I read somewhere that writers were having bookmarks printed with their covers and description. Another writer had business cards with his name and ‘author’ on it. Since I often use business cards as bookmarks, I decided to mix those two ideas and create a business card for my protagonist, freelance assassin Katla Sieltjes.
Now, something like ‘Katla Sieltjes, freelance assassin’ would be too obvious and too close to ‘Martyn V. Halm, author’. Katla hides behind Loki Enterprises. Loki also stands for ‘low key’ or unobtrusive, so I wanted the cards to be sober and professional, but still packing a punch. Katla refers to her work as ‘corporate troubleshooting’, since she often works for corporations by making obstacles disappear. She’s also an expert in disguising homicide, but that’s also not something you want to put on your business card. One of the ways Katla masks homicides is by giving her targets ‘accidents’, which tend to be fortunate for Katla’s clients.
That’s how I came up with the description. ‘experts in fortunate accidents’ and ‘corporate troubleshooting’. I added the links to my blog and my website and my author email address and presto.
I ordered the cards through Vistaprint and got myself a nice card holder engraved with Loki Enterprises. Now, I have a card to give to people who wonder what I’m writing, and I also leave them as bookmarks in library books.
If you’d like a signed card, send me an email with your name and address and I’ll send you a personalized Loki Enterprises business card. Postage is currently USD 3.00 for international letter post, payable through PayPal.
Why I write what I write is very simple in essence. I write what I write because no-one else writes it. And I want to read what I write. I wanted to read a story about a female freelance assassin, someone who enjoys her job without being a freak, pervert or weirdo. Someone whose view of the world is bleak enough to do the job without remorse, but not so bleak as to make her bitter. With a heart cold enough to make dispassionate decisions, but still warm enough to trust and love someone who accepts her for who she is.
In stories, whether books or movies, hired killers, in any shape or form, are mostly perverted weirdos, as if killing in exchange for money debases someone more than killing for God and Country. A soldier can justify his actions, as he is ordered by his superiors to kill ‘the enemy’. A mercenary can be ethical, following certain ideals in joining an army that fights for what he thinks is right. But a freelance assassin is a realist, someone who accepts the responsibility of taking a life without justification, for there can be no justification for the taking of a life. Reasons, sure. There are always plenty of reasons to kill another human being, but rarely a justifiable reason. But then, isn’t justification just another illusion? Is there justice in this world? Are the evildoers punished and the righteous rewarded? Anyone who takes a good look around them knows better.
Katla is a realist, pur sang. She knows there are more reasons to kill other people than people to do the job. Do the job properly, that is. There are always ambitious punks who can be hired to kill for a nickel. As Creaux says in Reprobate: “The world is overrun by amateurs, but bereft of professionals.” If you have carefully built a company and your business partner is driving your company into the ground, and you know you cannot buy him out or talk sense into him, maybe it’s time to get a professional to do the job.
Katla is an expert in disguising homicide, which makes her a particular breed of assassin. Most professional killers want to remain detached from their targets, needing the distance to separate themselves from the act. Dispatch the target with the minimum amount of fuss. Use a suppressed semi-automatic Ruger .22 Mark II and shoot a dumdum into the base of the skull, with just enough power to enter, but not to exit the cranium, so the bullet will bounce around the dome of bone and shred the brains. Just a trickle of blood, maybe bulging eyes from the pressure in the head, caused by the gases that exited the barrel pressed against the entry wound. Clean and easy. Except that such a kill would send up a red flag at any law enforcement office. Warning: Professional At Work. Same goes with any kind of skilful applied violence. Whether you garrotte someone or bomb his car, if you cannot disguise the homicide, there will be an investigation. And since your client most likely stands to benefit from the death of your target, any criminal investigation is to be avoided. Unless the investigation clears your client, or rules the demise of your target accidental or self-induced.
Katla has the mind of a hunter and trapper. Not the kind of hunter who runs around the woods drunk with a bright orange vest to avoid getting shot by his equally drunk buddies who will use an elephant gun to shoot a squirrel. Katla studies her targets like a dedicated hunter tracks his prey, like a trapper finds the places to position his snare. Stalking her target and constructing the perfect strategy towards the demise is as much an intellectual endeavour as a physical challenge, demanding both acumen and stamina. To become the perfect assassin requires a study both of human nature and human biology, its inherent flaws and how to put them to full advantage. With that pursuit of excellence taken into account, Katla’s fascination with her job make her choice of occupation not only understandable but even admirable, to an extent.
My own life has had its moments of violence, enough to make me realise that violence lurks in pretty much everyone, although the veneer of civility may have more substance on some people than others. To the outside world, Katla seems more than composed, she has an almost Zen-like attitude towards life, but it’s rooted less spirituality than reality. Katla knows how fragile life is and how easily destroyed, which makes her appreciate her own life and that of her loved ones. Fate is fickle and the wrong circumstances or timing can extinguish any life prematurely, so celebrate the life you have today and don’t live in the future life you might never receive. To be aware of the present is the greatest gift.
One of the most difficult skills in writing fiction is how to give your reader information without making it seem like you’re giving information.
A shortcut often used is for a character to be called into an audience with a superior or authority, who will have a file on the character from which they will quote and, sometimes, demand elaboration:
“You’ve been working undercover in narcotics for four years since you lost your wife and child, and now you want to work the homicide squad?”
That is not a question. That’s an info dump. All the information above is already known to the person being questioned. Also, is it relevant to the story? If so, there are more subtle ways:
“Do you think homicide is less stressful than narcotics, Michael?”
“No, sir. I just want to get out of the undercover work.”
“You don’t seem to have a difficulty staying on the right side,” the commissioner said. “I know the temptations are sometimes, ehm, persuasive.”
“I haven’t been tempted for years, sir.”
“You were tempted before.”
“That changed, sir. Lily and Chantelle…”
The commissioner’s eyes softened. “It must’ve been hard on you, that we never caught the killers. We always thought it had something to do with the XXX case, but nobody talked.”
“I made my peace with it, sir.”
“So your application with homicide is not to gain access to the records, to see where we failed.”
“No, sir. Like I said–”
“You just want to get out from the undercover work. Even though you received two commendations.”
“I’m tired of play-acting, sir. I want to do some straight police work for a change.”
The commissioner nodded. “I’ll approve your application, Michael. Don’t let me down.”
“No, sir. I won’t. Thank you.”
“The change might involve a change of roster, so your free days will be suspended for a moment until the new roster…”
“I’ll still have next Wednesday off, don’t I?”
The commissioner smiled sadly. “Yes, Michael. Nobody would want to you to come in for work when you need to pay your respects.”
Michael sighed his relief. Visiting their graves was about the only thing he could do since they had been slain so senselessly. He rose and nodded at the commissioner for turning for the office door, hoping the commissioner’s remark had been a wild stab and not a clue visible in his face. Homicide detail would give him access to the records. And he would see where they’d failed to bring Lily and Chantelle’s killers to justice. He’d been biding his time for four years, he wouldn’t want to screw up now.
Only the last paragraph features true exposition, but since the reader’s interest should be piqued by the hints in the dialogue, the information isn’t dumped. Plus it leaves enough to the imagination to give the reader. Also, it’s possible to leave it off–the commissioner’s remark is enough hint that Michael might be tempted to do some investigating on his own.
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