I’m writing this blog to share some of my writing. You’ll find stories, poems, reviews and updates on my books. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Do leave comments and I’ll try and reply.
I invited author, Tom Benson to give us an insight about his latest anthology, Next Steps: and other stories. Here it is. Welcome to this site, Tom.
I’m a multi-genre author who enjoys various writing disciplines, and I’ve found that ideas for short stories are never far away. Combined with this, of course, is the opportunity to create another collection. I understand how difficult it is for indie authors like me to capture and increase an audience. With this in mind, I created my first ‘invitation’ anthology, and ‘Next Steps’ is the third of this type.
What came to mind when you saw the title of this article?
Perhaps like many people, you thought of progression in some form, or was that a fleeting idea cast aside as you considered the graphic and the book title?
‘Next Steps: and other stories’ is the full title of my new collection. While ‘Next Steps’ is both the abbreviated book title and the first story, in this case, it also serves as an introduction to how I went about creating the anthology.
Anthologies of short stories come in three main categories: theme-based, genre-based, and non-specific. Apart from those categories, any of them could be by a single author or have multiple authors. ‘Next Steps’ is non-specific and created by numerous authors.
Let’s look at how this book went from idea to publication.
Having several anthologies in my catalogue, I was seeking a new challenge. I thought I’d try to create six stories around random pieces of dialogue. I posted the suggestion in the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (on the Facebook page) with simple guidelines:
‘The prompt should be a dialogue between no more than two characters and no more than thirty words.’
Within two days, I had six prompts which I gratefully accepted and acknowledged. My offer to those authors was to produce one or more stories that they could submit to the collection. Theirs could be stories of personal choice—anything except erotica. The publication target was 1st April 2021, so we all had four months to get to work.
I was already heavily involved in the writing of my next novel. I split my time between that and picking out prompts to work on. A couple of the dialogue prompts produced ideas at first reading. In contrast, others caused me to try three or four approaches and genres. The challenge was genuine and enjoyable.
I had the first drafts of four stories completed by mid-January, and I’d settled on the topics for the other two. It was after a couple of weeks and further rewrites that another author asked to join the venture. I requested a prompt, I got one, and that other author was on board.
Anyone can write a short story, of course, but if it’s for publication, it must meet specific criteria. For example, punctuation, grammar, plot, and structure should all be considered and adjusted by the individual author. The submissions were to be ready for publication.
After several rewrites, followed by the appropriate edits, it was time to send my stories to three or four beta readers. These were fellow authors who could assess how effective/entertaining the tales may or may not be. By the time I had feedback from three of my peers, a bit more work was needed on a couple of the stories before a final check of punctuation, grammar, and formatting.
In mid-February, I tagged my guest authors in a comment on Facebook to remind them of the deadline for their submissions. I know how easy it is for one of several ‘work in progress’ to slip through the net.
In mid-March, I had seven stories completed, having had some of them read three times by other authors and others read four times. I accepted the personal submissions from my guests, complete with a bio and two links of choice. One of the original authors didn’t meet the criteria with their submission, but, of course, I’d gained another author. In total, I received eight stories to add to my seven.
I read every story again and then assembled them as a single manuscript before conducting the final stage—formatting. I set out the front matter, the stories (with author bio’s), back matter (including author links), and published. My final quality control check was to download the book from Amazon before telling anyone that it was available. I read the book, located two minor issues, amended them, and re-published it.
Some folk ask why I don’t list the other authors on the book’s Amazon page.
1. The guest authors are displayed on the front cover because, in my opinion, that is where they ought to be. In this way, the authors are promoted even if the book isn’t chosen by readers.
2. If an author name is added to the Primary Author section when publishing on Amazon, it creates a possible conflict of interest. How? The Amazon algorithms recognise the ‘pairing’ of author names, so there is a real danger of any previous mutual reviews (from other books) being removed.
