WRITING: “If Only I Could Find The Time…”

One of the most annoying statements people make when they hear I’m a writer, is that they’ll shake their heads and say, “I’d love to write a novel, if only I could find the time.”

To most writers, this is a seriously demeaning statement, because most of us have 24 hours in a day, juggling our work, private life, responsibilities and social activities, and yet we authors are able to find our time to write.

I’ve written several novels and short stories and I’ve had people asking me, where do you find the time to write? And I tell them, wherever I can:

  • I worked night shifts as a security officer, filling the bulk of my shifts with writing.
  • I rarely watch live television, but I pre-program my television to record what I want to see, so that I can fast-forward through commercial blocks (a two-hour movie on television contains some 30-40 minutes of commercials!).
  • I write on an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard that I take everywhere, so I can write in waiting rooms and playgrounds (where my children are running around).
  • I turn my manuscripts into e-books that I can edit on my e-reader while I’m waiting in queues at the supermarket or during rides in public transport.
  • I get up an hour before the rest of the family wakes up, so I can cram in some writing before breakfast.

And I don’t mess around when I’m writing:

  • I write in drafts so that I finish a draft before I start editing. Writing and editing require different mindsets – I used to edit while I wrote, but I don’t do that anymore, because my inner editor will stifle my creative mind. And if you spend time editing on a scene that you’ll cut anyone is wasted time.
  • I don’t worry about beginnings, endings, chapter length, opening sentences, character names, or if the right words don’t come to mind (I write the closest word and add a @, so I can find the word again when I’m editing). Most of that stuff will be decided on in the editing process. My first rough draft is not to be read by anyone but myself.
  • Formatting, like smart quotes, bold, italics, chapter names, et cetera, is decided in the late editing stage, when the story is shaping into a manuscript.

The most important thing is that rough draft. Get that story out of your mind and onto a paper or screen, so you can look at what was in your head. Two hours movies often have several hours of deleted scenes that never made the movie. A sixty minute album of music will require a week of studio time. A novel you can read in eight hours was created in twelve months from a manuscript that might take twenty-four hours to read.

When you get better at filming, you will become more efficient. You won’t need to shoot eight hours of film to produce a two-hour movie. You won’t need weeks to produce sixty minutes of music. And you won’t need to re-write your draft six times to produce a polished manuscript. With practice, you become more efficient.

Don’t fritter your time away – do something constructive and write that draft. You can thank me later.


Aconite Attack, the new Katla KillFile, is now live!

Aconite Attack, the fourth KillFile, is now available at Amazon and will soon be available at other retailers*. Click on the cover to go to the Amazon page:

Aconite Kill File gray MS

Assassin Katla finds a devious way to get a target to poison himself…

The Aconite Attack KillFile (10,700 words) follows Katla Sieltjes on her first foray as a freelance assassin and corporate troubleshooter, when she gets herself hired by the CEO of a modelling agency to permanently remove his playboy partner, who is quickly draining the firm’s resources on his downward spiral into self-destruction. Katla finds a way to administer poison to the target, but he has to be isolated for her plan to succeed. Every plan has a fluke factor though, and Katla soon finds herself in a struggle for life and death, when the target reveals his darker side…

The Katla KillFile short stories chronologically precede the novels in the Amsterdam Assassin Series.

Each KillFile features Katla Sieltjes, expert in disguising homicide, executing one of her contracts. While not mandatory reading, each KillFile provides insight both in Katla’s work methods and skill, and additional background information in her character and personal history. The KillFiles can be read out of order, as the contracts are random samples from Katla’s past.

This e-book features a glossary.


 

* Aconite Attack should become available at iBooks, Kobo, B&N, NookUK, Scribd, and other retailers in the coming days, as some retailers take more time to process the publication. Check your favourite retailer by using the links on the main page.


 If you want to read Aconite Attack and review the story on GoodReads/Amazon/Kobo/iTunes/B&N/NookUK, I have free review copies (ePub/Mobi) available, just send me an email.

I hope every Katla fan will enjoy this new novella. Please share this post through the social media buttons below.

