HM Sketches


Digital Sketch
HM On Writing

Review Time

Rebecca Bryn, Touching the Wire

Harrowing and Realistic

Touching the Wire is about guilt and shame. It analyses complexities that we habitually manage to avoid. It’s about surviving under impossible conditions – or chose the only way out. It’s about facing life when you wish to die. This book takes its readers down the abyss and leaves us no option but facing the horror that is deep inside every human being.

Shame and guilt are hard taskmasters. Rebecca Bryn shows the agony and regret, the love lost and the emptiness – the pain — and the forgiveness. Her strong prose makes the protagonist’s humanity realistic. She creates a balance between his background and remorse. Here is a vivid and absorbing read that will make you think — and think again. Highly recommended.

James Donaldson, Witching Hour

An Entertaining take on Cults

A doomsday setting, a blood cult, a damsel in distress. A hero who takes on an entire village in an endeavour to debunk the myth that holds the cult together. The elements of Donaldson’s Witching Hour are simple, but he adds some unexpected twists. The proverbial brawny henchmen add comic relief, but the protagonist, the hero, Nash knows how to fight. Nash’s thoughts sustain the plot in an entertaining read that will keep his readers enthralled.

Kate McGinn, Winter’s Icy Caress

FBI, Vengeance, Ice, Love, Betrayal

Kate McGinn is a good writer – I read one of her short articles, which was brilliant. In the hope that her novel writing would have the same standard, I bought Winter’s Icy Caress. There is much to say for her writing, the prose flows and the storyline benefits from her skill. On a personal note, her heroine’s obsession with her love interest’s looks became repetitive. Other than that, the plot was engaging with many twists and turns. McGinn keeps her readers guessing.

Cindy Davis, Final Masquerade

How to Escape the Mob

Witnessing her fiancé murder his best friend pivots Paige Carmichael onto a headlong flight. Without time to consider the danger, she takes some money and a precious coin out of her fiancé’s safe. Then she absconds with her booty. Her hope that clever disguises will help her gain safety backfires again and again. So far, this novel doesn’t distinguish itself from most suspense fiction. What makes it stand out is that the protagonist learns that there’s more to life than shopping and looks. At first, a shallow character, Paige learns that friendship, honest work, trust, and love for pets, as well as humans, enriches life. Recommended

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps, Wham

Dystopian Fantasy

Wham is a fitting title to a dystopian scenario that hits you between the eyes. There are elements of Margaret Atwood in the class divisions, but the authors have their own style. They bring across their message with compelling prose. The characters, be they elves, fairies, wizards, potentates, or ‘ordinary’ school children, are convincing and real. The world building is as strong, and the wasteland of the ‘normal’ world contrasts resoundingly with the hidden fairy country. As the first book of a series, it sets the scene for coming adventures. Here, my personal view is that ‘Wham’ is too short.

For me, the problem with series is that the necessary hook often leaves the reader without a sense of closure. True, if the ending is definite, there’s no reason to continue. All the same, there are several examples of series (e.g. by Guy Gabriel Kay or Ursula Le Guin) where every part has a conclusion, although the readers want to know what happens next.

This doesn’t detract from the excitement and heart-stopping agitation that Wham gives its audience.

Soleil Daniels, Halfborn

A Confrontation with Guilt

Coral hides. Her occupation is staying away from people — unless her needs force her hand. That’s when she seeks society, knowing that she must clean up afterwards. Money isn’t a problem, but her cravings are. Mostly she is in control and does only what is necessary. Enter Marshall Kevin O’Neal, and Coral’s life changes forever. She loses control for the first time in her life and there’s no way back — neither for her nor for him. His suffering makes her aware that there are questions to answer. The only problem is that she doesn’t know where to find the necessary knowledge.

From then on Coral’s life becomes one long trip. She must tackle her guilt, although she has no idea of the reasons behind her action. She and Marshall go on the road, to escape the consequences of their actions and to find out what they’ve become.

This is strong meat and an unusual twist on vampire mythology. Daniels presents an allegory that shows how lack of knowledge can pull people out of their comfort zone. Bonded in their lust and guilt, Coral and Marshall must learn who they are or face the consequences.