3. The algorithms don’t recognise a name on the front cover because it is part of the graphic. Suppose an author is not highlighted in the publishing system as a Contributor to the collection. In that case, this means they can leave a review without any risks.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief insight. If Penny should receive sufficient interest, I’d be happy to write a piece on short story writing or creating anthologies. In the meantime, I’ll respectfully ask that you check out ‘Next Steps: and other stories’. It contains some great stories and, of course, one of them is by Penny. The book is free to read on Kindle Unlimited, as are all of my titles.
If you’d like to check out my work, here are links to my author website, artist website, and writing blog:
If you love dystopian novels or accessible poetry, they are free as ebooks on Amazon for today and tomorrow (27-28 March 2021). I hope you enjoy. You can download in the links below.
The Shadows of Love
The Truth Finder
Reviews always welcome.
The Truth Finder and The Visualizer are stories from the fifth millennium, after Earth has destroyed itself with nuclear wars and pollution. Only a few people survived. Gradually, over decades numbers grew, but much of the land was uninhabitable.
The Truth Finder can read minds and this is a mixed blessing. People want to exploit him but he must find his own path to happiness.
The Visualizer can visualize different environments. As she is such a powerful visualizer she can change form. Like the truthfinder, she is in danger of being captured. She is quick thinking and finds her way out of many a difficult situation.
Both ebooks are free from 24-28 March 2021, so why not download them and read when you have a spare moment.
Reviews are always welcome.
Download The Truth Finder here.
Download The Visualizer here.
Here’s some free children’s ebooks for you from 10 -14 March 2021. Hope your children enjoy. They make excellent bedtime stories. Picnic in the Park is free from 8-10 March.
For adults these short stories are free on 10-14 March as ebooks. Hope you enjoy.
This year I thought I would wish all the children who follow my site a Happy Christmas with the gift of a story. (I have actually recorded this story but wordpress want more money for me to upload the recording.) If you’d like a copy of the recording send me an email. I hope you enjoy it and wish you a happy, safe, socially distanced, hand sanitised, Christmas.
The Tamarisk Tree by Penny Luker
She stood tall and proud in a dry sandy area; not quite a desert. A small community of houses surrounded her.
Jacob loved her beauty. She provided shade during the hot months and a focus for the local people, who would often sit beneath her branches. There was not much for an eleven year old to do, so he would pick up any small twigs that she dropped and whittle away at them with his knife.
‘Thank you for your gift,’ he would always say, as he sat beneath her branches, practising his craft. He made tiny statues of people who lived nearby or characters he’d read about in books. In his way Jacob was content, although he would’ve liked more children to play with.
Matthew was a young teenager, who lived in the same village. He was angry at being stuck in what he considered to be this hell hole. The heat was oppressive. There was nothing to do and no-one of his age to hang out with. His parents worked at the observatory in the desert and he was often on his own. He watched Jacob sitting under the tree and sneered at his efforts.
‘I’ll show you how to carve something properly. I’ll be back but you’ll have to move.’
A few moments later Matthew came back with a saw and told Jacob to get out of the way.
‘You mustn’t damage the tree,’ said Jacob. ‘She provides us with shade and beauty.’
‘She provides us with shade and beauty,’ Matthew mimicked. ‘Move!’
Jacob stood back, helpless. Matthew was much bigger than he was.
He ran to his home to fetch his mother, but she was busy and told him to keep out of the way of that nasty boy.
When Jacob got back to the tree one of its beautiful branches was on the ground and Matthew was about to chop another.
‘Wait. Why not carve the branch you’ve cut before you take more from the tree? That is, if you can actually carve and not just hack branches off,’ shouted Jacob from a safe distance.
‘Of course I can carve. I’ll show you,’ and Matthew marched off in the direction of his home, with the large branch.
Jacob ran to the tree and wrapped his spindly arms around the trunk.
‘I’m so sorry I didn’t protect you,’ he cried.
He went indoors and came back to the tree with a small jar of honey and spooned a little onto the cut on the tree.
‘I don’t know if this will help but my mother always gives me some when I’m poorly,’ he said.
