Upgrading your vaping experience.

I’ve been using a Storz & Bickel “Mighty” vaporizer since 2016, vaping microdoses of Bedrocan medical cannabis six times a day for my glaucoma. Vaping six times a day was rough on my throat though, despite the vapour not containing solid particles like smoke and the use of a glass mouthpiece I bought separately for increased airflow.

To cool the vapour more and make inhaling smoother, I recently bought a Little Rippa EasyFlow bubbler bong and an adapter to use the Mighty to make a MightyRippa bong. Fantastic combination — the upended Mighty balanced quite well on the rubber Delta3D adapter, enough to put the Rippa away without fearing the Mighty flipped out of the pipe stem.

EasyFlow “Little Rippa” bubbler bong fitted with a Delta 3D adapter and a Storz & Bickel “Mightly” vaporizer.

I was checking for Storz & Bickel parts secondhand on Marktplaats and someone offered a S & B “Plenty” vaporizer for 150 euro (retail 199 euro). The Plenty is a hybrid vaporizer, basically a cross between the desktop Volcano and the portable Mighty, the Plenty has such a powerful heat exchanger that — like the desktop Volcano vaporizer — it requires an electric outlet. However, unlike the Volcano and like the Mighty, the Plenty is handheld and can be used in any position: horizontal, vertical, upended.

To cool the vapour, the Plenty has a metal coil whip between the heating chamber and the mouthpiece. Pull out the plastic mouthpiece, leave the tube sleeve on the end of the coil, and insert the whip in the pipe stem of the bong and presto, a vapour machine with double cooling (coil whip and bong) is born.

As I don’t lug my bong around, the Plenty’s main disadvantage (requiring an outlet) is not a problem anymore. On the other hand, it’s like a Mighty on steroids, with a larger capacity oven to bake enough cannabis for a family of four or six, and an unlimited power source.

“PlentyRippa”: Storz & Bickel “Plenty” vaporizer inserted sans mouthpiece into the pipe stem of the EasyFlow “Little Rippa” bubbler bong.

Drawbacks of the PlentyRippa combination are the necessity of using two hands — one for the bong, one for the vaporizer — and the inability to put the combination away without pulling the Plenty from the bong, making the combination a lot less elegant than the MightyRippa. Also, while the Plenty’s huge oven is great for parties, someone who medically microdoses cannabis can inadvertently take way too much cannabis due to the coolness of the easily released vapour, so 2-4 hits from the Plenty are about as potent as 6-8 hits from the Mighty.

The intense effect of the pure cloud of unadulterated vapour produced by the PlentyRippa muted my chronic pain enough that I can fall asleep without needing Tramadol. Which, I might add, is such a huge advantage that it’s well worth the money (I ended up paying half the asking price, 75 euro for the unit) and the drawbacks. Briefly having to use two hands to vape my cannabis is not that much of a problem, and there’s a ‘reducer’ on the market that reduces the Plenty’s huge oven to the size of a Mighty’s, with the addition of a dosage cup that snugly fits the reducer and minimizes resin fouling up the Plenty’s insides.

If you use cannabis recreationally, this combination will easily serve 4-6 people sharing one “Plenty”. The vaped cannabis is evenly brown and can be saved to use in edibles.


In Pocket now on GoodReads and Amazon.

In PocketIn Pocket by Martyn V. Halm

As the author, of course I cannot rate or review my own work. What I can do is give you, the potential reader, some background information about In Pocket.

About twenty years ago, when I was working on what was to become Reprobate: A Katla Novel, I had a half-finished story on a busker who lived in a delivery van and pretended to be blind in order to rake in more money. As such, Wolfgang was the only one who saw a murder by assassin Katla Sieltjes, who promptly started hunting him down to shut him up.

The story didn’t work and I wrote a new story with Katla as the protagonist, who breaks her rule of never leaving a witness alive when blind busker Bram Merleyn enters her crime scene. Readers of the Amsterdam Assassin Series know what happened after that, so I’m not going to rehash that story.

In the meantime, Wolfgang was still living in his van with his pet rat Gabriel, but he changed from busker to pickpocket, and acquired a heroin addiction (being one of my characters can be very taxing).

