Category Archives: P.D. Martin

Never look back?

By PD Martin

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Buddha

I love this notion of living in the present (well, in theory at least). And I even think the notion of looking forward is infinitely better than dwelling in the past. What ifs, questioning your decisions…it’s never a good idea. We all know the past can be a road to heartbreak. Right? But still, sometimes it’s hard not to wonder how things may have turned out with different options or different choices during key moments in our lives. How would the different trajectory look? I adore the movie Sliding Doors for its core concept of playing out two different paths. Although I can’t remember how it ended. Did the two paths converge?

And I guess when it comes to our personal lives, I’m also a believer of dealing with the past (and perhaps it can be a fine line between dwelling in the past and thinking about it enough to move forward).

As for living in the present…well, I can’t seem to get the balance right on that one either. I’m constantly looking forward — making plans, setting goals. It’s part of who I am. And while it’s easy to say that in an ideal world we’d all live in the present, that world would actually look pretty grim. No one thinking or worrying about consequences? No one planning forward at a personal, national or global level in terms of money, resources, environment, strategy? Scary, as hell if you ask me.

I guess the key at a personal level, is not to worry about the future so much that you miss out on the present.

Recently, I’ve been questioning whether it’s a good idea to apply the notion of “never look back” to our creative lives. Yes, I have a vested interest in this. As I mentioned in my last blog, part of my 2012 strategy (yes, looking forward) involves taking a trip down memory lane and pulling out some of those earlier manuscripts that never quite made it into print. Is there enough of a spark for resurrection? I mean, everything’s a draft, right?

Like many authors, I also teach writing. And in the past I’ve always told my students that their first manuscript(s) — one, two, three, or maybe even more — are learning experiences. Ones for that top drawer that will most likely never see the light of day.

Still, I think back to my road to publication and there was at least one manuscript for which I found it hard to take no for an answer. In fact, many publishers also found it hard to say no. This particular young adult manuscript went through the very many levels of an unsolicited manuscript at the four top publishers here in Australia. This little book got through the readers, through the junior editors, right up to the acquisitions editors only to be booted out the door at an acquisition meeting. The dreaded vote. Of course, it’s all behind closed doors so I have no idea in each case who vetoed my book — marketing, sales, management? And I’ll never know.

But with the whole ebook thing (remember, I’ve been a bit of a dumb ass with this) it made me wonder whether this book could be resurrected. Since I last worked on my three YA novels (which I wrote between 1997-2002) I’ve learned a huge amount about the writing craft. And I’ve written another seven books. So what would that experience bring to my earlier novel(s)?

Well, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past three weeks. Digging out “the one that got away”. And with fresh eyes (it has been nearly ten years, after all) I could see the novel’s strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly I knew a few editorial passes would address the weaknesses.

Alexander Graham Bell said:  “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

But what if closed doors sometimes open for us, once more?

Is there anything from your life that you’ve decided to go back to, decided to “dwell” on, with positive results?

Get ready, cause here I come

By PD Martin

In some ways I was quick getting on board the whole self-published ebook phenomenon but in other ways I’ve been a slow, dumb-ass! By the way, I’d never really heard the term dumb ass until I watched That 70s Show. Love it! Is that a term purely from the show, or was it in use in the US before That 70s Show?

 

You may remember that in the Australian summer holidays (January) I was away for quite some time and didn’t get much writing done. However, what I did do was a 2012 plan. I spent years working as a corporate writer and sometimes I think it’s extremely useful to bring some of the corporate tools to the creative world. One such thing is project planning (I have project plans with word targets and completion dates for pretty much everything I work on) and another thing that’s useful is a twelve-month strategy.

Anyway, the main realization from my strategy planning was that I needed to get on to the ebook bandwagon properly. I say properly, because in 2009/2010 I wrote a Sophie Anderson novella (Coming Home, the sixth book in the series) online. Literally online. Each week I’d write a chapter and then post a few multiple-choice questions for my readers to have a say in the direction of the book for the next chapter/week. It was a scary and exciting time. Scary because I didn’t know exactly what I’d write next and exciting because it was such a different way of writing and I felt like a pioneer. Once I was finished I organised cover art, got the book edited and posted it online as a free download. It was on my website (and nowhere else – big dumb ass!) for nearly a year before I became more aware of the whole self-published ebook revolution and got it up on Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99. Sales were modest, but there were sales without ANY publicity.

