My Corona Diary – Hospitalization.

My Corona Diary was getting a bit long, and was nowhere near over, so I decided to break it off just before I was going back to the hospital for the third and fourth time.
You can find the first part of My Corona Diary here.
You can find the third part of My Corona Diary here.

FYI, all measurements are Dutch/European. My normal body temperature is 36.5 Celsius. Normal glucose levels are between 5-8 mmol/l. Normal blood pressure for me ought to be 129/85, but I usually have 135/90.

(April 16th) It’s past midnight. Thursday is garbage collection day, so I carry my garbage bag through the courtyard to the gate where I add my bag to the garbage heap, then empty my mailbox and walk back. The night air is cold but fresh. I don’t return straight to my house, but walk unsteadily around the deserted courtyard, my cane ready to support me should I lose my balance. It’s ridiculous how infirm I feel, like an asthmatic old man, panting from the exertion of strolling around this courtyard. I feel so weak I feel like crying, but I will not wallow in self-pity.
I go back inside, feeling tired but not sleepy. I sink in my chair, gathering strength to climb the stairs to my bathroom and bedroom. I’ve been sick for four weeks now. Four exhausting weeks. And my convalescence might take another two weeks. I remember how the first reports were that for most people, getting corona would be like the flu. How wrong they were. This is nothing like the flu. It’s a prolonged battle against a mercurial virus and for many people surviving corona is a toss of the coin. Some will win and live on. Many will lose and die. Please, please, if you read this, don’t think too lightly about this. And hug your loved ones. My heart aches at the thought that I haven’t been able to hug my children for four-and-a-half weeks. I have to stop thinking about this, or I might lose my composure. Good night, everyone.

I got up around eight. Temperature was 36.8, glucose was 8.8, and my weight went down to 98.1. I felt weak and exhausted, skipped breakfast and just took a banana with my medication. Around eleven, the postman dropped off a package with my saturation meter. At first it didn’t seem to work, but it turned out that there was still some plastic around one of the battery poles. After fixing that I could measure my saturation, which hovered around 89%. No wonder I was so tired.
With effort I managed to get it up to 92-93% if I sat real still in my chair. I called my GP to be put on the call list. She called me back around 13.00 hours and conferred about my measurements with the lung doctor at OLVG. She called me back and told me an ambulance was on the way to take me back to OLVG.
I couldn’t keep it together. I was crying with despair, calling my ex to tell her I had to go back to the hospital for the third time, while I was throwing stuff in an overnight bag again. I just couldn’t take this anymore. Four fucking weeks of laborious breathing, fevers, being prodded and tested, bloodclotting in my nose from the oxygen, and being so tired, so tired.
The ambulance took me to OLVG again and I was put into a separate room again. Got another IV tap in my arm, vials of blood taken and a painful needle rooting around in my right wrist again to draw blood from my arteries to check the oxygenated blood.

I took my cannabis while I waited, listening to music from my iPad, trying to stay calm and keep my composure. I had forgotten my water bottle again, but this time I knew to ask for a carafe of water. The battery of tests continued.Again big machines were wheeled into the tiny room to make a heart scan, then another lung photo. 
Around 16.00 hours I told the nurse I needed to eat and take a 850mg Metformin. She gave me two sandwiches with cheese and my pill. Not only is my appetite at an all-time low, but the tasty sandwiches tasted like cardboard. I worked them down and took my pill. 
The lung doctor came and told me that my lungs looked better than April 10, and my heart was strong and beating well. The saturation was a problem, but like he said, COPD patients regularly have lower saturation levels (70-80%) when active, and the important thing was to take a lot of rest and get the saturation levels back up. I told him that if I wasn’t in danger, I preferred to recuperate at home. He conferred with another lung doctor and agreed that I could stay at home, but I had to warn if my saturation dropped to 80% or if I wasn’t able to get it back up to 92% at rest. He complimented me on my fortitude, struggling for breath for weeks now, and told me to hang in there. 
We also talked about being contagious. He told me the dyspnea would take several weeks to clear up, but if I didn’t cough for 24 hours, I could get out of quarantaine and hug my kids again. 
However, since I was still coughing a few times a day, I was transported home by ambulance, not by taxi. The nurse who strapped me in, asked me how I was doing. I told him I was pretty much at the end of my tether, being sick since March 18th. When he joined the driver in the cabin of the ambulance, I heard him tell the driver that I was sick for a whole month and the driver looked at me with a look filled with pity. 
Back at home I sat in my chair and tried to get my saturation back up from 85%, but it wouldn’t go higher than 88%, even with cannabis. I looked at my arm, bruised from the needles and wept.

I went to bed, too tired to think about dinner, but I took a banana and two muesli sandwiches up to my bedroom. Too exhausted to undress, I crawled into my bed and tried to rest, but couldn’t breathe deeply. Not on my back, and certainly not on my sides. I remembered reading an article about turning dyspnea patients on their bellies to easy breathing, so I put my memory foam pillow under my chest and laid down with my forehead on my pillow, creating a gap for my face so I could breath. That did make breathing easier, but I couldn’t sleep and my saturation remained below 90%. Around 21.30 hours I was roused from my slumber by an alarm to vape cannabis, but my vapes were downstairs. I ate the banana and took Metformin, struggled out of my clothes and tried to sleep.

(April 17th) I woke at 04.45 hours, my heart racing, gasping for breath. I couldn’t get back to sleep, sat for a while meditating to get my heart rate down. Saturation meter showed 85-87%. I put on my bathrobe and went downstairs, where I vaped cannabis and watched Blade Runner 2049 to distract myself from the dyspnea. Around 06.30 hours I felt a bit calmer and went back upstairs again, where I slept until 08.30 hours. 
I got up, skipped the shower and measuring glucose, but I did weigh myself at 97.2kg. Dressed myself, then sat for a while getting my breath back and went downstairs, where I sat in my chair for 20 minutes before I had the energy to make tea and yoghurt with muesli. I had to force myself to eat, I need the energy and I had to take my meds, but after five or six spoons of the muesli I just couldn’t eat any more. 
I opened the window for fresh air, but my legs got too cold, so I put on my lined HH pants to keep my legs warm. Saturation still low, but maybe it will improve as the day progresses.
I managed to finish my bowl of muesli, but felt awful weak. A friend got me a microwave steamer meal, but my appetite was nowhere to be found. I wanted to steam with camomile but when I went upstairs for a towel, my heart was racing when I came back downstairs and my saturation dropped to 75%. 
Steaming didn’t really help that much. Around 20.00 hours I went to the toilet and felt warm, so I took my temperature, which was 38.0C. Fever again. I took two Saridon and decided to call the huisartsenpost. They sent a GP, who conferred with a lung doctor, so I had to go back to the hospital again.

They took another Thorax X-ray and took more blood. The doctors are worried about my inability to sustain saturation levels, so I have to stay the weekend and then they’ll decide how to handle my convalescence. At least, an oxygen tank at home is now an option. 

(April 18th) Someone was supposed to get me to transport me from the ER to C6, where there’d be a bed for me. At 3.00 hours in the morning, one of the ER nurses decided to take me upstairs. I told the staff at C6 that I had to vape cannabis in the morning, but they had to put me in a four-bed ward and told me they’d sort me out in the morning on how and where I could vape. 
Despite my exhaustion, I couldn’t sleep. The other three occupants, an elderly man and two elderly women, were noisy all night. The elderly lady next to me started crying because she had to pee so bad, then when the nurse came to turn the lights on and put a bedpan under her, she couldn’t pee. This happened three times between half past four and six in the morning. And the elderly woman across from me couldn’t sleep either and was constantly asking plaintively what was going on and what the red button was for. The elderly man was just groaning and coughing up phlegm all night. On top of that my nose was getting severely irritated by the oxygen blowing in. I’m not complaining though, as I doubt I would’ve been able to sleep at home with the dyspnea I was experiencing without oxygen.
At six-thirty in the morning the night shift came to take blood pressure, temperature, and saturation, then the morning shift came and I had to go to the toilet. Since that wasn’t an option, I had to go on the ‘stool’ with a removable bedpan. I was luckily prepared with moist toilet paper, because they forgot to give me any. Defecating turned out to be such an exertion that I started coughing bad enough to feel nausea. I wiped myself and crawled back into bed, thinking I was going to throw up. My nausea subsided when my heart stopped racing, but when they came to remove the bedpan stool, I asked them for some receptacle for vomit, in case I had this again.
After breakfast and medication, the staff conferred on how to provide a space for me to vape cannabis, and they decided to move me to an enormous single room with another brilliant view of Amsterdam South.

(Oh God, I’m in the Psychiatric Ward)

Again, vaping cannabis turned out to be a salvation, or I wouldn’t have received such a wonderful room to recuperate from my ordeal. 

Dutch joke: Patient is not that crazy.