Thanks for your support!


WRITING: For the Curious: My Writing Workstation…

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

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

An Overview:

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

P1150475

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

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

The Throne:

P1150476

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

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

The Stokke Gravity Balance has four seating positions:

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

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

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

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

My Laptop Table:

P1150479

The Platform (Photo by Martyn V. Halm)

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

The Soundtrack Equipment:

I always play music when I’m creating.

P1150480P1150483

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

The Supporting Cast:

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

P1150477

The Supporting Cast (Photo by Martyn V. Halm)

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

The Book Shelf:

Every writer has reference works.

P1150478

Reference Works (Photo by Martyn V. Halm)

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

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

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


OPINION: Verisimilitude in Fiction, Redux.

As I mentioned in this article, I’m a stickler for verisimilitude. I found some discussion on the lack of realism in fiction, which is not the issue:

What many people are looking for in fiction is verisimilitude: the story has to ‘ring true’. Actions have to be believable. Behaviour has to be consistent. Actions need to have consequences.

It’s not the same as realism, as reality will have unbelievable action, inconsistent behaviour, and the consequences of actions are sometimes completely lacking or not in relation to the action.

Verisimilitude—like justice and honesty—is an idealistic concept: we think we know what the truth is, just as we think we know what justice is and think ourselves to be honest. However, truth is different for anyone; justice is an ideal that is rarely found in real life; and if you’re honest 24/7, you will be severely lonely.

Truth is relative, which is why it can be applied to fiction. If the author poses a kind of truth that is supported by the story, the reader will suspend their disbelief, trusting the author to deliver on their promise.

If the author fails to support the truth they pose, the story will become ‘unbelievable’ and reviewers will say the book isn’t ‘realistic’. That’s not the case: the author just didn’t manage to support the truths they posed in the story.

If you think other people could benefit from this information, please share this post using the social media buttons below.


OPINION: The Need for Champions

If you ask authors to list what they dread the most it’s having to sell themselves and their books. Apparently, self-promotion remains one of the most daunting tasks of the whole process, especially for self-publishing authors and trade-published midlist authors.

Even though most people understand the creative accomplishment of writing a book, authors who toil for months and sometimes years to craft a novel are often reticent about spreading the word that their work is available. Not because they don’t want to, but because they are afraid of the backlash of self-promotion.

When we were children, we’d stand up and proudly show the drawing we made or the castle we built and bask unselfconsciously in the admiration and adulation of our parents and teachers.

But when we grow older, many of us are discouraged to speak of our accomplishments. There’s an element of crassness and arrogance associated with self-promotion. We are expected to be humble and wait for people to ask what we do, and when we speak about our novels, we are encouraged to do so with humility and self-deprecation, so people know that we’re not arrogantly thumping our chests over our accomplishments.

How can you tell people that you’ve written and published a novel or even a series without embarrassment?

With the proliferation of self-publishing through Amazon the current offering in reading material is astoundingly high in volume and ironically low in quality. A recent census revealed that 80% of the people living in the U.S. want to write a book. Sadly, not everyone who wants to do something truly excels at their endeavours, so there are a lot of books flooding the market that are not really worth a reader’s attention.

Many readers are turned off by the glut of badly written self-published books that beg their attention. As a result, readers will not listen to authors promoting their books, but they will turn to other ways of deciding what books to read.

One of the most influential factors in choosing a novel to read is when books come recommended. Preferably by friends, because recommendations carry more weight if delivered by someone trusted for their good judgment.

Many readers are unaware of how important recommendations are, especially for beginning authors who rely on the word-to-mouth to build their readership.

Although this counts doubly for self-published authors–who don’t have a publicist or a publisher to coordinate their marketing efforts–even trade-published midlist authors are pretty much left to their own devices.

So how can readers help their favourite authors?

Be their Champion.

If you meet someone who might enjoy the same books you enjoy, tell them about your favourite authors. Write about the books you read on GoodReads. Leave reviews on retailer websites. Like your favourite author on Facebook. Pin their covers on Pinterest. Follow their blogs. Apply for Advanced Reader Copies of their books. Start or join a fan club.

