Categories
HM Stray Toughts

Questions in a Time of Deathly Seriousness.

Holbein’s Physician

The Covid-19 virus spreads. It can perhaps only be seen as nature’s attack on humanity. This has happened before with plague, cholera, diphtheria, and poliomyelitis. Now the time has come to see what coronavirus, Covid-19 can do.

In between, there have been other strange attempts at wiping out humankind, like Ebola, mad cow disease, bird flu, H1N1 Swine flu, and the pre-Covid-19 viruses like SARS and MERS.

The force with which nature attacks is nothing less than astounding. Will nature succeed this time? If the virus continues to mutate so quickly and so often as it has done so far – we may not have much of a chance. Maybe the only hope is to build natural immunity. What do I know, not being a health worker or a virus researcher? Is it possible that we face a global killer?

Supposedly, there are too many who survive the current strains. On the other hand, it seems that the deaths come in bouts. Looking at the statistics, it takes a long time to recover. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones that hardly notice that you have been infected.

Is it possible that we humans are our own worst enemy? Could it be that humankind’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases? If so, what are we coming to?

It appears that a new discipline, planetary health, recently emerged. It focuses on the increasingly visible connections between the wellbeing of humans, other living things and entire ecosystems. Food for thought. What can we learn from the past – and how can we prevent a global killer? There are no easy answers. It’s a funny sobriquet though. We call it a global killer although it kills people. Maybe the rest of nature’s wonders, from trees to flowers, and animals of all sorts are better off without human beings. Who knows, once the worst menace (read civilisation) is gone, the world will recover and return to a pre-historic balance? After all, we humans have done a lot to reduce natural diversity.

Should the world recover, we may even have a chance to come back, better equipped to live and – let live.

Gustav Klimt, Death and Life

© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM Poetry

Secret Corner, Chiswick

Flanked by railroads

And fastened in barbed wire

A corner of nature

Tries its resilience

And holds out against 

Development.

Too small for buildings

Or status,

The grass grows while bees buzz and

Frogs sing

In blissful ignorance that

This spot has

Escaped progress.

Water and mud

Seep through the edges

But the scene remains undisturbed and

Forgotten

***

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

© HMH, 2014

Categories
HM Paintings

Violets

Aquarelle, on paper

Let us not forget that spring is coming.

In these difficult times, it seems more important to keep a positive outlook. Hence, a small reminder that, although nature is up in arms against humanity at present, flowers will still grow and delight our souls.

The picture today is a miniature, but I hope it says it all.

***

© HMH, 1987, 2020

Categories
HM Stray Toughts

A Matter of Choice

Misery or joy?

Figuring out what’s the matter with life takes too long and it doesn’t help get you anywhere. It’s better to concentrate on important issues. Everybody has their own dreams and goals. To me it’s writing my books, singing my songs, teaching, and everything that brings a smile to my lips. Yes, there are enough reasons to be content, sometimes even happy. After all, life is a gift to celebrate.

When the food is good and well prepared, there’s reason to rejoice. When new flowers break the ground, often in the most unexpected places, our bad mood can change for something better. When the sun shines, we get a different outlook. When it’s warm and almost feels like spring, we get courage to do what we must. Then the sun gets past the clouds, and life becomes valuable.

Sure, there are enough reasons to be sad or afraid. Still, if we succumb to that, what is there to live for? That’s it. Life is too important for squandering on worry and desolation.

Grieving is another issue. There’s no way around that, but we only grieve if we’ve lost something that meant a lot. After all, we don’t mourn for small annoyances.

In other words, there’s much in life that is worthwhile. There’s much to be grateful for, and much to applaud. Never forget that.

Is it time for celebrating life? It might well be. So many people only see the negative side to everything and lead miserable lives. What a waste.

If you make every flower you see count, if you celebrate the little joys, don’t wonder if the great joys come to stay. It’s up to you. Do you want to be miserable or do you want to see every day as a blessing? The choice is always there. It’s too easy to sink into misery. It can be tempting when the unpaid bills grow over your head, or when everyday difficulties confront you at every corner. That’s when you must stop and ask yourself what you want from life – and what you’re prepared to invest. Do you want happiness, or will you indulge in self-created misery?

The choice is ours every day of our lives.

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM Poetry

Unrequited Love

Heart-pounding breathless agony

Tear-stained stark epiphany

Surpass every reason and all-wise conclusions

Entirely thwarts better, sane, clear decisions

*

Staying calm is no real option

Torment, terrible temptation:

Love is there to stay

To bring its sufferer at bay

Easily described maybe,

Walking hand in hand,

But hard to understand.