In the afternoon, the nurse came in with ‘bad news’. For a moment I was afraid they would take my room again, but it turned out she wanted to do another Corona test swab, which involves sticking a long wattenstaafje (Q-tip) deep into my nose and another one deep into my throat. Her reason was that the doctor asked for it, because ‘something had gone wrong at Amsterdam Medical Center (AMC, another hospital)’ and they wanted to do the test again. Since my nose is clotting with blood from the oxygen supply and my throat is sore from coughing, I told her that I needed a better reason for doing the test again. After all, as reported before, both my huisarts and the GGD told me the test wouldn’t be reliable after I’d been sick for so long and the test they performed on April 10th turned out negative, only for the CT-scan to prove that I had corona. The nurse seemed a bit miffed about my non-compliance, but understood my reasoning, so the doctor will have to explain why he wants the test. And what the results would mean – was a positive a sign of re-infection? Was a negative a sign I wasn’t contagious anymore? As no doctor appeared for the rest of the day, I assumed there was no urgency to re-test me. 
I was reading on my e-reader around seven in the evening when it signaled the battery was going low and I found I didn’t bring a micro-usb charger. Luckily Terrence had a charger and Annemiek jumped on her bicycle to bring it to the hospital – another show of how great my friends are in my time of need. 
Since I had problems with blood clots in my nose, the nurse put a water bubbler between the oxygen tap and my tube. I immediately noticed the smoother air, but the bubbler sounds like a noisy aquarium filter system, so it took me some time to get used to it. I was in-and-out of sleep, then roused at three for a check-up, after which I slept again, fitfully.

(April 19th) Woken around 06.30 for another check-up by the night shift, and I heard her say my blood pressure was close to normal. So is my high blood pressure perhaps also a symptom of my diabetes or corona?
I looked out the window at the sun rising over Amsterdam.

I don’t have a proper toilet, but I have to go on the bedpan stool.

However, since I noticed how they changed the bedpan, I took out the bedpan and put it at the door, so the nurses don’t have to suit up just change my bedpans. 
Also, I weighed myself today and I’m at 96.8kg. Despite three meals a day, I’m still shedding weight. I asked for a towel, so I can wash my face at the basin, but just brushing my teeth after breakfast was so exhausting that I’ll rest for a while before I’ll over-exert myself.

Since my hospital stay might be longer than expected, due to the oxygen saturation in my blood not getting much better, I asked my friend Alf to go to my house to get me my vitamins and my writing materials so I can continue writing the draft for DRONE.

I feel fortunate having such good friends and neighbors to help me through this ordeal. Now with my typewriter in my room, I don’t feel so useless. At least now I can continue my work, whenever I have the energy to do so.

(April 20th) I had a good night’s rest and got up at 06.30, after the 6 o’clock check up (I joked with a friend about being in hospital confinement is a bit like being in a very friendly and benign prison), because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep and my eye was seeing better. Before breakfast, I wrote two pages on the DRONE draft. 

After breakfast I spoke with the nurse about getting an eye-wash bottle (like they use for first aid in situations with chemicals), so I could clean my eyes. The screen of my phone was covered with a light film of dust, blown into the room by the closed air conditioning system. Of course the screens of electronic equipment attract more dust, but I have no doubt the burning sensation in my eyes is part dehydration, part dust and debris.
Having my Kolibri waiting for me at the table gives me a lot more energy to face the long dreary day. At least I can express myself creatively instead of surfing the web or passively watching movies.

Just had a talk with the lung doctor. They want to PCR test me again (the test where they sample the back of your nose and throat), because the CT Scan shows that I have two lung issues – one of the issues is a viral infection which could (considering the pandemic and my own symptoms) very well be COVID-19 (which is why I was marked CO-RADS-4); but the other issue is something called RBILD, which is a smoker’s disease. I don’t smoke, but I do vape cannabis and according to the lung doctor, the slight RBILD could be a result from vaping anything (including e-cigarettes). The RBILD would disappear after I stop vaping, but for now I just have to continue vaping cannabis, as there is no better alternative. However, it’s interesting enough that after I’m recovered, I will become a lung patient at the OLVG, requiring regular tests and scans to see whether the RBILD becomes a problem. Right now, it’s not problematically present and the presence might have been exacerbated by the viral infection, COVID-19 or otherwise, but that’s the reason they need another nose and throat swab to test for the rarer lung diseases that might have caused the viral infection.

Uh oh. Just found out why this former Psychiatric Ward is now used for Corona patients. The nurse (a surgery nurse who has just begun working again after surviving Corona) told me that the C6 ward is reserved for palliative corona care – patients who are sure to die and who will not (or want not) to receive Intensive Care, but are made as comfortable as possible. Since this ward has three badge-controlled doors dividing the ward in different sections, it’s easier to allow visitors to visit their dying relatives, and easier to put a security guard at the outer door to prevent unauthorized persons to enter the ward. And since I told them I absolutely do not want to be intubated or reanimated, I’m right at home here. Except that I’m not dying. Which explains the extremely friendly personnel and why they like taking care of me, the sole non-dying patient….

Being in a hospital feels a bit like a writer’s retreat – basically, writing is pretty much all I can do here, so I drafted seven new pages for DRONE.

I hope tomorrow will again be a productive day of writing.

(April 21st) Again an early morning – after the 06.30 check-up, getting back to sleep is pretty hard, so I got up and started my day. Like yesterday, the weather was bright and sunny, like the world pestering me with my forced isolation. How I would relish just walking around in the sunshine…
I put these thoughts aside, as one has to accept that which cannot be changed. After checking through my social media and emails, I started typing a scene that was difficult to write and kept me busy for several hours, interspersed with breakfast, check-ups, and lunch. 
Out of the blue, my daughter Nica called me in a video chat, asking if she could move back to Amsterdam if/when the schools started in May. I had to disappoint her – I’d probably still be too weak to be home and care for two kids. But we had a long, very pleasant chat, and I felt glad that she called.
I had some other phone calls to make, one with a friend who’s an expert on technology related things. I had written a scene involving the detection of a USB stick with a hidden tracking device, and my scene was sound, except for some minor details I can easily resolve in the editing stage. 
I had also written a poem, which I photographed on the Kolibri.

I had a conference with the lung doctor, who told me he’d put in a transfer from the hospital to a nursing home, where I could be nursed back to health, as returning home in my condition is not an option.
A little later I was called by the transfer-nurse, who told me that the nursing home would be in the Amsterdam area and would be a single room, like I have now at the hospital, but it might have a window I can open (also handy with vaping cannabis), which the hospital doesn’t have. Might help with the low moisture content in my room dehydrating me. Transfer could be as early as tomorrow or the day after.

(April 22nd) I had a good night’s sleep, because the night shift decided not to wake me at 3 in the morning for the check-up, since my levels didn’t fluctuate that much. So I got my 6 o’clock check up and slept until 8 o’clock.
Today I will learn about my transfer. Looking forward to showering and having a normal toilet again, instead of washing myself with Swash single-use soapy washcloths and defecating on a bedpan chair. I feel a bit like some scaly reptile dehydrating in an aquarium, haha. I’m constantly draining half-liter bottles of mineral water, some 8 bottles a day, but that’s no wonder with kidney stones, diabetes and cottonmouth from cannabis. So, I’m also hoping I get a room where I can open a window to let some fresh air in.

Just had another conversation with the lung doctor. The transfer to a nursing facility seems like a bad option. I’ve had a severe infection of my respiratory system, which could very well be COVID-19, but they cannot say that for the full 100%. So, if I go to a corona nursing ward and my lung infection was something else, I’m liable to contract COVID-19 on top of my current dyspnea problems. And if I go to a regular nursing facility and I do have COVID-19, I’m liable to infect the other patients.
However, the room I’m currently occupying is in demand for palliative care patients, so I have to be moved. 
The plan now is that I’m going to be moved to the Lung ward on the eight floor, where I will be housed in a single room like this one, and where I will be weaned from the oxygen. And the expectation is to discharge me on Friday if I can manage without extra oxygen, and supply me at home with home care to take on the more exhausting tasks like cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming the house, changing the bedsheets and doing laundry. 
And check that on a weekly basis to slowly become more and more active in these household chores. Regaining my former condition and stamina will most likely take months, as I basically had double pneumonia, and regaining full lung capacity is a slow and arduous process. 

So, I’ve been transferred to a single room on ward B8 for lung diseases, and my oxygen has been lowered from 4 liters to 1 liter. Quite a step back, but the room is fine. Same general size as the one I occupied on B7 on April 10-12, with my own toilet and shower stall. 

With a table in the corner I can set up for my writing.

Of course, the view more limited because the windows are quite small, but it’s still magnificent. 

So now I’m going to trim my beard and take a long shower, which I think will make me feel much better. And the ability to relieve myself on a regular toilet should not be underestimated. 