What do you think? Please comment, and let me know I’m not just talking to the void. If you have ideas to increase word-of-mouth, don’t hesitate to share!


Like to receive a free REVIEW copy of Reprobate?

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

REPROBATE

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

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

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

This e-book now features a glossary.

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

Thanks to everyone for your support.


REVIEW: Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg

Falling AngelFalling Angel by William Hjortsberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If a mystery gets mixed with the occult or the supernatural, the result is often disastrous for the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. Falling Angel is an exception to the rule.

Struggling private investigator Harry Angel is hired by a foreign client, Louis Cyphre, to find Johnny Favorite, a crooner from before the war. Favorite is supposed to stay at a private hospital in upstate New York, where he is treated for ‘shell shock’ sustained in the war, but when Cyphre tries to visit him he gets the runaround.
Angel visits the private hospital, only to learn that Favorite was transferred to the VA hospital in Albany in 1945. The transfer is bogus, but the person responsible turns up dead, so Angel has to dig in Favorite’s past in order to track him down.
Favorite used to hang out with an eclectic crowd—fortune tellers, musicians, voodoo priestesses and occultists—and Angel’s search takes him from the heights of the Upper West Side to the depths of Harlem.
The missing person case turns sour when it looks like Favorite is desperately trying not to be found; desperate enough to kill anyone who might know where to find him.
Angel follows, descending deeper and deeper into Favorite’s sordid past, only to end up knee-deep in corpses and to find his own past connected to Favorite’s in the most unusual fashion.

Not only are all the characters in this mystery finely drawn, the dialogue is quirky and surprising and the Faustian ending brings the mystery to a satisfying conclusion.

This novel was also filmed as Angel Heart, with Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel and Robert De Niro as Louis Cyphre.

View all my reviews


Rewritten: The introduction from my Work-In-Progress:

My work-in-progress is a stand alone noir crime fiction novel called In Pocket. The pitch/blurb:

If only Wolfgang hadn’t picked the pocket of the fat woman…

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 things that follow…

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

Below is the rewritten beginning of the novel (old version is here), which is written in present tense. The rest of the novel is in past tense, except for the interludes…

The world is strangely tilted when I open my eyes to the deafening roar of the helicopter reverberating against the walls around me. The down draft of the blades stir the loose dirt on the grimy bricks and I shield my eyes as swirling grit stings my face. Around me everything remains dark. The helicopter’s searchlight must be trained on something else. Or someone else.

The wind dies down and the roar changes to a bass-line thumping as the police helicopter flies off. Just around the corner I hear a siren starting up. An ambulance, not a police vehicle.

I close my eyes again.

I must’ve passed out. For an instant, I think. Just long enough to lose my bearings. My shoulder smarts from lying on the bricks, but the dull pain in my abdomen is worse. I remember her face looking up at me. And the hard punches in my belly, now a faint throbbing.

Without opening my eyes, I push myself into an upright position, the bricks damp and cold against my buttocks. My legs feel like they’re asleep, but without tingling—the usual pins-and-needles sensation is mysteriously absent.

A bad sign. I think I can forget about running. Or even getting up.

I open my eyes and blink a few times to focus.

The wall across from me is less than two meters away. To my left, a dead-end. To my right, plastic garbage bags leaning against an overflowing dumpster.

The siren grows louder and I lean forward carefully to peek around the dumpster.

Sodium lights flood the sidewalk with sickly orange light that reaches into the dead-end alley just far enough to touch my grubby sneakers. A neon-yellow ambulance races past the mouth of the alley, the sound of the siren fading quickly in the distance.

I go through my pockets to check my possessions, but I seem to have lost them all.

Money, gone. Keys, gone. Straight razor, gone.

I look at my filthy pants, stained with dark spots and smelling of urine. I look at my hands, smudged with street grime. And it all comes back. Why I’m wearing these clothes. My possessions aren’t gone. I left them with her before the stake-out.

I only had my phone and the gun. They’re both gone.

