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MartynVHalm

MartynVHalm

Currently reading

Blinding Justice
Kristi Cramer
The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzmán
Mike Robbins
State of Honour
Gary Haynes

A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin Too bad most of the intrigue of Feast for Crows plays in King's Landing and that the story of interesting characters like Daenerys, Tyrion, Jon will be treated in the next book, whose timeline will be the same as FfC, but geographically different.

Still, the intrigue is pretty good and the character arcs are interesting.

The Far Side Gallery

The Far Side Gallery - Gary Larson Larson's genius to often tell a whole story in just one or two frames is incredible. Although I enjoyed this collection, you need some understanding of American history and customs to fully appreciate the humour.

A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords  - George R.R. Martin Liked this book better than the previous one. Seemed to move a bit quicker and had some unexpected twists and turns.

Peccadillo: A Katla Novel

Peccadillo: A Katla Novel - Martyn V. Halm I cannot review or rate my own work, so I'll use this space for something readers might be interested in... Reprints of blog interviews.

The Interview below was featured on the Book Goodies website, link: http://bookgoodies.com/tag/martyn-v-halm/

What inspires you to write?

Basically, I write the stories I wanted to read but couldn’t find.

I always enjoyed stories about assassins, but my opinion on assassins differed from the books I read. Since most fictional assassins are antagonists, they are often warped individuals, with freaky childhoods. However, I have come across mercenaries (basically the same field), who are pretty regular people. Sure their view of the world differs from ordinary citizens, but they’re not ‘warped’. This made me want to write about an assassin who has no deep-seated frustration or abused childhood, but who just realised that killing was what she was good at and who had the appropriate world view and lack of conscience to pull it off.

Tell us about your writing process.

I’ve been writing and editing my own work for over twenty years now, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to new ideas. When I first started writing, I wrote on paper using a typewriter, retyping whole sections to edit out the errors. Needless to say, my current work process differs from the process I had when I started out.

I have a MacBook with Scrivener. I start with scenes that I export to SimpleNote. With the SimpleNote app on my iPad, I can open these files and write them wherever I am. SimpleNote has no advanced features, so you cannot format or change font or even use bold, italic or underline, which allows for distraction free writing. Instead of ‘saving’ my work, I email the notes to myself as backup. When I get back home, I connect the iPad to WiFi and it will upload the updated scenes to their website. Then I open Scrivener on my MacBook and import the updated scenes by synchronizing with SimpleNote.

When I finished my rough draft, I use Scrivener to edit and arrange the scenes, divide them into chapters, and compile an e-book. That e-book is then uploaded to iBooks on my iPad, where I can read it back and highlight/notate anything that I want to edit later. This part is a modern version of the old advice to print out your manuscript and go through it with a red pencil. The main advantage is that you’re not carrying 500 loose A4 pages, but what is also important is that the old method required leafing through the printed manuscript to find the highlights, while the e-reader on my iPad will just make a list of edits.

Once corrected, I make an updated version of the e-book and send it to my beta-readers, who will provide me with feedback. Using the feedback I will correct the manuscript and make an Advanced Reader Copy or ARC, that I sent to reviewers so they can form an opinion and write a review to be published when the book is launched.

I don’t use ‘outlines’. I know more or less the arc of the story and will write scenes, often out of chronological order, sometimes the key scenes first and the intermittent scenes afterward. The scenes will be arranged in the ‘book order’ when I finished the rough draft. Most of the time, after I ordered the scenes and read the entire first draft it becomes apparent if I need more scenes in-between. I have files on characters to remain consistent about stuff like injuries or if they have a tattoo on their left or right shoulder, but not much on characteristics. That’s all in my head.

For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?

I listen to my characters talk to each other. They don’t talk to me, I’m not important.

What advice would you give other writers?

If you’re starting out, don’t try to write ‘a book’. Write drafts. A draft is not meant to be read by outsiders, so you can put into the draft whatever you want. If you feel like a long description, go ahead. Five pages of dialogue? Just put it in. Don’t listen to your ‘inner editor’, don’t listen to outsiders who will tell you what rules you have to follow. Forget all that, you have permission to write eight hundred pages of total crap.