The characters are believable and engaging, but more than that, their troubled journey creates a brooding backdrop for the conflict they face.

William Gareth Evans, Within the Glass Darkly

A Traditional Vampire Tale.

WGE draws on the original vampire mythology, as narrated by Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker. Their inspiration partly originates in Hungary, with Countess Elizabeth Báthony (1560-1614), a serial killer of magnificent proportions. It may not be the greatest wonder that the vampire idea caught on in the nineteenth century, when female sexuality was ignored, and male sexuality was repressed.

WGE spins his tale, using some of the well-known Le Fanu characters, as well as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Van Helsing. The action takes place around the Parisian Vampire Theatre that Anne Rice celebrates in her vampire series.

With all these references, it is astounding that WGE manages to present his personal take on the mythos. He does it with panache and conviction, adding his own ideas and bringing his celebration of this bloodthirsty chapter in literary history to life. The introduction of a male counterpart to Carmilla, works wonders. The age-old vampire is a formidable fiend. His first killings make your hair stand on end. To find out more, read Within the Glass Darkly.

Millie Thom, Shadow of the Raven

Finding Balance among Vikings

In Mercia, the Vikings raid with impunity. That makes it easy for an envious brother to stage fratricide and usurp power. The true king’s family suffers the consequences. Millie Thom brings the political tensions, the greed and resentment to life. There is a gallery of believable characters, led by to boys, Eudwulf and Alfred. Through his captivity and thraldom, Eudwulf becomes familiar with Danish everyday life. To survive, he gets involved and learns to appreciate that Vikings aren’t all monsters. That doesn’t mean that he stops wishing for revenge, both against the Viking that killed his father and against the Mercian Traitor.  Back in Mercia, Alfred lives a toddler’s life, although he early develops an awareness that not everybody can be trusted.

Ms Thom shows her deep understanding of the historical period and presents her readers with a vivid tapestry of heroes and villains, Christianity and Norse mythology, day to day life, festivities, and raids. The battles are brutal. The love scenes are mesmerising. In short, nothing is missing in this glimpse of ancient times. A well-rounded read that is engrossing from the beginning to the end. Highly recommended.

HM Poetry


On naked feet

Tiptoeing through rustling leaves

My ascent lithe

Lonely girls reach

For tenuous calm, in time

To their dropping steps

Empty boats quiver

The water is motionless

Soon the sun descends

Bare feet ascend

Never was my step lighter

Rustling leaves fall

 © HMH, 2018

Drawings HM

Costume Sketches

Welltodo farmer
Three young lassies
Boy with goose

These sketches were for a production of Hoddinott’s Children’s Opera, What Fater Does is Always Right.

© HMH, 1987/2019

HM Stray Toughts

Bedtime Story

There’s nothing like my bed. When the pillows are arranged and I dive under the duvet, ready for an evening of writing and reading, it’s bliss. One of those moments when it’s impossible to deny that life is wonderful. To think that it’s a habit to go to bed. Every evening ends with a quiet time. My laptop and pad are ready for my thoughts. Even the most inane ones. What more does a person need?

The frustrations – the daily frustrations disappear. It’s time to snuggle and take delight in simple pleasures as above. True, this isn’t the only use that a bed provides. Let me not digress. Yes, let me. A bed is for sleeping, right? False. A bed is also for sleeping. It is for quiet talks at the end of the day — if one has somebody to share intimate thoughts with. It’s for passionate love-making – if one gets there and doesn’t resort to the floor or a kitchen table. Beds are far superior though.

Beds are for building caves with blankets and duvets and pillows, or for staging pillow fights. The last idea may not always be appropriate. On the other hand, beds are versatile. They may not be the best site for extensive breakfasts, especially because of the crumbs. A cup of tea or coffee works, if one doesn’t spill it. Film viewing? Sure thing. Telly? Not for me. My preference is settling down for a writing session. A few cars pass, or a couple of girls chatter. Then the street-noise calms. The flat is darkened except for a small table lamp beside my bed. My feet get warm and my mind soars. What will be my theme tonight? Will it be a rant, a short story, musings about my work in progress? It all depends on what’s uppermost in my mind.

