Category Archives: P.D. Martin

National pride on Australia Day…sort of

By PD Martin

This Saturday is Australia Day. Given I know many (most) of our readers are NOT Australian, you might be interested to know that Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the first fleet in 1788.

It’s a big day here in Oz, yet I’m feeling mixed about it all. There are so many layers to this day. Good, bad, and plain ugly.

First off, at the most superficial level I think most Australians will agree it’s a great day for a BBQ (a national past time, particularly in summer; and Australia Day is one of those days when pretty much everyone either has or goes to an Australia Day BBQ).  It’s also a public holiday, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like a day off? In fact, this year because it falls on Saturday, the public holiday is on Monday (in lieu), so we get a long weekend — bonus! Mind you, as a full-time mum public holidays don’t actually mean a ‘day off’ for me, but they do mean a day of family time, which is something I cherish greatly.

There’s also the part of me that’s incredibly proud to be an Australian and so it’s nice to have a day to honour this feeling. I love this country and while Australians generally have a low-key kind of patriotism, it’s still there, bubbling away underneath. You probably got a sense of my pride in Australia during my blog on our gun laws (yes, I think we’ve got it right). Plus our healthcare system is pretty damn good, I think. Then of course there’s the country itself (the cities, the outback, the bushland, the beaches). I also love how multicultural we are these days. And let’s not forget the weather. Having lived in Ireland for a year and a half, I think I appreciate our sunshine even more now. Looking out to blue skies and maybe a few puffs of cloud at least 6-9 months out of the year is extremely important to me. It sets the mood for the day and instantly makes me feel upbeat. Sure, the really, really hot days aren’t my favourites but I’d rather be hot than cold any day.

So, all of the above are incredibly positive things. Go, Australia. Yay, Australia. I love living here. Australia Day rocks. But then…

I think about the actual day it commemorates — the British declaring sovereignty over Australia (then New Holland), and everything that followed in terms of our indigenous population. In fact, most of our Indigenous population call Australia Day Invasion Day. And of course, that’s what it was. It’s all about perspective. Having lived in Ireland and studied some of its history extensively for Grounded Spirits, I often compare the two countries. Ireland is the most invaded country in the world. Its most recent invasion, of course, had massive consequences — consequences that were felt for centuries (and still are). After all, that’s how Ireland became Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. (Note: I realise I have simplified a very complex issue with this statement. And yes, it is/was also very tied up in religion. But what you’ve got to remember, is that traditionally the Catholics were Irish and the Protestants were English.)

Anyway, part of Grounded Spirits takes place in the 1820s, when the Irish weren’t even allowed to own land in their own country. Ireland has been fighting invaders, either in the political arena or physically, for pretty much its entire history. The Irish fought their invaders over the centuries. What would have happened if Australia’s indigenous population had guns? Would a battle between Australia’s indigenous population and invaders (British or otherwise) still be going on today? Would the country be split in half?   

The final layer…In terms of Australia Day commemorating the British declaring sovereignty, I’d actually rather Australia was a Republic. I believe that the average Australian actually does NOT feel an affiliation to the UK or the Queen. Problem is, for better or worse we don’t fully understand that burning desire to legally be a Republic. As a result, most Aussies (non-Indigenous) are pretty apathetic about the whole issue.

However, many of the supporters of an Australian Republic believe it would (and should) be linked to Reconciliation. These two issues could be tied together — an Australian Republic that starts afresh, recognising that Australia has been built on the foundations of indigenous Australians, British settlers/invaders and the massive number of migrants that now form our multicultural population. Symbolically, a Republic could be a new start with an acknowledgement of this country’s true history.

Australia Day…see what I mean about the layers? The good, the bad and the ugly?

So, what will I do on Australia Day? I will celebrate all the positives of this wonderful nation, but the history and the need for both Reconciliation and an Australian Republic will also be at the forefront of my mind. We do have friends coming down for a BBQ, but I’ll make sure we talk about the layers of Australia Day.

On holidays

By PD Martin

I’m on holidays again. I did consider simply re-posting my summer in Oz blog from last year, because I’m pretty much doing the same thing!

Well, not exactly.

Every year, we head down to the Mornington Peninsula on Boxing Day (26 December) and stay for quite a few weeks. I used to spend my summers down here (since I was two years old, when my grandparents bought a small holiday house) and now my little ones are enjoying their summers by the beach, too.

This year and last year, our ‘go home’ date was dictated by Grace’s school holidays. So we’re here until almost the end of January.

We do pop back to Melbourne for a few trips, like our traditional Australian Open tennis day. That’s today!

So, it’s pretty much been:

  • Beach
  • Relaxing on the deck (eating)
  • Beach
  • Relaxing on the deck (eating and drinking)
  • A walk or two 
  • Beach

You get the picture, right?

Then last night was the tennis (sorry about the poor quality pic). We saw Williams (Venus) vs Cornet and then Ryan Harrison vs Djokovich.

Unfortunately the men’s match was extremely one-sided and when you go to these matches you really feel for the guy who’s getting his ass whooped. At least, I did. It must be so hard to be playing in front of so many people and have the first set gone in just 20 minutes. You can feel the disappointment, the frustration.