When you have enough material for a book, then you put on your editor cap. Make a copy of the original draft and edit the hell out of it. Turn the five pages of rambling dialogue into 1-2 pages of killer interaction. Cut all the unnecessary crutch words like ‘very’ and all ambiguity like ‘kind of’ and ‘sort of’. Hunt down and kill all of your adverbs. Make everything consistent, so that characters keep the same name and particulars throughout the book/series. When you’re finished with that, then it’s time to show your work to outsiders and ask their opinion.

How did you decide how to publish your books?

I tried to get a publisher, but US and UK publishers were hesitant to work with me because I lived abroad. I got a lot of positive responses on my manuscript, but nothing definite. I got a few offers, but the terms and conditions were not favorable to me. Another consideration was guarantees of print. I write a series and if I would end up with the wrong publisher, I could get in a situation where the first book in the series would have a different publisher than the other books. They could stop printing the books without reverting the rights to me, and I’d end up with an incomplete series nobody would want to read.

Self-publishing allows me to keep all the rights, make sure I’m distributed worldwide, follow my own publication schedule instead of publishing just one book per year, and keep my prices low because I don’t have the overhead of a large publishing company.

Although I started self-publishing in August 2012, in just a little over a year there have been incredible changes in the publishing industry and the image of self-publishing, which was equated with vanity publishing, is now a more legitimate possibility for authors. As evidenced by the flux of former trade-published midlist authors self-publishing their backlists.

If you’re a new author, self-publishing your work allows you to try out if you have what it takes to build a following. And you will need a following or social media presence to get trade publishers interested in your work. Just quality writing isn’t enough anymore, you have to prove you can draw mass appeal.

What do you think about the future of book publishing?

I personally think that ‘content’ publishing, like mass market paperbacks novels, will shift to e-publishing. Print will remain for books that appeal to collectors of hardcover novels, coffee table and art books. There was an item in Publishers Weekly about publishers no longer offering print to everyone. Seems like publishers will test out new authors on the e-book market and Print-On-Demand first before they’ll invest in print runs. That said, going with trade publishers seems to be bringing fewer and fewer advantages to the table.

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings  - George R.R. Martin Still don't like some perspectives, but this book was as entertaining as the first. Martin has a tendency to be long-winded, which makes me skim some descriptions, but the intrigue is fine.

Sark

Sark - Steve    Price While I enjoyed the cosmolocusts eating motherplanetship Narcoma and the ensuing flight and adventures in Turmoil Space, the story seemed too derivative of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 with Sark being a non-evil variety of HAL, and Turmoil Space on a par with Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I didn't read the Kindle edition, but I was provided a PDF by the author, which made for cumbersome reading on my iPad. I was unable to highlight the various editing errors, but the story would benefit from additional proofreading/editing.

Recommended to fans of Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett.

Girl Fights Back

Girl Fights Back - Jacques  Antoine As a martial artist, I was interested in this series after reading the premise. Jacques Antoine failed to deliver, however. Apart from various formatting/editing errors, I was mostly irritated by the lack of emotional depth due to the consistent 'telling' instead of 'showing' and the random 'head-hopping'.

The protagonist is a 17-year old girl who undergoes a dramatic transformation after a series of traumatic incidents. I read about 30% of the book, but the story failed to engage me. The martial arts scenes were well-written but too long. After each traumatic event, we are told how Emily feels, but despite the insistence of the author that Emily understands the devastating effects of what happens to her, they don't affect her.

My suspension of disbelief was finally shattered when Emily changes her appearance by dressing in her step-mother's dresses, cutting her hair and applying make-up when she goes back to school after the most important person in her life dies and her whole identity turns out to be a deliberate lie.

Wait, what? She's 17, her whole world is turned upside down, people get killed and the killers might be after her and she goes back to school? Not just that, but she changes her appearance from unnoticeable to extremely noticeable? And suddenly everybody wants to be her friend? And she laughs and jokes with them less than a day after getting chased by killers and watching her father die?

While we're repeatedly told about the emotional roller coaster the characters seem to experience, they behave and talk as if they have Asperger's Syndrome. Not a single scene shows any emotional affect.

