PD Martin's Blog

May 26, 2012

Long time between drinks

Filed under: Getting published,Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 1:39 am

MCU035My last PD Martin book (Kiss of Death) was released in Australia in January 2010. That’s nearly two and a half years ago. Last week finally marked the release of another full PD Martin novel—Hell’s Fury. Today I wanted to share a little bit about the long, hard journey from Kiss of Death to Hell’s Fury. And while I have released a novella, a couple of shorts and a Pippa Dee children’s/YA book on Kindle,  Hell’s Fury is the first full “PD Martin” book…and it feels like a long time between drinks (cheers, by the way!).

The idea for Hell’s Fury was born nearly 10 years ago. It came to me at a time when I’d been trying to get published for a few years and self-doubt was taking over. I was beginning to think maybe writing wasn’t for me. So, I took some time off. But the ideas didn’t stop and so I jotted them down. By the end of a three-month hiatus, I had four ideas that I liked enough to pursue as full novels — but they were all very different. I narrowed it down to two: one based on a nightmare I had about a serial killer, and one about a spy or ex-spy. I wrote the first few pages of both; deliberated, and then pursued option 1. That book turned out to be Body Count, my first published novel.

Then, my agent and publishers wanted more Sophie Anderson books and so I wrote another four novels in the series. After Kiss of Death I knew it was time to move onto a different character. But what would I write? The spy novel? Something else? I delayed the decision by working on Coming Home (ebook novella).  Then I got offered a great corporate gig (interesting and some much-needed cash) and while it was only about 12 hours per week, working those hours in around looking after our then 3yro … well, it was full time for me. I did try to juggle both the corporate job and creative writing for a month or two, but I was simply too tired.

Eight months later, my contract was up … and I still didn’t know what to write. I toyed with two ideas and sent them to my agent. I waited. I went on holidays. Then I got an email to say my agent had passed away.

A few months later I did the rounds with the first four chapters of two novels (one of them was the spy thriller—Hell’s Fury). But Borders had just collapsed, GFC had hit and the agents weren’t jumping for new clients. Times were tough and my sales figures for the first five Sophie books were ‘pretty good’ rather than ‘great’. The consensus was that I’d have to write one of the novels completely and then get back to the agents.

So I did. And it was probably the hardest slog, ever. Was it because I’d had more than six months off and was out of practice? Maybe I’d just ‘lost it’ as a writer? Or maybe this wasn’t a book I was supposed to write. Regardless, I stuck it out. I kept writing, even though nearly every word felt like pulling teeth. Finally, I was done. But there were problems—it would be a massive rewrite for the second draft.

Happily, the second draft came easier. I got into the main character’s head more, worked out new sub-plots and back story. I had new ideas. I was back in the zone. And so, I started thinking maybe this WAS a worthwhile project after all.

I finished it and over the course of the next seven months I sent it out to my top 10 agents. And while I got lots of compliments on my writing, no one signed me up. So then I started questioning myself and those writerly self-doubts reared their ugly head again. I decided I was washed up when it came to “PD Martin”. But, I did have another idea, a very personal story. And so, I moved onto the next project, a women’s drama, while also juggling full-time motherhood and writing projects that would actually help to pay the bills—now.

Ten months later, I’d decided to launch into the ebook space. Could my spy thriller be part of my ebook strategy? Was it good enough? I gave the spy thriller to a voracious reader friend and she promised to be brutally honest. She read it within less than a day and absolutely raved about it. Loved it. Wanted to know when she could get her hands on the sequel. And more importantly, she said it was definitely up there with the best thrillers and spy thrillers she’d read.

My confidence was restored and I sent it to a few other Beta readers. Everyone agreed that the book was really good. So, rather than sending it to my ‘next level’ of agents, I decided to get it ready for self-publication on Kindle. So after a professional edit and a cover design, Hell’s Fury was launched and is now on Amazon and Smashwords.