I often write on several projects at the same time, and I kept adding to the story of Wolfgang the pickpocket until it reached critical mass, all the pieces fell together, and In Pocket almost wrote itself.

In Pocket is a stand-alone novel, but it has some connections with the Amsterdam Assassin Series beyond the same locations – if you read carefully, you will find cameos from characters that also appear in the series.

I make free e-book review copies available to readers who want to review In Pocket on GoodReads and retailer sites. To get your hands on a free review copy, send an email to katlasieltjes@yahoo.com with ‘review copy In Pocket’ in the subject line.

View all my reviews

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers


WRITING: For the Curious: My Writing Workstation…

As there are always writers and fans who are curious about the work methods and gear of authors, I decided to show off my workstation.

Warning: this article has a high ‘gearhead’ ratio, so proceed at your own risk.

An Overview:

This is my workstation when I write at home, i.e. my stationary station. I also have a set-up for ‘on-the-go’ (which can be briefly seen here), but I’ll come back to that in another article.

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My seat of creativity… (photo by Martyn V. Halm)

When I write at home, I sit in the living room, street side. My living room doubles as a dojo (and a playroom for the kids), which explains the sword rack and the judo mats on the floor… In the picture, the curtain is down, but during the day I often have the curtain raised to let the sun in. The lower parts of the window are frosted so people won’t be able to see inside (and I don’t spend my valuable writing time gazing outside).

The Throne:

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The Throne: Stokke Gravity Balance with black leather upholstering. (photo by Martyn V. Halm)

My throne is a vintage Stokke Gravity Balance (currently manufactured by Varier). I fell in love with this chair when it first came out in 1987, but it was always hideously expensive. I bought this Stokke chair secondhand for four hundred euro. That might sound like a lot of money for a secondhand chair, but these chairs are built to last. The 2014 price for a Varier Gravity Balance with black leather upholstering starts at twenty-three hundred euro, so four hundred euro is a bargain. The leather was faded, but I managed to get it black and shiny again.

The Stokke Gravity Balance has four seating positions:

When writing, I rest my knees on the two lower pads (with my feet tucked under the seat) and the wooden curves rest on the ground, so the seat is tilted forward. This is an active seating position that fosters a tilted pelvis and a straightened spine.

When researching/reading/watching films, the seat will be in the neutral position (like in the picture). In this position, my feet are often between the two pads or on the left pad.

Listening to music, I lean back into the reclining position and put my calves on the knee pads. In this position I often sit while thinking up new scenes for my books.

Finally, I can push off and tilt all the way back into the ‘zero gravity‘ position. This fully reclining position can be used for napping. The legs, on the knee pads, are elevated above the torso, so the blood flows down to the abdomen.

My Laptop Table:

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The Platform (Photo by Martyn V. Halm)

My 15” MacBook Pro rests on a Lounge-Tek book table. The laptop platform can be tilted and swivel 360 degrees, and is fixed with an angled rod to the main post. On top of the main post is a smaller flat platform where I often place the covers of DVDs and CDs. The height adjustable post stands on two angled feet with hard plastic feet. The sturdy Lounge-Tek table is light enough to push and pull, but stable enough not to drop collapse with my expensive stuff on it. I’ve had this table for a couple of years now (it can easily used in beds or with couches that have a small gap where the feet slide under).

The Soundtrack Equipment:

I always play music when I’m creating.

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Up until a month ago, I used a Grado SR60i headphone, which functions pretty good with the iPad, but only pretty well with the MacBook and just adequate with my stereo. Since Grado has updated its line of headphones, I could get a sweet deal on a Grado SR325iS, which is a giant leap from the 60, but also a bit harder to drive. Hence the FiiO E10K Amp/DAC. So what does the FiiO do? While the signal from the headphone socket of the MacBook is pretty good, the E10K’s Digital to Analogue Converter connects to the USB port, where it both draws its power and converts the digital iTunes signal to analogue (sound) using an external sound card that is quite a lot better than the internal sound card of the MacBook. On top of that, the FiiO has a pretty powerful amp that can power 16-150 Ohm impedance headphones. As the SR325iS is 32 Ohm, the FiiO has no problem enhancing and amplifying the iTunes signal to near Compact Disc quality for the headphones. The E10K also has a Bass Boost switch and a low/high gain switch, as well as an analog and digital line-out. The headphone jack is coupled to the potentiometer to adjust the volume. To protect and store these high-end headphones I found a Sennheiser HH10 padded headphone support that clamps onto the laptop platform.