I understand how the author probably created a kick-ass teenage heroine that other teenage girls could empathize with, but in my opinion that would require a heroine who would also feel doubt and fear and anger and sadness. Emily Kane comes across as an autistic martial arts genius.

If that floats your boat, this book might be something you enjoy, if you can also get past the formatting/editing issues and the 'head-hopping', but Emily Kane failed to engage me.

1/5 stars.

From Thine Own Well

From Thine Own Well - Norm Hamilton, Erin Potter, Elliot Hamilton-Boucher This fiction debut by non-fiction author Norm Hamilton is an excellent addition to the dystopian/post-apocalyptic eco-thriller genre.

Although at times the narrative seems to bend to the theme and some dialogue is stilted, on the whole this book is well-written and the devastating ecological disaster and its repercussions are described in such vivid detail and realism that I had to remind myself regularly that Hamilton is writing about a possible future, not the present.

In a sense, this book reminded me of [b:Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?|8125853|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?|Philip K. Dick|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328301786s/8125853.jpg|830939], one of my favorite books by Philip K. Dick. From Thine Own Well is a more realistic book and--while Hamilton has quite a few witty passages--the message is unequivocally bleaker.

Reading this book might make reading the newspaper a much more ominous endeavor. While this book is firmly set in the future, we can see the signs in the present, and Hamilton's future might become the present sooner than we think.

Recommended reading.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a digital copy of this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Trophy Taker

The Trophy Taker - Lee  Weeks Seldom have I read a more ridiculous book than this concoction by Lee Weeks. Not just were the actions unbelievable, but dialogue is stale and awkward.

When near the end of the book the protagonist throws a 'four-pointed throwing star measuring six inches in diameter' twenty feet and decapitates a man, that's when my bullshit radar overheated.

I threw the book twenty feet across the room into the waste-paper bin. Not recommended, 1/5. Should never have been published. The blurb alludes that Lee Weeks is 'hailed as the female James Patterson'. I have no love for James Patterson, but compared to this book, his books are literary masterpieces.

Cassell's Modern Guide To Synonyms & Related Words

Cassell's Modern Guide To Synonyms & Related Words - S.I. Hayakawa One of the books on my writer's reference shelf is Cassell's Modern Guide To Synonyms & Related Words, which I bought in a secondhand used books store on the Kloveniersburgwal. I have several dictionaries, but you often need context. Cassell's book gives examples to distinguish between synonyms, so you learn the difference between sardonic and sarcastic.

I think, after reading many self-published dreck, that books like these should be mandatory reading for writers.

Severance Kill

Severance Kill - Tim  Stevens This almost turned into another 'stopped reading' review, except that I wanted to know what happened to Martin Calvary, the protagonist. So I ignored my many reasons to delete this book from my Kindle and struggled through the formatting errors that cropped up in the last quarter of the book.

Should I have? Perhaps not, but I was curious to see if Stevens had a twist at the end that would be worth it. There was something that should've been a twist, except that it didn't surprise me in the slightest. Maybe less discerning readers will be surprised by the ending, I don't know.

So, the formatting errors... I actually contacted the author and he wrote me a very nice PM telling me that he had a giveaway through Bookbub with some 30,000 downloads, with all the Kindle versions containing the formatting errors, but not the ePubs. I can understand that through some mistake an older file containing proofreading notes and formatting errors ends up in an e-book.

So, if you have one of these screwed up Severance Kill e-books, maybe you can get a new corrected file through Manage my Kindle. Or you can just ignore the typos, missing quotes and strike-through sentences. And overlook the awkward prose when a sick woman running up the steps is ‘ignoring the complaints from her unaccustomed knees’ and operatives being ‘linked up telephonically’.

However, I pointed out that there were many more mistakes unrelated to the formatting issue. Mr. Stevens didn’t show any interest in my feedback, so I’ll just put them in my review.

On the whole, the book was well-written. I had some trouble with the start of the book, where Calvary is getting his ass kicked out of a fourth-floor apartment, manages to keep from falling to his death, and gets back into the apartment to finish the target. The target, who first puts up a fight and almost finishes Calvary, suddenly retreats into his apartment, where the target suddenly changes into a weakling.