*

Inner voices must talk sense

But outer purpose gets too tense

Why must we obey

When reason hides away?

No succour or solace 

No delight or trouble

Soothe the predisposed mind:

Drab unending dull routine

Ever smothers the reprieve

For those damned to lonesome grief

***

© HMH, 2014

Categories
Book Trailers HM

Woes and Wonders, Book Trailer

This time, my painting, picture, or drawing is a short video. Why? I want to give you some news about the coming launch of my new book, Woes and Wonders. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve prepared for you.

Blurb Woes and Wonders

Hans wants family and stability, but the Great War tears him away from home and propels him to China and a Japanese POW camp.

Ellie dreams of love and fairies but must face disappointment and a finishing school. The Great War is far away. Still, beneath her secure world hide secrets and lies.

When they meet, their love of music brings them together.

Can Hans overcome the scars he brought back from Japan? Will Ellie find happiness, or will Hans’ demons crush her dreams?

Is it possible to create a family in the depression between two world wars?

© HMH, 2019

Categories
HM On Writing

Reviews, Reviews

AL Kent, A Journey of Three Degrees

A Journey of Love?

Love of journeying? This book is in two parts. In the first, a college student (Anna) falls in love with her professor. It seems a romance bound to fail, and Anna resorts to flirt with a friend. Her love for the professor stops the flirting. Here the first part ends. To get over her confusion and — perhaps — to make something of her life, Anna goes to France for a holiday.

In my opinion, the first part worked well — it was easy to relate to Anna and her friends. The second part was for me less convincing. It was marred with too much description, making me wonder if this was a travel magazine or a novel.

In places, the narrative came across as memoir or true story. Was that intentional? All in all, the author might benefit from mixing the cards differently. AL Kent has potential.

Ken Stark, Stage Three: Bravo

A Zombie Fantasy with Unusual Aspects

 The biggest surprise in ‘Bravo’ was that the horror didn’t take the main stage in this Zombie postapocalyptic fantasy. It was the characters, full-blown and believable, that carried the narrative. True, there were the expected pro- and antagonist types, but none of Stark’s characters was set in stone. They lived through hell, and their personalities developed stage by stage. Stark presents his readers with love and hate, leading to misunderstandings and final acceptance. That made this an impressive read. True, there’s much blood and gore, and Stark doesn’t leave much to the readers’ imagination. Supposedly this is what the average zombie fiction reader expects. The question remains, do they expect the earnest warning against taking science too far? Do they realize — and value — the call for humanity? These were the elements that impressed me the most. An author must have skills far beyond creating a plot. If that skill blossoms, it doesn’t matter what means and effects he or she chooses to bring across a message. This is the third part of Stage 3, but the book can stand alone. Highly recommended

JS Frankel, Wink

An Aeneidic Quest

Virgil, a hapless schoolkid, blinks in and out of his normal existence. He is one of the ‘invisibles’, kids that nobody cares to know or befriend, a target for bullies. His father is dead, and his mother finds it difficult to cope with her loss. As his vanishing episodes become increasingly frequent, the FBI steps in to find out if they can use Virgil’s extraordinary abilities. Their probing finally propels Virgil to another place. Is it in space or in a parallel universe? Nobody knows for certain. Lonely at first, Virgil finds a brave new world and, eventually, other people. Some are friendly, but in any world, humans veer towards strife. It takes only one ruffian to topple the balance.   

Frankel writes confidently and with a deep understanding of his YA readers. There is a savour of old myths and human longings in his compelling yarn. Not only that, it is a fervent call for humanity and a warning against abusing the world, any world we might find ourselves in. Highly recommended.

Cynthia Hamilton, Girl Trap

A PI and Event Planner with a Troubled Past

Madeline Dawkins suffers from nightmares. She’s escaped her persecutors but not the aftermath of her distressing experiences. Nonetheless, she functions in society and develops two(!) businesses. Her experiences make a PI career the obvious choice, but she’s enough of a woman to love creating beautiful events. To stay efficient she had an assistant, who had to leave because of an investigation trauma. Her new assistant is untested. Madeline isn’t certain that he’ll live up to her expectations. Her partner, Mike searches one woman in LA, while Madeline must open a dormant case and take up a twelve-year-old thread in a catholic school to find another woman. Against all odds, the cases intertwine.

Clearly, this is part of a series, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out Madeline’s past. I haven’t read the first two volumes, but to me, it may have been an advantage. It amused me to put together the back story from the current happenings.

Hamilton puts her story together in a convincing fashion, although the double strain of two missing women makes for complications.

