THE BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME

Russia’s parliament recently voted 380 to 3 favoring decriminalization of domestic violence against women where it doesn’t cause “substantial bodily harm” and occurs “not more than once per year”. So… in Russia—once again—it’s socially acceptable to beat the wife. Makes you wonder how the United States Violence Against Women Act will stand given the Trump administration’s apparent admiration for how Vladimir Putin does business, never mind Donald Trump’s personal treatment of women.

Intimate Partner Violence is the politically correct term for wife-beating. It’s a serious and common criminal offense. For years physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of female spouses was conveniently overlooked because what went on in private homes was supposed to be no one else’s business. That’s until women fought back and killed their spouses. Then they were prosecuted for murder with all the zeal reserved for serial killers.

Many battered women were convicted of murder and given lengthy jail sentences. There was no regard for the big picture of what created intimate partner violence, how it led to homicidal acts, and what effect it had on entire families—especially children—as well as society in general.

But some women were acquitted of criminal culpability for killing their partners.

They invoked self-defense because they suffered years of cyclic abuse and finally fought back in order to prevent themselves and their children from the imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or being murder victims themselves. These women weren’t claiming temporary insanity or a moment of heated passion. They were telling the truth about years of mental torture that drove them to commit the ultimate act of violent response because they were suffering from the Battered Woman Syndrome.

Battered Woman Syndrome is not a recognized medical or mental disorder according to the psychiatric profession’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Battered Woman Syndrome is a contributing factor to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but they are two separate issues. On its own, Battered Woman Syndrome is not a specifically accepted defense in most courts. Battered Woman Syndrome is part of an overall defense to criminal accusations. It’s a clinical explanation for using violence to proactively defend one’s self and it’s supported by expert testimony that encompasses the entire case facts. That includes the history of the intimate partner relationship, the mechanism of the killing, and the aftermath that followed.

The battered woman defense component is widely used to establish diminished responsibility of a woman accused of killing her husband under circumstances where he was incapacitated and not able to defend himself nor be an immediate physical threat. The battered woman defense is highly successful in many cases.

The highest-profile battered woman case was portrayed in The Burning Bed, a true-crime movie from 1984 where Farrah Fawcett played Francine Hughes, a severely battered woman who killed her husband in Dansville, Michigan, by setting him on fire while he slept. Francine was charged with first-degree murder and acquitted by a jury who found her not guilty by her having to use a temporary insanity defense.

Thirty-three years ago, the Battered Woman Syndrome was starting to be explored by the courts. There was little psychiatric or psychological science available to establish the reliability of this murder defense tactic. Today, much more is known about the patterns causing intimate partner violence and how they inescapably lead to defensive killings, even when the deceased spouse was incapacitated and not an apparent immediate danger.

Thirty-one years ago, I was lead investigator where a battered woman shot and killed her abusive husband while he slept. Deeana Bingingham suffered years of domestic cruelty at the hands, feet, words, wallet and penis of Lyle (Bing) Bingingham—much of it watched and heard by their 10-year-old son, Logan, and 8-year-old daughter, Kiley.

Bing was on the run from ripping a criminal organization and moved the family to an isolated cabin in the Pacific Northwest. He came home one snowy, stormy night—drunk—as usual—and attacked Deeana. He beat her with his fists and boots, sexually assaulted Deeana in front of their children, then threatened to shoot the family with a 30/30 Winchester. Bing passed out. Deeana took the rifle. She shot Bing in the head.

The first bullet didn’t kill Bing. It tore off his jaw and ripped out an eye. Bing rose in a rage—thrashing—ki-yiiing—gurgling—spewing blood everywhere. He clawed to get up… folded… stood… lunged… then fell and crawled to get at her. Vibrating, gasping and backing away, Deeana levered the gun to reload. It jammed. She threw it. Ran to the closet. And grabbed a 30.06 bolt-action. Deeana scrambled for cartridges, pleading to little Logan for help while Kiley cringed in a corner. The boy loaded the second rifle. The tiny girl watched. As a family… they finished Bing off.

Deeana Bingingham’s children were apprehended. She was jailed on second-degree (non-capital) murder charges—the prosecutor deeming killing Bing was intentionally committed but not premeditated. Deeana spent 2 years on remand while her kids bounced between foster homes and her family abandoned her. She invoked battered woman syndrome in defense and her story was a nightmare to hear. Deeana was offered a plea bargain to manslaughter or an accepted defense of temporary insanity with a compromised offer of family counseling for rehabilitation rather than risking a convict’s chance at parole. Deeana refused. She chose to stay in jail, waiting her chance to tell the court—and other battered women—her plight.

The jury heard a shocking story. A sickening story. A story of horrific psychological, financial, sexual abuse and extreme, prolonged physical violence. The jury acquitted Deeana. They reasoned Deeana was a provoked, trapped and helpless victim of ritualistic domestic violence. They found proactively killing her intimate partner was Deeana’s only reasonable recourse—Deeana ultimately protected herself and her children.

Deeana Bingingham’s case never left my mind. I got a tremendous education into what causes an intimate partner killing that has a legitimate spousal homicide defense. Today, a lot more is known about battered women behavior and the psychological syndrome surrounding their necessary violent acts of defense.

The primary legal principle applied to Battered Woman Syndrome homicide defense is the accused woman being constantly subjected to severe domestic abuse making her unable to take independent action in conventionally leaving the relationship and a firm belief the escalating pattern of violence would end with her death and/or that of her children. Eventually, the situation explodes and the battered woman—hopelessly affected by a clearly-defined, state-of-mind syndrome—takes an immediate opportunity to protect herself by proactively killing her husband through whatever available means.

On its own, Battered Woman Syndrome is part of a self-defense argument and used to explain a battered woman’s experiences that caused her to commit proactive homicide. A crucial part of having Battered Woman Syndrome admitted as trial defense evidence is the case facts being examined by a professional who specializes in the psychiatric and psychological elements of the syndrome and introduces their opinion of the accused’s mental state through expert testimony.

The American legal precedent in having Battered Woman Syndrome admitted as a contributing factor to homicide defense is called the Dyas Standard from the case Dyas v. the United States. It’s simple, yet complicated. First, the defense team must establish the accused is a battered woman within the accepted behavior parameters of the syndrome. Second, they must persuade a court the jury would be aided by expert testimony that Battered Woman Syndrome is relevant to explaining her behavior.

Once Battered Woman Syndrome because of Intimate Partner Violence is determined relevant, it has two more legal hurdles to jump. Expert testimony must be admissible, then it has to show a probative value that outweighs prejudicial impact. Making matters more complicated, Dyas Standard admissibility has a three-pronged test.

  1. The testimony’s subject matter “must be so distinctly related to some science, profession, business or occupation as to be beyond the ken of the average layman (layperson).”
  2. The witness “must have sufficient skill, knowledge or experience in that field or calling as to make it appear that his (her) opinion or inference will probably aid the trier in his (her) search for truth”.
  3. Expert testimony is inadmissible if “the state of the pertinent art or scientific knowledge does not permit a reasonable opinion to be asserted even by an expert”.

This might sound like a bunch of masculine, legal mumbo-jumbo but it says a recognized and reliable expert opinion about how a history of spousal abuse led to the accused’s perceptionat the time of the act they had no other recourse than to ultimately defend themselves by killing their intimate partner—is valid evidence that may help a jury deciding if the accused was criminally culpable. Perception in the accused’s mind—at the time of the act—is central to a self-defense claim and Battered Woman Syndrome testimony is meant to educate the jury about the realities of intimate partner violence.