Calvary crouches in front of the sitting target, lays a hand on either side of the man’s face and kills him with a crack… So what did Calvary do? Break his neck? Let’s just say, don’t believe the action movies you’ve seen about how easy it is to break someone’s neck. The author is a doctor with the National Health Service, so he might be hesitant to give an exact blow-by-blow on how to break someone’s neck, but to break someone’s neck while crouched in front of him and holding his ears is quite a challenge.

After that, Calvary gets blackmailed into doing a last job in Prague, where he reminisces about his past kills. And I almost put the book down.

Why?

Because Calvary reminisces about electrocuting a target in his bathtub. By throwing a battery-operated transistor radio into the bath. The death of the target is horrifying. “Crackles and screams, churning mix of water and blood and effluent, like a shark’s attack” and the victim dies with a rictus of agony and a hand clawing the air.

Impressive, if it wasn’t that a battery-operated transistor radio tossed in a bathtub will not have a sufficiently high charge to electrocute a human being. I could start a whole explanation about the milliamps used by transistor radio and how many transistor radios would have to be submerged in your bath to tickle your heart into the high frequency fatal fluttering of a heart attack, but even then the victim will not flail about like they are chewing on a high voltage wire.

And while I can understand someone emptying their bowels when they are electrocuted, how exactly does all that blood get in the water? And what makes the water churn? Not the two 9V batteries in the transistor radio, I can tell you.

If killing someone by tossing a battery-operated transistor radio into their baths would work, lots of disgruntled housewives would be buying battery-operated transistor radios…

With my bullshit radar now on full alert I read on.

Calvary relieves someone of his semi-automatic pistol and thumbs the safety before he slips it in his pocket. When he takes the pistol from his pocket a few pages later and hands it to someone, the pistol turns out to be a Glock 17. And Glocks have not safety to be thumbed. The safety of the Glock is a small ‘second trigger’ inside the trigger.

Moments later Calvary takes ‘the Browning’ because ‘the Browning has to be cocked before every shot and the Glock chambered a new round automatically, making it easier for a novice to use’. The Browning, like the Glock, is a semi-automatic pistol. You might have to pull the slide to chamber the first round, but after that the blowback action of the slide will chamber a new round from the spring-loaded magazine in the grip.

The last part of the story featured strike through sentences, misspelled words like ’trial’ for ‘trail’, omitted words like ‘[character name] phone went’, double words like ‘ahead he fancied saw the car park’ [maybe so you can choose which verb you think is most appropriate?] and quotes missing so you have to guess what is narrative and what is dialogue. Sometimes the Third Person Limited perspective featured intrusions of First Person, often right in the middle of action scenes, ‘one of her feet catching him on the cheekbone. It wasn’t enough to put me off. Calvary began to crawl…’ and so on.

All that could be overlooked if the characters didn’t start doing improbable things, like Calvary on the run renting a car with cash but expressing no worries about having to show his driving license because ‘he [protagonist] doubted [antagonists] would be monitoring every car rental place in the city’.

Really?

Their spy craft must be worse than mine, because—despite not being a professional spy—I would definitely monitor every means of (public) transport in a hundred mile radius if I were looking for a spy on the run.

But then, Calvary could be right about the antagonists lack of tracking skills. The scene shifts to the antagonists who are fretting because one of their operatives has been incommunicado for almost a day. Finally the leader has a brilliant idea and goes to the communications officer, where the leader asks an underling ‘can you get a GPS trace on [missing operative’s] phone?’ The comm officer, who has been twiddling her thumbs apparently, answers affirmatively and set to work.
Again: seriously? These antagonists are supposed to be veteran’ intelligence’ officers, and they wait for hours before they decide to put a trace on their missing team member?

With my suspension of disbelief blown beyond repair I finished the book.

Wasted potential. 2/5 stars. Only recommended if your suspension of disbelief is made out of sturdier material than mine…


Rogue: A Katla novel

Rogue: A Katla novel - Martyn V. Halm I cannot review or rate my own work, so I'll use this space for something readers might be interested in... Reprints of blog interviews.

