Categories
HM Paintings

Still-life with Chrysanthemum

This is my last flower picture – and the last in the series of cherished paintings from my childhood. I remember that we had a vase exactly like the one in the painting but don’t know where it is now. It was rather small but might have been a European copy of an Imari vase. This is another of the paintings that I found in the attic. I had it framed while living in England.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Stray Toughts

A Crazy World?

Some years ago, I purchased a keyboard for one of the ancestors of the smartphone. Recently, I ordered a reserve ‘hand’ to hold my phone and kindle. I also have a drawing tablet to use as an alternative for my mouse. Why? The strain of working with a mouse, typing on a small screen, and clicking on links got too much for my hands, shoulders, and arms. To think that it needs to be so complicated. Yet, handwriting strains as much if you write a lot. Imagine all the letters it would take to keep up with online acquaintances – and add the work one puts into a book. My shoulders would be permanently attached to my ears if my only option were handwriting.

Was it easier in the days of the first typing machines? Clearly, social networks and the entire networking philosophy have changed the way we live. Would we want to change it back? My answer would be a resounding NO. We live and fit into the circumstances our society offers – and it is good so.

We can discuss the environmental impact on the world we live in until we are blue in our heads, but we still have little influence on innovations. Sometimes, it feels as if every development necessitates another, and we, the humans, stand by with no power to change what we call progress. Did people ever influence the world? We seem to float along a stream, never knowing where it will take us. Then we talk of destiny or fate and wash our hands. Still, one person against the world never makes for much of a change. Of course, we can always fall back on that story of the woodchopper who became president of the United States.

There will always be solitary voices that have an impact – for better or for worse.

Don’t forget that some of those solitary voices have brought war and misery rather than good to the nations. Having said that, it is still true that we can take baby steps towards a better world. How? Through our way to tackle the world. Through our words and convictions. We can create an impact in our sphere of influence, but if we don’t all pull in the same direction at the same time our efforts won’t leave more than scratches on the surface. There is much to be said for our modern world – but the negative impact that our way of living causes may well outweigh the good parts. Maybe it has always been this way. History certainly comes across as a series of blunders that got repaired, sometimes less than adequately. Still, if we don’t dare to hope and, buoyed up by such hopes, act, we will fail.

How can we avoid facing that we live in a complex world and that platitudes won’t cut it in the big picture?

Alone, we don’t amount to much. We need solidarity but, more than that, we need a consensus about what we want from the world, and what we will give to achieve our goals. Life will always remain an enigma – but we have a right and a duty to make the best of every day. Who said that life was going to be easy told a lie.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Falling in Love

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Blissful state that tumbles kingdoms

Frees the wary from their phantoms

When the naughty boy of misrule

Fires arrows wild and cruel:

Every hit can start rebellions

Bring on unrestrained illusions,

Landscapes razed by fierce accension

Just to gain that sad attention.

Once achieved the game is up

Blindfold lad has drained his cup

Lost his interest, moved askance

Searching for his next big chance

Young or old is no great matter:

One becomes mad as a hatter

Others shrug the arrows off

Grin and bear it, do not scoff.

Everything remains a choice

Nothing, reason to rejoice.

Go the distance if you dare

Sure, the chubby wouldn’t care

Easy come maybe, or go

Love at random: ever so

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From Aspects of Attraction

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© HMH, 2014

Categories
HM Paintings

Chrysanthemum

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Somebody in my household must have had a penchant flower-paintings: my third childhood painting instalment is a lovely rendition of golden chrysanthemums in a vase. This may not have been my parent’s style though, because I found some of the best flower paintings in the attic. This is one of them. The frame is the original one and had to be carefully restored. Curiously, the frame was made of gypsum and the restoration may not keep for more than ten years. I’m keeping an eye on it. . .

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM On Writing

A Good review?

What is a good review? It is helpful. It is fair. It is honest. It isn’t venomous, or destructive.

All authors experience negative reviews, and that is all right. We can’t expect to please everybody. Naturally, there are various approaches to reviewing, and that leaves us with a few questions. What is a ‘bad’ assessment? And what is a ‘good’ appraisal?

All authors and readers probably have their own ideas of what should go into a review. Some think that so-called spoilers will ruin a book, but to me that depends on the book. If it is a crime thriller, obviously, it would be wrong to reveal the killer or the perpetrator. On the other hand, in literary and or speculative fiction it matters less – especially if the plot is less in focus than the characters.