Presenting a spousal abuse history proving Battered Woman Syndrome is difficult. This defense requires detailed investigation into years of abuse that’s often not documented or credibly supported by independent observations or interventions by other family members, friends, acquaintances and support professionals like social workers, medical responders, police officers, and court records.

Sadly, the reality of intimate partner violence or spousal abuse is specific incidents are seldom recorded or reported. Battered Woman Syndrome is based on a cumulative pattern of countless small and large incidents of verbal, mental, financial, mental, physical and sexual assaults that build up to a point of explosion, ending in death. So many cases have mitigating circumstances where the woman victim didn’t report most incidents, many peripheral witnesses have convenient lapses of memory, and responsible professionals fail to intervene.

Battered Woman Syndrome is based on a known, cyclical pattern of abusive behavior and response first identified by Dr. Lenore Walker who is known as the mother of Battered Woman Syndrome. Dr. Walker conducted extensive research into intimate partner violence and established theories of victim’s psychological responses to spousal violence including a behavior called “learned helplessness” and a pattern of violence cycles.

Learned helplessness is a state of mind where the woman has been long subjected to so much abuse that they feel totally incapable of defending themselves or voluntarily leaving the relationship. The emotional, financial, physical and entire realm of abuse causes the woman to lose any motivation to change their situation and they submit, rather than fight. Learned helplessness is a core element of Battered Woman Syndrome and it manifests in all cases.

Cycle theory encompasses the entire relationship period and has various degrees of severity and intervals. Cycle theory is another core element of Battered Woman Syndrome and it, too, manifest in all cases. There are three recognized violence cycles.

  1. Tension building is a phase where minor abuse incidents like emotional outbursts, verbal threats, and subtle punishments cause the woman to become hyper-vigilant to her partner’s cues and changes her behavior accordingly to diffuse them.
  2. Acute battering incidents are the second escalation. These are violent episodes where physical harm or severe emotional damage occurs.
  3. Reconciliation is the third cycle phase. It’s a loving contrition where the batterer claims to be remorseful, is charming, and promises never to harm the woman again. Invariably, the abuser blames his actions on outside influences like impairment substances, financial difficulty, or employment stress.

Battered Woman Syndrome becomes a vicious circle where the violence cycles repeat and become more frequent, making learned helplessness further entrenched. Over time, the tension-building and honeymoon stages get shorter and battering increases. This pattern results in battering incidents that become increasingly longer and more severe. The cycle works to wear women down and to keep them in a toxic relationship by controlling them, chipping away at their feeling of self-worth and independence.

Abused partners hope their abusers will change. They falsely believe the batterer doesn’t mean to harm them, rather somehow they brought it on themselves. Secrecy, fear, lack of opportunity and low self-esteem combine to make leaving an abusive relationship extremely difficult—if not impossible.

Ultimately, the heated cycle boils over and the helpless woman snaps. She takes a spontaneous and opportune, final defensive action without regard to repercussions. In her perception—at the time of the act—she has no recourse than to kill her partner. Otherwise, it’s inevitable she’ll die and so will her children. In law, this establishes a legitimate defense for homicide.

At the core of Battered Woman Syndrome lies a severe psychiatric impact that has four psychological stages.

DENIAL: The woman refuses to admit—even to herself—that she’s been beaten or that there’s a “problem” in her marriage. She may call each incident an “accident”. She offers excuses for her husband’s violence and each time firmly believes it’ll never happen again.

GUILT: She now acknowledges there’s a problem but considers herself responsible for it. She “deserves” to be beaten—she feels—because she has defects in her character and isn’t living up to her husband’s expectations.

ENLIGHTENMENT: The woman no longer assumes responsibility for her husband’s abusive treatment, recognizing that no one “deserves” to be beaten. She’s still committed to her relationship, though, and stays with her husband—hoping they can work things out.

RESPONSIBILITY: Accepting the fact that her husband will not—or cannot—stop his violent behavior, the battered woman decides she’ll no longer submit and takes self-defensive action. That can be leaving the relationship, seeking help and intervention, or taking termination matters into her own hands.

The Battered Woman Syndrome is an ugly reality in many relationships. It may not occur in your intimacy but you can be sure it’s happening in a home near you. You probably know the symptoms of an abuser and recognize the behavior of a decent and loving partner. Here are the character traits of abusive and non-abusive men, irrespective of being physically violent.

An abusive man:

  • Shouts
  • Sulks
  • Smashes things
  • Glares
  • Calls you names
  • Makes you feel ugly and useless
  • Cuts you off from your friends
  • Stops you from working
  • Never admits he’s wrong
  • Blames you, drugs, alcohol, work, stress
  • Turns the children against you
  • Uses the children to control you
  • Never does his share of  the housework
  • Never looks after the children
  • Expects sex on demand
  • Controls the money
  • Threatens or coerces you to get his way
  • Seduces those close to you
  • Expects you to be responsible for his well-being

A non-abusive man:

  • Is cheerful
  • Is consistent
  • Is supportive
  • Tells you that you look good
  • Tells you you’re competent
  • Uses your right name or pet name
  • Trusts you
  • Trusts your judgment
  • Respects you, your dignity, and your body
  • Welcomes your family and your friends
  • Encourages you to be independent
  • Supports your higher learning and career
  • Takes personal responsibility
  • Admits to being wrong
  • Is a responsible parent
  • Is an equal parent
  • Is a role model for the children
  • Is faithful
  • Shares money and assets
  • Does his share of the housework

Statistics show one in four women are—or have been—subjected to some form of intimate partner violence. That includes psychological battering. Much is subtle abuse with a long, dominant pattern of financial control, suggestive degradation, humiliation, unreasonable expectations and emotional blackmail as well as sexual overbearing and verbal assaults. Some abuse progresses to violent sexual and physical aggression.

If you’re in an abuse relationship, take action to stop it. If you recognize others in an abusive relationship, take action to help them. Don’t wait till there’s another battered woman case like Deeana Bingingham who—in my opinion, as well as a jury’s—was fully justified in taking proactive, lethal action to defend herself and her children.

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Domestic abuse and battered woman syndrome are huge social problems worldwide. Please help spread awareness of this unacceptable violent behavior by sharing this post on social media and with your sphere of influence. The only way intimate partner violence is going to be reduced is by supporting victims and encouraging them to safely disclose their plight.  

FATAL FLAW – WHAT REALLY CAUSED THE TITANIC TRAGEDY

t29The R.M.S. Titanic was the world’s largest man-made, mobile object when the ship was commissioned in 1912. Everyone knows the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank within 2 hours and 40 minutes. It was the highest-profile marine disaster of all time and most people still blame the accident on the iceberg. What few people know is the real root cause — the fatal flaw that sunk the Titanic and killed over 1,500 people.