Anyway, I’m off to the tennis and my family is waiting so I’m out of here. Mind you, it’s going to be a scorcher today…39C which is just over 102F. Loads of sunscreen and hats today! Then tomorrow it’s back to the beach.  

We’ve got another ten days on the Peninsula, so I’m guessing we might hit the beach and relax on the deck a bit more!

Are you still on holidays? If so, what are you up to?

The year in review

By PD Martin

Like many people I often feel reflective around this time of year and I thought today I’d use that feeling to think about my year (2012) of blogging here at Murderati. My highlights! I’ve included craft blogs for the writers plus some more general posts. Hope you enjoy the highlights show…

I opened 2012 up with a look at the health hazards of being a writer — and I think these apply no matter what year we’re in! Things like RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome, alcoholism, insomnia, stress, etc.

And if you’ve ever wondered whether being an author was more about talent or skill, check out my April 10 blog.

In May Aussie Kathryn Fox was my guest, and she talked about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)…an eye-opening blog!

One of my July blogs was about the rollercoaster effect of being a writer — the creative rollercoaster, the agent rollercoaster, etc.

September was a very important and personal blog — And Baby Makes Four. This blog talked about us going to Korea to pick up our new son.

Finally, I closed 2012 with a blog on the gun laws in Australia. It was in response to some of the discussions I was part of on Murderati and Facebook about the tragedy in Connecticut.

So they are my blog (and sometimes life) highlights of 2012. Obviously there were a lot of blogs (and milestones) in between, but I wanted to mention some of my favourites.

What are some of your highlights of the year? Blog or otherwise ๐Ÿ™‚

The Wildcard Tuesday New Year Interrogation

Zoë Sharp

The first moon of 2013

Welcome to the first Wildcard Tuesday blog of 2013, and an enormously Happy New Year to you all. For this I asked a few lighthearted questions of fellow ‘Rati past and present, and below are their answers. I hope you find them worthy of a giggle.

(As a small aside, I started off searching for sensible author pix, but what I’ve actually ended up going for are the silliest pix that came up on the first page of a Google Images search on that author’s name.)

ALLISON BRENNAN

Where did you choose to celebrate the holiday season this year?

Home, as usual.

What would have been your ideal location?

Home! (Though, I would have liked to have gone to Disneyland right after Christmas … maybe next year!)

What was the best—or worst—gift you’ve ever received?

My husband once gave me an electric grout cleaner. Needless to say, I never used it.

The best—or worst—meal or item of food you’ve been served—or served to others?

The absolute best Christmas dinner we’ve had was when I decided to cook prime rib instead of the standard turkey or ham. It was pricey, but oh-so-delicious! I think that was back in 1997 …

What’s your idea of the Christmas From Hell?

Traveling for Christmas.

Looking back, what was your favourite moment from 2012?

Watching my oldest daughter graduate from high school—and hearing her and the Seraphim Choir sing the National Anthem. They were amazing.

I’m not going to ask about New Year’s resolutions, but do you have one ambition, large or small, you’d like to achieve in 2013?

Walk daily, meet my deadlines, don’t sweat the small stuff.

And finally, what book(s) have you brought out this year?

Two Lucy Kincaid books from Minotaur/SMP—SILENCED and STALKED; a short story in the anthology LOVE IS MURDER; an indie published novella MURDER IN THE RIVER CITY.

And what’s on the cards for the early part of 2013?

A Lucy Kincaid novella in March (RECKLESS), and two more book STOLEN and COLD SNAP. Plus a short story for the NINC anthology and maybe another indie novella. If I have time.

 

DAVID CORBETT

Where did you choose to celebrate the holiday season this year?

Home alone, if “choose” and “celebrate” are the correct verbs. Mette arrives on the 28th, so things should get merrier at that point.

What would have been your ideal location?

Buenos Aires. Ireland. A beach in Mexico.

What was the best—or worst—gift you’ve ever received?

Best gift I ever “received” was one I gave. As a gag gift I bought my late wife a red flannel union suit with a button seat flap that she absolutely loved. Slept in it all the time. Cozy as hell. Damn, she was happy.

The best—or worst—meal or item of food you’ve been served—or served to others?

When I was a kid one of my classmates’ families came over during the holidays and brought cookies that literally made me gag. I picked one up, sniffed it like a cocker spaniel, recoiled, and put it back. My brother started bellowing, “You touched it, you have to eat it.” Unfortunately, King Solomon (my father) agreed. I almost upchucked trying to get it down.

What’s your idea of the Christmas From Hell?

Oh, let’s not go there.

Looking back, what was your favourite moment from 2012?

A weekend in San Antonio for the wedding of one of Mette’s dearest friends, when I got introduced to the inner circle. Also, the moments when I read the cover quotes I received for THE ART OF CHARACTER. I was incredibly humbled and grateful so many writers I respect said so many kind and generous things.

One ambition, large or small, you’d like to achieve in 2013?

Make the new book a success, and wrap up the novel I’m working on to my own persnickety satisfaction.

And finally, what book(s) have you brought out this year?

Open Road Media and Mysterious Press re-issued all four of my novels in ebook format in 2012, with a brand new short story collection titled KILLING YOURSELF TO SURVIVE.