In my reviews, I aim to give an idea of what the readers can expect, not necessarily giving a plot outline but, maybe mentioning elements that struck me as important. To me, it also seems important to give an impression of the atmosphere and use of language that the author applies to bring the book to life. I find it interesting to analyse the characters and how they develop through the plot or their circumstances.

Reviews don’t need to be long, but it is fine to mention issues that stuck the reviewer as especially apt, or especially unlucky. If we aren’t honest in our analysis, our description of the experience, reading a book – why write about it at all? If there are some mistakes in research or some issues with grammar or typos, the reviewer must be careful about how to approach these problems. In my opinion it isn’t all right to say that a book needs editing without stating why. Use examples – or don’t mention the issue at all. This isn’t about anything but fairness. If one writes a review in which one throws about negativity without underlining it with examples, it stops being fair.

Is it better to contact the author privately with critique? Some reviewers think so, but that would stop their review activity if they don’t know the author personally.

So, should we refrain from pointing out mistakes in a review? No. We can do it – but be gentle about it. If a book appears too ineptly written, it may be better to drop it, and leave the author in ignorant bliss. . .

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Musical Birds

Violin drills emerge from the trees

But nobody glimpses a fiddler, a source:

Blackbirds can emulate any one sound

They relish a challenge for fingers or throat.

The robin however, his red breast afire

Sings harmony, filled with enchantment, desire

His voice trills and ululates; he measures invention

Forms pictures of bliss while he waits for his cue

Both birds are such artists of musical skill.

We rarely can match them

Their gift or their flair has style and panache

Primeval and deep, full of beauty and nerve

Their offerings echo in ear and in mind

Give challenge or discord

But mostly delight

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© HMH 2013

Categories
HM Paintings

Irises

The second painting from my childhood home is a flower painting. There is no signature, but it doesn’t really matter. This is a beautiful painting that I’ve loved for a long time. It had an accident Many years ago – a boy was playing ball in the corridor where the picture hang – and the ball hit it. It lived on for a while in this decrepit state. Then I decided to do the only possible thing to save it, cutting off the damaged part. Maybe it improved the painting as the focus is strong on the flowers now.

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM On Writing

My First Reviews 2021

SS Bazinet, Dying Takes it out of You

A deadly Virus

A deathly disease that turns its victims into monsters. Two brothers, single-cell twins that are in a way mirror images of one another. One is a scientist the other an artist. Their names are aptly chosen, Milton and Dory, which name gave me associations to Gustave Doré, the artist that brought Milton’s Paradise Lost to life.

Dory has contracted the illness that turns people into a mixture of vampire and rabies victims. Milton fights to find a cure. Their history is fraught with conflict, not the usual sibling rivalry, but a conflict between Dory and their father, who saw the younger twin (Dory) as a head case. Add to the mixture a mysterious character, Thomas, who might be an angel. That was my immediate reaction.

This triad of archetypes combines in a mind-reading feat that takes the reader through lucid dreams and swivelling nightmares, in a setting that shows us our deepest fears and highest hopes. This is dystopian fantasy on a high level, as one would expect from SS Bazinet. Seen through the times of the Coronavirus, there is something visionary about the scenario – the deathly virus and the insanity that grabs people in a frenzy when confronted with a plague. Bazinet has created a dance macabre – a memento mori – for her readers.

Two Brothers, Dory, and Milton

John Milton Paradise lost – of Satan, and the host of fallen angels warring the righteous angels, of Adam and Eve.

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SL Baron, Blood Ties

Vampires Mourn

Militancy is at the core of this daunting Vampire Tale that follows Vanilla Blood. SL Baron keeps up the hedonistic aspect of vampirism, notably the various blood tastes, but the odds are harder. Bridget, an elder vampire must deal with the loss of her beloved Sébastien who gets shot in a terrorist attack in Paris.

As a result, the united vampires stand up together to fight against terrorism. All of them come together and, although they must face old foes, they join their efforts to prevent further unnecessary and tragic deaths.

We meet The Children of the Night, Livia, her lover Lucian, and her daughter Cassie Lynn in this stirring novel that tackles a difficult reality that concerns every human being. It is impressive that SL Baron manages to keep her writing light and entertaining without losing sight of the hard facts of modern life.  

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Uvi Poznansky, Apart from War

Three in One

The Music of Us/Dancing with Air/Marriage before Death

It wasn’t difficult to step into the third part of Still Life with Memories – in fact – it didn’t occur to me that this wasn’t the first book of a series. Apart from War can be read as a coherent trilogy. That speaks loudly about Uvi Poznansky’s writing acumen.