Interesting developments. After this active day – packing up all my stuff, getting transferred, unpacking all my stuff, taking a shower without extra oxygen – I noticed that I didn’t feel well. My energy was low, I was drowsy, and I noticed I started making mistakes while writing on the typewriter. Something was definitely off, so I called the nurse on the phone and Hilde responded weird. She told me that if that happened, I should’ve used the red button earlier. However, she told me to up the oxygen to 2 liters and she’d be by later for the check-ups and would check on my oxygen then.
When she came by later for the checks and asked me about my dyspnea, I told her that maybe the ’cutting down on oxygen’ wasn’t going as gradual as the lung doctor had prescribed and that I was at the ward to build up my depleted reserves or I wouldn’t be able to go home on Friday afternoon.
”As far as my dyspnea was concerned,” Hilde said disapprovingly, “maybe that’s just the toll I have to pay for smoking cannabis…”
And I realised, this woman was punishing me for doing something one shouldn’t be doing on a lung ward. Holding tight to my fudoshin in order not to become angry, I explained to her that I was not some pothead who was so addicted to weed that doctors allowed him to smoke on a lung ward. I explained to her that vaping medical cannabis, prescribed by the leading eye doctor of her hospital, was preventing damage to my one remaining eye, a medical necessity that the lung doctors understood and therefore allowed on the ward, a decision that wasn’t hers to judge. I showed her what vaporising cannabis entailed and the differences between vaping and smoking (and e-cigarettes), so she would be informed about why I ‘risked my health’ vaping cannabis, because the alternatives were worse. 
Thankfully, I could see that she understood her mistake, and she brought me cappuccino and promised to make a note for her colleagues so they too understood that I wasn’t allowed to flout the rules of the ward, but was a patient with alternative medication. 
So my oxygen stays at 2 liters now and won’t be halved until that feels OK to me. I’m happy I was alert enough to realise what was going on and to be able to explain the dilemma I’m in, having to vape cannabis while contributing to a slower healing process of my lungs. And explain it well enough to turn her antagonistic attitude around. However, this is also a warning for those who use alternative medicine – sometimes the medical profession’s ignorance and prejudice could result in an abuse of power. I shudder to think what attitude some of these nurses might have towards people who have a lung disease from decades of smoking. Will they tell them they should stop whining, because everybody knows smoking is bad for your health? 
I know that a lot of doctors are also ignorant about medical cannabis use and the differences between smoking and vaping, but this prejudice can be dangerous. And I’m grateful my eye doctor was open to experimenting with alternative methods to prevent harm to my one remaining eye, and prescribe cannabis even though he didn’t have any experience with doing so. In view of the myopathy of so many medical ‘experts’, his openminded attitude is all the more impressive.

Later, when I tried to go to sleep, every time I went horizontal I got what felt like lung hiccups that prevented me from going to sleep. I had this same issue April 16th, when I couldn’t get to sleep either. So I rang the nightshift nurse and told him my problems and how I thought my oxygen had been decreased too drastically, so he upped my oxygen to three liters and we had a conversation where I expressed my frustration at being regarded a pothead who knowingly fucked up his lungs, whereas the RBILD was an unforeseen side effect of my medical cannabis use, which I couldn’t stop on account of risking blindness in my remaining eye. He was sympathetic and understanding and told me he would write down my explanation to go into my file, so the nurses wouldn’t see me as someone who was deliberately risking his health. 

(April 23rd) I slept fitfull and was woken around 7 for my check-up. The hospital seems adamant about discharging me tomorrow afternoon, so they screwed the oxygen down to 1 liter, but I don’t feel positive about going home so soon. I should recuperate in a clinic, but that doesn’t seem to be an option. I called with my huisarts to arrange for help with household chores like cleaning my house, but I had to call that service myself, explained my situation and they’re looking for an emergency solution as a request for this usually takes some 6 weeks of administrative time before they can become active. And I don’t have six weeks.
The transfer nurse called me and cannot do much more for me that arrange a shower chair for me. They can maybe arrange a physiotherapist for me, but not much more. I just need to convalesce, but due to corona, no clinic will take me. Best thing really would be for me to stay here on the lung ward for another week, but the hospital wants me gone because I don’t need active medical care. And I don’t feel able to live alone without any assistance, not when I’m so short of breath that simply taking a shower is so exhausting that I have to sit down for ten minutes just to get my breath back.
My oxygen supply is taken off around ten in the morning. Meanwhile, I have to make calls all day to arrange help around the house and on top of that my Mighty vaporizer stops working. I call my neighbor Simone who goes into my house, gets my Plenty vaporizer and brings it over at 13.00 hours. So I learn at 13.35 hours, despite me asking the nursing staff to bring me the vaporizer as soon as it arrives, as I should’ve vaped at 10.00 hours. When I call they bring me the Plenty fifteen minutes later with the excuse that they were on their lunch break. I’m getting so sick of this, it feels like they’re pestering me, for some unknown reason.

Yesterday, I asked for new Optrex Eye Wash. They would arrange for it, but it wasn’t coming. Today I heard that they don’t have it and cannot arrange it. I call my own pharmacy, which has one bottle left. A friend will pick it up and get it to the ward. I ask him to write “URGENT” on the bag and tell me when he drops off the bottle. I tell one of the nursing staff that I arranged for a new bottle Optrex and ask him to bring it to me as soon as it comes in.
My friend drops off the package at 15.12 hours. I don’t say anything and wait how long it will take for them to bring me the package. After all, it’s marked Urgent, so they should bring it over right away, right? At 16.12 hours I call them and tell them an urgent package I’m waiting for has been delivered an hour ago and still hasn’t been brought to my room. They tell me they will check with security. Ten minutes later it’s delivered to my room. No excuses, nothing.

Evening falls and I cannot do much calling anymore, as the offices are closing. Why do they have to discharge me right before the weekend? When everything will take twice as long, since on weekends many business are closed in this pandemic town? But there is nothing I can do about it.

After my dinner, which I can hardly eat because I have no appetite, I put my saturation meter on my finger. 92% it says, falling sharply as I take my dinner tray and carry it six steps to the door and put it on the ground behind the door so the nurse can pick it up without having to don without having to put on all the protective gear.
When I walk back, my saturation has dropped to 79%. I turn on the stopwatch on my phone and do my breathing exercises to get my saturation level back up. It takes 9 minutes and 36 seconds before I hit 92%, the bare minimum.
After that I turn on my iPad and watch a movie, feeling myself getting more and more despondent. The dyspnea is back in full force and I notice I’m panting with exertion just watching a movie. I put on the saturation meter and it shows 88%. And I cannot be more at rest while awake, just sitting still in a chair watching a movie. I get up and walk to the bathroom. I walk back again and see the saturation dropping to 84%. Even with my breathing exercises, I cannot get it to go higher than 88%.
The nurse comes to check up on me and I tell her how I feel and that my saturation won’t get up to 92%. She checks my vitals and my blood pressure is up and my saturation hovers at 88%. No fever, nothing. She calls the doctor, who is on an emergency call, but tells her to measure again, now with putting the saturation clamp on my ear. We do this while I’m horizontal, because I tell her that when I’m horizontal my lungs cramp up. The measurements stay below 90, so she puts me back on the oxygen, setting it at 1 liter. I tell her that I think it’s an irresponsible action to discharge me when I feel like this. If only I could stay a few days longer, lift me over the weekend, and discharge me on Monday, when I might be able to arrange for someone to help me clean up my house….
I’ll try and get some sleep…

(April 24th) I went to bed around midnight, but as soon as I went horizontal, my lungs cramped up and I got into a vehement coughing bout that resulted in coughing up white sputum. The air supply was bothering me more than helping me, so the nurse hung it within reach and we put up the head of the bed to avoid me going fully horizontal. I managed to get to sleep and woke at seven with abdominal pain and backpain and a saturation of 83%. I went to the toilet at half past seven and when I got back in bed, I put on my saturation meter and monitored myself for half an hour, not getting my saturation higher than 85%.
The dayshift nurse put me back on 3 liter oxygen, which blew so hard into my nose that the blood clotting in my nose came back. After an hour with no appetite, I asked if I could lower it to 1.5 liters, because I was feeling worse instead of better. I have no appetite, but drank a protein drink and ate a banana. Trying to get a small bowl of yoghurt inside, but it’s hard when you feel more like throwing up.

The weird thing is that the Emergency doctors (including the lung doctor) didn’t want to let me go home on April 16th unless I could keep a saturation of 92% or above, but the lung doctor seems to want to discharge me while I cannot keep my saturation stable and over 85%. I’d feel a lot better about this if I could keep my saturation above 92% for 24 hours before being discharged.

Lo and behold, how things can turn around. Instead of Dr. Arrogant, the lung doctor who came to confer with me today turned out to be the same friendly doctor I met when I stayed at B7 from April 10-12.
I was literally flooded with relief, as he sat down and we could just speak about the situation and the options. I told him about how professional household help services wouldn’t help without a guarantee that I was no longer contagious and since the hospital couldn’t guarantee something like that, was it any wonder my own friends, family and neighbours didn’t dare risk exposure assisting me with household chores. We talked about how I had basically been hospitalized April 17th with unstable saturation and how nothing has really changed. I felt slightly better at C6 and started to recuperate, but my health deteriorated when I was transferred to the B8 and rushed into returning home. This friendly lung doctor told me that with my unstable saturation going home wasn’t an option now. And he would make contact with the revalidatiekliniek (recuperation facility) for a spot, because if I wasn’t contagious and needed 24/7 observation until my saturation stabilized, the revalidatiekliniek would be the ideal step to take before I could return home.
So, I’m not going home today but will stay over the weekend and we’ll decide after the weekend (probably Tuesday, because Monday is King’s Day national holiday) whether I have to go to a clinic or if I was fit enough to return home with extra care.
I’m still too nauseated to eat lunch, but I’m incredibly relieved that I can stay and rest. The difference a doctor makes….

Being much calmer, my stomach cramps came to rest and I could eat dinner. Later in the evening, I felt coughing coming up, so I sat at my desk with an empty cup, coughing up white sputum and spitting it into the cup. I knew that every bit of sputum I could lift out of my lungs and into the cup would give me more breathing capacity. It was hard work, my head felt like it would explode and I had to take paracetamol against the beginning headache. After some forty-five minutes of coughing, I filled about one-third of the cup with heavy sputum. Then I took my mind off by watching the movie Superbad on my iPad. After the movie I wrote another few pages of DRONE and went to bed, cranking up the headrest at an angle so I could breath easier.