Merry Brains Talks To Martyn V Halm, A Suspense Fiction Author

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I've always been an avid reader, which was fostered by my parents, especially my father who worked as an editor for a Dutch publisher specializing in children/young adult books. Every book published would end up on my shelf. I was born and raised in a township just south of Amsterdam, where I was finished with the local library around age twelve. From then on I went to the main public library in Amsterdam, which moved from a dreary building on the Prinsengracht to a huge airy building on the Oosterdokseiland, next to the Amsterdam Central Station. I live almost around the corner from the public library now, and I take my children there to play and read while I write in a corner from where I can supervise them.

My writing started with storytelling and people would encourage me to write down my stories, but I didn't start writing until I started working nights as a security officer. Where my coworkers would play games or surf the internet, I spent twenty years working on improving my craft until I was ready to publish, which I did about a year ago.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

My main goal is to entertain readers with my stories, but I also want people to rediscover the joys of reading. Although earning money from writing would be great, I’d rather have readers than money. I find many authors preoccupied with twitter followers and facebook likes, while the most important thing is that people read and enjoy your books. Social media is a great way to interact with readers, but the best interaction is to tell them a great story with characters that live in their mind long after they closed the book.

So, what have you written?

My main body of work is the Amsterdam Assassin Series, a series of books and short stories that revolves around freelance assassin and corporate troubleshooter Katla Sieltjes. Under the name Loki Enterprises, Katla specialises in disguising homicide and providing permanent solutions for both individuals and corporations.

The first novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series, Reprobate, marks the first time Katla breaks one of her own rules, and how this affects both her personal and business life. The second novel, Peccadillo, shows what happens if you corner an assassin’s legitimate business cover. The third novel, Rogue, is due to be published in November 2013. In Rogue Katla draws the unwanted attention of combined intelligence agencies, all with their own agendas. Meanwhile, old enemies come out of the woodwork and threaten both Katla and her friends. While the novels can be read out of order, reading them in chronological order might be more enjoyable.

Between the publications of the novels, the Amsterdam Assassin Series also features stand-alone short stories, the Katla KillFiles. The Katla KillFiles chronologically precede the novels in the Amsterdam Assassin Series. Each KillFile features Katla executing one of her contracts before the events in Reprobate, and, while not mandatory reading, each KillFile provides insight both in Katla’s work methods and skill, and additional background information in her character and personal history. The KillFiles can be read out of order, as the contracts are random samples from her past.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Katla is an expert in disguising homicide, so she manipulates crime scenes to make the deaths appear like accidents, suicides, drownings, and the side-effects of other crimes, as well as make people disappear. Unlike many protagonists with her profession, Katla is not the least bit remorseful about her homicidal enterprise and enjoys the intricacies of her occupation.

What are you working on at the minute?

While I’m getting ready to launch Rogue, I’m busy researching and writing the draft for the fourth novel, Ghosting, which takes place during Katla’s forced sabbatical. I’m also working on new KillFiles, writing articles for my blog, and interacting with readers.

What genre are your books?

Although the genre is suspense fiction, I found that many reviewers professed reading mainly for the romantic relationship of the main characters. Not that they didn’t like the suspense bits, but apparently the romance between the unusual main characters strikes a chord with many readers. I also get loads of positive feedback from blind and visually impaired readers who enjoy reading about a realistic blind character.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

Actually, I wrote a whole blog article on that topic (http://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/movie-adaptations-of-novels-and-short-stories/), but what it comes down to is that I like Katla to live in the imagination of the readers. While it’s not bad that you imagine Jack Nicholson as Randall McMurphy when you read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, I refuse to imagine Tom Cruise when I read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels.

Katla is the ultimate chameleon with features so generic that her appearance is difficult to describe. I think it would be detrimental to the character if her appearance is coupled to that of a real person.

Another problem is condensing a 111,000 word book into a 90 minute feature film or even a television series. My books are mainly character-driven, but you’d have to compromise and focus on a few of their qualities, which tends to make a character into a caricature.

How much research do you do?

I enjoy verisimilitude in novels, so I aim to stay as close to reality as I can, which means I do tons of research. Luckily, I enjoy exploring and researching topics I’m not familiar with, so research is not an arduous task.

I’m pretty well-versed in the consequences of a violent life, so not everything was a stretch, but I still had to do research into skills and topics I hadn’t experienced first hand.

