Category Archives: Research

April 27, 2012

Deciphering handwriting

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Research — PD Martin @ 12:34 am

A while ago on Murderati I started a research ‘series’ and I was going to blog once a month about some of the weird and wonderful stuff I’ve uncovered in the name of research. I started off with blogs on real-life vampires (Research with bite), cults (Part 1 and Part 2), kung fu (Everybody was Kung Fu fighting) and being a hitman (The life of a hitman).

And then it seems I totally forgot about my research ‘series’. Guess I dropped the ball, huh? Having said that, there are probably only a few more seriously interesting research facts I’d blog about. Today, I’m going to look at handwriting.

handwritingHandwriting was something I researched for my first crime novel, Body Count and like most of the things I research, I found it fascinating.

Many criminals communicate with the police or press during the time they’re criminally active. For example, serial killers such as the Zodiac killer in San Francisco made phone calls and frequently wrote to the local newspapers, the BTK killer in Wichita wrote letters to the media and left written communications at some of his victim’s homes. His last known letter was left in an intended victim’s house. It simply told the woman that he got tired of waiting for her in the closet. Lucky for her he wasn’t feeling patient that day.

Written communication is also a key in other serials cases (e.g. Unabomber) and of course in kidnapping cases — the ransom note. Some of the most famous ransom notes include those from the Lindbergh case and JonBenet Ramsey case. Often, much attention is given to whether the ransom notes are forgeries used to mask a murder. This was determined as the situation in the more recent case of Zahra Baker.

There are loads of things that forensic examiners look at when it comes to documents, such as restoring erased or obliterated writing; analysing inks and papers; linguistic analysis; and analysing handwriting for the author’s state of mind. It should be noted, that forensic document examination is different to the handwriting analysis known as graphology. Graphology looks at handwriting in terms of psychology (what a person’s handwriting can tell us about their personality), but its scientific merit is almost zilch in the forensic and psychology communities.

In addition to examining the paper (brand and type, any imprints, watermarks, thickness, opacity, etc.) they also look at the ink used and can often narrow it down to a specific brand and colour of pen. This may or may not be useful!

Forensic linguistics studies language and its use. Linguists will consider regionalisms and can often tell that a person was raised or currently lives in a particular area of a country and it also looks at individual patterns of language, such as favourite words and phrases. This can be useful once a suspect is identified, or if the communications are made public and someone recognises the style of language.

One of my favourite research discoveries was “lifts”. When you’re writing something by hand, you naturally pause and lift the pen off the page — even if only for a millisecond.  These are visible under close examination and called lifts. But what’s interesting is that generally an unusually high number of lifts indicates that the person is lying, under stress or that their thoughts are scattered. Conversely, if a note has virtually no lifts it indicates the note has probably been rehearsed. In the case of a ransom note, often these are written out several times (rehearsed) by the kidnappers and so by the time they get to the final note that they actually send, it’s simply writing out the previous draft.

Stress can also be seen in what document examiners call “line quality”, how smooth the pen passes across the paper. Angle of contact, tremor and jaggedness all increase if the writer is stressed, excited, nervous or frightened. So this is another thing that document examiners consider when looking at notes or any type of handwriting. And although it is used to judge someone’s state of mind, it’s still very different to graphology.

So, I know most of us use computers these days, but check out some of your most recent handwriting and see if you notice anything interesting!

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September 2, 2011

Everyone was Kung Fu fighting

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Research,Uncategorized — PD Martin @ 12:33 pm

My latest blog over at Murderati

Karate Black Belt LeapingThis is another instalment in my research series and I’ve just realised I seem to be working backwards. The posts on my research into real-life vampires and cults (part 1 and part 2) all looked at research that happened for Kiss of Death (my fifth book) and today’s post is about Kung Fu’s Ten Killing Hands and dim-mak, which featured in my fourth book. Anyway…get ready to be wowed by the world of Kung Fu!

The Ten Killing Hands
The Ten Killing Hands, developed by Wong Fei Hung in China, are ten kung-fu strikes (or series of strikes) that are meant to either severely disable or kill your opponent, sometimes with one blow. It boils down to ten principles: strike the eyes; stop the breath; break the face; explode the ears; crush the groin; twist the tendons; break the fingers; dislocate the joints; break the elbow, and attack the nerve points. It’s nasty, but effective. And, in the hands of a trained practitioner, deadly.