So, back to my New Year strategy planning. One of the key outcomes of my 2012 strategy is to get my (dumb)ass into gear with the ebook thing. First stop: Sophie. I’ve never been into short stories much, but in 2006 I was asked to write a Sophie Anderson short story for a magazine called Australian Women’s Weekly (it’s actually now published monthly, but they decided in the 1980s not to change it to Australian Women’s Monthly – for obvious reasons, I suspect). Anyway, I wrote a story called Missing and submitted it to my publicist and Aussie editor. However, I was concerned that the gist of it (child abduction) might not be appropriate for the magazine, plus it was set in Melbourne, before Sophie went to the FBI and wasn’t exactly indicative of a Sophie book. My hunch was right and I started from scratch, writing a story about a missing girl but with a very different tone and set after Body Count and in Washington DC. For that story, I had two different endings and after a discussion with my publishers we chose an ending and submitted it. The Weekly loved it and it appeared in the March 2006 edition.

So, these two stories had been sitting on my C drive for six years!!!! Why not do something with them? I gave them another round of editing, put them into Scrivener so I could output directly into an ebook, and paid a designer to create a cover. Last week, The Missing went up on Amazon, priced at 0.99! And just for fun, I included the alternate ending for the story set in DC.

Also sitting on my C drive were two true crime pieces that I wrote for a collection called Meaner than Fiction. I was asked to contribute to this collection and when I went looking for Aussie stories that I could get an ‘in’ to (e.g. could interview someone first hand) the two stories that came my way were actually stories of wrongful conviction. The first was about Andrew Mallard, a West Australian man with mental health issues who was charged with murder. The second story was about wrongful conviction in general, and I interviewed the director of one of Australia’s Innocence Projects. Again, fascinating stuff.

So, during my strategy session in January it occurred to me that I could package these two stories together as well. Last week, When Justice Fails, also went up on Amazon – also for 0.99.

So, stages 1 & 2 of my ebook strategy have been ticked off. Go me!

The next step in my ebook strategy rests on the idea that, like many writers, I have a draw full of finished but unpublished novels. Some of these should, and will, stay in my draw and archived on my computer. But there are others that I still believe in, including:

  1. the first book in a young adult trilogy; and
  2. a spy thriller I finished around this time last year but didn’t have any luck selling (apparently the spy thriller market is hard to break in to at the moment).

So, over the coming months you’ll be hearing about one more PD Martin self-published ebook, Hell Hath No Fury (at least I think that’s what I’m calling it) and the start of my YA ebook strategy (and the birth of a new pen name, Pippa Dee).

Have you joined the ebook revolution? 

Once more with feeling

By PD Martin

In my post on Australia’s National Year of Reading, I spoke about my early love of reading and how I read to be transported into other worlds — be they realistic or fantastical worlds.

Most crime fiction books take us into the fictional world of a cop, FBI agent, body guard, profiler, etc — but they’re based in realism. The crimes could really happen (although as Gar mentioned in his post yesterday, sometimes real events sound too fictional to include in a novel!).

When I was writing my Sophie Anderson series, there were different elements at play, different motivations in terms of my aim for the reader. Some of the books are classic WHOdunits — my aim was to keep the reader guessing about who the perpetrator was. They are also largely WHYdunits. Given my leading lady is a profiler, the books include forensic psychology that focuses on why the perpetrator committed the crime and/or why they exhibited certain behaviours during the crime. My Sophie books can also be described as forensic-based police/FBI procedurals, so the scientific evidence is also a key element — HOWdunit.

In my National Year of Reading post, I said that reading is also about emotion, about how a book makes you feel. And while this can be an important element in some crime fiction stories, it’s not a key factor in the Sophie series. Sure, I want people to connect with Sophie and the story — to be worried about the characters if they’re in danger, to feel losses, to feel the victim’s pain or the victim’s family’s pain, etc. But it’s not the primary driver in these books. Like I said, like many crime fiction books they’re who/why/how dunits.