All I have left is the small carton in my inside pocket…

Around the corner I hear muted voices and the crackle of a two-way radio. A moment later I hear a car start up. My right hand grabs one of the plastic garbage bags and a spasm of pain pierces my gut as I heave the bag and toss it next to my legs.

The car halts at the mouth of the alley and the bright beam of a searchlight shines on the opposite wall, then swerves around towards the dumpster that hides me from view. The beam briefly illuminated my grimy pants and the garbage bag hiding my sneakers, but moves away without a pause. The light clicks off and the car trundles away.

I realise I’m holding my breath and let it out slowly.

I listen, but don’t hear anyone else, just my own raspy breathing. I’m alone.

My left hand touches my belly, comes away wet.

Sticky.

I raise my hand to my eyes, but it’s too dark too see.

I peer past the dumpster again, but all I see is a cobblestone quay and a canal. Not enough information to determine where I am. Just another dead-end alley in the centre of Amsterdam. The street sign is missing. Or was never there at all. Not all dead-end alleys here have names.

I remember the carton in my inside pocket and take the pack of cigarettes. I open the lid and brush my finger over the filter tips. And the metal wheel of a cheap butane lighter. I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t know what would be worse; no cigarettes, or cigarettes and nothing to light them with.

I shake one from the pack and light up. My hands automatically shield the bright flame to prevent giving away my position. In the light I count the contents. Seven left, not counting the one I just lit. And a folded piece of tinfoil curled around a tiny waxed paper envelop. I won’t use that unless the pain becomes too bad.

I glance at my left hand. The sticky stuff covering my palm is red. I lower the lighter to see my belly. The lower half of my shirt is dark with blood. In the weak light the blood looks black. I touch the mess gingerly.

Three holes. Bullet holes.

The lighter sputters and dies. As the flame goes, a ghost-flame shimmers on my retina. I shake the lighter by my ear. Sounds like there is still some fuel left.

I cup the glowing tip of the cigarette in my hand, return the pack and lighter to my inside pocket, and blink to restore my night vision.

A shadow glides over the walls as someone passes the mouth of the alley. I watch from behind the dumpster, unable to draw in my numb legs sprawled amid the refuse that litters the bricks.

The shadow flows over my pants and disappears from view.

I listen to the receding steps.

I don’t want to be found. Not after what I did…

I drag on my cigarette. No idea what time it is. If I’m still in Amsterdam’s old quarter, I should be able to hear the bells from the myriad of churches. And pinpoint my location.

I take a last drag and extinguish my cigarette against the bricks.

The numbness in my legs worries me. Maybe the bullets damaged my spine.

In the distance a church bell chimes.

Once. Twice. Silence.

That sounded like the Oude Kerk, but I’m not sure. If this was the Red Light District it would be busier…

Two strikes, so it’s two in the morning.

Six hours till dawn.

A whole night to die in.

And muse about the events that got me in this predicament.

If only I hadn’t picked the pocket of the fat woman…

I’d love to hear what you think, so please comment below. Also, before I will look for a publisher or publish In Pocket myself I will need beta-readers to make sure the story is as good as I can get it. So stay tuned!

If you want to read the next sample, wherein Wolfgang targets the Fat Woman and set in motion the chain of events that lead to his predicament, send me an email at katlasieltjes@yahoo.com with ‘password sample?’ in the subject line.

 

1400px-inpocket


Rate/Review this sample from my Work-In-Progress:

My work-in-progress is a stand alone noir crime fiction novel called In Pocket. The pitch/blurb:

If only Wolfgang hadn’t picked the pocket of the fat woman…

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 things that follow…

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


I passed out. For an instant, I think. Just long enough to lose my bearings. I remember I was running. From someone. Or something? The back of my head hurts. Guess I hit the wall behind me. Without opening my eyes I feel the bricks, damp and cold against my buttocks.

My legs feel like they’re asleep. Without tingling—the usual pins-and-needles sensation is mysteriously absent.

A bad sign. I think I can forget about running. Or even getting up.

