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Next Steps by Tom Benson

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:


Last two days

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.

Nature’s Gold

Autumn Gold

The Shadows of Love

The Truth Finder

The Visualizer

Reviews always welcome.

Free e-books 24-28 March 2021

The Truth Finder

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.

The Visualizer

Download The Truth Finder here.

Download The Visualizer here.

Poetry ebooks – free

Autumn Gold and Nature’s Gold

My three poetry ebooks are available for free from 24-28 March 2021. Grab a coffee and download these books. Enjoy some accessible poetry on a range of topics in a variety of styles.

Reviews always welcomed.

Nature’s Gold

Autumn Gold

The Shadows of Love

Lots of free ebooks

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.

Rebecca Bryn – Guest Author

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.

Rebecca Bryn

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 ‘finalone. 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

Book Links



Historical Fiction

The Chainmakers series

For Their Country’s Good Series

Non-Fiction by my alter-ego, Ruth Coulson – a step-by-step guide to painting seas in watercolour.

Latest book in The Chainmakers series

Review: Flasbulb Moments by P A Rudders

Flashbulb Moments: The little BIG book of Flash Fiction by [P. A. Rudders, Theresa Jacobs, John M W Smith]
Picture from

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.

Short Stories

Promotion short stories and date

Short stories allow us to escape from real life in those precious moments when we are not working, looking after children, running errands and doing chores.

My first book of short stories was Missing. The title story was about a child who was not cherished by her mother, but can she find happiness? The book, recently revised, has tales in many genre. The next book was Pebble on the Beach. The title story is about a family who find a way through the grief of a loved one. Other stories will take you away from reality and explore many situations. My third book is The Mermaid. The title story won third prize in a writing competition. It’s about a man who is dealing with his own problems and thinks the owner of the hotel, where he’s staying, looks like a mermaid. Is it his imagination and can she help him?

All these ebooks are going to be free on Friday 31 July to Sunday 2 August (inclusive). I’ve kept them down to $0.99/£0.99 right through the summer. In these times we all need a bit of escapism. Why not grab a copy?

All my books are free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and most are available in paperback.

The Mermaid

Pebble on a Beach




Picnic in the Park

Come and meet the animal friends, Petunia, Isabella, Cyril and Nathan. What did they find when they went to visit their local park? Picnic in the Park is a short story for younger children to enjoy and explores litter in our local environment.

You can find the ebook here.
It’s $0.99 on and £0.77 on Of course it’s free on Kindle Unlimited. It’s a very short story to read to a younger child.

Today and tomorrow 21 and 22 March 2020

All my books are always free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited but if you don’t have that The Truth Finder and the sequel, The Visualizer, are free as e-books today and tomorrow.

The Truth Finder is the story of Vrail, who has a wonderful gift; the ability to read minds. But his gift is a double edged sword and puts him at risk of exploitation in an unstable world. Earth in the fifth millennium is recovering from wars that made large parts of it uninhabitable. With few people to help him, he must learn who are his friends quickly.

Alien Town Between Mountains

The Visualizer tells of Seek’s journey from exploitation to freedom and finding her way in a troubled world, where war is on the horizon. She too has a gift; the ability to change her form and her surroundings. Can she help her family and Vrail survive?




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