And what’s on the cards for the early part of 2013?

The new book, THE ART OF CHARACTER, comes out on January 29th, 2013 from Penguin.

 

ALEXANDRA SOKOLOFF

Where?

New Orleans.

Ideal location?

It’s hard to top New Orleans.

Best/worst gift?

Well, there’s this pretty spectacular amethyst necklace…

Best/worst food?

I’ve served many a bad meal to others. For everyone’s sake I stopped trying to cook long ago. Personally I don’t care much what food gets served, but I do remember one Christmas morning in London with blackberry jam on waffles and whisky for breakfast. The blackberry jam ended up all sorts of places and it was all very lovely.  I could do that again.

Christmas From Hell?

It’s hard to narrow that down, actually. Endless scenarios spring to mind. I hate being cold, though, so winter is perilous.

Favourite moment from 2012?

For public consumption, you mean? The general reader response to HUNTRESS MOON has been a real high.

One ambition in 2013?

I’d like to find a really wonderful place to live.

Books this year?

My crime thriller HUNTRESS MOON, a boxed set of three of my supernatural thrillers called HAUNTED, a novella called D-GIRL ON DOOMSDAY in an interconnected anthology with three other dark fantasy female author friends: APOCALYPSE: YEAR ZERO. And I got several backlist titles back and put them out as e books at wonderfully affordable prices: THE UNSEEN, BOOK OF SHADOWS, THE HARROWING and THE PRICE.

And for 2013?

The next book in my Huntress series comes out in late January:  BLOOD MOON. My next book in the paranormal Keepers series, KEEPER OF THE SHADOWS, comes out in May.

I’m selling my house in January and buying another as soon as possible, probably in California.

 

PD MARTIN

Where?

Every year we have Christmas Day at our home (in Melbourne) and then go down to the Mornington Peninsula (seaside) for most of January. It’s the hottest time of year here in Oz, so it’s great to be near the beach. We stay in a 1970s holiday house my grandparents bought in 1972, and given I spent summers down there as a kid it’s particularly special to now be going down there with my children.

Ideal location?

The Peninsula is pretty good ๐Ÿ™‚ Although we’ve always said that one year we’ll do a white/winter Christmas in New York or something.

Best/worst gift ever received?

Best gift I ever received was actually for my birthday this year—my Kindle. I’m a complete convert to the point where I can’t imagine ever reading a ‘real’ book again. I prefer the Kindle reading experience for some reason.

Best meal?

I am biased, but I make a mean Tira Misu. I got the recipe from a chef and it’s divine! And great because you make it a day or two before, so it’s one thing to cross off the food preparation list early.

Christmas From Hell?

Mmm….I guess having to run around. You know, multiple visits. We do that a bit on Christmas Eve, but I enjoy the fact that then on Christmas Day we just kick back. We start with oysters at midday, then it’s prawns (yes, on the BBQ), then an Asian style salmon fillet dish then Tira Misu (at about 4pm). Then a movie!

Favourite moment from 2012?

That’s easy for me—picking up our son, Liam, from Korea and making our family of three a family of four ๐Ÿ™‚

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

I’ve got a few books I’d like to finish. And hey, a best seller or a lotto win wouldn’t go astray either.

Book(s) this year?

THE MISSING (two short stories), WHEN JUSTICE FAILS (two short true-crime pieces), HELL’S FURY (new book in spy thriller series), and two novels for younger readers that I’ve released under the pen name Pippa Dee—GROUNDED SPIRITS and THE WANDERER.

What’s next?

Probably what I’ve been doing the past few months—juggling motherhood and writing…and feeling like I’m going to crack under the pressure! 

 

JT ELLISON

Where?

Nashville and Florida.

Ideal location?

A family trip to Italy would have been fun.

Best gift you’ve ever received?

I got engaged during Christmas 1994, so that ranks up there….

Worst meal?

Italy, Cinque Terre, a large full fish the size of a cat, with its baleful eye staring up at me… I swear the thing was still breathing. Ugh! 

Christmas From Hell?

There’s no such thing. I love Christmas.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Seeing my DH in his gorgeous new kilt for the first time. *fans self*

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

I want to learn how to paint. In oil, large canvas abstracts. 

Book(s) last year?

A DEEPER DARKNESS, EDGE OF BLACK, STORM SEASON

And for 2013?

Writing, writing and more writing. Deadline January 30!

 

 MARTYN WAITES (half of Tania Carver)

Where?

At my in-laws. The kids wanted to go to see all their cousins. They love a big family get together. As for me, I’m pretty bah humbug about it. I don’t care where I go or what I do or whether I get any presents or not. As long as I get to see Doctor Who, I’m happy.

Ideal location?

Somewhere abroad. Morocco would be good. If they were showing Doctor Who.

Best/worst gift ever received?

I’ve been lucky enough to get plenty of presents. I can’t think of specifics in terms of best or worst, but for me the worst kind of gift is the thoughtless kind that someone has put no effort, time or care into. The best ones are the ones you absolutely want. Even if you don’t know you do until you get them. I was lucky enough to get one of those this Christmas.

Best/worst meal?