(April 25th) The friendly nightshift nurse took my vitals around four and woke me again around six-thirty to measure my glucose. After that I drowsed, but couldn’t get to sleep anymore, so I leisurely arranged the chair near my bathroom so I could take a shower as comfortable as possible. It is such a relief to be able to shower that despite not being able to use my oxygen supply, I still showered probably twice as long as I do at home, just holding on the braces in the walls and enjoying the hot water massaging my back. The next best thing to getting a real massage…
The dayshift nurse was pleased that I was already up and sitting at my desk, freshly showered and ready for the day. After breakfast I turned back to my draft of DRONE, thinking up new scenes to write.
The main problem seems to be the incredibly low humidity in the room affecting both my breathing and my vision. My eye dehydrates faster than I can moisturise it and again my vision blurs and my eyes burn. In the end, without other options available, I took to running the cold shower with the bathroom door open in order to increase humidity in the room.
In the time that my vision was too blurred to read, I put on my sunglasses to shield my eyes from harsh light and sat at my desk trying to cough up as much slime from my lungs as I could, hoping that this would increase my lung capacity.

I spend a lot, maybe too much, time on social media and I notice a tendency of healthy people complaining about the quarantine. I get it, but you have to realize that your inability to socialize with friends in the neighborhood pub, go en masse to the beach, and enjoy the gym or the cinema, or go out to dinner is nothing compared to the inability to breathe properly, te be forced to live in a small room having not much choice what you eat or drink, to be woken at three in the morning to have your vitals tested, to spend your spare time coughing up slime from your lungs and to be tethered to an oxygen tube 24/7 which makes blood clots in your nose.
You can walk to the fridge and get a ginger beer. If you feel cooped up, you can open a window and breathe the soft spring air, heck, you can go for a stroll outside as long as you practice social distancing. You can exercise in your home. You can order delicious food, you can make your own coffee, you can still rule most of your own life.
I’m not complaining. I’m not wallowing in self-pity, even if I cried yesterday for missing my children. I still count my blessing of being recuperating. I may have dyspnea for months and that terrifies me, but at least I’m not intubated at the ICU. I’m being cared for, I’m being fed, I can shower again, I have my iPad and wifi to stay in touch with my loved ones, I have my typewriter and writing materials to continue with my books and poetry.
I count my blessings every day.
Maybe, when you feel self-pity for everything you‘re missing out on, think about those poor souls whose lives are in peril, who have no choice in the matter of how they live because the virus saps their strength and they have to be on medical machinery in order to not die. For now, I leave this poem I wrote today.

(April 26th) Woke up this morning with a stuffed nose and a mouth as dry as the Gobi desert. I turned on the cold shower in the bathroom to moisten the air in my room – the low humidity is wreaking havoc with my health. Not only my eyes burn, but my skin is flaky and my throat so dry I drink liters of water.
Since the idea is that I can go home when I can sustain a resting saturation of 92% without extra oxygen, I turned off the oxygen during breakfast and start measuring after I placed my tray outside the door to my room.
Sitting back down after that ‘exertion’, my saturation was down to 83% and took over ten minutes to slowly rise to briefly touch 92% before slipping down to 90% again.
Bugger.
Another try. I went to the toilet on the other side of the room. When I returned, I was panting and my saturation was 77%. For the next half hour I tried to get it back up to 92%, but I didn’t get it any higher than 88%.
So I put the oxygen back on, 2 liters for one hour, then 1 liter for the rest of the day.

I also want to write about something that occurred last Wednesday, when I was moved from the C6 palliative ward to the B8 lung ward.
Before I got installed in C6, staying in the four-bed ward with the elderly patients for one night and getting moved to a private room at the end of the hall the next morning, I didn’t know the ward was for palliative care. I only found out about 1-2 days later.
So last Wednesday, when I was moved from C6 to B8, I knew that most of the patients were dying. As I was moved out, I was parked temporarily near another single room while a palliative patient was being moved into my room. The single room I was parked next to housed an elderly man hooked up to an IV drip with (I suspect) morphine to make him comfortable. There was a big glass wall separating us.
I must’ve drawn his attention, the bearded pirate in the bed outside his room, and we locked eyes. I greeted him with a namaste and he slowly raised his right hand to about shoulder level before it sank back to the bed. His eyes remained on mine and I just couldn’t look away from his drugged but still inquisitive gaze. And I knew this man was dying.
Then the nurses came to take me away and as I moved away from him, I nodded to him and he nodded back.
The rest of that day was so intensive that I almost forgot about him, but I later that night when I went to sleep, his face appeared before me again and I wished I had been able to give him some comfort other than my mute sympathy.
Today, as I posted on Facebook about people complaining about not being able to get a haircut due to the pandemic isolation, his face appeared before me and I couldn’t hold it together. Here’s this poor man dying alone in a glass room, watching me in mute incomprehension, while outside this hospital people are whining about not being able to get their nails done or go to a ball game. And I feel bad for resenting them for their pettiness. I want to scream at them that people are dying and they worry about their fucking appearance. And I know that writing this isn’t going to change their minds or attitude, but I cannot forget his face and his eyes searching mine. I’ve seen some bad shit in my life. I’ve seen people dying, often unnecessary, so why does this man’s death affect me so much? Because I may have been the last of the regular people he has seen before he died? I hate that there was this glass wall between us, that I couldn’t have held his hand to comfort him.
All I can do is remember him, remember what is happening in hospitals all over the world because of this fucking pandemic.
People tell me I’m tough, I’m a fighter, I can beat this sickness, they pray for me and wish me well on my long recovery. But I don’t feel tough. I feel like a mess, crying for this stranger dying alone in his glass room.
I’m not religious, but if you are and you want to pray for anyone, pray for his release from this mortal coil.
I feel so powerless.

This evening, around nine, I tried to go without oxygen again. It went fine for about two hours, slight fluctuations from 92 to 90 and back again, but after that I couldn’t keep it up and had to go back on the oxygen again. I’ll have another try tomorrow.

(April 27th) Today was one of the bad days. I woke up without my oxygen tube in my nose. When I measured, my saturation was around 85%, so we had the oxygen upped to 2 liters and left it there the rest of the day,
Most of the morning and afternoon I felt tired and not at all hungry, so I had to force myself to get breakfast and lunch to have some energy.
This lasted until well in the evening, so better luck tomorrow.

(April 28th) I got up at seven-thirty, removed my oxygen at 10.00 to check if I could get back to 92% at rest. Had a shower and breakfast. Saturation dipped, but came back to 92-93%. So, that is promising Let’s see if I can keep this up for the whole day.

My saturation seemed stable until bedtime. I was feeling pretty good, walked around, ate lunch and dinner, wrote 8 pages of draft for DRONE – a murder in the hospital scene – and went to bed around midnight.

(April 29th) After midnight, when I lay in my bed, the lung spasms came back and I sat coughing up sputum until a quarter to one. I measured my saturation at 89%, but since I had been coughing vehemently, I still went to sleep without extra oxygen.
I woke up at 04.38 hours to go to the bathroom. Before I got up, I measured my saturation, which was 79%. I relieved myself, got back into bed and took another reading. Despite not lying down, my saturation fluctuated between 77-79%, but I figured that I’d leave that for now and see how I’d feel in the morning.
I slept like the dead until the nurse woke me at 8.00 and asked me what I wanted for breakfast. I had to drink some water before I could answer and told her the same breakfast as yesterday – wholegrain bread, tomato, cheese, egg, ossenworst, coffee and diabetes lemonade, and extra water. I got up and sat in my chair behind the desk. She took my vitals, which were pretty good, except that my saturation sitting up was 85%.
She asked me if I wanted the oxygen, but I told her that the idea was to see if I could maintain 92% at rest and sitting up over a period of 24 hours, so I opted to wait, eat breakfast and check my saturation on my own meter.
My appetite was very low and looking at breakfast was making me nauseated, but I ate the banana to have something in my stomach when I took my meds.
I was monitoring my saturation and doing deep breathing exercises while drinking my coffee, the lemonade and two bottles of water, but not only did the saturation stay under 89%, my kidneys and joints started aching, and I felt a headache coming up, so I took two paracetamol.
When at 09.15 hours the saturation still remained under 90%, I gave up and connected the oxygen tube again, starting with 2 liters for twenty minutes, then lowering to 1 liter. My pain dissipated – either from the oxygen or the paracetamol – but my appetite didn’t return, so I got a cappuccino and more water and put the uneaten breakfast back in the hallway.
At 10.15 hours the nurse came to tell me the doctor would be by later today and that he wanted me to switch off the oxygen if the saturation was good enough. Saturation was at 95% with 1 liter, so we turned off the oxygen.
My oxygen saturation was 90% at 10.40 hours and 88% at 10.55 hours. I took a shower and afterward my saturation was 83% at 11.25 hours, creeping slowly to 89%. Ar 12.20 hours the doctor came, again a lung doctor who didn’t care much about my low saturation and found me fit enough to go home. Or go to a ZorgHotel (CareHotel), which I ‘had to arrange myself’.
I told him I was worried about going home alone and he told me he’d ask the social worker to talk with me about that, because my fear was irrational, as I ‘wasn’t in any danger’. I told him that his assessment was based on a very limited knowledge about my condition and home situation, where the efforts I exhibited in my hospital room would be tenfold at home. And I’d have no help as nobody dared enter my corona infected house.
I won’t be sent home today (they asked me about dinner, so…) but if they do want to send me home, I will need extensively more care than they now offer to provide.
And a private facility like a ZorgHotel is way out of budget for someone living on Welfare, so that’s not an option. I’m getting so sick and tired of having to argue that low saturation might not be considered ‘dangerous’ to them, but if my kidney starts malfunctioning because the lack of oxygen in my blood, I might get kidney stones again. If their assessment is wrong, I might have to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital for the FIFTH time. All because they prematurely discharged me the first few times. Which is also why my friends and neighbours don’t trust their assessment of my contagiousness. And why should they? They sent me home prematurely three times already….