There were two official inquiries into the Titanic’s sinking. Both concluded the iceberg was the root cause, although the investigation processes considered many contributing factors — natural, mechanical, and human. There were errors found in the Titanic’s design, production, navigation, communication, and especially in the motivation of its builder, the White Star Line. While fingers were pointed, no blame was attached and the only real outcome of the Titanic inquiries was adopting the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) that still governs marine safety today.

t11The Titanic accident investigations used the best resources of the time however, the inquiries were conducted long before the wreckage was found, a forensic analysis was applied, and computer-generated recreation was available. Today, we have a clear picture of exactly how the Titanic disaster took place from a mechanical perspective but finding the root cause has remained buried as deep as its bow in the muddy bottom. It shouldn’t be, because the true cause of what really sunk the Titanic is clearly obvious when analyzed objectively.

Both official inquiries into the Titanic sinking called sworn testimony of the surviving crew members, passengers, rescuers, builders, and marine regulators. They used an adversarial approach that was common for investigations at the time. That involved formulating a conclusion — the iceberg — then calling selective evidence and presenting in a way that supported the iceberg findings.

t28One investigation by the U.S. Senate concluded the accident was an Act of God — the iceberg was a natural feature and shouldn’t have been there under normal conditions. The second investigation by the British Wreck Commissioner agreed with the natural cause conclusion but qualified it with a statement, “What was a mistake in the case of the Titanic would, without a doubt, be negligence in any similar case in the future“. In other words, “In hindsight, it shouldn’t have happened and we’re not going to tolerate it again.”

Both twentieth-century investigations concluded that when the Titanic collided with the iceberg, a gigantic gash was ripped in its hull allowing massive water ingress and compromising the ship’s buoyancy. At the root of the accident, they found the cause to be simply the iceberg.

They were wrong and failed to identify the real cause of the Titanic tragedy.

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Today’s professional accident investigators take a different approach to fact finding. They take a “Root Cause Approach” to accident investigation and the industry leaders in Root Cause Analysis or Cause Mapping are the front line company Think Reliability.

t9Think Reliability has done a root cause analysis of the Titanic sinking that’s outlined in an instructional video and a detailed event flow chart that identifies over 100 points of contributing factors. They’re excellent presentations but even Think Reliability missed a few contributors and did not categorically identify the one fatal flaw that caused the deaths of so many innocent people.

In getting to the root cause and finding the fatal flaw, it’s necessary to look at the stages of how the Titanic came to be and then determine exactly what caused it to go down.

History of the Titanic

The Royal Mail Ship Titanic was one of three sister vessels planned by the British ocean liner company, White Star Line. The Olympic was commissioned in 1910 and already in operation when the Titanic was under construction. A third ship, the Britannic, was in planning.

t23The Titanic’s construction was under an extremely tight timeline. Politics were at work, as was economics. Transcontinental ocean travel was rapidly expanding and the once-dominated British control on this lucrative industry was being threatened by German built and operated liners. In protective reaction, the British Government decided to subsidize White Star’s competitor, the Cunard Line. This left White Star resorting to private funding in order to compete and it came from American financier, J.P. Morgan, who put tremendous pressure on White Star to perform.

Harland & Wolff shipbuilders in Belfast, Ireland, built the Titanic. She was 883 feet long, stood 175 feet to the top of the funnels from the waterline and weighed 46,329 tons in water displacement. Her keel was laid in March, 1909, and was set to sea trials on April 2, 1912. Eight days later, on April 10, 1912, the Titanic disembarked Southampton, England on her maiden voyage destined for New York City. Officially, 2165 passengers and crew were on board but this figure is not accurate due to no-shows, an inaccurate crew count, and additional passengers who were taken on in Ireland as well as inevitable stowaways.

t37Some of the world’s most influential and wealthy people were on the Titanic which included the ship’s designer, Thomas Andrews, as well as the head of White Star Line, Bruce Ismay. It was beyond a voyage — it was a cultural event and a chance for White Star to regain its place in international shipping by proving the fastest and most luxurious way to sail between Europe and America. A lot was riding on the Titanic’s success.

The Iceberg Collision

The route Titanic took to New York had been traveled for several hundred years. It was the standard passageway for international liners and the main shipping lane between Europe and North America. The Titanic’s master, Captain Edward Smith, was a thirty-two-year White Star Line veteran and was chosen to command the Titanic due to his experience in international navigation, specifically this plot.

On the evening of April 14, 1912, the weather was perfect. It was clear, cold, and the sea was flat calm however, visibility was limited to ¼ mile due to there being a new moon and the only illumination was from starlight.

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At 11:35 p.m., the Titanic approached a point 375 nautical miles south-southeast of Newfoundland where the cold Labrador current from the north met the warmer Gulf current from the south. This location was well known for being the edge of pack ice and was notorious for icebergs which calf or break-off from their parent shelf.

Captain Smith had inspected the bridge at approximately 9:30 p.m. According to testimony from the surviving helmsman, Captain Smith discussed the potential of icebergs although none were yet seen. Smith directed the helmsman to maintain course and to raise him if conditions changed. The Captain left the bridge, retiring to his quarters. He was no longer involved in mastering the ship until after the collision.

t38Testimony from the Titanic’s helmsman, Robert Hitchens who was at the wheel during the iceberg collision, records that the Titanic was at 75 propeller revolutions per minute which calculated to 22.5 nautical miles per hour, just short of its maximum design speed of 80 revolutions or 24 knots. The helmsman also testified the Titanic was actually speeding up when it struck the iceberg as it was White Star chairman and managing director, Bruce Ismay’s, intention to run the rest of the route to New York at full speed, arrive early, and prove the Titanic’s superior performance. Ismay survived the disaster and testified at the inquiries that this speed increase was approved by Captain Smith and the helmsman was operating under his Captain’s direction.

The Titanic was built long before radar became the main nighttime navigational aid. The watch depended on a crew member in the forward crow’s-nest who stared through the dark for obstacles. Other ships were not a concern as they were brightly lit and the only threat to the Titanic was an iceberg.

t2From the dim, Titanic’s watchman saw the shape of an iceberg materialize. It was estimated at ten times the Titanic’s size above water, which equates to a total mass of one hundred Titanics. The watchman alerted the bridge that an iceberg was at the front right, or starboard side, and to alter course.

Testimony shows that confusion may have caused a mistake being made in relaying a course change from the bridge to the steerage located at the ship’s stern. It appears the rudder might have been swung in the wrong direction and they accidently turned into the iceberg. It’s reported that when the helmsman realized the error, he ordered all engines in full reverse. Screw and rudder ships cannot steer in reverse. They can only back up in a straight line but it was too late.

Stopping the Titanic was impossible. It was speeding ahead far too fast to brake within a 1/4 mile, which is 440 yards. Without a speed reduction, covering 440 yards at 22.5 nautical miles per hour would take 36 seconds. Testimony from the inquiries recorded that during the eight-day sea trials, the Titanic was tested from full-ahead at 22 knots to full-stop. This took 3 minutes and 15 seconds and the deceleration covered 850 yards.

t39The Titanic sideswiped the iceberg on its starboard front, exchanging a phenomenal amount of energy. It immediately began taking on water that filled the ship’s six forward hull compartments. Water cascaded over the tops of the bulkheads in a domino effect and, as the weight of the water pulled the bow down, more water ingressed. This caused the stern to rise above the waterline. With the rear third of the ship losing buoyancy and the weight from her propellers being in the air, the stress on the ship’s midpoint caused a fracture. The ship split in two and quickly sank to the bottom. It was 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912 — two hours and twenty minutes after the iceberg collision.