The Supporting Cast:

Of course I have other gear that doesn’t belong on the laptop platform, but still has to be within reach.

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The Supporting Cast (Photo by Martyn V. Halm)

From Left to Right: Seagate 1TB hard drive for back-ups, Klean Kanteen water bottle, remotes for when I listen to my stereo instead of my MacBook, my trusty iPad2 with bluetooth ZAGGkeys ProPlus keyboard for writing ‘on-the-go’, Samsung mobile phone, magnifier, reading glasses, pen, Kindle e-reader.

The Book Shelf:

Every writer has reference works.

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Reference Works (Photo by Martyn V. Halm)

These are non-fiction books on a variety of topics like crime, weapons, and psychology; and reference books on writing, medical terminology, grammar and proper usage.

That concludes the tour. If you feel like supporting me and help me to keep writing and publishing, head on over to the main page for links to the retailers that sell the Amsterdam Assassin Series.

Please comment if you want to discuss my set-up or your own.


Like to receive a free REVIEW copy of Reprobate?

To get the Amsterdam Assassin Serie noticed among the many books already out there, I offer free copies of Reprobate in exchange for reviews on Goodreads, Scribd, Amazon, Kobo and iTunes.

REPROBATE

Assassin Katla breaks her own rules when confronted with an unusual witness…

Blessed with an almost non-existent conscience, Katla Sieltjes, expert in disguising homicide, views assassination as an intricate and rewarding occupation. Hidden behind her male alter ego Loki, Katla receives anonymous assignments, negotiates the terms with clients through electronic means, all to protect her identity. Her solitary existence satisfies her until she meets a blind musician whose failure to notice a ‘closed’ sign causes him to wander in on Katla’s crime scene. And Katla breaks one of her most important rules – never leave a living witness.

Reprobate is the first novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series. With authentic details and fast-paced action, featuring an uncompromising heroine and a supporting cast of unusual characters, Reprobate gives a rare glimpse in the local Dutch culture, information on the famous Dutch capital, the narcotics trade, computer hacking, motorcycle gangs, mehndi bridal tattoos, martial arts, the psychology of social engineering, and the brutal effectiveness of disciplined violence.

This e-book now features a glossary.

So, if you want to support me and help me get noticed, send an email to katlasieltjes@yahoo.com with ‘Reprobate Review copy’ in the subject and tell me what e-reader you use and I’ll send you the Reprobate e-book file attached to the email. You can download the file and upload it to your e-reader. Available files are .mobi, for the Amazon Kindle, and .epub for the Nook, Kobo, Sony, iPad and most smartphones with e-reader compatibility.

Thanks to everyone for your support.


Rogue mishap on Kobo?

To my loyal readers,

Thanks to an alert fan I found out that anyone who downloaded Rogue from Kobo got Reprobate instead. I’m not interested in laying blame. The matter is in the process of being rectified, but to anyone who had the misfortune to buy Rogue from Kobo and receiving the wrong book, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a new version of Rogue.

Cordially,

Martyn.

ROGUE


WRITING: ‘What the hell is a blurb?’ or pitching your book

From a discussion on writing blurbs (also known as the pitch), I’d like to share some of my ideas on a ‘formula’ for writing a pitch.

The difficulty with writing a pitch is that most novelist have trouble figuring out how to ‘sell’ their book. I’m taking the blurb of my novel Reprobate as an example on how write a pitch:

First things first, the blurb is not a synopsis of the book, but the blurb has to provide incentive for the reader to read the book.