I’ll give you a little taste. One of the strikes used to break the face is the Double Back-Fist targeted directly below the eyes – the aim is to blind your opponent by shattering their eye sockets so their eyeballs literally collapse over their face structure. Nice, huh?

dimmak pointsWhile the Ten Killing Hands are fascinating, probably the most interesting research I did was on dim-mak. Dim-mak is often referred to as the death touch, and is based on the premise that striking certain acupoints can cause instant or delayed death.  It sounds like the stuff of fairytales — of legends and movies like Kill Bill — but it’s real. And in fact, Uma Thurman’s Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique in Kill Bill is about five blows, in a specific order, which will stop blood flow to the heart.  And that is dim-mak.

There are multitudes of dimmak acupoints on the body, and strikes to different points cause different physical afflictions.  For example, one of dimmak’s strike points is on the side of a person’s neck. In Kung Fu it’s called Stomach Point 9, but it’s also directly on the carotid artery and vagus nerve. A strike to Stomach Point 9 is said to bring instant or delayed death and there is science behind the claim. The best book I found on this was Death Touch: The Science Behind the Legend of Dim-mak by Dr Michael Kelly. Dr Kelly is an MD who also happened to study Kung Fu and decided he wanted to explore dim-mak from a medical perspective.

The book is amazingly thorough and quite technical in places, talking about how the dim-mak strikes often target bundles and/or peripheral nerves, and attacking these points can cause changes in the autonomic nervous system — which controls important stuff like blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, breathing, and so on. The theory is that direct strikes can fool the nervous system into doing something it wouldn’t normally, like speeding up your heart rate or increasing your blood pressure.

Sometimes the explanation is more simple…back to Stomach Point 9. These days, many people have plaque build-up in their arteries, especially if they’re older, have a genetic predisposition or unhealthy eating habits. So, if you strike someone on their neck with enough force and in a particular manner they can have a heart attack or stroke instantly, or days later when the loosened plaque makes its way to their heart or brain. Plus, a hard strike, even on a healthy person, can cause degradation of the artery that may have lethal effects down the track.

heartAlthough other organs are targeted, the heart is often the focal point for dim-mak strikes. The pressure points attack the heart in one of three ways – heart attack, ventricular fibrillation or something called heart concussion. Again, Dr Kelly’s book came in handy! The medical, Latin term for heart concussion is commotio cordis. It’s not a common cause of death, not something you read about much in the newspaper, because it’s rare to have a strike directly to the heart that’s hard enough to cause it. Most reported cases involve sporting accidents, like trauma from a hockey puck, a baseball, a hockey stick, etc. But obviously if a trained Kung Fu practitioner can elicit enough force…

The dim-mak knockout
The dim-mak knockout, also called a pressure-point knockout, is famous in many circles. One, two or three strikes and the person drops to the ground. Many dim-mak experts use these strikes to demonstrate the power of dim-mak in workshops and seminars. According to the medical explanation it’s a vasovagal faint, caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Yin and  yang

42-15200256Of course, the acupoints aren’t just about dim-mak and martial arts. The more commonly known use of these acupoints comes from Chinese healing — acupressure or acupuncture.  The points are struck to cause pain and death, but they can also be massaged or stimulated with acupuncture for healing purposes. They go hand in hand, for use as a weapon or as a healing tool. Yin and Yang.

Stomach Point 9 also has a healing purpose in Western medicine. The site of the carotid sinus and vagus nerve is an extremely sensitive area and when someone’s suffering from an arrhythmia, doctors will often use ‘vagal maneuvers’ as a treatment. A simple massage along the vagus nerve has been shown to decrease the chances of a fatal ventricular fibrillation.

Now, I’m afraid I do feel it necessary to take this chance for a bit of BSP (blatant self-promotion) in terms of my book trailer for The Killing Hands. But it IS very relevant!

At this point I should also mention that I hold a black belt in Kung Fu. I’m very much out of practice (haven’t trained for about five years) but when I did study it my lessons were tax-deductible. Gotta love an author’s tax deductions!

So, who out there studies Kung Fu or has heard of dim-mak before? And feel free to share any amazing tax deductions too!