Warning and Life Saving Attempts

Captain Smith came to the bridge shortly after the collision. Again, survivor testimony is conflicting and Smith did not live to give his version of what took place in mustering the crew and passengers for safe abandonment.

t36Without any doubt, there was complete confusion — some said utter chaos — in abandoning ship. The voyage had been so hastily pushed that the crew had no specific training or conducted any drills in lifesaving on the Titanic , being unfamiliar with the lifeboats and their davit lowering mechanisms.

Compounding this was a decision by White Star management to equip the Titanic with only half the necessary lifeboats to handle the number of people onboard. The reasons are long established. White Star felt a full complement of lifeboats would give the ship an unattractive, cluttered look. They also clearly had a false confidence the lifeboats would never be needed.

It’s well documented that many lifeboats discharged from the Titanic weren’t filled to capacity. Partly at fault was a “women and children first” mentality, but the primary reason is that no one person took charge of the operation. Testimony is clear that Captain Smith was involved during the lifeboat discharges but there’s no record of what charge he actually took. Some accounts tell of the Captain remaining on the bridge and going down with the ship, as the old mariner’s line goes.

t34Another well-documented issue was the failure of the ocean liner Californian to come to Titanic’s rescue. The Californian was within visual view of the Titanic. In fact, the crew of the Californian had sent the Titanic repeated messages warning of icebergs and the Californian had stopped for the night because of limited visibility and high risk of iceberg collision. These messages were improperly addressed and were never relayed to the bridge of the Titanic.

Further, the crew of the Californian had seen Titanic’s distress flares but the Californian’s Captain refused to respond. This was a major issue brought up at both official inquiries and a reasonable explanation from Californian’s Captain was never resolved.

Eventually, the ocean liner Carpathia responded. It, too, sent the Titanic iceberg warnings before the collision. The inquiries drilled down into the message relay flaws. They discovered the wireless operators on board the Titanic weren’t crewmembers nor directed by White Star. They were employees of the Marconi Telegraph Company privately contracted in a for-profit role to deliver all messages to and from the Titanic. In the few hours before the iceberg collision, the Titanic was within range of an on-shore relay station and this gave them a short window to pass high-priority messages for wealthy passengers. Navigation warning messages to the Titanic were given low or no priority.

t40Hearing testimony recorded that shortly after dark, as early as 7:00 p.m., the Titanic was sent at least five iceberg warnings. There’s no record these were passed on to the ship’s bridge nor the Captain. The Marconi operator aboard the Titanic survived to testify there’d been a severe backlog of paying customer messages and he was being “interrupted” by incoming navigational alerts. The warnings were set aside as they were not addressed “MSG” which means “Master Service Gram”. By policy, MSG messages required the Captain’s personal action whereas non-marked messages were delivered when time permitted.

Finding the Titanic — Design and Damage

Although the Titanic was the largest ship of its time, there was nothing technologically new about its design, materials, or method of construction. The hull was built of large steel plates, some as large as 6 feet by 30 feet and between 1 and 1 ½ inches thick. The technology at the time was to rivet the sections together where today, modern ships are welded at their seams.

t17Riveting a ship’s seams was an entire trade on its own — almost an art. There were two types of rivets used on the Titanic. Rivets in the mid-section of the hull, where stresses from lateral wave forces were greatest, were made of steel and triple-riveted while those in the bow and stern were composed of cheaper iron. The bow and the stern endured less force when under normal operation and only required double riveting by design. Further, with the mid-section of the Titanic being straight and flat, these rivets were installed with hydraulic presses where the curved plates at the ship’s ends had to be hand riveted. That involved setting rivets in place while white hot and hand-hammering them closed.

Anyone who’s watched the movie “Titanic” knows the ship was designed with sixteen “watertight” compartments, separated by fifteen bulkheads that had doors which could be shut off in the event the hull was compromised anywhere along these sections. The “watertight” design only applied below or at the waterline, leaving the entire hull open above the top of these bulkheads.

The bulkheads were the fatal design cause of the Titanic’s sinking but they weren’t the root cause of the disaster.

The ship’s architect, Thomas Andrews, was aware that flooding of more than four compartments would create a “mathematical certainty” that the bulkheads would overflow and cause the ship to sink. Testimony records that Andrews informed Captain Smith of this right after he realized the extent of flooding. This triggered the abandon ship order.

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Over the years following the sinking and before the Titanic’s wreckage was discovered, most historians and naval experts assumed the ship suffered a continuous gash in the hull below the waterline and across all six compartments. There was one dissenter, though, who surmised it only took a small amount of opening in each compartment to let in 34,000 tons of water and that was enough to compromise the ship.

Edward Wilding was a naval architect and co-designer of the Titanic who testified at the American inquiry. He calculated that as little as 12 square feet of opening in the hull would have been enough to let in that much water in the amount of time the Titanic remained afloat. Wilding stated his opinion that there was not a long gash, rather it was a “series of steps of comparatively short length, an aggregate of small holes” that were punctured in the hull. Wilding went as far to speculate that the force of the collision probably caused a number of rivets to “pop or let go” and it was “leaks at the ruptured seams” that let in seawater.

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In September, 1985, the Titanic’s wreckage was found by a deep sea expedition led by Dr. Bob Ballard. It was in 12,500 feet of water and its debris field covered 2,000 yards. Her hull was in two separate main pieces with her bow nosed into 35 feet of muddy bottom. Since then, a number of dives have been made on the Titanic including one which used a ground penetrating sonar that mapped the section of the bow that was under the mud.

The sonar readings clearly showed six separate openings in the forward six hull compartments. They were narrow, horizontal slits in various spots, not at all in one continuous line like the gash theory held. The sonar map was analyzed by naval architects at Bedford & Hackett who calculated the total area exposed by the slits was 12.6 square feet—almost the exact figure proposed by Edward Wilding in 1912.

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The architects also stated the rivets were clearly at fault and they’d failed from the impact. The rivets either sheared off on the outer heads or simply fractured and were released by the impact’s force. Immediately, many experts questioned why only a few rivets in a few seemingly random places failed and not most all along the area of impact.

In one of the dives, a large piece of the Titanic’s forward hull was recovered. This led to a forensic study on the plate steel and rivet composition by metallurgists Jennifer McCarty and Tim Foecke which they documented in their book “What Really Sank The Titanic”. Drs. McCarty and Foecke established a number of the Titanic’s iron rivets had an unacceptable amount of slag in their chemical makeup, contrary to what the ship’s design specified. The metallurgists concluded when the inferior, weak rivets were exposed in below-zero Fahrenheit water temperature on the night of the sinking, they were brittle and shattered from the collision force.

t14The metallurgists went further in their investigation. They found during the rush to complete the Titanic on time, the builders purposely resorted to inferior metal than specified by the designers. The builders were also faced with a critical shortage of skilled riveting labor. This led to a compounded error of inferior rivets being installed by inferior tradesmen that likely explains the randomness of failed areas.

Today, the failed rivet theory stands as the most logical explanation for the mechanical cause of the Titanic disaster but this still doesn’t get at the root cause of the tragedy.

At the core of Root Cause Analysis is the question “Why?”. This form of accident investigation forces the question “Why did this happen?” to be asked over and over until you cannot ask anymore “Whys?”. In Titanic’s case, this path leads to answering the root cause — the fatal flaw in why over 1,500 innocent people lost their lives.