However, this is not the case in the book I’ve just completed. Tentatively titled Crossroads and Deadends, it’s the mainstream drama/fiction book that I’ve spoken about on Murderati briefly a couple of times. And while I hope readers will feel transported into the character’s world, my primary aim is to get an emotional response from my reader. I want them to feel the characters’ heartaches and triumphs. I want them to worry about how the characters are going to cope.

It feels very different to be writing predominantly for an emotive response, rather than piecing together evidence and suspects. I’m not analysing a crime, and neither are my main characters. Rather, my three main characters are trying to keep their lives together, despite destructive internal and external forces.

So, what is success from my perspective as the author? For the Sophie books, I felt successful when readers reported not knowing whodunit, staying up until 3am to finish a book (and generally not being able to put the books down), being scared to read late at night if they were by themselves, and telling me how much they loved Sophie. I’ve even had emails from my younger readers who read my books and were inspired to study forensics or criminal psychology at college, because they want to be like Sophie. Success.

So, what will make me feel like I’ve done my job well for this new book? Yes, I want it to be a page-turner even though it’s not in the classic page-turning genres of crime, thrillers and action adventures. But mostly, I want readers to identify with my characters and be inspired by their stories. And, quite simply, I want them to cry at least once. Like I said, this book is a completely different style of book and so it’s not surprising that what I consider to be success in terms of my readers’ reactions will be different.  

Oh yeah, and I guess success is also a best seller…but what writer doesn’t want that?

I don’t really have any deep questions today, but would still love your comments.

And I’d also like to tell you about some other Murderati news from Zoe and Alex, who are both offering some of their books free on Kindle.

Zoë Sharp’s ex-Special Forces turned bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox, is described by The Chicago Tribune as “Ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic − and coolest − heroines in contemporary genre fiction.”

Now you have a chance to find out how it all began. For 48 hours from midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, February 29th to midnight PST on Friday, March 2nd the very first in the Charlie Fox series, KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one, will be available as a FREE Kindle download from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The book, complete with two deleted scenes and a Foreword by Lee Child, also includes the opening chapter from RIOT ACT: Charlie Fox book two.

The New York Times said of KILLER INSTINCT: “The bloody bar fights are bloody brilliant.”

Also, Alex’s very dark YA thriller The Space Between is free on Kindle from Thursday (starting 12:00 AM PST) through Sunday (midnight): 

“Alexandra Sokoloff has created an intricate tapestry; a dark Young Adult novel with threads of horror and science fiction that make it a true original. Loaded with graphic, vivid images that place the reader in the midst of the mystery and danger, The Space Between takes psychological elements, quantum physics and multiple dimensions with parallel universes and creates a storyline that has no equal. A must-read. ”  — Suspense Magazine

More info and download now:

Amazon/Kindle 
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon ES
Amazon FR
Amazon IT

And Book of Shadows will also be free in the UK and worldwide, except US:

“A wonderfully dark thriller with amazing is-it-isn’t-it suspense all the way to the end. Highly recommended.”   — Lee Child

More info and download now:

Amazon UK 
Amazon DE
Amazon ES
Amazon FR
Amazon IT

First day of school

By PD Martin

The past 10 days have been huge for me…a huge life stage for me…well, actually it’s a huge life stage for my daughter! You see, on Monday 6 February Grace started school.

The lead up to this event was pretty intense, and I managed to get myself very stressed about my ‘to-do’ list. Buy the uniform, buy new shoes, get the books, label everything, buy a new lunchbox (lots of research into that one!), hair ties in school colours, buy new drink bottle, etc. And while some of these may seem like ridiculously small things, I wanted everything to be perfect. And anyone who’s got young children will probably relate to the drink bottle dilemma. Do you know how hard it is to get a bottle that children will both drink out of AND that won’t leak? We’ve got a cupboard full of drink bottles/juice cups that cover Grace from the time she was six months old until now. Some leaked despite their marketing claims and others didn’t leak but for whatever reason she didn’t drink enough water (presume it was the mouthpiece/straw).