I had a second discussion, now with two lung doctors. I explained to them that in my opinion, low saturation was a problem. Not just because I notice mental trouble in the clarity of my thinking when the saturation goes below 90%, but also because I have a kidney stone problem and my kidney might start making stones due to lack of oxygenated blood.
”Well, I don’t know about that,” the other lung doctor said. Before he could continue, I said, “Exactly. You don’t know. And all I know is that the low saturation gives me pain in my kidneys that I do not feel when my saturation is 92% and over. So let’s not assume anything, but just make sure I have a way to bringing my saturation levels up by providing an oxygen machine in my house.”
They could arrange that. And I told them about my personal feeling of safety in the home alone at night would be assuaged by having a panic button, so I could sound the alarm with a press of the button, instead of having to call 112 and explain what I needed. As I might be in such respiratory distress or coughing that I couldn’t speak. Again, a panic button would probably be unnecessary, but if its presence eases my anxiety about being home alone, it’s not that difficult to arrange. They readily agreed to both the oxygen machine and panic button and checking how much care I could receive in the home, while I arranged for the cleaning service to go into action as soon as I tell them when I’m coming home.

While all this sounds pretty amicable, the stress generated from having to argue with doctors to just get the proper care at home is extremely draining and unnecessary. I’m lucky that I’m an expert in risk management and negotiation, but what if I hadn’t been? I shudder to think about how less capable communicators would fare against such ‘opposition’.

One troubling thought was that the doctors remarked that if after all these precautions, if my home recuperation failed, they would have enough evidence to support the notion that I should’ve gone to a revalidatiekliniek care facility….

Anyway, since I’ve been thrown back to my own devices again, I’ve spoken with Westfalen Medical Supplies, who will bring an oxygen converter to my home tomorrrow morning and I arranged for my neighbour to hang up a note by the door to ring her bell, so she can let them in. The panic button they were supposed to arrange, couldn’t be arranged by the hospital, so they gave me a telephone number, which answered that the service line was not in use at the moment. So I will have to try that again tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’m fortunate to have friends. One friend will come over tomorrow evening and sleep over, so she can watch over me. Another wil come over Friday evening to do the same.
I feel asleep watching Kingdom on my iPad, so I measured my saturation, which had dropped to 88%. So I hooked up the oxygen and set it at 1 liter, so I would have a steady supply of oxygen during the night.

(April 30th) I slept fairly well, no coughing bouts and only one early morning toilet break. At 07.30 hours I woke and switched off my oxygen, then measured my saturation, which was 88% but climbed to 92% within minutes. So I left the oxygen off and sat at my desk doing breathing exercises. Probably will be sent home this afternoon, so I better prepare to have energy for packing my bags. I will ask for the hospital to arrange transport back home though. It’s about ten minutes by car, but I don’t want to accidentally infect a taxi driver if it can be avoided. Although I’ve been tested negatively for Corona twice. So I told them I needed oxygen during transport, and they would arrange for transport by ambulance.
I was told the ambulance would be there by noon, so I packed my bags — a heavy one with my Kolibri typewriter and all my writing materials and the photos and my maps with poetry and the DRONE draft; another slightly less heavy bag with my regular stuff, like my vaporizer, headphones, the camping lamps, extension cords and adapters; a daypack with my toiletries, eyewash, medication, et cetera; and a bag with my sheepskin and bathrobe. Plus my sling bag with my valuables.
They put a wheelchair near my room and I told them it would be quite a strain for them to use a wheelchair to cart me with an oxygen tank and five bags to the exit.
Ten minutes to noon I was ready and waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. At ten to one, one of the nurses told me she’d bring me to the ambulance taxi. A small Moroccan woman to push a wheelchair with a man weighing 96kg, plus five bags. I asked her if she was sure, but it looked like she had no choice.
With both heavy bags on my lap and the sling bag hanging from my shoulder, and the two lighter bags hanging from the handlebars she pushed me to the exit. I inquired about the oxygen, but she said I didn’t need it for the wheelchair ride to the exit, and the ambulance should have its own supply.
After she got me outside, it turned out that the ‘ambulance’ turned out to be a van without an oxygen supply… No surprises there.
The medics who helped me were friendly and carried my bags into my house, so no complaints there, but they told me nobody mentioned me needing oxygen…

To avoid making these blog posts too long, I posted the rest of my story in a third blogpost documenting my convalescence.

Love you all, thank you for your support.

Feel free to comment on this diary, I love to hear from you. And if you wish to support me in any way, read my novels!


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.


Typewriter Pad Alternative

One thing that annoys most current typewriter enthusiasts is the availability of typewriter accessories, or rather, the lack thereof.

Tipp-Ex white-out paper and correction fluid is virtually impossible to find, silk black/red ink ribbons have to ordered at the office supply store (because they rarely stock them), typewriter erasers are thin on the ground, and — of course — typewriter pads have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Typewriter pads serve multiple functions at the same time. They protect your desk, they provide an anti-slip surface so the typewriter doesn’t skid all over your polished desk, and they dampen the vibration (and the noise!) of your typewriter.

Since the original typewriter pads are no longer made and the commercial alternatives are not very cheap (I think 12-24 euro for a single pad is expensive), I experimented with all kinds of pads, from cork placemats from a cooking store (for underneath hot pots) to all kinds of rug runners and anti-slip bath mats. Some didn’t provide enough anti-slip, others were too soft or too thin.

I didn’t try the ‘cutting up a yoga mat’ idea, because good yoga or pilates mats aren’t cheap, but that last suggestion did give me a better idea.

Hardware stores often sell ultralight foam tiles that have jigsaw sides to join together in a large floor mat that you can use as in your garage or tool shed, as a gym mat or even under a washing machine to dampen the vibrations. Sold in packages of six squares, a single tile is often 40×40 centimeters, big enough for an Olympia SG-1 or similar desktop typewriter, so it can also easily support a smaller portable machine like this SM-4.

SM 4 on floor mat

Every package has strips to cover the jigsaw sides and if the floor mat is too large for your taste, you can easily cut them down to size. They’re often available in a variety of colours (although I’d go with black), they are anti-slip, hard enough to support your typewriter, but soft enough to dampen the vibrations. Plus they’re cheap — a package containing six 40x40cm EVA foam tiles will cost you about 6-10 euro — and since they’re meant for work spaces they can handle an awful lot of abuse, so they will last very, very long. And I think they also look pretty cool/rad/industrial under your typewriter.


SHARING: Nica’s Art

Having children is one of the great joys of my life. I don’t share too much about them on this blog (I hope), but I have shared the story below in an answer on Quora concerning when a child can be considered a ‘creative genius’. I think my five-year old daughter Nica shows considerable talent, but I’d hesitate to call her a genius or even gifted. Nevertheless, the response on Quora to my answer was huge (28,000 views and 120 upvotes), even getting comments from people interested in buying her drawings/paintings.

Nica loves to draw and colour. A few of her works show that she has some talent in the direction of the creative arts. If you bear in mind that she’s came up with these drawings herself:

This Purple Cat drawing (made when she was four) she explained to me that up close you see dots, but when you look at it from a distance it’s a cat:

Nica's Art_0001

Poes

She had never heard of pointillism…

This robot drawing she made after her fifth birthday:

nicas-art_0002.jpg

Which is reminiscent of the CoBrA movement, especially Corneille.

After showing these drawings on Quora, I got some requests from people about posting more of my daughter’s ‘art’, so I posted some more:

I’m the pirate on the left, with my eyepatch for glaucoma:

Nica's Art_0003

I have a lot of these random sketches. My daughter explained to me that this is the ‘Paas Mevrouw’ or Easter Lady:

nicas-art_0004.jpg

Paas Mevrouw

Birthday Princess:

nicas-art_0005.jpg

birthday princess

Mermaids:

nicas-art_0009.jpg

Mermaids

Police officer stopping a motorist at a zebra crossing for driving through a red light:

nicas-art_0012.jpg

Traffic cop stops motorist from crossing a red light and pedestrian crossing.

Fish Bowl with Tropical Fish:

Nica's Art_0014

Tropical Fish

Cat and house painting:

nicas-art_0016.jpg

Cat and House

This is a ‘very fat rabbit’:

nicas-art_0021.jpg

Very Fat Rabbit

This is a machine for making candy:

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Machine for making candy

I put up more of Nica’s Art on her own photo page: Nica’s Art


WRITING: Where do you get your story ideas?