The love story between the two protagonists, Lenny and Natasha is heart-breaking and profound, although Natasha’s proverbial Jewish Mama brings in comic relief and sometimes some darker notes.

What stroke me most in these books – apart from the flowing prose and immaculate historical research were the strange music choices. I asked myself if they might be a symbol of the innate trouble in the relationship between Natasha and Lenny? Could it be a symbol of Natasha’s oncoming Alzheimer’s? Or was it a matter of little musical knowledge?  One thing is clear, all or several song lyrics have been changed. Sometimes the change is subtle, like in The White Cliffs of Dover. In others, it is blatant, like changing the nightingale in Berkeley Square from singing to silence. In another song, what sprang to mind was that Vera Lynn never doubted that we’d meet again. I could go on, Night and Day, changed to Dark and Light. So, in Make it one for my Baby and One more for the Road, the baby suddenly became heartbreak and the long road – love. That is not all.

In Natasha’s first concert appearance in these books, she is part of a camp event – a musical entertainment for the troupes. She is scheduled to play Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto – without an orchestra? Wisely, she changes her mind and plays God Bless America. By the way, that is a major shift. Her second concert, which takes place in Carnegie Hall is dedicated to Mozart’s Requiem. I can understand the symbolic value of using a requiem (which involves an orchestra, a choir, and four soloists) as Natasha’s program. She certainly explains that her father transcribed it for four-hand piano. While there is a four-hand transcription by Carl Czerny, I find it hard to imagine that feat boiled down to two hands – without losing some substance. Why doesn’t Natasha play anything that is written for piano? In my mind, it must be a choice, deliberately made. Would I have done this? Perhaps – and then again perhaps not.

All that aside, Apart from War presented an absorbing world to dive into for any thoughtful reader.

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Susan Finlay The Secret Town (Project Chameleon)

Chilling Instalment in Project Chameleon

Claire and Steve have barely made it out of France after the kidnapping of their youngest child. They are in Holland – and have no idea where to go next. A friend seems to have the solution: a secret town in the US.

At first, everything seems idyllic, but impressions can deceive. After a few weeks, the nightmare starts again. The family pulls together and finds friends in unexpected places.

Ms Finlay works her suspense and makes the reader doubt everybody. Her writing flows, and the characters are lifelike – showing their fear and doubt and – eventually – disgust with their situation. Through twists and turns, Ms Finlay pulls her readers into the story and make them share the angst of her protagonists. In this part of Project Chameleon, we are on the edge between a cosy mystery and a thriller. Any fan of mysteries will enjoy The Secret Town.

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Penny Hampson, An Officer’s Vow

Regency Drama with a Plucky Heroine

Lottie flees her obnoxious cousin. Nate Crawford is on his way home after being wounded in battle. Lottie is on the run, from an unwanted suitor. Nate believes that his life is at an end because of his crippling injury. They meet – and their tale begins.

In this regency drama, Ms Hampson pulls all stops and throws in Lottie’s friend Harriet Spencer, French spies, a duke, his friend and secretary, the leader of a bawdy house, as well as various people serving the main characters as maids, innkeepers etc.

An Officer’s Vow throws a different light on the regency period than the books by Jane Austen that concentrate on character development. Here the reader will find tumult and erotic entanglements, all presented in pleasant prose that is easily read. All in all, this escapist confection that is ripe with romance and imbroglios will delight lovers of Regency romance.

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Eva Pasco, Underlying Notes

Perfume and Music Play on All Your Senses

Landing inside Carla Matteo’s head as she is in the throes of night sweats, the reader immediately enters the action in Underlying Notes. What kind of life is it? On the surface, it’s a simple life. Carla is married to Joe and has been his true helpmate for years. Underneath there are all sorts of disturbing factors, which is mostly the case for married people. Is it fair to speak of a midlife crisis? Perhaps even mention a marital crisis?

Joe may or may not have extramarital activities, and Carla has made career choices that she may or may not regret. Add to that a cast of Italian family members – possible mob connections – former and current friends, Italian food, and music, spanning from the 1812 Overture, over The Hollies and The Beetles, to Andrea Bocelli and Italian schmalz. In this way, Ms Pasco confronts her readers with a many-faceted, fragrance rich environment.

On top of it all, resides Carla’s love for perfume. It is her refuge and passion, as well as something she has investigated for years, notably on a website for fragrance aficionados. Thus, a new career opportunity surfaces but dwindles as fast, due to a stuck Amtrak train and a long taxi ride.