Anyway, once I had everything bought, labelled and ironed, it was time for her first day, which would be 9am-12.30. We walked up from our house to the school and she had a massive entourage. And, let me tell you, my daughter wears an entourage extremely well. In fact, she kind of expects it now. She’s our only child and my parent’s only grandchild, plus she has a larger-than-life personality that draws many people to her. On her first day, her posse included me, my hubby, my dad, my mum and my mother-in-law (Grace’s first day at school was the main reason my mother-in-law had come to visit from Ireland).

We wandered through the local streets, with Grace just about jumping out of her skin. In fact, there was a substantial amount of time spent actually jumping, with me telling her to take it easy because she’d wear herself out before she even got to school!

Many, many photos were taken (as you can imagine) and my dad bought along a very old piece of paper that had my name on it and I’d traced over the words “I started school today” with a crayon. I don’t remember writing this on my first day of school, but it was fantastic to be able to show Grace and then we got her to do the same thing later on.

So far, Grace is settling into school extremely well. She loves it and is excited to go there in the morning and was most upset on Saturday and Sunday when there was no school! As part of the way they’re easing the kids into the first year, they’ve also got Wednesdays off for the next three weeks. We decided to make the most of these last days and had a family day yesterday. 

I don’t know how the next seven years of her primary school life will go, but I hope she’s always this enthusiastic about school. It sure makes things easier 🙂

I don’t remember my first day at school, even though I’m sure I was incredibly excited. Can you remember your first day at school? Or your kids’ first day?  Looking forward to hearing some of your stories. 

National Year of Reading

By PD Martin

Sometimes when it’s my turn to blog I have to scramble for ideas. But today, I had three potential topics!  

 

  1. Valentine’s Day. I lucked out and drew Valentine’s Day for my Wildcard Tuesday. So I should write a blog about that, right? You know, tracing the history, talking about what it means to me…yada, yada, yada. But forget it…I’ve got other things to write about today. And I’m sure there will be loads of blogs around on Valentine’s Day. And if not, just go to Wikipedia for your fix.
  2. Option 2 was relevant to the date, because tonight (Aussie time) I’m launching the National Year of Reading at one of my local libraries. I’m one of the ambassadors and this is my first duty of the year. In fact, when this goes live I will have just finished giving my speech. 
  3. Option 3 came around on the weekend. While I believe writing is a craft more than an art, I still consider myself to be a creative, artistic person. And as a creative, artistic person I am upset, outraged and angry at the wasted talent of the one and only Whitney Houston. So much so, I considered writing a blog on it.

In the end, I’ve gone with option 2, the reading theme, because it seems so relevant to this forum, to Murderati.

For the launch I was asked to speak a little about reading and what reading and books meant to me. I’ve decided to write about some of these things today.

First off, I was lucky because I always loved reading. I didn’t need Harry Potter or fancy ebooks on iPads to engage me – I just needed a book. Sure, there were books I loved more than others, books that I read over and over again. Childhood greats like The Wishing Chair, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Famous Five and Nancy Drew come to mind. But pretty much any book would do me. I’d devour them, keen to move on to the next story, or the next book in a series.

So, what did I love about books and reading? Some people talk about the feel of a book, the feel of turning pages. But for me, although my childhood reading was solely hardcopy based, it was never about the feel of a book, it was about the words on the page, or more specifically about where the book would take me. You can pick up a book and be anywhere in the world, or not in this world at all. Whether it’s reading about a cop in the US, a bodyguard in England or reading about the hobbits travelling to Middle Earth, books take you somewhere else, give you another experience. Sometimes that experience can be grounded in reality or what might be possible, like crime fiction, drama or even romance stories (although many would argue they’re not based in any realism at all!). And at other times, the world you’re transported to is fictional, fantastical. Whether it’s travelling with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter to Narnia or following the lives of Bella and Edward in Twilight, these books take you to another world, a world that is appealing, interesting or intriguing in some way. 