Sometimes, it’s just a blow by blow account of the day. Not so interesting, but probably practical. It’s difficult to remember when certain affairs started or ended if one doesn’t write them down. The best moments happen when a sudden idea develops. Beds are fertile for busy minds. Or is it the other way round? Can beds make busy minds fertile? That makes sense. If they (the beds) also help procreation – that’s another matter altogether. That is, if procreation doesn’t take over and decide to pounce, negating well-laid plans.

That was a digression. Back to bed. My bed. Warm and snug. The ultimate in cosiness. The helping hand for crying over spilt milk. There’s nothing like the comfort a bed offers a saddened heart. Yet, a bed can become your worst adversary. The enemy that won’t let you be comfortable. The lair for bogeymen. They prefer living under the bed though. Mostly, they’re easily scared away. Just turn on the light and they disappear. Pouf.

Have I forgotten something? Naturally. Beds are dream machines. Everything is possible in a bed. You can fly — and there’s no need for fairy dust. Just close your eyes and soar. In dreams, you can be a hero or a victim. You can have the entire spectrum. Want to experience being a spy? Try a dream. Want to laze your time away in a flower meadow? Nothing is easier. Want to get lost in a mysterious house that grows new rooms as you roam? Close your eyes and find exquisite tapestries, fabulous divans, shadowy corners, and ballrooms, candelabras, or staircases going up and down and in circles. Careful that you don’t get dizzy. The next you know, you wake up, stretch, and a new day begins. Alternatively, it’s still night. Ah, but that is a bonus. That means time to start over.

Read a little, turn out the light and the dreams wait, just around the corner of the pillow. Don’t despair if sleep doesn’t come instantly. That gives time for reflection. Only, don’t think too hard. Muse upon something pleasant. Take a sip of water. If necessary, take a turn in the darkened flat. Certain yoga positions can be practised in bed. Wiggle your toes. Arrange your pillows. Sooner or later, everything will come together and harmony reign. If it doesn’t, don’t curse the bed. It provides the nest, but it can’t take away your improper thoughts. Improper for creating harmony. All other thoughts are proper.

Welcome. A bed is a kingdom in miniature. Use it but don’t abuse it. It’ll always be ready to welcome you, give you warmth, and a good night’s sleep. Enjoy.

© HMH, 2019

HM Poetry

Prima Donnas

Moaning like cats and crying like babes

High-strung coloraturas and heart-wrenching bel canto,

Taut necks and folded wings,

The singers hold forth in the high street of fish town

Gulping out sounds that stop the traffic on a weekday like all others.

Inscrutable yellow eyes muster the audience

While muscles support challenging lovelorn chants

The prima donnas give encores and stretch their necks

Letting the tone surge and rip. Cascading laughter ensues

Now a lyrical intermezzo — now a slow dance to enhance the concert.

Flash mobs or buskers hold nothing against such performers.

Talents ripen through natural selection.

In the night the chorus takes over and holds forth,

Accomplishing Wagnerian chords with untold stamina,

Serenading sleepers, drunkards and lovelorn stragglers

Into the wee hours.

Summer or winter matter little to the inexhaustible,

Those high-strung performers driven by instinct

Deep rooted in saltwater and pebbles

But forced by the ever changing natural, unnatural world

To nest on house tops as the beaches became playgrounds

For other two legged but wingless creatures

© HMH, 2013

HM Paintings

Untitled Aquarell

Watercolour on Paper

© HMH, 1976

HM On Writing

New Reviews from My Writing Desk

CW Hawes, A Festival of Deaths

A Piano Playing PI

Liked the setup. A female PI and her assistant (and brother), living in a thirty-room mansion. She’s ex-CIA and has connections with the local police. They do most of their work at home, contracting out the field work to other PI agencies. Her brother is a chess enthusiast: he loves food and cooking. He must convince his sister to work. Without money, they can’t get (good) food. The case is a seemingly simple missing person scenario, but it turns out to be far from simple. It doesn’t take too long to home in on a suspect, but the case grows as the brother and sister team tries to solve it. They’re up against a cult (Aztek revival). The twists and turns take them around the sewers and into natural caves located under the city. There is a couple of kidnappings thrown in for good measure, but the two siblings may not succeed, even with the help of several other PIs — and the police. Will they catch the arch villain? Is there a hook for another instalment? After all, this is the first in a series. It was an enjoyable read, but it was hard to swallow the Aztek idea. To me, it seemed too melodramatic. Still, it was an entertaining read.