For instance, while I’m skilled with most weapons, I’m not attracted to firearms (a tendency I share with Katla). However, firearms are suspense fiction’s stock in trade and I didn’t want to disappoint gun-savvy readers with inaccurate depictions of guns and their use. Apart from reading a ton of books on the subject and researching the particular guns used in the series, I also went to a shooting range with a friend who taught me the important details about shooting firearms. Since I made clear I was researching for my books, I got the opportunity to shoot a variety of handguns side-by-side to compare their differences in accuracy and recoil.

In addition, I have an eclectic group of people around me who help me within their particular fields, from musicians, law enforcement and medical professionals to pickpockets, burglars and enforcers. I’m always interested in other perspectives, so I keep an open mind in talking to people from all stages of life, which allows me to learn anything from how to pick locks to observing autopsies to stealing cars and disabling home security alarms.

All this allows me write convincingly from Katla’s perspective as the consummate professional.

Why do you write?

In short, I write for the reader inside me, and I publish for the reader outside of me.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

I’m a stay-at-home dad and I also give courses in conflict resolution and self defense, so writing/publishing/promoting is a part-time occupation, although I’m often thinking about writing when I’m busy with my other occupations.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

No, I carry an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard around so I can write whenever I want. And I can, because I used to write while manning a reception desk, so I can concentrate on writing in the middle of a playground while watching my kids. Sometimes it feels surreal when you’re writing about murder and mayhem and your child tugs your sleeve to ask you for something to drink or eat.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?

I try to write every day, but I often try to write in the ‘lost moments’ when I’m watching the kids or waiting for an appointment. Recently I went on a three week motorcycle trip (see http://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/writing-during-a-motorcycle-trip/) where I wrote during the hours when it was too hot to ride. Somehow I managed to write more than a 1,000 words a day, which was a surprise to me.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

When I start a book I have an idea where the story will take me, but I don’t outline. I have a document called ‘Ideas for book #’ and I add ideas to that document while I write in scenes. The main arc is often clear in my mind, but the story itself will reveal itself to me while I’m writing.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I used to write chronologically, but I moved to writing in scenes, which makes my books more ‘like a movie’ in the sense that, like a movie, the story might cut from one scene to the other without the tedious descriptions of how people get from one place to the other, unless their means of transport or travel difficulties figure in the story. In the words of Elmore Leonard, I try to skip the parts that readers tend to skip…

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I spent twenty years honing my craft and Reprobate had been finished a long time before I published it. I had about 50,000 words of Peccadillo at that time. I managed to finish Peccadillo, writing an additional 50,000 words, in two-and-a-half months, plus I wrote Microchip Murder in between so I could publish that before Peccadillo hit the market. Writing Rogue took from January to late August, when I sent the manuscript to my beta-readers. I’d written Fundamental Error in between, writing the story from conception to finished and polished in eight days.

I don’t do ‘word count’ challenges for myself, since the idea is not quantity, but quality. While I’ve written 5,000 words in one day for Fundamental Error, and 8,000 words in one day for Rogue, I mainly write between 1,000 and 2,000 words a day.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series?

Writing a series sounds easier but is actually more difficult than you might expect. When someone picks up Rogue, I have no idea if they read Reprobate and Peccadillo first, so I have to make sure that Rogue can stand alone and be interesting without the back story. This gets even more difficult when minor characters from Reprobate turn up in Rogue and have to be re-introduced. You don’t want to dwell on their past, which would bore those who read Reprobate, but you also don’t want to provide too little backstory and confuse those who haven’t read Reprobate. I think I struck a fine balance, but it’s ultimately the reader who decides whether I succeeded.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

My process starts with the ideas that I gather in a document on what I want the book to be about. Then I write the scenes that will become a rough draft. When I finish the rough draft, I will convert it to an epub so I can read it without the ability to edit. I read the draft like it’s a book, highlighting and notating the text for changes or corrections.

Using the highlight and notes list I edit the draft and produce a manuscript that I sent to my beta-readers. While they go over the manuscript I put the manuscript away and start working on the next novel or short story.