It feels like it’s been a long time between drinks … certainly Hell’s Fury was many years in the making. But it’s out there and I’m extremely happy with my new ‘baby’. It hasn’t been up very long so has only got one review, but it was a five-star one. And from a reader who’s new to me, new to PD Martin. Happy days!

So, when did you feel full of self-doubt? And did you power through it?

HellsFury-FINAL-10percentHell’s Fury synopsis

She lies in an Afghani prison cell, disowned by the CIA and regularly tortured. Seven months into her prison term, a lone operator stages a daring extraction. But who is Decker, the mysterious man behind her rescue?

He claims to represent The Committee, an international group made up of ex-professionals from the CIA, FBI, Interpol, MI5, Scotland Yard, Mossad and ASIS; a private organization that serves and protects where the current intelligence or justice agencies fall short.

Decker also claims to know her long-dead father, and brings to the table an offer she can’t refuse; “Go on one mission, and I’ll tell you about your father’s secret life.”

Her assignment: John Hope. Her orders: kill him.

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May 10, 2012

A writer’s work is never done

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Pippa Dee — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 1:43 am

You know the saying a woman’s work is never done? Well, sometimes I think an author’s work is never done. Especially in today’s day and age, when there is ALWAYS something we could or should be doing to promote our work on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. So when should we call it a day?

About a year ago I decided I had to cut back on Facebook. As wonderful as it is, it can literally suck time from you. I’d go on to check out my friends’ latest news and an hour or two later I’d return to the Word document thinking: “No way, was I on Facebook for two hours.” But, of course, I was. So I made a new rule, which I stick to most days. I give myself about 10 minutes of Facebook in the morning and maybe 10 minutes at night.

I don’t scroll all the way back now through all my Facebook friends’ posts from the last 12 hours or 24 hours, or however long it is since I last logged on. Instead, I check out the last hour or two. Yes, I am missing things, but I figure actually writing is more important.

As for Twitter … I’ve never been a big Twitter user, but I’ve synced up my Facebook page so anything I post on my PD Martin page goes to Twitter. Which means less work. Having said that, I’ve created more work for myself with a slight Facebook multiple personality disorder — I’ve got my personal Phillipa Martin profile, my PD Martin page and now my Pippa Dee page.  But I think the separation of a personal profile page and professional author page is useful.

So, a writer’s work in terms of social media is probably never done. What else?

How about editing? Yes, our books go out the door and onto shelves (or databases), but is an author ever truly finished a book?  I think most of us could edit and tweak until eternity. It’s more that we’re forced to put a stop on the edits at some point—whether it’s self-imposed or from an agent or publisher.

Like I said…a writer’s work is never done!


Oh, and my BSP (blatant self promotion) for the day: The Wanderer is now available on Amazon for $2.99. Read more about The Wanderer.

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May 8, 2012

Kathryn Fox – guest blog

Filed under: Murderati blogs — Tags: , , , — PD Martin @ 1:46 am

KathrynFoxKathryn Fox is an Aussie crime fiction author (based in Sydney), who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at a couple of crime conventions here in Australia. Kathryn’s first book, Malicious Intent, was a huge success both here in Australia (she won the 2005 Davitt Award for crime fiction) and overseas (it toppled The Da Vinci Code to become the no. 1 crime book on Amazon in the UK and Germany). Since then she’s released another four books — Without Consent, Skin and Bone, Blood Born and Death Mask.

Like certain other female crime writers you may know (e.g. Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs) Kathryn also comes from a medical background and uses this knowledge in her crime fiction.

Today, Kathryn’s draws on her medical background to talk about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Her post is a powerful one, and she will be in and out to check on your comments.

A multibillion dollar industry. Corruption, disturbing public behaviour by key players. A series of suicides and violent deaths, leads to questions. Each autopsy reveals a horrifying discovery. There are calls for the industry to stop the carnage…

It sounds like the plot for a thriller. Only this isn’t fiction. It’s currently taking place in two separate spheres at once, in real life. And it’s something I feel passionate about.