Reading’s also about emotion, about how a story makes you feel. Reading has the ability, the power , to take you on emotional highs and lows. You can be inspired by triumph, moved or heartbroken by tragedy or drama, intrigued and challenged by a whodunit or you can simply get away from it all with an escapist read. These escapist reads could come in the form of classic fantasy novels, horror books, paranormal stories or even romance. And while some people like the more literary style of writing and others prefer a good vampire book, it’s all reading. And it’s all story telling. Sure, it’s changed a lot over the years. Originally it was people telling stories around campfires or ‘drawing’ stories. Then, as we evolved, stories became about the written word rather than the spoken word. They were about reading, not listening. And now, well in some ways we’ve come full circle with audio books that allow people to listen to stories, but they’ve also evolved to another level with ebooks. Our kids may read online, and via ereaders or i-Somethings, but they will still read. In fact, I think ebooks give these technology-savvy generations the ability to combine reading with gadgets and hopefully that will lead to an increase in the love of reading, and most importantly of literacy.

Reading is also ultimately why I became a writer – I think why anyone becomes a writer. Authors love hearing and reading stories, and most importantly we love telling our own stories.

However, I do have a confession to make. My reading is currently in a massive trough, which actually started when I got published. Like many authors, I found myself juggling tight deadlines and reading non-fiction research books instead of reading for pleasure. Plus I became a mother soon after I became published, which meant juggling the dual acts of motherhood and writing; and I’m also one of those authors who prefers not to read while writing. These things add up to not much reading.

However, I am inspired to read more this year. Inspired by the National Year of Reading, and by my role as an ambassador. What about you? What are your reading plans for the year? And what are your childhood memories of stories taking you to different worlds or on emotional highs and lows? 

Golf…what the?

by PD Martin

 

Okay, I’m still in holiday mode here (this is the view from my towel most mornings, although this picture does NOT do it justice!). In my last blog I talked about what I’ve been up to on my extended holiday break and today I’m going to continue with the holiday theme. We’re still down in the Mornington Peninsula (until Saturday), and then on Monday my daughter starts school (scary!). Anyway…holidays…  

 

My mum is an avid golfer. She’s now retired and plays golf two to three times a week. She loves it. So, when she came down to the coast for a few days it was natural for her to persuade us all to go for nine holes of golf. I did try to suggest I could stay at home and write, but the look (you know the one that only a mother can give you) told me that it was NOT a good idea for me to bail on the golf. So off I went.

I’ve played golf a few times and keep thinking I’ll “get it”…but it hasn’t happened yet. After the first hole I was completely perplexed. What do people see in this game?? Why do they play it? Now the cynics reading this might think it had something to do with the fact that on the first hole (a par 4) it took me around 12 shots to get the stupid ball into the stupid hole. It may have even been 14 shots…let’s face it, by around six you lose count. My mum also tells me you have to count the shots when you completely miss the ball (air golf) but I think that’s a bit rough for a beginner.

The second hole wasn’t much better, but by the third I was down to about 8 or so shots (not counting the air-golf shots). Then one hole, I think it was the fifth hole, I took four shots for a par 3 and it did feel kind of good. But let’s face it, it was a complete fluke.

In the next hole there was a pond between me and the fairway. My daughter (who’s only 5) was in hysterics: “No, Mummy. It will go in the water. No!”  She was also quite worried about the ducks in the lake. But I thought I’d give it a go (maybe artificially buoyed by my four-shot hole). And what were the chances my ball would actually hit some poor innocent duck? Nil, surely. First ball went straight into the lake (of course), as did the second one. Thankfully, the ducks remained intact. Grace was most concerned about losing another ball (and I don’t think my mum wanted to give me another one either) so I walked around and dropped the ball on the fairway. And it still took me like a million shots to get it in the hole.

I think it was around this point that I said to my mum: “How many more holes have we got to go?” I guess it’s a variation on “Are we there yet?”

Interestingly, my daughter enjoys golf! My mum sometimes takes her to the driving range where they have 50 balls and then do some putting. On our 9 holes, Grace teed off about six times, often striking the ball further than me. Then we’d pick up her ball and give her a shot at the other end – putting. She seems pretty good for a 5yro, but then what do I know about golf?

As I walked around (for nearly three hours) I couldn’t help but think about what a complete waste of time golf was – and how I’d MUCH rather be at home writing. Time is very tight for me (the juggling act of motherhood, freelance corporate work and fiction writing) and I felt like I’d completely wasted three hours of my precious time. But I’m trying to be more ‘the glass if half full’ so I tried to think about the up-side.

