than how it should be done. I spent many hours considering how to further develop characters and what might become of them in a final story.

As an avid reader I am aware of the empathy felt for the heroes in a story, and in particular an ongoing story. Who should die? Who should live? How will the survivors if any move on?

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesUntil I read feedback on Beyond The Law: Consequences I will suffer a long wait.

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Sincere thanks goes out to Anne Francis Scott and Sarah Stuart who performed the task of beta reader for me, and gave me plenty of useful, insightful feedback. Every point highlighted and each recommendation was appreciated. My intention was to accredit these two fine authors in the front pages, but as many writers will be aware, the ‘cross-contamination’ of author names in Amazon can be lethal to all concerned.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio who designed all three covers for this trilogy. In each case Aimee provided a variety of solutions based on my brief. We worked together as she took my initial vision to what have now become established and successful covers.

Aimee is now a member of the team at a new venture called Bookollective.

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As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my post. Now, how far have you reached in the BTL story? If you do take the journey, please consider leaving a review.

Tom

Reading, Writing, and Rhythm; Tick

BTL 3 Cast and Plans

I’m making headway with my ten writing aims for this year.

Reading

I’ve read and reviewed six titles from IASD authors since 1st January. On the flip side, I’ve read and not reviewed three titles, but I’d prefer not to get into my reasons right now. I’ve also started and not attempted to continue reading three other titles.Tom's Kindle

On Beta reading, I’ve performed the task for three authors, and was gratified to be told some of my comments were useful.IASD - globe (2)

Yes, my reading experience has been a mixed bag thus far.

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Writing

A couple of days ago I completed my most recent edit of Beyond The Law: Consequences, which as you all know is the final story in the trilogy. My target date for publication is next weekend, 11th / 12th February.

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesThe book will be a month later than I first intended, but I believe it has been much improved for the extra time spent reworking scenes and generally changing the sequence of events. At 60,000 words it is the shortest book in the trilogy.

I’ve had the advantage of one beta reader, and if I get any more volunteers I’ll need them to do a rapid turnaround if I’m to meet my publishing deadline.

When BTL: C hits the world I’ll get straight back to my series A Life of Choice, and get working with the next stage of Part 4.

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Rhythm

To maintain my working rhythm and achieve my ten aims for the year, I am intending to produce one blog post every month. If I happen to reach a publication date with one of my intended titles and it’s out of sync with my post, I’ll make an exception and write a brief ‘release’ post.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

What’s my issue with blog posts?

I don’t have an issue with the idea of the blog, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, apart from letting off steam, or getting my voice heard by a handful of followers – blogging is a time-consuming activity.

Blogging is an interactive pastime, and for me, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t bring me an increased level of success with my priority activity – writing.

The Red Pen is mightier ...

My homepage for example boast of 937 followers – yeah, whatever. I’ve dug down into the bowels of my blog and found the true figure is 195, which I’d be happy to believe.

I don’t crave fame or celebrity, but I do have a deep-seated need for achievement. I’m confident I’ll feel fulfilled if I can maintain a steady course with my reading, writing, IASD admin duties and helping my fellow scribes whenever possible.

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Am I happy? Of course I am, however the tone may come across in parts of this post. I’m a writer and I have a list of ambitions to be fulfilled this year, and as I achieve each target, I’ll feel rewarded when I see a sale or a review.

As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.