At Christmas? It’s all the same. I’m not a fan of Christmas dinner. Or any roast dinner for that matter. I eat it, but that’s because it’s what you do at Christmas. Like getting into water and swimming. The best meal I was ever served was at a Persian restaurant in Birmingham in 1988. It involved chicken and pomegranates and I’ve never tasted anything like it to this day. The restaurant disappeared soon afterwards in a kind of Brigadoon fashion and I sometimes wonder whether I actually went there. As for bad food . . . loads. In fact, it probably outnumbers the good food. That’s why I try to remember the good ones.

Christmas From Hell?

Being forced to spend time with people I hate. That goes for the rest of the year as well. And not seeing Doctor Who.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Well, I wrote about my favourite cultural things on the last Murderati post—Y Niwl and the Hammer films retrospective—so they would be there in a big way. But other than that, it was something very small and personal that I’m afraid I couldn’t share and that I doubt anyone would be particularly interested in.

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

I do. I can’t say anything about it in case I jinx it, but it will be the culmination of a lifetime’s ambition. Or at least I hope it will.

Book(s) this year?

CHOKED, the fourth Tania Carver book came out in September in the UK. THE CREEPER, the second one, came out in the States. There have been other editions round the world and I think Russia finally got round to publishing my 2006 novel, THE MERCY SEAT.

And 2013?

Finishing the new Tania, THE DOLL’S HOUSE, which I’m uncharacteristically quite pleased with. Although it could all go horribly wrong. And then there’s the afore(not)mentioned secret project . . .

 

GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD

Where?

At the family’s new home in Glassell Park, which we moved into in October.

Ideal location?

At the family’s new home in Aspen, Colorado, which doesn’t exist.

Best/worst gift ever received?

The best was a dictionary.  It was given to me many years ago by a wonderful woman who at the time was my mother-in-law to be.  She knew I was an aspiring writer and gifted me accordingly, which, oddly enough, no one in my immediate family had ever thought to attempt before.  I still own that dictionary, too.

Don’t get me started on the worst gifts I’ve ever received.

Best/worst food?

The best, far and away, is the egg nog my godfather makes over the holidays. It tastes great and man, does it have a kick to it.

Never been given a fruitcake as a gift, and I pray I never am.

Christmas From Hell?

I think I actually experienced it last year.  Attended the worst Catholic midnight Mass possible: cornball music, pointless sermon, and theatre lighting (the service was being video-taped) that would make a mole cover its eyes.  Awful.

Favourite moment from 2012?

The family’s spring break vacation in the Galapagos.  Unbelievable!

One ambition for 2013?

Completion of a manuscript that a conventional publisher buys for a tidy sum.

Book(s) last year?

Didn’t have a book published this year, though my Aaron Gunner novels were re-released as e-books by Mysterious Press/Open Road.

And for the early part of 2013?

Early?  Maybe my first book for middle-graders, which my agent is shopping now.  Later in the year?  With the grace of God, a publication deal for my first Aaron Gunner novel in almost 10 years.

 

STEPHEN JAY SCHWARTZ

Where?

Stayed at home with the wife and kids—enjoyed the beach and the beautiful Southern California weather.  Played Scrabble and hung out in cafés.  Enjoyed a big meal of matzoh ball soup and tofurky.

Ideal location?

Ireland.  Clifton or Dingle, to be precise.

Best/worst gift ever received?

I haven’t paid attention to holiday gifts for a long time.  I think the worst gift I ever got was for my bar mitzvah—it was a belt buckle.  No, actually, perhaps the worst was the beer stein my father gave me for my high school graduation.  This, instead of the car I had my eyes on.

Best/worst item of food?

Probably that tofurky we had last week.

Christmas From Hell?

Again, tofurky takes the price.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Seeing my son come back healthy and happy after a two-month hospital stay in Wisconsin.

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

Main ambition—work to live a creative life, 24/7.

Book(s) this year?

Move along, nothing to see here.

What’s on the cards for the early part of 2013?

Move along, nothing to see here either…

 

BRETT BATTLES

Where?

The first half I spent in a hot, tropical location with my feet in the water, a beer nearby, and a Kindle in my hand; the second half at home in L.A. with my kids, my parents, and my sister and her kids.

Ideal location?

Nailed it this year.

Best gift ever received?

This year I got the complete set of Calvin & Hobbs from my parents. It was perfect!

Best food?

I made a pretty awesome ham this year that was juicy and delicious. Hmmm, I’m craving leftovers right now!

Christmas From Hell?

Not being able to spend time with my family.

Favourite moment from 2012?

It was a pretty good year all around, so one event…? Going to San Diego for a week with my kids and parents was pretty damn fun!

One ambition for 2013?

Just more of the same … write, travel, and spend time with friends and family.

Book(s) last year?

2012: THE DESTROYED (Quinn #5), PALE HORSE (Project Eden #3), THE COLLECTED (Quinn #6), and ASHES (Project #Eden #4)

And for 2013?

At least four more novels (hopefully five), including a secret collaboration I can’t quite talk about yet.

 

TESS GERRITSEN

Where?

At home. With family.

Ideal location?

Exactly the same place.

Worst gift you’ve ever received?