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July 8, 2011

Cult research – part 2

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Research — PD Martin @ 10:00 am

Thursday’s Murderati post…

LeaderSo, in my last post I looked at cults and people who are drawn to join them. Even though this isn’t officially my research series week, I feel compelled to deliver part 2 today! And part 2 is all about the leaders of cults, the gurus. I’d like to make it clear at the outset that I’m talking about negative, destructive cult leaders such as Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones and Shoko Asahara (leader of the Aum group who released poison in the Tokyo subway).

Most NRMs/cults have a single leader, a guru who claims ‘enlightenment’ and promises salvation to his or her disciples or would-be followers.

There have been many fascinating books and articles written on gurus, such as psychiatrist Anthony Storr’sFeet of Clay: Saints, Sinners and Madmen, a Study of Gurus. In this book, Storr explores specific gurus (one chapter per guru); however, his introduction is particularly enlightening for general observations. As well as identifying gurus as elitist, narcissistic, arrogant, anti-democratic and intolerant of even minor criticism, he also concludes that they often experienced isolated childhoods. Storr’s negative observations don’t stop there either. He goes on to say that anyone can become a guru if he/she claims spiritual gifts and has the gumption to do so.

Gurus have also been ‘explained’ using two models – the psychopathology model and the entrepreneurial model. In a 2005 article for the Journal of Cognition and Culture, M. Upal talked about the first model, in which gurus have some sort of mental illness such as hysteria, paranoia or schizophrenia and experience hallucinations that they perceive as divine wisdom. Certainly Manson seems to be an example of this type of cult leader. The entrepreneurial model, as the name suggests, is more about the guru as entrepreneur – they’re in it for money and power. And there is a lot of power for gurus.

In most cults or NRMs, the members’ daily movements and routines are closely monitored and the guru usually has complete control over the disciples. This is an essential step in the guru’s wielding of power. Luna Tarlo, mother of American guru Andrew Cohen, has talked about how her son lashed out at his disciples. Although he justified it by saying that disintegrating the personality leads to finding a true sense of self, his mother (who was also a disciple for some time before leaving the NRM) ended up describing it as cruelty.

One of the ex-disciples I interviewed for a non-fiction book I’m working on, talked about many acts of cruelty and humiliation in the cult she was part of. Punishments dished out by her guru included banning married couples from living together, making ‘disobedient’ disciples comb the streets and pick up trash from dawn to dusk, forcing family members and disciples to eat out of dog bowls and general verbal abuse.

Storr also talks about gurus getting pleasure from exercising their power over disciples by ordering them to perform meaningless tasks and/or by punishing disciples who stepped out of line.

Sun1It’s hard for many of us to understand this power of the guru. And while the power is often abused and is something ex-disciples site as negative, at the same time even these people have strong positive feelings about what a guru is, or should be. Luna Tarlo likened surrendering to a spiritual teacher to falling in love, in terms of intensity. And even the ex-disciple I spoke to said: “The relationship between the disciple and the guru is very, very sacred.  You are born on this earth to meet up with one person, and that one person is your guru.”

In terms of the dynamic between the guru and the disciple, it seems it’s difficult to explain. Descriptions range from spiritual saviour to abuser. In The Guru Papers, authors Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad describe the power of a guru over his disciples as the most absolute power in existence.

Whether that power is good or bad is something that’s debated by current NRM members and those who’ve turned their back on their old guru and cult life. For those willing followers, the guru is everything – their light, their reason for being and their saviour. But for ex-members, they often perceive their old gurus as someone who physically and emotionally abused them.

From a psychological perspective, cult leaders have been defined as having both narcissistic personality disorder and/or as being psychopaths. Some traits of narcissistic personality disorder include: grandiose sense of self, need for admiration from others, lack of empathy, preoccupation with fantasy worlds (in which the person has unlimited success, followers, etc.), exploitation of others, and arrogant behaviour. This certainly does gel with many gurus and their behaviour.  It’s even been said that NRM leaders possess similar traits to serial killers (!) in the way they take power and sex to the extremes (quoted by Upal (2005), original source Wilson (2000)). It’s certainly an extreme statement, yet some of the personality traits do seem to be shared.