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The two official investigations back in 1912 started with a conclusion — the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. They made somewhat of an attempt to answer why that happened without attaching too much blame. The result was not so much as getting to the root cause but to try and make some good come from the disaster and ensure there was less chance of it happening again.

That is a good thing and, to repeat, it led to improving world marine safety through SOLAS. But that still doesn’t get to identifying the fatal flaw in what really sank the Titanic.

Think Reliability identified five root causes of the Titanic disaster:

1. Iceberg warnings were ignored.

2. The iceberg wasn’t seen until too late.

3. The Titanic was traveling too fast for visual conditions and couldn’t avoid colliding with the iceberg.

4. The rivets failed, compromising the hull’s integrity and letting in enough water to exceed the design buoyancy.

5. Insufficient lifesaving procedures and equipment were in place.

While these five reasons are the prime contributors to why the accident and tremendous loss of life happened, they still don’t arrive at the true, single root cause — the fatal flaw in what caused the Titanic tragedy.

t45

Finding the fatal flaw requires answering ‘Why” to each of these five points.

1. Why were the iceberg warnings ignored?

The answer is a systematic failure of communication operating on the Titanic. There was ample reason to suspect icebergs might be in the Titanic’s path. Any competent captain would be aware of hazards like this and would liaise with other ships along the route for warning information. Navigational communication was not a priority under Captain Smith’s command.

2. Why was the iceberg not seen until too late?

There’s another simple answer here. Night visibility was poor as there was limited light. Testimony from the surviving crewmembers consistently estimated the visibility range to be no more than ¼ mile. Eyesight, combined with compass readings, were the only forms of navigation in 1912. The Titanic was going too fast for the crew to react because Captain Smith allowed his ship to exceed a safe speed for navigation conditions.

3. Why was the Titanic traveling too fast for navigation conditions?

Without question, Captain Smith was under pressure from Bruce Ismay to bring the Titanic into New York earlier than scheduled. While this would never have set a speed record for the route, it certainly would reflect positively on the White Star Line and its business futures. Captain Smith succumbed to unreasonable pressure and allowed his ship to be operated unsafely.

4. Why did the rivets fail?

While Captain Smith had no input into the construction of the Titanic, he certainly knew its design limits. The Titanic was built as an ocean liner, not a battleship or an icebreaker. Captain Smith knew how dangerous an iceberg collision could be yet he still risked his ship being operated in unsafe conditions.

5. Why were there insufficient lifesaving equipment and procedures in place?

The fault began with White Star’s failure to provide the proper amount of lifeboats as well as rushing the Titanic into service before the crew was properly trained in drills and equipment operation. Captain Smith was aware of this. Despite, he allowed the Titanic to sail unprepared.

t18At the root of each of question lies irresponsibility of the Titanic’s captain. It’s long held in marine law that a ship’s captain is ultimately responsible for the safety of the vessel, the crew, and the passengers.

Captain Smith had full authority over every stage in the Titanic’s disaster and he failed on each point. Clearly, Captain Smith is the fatal flaw that caused the Titanic tragedy.

*   *   *

Note: Garry Rodgers holds a Transport Canada Marine Captain Certification which includes training in Ship Stability, Navigation, SOLAS and Marine Emergency Duties. Garry’s also trained in Think Reliability Root Cause Mapping.

THE TIPPING POINT FOR BEST SELLING AUTHORS

A14“The Tipping Point” is Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling book about how little things make a big difference. Most authors struggle to find what works—and what doesn’t—in creating and promoting their craft, as well as their careers. At what point do successful authors tip? What’s the tipping point where efforts converge to propel them to volumes of sales and recognition? What do best selling authors do which others need to know? And what little things would these writers do differently, looking back on their success, to make a big difference?

A1I’ve hosted the DyingWords blog for four years now and I’ve met some fascinating authors who’ve agreed to share their success with you. Four years ago, most of these talented and entrepreneurial writers were struggling to tip and they persevered to become some of the best sellers in internet book publishing today.

I’ve followed, watched, and befriended these authors. Partly curious. Partly learning. And partly from my vanity of association with successful people—people who I want to emulate.

A23I know many DyingWords followers are authors who have the same desires, ambitions, and curiosity as me. So I contacted nine of the most genuine, most talented, and most successful authors I’ve befriended and invited them to share their success stories by answering three basic questions. This is what I wrote:

I’m planning a blog post titled “The Tipping Point For Successful Authors” and I’d like to include you & your experience in the article. I have three straightforward questions that I know will inspire a large number of us who hope to follow your lead. If you’d take a few minutes to respond, I’d really appreciate it. So will others 🙂
1. How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?
2. What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?
3. Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?
And feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming authors.

Here’s what nine successful and impressive best selling authors have to say.

— — —

BIO  Rachel Abbott

A2Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England, and spent most of her working life as the Managing Director of an interactive media company. After her company was sold in 2000, she fulfilled a lifelong ambition of buying and restoring a property in Italy. She now splits her time between homes in Italy and Alderney, where she writes full time and has just completed her sixth novel.

Rachel launched her first novel Only the Innocent in November 2011. The book was self-published in the UK through the Kindle Direct Publishing program on Amazon and reached the number 1 spot in the Kindle store just over three months later. It held its position for four weeks and was the second highest selling self-published title in 2012.

Since then, Rachel has gone on to write a further four best selling novels – The Back Road, Sleep Tight, Stranger Child and Nowhere Child (a novella). Her fifth book, Kill Me Againis launched on 17th February 2016.

In August 2015, Amazon confirmed that Rachel is the UK’s best selling independent author over the last five years. She is also listed at number 14 on the list of bestselling authors – both traditionally and independently published – over the same five-year period.

Her fourth novel – Stranger Child – was the 11th bestselling novel in the first half of 2015 and the most borrowed book during that period.

A15

Hi, Garry — Great surname you have there 😉 I have answered your questions below — do you need any cover images or links etc for your post? Just let me know what else you need and I hope the answers are sufficient for you. Best wishes — Rachel

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

I was extremely lucky that my very first novel made it to number one in the UK Amazon chart and it stayed there for four weeks! I think it’s a lot harder to achieve that now because this was in early 2012 and there are so many more books to compete against in the current ebook market. The thing that worked for me was creating a marketing plan. Until I did that, I was only selling books in single figures, but once I was focused on a structured plan of how to market my book to readers, it all came together.

 What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

Over the years the most effective form has changed. I think that chatting on forums worked really well in the early days, as did Twitter. I now find that the mailing list that I have built works well, and I do some advertising on Facebook. I could be doing so much more, but then the marketing becomes a full-time job and leaves no time for writing. So now I focus on building my reader database and finding ways of rewarding my fantastic readers for their support. I also find that Bookbub is a fantastic way of promoting any price deals that I am offering. It costs money, but it is more than repaid in sales.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

One thing that was missing with my first book was a thorough edit (although that has happened subsequently). I always thought that an editor just corrected mistakes. I had no idea that the edit was a time to review the plot, the pace, the characters, the settings – the list is endless. So if there is one piece of advice I would give to a new writer it would be to save up enough money to pay for a proper edit – not just a proofread (although, of course, that’s important too). I have read a number of self-published books that have clearly not been edited because character names change half way through, or the timeline doesn’t work, or there are huge passages of explanation at the end to try to make sense of it all. A good editor would help the writer to sort these issues out. Fortunately, the lack of an editor didn’t prevent me from being successful with my first book, Only the Innocent. But I can’t help wondering how much more successful it might have been with a decent edit.