I open my eyes and blink a few times to focus. The wall across from me is less than two meters away. An alley. To my left, a dead end. To my right, plastic garbage bags leaning against an overflowing dumpster. I’m in a cul-de-sac.

Street lights flood the entrance of the alley with sickly orange light that touches my grubby sneakers. I listen, but don’t hear anyone else, just my own raspy breathing. I’m alone.

My left hand touches my belly, comes away wet.

Sticky.

Raise my hand to my eyes, but it’s too dark too see.

I peer past the dumpster, but all I see is a cobblestone quay and a canal. Can’t see which one. The street sign is missing. Or was never there at all. Not all dead-end alleys here have names.

I go through my pockets to check my possessions, but I seem to have none. Money, gone. Keys, gone. Straight razor—

I look at my pants, dirty and smelling of urine. I look at my hands, dark with street grime. And it all comes back. Why I’m wearing these dirty clothes. My possessions aren’t gone. I left them. I only had the two-way radio and the gun.

They’re both gone.

All I’ve left is the small carton in my inside pocket…

I take the pack of cigarettes from my inside pocket, open the lid and brush my finger over the filter tips. And the metal wheel of the butane lighter. I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t know what would be worse; no cigarettes, or cigarettes and nothing to light them with.

I shake one from the pack and light up. My hands automatically shield the bright flame to prevent giving away my position. In the light I count the contents. Seven left, not counting the one I just lit. And a folded piece of tinfoil with the small white envelop beside it. I won’t use it unless the pain becomes too bad.

I glance at my left hand. The sticky stuff covering my palm is red. I lower the lighter to see my belly. The lower half of my shirt is dark with blood. In the weak light the blood looks black. I touch the mess gingerly. Three holes. Bullet holes.

The lighter sputters and dies. As the flame goes, a ghost-flame shimmers on my retina. I shake the lighter by my ear. Sounds like there is still some fuel left.

I cup the glowing tip in my hand, return the pack and lighter to my inside pocket, and blink to restore my night vision.

A shadow glides over the walls as someone passes the mouth of the alley. I watch from behind the trash cans, unable to draw in my numb legs sprawled amid the refuse that litters the bricks.

The shadow flicks over my sneakers and disappears from view.

I listen to the receding steps.

I don’t want to be found. Not after what I did…

I drag on my cigarette. No idea what time it is. If I’m still in Amsterdam’s old quarter, I should be able to hear the bells from the myriad of churches. And pinpoint my location.

I take a last drag and extinguish my cigarette against the bricks.

The numbness in my legs worries me. Maybe the bullets hit my spine.

In the distance a church bell chimes.

Once. Twice. Silence.

That sounded like the Oude Kerk, but I’m not sure.

Two.

Two in the morning.

Five hours till dawn.

A whole night to die in.

And muse about the events that got me in this predicament.

If only I hadn’t picked the pocket of the fat woman…


I’d love to hear what you think, so please comment below. Also, before I will look for a publisher or publish In Pocket myself I will need beta-readers to make sure the story is as good as I can get it. So stay tuned!

If you want to read the next sample, wherein Wolfgang targets the Fat Woman and set in motion the chain of events that lead to his predicament, send me an email at katlasieltjes@yahoo.com with ‘password sample?’ in the subject line.

 

1400px-inpocket


Painkillers Put My Writing On Hold For A Moment…

I’m not writing at the moment. Which is strange for me, because I’m always writing and always having fun with writing. However, I have problems concentrating on my fiction when my life is a mess.

November 22th, around midnight, just as I was about to go to bed after a long day, I got abdominal pains. At first I thought it was indigestion, but the pain got worse and worse, and I couldn’t find any position to ease the pain. Sitting, standing, lying down, nothing worked. And the pain got worse, like a hot poker stabbing the left side of my back.

I’m not unfamiliar with pain, even excruciating pain, but this was worse. This wasn’t a sharp pain for a moment, but an enduring sharp pain that I couldn’t ignore. I swallowed paracetomol and diclofenac and those painkillers did exactly nothing. Standing bent over under a hot shower eased the pain somewhat, but it was three in the morning and I couldn’t sleep in the bathroom stall under a pulsing spray.