An orange pantsuit.  I mean, really. My husband has not bought me anything orange ever since. (I’m guessing it didn’t look like this, then, Tess? ZS)

Best/worst meal?

For Christmas?  Not one bad meal sticks out.  On Christmas, everything tastes wonderful.

Christmas From Hell?

Being stuck in an airport. Far from family.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Standing on the Great Wall of China, with my husband and sons.

One ambition, for 2013?

To finally plant a vegetable garden that the deer can’t demolish.

Book(s) out last year?

LAST TO DIE was published this past summer.

And what’s on the cards for 2013?

Early 2013, I am headed to the Amazon River.

 

PARI NOSKIN TAICHERT

Where?

At home in peace. No requirements, no expectations. I just let myself be.

Ideal location?

The only other place I can imagine being this calm and relaxed would be Antibes . . .

Best gift?

Probably the best gift I’ve received so far is an essay my younger teen wrote about a difficult incident we shared last year and how it has taught her empathy. Made me cry, it touched my heart so.

Best/worst meal?

The best meal remains one brunch I had in Puerto Rico: fresh flying fish brought in that morning from a catch in Barbados, steamed bread fruit, Barbadian yellow hot sauce, fresh mangos picked minutes before from a tree just steps from where we ate.

Christmas From Hell?

I think it would be one filled with efforts to make it perfect, so many efforts that they’d hit the tipping point and tumble down to the other side of happiness.

Favourite moment from 2012?

The one where I finally realized I’m going to be all right, that the trials of this last year may continue . . . but they’re not going to pull me down into the depths of despair anymore.

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

Yes.

1. I’d like to e-publish the book that “almost” sold to NYC. It’s the first in a new series and I’d like my character to meet readers and vice versa.

2. To continue to explore my creativity in whatever ways it’s now manifesting, to give myself permission to let it fly.

Book(s) last year?

Nothing in 2012. I’ve been in hibernation for many reasons including the whole copyright issue and the divorce.

And for 2013?

To begin writing again and to enjoy it . . .

 

ZOË SHARP

As for me, I also spent Christmas this year with my family, which was where I wanted to be.

My ideal would probably have been a ski-in/ski-out chalet somewhere with plenty of snow. Not necessarily for skiing, but definitely for sculpting. I never did get to finish that Sphinx …

As for my ambitions for 2013, to find a life/work balance and to continue to improve my craft.

And books? In 2012 I brought out two e-boxed sets of the first six Charlie Fox novels, plus several short stories, and of course, DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten.

In 2013, DIE EASY is hot off the press in the States. I’m also editing two new projects—a supernatural thriller called CARNIFEX, and a standalone crime thriller called THE BLOOD WHISPERER, as well as working on the first in a new trilogy, the first in what I hope will be a new series, a novella project I can’t say too much about yet, and—of course—Charlie Fox book eleven. That should keep me going for a bit ๐Ÿ™‚

So, it only remains for me to wish you all an incredibly Happy New Year, and to thank you for your comments and your feedback during 2012.

Gun laws in Australia

By PD Martin

For any regular visitors to Murderati, it’s difficult if not impossible to follow up from Gar’s post yesterday. I had been contemplating two subjects for my blog today — both very different from one another (one was ‘failure’ and what it means and the other was my complete inability to get Christmas cards out on time…actually maybe they are related). However, I didn’t feel that either of those subjects was a fitting ‘follow-on’ from Gar’s amazing post.

So, I’m sticking with the theme by talking about Australian gun laws. I guess as a way of saying ‘this is what it would look like’ if America ever did change its (wicked) ways. Plus Gar’s post inspired me to explore things a little more.

The first thing I discovered was that Aussie gun laws have gone through a massive change — and it was in response to a spree killing. Specifically, in 1996 gun laws were reviewed following the Port Arthur Massacre. I should say, that gun control wasn’t really on the radar in Australia before that, because we’ve always had a relatively low violent crime rate plus we have a long history of low firearm use and gun legislation (off and on, and different for the different states). However the state laws were aligned via the 1996 National Agreement on Firearms. But the fact that gun laws haven’t been a constant source of debate does make us very different to America.

Here’s what it’s like in Australia. I’ll start with a personal experience.

I grew up in Melbourne (population 4.1 million, Australia’s second largest city) and had never seen or held a gun until I went to a firing range as research for my Sophie novels. So I was thirty-five years old the first time I saw a gun. Could this be said for many Americans?   

According to Wikipedia, 5.2% of Australians currently own a gun. Under the current legislation, you must get a license to purchase a gun, and there’s a mandatory 28-day delay before the first permit is issued. You also must have a “genuine reason” to own a gun and it must be related to pest control, target shooting, hunting, etc. Self defense is NOT considered a genuine reason.

According to Wikipedia, 25% of Americans currently own a gun and about half of the entire population has lived in a household with a gun. This is something I can barely comprehend. So how many thirty-five year olds in America would never have even seen a gun? Not many, I guess. If any.

And in terms of firearms related deaths? Again from Wikipedia, in the US there were 3.7 homicides and 6.1 suicides using firearms per 100,000 people (2009) and in Australia it was 0.09 homicides and 0.79 suicides per 100,000 people (2008).