About a month later I get back feedback from my excellent beta-readers. Three of my beta-readers work or worked as editors, but others work in all kinds of fields, from law enforcement and medicine to crime, so I get all this feedback together and read it through. If several beta-readers suggest that passages are not necessary I review those passages and often take them out. The corrected manuscript is turned into an ARC that goes to reviewers, while I re-read the whole novel one last time before publishing.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

I suck at graphic design, so my first covers were done by a cover designer who was still in school and made adequate covers using photos I made in and around Amsterdam. While I liked them, they didn’t look professional enough and that cost me sales. I decided to go to a professional cover artist, Farah Evers, who designed the current covers. Before she did my covers, she hadn’t done suspense fiction covers, so we exchanged ideas and worked together on the concept. I’m pleased to say that since she did my covers more suspense authors had their covers done by Farah.

As to the concept, it had to be clear that the setting of the books was in Amsterdam (hence the Amsterdam houses in the background), the protagonist was a woman (the silhouette), every title has an O that needs to feature crosshairs, and I wanted a pushdagger on the front. Farah made sure the covers conformed to trade publishing standards and the branding is now apparent.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

I noticed an uptick in sales after I changed the covers, so that signifies the importance for me. Readers need to click on the thumbnail of your cover to read the blurb and move on to reading a sample of the book and/or buying the book. With the glut of novels hitting the e-book market, you need to have an attractive cover to get people to cross the threshold into your world.

How are you publishing this book and why?

I’m self-published. Except for making the cover, I do all the work myself. I’ve been approached by trade publishers, but they all require I sign over all my rights for a decade against a 5,000 dollar advance against royalties. For that amount of money I prefer to do the work myself and be in control of the final product, retaining the ability to provide my readers with the availability of my work in the years to come.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

The advantages of being trade published are eroding because their focus is mainly on creating products that have commercial mass appeal. Writers used to go with publishers because publishers would take over the tasks of marketing, public relations, distribution, and, very important, getting the books printed and in bookstores.

With the economic malaise, new writers are only accepted if they can prove they can sell themselves, have extensive following on twitter and facebook. Meanwhile, print is no longer guaranteed, bookstores are closing all over the world, and midlist authors, confronted by the lack of support from their trade publishers, are self-publishing their backlists as soon as their rights are reverted.

Many writers still believe in trade publishing because being trade published serves as a validation of their worth. If a publisher sinks money into your work, that means your work must be good. Actually, since publishers are mainly into financial success, their interest in your work only means that your work is commercially viable, which has precious little to do with the quality of your prose.

Of course, there will be many trade published authors who claim that publishers are the gatekeepers of quality literature, but there are plenty examples of renowned authors who self-published, like Mark Twain, or fell by the wayside because publisher didn’t consider their writing commercially viable enough, like John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, which posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, twelve years after the author killed himself because he was depressed over being rejected.

What do you do to get book reviews?

Apart from giving away free review copies of Reprobate (http://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/review-reprobate/ ), I put a request to review my books in the backmatter of each book, so readers know I’d appreciate if they’d help me increase exposure for the Amsterdam Assassin Series.

How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?

I read somewhere that you need to sell 1,500 copies of a book for every review you get. That would mean I wouldn't even have one review… However, Reprobate has thirteen reviews on Amazon, twenty-five reviews on GoodReads, Hannah Thompson (a visually impaired senior lecturer at a London University) wrote an article on her blog Blindspot in her Blindness in Fiction article series (http://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/honored-and-validated-by-a-special-review/ ), and several other bloggers have reviewed Reprobate and other books in the series.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Reviews are for readers to decide whether a book is worthy of their time and money, not feedback for authors. Most reviews are personal opinions, and if you read a review by someone whose opinion you respect, or whose reviews resonate with your own experience, they can help you make the decision to buy or ignore a book.
I like to read reviews, whether they are good or bad, because they give me an insight in the minds of my readers and may help me improve my writing. However, I rarely respond to reviews because I think that if a reader wants a reaction, they’ll send me a feedback email. I love intelligent discourse, so I enjoy interacting with my readers by email.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

I think it works, because it can help you find readers. Readers are more important than sales. I have two short stories which are permafree and get downloaded about 10-15 times as much as the paid books. However, free downloads are not always read, sometimes they are just filler for e-readers, sinking slowly to the bottom of the to-be-read pile.