  1. I did walk around eight kilometers so at least I got a bit of exercise.
  2. Cape Schanck is a stunning golf course, and on many holes you catch glimpses of the ocean in the background.
  3. I was with my daughter, mum and mother-in-law.  Family time!

The only other thing that worried me on the course was that this particular course has lots of houses on it. I kept saying to my mum, “I’d be worried a ball was going to come sailing through my window.” She assured me they were designed so it rarely/never happened. But they hadn’t seen me play golf! Or maybe the designers had taken into account people like me because I miraculously avoided both ducks and houses. Yay, me!

So, any golfers out there? What am I missing?  Or do you think this game is as absurd as I do? Or maybe there’s some other sport or hobby that you just don’t get. 

Summer Down Under

by PD Martin

I know the Murderati readers are scattered around the globe (we’re such an eclectic bunch) but many of you are in the Northern Hemisphere and in the throes of winter. So, I thought you might like to hear about my summer holidays!

Currently my daughter is on holidays, about to transition from pre-school to her first school year, which starts Monday 6 February  (yes, our school year coincides more with the calendar). After Christmas, we headed down to the beach, specifically Mornington Peninsula. It’s a lovely spot down there, and my family has a small house in a suburban area, but it’s only a ten-minute walk to the beach. There’s a great beach-side track for walking/jogging/cycling, the beach (of course) and we spend lots of time on the deck having BBQs and drinking good wine. Aussie wine, of course!

Our days have been varied, partly because we’ve been experiencing some classic crazy Melbourne weather (Melbourne is known for its unpredictable weather, and it’s often said you can experience all four seasons in one day – and you can). Anyway, so the first week down at the beach was damn hot (30-38 Celsius or 86 to 103 for those of you who prefer Fahrenheit). Then the next week temperatures plummeted to 16-18 Celsius (60-64 Fahrenheit) and we had rain. Now we’ve had another hot few days so we’ve been lying on top of the bed clothes with a cold facewasher on hand. I know it’s weird…for a country that experiences such extreme hot weather many of our houses don’t have air conditioning. In fact, my family’s beach house doesn’t have air-con, neither does our two-bedroom unit in Melbourne (which was built in 1972). So some nights it gets hot, hot, hot! But who knows, tomorrow it might plummet again.

Another key part of our Aussie summer each year is the Australian Open. Today we headed in for a ‘day pass’, another fun day in the sun, watching the tennis heavyweights hit it out. Hopefully we applied enough sunscreen and got enough water into us to cope! So far so good. The picture on the left is a partial view of the Melbourne skyline from the Margaret Court Arena. 

This summer has also been made extra special with two overseas visitors. Firstly, my  best friend (who I’ve known since I was 4yro). She’s actually an Aussie but moved to Rhode Island nearly six years ago with her American husband.  It’s been great to have her in town, visiting some of our old haunts and finding some new (more mature) haunts. We’ve also got my husband’s mother in town from Ireland. She’s here for three weeks, spurred on by wanting to be around for Grace’s first day of school.

We’ll be hitting a few more tourist destinations with her, but mostly relaxing down at the beach house.

Writing?
Writing you say? What’s that? No, I have been doing a little bit of writing/editing here and there, but really only one day a week plus a couple of nights. My output is down, but I managed to finish the first draft of my new ‘mainstream fiction’ book just before Christmas and I have managed my first editorial pass. I expect my output will suddenly and significantly increase on 6 February. 

 

So, what does your typical summer involve? And if you’re in the middle of winter, can you even imagine the hot sun on your face and diving into the ocean to cool off?

Health hazards of being a writer

By PD Martin

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking this sounds like a bizarre blog title. And I guess it is something we don’t talk about much. So here it is, the health hazards of being a writer. Brought to you by PD Martin.

First off, I should talk about all the wonderful things about being a writer. Things like: creative freedom; working from home; working from cafes; working in your pyjamas; creating magical or scary or whatever types of worlds; creating in general; bringing our work to the masses (hopefully); yada, yada, yada. Okay, time to move on to the moaning part of the blog and the ‘beware’ section.