When Jacob’s mother came out to see what the fuss was about she was extremely angry that the tree had been mutilated and marched straight round to Matthew’s house. There she found him sweating and swearing at the wood as he tried to shape it into a statue with a large blunt knife. She left him in no doubt that she’d be speaking to his parents tonight.
Jacob sat back down under the Tamarisk tree and fell asleep in it’s shade. Soon he was wakened by Matthew.
‘I’m going to be in dead trouble with my parents because of your mother. You better make this branch into something beautiful so they think my cutting the tree was not such a bad thing. Here. Get on with it or you’re dead meat.’
‘I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to. Such a large branch would take months to carve. With my tiny pieces of wood it takes a few weeks. I’d be happy to show you how to carve a small piece, but only with wood that the tree offers you; the bits you can pick up from the ground.’
Matthew stomped off, dragging the branch behind him.
Later Jacob said to the tree, ‘I am sorry that he’s hurt you so much,’ as he went indoors for his supper.
In the morning he was outside with his mother, when he looked up and saw his beloved Tamarisk tree covered in pale orangey- pink flowers.
‘Look how beautiful the tree is!’ said Jacob. ‘I thought it might die with that damage.’
‘No, she is strong. I’m sure she’s going to be fine. Matthew might have hurt her but someone showed her kindness – with my best honey, I believe.’
Jacob looked up but his mother was smiling.
As for Matthew, his parents were indeed cross with him. They gave him the perfect punishment. He must carve a statue of the Madonna and child and work on it everyday until it is beautiful, when it will be donated to the village. He has promised he will never damage the tree again and can often be seen sitting with Jacob underneath the Tamarisk tree, learning his craft.
I invited Rebecca to tell us about her writing life and the inspirations for her work. I’m sure you’ll enjoy finding out about this amazing author.
I spend far too many hours a day at my laptop. It’s not the writing that takes the time; I rarely write more than a thousand words a day and sometimes none at all, it’s research and marketing. Once I had a published book, I had to promote it. The more books, the more time needed in marketing, and the less writing and research gets done. Such is the lot of the independent author – a jack of all trades. That said, I have control over my books and my life, which is far more important to me than writing to deadlines and travelling to book signings, etc. as I might were I a traditionally published author.
Since beginning my writing career, some fifteen years ago – quite accidentally, by the way – I’ve completed thirteen novels, ten of which have been published. The accident arose after proof-reading for a friend and my husband asking me why I didn’t have a go at writing, too. I told him I wouldn’t know where to begin. I had no ideas, and no imagination.
Tip number one. Begin at the beginning. One day, I sat down at my desk and typed Chapter One. Jem frowned and scanned the horizon with absolutely no idea where the story was going or what it was about. It evolved over a number of years into Where Hope Dares, a fantasy.
I still tend to approach a novel in the same way, though I do usually have a theme in mind. Once the characters begin to develop in my mind, they take over and write the tale for me. It’s their characters and their reactions to situations that drive the story.
Ideas – inspiration – occur quite randomly and have included TV articles and news reports, family history, two elm burr boxes, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the release from prison of Angela Canning, a doll sitting in the bedroom window of an empty house, and a cheese sandwich.
Tip number two. If an idea occurs to you, write it down before you forget it and let it stew for a while.
As for imagination. I really don’t have any. I write from my own experiences, regrets, loves, hates, and passions and my settings usually include places I know well. One reason I find myself writing mainly historical fiction is because there’s a thread of solid fact that runs through each story on which I can hang my characters and the plot – in fact, the historical timeline usually determines much of the plot and I enjoy working a tale within the constricts of historical accuracy.
Most of my main characters are strong women who are much braver than I am, so I can live a few fantasies about what I might have done in their situations, were I braver. But I’m not brave, so I have an understanding of the cowardice and guilt some of my characters also exhibit.