In Captive Hearts, Captive Minds Madeleine Tobais and Janja Lalich identify the following as characteristics of cult leaders:

  • glibness and superficial charm;
  • manipulative and conning behaviour;
  • grandiose sense of self;
  • pathological lying;
  • lack of remorse, shame or guilt;
  • shallow emotions;
  • incapacity for love;
  • need for stimulation;
  • lack of empathy;
  • impulsive behaviour (child-like);
  • early behavioural problems (conflicts with authority figures and/or poor academic results);
  • unreliable behaviour;
  • promiscuous sexual behaviour;
  • no real life plan (cult is the life plan); and
  • criminal or entrepreneurial versatility.

Many of these fifteen elements overlap with traits of narcissistic behaviour and some of the personality traits often displayed by serial killers. I’m sure the Murderati readers and authors who’ve researched or read about serial killers can see the overlap!

What do you think? Are the gurus who lead in this destructive manner like serial killers?

PS In my next post, I’ll be interviewing Aussie author Katherine Howell.

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June 23, 2011

Cult research – part 1

Filed under: Kiss of Death,Murderati blogs,Research — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 11:32 pm

Here’s my Murderati blog from 22 June. As part of my research series, this post focuses on the weird and wonderful research crime writers do in the name of good books!

Today, I want to look at some of the fascinating research I’ve conducted into cults (mostly for my fifth novel, Kiss of Death, although I’m also currently ghost writing a non-fiction book called Death in a Cult). In fact, I’ve got so much to say on this subject that I’ve broken the post into two parts! This first post will be a bit of an introduction and look at some of the psychology behind cult members. Then, next post I’ll focus on gurus.

The word cult immediately rings alarm bells for most people – we think of Charles Manson and his murderous followers, of Jim Jones and the estimated nine hundred and seventeen members who died with him at Jonestown, of David Koresh and Waco and of the Tokyo subway poisoning by Aum. In fact the word “cult” has got so many negative connotations that cults themselves want to disown the term. And who wouldn’t when it paints a modern-day group with the same brush as Charles Manson, Jonestown and Waco?

So what is a cult? The Random House dictionary has several definitions – from the more neutral ‘a particular system of religious worship’ to the negative ‘a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader’.

Knight1By these definitions, cults have been around for thousands of years. For example, some hunter-gatherer tribes had a cult-like belief system and structure with the shaman as guru; the Assyrians around 880BC have been described as a tree-worshiping cult; and let’s not forget the recently revived Knights Templar and Opus Dei, which can easily be described as cults.

In the past few decades our understanding and tolerance of cults has increased, largely due to the many studies in this area. Scholars such as sociologists and psychologists have studied cults, cult members and their leaders. These scholars generally use the more politically correct term of new religious movements or NRMs for short.

It should also be noted that the bad wrap cults have is largely due to destructive cults. And while it’s these cults we tend to hear about in the media, there are thousands and thousands of other cults that simply go about their business.

NRM members

People outside cults/NRMs often wonder what sort of person is attracted to a cult. In fact, many people believe that cult members are somehow mentally unstable, depressive or simply weak. Psychologists have studied members, cults and their leaders (gurus) looking for patterns and commonalities. And some of the recent studies have revealed some distinctive personality traits in members and ex-members of NRMs. For example, a 2008 Belgium study looked at ex-members of NRMs and compared them to the general population and to current members of NRMs on certain self-reported personality traits. The study, conducted by Coralie Buxant and Vassilis Saroglou, identified four main areas of vulnerability: insecure attachment to parental figures during childhood; limited social relationships; negative life events; and a higher need for order. The negative life events were traumas such as the death of a loved one, marriage break up, major life-threatening illness, bankruptcy, etc.

Other research has found that people who join new religious movements often share characteristics such as: a sense of not belonging during childhood and adulthood; identity confusion or crisis; alienation from family; feelings of powerlessness; a recent psychological stressor; low self-esteem; and social anxiety. Notice the cross-overs from the list above.

Are cults dangerous?

History has shown us that cults certainly can be dangerous – but many cults are harmless.

Deciding whether a cult is dangerous – and how to deal with it – generally falls into the hands of law enforcement. In a 2000 article for the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, experts identify risk factors, neutral factors and positive or protective factors within NRMs.

CB003459Risk factors include:

  • a history of violent episodes or clashes;
  • the leader’s past or present state of mind and condition (e.g. violence, drug or alcohol abuse, etc.);
  • an abrupt reversal of direction (positive or negative);
  • recent attempts to obtain the knowledge to carry out a violent act;
  • recent purchases of weapons or other arms;
  • training in the use of weapons;
  • instances of violence within the NRM;
  • setting an exact date for the imminent transformation of life on earth;
  • moving the date of that transformation;
  • phrasing prophesies or predictions in a detailed and specific manner (otherwise they tend to be vaguer so the leader can’t be proved wrong);
  • envisioning an active role for the NRM in the coming transformation; and
  • having the knowledge, means and ability to carry out a plan.