I was asked on Quora: “What is your personal method for finding short stories ideas?” and this was my response:

I tend to combine past experiences and certain idiosyncrasies, and blend them into a story. To give you an example, this is my unpublished story Bonebag:
BONEBAG by Martyn V. Halm
Talons digging deep in her bony shoulder jerked Ange from pleasant dreams into cold dark reality. Muted green numerals floated in the dark bedroom to inform her that it was a quarter past two in the morning. Angrily she reached up, pried the fingers from her shoulder and turned to face her lover.
“Christ, Carla! It’s two in the morning, what the…”
A skittering sound in the kitchen made her swallow the rest of her tirade. Ange sat up and listened. The neon sign of the bar downstairs sprang on, blue light washing over the bedroom walls and the pale blob of Carla’s face, her dark eyes wide with fear.
Soft paws skittered along the length of the kitchen floor, followed by big paws that scrabbled for a hold. Ange could hear the claws gouge the linoleum floor as the cat wheeled around in pursuit of some ignorant rodent that had entered their apartment by mistake.
“That’s Felicia,” Carla whispered in a high strangled voice. “Your cat got something…”
Ange cocked her head. “Not yet. But she will in a minute. Now, can we go back to sleep? I have to be up at—”
“No, Ange.” Carla’s warm damp hand fell on her thigh and she could smell the sour smell of sleep on her breath. “Please, you got to do something.”
“Go to sleep.” Ange slipped back under the warm eiderdown, pulled the covers over her head as she turned on her side.
On the other side of the wall steel clanked against steel. Felicia’s food bowls. Apparently the pursuit had progressed into the bathroom.
“Ange!” Carla tugged her shoulder. “You know what she did last time!”
A couple of weeks back Felicia killed a mouse, opened the tiny rodent from throat to anus, and deposited the mutilated corpse on the floor in front of the bed, in obeisance to her mistress. Carla, who usually slept in, had the misfortune to get out of bed early. Still half asleep she put her foot in the gored mouse, her toes squishing into the juicy carcass. Yelling the whole apartment building awake, Carla had hopped on one leg to the bathroom and vomited all over the toilet seat while she removed the rodent’s entrails from between her toes.
“Just look where you put your big feet tomorrow,” Ange mumbled chagrined and turned on her side again. “And try to project your vomit into the bowl this time.”
“You know I can’t help it!” Carla took a deep shuddering breath. “Dead animals upset me.”
Upset was a mild term for the phobic revulsion Carla exhibited when confronted with a flattened hedgehog or a fish floating belly‑up. Her irrational hysterics spoiled walks along the beach and trips through the countryside. It put a damper on a pleasant walk in the woods when you had to hold your lover’s hair out of her face while she puked another meal behind a tree.
And still…
What bothered Ange was the suspicion that Carla’s abhorrence was mixed with fascination. Why else would her eyes scan the asphalt for roadkill? Or make Carla stand transfixed at the sight of gulls hacking an unfortunate crawfish to pieces? A slaughtered mouse in the house would keep her up till dawn.
And Ange with her.
“What the fuck do you want?” Ange turned around to face Carla. “You want me to help Felicia kill the stupid bugger? Is that what you want?”
“Just end its suffering.”
Ange whipped the eiderdown away. “I’ll make it suffer all right.”
The bedroom window was partially open and she was freezing her scrawny butt off, the cold waking her up completely. The neon sign flashed again, outlining her body in an almost pornographic blue nimbus reflected in the mirror in the corner of the room.
Where her parents found the audacity to call her Angelique was beyond her, for her appearance was anything but angelic. Her slanted green eyes narrowed as she viewed her reflection. Her thin frame with the pointed breasts, pelvic bones jutting out from her hips like handlebars, limbs strangely angular and bird‑like. She looked like she belonged in an enchanted forest, a malevolent pixie leading unwary travellers astray.
No wonder her nickname at school had been Bonebag.
The sign winked out again and Ange shivered as her feet touched the cold linoleum. She hurried across the kitchen floor and entered the bathroom.
After she closed the door behind her to keep the mouse in, she pulled the switch cord and shielded her eyes. The fluorescent strip light over the bathroom mirror flickered twice, then burned steadily, humming like an angry mosquito.
Felicia hunkered by the cabinet under the washbasin, her tail swishing from side to side. The cat didn’t even glance up at the light, her yellow eyes glued to the tiny creature hiding under the cabinet.
With her foot, Ange shoved the cat aside, but Felicia skirted behind her heels and took up guard at a different angle as Ange grabbed the sides of the cabinet and lifted it of the floor.
The mouse—startled by the rude disappearance of its shelter—spurted away, a small brown shape streaking across the floor for the back of the toilet bowl.
Felicia pounced and looked confused.
Ange noticed the trembling mouse behind the mop. Small fella, this time. An inch and a half at most, its tail three times the length of its body. Ange grinned, took the handle of the mop and shook it. She could see why Felicia liked this game so much.
The mouse didn’t like the game at all and fled into the shower stall. The rodent realised its mistake too late, for there was nothing to hide behind in the pristine cubicle. And the holes in the drain were too small to pass through, even for a tiny mouse like this one.
The petrified mouse cowered in a corner, while Felicia stalked it at leisure, her furry belly low to the ground, clearly savouring the moment. The mouse stared in the cat’s menacing yellow eyes, captivated like a rabbit in the bright light of a poacher. With her furry chin lowered to the tiled floor, Felicia stretched forth a tentative paw and nudged the mouse as if trying to spurn it into action. The mouse scurried back into the corner, reared up on its haunches and froze. Even the whiskers and the nose stopped moving. Its beady eyes, shiny with fear, glazed over. The mouse wasn’t petrified anymore. In mortal fear, its little rodent heart couldn’t handle the stress and stopped pumping.
Scared to death.
Felicia tilted her furry head. Surprised by the unexpected demise of her prey, the cat sat up and eyed the motionless rodent warily, her quivering ears twisting back and forth. With blinding swiftness, the cat lashed out. Her stiff paw whacked the mouse like a golf club and made the stiff rodent skid the entire length of the shower stall, until its diminutive corpse came to rest upended against the wall. Felicia uncoiled and pounced, coming in for the unnecessary slaughter.
Ange held the cat back by the scruff of her neck and picked up the stiffening mouse by its long tail to study the tiny creature. Its eyes—small black nodules bulging from the springy grey‑brown fur—were dull and lifeless. A tiny circle of blood had formed around the left nostril. Its slightly parted jaws revealed small yellow incisors. The tiny front paws were raised to its tiny chest like a dog begging for a morsel.
Ange opened the bathroom window to throw the corpse into the dark gardens three stories down. Felicia jumped on the toilet seat, her yellow eyes riveted on the dead mouse. Ange grabbed her cat by the neck and they both looked at the tiny dead creature swinging in the cold November air.
“Ange?”
She didn’t drop the mouse, but pulled back her arm and closed the window.
“Ange?”
Ange opened the bathroom door, noted the soft yellow light of the reading lamp over the bed shining into the dark hallway. The bedroom looked warm and cozy and here she was standing cold and naked in the freezing bathroom. All because of that stupid bitch and her necrophobia.
“What is it?” she yelled back.
“Is it… dead?”
Ange looked at the tiny corpse dangling from her fingertips. “You can say that.”
“Don’t forget to wash your hands, okay?”
Jesus H. Christ. Why had she ever shacked up with the stupid cow? She could have been lying in her warm bed. Felicia could have enjoyed her kill. Holding the mouse aloft in her right hand, Ange turned on the tap with her left and looked at her face in the bathroom mirror. The corners of her mouth, her most distinctive feminine feature, were turned down. She touched her full lips, so out of place in her narrow face. Stroked the sensitive skin, the tiny corpse in her other hand momentarily forgotten.
Felicia meowed and swatted the air under the swinging mouse.
Ange had a mind to take the mouse back into the bedroom and ask Carla to check if the tiny rodent had really kicked the bucket. An impish glitter filled the green eyes looking back at her from the mirror and her wide mouth curled into a wicked grin.
She took the fragile corpse between her fingers, felt the bones under her fingers. A little bonebag. Ange opened her mouth and placed the mouse inside, facing out. Tilted forward on her tongue, the tiny paws and the small furry head stuck out over the lower hedge of her white teeth. It looked like the mouse lived in her head and her mouth was its balcony. Staring into the eyes of her reflection, Ange closed her mouth gently to keep the little corpse in position. To keep the inside of her lips from touching the mouse, she had to pout lasciviously. Ange turned off the tap, switched off the light and left the bathroom. Her step was light as she padded to the pool of light in the bedroom.
Felicia followed closely, rubbed her furry body against her moving legs.
Carla sat in the middle of the bed, hugging Ange’s pillow against her breasts. Her dark eyes searched her face.
Ange stopped at the foot of the bed and kneeled on the eiderdown, pinning Carla’s legs under the covers. With a seductive smile around her pouting lips, she came slowly forward over the bed, supporting herself on her hands, trapping her lover under the eiderdown.
“Did you throw it out of the window? I heard—”
Ange shook her head slowly, her eyes fixed on Carla’s.
“No?” Carla looked worried. “You didn’t throw it in the trashcan, did you? I can’t…”
Ange leant forward and opened her mouth, arched her tongue under the small paws and moved the mouse up and down behind her teeth.
Carla blinked and focused on the dead mouse wobbling in her lover’s mouth. Her huge dark eyes widened in horror and she backed away until her back was against the wall. Ange closed her mouth, rocked back on her heels, pointed at her throat and swallowed thickly.
Carla’s eyes filled with revulsion and she broke away, threw herself off the bed. She bounced hard with her elbows on the carpet as she tumbled in a heap on the ground. Loud retching noises came from her mouth as she grabbed the door frame to support herself as she stumbled off to the bathroom.
Ange rose from the bed, opened the bedroom window and spat the tiny rodent corpse into darkness. The dead mouse dropped three stories and landed with an audible thud on the sidewalk. She hawked up a gob of saliva and spat into the blue neon night.
Wiping her mouth, Ange climbed back into the warm bed. She thumped the pillow back into shape, turned off the light and listened to Carla vomiting in the bathroom, then smiled to herself and pulled the warm eiderdown over her head.
Copyright: Martyn V. Halm. All Rights Reserved.