RSI
It’s true. Being a writer involves long chunks of time at a desk, typing. And we all know that can lead to repetitive strain injury. Thankfully, so far I’ve been spared from this particular hazard. However, I do have…

Carpal tunnel syndrome
If you don’t know what that is, it’s a nerve thing (yes, very technical) and it’s generally caused by typing. The main thing for me is I wake up in the middle of the night with painful pins and needles in my hands and also get that if I try to grip something for a while (e.g. a car steering wheel). Annoying more than anything else.

Eye sight problems
Another one I can tick, I’m afraid. I used to have perfect vision. Then in my 20s I was doing lots of hard-copy editing (okay, not exactly writing, but it’s still part of the same business). After a few months I realised I couldn’t read signs…everything in the distance was a little blurry. Yup, I’m now long-sighted.

Alcoholism
Okay, I’m happy to say I don’t suffer from this one! At least not yet. Although, that wine does look yummy.

But it’s true, many writers like to have a drink or two before they write. Or maybe it’s our creative brains. Who knows, but many authors do like to knock a few back. You?

Insomnia
I do get this one from time to time. Like a few weeks ago when I woke up in the middle of the night and starting thinking of opening lines for a book. Plot points, character arcs…two hours later I was still awake.

Back and neck problems
Oh dear…I’ve got this one too. Mind you, my husband does accuse me of being a hypochondriac (better not show him this list). Mostly it’s my right shoulder running up into the neck. Ouch.

Weight gain
Can I blame this on hours at my desk? Maybe. Although if I’m honest my metabolism seemed to know the minute I hit 40 (less than 2 years ago) and stood at the front of the room waving its finger at me with an ‘Uh huh…no way you going to eat that and not put on a few pounds.’ Blast it.


Stress
Okay, everyone’s stressed. And authors are no different. What do we stress about? Usually deadlines and lack of any cold hard cash. It’s a tough life, you know?

Sometimes we stress about writer’s block (thankfully I’ve never had that problem – touch wood) or about our careers shrivelling up like over-dried dried prunes (okay, I do stress about that).

Well, I think I’m done. Phew. Although no doubt I’ve missed an ailment or two.

What about you? Give it to me. Give us a laugh or unload your troubles 🙂

The life of a hitman

By PD Martin

A while ago I started a research series here on Murderati and somehow it fell by the wayside. Sorry! But I’m back on the research front with today’s blog, this time focusing on some research I did into professional hitmen.

Note: In nearly all the known cases of contract killers the gender of the killer is male. It doesn’t mean a woman can’t be a hitperson, it’s just much, much less likely.

An article I found in the Journal of Forensic Sciences classifies three types of hitmen: amateur, semi-professional and professional. The amateur ones are probably best characterised as the career criminal or drug addict who takes a few hundred bucks to knock off someone’s wife or husband. Planning levels are low and often these amateurs stuff up the job and/or get caught.

But then we have the upper, upper echelon. I uncovered one research study on this type of contract killer, but the number of subjects was extremely low (five killers, all male and covering a large age range). One assumes that the people who practice in the upper echelons of contract killing simply don’t get caught. In the US in 2008, there were 200 murders that were either known or believed to be carried out for money. Of those, 82 were solved and fall into the amateur or semi-professional categories, leaving 118 unsolved. That’s a lot of unsolved contract kills. And how many killers were there? It’s possible there were a handful of busy killers, or fifty or so averaging two jobs a year. Who knows?

The professional hitman (which my research was focused on) is highly organised and plans the kill methodically. He (or very rarely she) is often employed by organised crime and the target is usually a criminal and often someone within organised crime. There is little to no physical evidence left at the scene.

In terms of this type of contract killer’s personality, they see what they do as a job-strictly business. There’s no psychological or emotional need to kill; in their minds, it’s simply a way of living. However, it’s been found that some contract killers see themselves as doing the ‘work of God’, stepping in where the justice system fails. Either way, these individuals are capable of complete compartmentalisation and so it’s possible that they’re married with children and successfully living a double life.

In the small sample study of five contract killers, they also tested IQ. They ranged from 95 to 115, with the average being 108. However, most of them functioned above their overall intelligence and this was because they had highly developed analytical and organisational skills, plus extremely well-developed social skills.