How do you relax?

Writing is relaxing for me, but I also train in martial arts, and I love having friends over and discussing a variety of topics. If I want to unwind, I often go for a solo motorcycle ride. I rarely ride with others, I don’t like ‘group rides’. Although I’m pretty sociable, I can spend a lot of time alone without feeling lonely. As it is, with a young family, you need to take time off once in a while. My wife and I go on our own separate trips: I spent three weeks riding my motorcycle through France and Italy, and she went for a week sailing a yacht on the Ijsselmeer.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t write a book. Draft a story. Commit your story to paper or hard drive and pay no attention to the rules a book has to follow. When you’re finished telling your story, you have a rough draft. The draft needs to be edited to be readable to outsiders. Get a good book on self-editing for fiction writers and follow the advice in how to improve your draft until it becomes a manuscript. Find people who are willing to read your manuscript and tell you where the story fails to engage them, so you can improve the manuscript until it’s worthy of publication.
And don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing this.

The full interview can be read on Prakhyath Rai's Merry Brains blog, http://www.merrybrains.com/2013/11/merry-brains-talks-to-martyn-v-halm.html

Flood

Flood - Andrew Vachss My introduction to Burke, bought in a secondhand bookstore, Flood blew me off my feet. I read the whole series and badgered the Amsterdam public library with requests to include the books into the catalog.

Recommended reading for fans of hardboiled, gritty, realistic crime fiction.

Asterix Op Corsica (Asterix-Dargaud, #20)

Asterix Op Corsica (Asterix-Dargaud, #20) - René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo This is probably my favourite Asterix. I loved the small jokes, but also the mentioned 'death stare' and the whole Corsican clan disputes that go back for centuries.

One of the greatest scenes, in my opinion, is where the clan chiefs gather for a meeting in the 'maquis'. Each clan chief imitates the sound of a wild boar to announce himself. When they are all present, Obelix confused the sound of a real wild boar with the call of a clan chief. One of the clan chiefs is insulted and pulls the death stare on Obelix and says, "That's not a chief, that's a wild boar. Don't you know the difference?"
Obelix says, "I don't know, I've never eaten clan chiefs, and you could you please stop staring at me like that?"

Also, one of the Corsicans flicks open a knife and cuts into a donkey sausage and says, "Ah, you can almost hear (the sausage) bray".

Absolutely brilliant writing.

Les Innomables, tome 1 : Shukumeï

Les Innomables, tome 1 : Shukumeï - Didier Conrad, Yann I read both Shukumei and [b:Les Innomables, tome 2 : Aventure en jaune|2842179|Les Innomables, tome 2 Aventure en jaune|Conrad|/assets/nocover/60x80.png|2868292] in Dutch when they appeared in the Dutch version of Spirou, the French comics magazine.

Although these books have been redrawn from the originals, both Shukumei and Aventure en Jaune are, in my opinion, the best books, apart from Numero Triple Zero, which introduced the three dauntless anti-heroes Mac, Tim and Tony.

In Shukumei they're sent into the jungle where they have to find a B-52, while accompanied by a straight-laced army career officer and his pretty secretary. They find the B-52 and the crew, who have built themselves a home in the jungle surrounded by cannibals and former Japanese soldiers who don't realize the war is over...

In Aventure en Jaune, Mac, Tim, and Tony have left the army and have become smugglers in Hong Kong, where they are in the middle of wealthy British colonials and Chinese who want to take back Hong Kong.

Smart and irreverent with great drawings, this is a series that's not to be missed.

Moebius 4: The Long Tomorrow and Other Science Fiction Stories

Moebius 4: The Long Tomorrow and Other Science Fiction Stories - Mœbius, Dan O'Bannon Both The Long Tomorrow (written by Dan O'Bannon) and [b:The Incal|10842223|The Incal|Alejandro Jodorowsky|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328039960s/10842223.jpg|15756581] were influential in designing the movie Blade Runner by Ridley Scott and The Fifth Element by Luc Besson.

The Incal is a classic story that comes highly recommended to lovers of graphic novels and Sci-Fi buffs.