For most Australians, guns just aren’t part of our lives. We don’t own them, don’t see them, don’t want them. And I guess that’s why it’s hard for us to understand the debate in the US.

You might also be interested to know what happened in 1996 when Australia’s gun laws changed. I haven’t been monitoring how far the discussions are going in the US, but I assume people are talking about how, if gun laws were changed, you could get all the guns out of circulation. Well, this is how it worked in Australia.  It was simple: gun owners had a certain amount of time to hand in their weapons and they got money in exchange. This from Wikipedia: “Because the Australian Constitution prevents the taking of property without just compensation the federal government introduced the Medicare Levy Amendment Act 1996 to raise the predicted cost of A$500 million through a one-off increase in the Medicare levy. The gun buy-back scheme started on 1 October 1996 and concluded on 30 September 1997.[23] The buyback purchased and destroyed more than 631,000 firearms, mostly semi-auto .22 rimfires, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns.” (By the way, Medicare is our national healthcare system, and it was increased from 1.5% of your wage to 1.7% for the 1996 tax year.)

I guess it would be rude and probably naïve of me to say: ‘See America, that’s how it’s done.’ Not to mention inflammatory. We are very different countries with different histories. But from the outside looking in, it’s hard not to feel disbelief at America’s gun laws and attitudes. I’m not saying Australia is perfect — it’s not. And it’s with great shame personally and as a nation that we have to claim one of the world’s worst spree killings – Port Arthur. However, I do think we’re at least pointing in the right direction.

I’m proud that I’d never seen a gun until I was thirty-five. Proud that I don’t know anyone who owns a gun. And as a mother, I’d prefer my children to have similar experiences. I think it would be great if they only see a gun if they become a crime fiction author and need to do some research. What about you?

When the movie’s better than the book

By PD Martin

There have been posts on Murderati before about books being turned into films, including David Corbett’s recent post on Cloud Atlas.

However, I’m not setting myself such lofty heights (!). I’m looking at book versus film YA style. You see, the novel I’m currently working on is YA (primarily, at least) and so I’ve been reading in that genre, including some of the breakout hits. Two I want to talk about today are I am Four and The Hunger Games.

So, first off I should say that with I am Four my first exposure was the movie (loved it for the pure escapist, sci-fi, action-packed style that it was). And yes, I know it’s not high-brow. There, I said it. Problem was, the movie was obviously a part one, and ended with a cliff-hanger. So, I  Googled it to see when the next instalment would be out, only to discover there was nothing in the works. After dismissing it for many months (longer actually), I finally decided I wanted to find out what happened. Especially given I wanted to read in the YA space. And while I could have read I am Four, I cheated a little and jumped to the second book, The Power of Six. And this is when I discovered something interesting…the movie is actually better than the book (IMHO) – at least the movie was executed better than book 2 (and book 3, The Rise of Nine, for that matter). Now, we always hear about movies not living up to the expectation of the book, but this was reversed for me. I felt the characters were actually more well-developed in the movie than they were in books 2 and 3, and I found some of the writing mechanics a little clunky. That’s obviously with my author hat on, of course.

At the time I was reading The Power of Six, I was also doing the final stint of my Writing Australia tour, teaching writing. Anyway, one of my slides looked at what makes a book ‘good’. My list includes things like: engaging characters, well-developed plot, writing style and being a page-turner (to name a few).  Funny thing is, the I am Four books are complete page-turners. I finished them quickly and didn’t want to put them down. I may moan about the character development and writing style, but I ploughed through them, eager to lap up the next instalment. They were page turners and so using my own definition they are ‘good’. Yet they failed to tick any of the other boxes.

Move on to the next blockbuster film and trilogy…The Hunger Games. Again, I saw the movie first (really just to see what all the fuss was about) ages ago and then recently as part of my research decided to read the book. And this time I did read the first book. In this case, I have no strong opinion either way whether the book is better than the movie or vice versa. In fact, I think they’re probably pretty equal. But, once again I’m totally INTO the series. I finished the first book and downloaded the second straight away. I’m pathetically taken in by the romance element (I know, I’m hopeless!) and the sense of impending rebellion — I’m dying to see what happens next. I’m now 50% through book 2, Catching Fire. Sshh, don’t tell me what happens.

Another book-to-movie comparison that always comes to mind for me is Lord of the Rings. I actually think Peter Jackson did the most amazing job of adapting those novels. In fact, in some ways the movie version was an improvement (hope I don’t get hate mail over that one!). But seriously, who needed Tom Bombadil??

Anyway, Murderati, have you seen/read any of my YA examples above? Thoughts? What about Lord of the Rings movie versus book? Or what is your favourite or least favourite book-to-movie adaptation?

Finally, I can’t blog on 6 December without saying happy birthday to the most amazing girl in the world. Our daughter is six today!

Traditions

by PD Martin

In today’s Wildcard Tuesday I wanted to look at traditions. I’ve never been the sort of person who was/is ‘traditional’ or who was really into traditions much at all. Having said that, since I’ve become a mother I find myself feeling much more nostalgic (and warm and fuzzy) about traditions.