I’m a sucker for stories of social injustice and the underdog, and most of my novels explore social or criminal injustice and bigotry. The women of Auschwitz, the wrongful imprisonment of women for ‘cot deaths’ in the seventies, the women of the 1800 and 1900s who had no rights in marriage, no rights over their own bodies or children, no right to earn the same rate of pay as a man for the same job, no right to vote…
In fact, it’s impossible to write historical fiction from a woman’s point of view and not be appalled by the inequalities women have endured over the centuries, and these are grist to my mill – never more so than in my latest historical series, The Chainmakers.
This series was inspired by an article on the TV program FLOG IT! When they visited the Black Country Living Museum in the English Midlands and talked about the women chainmakers and their fight for a living wage in 1910, the term the white slaves of England made my social iniquity nose twitch, and I began researching the area and the period. I was appalled at what I unearthed.
The Chainmakers’ Daughter was born – Rosie, a ten-year-old girl in 1901, is working twelve hours a day making chain for starvation wages but is determined to better her lot and that of her family. Enter Mary Macarthur, a political activist fighting for women’s rights and Rosie is swept along on a current of industrial strife. And the story would have ended in 1910 with the end of the strike action but for a reader who wanted to know what happened to Rosie and her husband, Jack, up to and during the Great War.
I began researching again and was drawn into the fight for women’s suffrage – votes for women. Again, the inequalities women faced, and the resistance they faced from men and the struggle they had to press their cause by one inch of ground made my blood boil. Naturally, Rosie’s social conscience made her the perfect vehicle to show the truth behind the sanitised popular myth of the suffragettes – another huge eye-opener for me. And so The Chainmaker’s Wife came into existence. I am resisting book three at the moment…
I think The Chainmaker’s Wife is one of the quickest books I’ve written, probably because of being in lockdown for almost all of it, but it’s also been one of the trickiest to research – I was totally out of my comfort zone. But for finding a wonderful website http://www.Jutland1916 and contacting the site owner Gerry Costello, I would have come to a full stop. What a knowledgeable and generous man! He answered my every question, and there were many, with well-researched and detailed information that let my story unfold in the direction my characters wanted to go.
As an artist as well as an author I love designing my covers though they usually go through several versions before I settle on a ‘final’ one. I’ve also written a ‘how-to’ book on painting watercolour seascapes.
I think my books will appeal to anyone who is interested in an insight into the lives of ordinary working-class men and women and how we won the freedoms we take for granted today.
The Chainmaker’s wife is now available to pre-order for only 99p/99c at http://mybook.to/Chainmakerswife
The Chainmakers series
For Their Country’s Good Series
Non-Fiction by my alter-ego, Ruth Coulson
http://mybook.to/WatercolourSeascapes – a step-by-step guide to painting seas in watercolour.
If you like short stories, you’ll love these and there are 99 for you to enjoy. Here’s my short review.
This book is a treasure chest of well crafted short stories. Their subject matter is varied but there is a sense of justice running through a lot of the stories; it may not be conventional justice though. The characters spring to life, which is a gift in quick tales. Highly recommended to any adult reader.
Paperback is £7.99 in UK and $9.99 in US. Kindle version is £0.99 and $0.99.
Enjoy some free children’s e-books. This weekend only.
Desdemona, the dragon without any friends and Picnic in the Park are for younger children (2-5 years) Enjoy reading and discussing them with your child.
The Green Book, Tiny Tyrannosaurus and Pablo the Storytelling Bear are for older children. (5-11 years) Enjoy sharing the books with your child or they may prefer to read alone.
Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads always welcome.
The Truth Finder is a story about Earth in the fifth millennium and a young man, left on his own in a dangerous world, but he has a gift. He can read people’s minds. His gift is both a blessing and a curse as it can help him out of trouble but also put him in danger.
The ebook of The Truth Finder is free from 2 to 6 September. Why not download your copy here?
The Visualizer is a story about Earth in the fifth millennium and a young woman who is searching for her family and place in the world. She has a gift which others want to exploit, so she must keep it hidden from all, except those she can trust? But who can she trust?
The ebook of The Visualizer is free from 2 to 6 September. Why not download your copy here?
Why not check out some of my other books? I’d love to know what you think.
Here’s my author page. All my books are free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and many are also available in paperback.