Gemma Lawrence, The Bastard Princess

Meet Young Elizabeth The First.

Tudor times, Henry the eighth. The daily life of his daughters, as seen through Elizabeth’s eyes. She loves her father and tries to forget and forgive what happened to her mother. Lawrence gives the reader interesting insights into the coming Gloriana’s early life, told in her voice. The fear and the glory, the misery and the triumphs, combine in a colourful tapestry. The portraits of Mary and Edward are vivid and convincing. Above all, Elizabeth charms the reader with her candour and observations. Meticulously researched, Lawrence’s book has merit and is worth reading. Highly recommended.

Julia Schmeelk, Heron’s Bond

The Importance of being Natural

Fantasy. A world, NewEarth, a sentient planet, peopled by dragons and humans. They can talk and communicate telepathically, at least if they have bonded with another and the world. It’s necessary to be able to put up mental screens against ill-willed creatures, from miners to immature dragons. All the same, the world is in balance with the universe and itself. Schmeelk builds a world that has the potential of becoming a Utopia. Will it last? The narrative is charming and could be read by a young audience as well as by adults who like fantasy novels. A little romance, and some unlikely friendships between dragons and humans, combine to a pleasant read in Schmeelk’s easy flowing prose. The message is clear: care for the world you live in and it’ll care for you.

Terry Lynn Thomas, The Silent Woman

An Entertaining Read

The Second World War is about to begin. The first fugitives arrive from Germany, among them, there may be spies. All this seems unreal to Catherine (Cat), who has her own problems to deal with in a childless marriage. Her husband maybe never loved her, and she suffers the pangs of unreciprocated love. Her sister in law, Isobel, despises her and shows it. It’s the old class pattern: Cat comes from a less privileged family, and Isobel grabs every opportunity to show Cat that she doesn’t belong. What could possibly be worse?

Enter Reginald, an old friend of her father. They meet — accidentally — and he offers her an easy job as a courier. It gives Cat various advantages: excitement, mystery, and a bit of cash. What she doesn’t know is that the information she delivers is classified. She gets targeted by a spy ring. Then her husband, the civil servant, who carried government secrets back and forth between his home and work, gets murdered. Cat’s work gets increasingly dangerous, but she grows with the danger.

Terry Lynn Thomas develops her spy, mystery, blackmail, and suspense novella with skill. All the same, to me, the suspense didn’t quite take off. In my opinion, everything went too smoothly. It wouldn’t be fair to describe exact scenes, but there were no moments when I believed the main protagonist in real danger. This is entirely my own opinion. Certainly, many readers of cosy mysteries may find the anxiety Cat goes through absorbing. There are convincing historical details in The Silent Woman. Maybe my problem with the story lies in the character development. For example, Isobel’s attitude towards Cat is predictable, so predictable that it’s hard to imagine she may have hidden depths. My four-star rating is a nod to Thomas’ skilful prose.

Bernard Jan, A World Without Colour

A Pet Lover’s Agony

Undoubtedly, Bernard Jan wrote A World Without Colour with his heart-blood. The question that remains, when reading his short opus, is if it would have been better to wait for a little longer before writing it. Sometimes, when one writes on open wounds, the danger looms that sentiment clouds the writer’s potential. That is a pity. Having said that, I must add my condolences. It is difficult to lose loved ones. Bernard Jan shows courage in sharing that agony, but the question remains what time and distance would have achieved in refining his writing.

Ellie Douglas, Death Oh Death, Horror Collection 2

Where Does True Horror Begin?