Now, I came up with the idea for this story because three things about this story are real experiences:

  • My mother has extreme necrophobia, like Carla in the story. Her revulsion to dead animals borders on hysteria and used to make me extremely angry at her when she would scream like she’d broken her hip when it was just the cat bringing home a dead bird.
  • I once got out of bed and stepped into an opened carcass of a mouse, lovingly laid out by my cat. I wasn’t revolted, like Carla, because I recognised that the cat gave me a gift. I was her master, so she gave me an offering. I praised my cat and pretended to eat the mouse, then – when she wasn’t looking – I tossed the carcass out the bedroom window for scavengers in the gardens to enjoy. And I recall thinking how my mother would’ve been in hysterics if she had stepped in a dead mouse.
  • And I was woken by the sounds of my cat stalking a mouse in the bathroom, where the events happened like in the story – I lifted the bathroom cabinet and the mouse fled into the shower stall, from where it couldn’t escape. It sat back on its haunches watching as my cat stalked into the shower stall, and then the mouse just died. My cat had the same response as Felicia – she was surprised and disappointed, then wanted to bat the mouse through the bathroom, but I intervened and picked up the mouse, studying it briefly before tossing it out the bathroom window.
Ange is modelled on one of my ex-girlfriends, who looked like a beautiful pixie. I hope she doesn’t mind that I turned her into a lesbian with a wickedly horrible sense of humour.
Everything else is pure imagination.
So, tell me, where do you get your story ideas?

PREVIEW: First chapter of GHOSTING

The beta version of GHOSTING, the fourth novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series, is ready. The novel can be pre-ordered for delivery December 1st (just click the cover below the sample). Below, you can find the first chapter – I welcome feedback, so don’t hesitate to comment on this post:

JAMAICA

Running flat-out gained Daniel Catadupa some distance on his pursuers as he ran down the dusty Negril forest road towards the coast. Just his rotten luck the car had broken down along West End Road. Still, Cain’s dive shop was not far. He might be able to make it on foot if only he could take a short break. The only living soul between West End and the coast was Mama Benga—an old witch living in a ramshackle old shed where she let her goats roam free. He burst from the forest at breakneck speed and ran around the house.
No place to hide, except…
Daniel dropped on the hard-packed dirt. Without glancing backward, he flattened himself on his belly and crawled feet first under the cracked wooden porch. Pushing refuse out of his way with his feet, he crawled backward into the darkness, the smell of rotting vegetation trying to invade his nose.
While he tried to get his breathing under control, the running footsteps came closer, slip-sliding around the corner, and the three men came to a skidding stop. Daniel stopped crawling. He was still under the porch, not in the deep darkness under the house proper. Hopefully none of them figured out where he was.
“Rass!” the leader exclaimed. “Bone, go deah, Reggie, go deah.”
The men sped off in different directions, but the leader stayed where he was. Lying motionless under the porch, Daniel looked at the mud-splattered tip of the gleaming ebony cane next to the gnarled feet, the soles thick with callouses from decades of walking barefoot.
He shivered.
Barefoot Duke didn’t carry the cane to support himself, he could run as fast as men half his age. No, that black cane was a symbol of his authority, and most people feared Duke’s cane more than the machetes of his henchmen. With Sista Someday’s right hand man after him, Daniel knew he’d fucked up royally.
Overhead the wooden boards creaked and an old voice spoke, “Duke, is that you?”
“It is I, womahn. Go back inna dem house.”
“Who you be looking for?” The old woman coughed, hawked up phlegm and spat on the floor. “And what him done now?”
“No business of you, womahn. Go inna tha house now.”
Wetness moistened his cheek and Daniel glanced up at a glistening string of phlegm leaking through the warped floorboards. He gagged, but remained motionless.
The gnarled feet came closer and the cane rapped the floorboards. “You deaf, womahn? Inna tha house. Now.”
“You no catch him, Duke.” He could hear the sarcasm in her voice. “Him run like the devil be chasing.”
“You see him then,” Duke said. “Which way him run?”
“You think I help you catch dem poor boy?” The old woman spat again, the gob of phlegm hitting the dirt between Duke’s bare feet. “You play at mystic mahn all you wants, I know you when you was a raggamuffin boy scrounching for scraps.”
“Betta shut dem big mouth, old womahn.”
“You betta respect elders, raggamuffin boy. You think you scary with your scowl?”
Duke’s feet moved closer and the floorboards sagged as he stepped onto the porch. “I respect elders, not scummy old scabs with potty mouths.”
“I no invite you on my porch, ragamu—” A sharp crack was followed by a heavy thump right overhead and Duke whispered, “Told you, old womahn.”
Daniel turned on his back, staring up through a crack in the floorboards. He could see the wrinkled greyish skin of Mama Benga’s arm. Above it floated the scowling face of Duke. His pinprick eyes seemed to look straight at Daniel and his face was contorted in rage. Mama Benga moaned and Daniel watched in mute horror as Duke lifted his cane over his head and whacked the old woman’s body, over and over again.
Blood seeped through the floorboards and splattered his face and something broke inside him. Like a frightened animal, Daniel scrambled away to the back of the house, no longer caring about being silent.
As he crawled out from under the house, Duke came running around the corner, screaming his name in fury. Without thinking, Daniel scooped up a handful of mud and threw it at the older man. The mud hit Duke right in the face and open mouth. Seizing the moment, Daniel charged, his bodycheck slamming Duke against the ramshackle shed. As the man fell, Daniel spun away, but not quick enough. Duke’s ebony cane whacked him in his side and Daniel felt something snap in his side. Fear gave him an adrenalin rush and he leaped into the bushes, blindly crashing through the foliage.
“CATADUPAAAAA!” Duke bellowed in rage. “You a DEAD mahn!”
From the frying pan into the fire, Daniel thought as he ran through the forest, branches sweeping into his face and tugging his dreads. Duke and his henchmen ran behind him in hot pursuit, close enough to hear them cussing as they used their machetes to clear their way. He was still ahead, but they seemed to be closing in. Pain stitched his left side, where Duke’s cane had whacked him.
Suddenly he was clear of the forest, but the situation had not improved. His blind panic had led him straight to the cliffs. He sprinted along the edge of the cliffs, not looking at the ocean slamming into the rocks below.
No shelter.
Something whistled past him, followed by the crack of a gunshot.
Fresh adrenalin flooded his body and he ran like the wind, ignoring the pain in his side. Running like the devil was chasing him, as Mama Benga put it. She was an old woman and Duke beat her to death for insulting him. Daniel had no doubt that his fate would be worse if they caught up with him.
Something tugged at his clothes and sliced the skin of his hip, but he couldn’t stop. Another gunshot came from his left. Instinctively he swerved to the right, not realising his mistake until he ran out of land.
At the edge of the cliff, Daniel whirled around.
Fifty yards away, Duke strode towards him, his trademark scowl visible as he bridged the distance on his long legs. Like eager puppies, his henchmen flanked Duke, but a few steps in front of him. As if he wanted to prolong the moment, Duke’s stride seemed to slow to a leisurely stroll. Panic froze Daniel until Reggie pointed a gun at him. Duke whistled sharply and the henchman lowered his arm, his grin a white flash in his dark face, but the spell was broken.
Daniel looked behind him. The ocean crashed into man-sized rocks that looked like pebbles from this height. He took a few steps towards his pursuers, then turned and sprinted to the edge.
Duke yelled and gunshots cracked as Daniel closed his eyes and dived, his arms whipping forward.
For a moment, his body seemed suspended in flight, and he heard the voice of his old physics teacher. ‘The problem is not that humans cannot fly, but that they cannot land’.
Gravity reappeared and Daniel plunged down, his clothes flapping in the wind that tore the tears from his closed eyes.
Jah, be merciful.
Dark death embraced him in her cold arms and squeezed the breath from his body.

aas-ghosting


WRITING: I Want To Write A Novel, But Where Do I Start?

Having a passion for something, but no skills yet and several hindrances to acquire those skills makes for quite a challenge.

The easiest answer would be ‘find something else’, and there would be truth in it. Writing a novel (or even a short story) is an appealing ambition – I read somewhere that eighty percent of all adult Americans seriously entertain the notion of writing a novel, which is also why there’s a whole industry that facilitates burgeoning writers with creative writing courses and workshops and seminars, and enough books on the art & craft to fill several bookcases.

The reason writing a novel is so popular is because it’s an attainable goal (most arts require more than a pen and a piece of paper) and it carries prestige as good writers are revered, their works read both during and after their lifetime.

So what you have to decide for yourself is – do you really want to write a novel, or do you want to show people a shiny cover with your name on it and bask in the adulation? Because the first is hard, and the second is a pipe dream.

I’ve written five novels (published four) and four novellas, just as frame of reference to my answer – if you don’t want to let go of your dream, this is my advice:

Lower the pressure of writing a novel by not writing a novel.