The first industry involves sport. NFL, Ice Hockey, Rugby Union, Rugby League (in the UK and Australia) and Australian Rules. No prizes for guessing where the last one is played. The one thing these games all have in common is physical contact, and lots of it. Crowds love a bit of biff, thump and robust exchanges. But at what cost?

For years now, high profile players have been the focus of media attention for all the wrong reasons. Not a season goes by without more scandalous headlines about players involved in sexual assault, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, off-field violence and betting controversies. Boys will be boys, we’re told and it’s mostly harmless fun. Harmless of course, except for the victims, families and consequences for players themselves.

With a life expectancy of 50 yrs for NFL players, it’s easy to assume that retirement, high food intake and reduced exercise are the causes. But a number of premature deaths and suicides in former NFL players and even a player who stopped after high school, shocked the medical community.  Each was found to have the unusual finding of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

What is CTE? It’s permanent and ongoing damage to the brain that was previously only ever seen in boxers after a career of blows to the brain. MRI and other medical investigations aren’t able to pick it up. Sadly, it’s only diagnosable post mortem.

CTE predominantly affects the front parts of the brain, or frontal and temporal lobes, which are responsible for decision-making, impulse control, mood, memory, amongst other things. Damage to these areas can result in depression, increased aggression, sexual inappropriateness, impaired judgement, addictive behaviours like gambling, drug and alcohol abuse. Does any of this sound familiar when you think about the football and ice hockey scandals?

It did to me three years ago, when I began writing Death Mask. Please don’t think for a moment that I’m taking credit for the surge in information or subsequent outcry about CTE, or the decision by many former players to sue the NFL, but the headlines kept on coming and a fictional novel on the topic attracted more than the crime readers.

Discussing head injuries in football on morning TV-webThe chief executive officer of a professional team contacted me after reading the novel, and asked me to help educate players and team management about the dangers of CTE. He felt that the book had really captured the culture and mentality of team behaviour. It was a huge compliment, and vindicated a ‘slight’ obsession for research, but the lines between fiction and reality had begun to blur.

As Death Mask was released in Australia, we coincidentally had a number of severe concussions during games and there was ample footage of players stumbling around the field before collapsing.

It’s unusual for a fiction author to make it to the sports pages and sports segments of TV news shows. My sports fanatic father was so proud! (Above, Kathryn is interviewed with NFL player Colin Scotts.

Some commentators argued that I was just trying to bubble wrap children and that concussions were just a part of robust gladiatorial competition. As a doctor, and parent, I am in no way against sport, but any sport that causes brain damage and premature death deserves some review. It is, afterall, sport. Thankfully, public awareness has increased the pressure on sports doctors and administrators to take action and reassess the risks.

Now, medical science is discovering that CTE doesn’t actually require severe concussions. It may be caused by recurrent, minor blows to the head and is especially damaging to developing brains. Helmets don’t necessarily protect the head and are heavy enough to cause some major damage.

At the beginning of the blog, I mentioned two spheres involving multibillion dollar industries and strange autopsy findings.

The second industry is, not surprisingly, war. Tragically, there has been an epidemic of suicides and social problems experienced by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. A newly published medical article reports that over a dozen veterans have been found to have CTE at autopsy. A 27 yr old diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder was the first recorded victim.

In no other wars have troops been exposed to, and survived, so many explosions.

Current thinking is that the number of blasts from bombs or grenades have a catastrophic impact on these young brains, and may be responsible for the high rate of suicides in veterans. A helmet might protect from the head from shrapnel, but can’t do anything about the brain rattling around inside the skull.

If CTE is occurring in people this young, the worst is yet to come. Degeneration continues to occur with age.

These people have served their countries and may end up paying for the rest of their lives, and with shortened and debilitated lives. More importantly, there is NO treatment. We all owe it to troops to prevent CTE and protect those who have already returned from active service. The potential health problem for the US, UK and Australia, amongst other nations, is enormous.

Now, if a journalist dares ask me if I want to bubble-wrap troops and stop all wars, I can unequivocally say yes.

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