What is also useful if you write the blurb like a pitch, with three different stages:

Stage one, the elevator pitch: Describe your book in one sentence, preferably less than could be spoken in one short breath. For example: Hungry white shark terrorizes beach community. Lone undercover cop battles terrorists in highrise office building.

Stage two, the story pitch: Try to tell, as succinctly as possible, what happens in the first part of the book that sets up what will happen next.

Stage three, the promise: This book is X genre and part of a series. The author is a gynecologist and therefore qualified to write about this subject. This book is highly recommended for easily excitable readers with short attention spans.

If your three stages work well, the first stage poses a question that is answered in the second stage with another question that is explained in the third stage.

My ABNA pitch (in 2010) for Reprobate was:

REPROBATE is the first novel in a series featuring female commercial assassin Katla Sieltjes, a specialist in making homicide appear as ‘deaths without suspicious circumstances’. The setting of the story is the Netherlands, in particular Amsterdam.

Blessed with an almost non-existent conscience Katla Sieltjes views assassination as an intricate and rewarding occupation. Hidden behind her alias Loki, Katla receives anonymous assignments, negotiates the terms with principals through electronic means, all to protect her identity.

Resigned to remain single for the duration of her career Katla meets the enigmatic blind musician Bram Merleyn when he enters the gallery where Katla has just killed the owner. Deciding that the blind man won’t make a reliable witness, Katla spares his life. After stalking the blind man to gain information whether he is truly harmless, an opportunity presents itself for a new introduction and Katla becomes intimate with Bram who is unaware of her real occupation. While the relationship between Bram and Katla blossoms and starts to affect both their lives, the suspense mounts to exciting heights as Katla accepts a difficult high-risk assignment from an unreliable principal – not only her possible exposition and fragile relationship with Bram are at stake, but her very life is in peril as Katla scrambles to get back to zero.

Through the developing romance between Katla and Bram, and their interaction with a supporting cast of unusual characters, the reader gains insight in the business of a commercial assassin as well as detailed knowledge about the life of session musicians; local information about the famous Dutch capital; the narcotics trade; motorcycle gangs; mehndi bridal tattoos; martial arts; and the brutal effectiveness of disciplined violence.

The strength of REPROBATE lies in authentic details and psychological depth of the characters, mixed with fast-paced action and a realistic plot.

My final description for Reprobate follows my formula, but uses text from the pitch:

Assassin Katla breaks her own rules when confronted with an unusual witness…

Blessed with an almost non-existent conscience, Katla Sieltjes, expert in disguising homicide, views assassination as an intricate and rewarding occupation. Hidden behind her male alter ego Loki, Katla receives anonymous assignments, negotiates the terms with clients through electronic means, all to protect her identity. Her solitary existence satisfies her until she meets a blind musician whose failure to notice a ‘closed’ sign causes him to wander in on Katla’s crime scene. And Katla breaks one of her most important rules—never leave a living witness.

Reprobate is the first novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series. With authentic details and fast-paced action, featuring an uncompromising heroine and a supporting cast of unusual characters, Reprobate gives a rare glimpse in the local Dutch culture, information on the famous Dutch capital, the narcotics trade, computer hacking, motorcycle gangs, mehndi bridal tattoos, martial arts, the psychology of social engineering, and the brutal effectiveness of disciplined violence.

This e-book features a glossary.

You can see the repeated elements. And it’s a lot shorter, because pitches to agents are 150 words max, while ABNA pitches are (were?) 300 words max.

Analyzing your pitch/blurb:

Take the first part of the blurb from Reprobate:

Blessed with an almost non-existent conscience, Katla Sieltjes, expert in disguising homicide, views assassination as an intricate and rewarding occupation. Hidden behind her male alter ego Loki, Katla receives anonymous assignments, negotiates the terms with clients through electronic means, all to protect her identity. Her solitary existence satisfies her until she meets a blind musician whose failure to notice a ‘closed’ sign causes him to wander in on Katla’s crime scene. And Katla breaks one of her most important rules—never leave a living witness.

