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:
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.
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.
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.
Are you a book reviewer and interested in an ARC of In Pocket? Send an email with ‘ARC reviewer In Pocket’, and maybe you can get In Pocket a month early (publication date August 1st).
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.
Just as a reminder – I will experiment with pre-orders for In Pocket, so the ebook will be available at pre-order for the low, low price of 99c (for those who like the ebook without strings attached), but only until the publication date, when the book will become the (still cheap) price of 2.99.
So follow my blog and get a two dollar discount when you pre-order In Pocket before August 1st!
I got tagged by author/musician Jamie Schultz, who answered the same questions on his blog. So now it’s my turn to answer these four questions…
What am I working on?
Currently I’m working on three projects:
– the fourth KillFile, as yet untitled, that revolves around Katla fulfilling another contract. This time, she has to enter a secluded estate and get her targets to leave their fortress-like villa.
– the fourth novel, working title Ghosting, which happens during Katla’s sabbatical year. She finds out quickly that it’s harder than she expected to shelf her homicidal enterprises.
– a stand-alone novel, In Pocket, about a nomadic heroin-addicted pickpocket who gets drawn into a potentially fatal situation by a scheming woman.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think the suspense fiction genre is replete with unfailing heroes and unrepentent antagonists. My Amsterdam Assassin Series differs in the sense that the protagonist, freelance assassin and corporate troubleshooter Katla, would be the antagonist in most suspense fiction books, just because–although she had her own ethics–she’s a morally ambiguous remorseless killer for profit. Another thing is that I strive for verisimilitude. Everything that happens in the books could happen realistically. So Katla is no ‘superwoman’. She’s smart and resourceful, but she has severe flaws and she makes minor mistakes with huge consequences.
Why do I write what I do?
In short, I write what I wanted to read but couldn’t find.
Longer version: What I couldn’t find is Katla. A resourceful remorseless protagonist who, unencumbered by her virtually non-existent conscience, works her way through conflicts in a way that most heroes wouldn’t be able to. And her ruthlessness is balanced by her blind boyfriend Bram, who is also unique in the sense that his blindness is not a mere plot device, but something that shapes him into Katla’s ideal companion.
How does my writing process work?
I start out with story ideas–I need several different stories that I can weave together into a cohesive novel, so the ideas need to have the potential to become linked.
While I’m researching story ideas I write scenes that I hope will fit within the story ideas. If they don’t fit, I shelf them. I rarely throw anything away. Chapters that couldn’t be used Reprobate were modified to appear in Peccadillo, and scenes removed from Peccadillo appeared in Rogue. So I have a whole file with ‘deleted scenes’ that might turn up in new books or become a KillFile.
When I finish the first draft, I turn the manuscript into an ebook that I can read on my iPad. This is in essence a modern variant on the ‘print out your manuscript and read it through’-method often cited by authors. Both a printed manuscript or an epub cannot be edited, but with both you can highlight sections that need to be corrected and you can sprinkle the text with footnotes on what you want to do, like ‘move this scene up’ or ‘this section contains too many crutch words’. In fact, the epub version works better than the printed version for several reasons:
– you can insert longer notes than what you’d be able to write into a margin of a printed version
– you don’t have to carry around 500 double-spaced A4 pages and a highlighter and a red pencil.
– epubs have a feature where you can make a list of all the ‘Notes & Marks’ you made while editing the draft, which makes it easier to go through your manuscript and make changes. If you use a print version, you have to leave through the whole print-out again and hope you don’t miss a note or highlighted section.
– It’s easier to track the corrections you have to make, because you can delete the notes you corrected in the manuscript.
– the disadvantage is the same as with any e-reader versus print book–if the battery quits, you can’t continue. On the other hand, it’s much easier to take your manuscript anywhere you want. And nobody wonders why you’re marking up a sheaf of paper…
I hope my answers were illuminating and entertaining. I’d like to pass on the tag to three writers I greatly admire:
First off, I tag Henry Martin. When he’s not buried elbow-deep in some greasy motorcycle project, Henry Martin enjoys reading quality literature and writing prose and poetry of varying coherency. He finds inspiration in conquering the open road while trying to outrun some of the characters he created in the past. He lives with his family in the Northeast, surrounded by coyotes, foxes, and bears. Click on his name to check out his blog. Click on the cover to check out Escaping Barcelona on Amazon.
Second author I tag is Roberta Pearce. Roberta likes to have fun breaking some (but not all!) clichés in her contemporary romances – her latest novel, A Bird Without Wings, features a heroine who is smarter than the hero. And her soon-to-be-released The Value of Vulnerability has a hero who is a sociopath (that’s sociopath, not psychopath!). If you click on her name you’re taken to her blog, if you click on A Bird Without Wings, you can check out her book on Amazon.
The third author I tag (all good things come in threes) is Gregor Xane. Gregor is the author of the horror novellas Six Dead Spots (one of the weirdest books I read) and The Hanover Block (forthcoming). He resides in the U.S., in a small town in southwestern Ohio. He’s currently preparing a rather large and ridiculous work of science-fiction for publication. Click on his name to check out his blog and/or click on Six Dead Spots to read a sample of his work on Amazon…
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.