The best advice I can give to indie authors, in addition to getting your book edited as I mention above, is to really focus on how you are going to market your book. Choose one or two things that you could do well, and stick to them. If you are very new to this and don’t already have an audience for your books, the most important aspect of your marketing is going to be to raise awareness of your jacket. Marketers say that a product (in this case, a book) has to be seen seven times before people become really aware of it.

You want people to go to an online store and think “I’ve seen that book somewhere before” – with enough for them to take a look at what it’s about. So make sure you use your book cover everywhere you can – in your email signature (linked, of course, to where they can buy it), on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever forms of social media you use. Just get that cover recognized (and, of course, make sure it’s a good cover). The very first stage of marketing is AWARENESS.

— — —

BIO — Rachel Amphlett

A27Before moving to Australia in 2005, Rachel Amphlett lived in the UK and helped run a pub, played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

Her thrillers appeal to a worldwide audience and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler.

With plotlines ripped straight out of today’s news, international settings and colorful characters bring the world of modern espionage to life, exploring complex technology while providing an adrenalin-fuelled reading experience.

A16

Hi, Garry — Great to hear from you, as always. Thanks for considering me for this blog post. Here are my thoughts. Hope this is of use — can’t wait to read about others’ experiences! Regards — Rachel

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

Things really got going for me in June 2014 when my third novel, Before Nightfall was released – at the same time, I’d been approached by Italy’s TimeCrime imprint to sell the foreign rights to White Gold, and there seemed to be a lot of opportunities that happened out of the blue; suddenly people were sitting up and taking notice of what I was doing. When I realized I could make a serious go at being an indie author, I spent the back half of 2014 writing as much as possible – I knew I had to build up a quality back catalog of books to take advantage of those opportunities. I started 2015 with a whole new outlook on indie publishing: I’d overhauled the covers of my first two books, I had a full-blown business and marketing plan, a production schedule, an overhauled website, and three books planned for publication that year. I haven’t looked back.

 What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

I use a combination of tactics to ensure I get the best results from a promotion. For example, for a 99c promo I’ll pitch to BookBub first, and if accepted, then I’ll email the deal to my mailing list a few days before. That gets the book up in the top of the sub-genre charts so it’s already in the top 10 for those before the BookBub promotion kicks in. I’ll then pay to advertise with a couple of other (cheaper) newsletter-based promoters two days apart to keep the momentum going. That seems to be working really well for me at the moment. I’m still in a learning curve with regard to Facebook advertising – it does well for me in relation to mailing list subscribers, but not so well for sales.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I would have published more regularly, and I would have started a mailing list a year earlier – my mailing list subscribers are the engine behind my success; they’re truly amazing. I think it’s a confidence thing, too. I didn’t believe in myself enough at the start, and that’s something that just takes time.

—  —   — 

 BIO — Adam Croft

A20With more than half a million books sold to date, Adam Croft is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world.

Following his 2015 worldwide bestseller Her Last Tomorrow, his psychological thrillers were bought by Thomas & Mercer, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. Prior to the Amazon deal, Her Last Tomorrow sold more than 100,000 copies across all platforms and became one of the bestselling books of the year, reaching the top 10 in the overall Amazon Kindle chart and peaking at number 12 in the combined paperback fiction and non-fiction chart.

His Knight & Culverhouse crime thriller series has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide, with his Kempston Hardwick mystery books being adapted as audio plays starring some of the biggest names in British TV.

Before writing full time, Adam had previously worked as an internet marketing consultant, delivery driver and professional actor. Adam has been featured on BBC Radio, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and a number of other news and media outlets.

A18

Hi, Garry — Sorry for the late response and brevity. Thank you for thinking of me. I’m honoured to be in such esteemed company! To be honest, it’s a case of keep moving in the right direction. Keep building your mailing list and your audience. FB ads allowed me to accelerate that growth by finding tens of thousands of readers in a shorter space of time than usual. Let me know if you need anything else — always happy to help. Please do let me know if you need more — this is only as brief as it is purely because I’m trying to catch up on hundreds of emails after getting back from holiday 🙂 Here are my answers to your questions:

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

Her Last Tomorrow was my 9th book. Although I’d been making a living before then, the enormous success of that book was something else entirely. It paid off my mortgage, allowed my wife to leave her job and changed our lives forever.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

Facebook Ads really tipped me over the edge and changed the way I promoted myself and my books, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. My mailing list is my biggest marketing tool by far.

 Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I would have got my mailing list set up much earlier and realised the sheer power of it. I’d also have been more productive, taken more risks and thrown far more caution to the wind. This isn’t an industry you can pussyfoot around in.

—   —   —

BIO — John Gilstrap

A3John Gilstrap  — A little bit about my background… I’ve always been a closet-writer. As a kid, I lived for the opportunity to write short stories. I was the editor of my high school newspaper for a while (the Valor Dictus, Robinson High School, class of 1975), until I quit (“You can’t fire me! I quit!”) over a lofty First Amendment issue that seemed very important at the time. My goal, in fact, was to become a journalist in the vein of Woodward or Bernstein. Okay, I confess, I wanted to be Woodward; Robert Redford played him in the movie, and chicks really dug Robert Redford.

I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1979, and armed with a degree in American history, I couldn’t find a job. I ended up settling for a position with a little-noticed trade journal serving the construction industry. They called me the managing editor and they paid me food stamp wages. I hated it. About this time, I joined the Burke Volunteer Fire Department in Fairfax County, Virginia, if only to find relief from the boredom of my job. Running about a thousand calls my first year with the department, I was hooked, and the volunteer fire service became an important part of my life for the next 15 years. In the early eighties, hating my job, I went the way of all frustrated liberal arts undergrads—back to graduate school. Earning a Master of Science degree in safety engineering from the University of Southern California, I started down a whole new road. For the next decade and a half, I became an expert (don’t you hate that word?) on explosives safety and hazardous waste. Meanwhile, I kept writing. I didn’t tell anyone, of course, because, well, you just don’t share artistic dreams with fellow engineers. They look at you funny.

My first novel, Nathan’s Run, was in fact my fourth novel, and when it sold, it sold big. At a time in my life when things were going well—I was president of my own consulting firm—things were suddenly going very well. Warner Bros. bought the movie rights to Nathan’s Run two days after the first book rights were sold, and as of this date, the novel has been translated and published in one form or another in over 20 countries. With Nathan’s Run in the can, as it were, I thought I might finally be on to something, but I didn’t quit my “day job” until after I sold the book and movie rights to my second novel, At All Costs. I figured that while one-in-a-row might be luck, two-in-a-row was a trend. So, I started writing full-time.

More novels followed, and then a few screenplays.  I was living the dream.

But I really didn’t like it much. I learned pretty quickly that when you’re born a Type-A personality, those extrovert tendencies don’t go away just because you’re practicing a craft you love. In fact, after just a couple of years of dream fulfillment, I was pretty friggin’ bored with the company of my imaginary friends, so I did something that I’ve never heard a full-time artist do before: I went back to a day job.  At first, it was just a matter of reactivating my consulting business, but then, in 2004, I was handed my ideal Big-Boy Job (that’s what my wife calls it) working as the director of safety for a trade association in Washington, DC.