If you analyze this blurb, you see:
Who is the protagonist? Freelance assassin Katla Sieltjes, who considers herself ‘blessed’ by being unburdened by a conscience. So she kills without remorse, which is not a common trait in a protagonist.
What does the protagonist do (what is the status quo? She lives a solitary life, apparently enjoys killing for profit, and takes great pains to remain anonymous
What is the conflict that changes the status quo? A blind man walks into her crime scene, and Katla breaks her own rules and spares his life. And Katla becomes dissatisfied with her solitary existence.

That ‘conflict’ happens in the first of fifty chapters. So, you don’t need to ‘tell the whole story’. Just give a reader enough that they may think, ‘hey, this might be interesting’.

The second part of the blurb is:

Reprobate is the first novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series. With authentic details and fast-paced action, featuring an uncompromising heroine and a supporting cast of unusual characters, Reprobate gives a rare glimpse in the local Dutch culture, information on the famous Dutch capital, the narcotics trade, motorcycle gangs, mehndi bridal tattoos, martial arts, computer hacking, the art of social engineering, and the brutal effectiveness of disciplined violence.

The second part is the ‘promise’. What can the reader expect? The first book in a series (so if they like it, there is more), the heroine is unusual (a remorseless killer is often the antagonist, but rarely the protagonist), and she’s not the only unusual character.
Amsterdam is famous all over the world, but the blurb offers a rare glimpse in the local culture and information on a host of other topics, which may or may not be unknown/interesting to the reader. And it contains brutal violence (so the reader won’t think it’s chick-lit and complain about the violent bits).

What the blurb doesn’t do is tell what happens after Katla breaks her rule. Breaking rules is always a risk, and the reader can figure out that there’ll be consequences. Only, to know the consequences, they’ll have to read the book.

If you apply the analysis to your own blurb, see if you can figure out what you’re telling and what not.

Other articles on writing blurbs:

Four Easy Steps to an Irresistible Book Blurb.

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WRITING: Considerations before becoming a novelist…

When asked, many people will say they want to write a novel, but do they? While there are many considerations to make before embarking on this fickle career, these are some of the basic considerations you might want to ponder:

  1. Can I tell the story in less than 10,000 words?
  2. Can I create multiple characters all equally able to be protagonists in their own stories?
  3. Can I suspend the disbelief of my readers?
  4. Do I have the stamina to create a 80,000 word novel?
  5. Do I have more than one novel in me?
  6. Can I handle making less than minimum wage while I work almost 24/7?
  7. Can I handle the ridicule and stupid remarks if I go public?

The reason you need to consider these questions:

  1. 10,000 words is a short story. Novels take up more words.
  2. A protagonist needs peers and antagonists, who need to be equal to the protagonist to make the story interesting.
  3. Readers want to be immersed in a story, they want to believe in your characters. So the desire is there. If you weave a story that makes believers out of readers, you can be a writer.
  4. Although everything over 60,000 words can be called a novel, most novels are between 80,000-100,000 words. If you write a 1000 usable words a day, that means about three solid months of writing.
  5. Most successful authors are prolific with at least 5+ novels to their name. There are exceptions, but don’t imagine yourself to be one of them.
  6. Do you know the author Philip K. Dick? People who are serious about storytelling are generally in awe of his storytelling ability. His novels and short stories form the basis of movies like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck and a host of others. Even in his best years, Dick rarely earned more than 12,000$ per year. In fact, most writers don’t earn more than 10,000$ per year and most earn considerably less. Even Stephen King had to support his family with his teaching job for the first decade of his career. And James Patterson made his money in advertising before he turned to writing fiction.
  7. I’m fortunate that most people don’t want to antagonize me (based on my size and my encyclopedic knowledge of murder), but even I get disparaging remarks, or questions how much I earn with my books, or people who think their ideas are sufficiently interesting that they can tell them to me and I ‘just write them down’. Not to mention the many many people who would love to write a book, if only they had the time. Of course, the idiocy gets balanced by people who are genuinely awed by a writer’s ability to create stories and characters ‘out of thin air’ and readers writing you about the character they like the most and ask if that character will be featured in the upcoming book. Still, a writer needs thick skin. If you’re sensitive and insecure about your own abilities, you might want to reconsider choosing writing fiction as a career.

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