Despite the striking plot, the narrative failed to excite me.  I can’t pinpoint exactly what gave me a sense of being let down. Was it the omniscient narrator, telling me Madeline’s feelings? Was it too many adjectives? A remote third-person narrative can work, but in my opinion, it works better in other genres.

KV Wilson, Spiritborne

Shapeshifters and Werewolves Against the Inquisition

Man v Nature. The Covenant v Werewolves (Lycans) and Shapeshifters (Yeva’si). Skye Matthews experiences blackouts. They’re the beginning of a new phase of her life, a secret and dangerous phase. It takes her through her local urban landscape through secret portals to the world of Lycans and shapeshifters. In her everyday world, the Covenant reigns and wages war against everything not quite human. A tale of growing into a foreordained fate, Wilson puts emphasis on the obstacles a young woman must face. It doesn’t help that nobody has revealed this inheritance to her. It’s an interesting fact that there are parallels to the Spanish inquisition in the Covenant’s attitude to everything ‘heretic’.

KZ Howell, Dream State

A New-Age fantasy

Can dreams influence reality?

Murder, mind-warping drugs, clearheaded dreams, sex as a power game. Thriller or horror or both?                    

Edgar Cayce, the mystic and clairvoyant, features as the premise for this extraordinary tale.

Dream State draws on sleep experiments and lucid dreaming. In this connection, it may be important to remember that ordinary humans only use a fraction of their brains. This is a thoughtful analysis of the possibilities and dangers of experimenting with extraordinary minds. Recommended

Joyce DeBacco, Angel Wishes

A Gentle Romance?

Tea and comfort between friends. Will Addie choose to live for her quaint antique shop or go for a commercial career in New York? Which of her admirers will be her final choice? The childhood friend, Gabe or the flashy restaurant owner, Barry? Notable is the angel doll that infuses a red thread of wonder and hope throughout the story. Joyce DeBacco is the skilled narrator of this contemporary romance.

Ingrid Foster, My Father’s Magic

A parallel Universe, Albion, Steeped in Ancient English Myth

Esme, father Drake (Sorcerer), Fiancé Geoff (control freak and evil entity), half-sister Natasha, and childhood friend Stone. In a catatonic state, her mother is incarcerated in an asylum.

In the beginning, Esme’s father, Drake dies a seemingly natural death.

This sparks Esme’s education to become a Witch. It’s her fate to lead the witches, the wizards, the giants (Henry Brien and Helga?) the shapeshifters, and the fairies, in their fight against evil as well as for a natural, and balanced world.

JB Morris, Love Revisited

High Society Lady Meets Ex-soldier in an Unexpected Romance

Seth, an ex-soldier and Pamela, a society woman met on a plane. This apparently insignificant occurrence won’t leave their thoughts. He is unemployed and drifting, while she lives with her mother and daughter in her NY apartment. Their chance encounter sets new forces free and compels both to rethink their lives. Pamela’s mother does her worst to thwart the budding relationship. Morris takes us through the ropes and keeps us guessing.

It was easy to slip into this book and relate to its characters. Being a sequel to Seth, it shows Morris’s ability to combine back-story with developing the plot. His characters are easy to recognize and believable. Love Revisited is another take on the romance genre and works for me.

Ivy Logan, Broken Origins (The Legend of Ava)

Ava Carries the Ultimate Responsibility

Ava, a Heichi sorceress, can time-travel and sees what she shouldn’t see. Ms Logan builds the myths in this prequel to her fantasy series The Breach Chronicles on a simple premise, the interdiction against getting involved when time-travelling. Ava and her friend Selena break that prohibition and suffer the consequences. Their efforts create a worse situation than the one they wanted to avoid. The death of a young girl ultimately sparks rebellion and war between humans and supernaturals. Hence, the sorceressess’ withdrawal from the world and the beginning of the Chronicles. My only problem with this prequel is that it’s too short. Ms Logan hasn’t time or space to evolve her story. Through this, it becomes breathless and sometimes difficult to follow. Her ideas are good and deserve better.

Eva Pasco, Mr Wizardo

OZ and Kansas Revisited in Slick, Modern Writing

L Frank Baum didn’t live in vain. His inspired fiction lives and influences us to this day. So, in Eve Pasco’s Mr Wizardo. Her casual allusions to the rainbow bridge, the yellow brick road, and the other paraphernalia of OZ bring home a valid point. We need fantasy, courage, wisdom, and love to become human. To be compassionate and generous.

Doreen is Dorothy. She wears the red slippers. Of course, that’s an allusion to the film rather than the silver shoes of Baum’s invention.