That Big Boy Job lasted ten and a half years, and after that much time in the trenches of the association world, I was ready to take a step back into full-time writing. Over the decade-plus that I was with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, I figure that I spent close to 2,000 nights in hotel rooms. I have platinum status out the wazoo, and I met hundreds of very nice people, but my wick burned down to the nub and I retired from there in January 2015. You know, it’s funny. When you ask people who choose to leave a job that they liked how they made the decision to leave, the clichéd answer is, “When the time comes, you’ll know.” That’s exactly how it was for me. I just knew.

I’ll keep my hat in the safety consulting ring for a while, mostly as a speaker or a columnist, but I think it’s safe to say that I have filled out my last leave request form.

And I continue to write. In 2006, Six Minutes to Freedom was published to considerable acclaim.  My first (and probably last) foray into book-length non-fiction, SixMin tells the story of Kurt Muse, the only civilian of record ever rescued by the super-secret Delta Force. Thanks to Kurt’s cooperation (he is co-author), I gained access to people and places that lifelong civilians like me should never see.  The heroic warriors I met during that research turned out to be nothing like their movie stereotypes.  These were not only gentlemen, but gentle men, who remained free of the kind of boasting and self-aggrandizement that I was expecting.  They were supreme professionals, and very nice guys.

And through them, I got the idea for my new series character, Jonathan Grave. He’s former Delta, released from the Army under circumstances that will be revealed over time, and now he’s a freelance hostage rescue specialist. He’s the finest friend you could ever have, and the worst enemy.  No Mercy, the first entry in the series, hit the shelves in June of 2009, with Hostage Zero following in 2010, Threat Warning in 2011, Damage Control in 2012, High Treason in 2013, End Game in 2014, Against All Enemies in 2015 and Friendly Fire in 2016.  If fans like him, and if they enjoy his adventures, there’ll be many more to come.

A4

So that’s it, Garry. My history in a few hundred words.  I’m happy to participate. I hope these answers are what you were looking for. — Best, John Gilstrap

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

My “first” novel, NATHAN’S RUN, was actually the 4th novel I wrote. I never tried to sell the first three because I didn’t think they were very good. When NATHAN’S RUN did sell, it sold big. I got a headline-making advance from my U.S. publisher, and then stunning advances 23 other publishers around the world. Then there was the sale of movie rights. My second book, AT ALL COSTS, sold to similar numbers before NATHAN’S RUN was even published.

I hit the book biz out of the park at my first two swings at-bat. Then the nightmare happened: Neither of those books sold in great enough numbers to earn out any of the advances. I was able to sell my next two books for a tiny fraction of the 1st two deals, but the editor who bought them left for another publisher shortly thereafter, and the replacement editor likewise left. The books tanked and my career was presumed dead.

The climb back to the top started with a nonfiction book called SIX MINUTES TO FREEDOM, my first book with Kensington. It did better than anyone dreamed it would, and it gave me access to the community of people and toys that Jonathan Grave utilizes in the current series.

That’s a long answer to a short question, but I don’t know how else to approach it.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

I don’t think anything beats word-of-mouth. The trick is getting people to talk, and I think the only way to do that is to keep writing books. Conferences always help as a form of networking and meeting fans and fellow writers, and social media helps if you look at it as a way of helping others as opposed to a way to hard-sell your books. When all is said and done, though, it all comes back to writing good stories that are well-told. And that’s the single element over which we writers have total control.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

Truthfully, I never play the woulda-coulda-shoulda game. Yesterday is done; tomorrow’s where the action is.  My years in the fire and rescue service shaped my philosophy on problem solving.  When my job was was to bring order to chaos, “how did that happen” was a far less relevant question than “how are we going make it better”. You learn from your mistakes, sure, but its fundamentally self-destructive to dwell on them. In a very real way, whatever mistakes I may have made in the past shaped the person I am. Without those mistakes, I believe I wouldn’t be enjoying my current success.

—   —  — 

BIO — Bob Mayer

A5Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He’s had over 70 books published including the #1 series Time Patrol, Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at an undisclosed location.

A6

Hi Garry — Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll be in Vancouver later this year for the Surrey Writers Conference. Hope to see you there.  As Terry Gilliam says in the attached image: Mule-like stupidity works. Let me know if you need anything else and thanks! — Bob

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

It took me three years to get an agent and get my first book published. I’ve been making a living for 25 years since then, although what “making a living” entails varies from living in a one-room unheated apartment above a garage to Write on the River. When I went indie, it didn’t take off until I committed to it 100%. I really believe focus and commitment can’t be measured but are key. Nothing happens fast in this business so I believe the #1 rule for success is: Choosing a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes to achieve it.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

I don’t think there is one most effective form. The biggest, and hardest, thing is to get engagement. We just rebuilt my web site at www.bobmayer.com to focus on my current series Time Patrol. We made it more of an experience rather than just full of info. Every Wednesday we have a new briefing on a specific event in history. We’ll also be adding in briefings on current world situations by looking back at historical examples. A writer can’t do everything well. What works for one person doesn’t for another. I think being niche is key. Focus is key. Integrate all your efforts as much as possible. One of the hardest things is to be consistent, even if you’re not seeing immediate results. It takes time.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

The things I would have done differently? Networked more. It’s a people business. I’m traveling out to Seattle in a month or so to sit down with Amazon. I go to Thrillerfest to meet people in the business. I sat back too much and just thought I had to write the books. I’d also focus more. I wrote a lot of single titles just because I wanted to. Now I’m focusing one series, but in doing so am pulling together a number of my other series. Networking is engagement with the industry, while marketing is engagement with readers. So I go back to that key word: Engagement.

Feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming indie authors.

A bonus tipping point? Every tough training course I went through from Beast Barracks, Special Forces Qualification, Danish Combat Swim School, International Mountain Climbing, etc they say “Look to your left, look to your right. One of you isn’t going to make it.” It never even crossed my mind that I would be the one who wouldn’t make it.

—   —   —

BIO — Caroline Mitchell

A7A former police detective, Caroline Mitchell has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time.

Published by Bookouture, her DC Knight crime thriller series reached the number one position in the Amazon crime charts. The first in her new series featuring DS Ruby Preston is due for publication Autumn 2016.

Her new psychological thriller, published with Thomas & Mercer is due for publication late 2016.

Originally from Ireland, Caroline lives with her family in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. Sign up to join her Reader’s club for access to news, updates and exclusive newsletter only competitions and giveaways.

A8

Hi Garry! Lovely to hear from you. I’d love to be included in the blog post, thanks so much! I’ll answer your questions tomorrow if that’s OK. I’m coming to the tail end of some edits that I’ll be glad to see the back of. I think your blog is great, and I’m always happy for an opportunity to tweet it. Please find my responses below, let me know when it goes on, if you need anything else do give me a shout! All I ever wanted to do was to leave my job and write full time, I consider myself extremely lucky to have done so, but I also think the law of attraction helped me get there. Thanks for having me, It will be interesting to read your other responses. Speak soon, Caroline

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

I self published my first book and was very pleased with the results, but it wasn’t until I published my DC Knight series with Bookouture that things really took off. I was very fortunate, as they were building their list at that time, and actively seeking crime fiction.