Most of them are highly methodical with an overdeveloped sense of discipline and many have served time in the military. They do ‘stalk’ their victims but it’s purely for functional reasons, to get to know their routines and to find the best place to kill them. The contract killer feels no bonds or ties to the victims, and as a professional killer, it’s also unlikely he’ll feel any remorse.

How to be a hitman…really?

One of the weirdest (and funniest) things I ran across during my research was a book called Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors. The book was initially published in 1983 by Paladin Press. However, in 1993 a triple homicide was committed by a man who said he’d used the book. The victims’ family sued Paladin Press and in 1999 the case was settled and the book was officially pulled off the market. Of course, it popped up online the next day!

The book details things like: mental and physical preparations; equipment needed; how to make a disposable silencer; different killing methods; surveillance; planning the kill; finding jobs; how much to charge; how to get it right; controlling the situation; and enjoying the fruits of the life of a contract killer. Bizarre, right?

I actually often read out a section at my talks about women. I won’t repeat it here for copyright reasons but I can give you the general gist of it – it my own words. The section reads as a warning against women. I guess you’d call it a back-handed compliment for women, because it says we can be great contract killers but the reasons given are our deceitful natures and because we’re so vicious! It then goes on to say that luckily women are taken off the street because of our nesting instinct…and then we’re busy with babies, laundry and housework. Hard to believe the book was written in 1983 and not 1953 with comments like that.

So, do you think you know a contract killer? Or maybe you bought the book!

Lastly, I wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays. We’ll be celebrating Christmas Day out the back, eating seafood and basking in the Aussie sun – the forecast is for 30C (86F).  Here’s a taste of the Aussie Christmas…a song my 5yro was taught at pre-school. The Aussie Jingle Bells. Probably funnier if you’re an Aussie!

 

And yes, we will be throwing a shrimp on the barbecue. 

Retailers as publishers – the way forward?

By PD Martin

In today’s Wildcard Tuesday, I want to look at Amazon’s move into the publishing business…

Amazon moved into the publishing realm (sort of) in 2009 with AmazonEncore, a program where Amazon selected self-published titles they felt deserved greater attention and marketed them as AmazonEncore editions. In 2010, the imprint moved into a more traditional role, publishing original manuscripts (some selected via the Amazon Breakthrough Novel award and some via agent submissions). Also in 2010 came Amazon Crossing, an imprint that publishes English-language versions of foreign language books. 

However it was in 2011 that Amazon really launched itself as a publishing ‘house’. In 2011, three new imprints launched from Amazon’s Seattle office:

  • Montlake Romance (romance imprint; launched in April)
  • Thomas & Mercer (mystery/thriller imprint; launched in May)
  • 47North (science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint; launched in October)

Then in May this year, Amazon set up its New York-based imprint, appointing Laurence J Kirshbaum at its helm and focusing on non-fiction and some literary fiction. The imprint made its first acquisition in August, with Timothy Ferriss’ self-help book The Four-Hour Chef (for publication in 2012). 

Amazon’s most recent foray into publishing came earlier this month, when the company moved into the children’s publishing book market through its purchase of Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books. The trade publishing list includes over 450 children’s books and the deal was made via Larry Kirshbaum’s publishing unit. One can only assume that acquisitions will follow.

Certainly there’s no arguing that Amazon has been a powerhouse since it launched amazon.com in 1995. As a retail player, it’s revolutionalised the book buying and selling business and of course Kindle has changed the way we read books — forever. And is it even necessary to mention what Kindle and ebooks have done for an author’s ability to self-publish?

So, has Amazon brought its transformation skills into the more traditional publishing sphere? Will its move into traditional publishing be a Midas touch for authors or the kiss of death? I believe that Amazon still requires ebook exclusivity – so an author’s book is only available online via Kindle. Will this change? As an author, I hope Amazon’s new imprints bring a new opportunity — there’s a new publisher in town, another publishing ‘house’ that agents can approach. At least, I hope that’s how it will turn out. But often when it comes to things like this, I lack insight 🙂

What do you think? And will other book retailers following Amazon’s footsteps?