Scott is the Scarecrow without a heart, Lyle the Lion without courage, and Tim the tinman without a brain. This is where the biggest difference shows. Mr Wizardo isn’t a fake. He’s the real thing and shows it through his compassion and understanding of the four misfits that assemble for his funeral.

This is a fun and appealing tale with a deep significance.

© HMH, 2019

Categories
HM Poetry

Rose’s Death

She was soft and white with striking pink eyes

Patient to a fault, unless, when gathering wool,

You happened to cut deeper than intended.

She’d nip your finger and look sadly reproachful

Until you repented and promised never to do it again.

Her brood of three,

Bundles of white just like their mother,

Were pliable creatures with rose-red eyes

Long ears and fur, pledging yarn in abundance,

But long-lived, opposing the end of their dam.

Nothing presaged her sudden demise.

One morning her life snuffed out brought us sadness

And an unforeseen burial beneath the old apple tree

© HMH, 2013

Categories
Drawings HM

Fashion Drawings

Lavender dress
White dress with Back Fastening
Pareo Dress

These drawings are all from the eighties, which is easy to perceive. I drew them with coloured pencils on paper, and they were my first attempts at designs. I sewed the first two designs and reused the fabric from the lavender dress more than once.

Two Part Dress

© HMH, 1987 + 2019

Categories
HM On Writing

Writing prompts

Do They Work?

A while ago, I visited a prompt generator and, among others, got these: The poisoned Rose and The Mysterious Yacht. I’ve forgotten the rest. Couldn’t find anything else that was remotely interesting. It made me wonder if some of these sites are condescending and expect that you’re unable to think for yourself. The issue here is that if you’re uncertain about what to write, it’s seen as a failure. There is a difference though. For me, it’s easy to figure out what my novels are about – there was always this urge to write and explore the flawed family theme. You may ask why. But the answer won’t be to find in this essay.

With short stories and especially flash fiction, the situation is different. It’s a media that I tend to see as a playing ground. Sometimes the ideas come easily. At other times, I draw a blank. Tonight is such a night. No matter, the search for prompts made me think about writing. There is an endless theme.

What strikes me about writing prompts is that getting three random, or seemingly random, words work better for me. It’s probably because three words that don’t have a superficial connection pushes my brain to make associations. Voila, the start shot reverberates through my mind. Free association is a psychological tool that works for scientists (Psychiatrists) as well as musicians (composer/songwriter) and authors. Looking back at the two prompts I noted, they appear closed in on themselves. Should one mix them up though, the situation might change. We won’t use ‘the’ but mysterious, rose, yacht, poisonous. Perhaps one adjective is enough.

Rose/Poison/Mysterious/Yacht? Is that better? Let me see. Free association brings up Belladonna. A rose is a flower, A foxglove is a poisonous flower and the poison you get from it is belladonna. A beautiful lady can be called a rose. A beautiful lady could be rich too (it isn’t a must) but a rich lady could possess a yacht. There: we’ve connected rose/poison/yacht. What about mysterious? How to bring that into the equation?

There is something mysterious about beautiful ladies. Is that enough? That is an interesting sentence. It could be spoken by a man thwarted in love. Of course, he could be rich and possess the aforementioned yacht. Would our lover be thwarted badly enough to become murderous? Would he take her out on his yacht and make short work of getting rid of her? How? With poison, and a stone to weigh her down? Does he do this kind of action often? If so, he has evolved into a serial killer.

We have a story growing with hardly any effort. It’s true that being thwarted in love doesn’t necessarily make you a serial killer – not even of beautiful ladies. On the other hand, there could be a mystery buried in there. A genetic fault that he doesn’t know about. A childhood trauma that is buried deep in his subconscious. That would open an avenue for a psychologist – a criminal profiler – to take on the case. All of this it’s up to the writer to make plausible and bring together in a coherent plot. Without these jumps through several mental hoops – no story.

We’re far away from a logical plot, but it’s just a matter of letting the ideas mature. Don’t force the issue. Let the concept simmer for a while. The essence will generate a story – sooner or later. This is a game, but it helps to stimulate the creative muscles. So much is clear.

Next up is writing the story. Come to think of it, this idea is so complex that it could be fleshed out to a mystery novel or a thriller. If it must be a short story, it might be sensible to discard part of the associative ideas. Leave out the mystery and you have a revenge story. Leave out the beautiful lady – and you could write nonfiction about poisonous flowers. Not so appealing maybe, but people need to know about nature’s dangers. There are too many vegetable poisons. You don’t need a speckled band to traverse a small hole in a wall for creating suspense.

© HMH, 2019