Does horror reside among monsters or human beings? In my humble opinion, humans are far worse than monsters. It is true that bone-crushing, bloodsucking ogres are part of our worst and subconscious fears. The question is, where do these nightmares origin, if not among humans? Blood-and-gore is all very well, but taken on its own, it may rate — merely — as disgusting. Why do we fear monsters? Is their worst crime that they are like humans? Do their random acts of violence signify more than their pure monstrosity? Is it true that, among horror authors, there are two varieties? Those who evoke the monsters outside, and those who reflect on the human subconscious and wake up true horror? Ellie Douglas is efficient, but in this collection, the tale that stood out was ‘Junkyard’. It caught my attention because the monsters are human beings. This allows Ms Douglas to play with the lowest instincts that we humans share. True to her style, there’s a large amount of blood and gore too, but the focus remains on men (and a single woman). My wish would be to see more of this and less of the grisly, and strangely innocent, bogeymen. After all, they merely feed even if they do so in a spectacular way.

CA Asbrey, Innocent Bystander

Are Bystanders always Innocent?

There’s much to like and admire in Asbrey’s book. Her heroine is well drawn and believable. Even her criminal love-interest and — assistant evokes sympathy. More than that, her writing and plot arch works, she keeps the readers on their toes. The Western setting, the female Pinkerton and heroine doesn’t go through the motions but investigates every option until she reaches the inevitable conclusion. The technical and forensic part of the book is clear and convincing. Ms Asbrey adds the love-story with little strokes that develops the picture throughout the book.  Lifelike characters and no-nonsense actions combined with unexpected twists keep the readers’ interest captivated from start to finish. A well-researched and enjoyable read.

Eileen Thornton, Murder on Tyneside

Ms Thornton brings murder and jewel thievery under the same hat, adds a little spy spice and serves up an effective yarn. Her protagonist is a mature woman with a penchant for shopping and a brain to solve mysteries through sudden inspirations. As such, it is an enjoyable piece of escapism. My reservations lie in a few plot inconsistencies — a white van that plays a role is never secured — let alone searched for. Ms Thornton’s easy-going prose makes up for the inconsistencies, she is a skilled narrator. It’s easy to get lulled into the, perhaps Agatha Christie inspired, book. The characters are plausible and the setting characteristic.

Ilene Goff Kaufmann, Rhyme & Reason

Ms Kaufmann has a Message.

One woman’s life in a volume. Kaufmann is an ambitious author. What she takes on is showing a woman’s life – any woman’s life in poetry. That includes misery, loneliness, heartbreak, abuse, as well as love, trust, childbirth, faith, and loss. A difficult task, but Kaufmann writes fervently and with deep conviction.

Caleb Pirtle III, Lovely Night to Die

A Powerful Thriller

A parallel world where men are nameless and women – dispensable. An assassin who decides to go against the rules. A female attorney who finds herself up against more than she imagined. A tentative romance that blossoms in a hopeless environment. A helping hand that waits until the last second. A narrative style that touches the edge between poetry and prose. These are the elements that create a lovely night to die. A storm looms to underscore the brooding atmosphere of an unusual book from Caleb Pirtle’s hands. With a sense of style and his clipped prose, he holds his readers in suspense throughout. This book grips the reader from the beginning, and its author stays in control to the end. Masterful. Highly recommended.

Again, I’ve read and enjoyed a collection of books, spanning from light entertainment over horror to deep-felt declarations and literary fiction. It is rewarding and instructive to read, especially when one wants to give something back to the world at large. Writers can’t be writers without reading. Also, writers tend to form strong convictions about what makes the writing stand out. For me, the criterium is whether a book makes me think. Of course, an entertaining book can give reason to relax, which is a reward in itself. The be-all and end-all of the matter is that every book adds spice to life.

Remember that writers want to communicate. Therefore:

© HMH, 2019

HM Poetry

The Sea, The Sea

Pewter waves roll mercilessly

Seagulls sing their mournful songs

And disappear.

Salt sprays glint in the pale glare.

The sun is cold and

The horizon curves,

Keeping the secrets

Of impenetrable depths.

Clouds amass,

Hiding the sun

In their wet embrace.

A lightning bolt flashes.

The water springs up to meet it


The wind keens,

Beating the waves to frenzy.

The storm mixes

Waves and air

Until boundaries are lost.

The heavens and the sea,


In a violent tryst,

Fight an eternal battle

Which nobody can win.

Tranquillity descends

The liquid surface

Mirrors turquoise air.

Look in deeply,

And see your tortured soul

© HMH, 2019

HM Paintings

Blossoming trees

Digital Sketch

© HMH, 2014