And while some of these risk factors are obvious — it’s common sense that any group stockpiling weapons (or purchasing a tank like the one above!) is potentially dangerous — other factors are not as readily identified by the general public. However, it makes sense that if a guru is very specific, for example claiming the world will come to an end on a certain date, that they may plan a mass suicide of their followers before or on that date in ‘preparation’ for the coming Armageddon.

The FBI article is also quick to point out that just because an NRM has one or more of these risk factors, it doesn’t mean the group’s about to implode (suicide) or explode (committing violence against the public or law enforcement).

The authors also stress that a dynamic or situation that we may think is strange or dangerous, isn’t necessarily so. The neutral factors identified are: members offer absolute and unquestioning adherence to their leader and the belief system; the group physically segregates itself from others; and members adopt unfamiliar customs or rituals (i.e. diet, dress, language, etc.). In fact, these three factors are often present in all NRMs.

The law-enforcement experts also talk about “protective” factors – factors that will make a cult less likely to be violent. These factors are: members taking practical steps to plan for the future; and the group adopting routines and administrative processes (e.g. transcribing teachings and disseminating information about their group to others).

So, that’s it for cults and me today. I hope you were glued to the page/computer just like I was when I was reading these research materials!

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August 27, 2010

Channelling my new character

Filed under: Research — Tags: , , , , , , , — PD Martin @ 5:59 am

Uzi and me-lowresAs many of you know, I’m currently working on a new series (very exciting!) and the main character is very different to Sophie – she’s very “dark”, and also used to handling much more than a 9mm.

 When on holiday in Hawaii a remarkable opportunity presented itself – a chance to shoot some big-ass guns.

 Now, I’m not a toting, carrying, pro-gun kinda girl – and I like the fact that in Australia (and particularly my state of Victoria) it’s hard to fire a gun, get a gun and keep a gun.

 Having said that, I LOVE my research and don’t think I can write about a lead character shooting a particular weapon or training with them if I haven’t even held one myself.

 I was out for a walk one night in Honolulu — after my daughter was tucked up in bed and my mum was on babysitting duties — when I was handed a leaflet about one of the firing ranges. The basic offer was something I’d done before and could do again in Australia – 22mm, 9mm and a couple of revolvers. Then there was the high-end offering – the Uzi, MP5, HK45, AR15 and the AK47. Could I resist a chance to fire these guns? After mulling it over for a few days, I decided no.

 I still haven’t checked if it’s possible in Australia/Melbourne to use these weapons on a range, but I felt sure that it wouldn’t be. After all, you only get three visits to a firing range in your lifetime here before you have to apply for a gun license and even just for a visit you need to lodge paperwork and, from memory, I think a criminal record check is even carried out.  

 By far the gun with the biggest kick was the last one, the AK47. As instructed, the end of the rifle was wedged into my shoulder and with each shot I could really feel it digging in. It was also extremely loud and I sure was glad of my ear muffs.

 So, would I do it again? Perhaps down the track I’ll make another visit to a firing range in the US or here, but for the moment I’ve got enough of a feel for it that I can write it convincingly.

 You can see more pics of the guns and me in action at:

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November 6, 2009

New blog features, Melbourne Cup, hitman manual

Filed under: PD Martin website,Research,The Killing Hands — Tags: , , , , , — PD Martin @ 9:20 pm

Today I’m launching my new blog features! My web guru has incorporated WordPress into the site, which gives me some of the more standard blog features such as the blog roll, an RSS feed and a comment field.

So go ahead, write something! Yep, scroll down and type. You can do it! And click on the RSS feed button on the left to sign up for the blog feed.

Onto writing…or maybe not….

I have to confess, not much went on this week in the way of writing or author-type activities. I did, however, back Crime Scene in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup. How could a crime author not put a few bucks on a horse named Crime Scene? And I wasn’t alone, so congrats if you were enough of a crime fiction fan to back the horse.