My wife woke up at half past five when she heard me downstairs, crying and moaning as I sat on the toilet with a bowl on my lap to throw up while I had diarrhea. I was pale and sweating, close to passing out from the pain. And I still didn’t know what was going on.

We went to the hospital an hour later, with our sleepy children in tow because we couldn’t find a sitter on Saturday morning. I had to give a urine sample, which had blood in it, and my blood glucose was spiking at 10.6, so they told me I probably had Diabetes type 2.

Great, but I was still in pain. Moving about seemed to give me some relief, but I was unsteady and delirious. They took me to the emergency wing, where I was put in a bed and examined. It was there that I learned that my pain was probably the result of a kidney stone.

As the pain suddenly diminished, the consensus among the doctors were that the stone had shifted and no longer blocked the urethra, so I could go home. I could come back when the stone blocked my urethra again.

I asked what we were supposed to do about the stone? ‘Drink lots of water and orange juice to flush your kidneys’, was the only advice. I got more diclofenac and a brochure and was sent packing. At home I could finally sleep, but I felt like I had been stomped in the back with steel-nosed boots.

Over the week the pain slowly lessened. The Monday after the weekend of pain I had my blood tested again for glucose, but it had dropped to 7, so I didn’t have Diabetes type 2. Which was a relief.

Monday, December 30th, the pressure in my back began to build again. I called on my physician, but the first moment I could have my kidneys scanned with ultrasound and x-ray was the next Friday. So my New Year’s Day was pretty much spoiled by stomach cramps and nausea. At Friday morning the ultrasound showed that my left kidney was swollen, filled with urine and blood, so they also took two x-rays of my kidneys and bladder.

I called my physician in the afternoon, but they were clearly too busy with other patients, so finally I got a message that they had taken a cursory look at the X-rays and report from Radiology, but they’d have a referral letter for Urology ready for me the next Monday.

So I suffered through another mostly sleepless weekend, called the hospital on Monday and made an appointment for Tuesday at eleven. With no immediate need for the referral letter, I stayed at home and went to my physician Tuesday at ten to get my referral letter.

The referral letter had not been made yet, my physician wanted my urine to check for blood and… The sleep deprivation and pain took its toll and I cursed her for wanting to do more tests and reneging on her word that the referral letter would be ready. Due to my anger she referred me to her younger colleague to write me the referral letter.

In the office with the younger colleague, I found out a few things. A) I should’ve been taking my diclofenac with two paracetomols, that would have increased the effectiveness of the diclofenac and diminished my pain, and B) when I told her I had been drinking three liters of water a day, as per advice of my physician, she told me I should’ve stopped drinking more than absolutely needed when the pain began…

I got my referral and at Urology they told me that my six-millimeter kidney stone was an average size and their usual advice was pain management for a month. However, since my left kidney was swollen with fluids (because I had followed my physician’s advice to drink three liters of water per day), they deemed the kidney stone an urgent case for removal. So I got an appointment for early the next morning when they were going to break up the stone by using ESWL (Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy). In the meantime, they prescribed Tramadol, an opiate to reduce the pain so I could finally get some sleep.

At eight the next morning I rode my bicycle back to the hospital for the ESWL treatment.

The process for ESWL is: You lie on a water-filled cushion, and the surgeon uses X-rays or ultrasound tests to precisely locate the stone. High-energy sound waves pass through your body without injuring it and break the stone into small pieces. These small pieces move through the urinary tract and out of the body more easily than a large stone.

I would receive three thousand high energy sound waves, which feel like someone is whacking your lower back with a small hammer. The intensity of the whacks is increased in increments, from 1 (the least painful intensity) to 6 (the most painful intensity). The first few increments were easy, and while the pulses became more painful, I easily managed the last thousand pulses at the highest intensity. The nurse who handled the ESWL was pleased with reaching level 6, since most people can’t handle anything above level 4 or 5.