Two things that have come up recently…

First off, the photo with Father Christmas. It’s that time of year again, when there’s a Santa in every department store. Last week, my daughter raced home to tell me: “Guess what, mum. I saw Santa at Shopppingtown today.” Shoppingtown is one of our closest shopping centres (mall if the language needs translating!). It was also our local when I was growing up and I remember having many photos with Santa there.

It’s also where we got a photo with Father Christmas for our first Christmas as parents, when Grace had just turned one. So it seems fitting that we go again this year, our first Christmas with Liam.

The other nostalgic thing of recent…the Kew Traffic School. This Thursday is my daughter’s sixth birthday, and yesterday afternoon we had her birthday party (actually she’s having three celebrations (!) but this was the party with her friends). Anyway, back in January I booked out the Kew Traffic School on Grace’s request. Yes, she was planning her sixth birthday party soon after her fifth! And yes, you do need to book the Traffic School early for private functions.

Anyway, the Kew Traffic School has many memories for me, and for other Melbournians. You see, it’s been around for ages. It’s basically a mini street system complete with traffic lights, a railway crossing, a roundabout, a few stop signs, a school crossing, giveway signs, etc. I remember going there when I was about eight with school as part of bike and road safety education. I had a ball! You take your bike and helmet and off you go. They also open during school holidays, and you can rent the Traffic School for private parties.

Grace’s party there was a definite success – from all perspectives. From the kids’ perspective it’s a great party. You zoom around on your bike or scooter for two hours and get to eat party food. The parents were pretty happy too, and I had many of them grinning as they were leaving and saying: “They’ll sleep tonight.”

And from our perspective, it was a pretty easy birthday. There’s no real need to decorate the venue (we just did balloons at the entrance) and you bring all your own food in so you get to choose what you want to bring and don’t pay ridiculous prices for it. There’s also a BBQ there, so we had sausages going for the second hour, which were a great hit. Yes, the threat of rain was a problem (no contingency plan) and Melbourne is unpredictable even in December. However, yesterday was perfect weather. Warm and sunny, but not too warm.

Admittedly, I had it easy – Shane did the lolly bags, the cake (a chocolate ripple cake in the shape of a bicycle) and the sausage sizzle. Some of you may remember the fairy princess cake I did for Grace last year?? This year, Shane was keen. 

Anyway, the party was a success and we’ve decided to hopefully hold a party at the Traffic School for Liam when he’s six or seven, too. Although with a May birthday I think it might be too risky!

So, what are your family traditions? Or things you do that have become a tradition?

Blast from the past

By PD Martin

These last few weeks I’ve been experiencing a real blast from the past. You see, a couple of months ago I contacted both my US and Aussie publishers hopeful that the rights to my Sophie Anderson series (Aussie FBI profiler) had reverted back to me.

Reversion of rights used to be the kiss of death for authors. Generally, no publisher would buy the book again to re-launch it (except perhaps if you went on to write a best seller and your new publisher was keen to acquire your back list). Then, ebooks happened. Now, reversion of rights is actually an exciting prospect for an author. Especially given one of the keys to ebook success is volume — having more than a handful of titles available to build your name and, of course, sales.

So, I was very happy to find the rights had reverted for ALL my Sophie titles with Pan Macmillan Australia. My contract for the US required much longer time frames to be served, but I was hopeful maybe book 1, Body Count, would be up for reversion. Unfortunately, not. Even though it’s out of print in the US, because I gave my North American publisher worldwide rights (excluding a few countries) it just has to have been printed somewhere recently (or due for a reprint). In the case of Body Count, apparently a reprint is scheduled of the French edition. While it’s great the reprint is happening, it’s frustrating that I’ll only be able to make my Sophie novels available to people in Australia and New Zealand.

This is particularly concerning given we represent such small markets on the global side of things (given our populations), plus so far Aussies have been very slow to adopt Kindles and other ereaders. (I’m not sure about New Zealand’s adoption rate of ereaders.) After some debate, I decided it’s still worthwhile to get them up there. Maybe I can be one of the Aussie authors getting in at the ground level, before Kindles take off!

So, for the past two weeks I’ve been taking another look at Body Count. It’s the first time I’ve read the book since the page proofs, back in 2005. There are a few minor things I’ve always wanted to fix, and other things I’m finding along the way. For example, I really steer away from dialogue tags now (he said, she said) and aim to use descriptions to attribute dialogue instead. To give a very basic example,

“I don’t know, Sophie,” Flynn says.

Might become something like this:

Flynn’s blue eyes fix on me. “I don’t know, Sophie.”

I’m also now mindful of the ebook medium and will be doing one pass entirely with the aim of breaking up a few chapters. I think some shorter paragraphs and shorter chapters work well for the ebook format and help give a book that page-turner feel. Plus, I’m concerned the book starts too slow so I’m hoping to cut out around 5,000 words from the first 1/3 of the book. That’s going to be a tough job, though, and I’ll devote one editorial pass just to that task. Deleting scenes is never easy for an author.  

Of course, I’ve also been getting the cover designed. Like it?

So, Murderati, questions for today. When you revisit a book several years later (as an author or reader) how does it hold up? For those of you who read ebooks, do you agree that shorter paragraphs and chapters work better?