This week I’ve also fixed up the formatting for The Killing Hands case file. So if you’re interested in some behind-the-scenes info, visit the case file and my references (which includes the somewhat bizarre Hitman Manual for Independent Contractors). One of my favourite extracts is below:

‘Because of their uncanny ability to get into places and situations a man might find hard to duplicate, because of their deceitful, “game-playing” natures, and because a woman can be twice as vicious as a man, a woman can be a better hired executioner than a man.’

So guys, beware…and don’t forget to be nice to your wife this weekend!

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October 23, 2009

Case file – coming along nicely

Filed under: Research,The Killing Hands — Tags: , , , , , — PD Martin @ 5:51 am

This week I’ve been getting stuck into the case file for The Killing Hands. In fact, I’ll be loading it on the web next week.

Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect:

Photos – including pics of the crime-scene location and pics of the FBI building in LA and the Coroner’s Office.
References – some of my fascinating references…research, research, research!


Below is the car park where the victim is found in The Killing Hands.

car park 3-15percent



Comment: The car park was quite a bit smaller (like about one-third of the size) than I’d realized (found it on Google Maps originally), but the building site behind it worked really well with the narrative and crime-scene location.



References (excerpt only)

FBI – Organized crime website 

Australian Institute of Criminology’s Contract Killings in Australia

Hitman Manual for Independent Contractors – can download/view via

The Yakuza in America – TruTV Crime Library 



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September 11, 2009

The Murderers’ Club meets Turkey

Filed under: Research,The Murderers' Club — Tags: , — PD Martin @ 5:26 am

MurderersClubUSHardBack-web4Seen the news about the women who were rescued by the Turkish police yesterday? Remind you of anything? Like The Murderers’ Club perhaps? Please note, if you haven’t read The Murderers’ Club yet, the rest of this blog contains some spoilers!

So, I got a phone call from my husband today asking if I’d seen the news about the women who’d just been rescued in Turkey. Turns out they thought they were part of a Big Brother-style TV show, only to find out that the whole thing was a scam. Instead of broadcasting to millions of TV viewers, their scantily clad images were being streamed online, to paid subscribers. I presume these subscribers didn’t have usernames like AmericanPsycho, BlackWidow, NeverCaught and DialM…but who knows?
Anyway, just found it striking how similar it was in concept to The Murderers’ Club. However, luckily for the Turkish women a much nicer fate awaited them (than the grisly end my characters faced).  

If you want to leave a comment about this, please do so on my Facebook page at:

I’m looking at incorporating a comment feature in this blog during my next web upgrade, but until then it’s Facebook or nothing! Sorry.

Well, that’s it from me this week. Now it’s back to my copyedits for the Aussie version of Kiss of Death (due on Tuesday). I’ll tell you all about the edits in next week’s blog.

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June 12, 2009

New York, New York

Filed under: Research — PD Martin @ 4:46 am

CentralParkOkay, I’m officially blogging. That’s right, I’ve joined the ranks of the switched on, technically savvy communicators who blog. Of course, I don’t really have a clue what I’m doing, but here goes…

I’ve achieved some milestones since I launched this website (and last blogged) on 4 May. Like:

  • My family and I have had a lovely three-week holiday in the US
  • I’ve had another birthday (number to remain undisclosed – a girl’s gotta have some secrets, right?)
  • I’ve finished the first draft of KISS OF DEATH
  • We’ve been cleared of swine flu
  • I’ve appeared on a panel at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne
  • And I’ve almost rid the house of the lovely family of mice that decided to house-sit for us while we were away
  • Wow…I have been busy. 

    I’ll talk about the panel at EWF next week, but for now more on the trip. The pic on the left was taken in Central Park.

    First stop, New York, New York…so good they named it twice. Spent five days there, mostly just hanging out, but I also managed to catch up with my agent and my new US editor and had a fantastic chat over lunch. Yum!

    Then it was down to some good friends in North Carolina (near Raleigh). From there, we also went to Myrtle Beach and Washington DC. My daughter loved the lazy river in the Myrtle Beach hotel (we actually all had fun in that, but it sounds much better if we were just in it for the 2yro) and I got to the Spy Museum in DC, which was really cool.

    Then it was up to Wakefield, Rhode Island to visit my best friend (who’s married to an American). It was so great to see her – best friends rock! We’ve known each other since I was four and she was five.

    Then back to NY for a couple of days and then home. We had a ball…as did the mice who house-sat for us.

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