My wife drove me to another hospital, where I visited an orthopedic expert for recurring pain in my wrist (caused by an irritated tendon in my wrist), and afterward I could take public transport back to the first hospital to retrieve my bicycle and cycle home. Three hours later the pain increased and I was retching, pale and sweating again, close to passing out. At half past eight in the evening we asked a neighbor to sit in our house in case the children woke up and rushed back to the ER at the hospital.

At the hospital I got an IV drip with Diclofenac and Fentanyl, which took away aaaallll my pain. I drowsily answered their questions, but while the pain had been extreme, I could expect some pain when I’d be flushing out the crushed kidney stone. When the fentanyl drip was empty, the pain returned, and they gave me three doses of morphine, but the morphine only diminished the pain somewhat without removing it altogether, like the Fentanyl.

Still, there was not much they could do, and my pain was not harmful, so I was sent home again. So that’s the situation I’m currently in. I feel ‘okay’ most of the time and the rest I’m between cramps and outright pain.

Next Wednesday the urologist will check my kidneys for progress and determine whether I need more ESWL treatments. Meanwhile the drugs make me drowsy, so I put my fiction writing on hold until that pesky stone has left my body.

I hope to resume writing on the Amsterdam Assassin Series and my stand-alone novel In Pocket by the end of next week. In the meantime I will rest and read when I’m not too dizzy, so if you have anything you want me to read, this would be a good time. Although I’m pretty sure I’ll be too cantankerous to write positive reviews…

Edit:  So, the CT scan found six stone fragments forming a queue in my urethra and Wednesday February 12th I went into the hospital to have them removed. Thankfully under complete anesthetic, they inserted tubes through my male organ to reach the bladder, where they burrowed through the urethra to the left kidney, crushing every stone they found with lasers and flushing them out, leaving a JJ shunt between the kidney and the bladder to prevent the urethra from collapsing as it healed.

I woke up after the operation with an IV drip and a catheter that continuously gave me the urge to urinate. After a drug-induced sleep between Wednesday and Thursday, both IV and catheter were removed and I was discharged. I felt fine until the drugs wore off, then I felt extremely violated…

Since I’d been too stoned to pay attention, I missed the part about the drugs I needed to take at home, so I spent Friday in increasing bouts of severe abdominal cramps and went back to the hospital on Saturday, where they told me (haha), I should’ve gone to the pharmacy to pick up my Oxybutinine, which would relax my abdominal muscles and at the same time make me too stoned to concentrate on even the most mundane tasks.

It’s Wednesday the 19th now and I’ve been stoned 24/7 and not by choice. It’s no fun taking drugs when you’re not allowed to relax and go with the flow. Instead I have to concentrate getting through the day taking care of my children… Well, two more weeks and they’ll remove the JJ shunt and I’d be able to stop taking drugs…

UPDATE:

March 5th my JJ shunt came out. The procedure should be relatively painless. First they put some numbing gel on your genitals, then a hollow tube with a light and camera goes inside and through the hollow tube goes a flexible snake with pliers at the end that grab the shunt and pull it out.

The problem is that the JJ shunt has two curls on either end, so there’s some resistance as the pliers pull on the shunt as the upper curl (in the kidney) uncurls and straightens so it can pass through the urethra. Got that picture? Good.

I could follow through a monitor as the camera inched closer to the curl in my bladder. The pliers opened and after some maneuvering the pliers closed on the end of the curl and started pulling it toward the camera tube. Then the slippery shunt escaped the pliers and sprung back.

I can tell you right now, that doesn’t feel good at all.

Second attempt, and the shunt is almost at the camera tube when the beak of the pliers let go and the shunt sprang back. Like someone uses your innards like a slinky. Spooooinggg.

Then I lost my cool and snapped at the assistant, “Can you hold tight on the damn thing?”

She excused herself and the third attempt went fine, the JJ shunt slithering out of my body like a reluctantly evicted squatter. They asked if they should throw the JJ shunt away, but I had them lock the bastard into a specimen bottle so I’d have something to gloat over.

So now I could stop with the drugs and get some clarity again. Should help with going back to writing fiction again!

JJ Shunt