Special note
To all our US readers who observe Thanksgiving, I’d like to say Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a great day, filled with good food and good company, with many things around you to give thanks for. 

Writing Australia Tour

By PD Martin

Last weekend saw the final part of a writing tour I’ve done this year for Writing Australia. While some authors get to tour a lot, and probably too much for their liking, that’s not generally the lot for us mid-list authors.  So my last interstate dash was met with the excitement of someone who doesn’t get to travel for work much, if at all.

At the beginning of the year, Writing Australia (via Writers Victoria) asked me if I’d take part in a tour, where they’d sponsor my airfares and appearance fees so that other state writing centres could access a range of teachers. In this case, me!

It’s been great fun…I’ve done a weekend course in Canberra, a whole weekend of activities as part of the Salisbury Writers’ Festival (blog about it here) in South Australia, and this weekend I took a one-day workshop in Hobart on wrting crime fiction and popular fiction; and a one-day workshop on crime writing in Sydney. 

All the centres have been wonderful hosts and the tour was expertly put together by the Director at Writers Victoria.

I’ve received excellent feedback from all the attendees at my workshops and I’ve had a blast! I mean what’s not to love? Downtime at the airport – great time to fire up the laptop and get a few hundred words done over a glass of wine or beer. A hotel room to yourself, TV in bed, and time to myself. I think the latter is something many parents (and dare I say it, mothers) don’t get much of, so when we do it’s appreciated. Of course, I missed my two munchkins enormously, but I also think I lapped up the ‘me time’ and also made sure I made the time productive, where possible.

I’ll give you a sample with a breakdown of this weekend. Cab to the airport in the afternoon. Wasn’t a whole heap of time at the gate, so I read on my Kindle. Love my reading time! Arrived at the Hobart airport and then onto the hotel. Decided to treat myself to a good-quality steak dinner and delicious wine – Kindle in hand. Then back to the hotel room where I eyed the bath and noticed that not only was it deeper than ours, but I didn’t have to clear a million bath toys to get into it. Hot bath, bit of TV in bed, more reading. Heaven. 

Then there was the course (great fun) followed by two hours to kill before heading to the airport. Cheese platter, glass of red wine, laptop out and some writing time. Gold.

Arrived into Sydney late, so didn’t do any more work but I did read for half an hour or so before it was sleep time.

Next day was the course (great fun again) and then my hour at Sydney airport was spent writing with a beer.

Like I said, who can complain about touring??

I have to confess, while I first took up teaching to add another income stream, I LOVE teaching. I love talking to eager students, I love seeing their faces light up when something clicks or excites them. I love watching them leave the venue at the end of a day with their heads spinning with information but also feeling inspired. 

So, Murderati. What courses have you taken part in recently, as either teacher or student? What makes a course ‘good’ to you?

Lost in translation

By PD Martin

About a year ago I came up with an idea for a new novel. It was the kind of idea that kept eating at me, kept calling to me “Write me”. I knew it was an idea I’d get to sooner rather than later, that it would ‘jump the queue’ in terms of the projects I had planned. This is the order I’m supposed to be doing things in:

  1. Books 2 & 3 in my Guardian and Wanderer series (Pippa Dee)
  2. Book 2 in my new “RB and The Committee series” (as a follow-on to Hell’s Fury)
  3. Another mainstream drama project (I was hoping to have an agent and a sale by now for my first mainstream drama novel, but alas it hasn’t happened yet).

Then, and only then, would I move onto this ‘new’ idea, something that’s completely different again to what I’ve been writing. It’s a post-apocalyptic YA thriller/action adventure.  I know…I’m all over the shop.

However, when I was in bed at night, I’d literally think about scenes from this book. I’d see and hear them in my head, compose the sentences and dialogue. I had the character down — a tough 18 year old who’d been imprisoned since she was 10 because she was a ‘danger to society’. But I didn’t write any of these scenes down. I trusted my subconscious and conscious to let the idea brew, to fully form. But now, I’m not so sure…

I’ve finally answered the call of this book and put all of my 1-3 points above on hold. After a little bit of initial but essential research, I started writing last Thursday. In fact, it’s the first thing I’ve written since we collected Liam in Korea a few weeks ago. And I am also aware that my writing stints are going to be an hour here, an hour there, and then one full day (Thursdays).

Now here’s the problem. The book isn’t coming out at all like it’s been in my head for the past year or so. The main character, instead of being a kick-ass bad-ass chick with a major attitude problem, is turning out to be a young woman who wants redemption for ‘her kind’, who wants to prove she can do more than only destroy society. But I just don’t know. Is the book lost in translation or is this how it is meant to be, how it always would have turned out even if I’d answered its call twelve months ago, or even six months ago? It’s not that I’m not happy with what I’ve written so far and I am only 5,000 words in so it’s hard to tell. But still, why is it so different to what I’d envisaged?

So, Murderati…for those of you who write, has this ever happened to you? Found a book comes out incredibly different on the page to what it was in your head? And for the readers, do you ever get the feeling a book is different to what perhaps the author first thought?

And finally, any thoughts on whether I should go with the flow, what’s coming out on the page, or ditch my 5,000 words and start again trying to be true to the original vision.