 What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

That’s a good question! I would urge new writers to focus on getting their books written over anything, don’t be sucked into spending half the day on social media, because when you are discovered, readers will want a follow up to your novel pretty quickly. I’m lucky that my publishers have effectively promoted my books, but I’m also hugely grateful to the bloggers who have reviewed my work. Having said that, I would advise getting to know book bloggers before bombarding them with requests, and only submit your work for review to people who enjoy reading that genre. You can’t beat chatting to people face to face, and I find that attending social events such as writing festivals really does go a long way into finding an audience for your work. If you can’t physically attend events then join an online book club. There are lots of them on Facebook, but again, spend some time making friends and getting to know people – but limit your time so you still get lots of writing done too.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been very lucky because it all happened very quickly for me. Timing can be everything in this business, as well as writing the kind of books that people want to read.

Feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming indie authors.

I would advise indie authors to produce the most polished piece of work they can. If you are self publishing then invest in a good cover, as well as editors and proof readers for your book. If you’re submitting to agents or publishers, then conduct your research beforehand. Send a polished draft of your work and query people actively seeking your genre. Above all, don’t give up! You need a strong sense of self belief. I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction.

—   —   —

BIO — Joanna (JF) Penn

A10I’m Joanna Frances Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author. My books blend my love of traveling and learning new things with psychology and the supernatural in a fast-paced style. I’m also an international professional speaker and award-winning entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013.

I love reading and always dreamed of writing my own books, but I spent many years thinking about it before I actually took the plunge. However, I did write a lot of journals during my many years as a corporate business consultant!

I have a Masters degree in Theology from the University of Oxford, Mansfield College and also a Graduate Diploma in Psychology – both interests are entwined into my writing.

There are now 8 books in the ARKANE action adventure thriller series, described by readers as ‘Dan Brown meets Lara Croft.’

In early 2013, I wrote a series of short stories based on Dante’s Inferno for Kobo’s Descent contest, a promo for the launch of Dan Brown’sInferno. It’s now available as A Thousand Fiendish Angels.

In Nov 2013, I launched Desecration, the first in the London Crime Thriller trilogy, which debuted in the Amazon US Bestseller Crime list alongside Michael Connelly. Delirium and Deviance complete the trilogy. Readers have described the books as ‘the love child of Stephen King and PD James.’

In March 2014, I became a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author as part of ‘Deadly Dozen,’ a box-set with The Twelve thriller and mystery authors.

In 2015, I co-wrote Risen Gods, a dark fantasy thriller based in New Zealand, with horror author J.Thorn.

On a more personal note, I love reading in diverse genres on my Kindle and I put my book reviews on Goodreads. You can connect with me here. My favorite genre authors include John Connolly, Stephen King, Lisa Gardner, Lee Child and James Rollins. Here’s a list of books I love. I also read a lot of non-fiction, mostly travel, entrepreneurship, psychology, and religion.

I’m married and live with my husband in Bath, England. I’m a cat lover and I enjoy a glass of pinot noir along with consuming a ton of ebooks as my main vice. I walk a lot and traveling is my addiction. I definitely have itchy foot syndrome and I love to move on!

A9

Hi Garry — Sorry, I’ve been away on hols and just getting through email backlog! Just let me know when that piece is up and I’ll share it. I hope all’s well with you. Thanks, Joanna

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

It depends what you mean by ‘take off’? I’ve never had a break out success, just steady growth as I have written more books and built my audience. I need to do a breakdown of my sales over the last 6 years but I’d say it was 5-7 books before I started to make a low 4 figure income per month i.e. over US$1000 per month – still not enough to live on, but a start!

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

For fiction – paid email blasts like BookBub, followed by building your own email list and having enough books that readers get to know your name and want more.

For non-fiction – my podcast (which has been running since 2009).

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I’m very happy with where I am 🙂 but perhaps I would have written more fiction earlier and embraced the 99c Kindle rush in 2009-2011, which I missed because I only had one fiction book then. My lesson learned from this is that (a) things change very fast and what works now will change later (b) jump on new things quickly as they will lose efficacy.

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BIO — Scott Silverii / Liliana Hart (SilverHart Writers)

A12Scott Silverii has served as a Chief of Police since January 2011 and recently retired. Scott previously spent twenty-one years with a nationally accredited Sheriff’s Office. His career is mixed with special operations and academic achievement. Chief Silverii spent nearly two decades in high-risk assignments such as undercover work, Task Force investigations, and SWAT command. His commitment to continuing education includes a Master of Public Administration and a Ph.D. from the University of New Orleans.

Scott blends over 24 years of heart-stopping police experiences with an action packed writing style seasoned by the Mardi Gras, hurricanes, humidity and crawfish étouffée. Don’t let the easy Creole smile fool you. The Chief served most of his highly decorated career buying dope, banging down doors, and busting bad guys. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

A13Liliana Hart is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of more than 40 titles. After starting her first novel her freshman year of college, she immediately became addicted to writing and knew she’d found what she was meant to do with her life. She has no idea why she majored in music.

Since self-publishing in June of 2011, Liliana has sold more than 3 million ebooks. Her books have been translated into eight languages. Liliana appeared at #1 on lists all over the world and all three of her series have appeared on the New York Times list. Liliana is a sought after speaker and she’s given keynote speeches and self-publishing workshops to standing-room-only crowds from California to New York to London.

Liliana can almost always be found at her computer writing or on the road giving workshops for SilverHart International, a company she founded with her husband, Scott Silverii, where they provide law enforcement, military, and fire resources for writers so they can write it right.

Liliana is a recent transplant to Southern Louisiana, where she’s getting used to the humidity and hurricane season, and plotting her next murder (for her books, of course). Visit her website at www.lilianahart.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

A11

Hi Brother, We’ll be glad to do it. I’ll send it this evening. Hope this helps. Take care, Scott

How many publications did it take to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

Liliana’s career began to take a significant upward turn at about her 10th book. She had five different series out. Of those 5 series, the MacKenzie Family had 4 titles up. The other 4 series each had first titles released at that point (all self-published.) She’d established a readership at that point and lots of crossover readers from her main three series – MacKenzie family, J.J. Graves Mystery and Addison Holmes Mystery series.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

By and large, the best form of promotion is your next book. For self-published authors who publish one book and then promote it by every means other than a follow up book, will find it difficult to experience success.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

Liliana would have written multiple books in one series instead of books in multiple series. For example, she would have written only in the MacKenzie Family series until she’d released 4 full length books. Next she would have written until the first 4 full novels in the Addison Holmes series and so on for the next series.

Feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming authors.

Your time and energy is best spent writing books. If facebook posts satisfied novel word counts, each author would have a backlist of thousands of titles. Write your book – promote it, launch it, promote it some more and then focus on writing your next book – repeat this process. Spending thousands of dollars on ads for the one title just published, while facebooking about it and the difficulties, joys, challenges of that book and the next one you are considering writing is a major expenditure of effort. If you want to be an author, then write.

“But I have to build a platform – a fan base.”

If someone reads your book and becomes a fan, they will ask one question – “What’s next?” If you have nothing else, then they move to the next author who can answer that one question with, “Here’s my series of books.”

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My sincere thanks and appreciation to Rachel Abbott, Rachel Amphlett, Adam Croft, John Gilstrap, Bob Mayer, Caroline Mitchell, Joanna Penn, Liliana Hart, and Scott Silverii for sharing their time and advice. They’re truly shining examples of author success.