What you will be writing instead, will be a Draft. A Rough Draft. An unreadable shitload of words, not intended to be read by anyone but yourself. That last part is extremely important! Nobody must read that Draft, because it’s not intended for public consumption yet.

The Draft is the Baby, the Novel is the Adult.

People don’t make adults, they make babies that shit and cry and demand food and attention and will keep you up at night. Have you heard writers referring to their novel as a baby? Yes? They’re not actual writers yet, because the draft is the baby, the novel should be an adult, capable of standing on its own legs and fending for itself. If their novel is still their baby, then they haven’t finished yet and they have published prematurely.

The Horror, the Horror…

Before a novel can stand on its own legs, it needs to be born first, which is a messy process. Thus, the Draft is a baby – a stinking smelly mess that will hijack all your attention and cause you to lay awake at night, worrying if it will ever be able to be independent. This is not the kind of baby that you show your family and friends – starting the Draft is not an accomplishment. So shut up about ‘writing your first novel’ and never ever talk about the plot and the characters and the theme. Screw all that. Talking about your creative work kills the spark. Just write and write. Is it garbage? Don’t second-guess yourself, you won’t be able to judge it now, you’re much too close. Nobody throws out their baby, no matter how much it smells. Just keep on writing. Don’t edit. You can’t edit a baby, it has to become an adolescent first.

The Need.

Visit any writing forum and you’ll see the many many questions, that boil down to one single question ‘Is This Any Good?’. It’s the fear of failure, the angst of wasting time, and the need for validation. We have been programmed to desire approval – from parents, from teachers. You won’t get approval for the Draft. Don’t ask for it. Just write it all down.

The Rules.

How long is a chapter supposed to be?’, ‘How do I write a dynamite first chapter?’, ‘Should I use present tense or past tense?’, ‘Is writing in First Person easier than Third Person?’, ‘When do I Show, when do I Tell?’
If you visit writing forums, you’ll hear a lot of talk about rules, but those rules are not for drafts. Those rules are to clinically dissect a finished manuscript prior to publication. Do you have that? No, you haven’t. You have a smelly mess that isn’t nowhere near finished, so forget about all those rules. Because in the end there is only one rule – Engage The Reader. And your baby won’t need to engage the reader yet. It’s a draft, intended only for your eyes.

The Work

Anyone with a knife and a dead pig can butcher a pig, but that doesn’t make you a butcher. And it sure as hell doesn’t make you a veterinarian.
So you wrote an essay at school and the teacher gave you an A. Does that make a writer? No, but it’s a start. If you can read this, you can probably write. You can string words together, maybe in some pleasing way, but five hundred pages of words is not a book. A book is when the words disappear and your imagination shows you the film in your head. That’s the hardest part, and the most neglected part – writers want to write pretty words or show off their ostentatious vocabulary, but what you want to do is tell a story. Tell a story in such a way that the reader forgets about the book or the e-reader and is transported to another world – fictional, but just as ‘real’ as this one. And that requires not only a large vocabulary, but also a decisive mind to apply just the right word. And if you get that right, you won’t need the validation anymore, because there is no better feeling that getting a sentence just right, a paragraph that leaps off the page, and a chapter that you don’t want to end.

But before you get there, you have to put in the work. There’s a common ‘rule’ floating around that to become a professional at something requires putting in something like 10,000 hours. I never measured that, but I do know that I’d been writing for twenty years before Reprobate was published. And I’d been working on Reprobate and all its predecessors for most of that time. Learning the craft, honing my skills. Draft upon draft upon draft. For Reprobate, it was something like forty (!) drafts. Literally every paragraph was rewritten at least once. Edited and polished. That’s the education.

Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time.

My second novel, Peccadillo, was half finished when Reprobate came out. I finished Peccadillo in three months, spending a total of fifteen months on writing it. I wrote the novella Locked Room in three weeks. Microchip Murder took me less than two. And the novella that gets the highest praise, Fundamental Error, was written in eight days. Rogue, the third novel took less than 12 months. And Ghosting, the novel I’m working on now, clocks in at about eight months, despite my battles with kidney stones and glaucoma.

Every time you write, you will get better at telling the story. Writing this answer took me about an hour, with no rewrites or polishing necessary. And that’s because I’ve done the time.

So do the time. Stop fretting about whether you have something to say or who will read it. Write that draft first, the rest comes later. Let me know when you finished a draft, and then we’ll talk about how you can become a writer…


Excerpt from the new standalone noir, In Pocket:

Around nine-thirty, I entered Small Talk, a luncheonette at the corner of Van Baerlestraat and Willemsparkweg, ordered an espresso and went upstairs to the first floor.
Lilith followed me inside and added a cappuccino to my order. She sat down across from me, took a brush from her shoulder bag and brushed back her damp hair. After dabbing her face with a tissue, she unbuttoned her jeans jacket. Her nipples jabbed the damp fabric of her T-shirt. She shivered and gave me a reproachful look which I ignored. It wasn’t my problem if she didn’t know how to dress for this fickle weather.
“So how many did you take?”
I sipped my espresso. “You didn’t count them?”
“Seven?”
“You’re guessing,” I said. “I told you to observe indirectly, not to let your attention wander.”
Lilith leaned forward, her damp breast touching my jacket. “Could we drop the hostilities?”
I looked into her pleading eyes. “You think I’m being hostile? You blackmail me into instructing you while you have absolutely no aptitude whatsoever for my profession. I’m wasting time I don’t have on this farce, so—considering the circumstances—I think I’m downright congenial.”
“Listen, I’m sorry if I came on like a bitch, but I wouldn’t do this if I wasn’t desperate. Have you never been desperate?”
“Never.”
“Lucky you.” Lilith slouched in her chair, her gaze on the tabletop. “I never had any luck.”
“Spare me your life story. Save it for someone who actually gives a shit.”
I could see she wanted to punch me, but her desire to stay in my good graces apparently got the better of her. She rested her chin in her hands and studied me. “How about yours?”
“My life story?” I snorted. “Nothing to tell.”
“Nothing?” She looked up, tilted her head. “I find that hard to believe.”
I shrugged.
“Why don’t you tell me how you become a pickpocket?”
“How?” I smirked. “I became a pickpocket by sticking my hand in other people’s pockets.”
“You don’t want to tell me?”
I finished my espresso. “See? You can be perceptive, with a little effort.”
“Are you going to be like this all day?”
“What did you expect? That I’d ‘revel’ in teaching you my ‘craft’?”
“I’m sorry if I’m a nuisance.”
“You’re not sorry. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. I’m not an idiot.”
“I mean it.”
“No, you don’t. If you were truly sorry, you’d get up and get out of my life.”
“I can’t. I need this. I need you.”
I shook my head. “I was just the sucker who made a mistake in your vicinity. Now I have to pay for it.”
I got up and she followed me to the counter, where she paid for both our coffees. I didn’t thank her, but led the way to the nearest tram stop. The rain turned into a steady drizzle and I noticed she was still shivering in her thin jacket.
She rubbed her arms. “Where will we go now?”
“Albert Cuyp. You bruise easily?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Why do you ask?”
“Just answer the question.”
“If I’m knocked about I’ll bruise, but I don’t plan on getting caught.”
I shot her a scornful look. “Never heard of ‘collision theft’?”
“You want me to bump into someone and pick his pocket?”
“You bump into the mark. Extracting wallets is my department.”
“Oh. Okay, no problem.”
I scowled. “We’ll see.”

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers


REVIEW: Famous Penultimate Words by Roberta Pearce

Famous Penultimate WordsFamous Penultimate Words by Roberta Pearce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Famous Penultimate Words, Roberta Pearce’s fourth romance novel, shows again how far this author has progressed from her earlier works. While they were highly enjoyable by themselves, Pearce shows that she’s perfectly able to mix romance with suspense and mystery.

The mystery starts when protagonist Adelyn ‘Adie’ Wilding gets shot in a London street. At first she thinks she has been shot by mistake, but when other acquaintances die, fake policemen show up at the hospital, and a handsome mysterious protector called Nathan shows up, Adie starts to realise that the situation is much more precarious than she initially figured to be.

With a cast of eclectic characters, a solid plot and relentless suspense building up, Famous Penultimate Words rises above mere romance into the realms of romantic suspense.

Pearce has the ability to breathe life in characters with just a few well-chosen descriptive sentences. Punchy dialogue is interspersed with effective descriptions that make the setting an integral part of a story that manages to give new surprises at every twist.

Highly recommended for both romance as romantic suspense lovers.

View all my reviews


‘In Pocket’ won a new cover

While my stand-alone noir novel In Pocket went through the beta-testing, I submitted the cover I had to the 2015 E-Book Cover Makeover Contest, and I won a spanking new cover.

Before:

1400px-inpocket

New cover, courtesy of Farah Evers Design:

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers

You can find information on the contest here. The pitch for In Pocket:

Picking the wrong pocket might prove fatal…

Nomadic pickpocket Wolfgang gets blackmailed into teaching his craft to the mysterious Lilith, a young woman with no aptitude whatsoever to become a pickpocket. Wolf figures the easiest way is to go with the flow and instruct Lilith in the art of emptying other people’s pockets, but even he could never foresee the dreadful consequences…

IN POCKET is a standalone novel by Martyn V. Halm, the author of the Amsterdam Assassin Series. Follow Wolf as he gets entangled in a possibly fatal web of violence and deceit, where nobody is who they seem to be and everyone has a hidden agenda.

I hope to publish In Pocket before the end of this month.