Below and above there is food, fragrance, unbridled marital lovemaking, and music to heighten the senses. In Ms Pasco’s flowing prose, and through her insight into human nature, this becomes a mesmerizing tale about humanity.

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Debi Ennis Binder, Dragon Rings

Epic Saga Taking Place in the Fantasy Realm Nesht

The kingdom of Nesht is ripe for attack. Blue humans of a vile disposition have subdued dragons and enticed slavering beasts to assist their assault. In Nesht, the attack comes unexpectedly. Will the king and his retainers, including high witches and warlords succeed in defending the vulnerable kingdom?

Ms Binder has chosen to write her saga in third person omniscient and that gives her the option of moving between the character viewpoint at will. It fits the genre; Binder has a tale to tell. It is dramatic and there are plenty of twists to keep the readers’ interest.

My only objection to her writing style is the use of the word ‘f**king’, which seems an uneasy fit. This word only appears in speeches when the characters are in heightened emotional situations. My problem with the usage is that it doesn’t work. Why? It sticks out like a sore thumb because the dialogue is otherwise polished. Also, it seems unlikely that the characters using this word wouldn’t as they have an inherent connection to their sexuality. In my opinion, it might have worked better either to leave this word out as being redundant or to coin a forceful expression to convey the character’s distress or anger.

Dragon Rings is an epic tale with gruesome monsters, humane dragons, formidable witches, notably the high witch, Mayra ara’Ferren. She gets assistance from likely as well as unlikely corners. Still, betrayal, treason, and selfishness endanger everybody. Ms Binder creates gruesome war scenes, romance, and (unlikely) friendships. She builds a world of magnificent landscapes, castles, gardens, and wonderful libraries. All in all, this is an entertaining and exhilarating read that will attract lovers of fantasy. There are philosophical aspects for literary connoisseurs, but first and foremost, this is a sprawling fantasy, which has a clear-cut ending but also the potential for a continuation.

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Kevin Ansbro, Kinnara

Modern Time Fantasy

A chilling start. Three strains twisted around one another although taking place in three distinct corners of the world. Norwich, Kaiserslautern, Phuket. Hannah and Callum who are schoolfriends fated to fall in love, a quirky parental quartet, The Kinnara – part human and part swan – who is condemned to spend his life immobile in the Andaman Sea. An insane serial killer. Oriental heat and fragrance. Murky Germany. Upright – or downright Norwich. These are the elements of Ansbro’s Time bending fantasy in which the multiple points of view take the reader effortlessly from character to character and from country to country.

It is hard to say where Ansbro’s writing excels more – in the violence of the killer or in the fabulous ocean images that he presents. One thing is clear – this is a master at his art. The characters are vivid – from the young lovers to the Thai guy who befriends Callum – and from the serial killer (who will chill the reader to his or her bones) to the Kinnara, around whom the entire plot pivots.

Ansbro has a penchant for describing anything, from the Boxing day tsunami over the featureless Kaiserslautern area to the quirky Norwich family life, in a way that captures the readers’ imagination and takes her or him on the magic carpet flight of his inspiration.

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©HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Fable

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It has happened before but can’t happen again

When fairy-tale whirl reaches everyday kin.

Life becomes new as one kisses a frog.

Princes will naturally just feel agog.

Yet infinite wonders can sometimes restore,

What panic of fantasies cannot deplore:

More marvels and miracles vested in fable

Than muses and monsters divest with a sickle.

Ideals and those deeply rooted convictions

Must falter and die through the witches’ predictions.

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We simple humans have none but restrictions

To savour the plot first compels predilections.

Mostly the outcome of winning huge prizes

Summarily ends in unwanted surprises.

Phenomenon instantly vary their guises

And force man or woman to grow several sizes.

Surely the answer to such cataclysms

Would give the brave cause to re-enter the prisms

Where light and the colours of life turn and tumble

The point of the matter brings zest to the humble

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© HMH, 2014

Categories
HM Paintings

Old House

It occurred to me to share some of the paintings that have been part of my life since my childhood. The first is interesting because I have a photo of the house in the painting. Also, the signature, HW doesn’t reveal much about the artist. However, this painting could have been part of my great-grandmother’s belongings. The photo suggests that she might have found and bought the painting on Bornholm. The other possibility is that an artist friend painted it for her. To be honest, there is a third option. My great-grandmother could have painted it, but nobody knows for sure. Her initials were the same as those on the painting.

© HMH, 2021