Categories
HM On Writing

Spoiler Alert!!!

Have you ever experienced that, after writing a review, somebody shouted spoiler alert?

I have, and that made me think. Yes, in that review, I mentioned things that emerge within the story but, in my opinion, it wasn’t the plot that moved the book forward. It was the characters and their inner lives.

Honestly, I’ve never understood why it should be necessary to keep the plot of a psychological novel a secret.  It made me ask myself if we only read to be surprised.

In that case, I’d give up many books – because the plot is too obvious. I’ve seldom been surprised but, since my childhood, my reason for reading was never to find out about the storyline. If anything, my reason for reading is to see how the author uses the plot to develop characters or vice versa. Perhaps my main reason for reading is to enjoy the language – if the author is worth his or her mettle.

Merely reading for a plot would mean that nobody could enjoy a fairy tale. This has something to do with the idea that there are only a certain set of plots to choose from. To me, it is obvious that certain plots get plenty of repeat performances. Those are: boy meets girl (romance), crime capers, fantasy, vampire stories, and even horror ditto. The Westerns also have their set course, and that goes for any genre fiction.

Does that stop us from reading? No. What keeps us reading is those little and significant differences in the way an author, any author, presents the story. It’s colours and flavours if you like. What interests a reader cannot be the plot. Perhaps the only themes that avoid that are fantasy and Sci-Fi. If the narrative includes world building it isn’t unlikely that this stands in the foreground. All the same, it is the relationships between the characters, their way to cope – or not – that captivate a reader. Isn’t it?

Why do we read? In my opinion, it is to find out what it is to be a human being. We are that close to Narcissus.  We like to hold a mirror up and see that we all are alike deep down. We may shudder to think that we could commit murder. We may get carried away into a blossoming romance. We may root for the hero – or for the charming villain.

The seven basic plots are ‘overcoming the monster, rags to riches, quest, voyage (and return), rebirth, comedy, and tragedy. In those categories, there are already similarities though. Overcoming a monster – even if it is innate in the protagonist – is similar to a quest. So is a voyage and a rebirth. All of the above can be written or told as comedy or tragedy. Rags to riches is another form of a journey and so would the opposite (riches to rags) be.

Apparently, a British economist, Francis Isidro Edgeworth was the first to use the so-called hedonometer, a method to measure happiness in writing. Later, Kurt Vonnegut used this idea to measure the fluctuations between good and evil in simple tales.

At the bottom line, it is important to remember that even if there are only seven stories, or three, or six, or whatever researchers suggest next – it doesn’t mean you don’t have a worthwhile story to tell. From a framework perspective, it may all have been done before – but only the most cynical could use that as a reason not to write. So, could only the most cynical use this as a reason not to read.

What comes to the front of this analysing lark is that we aren’t so taken with the plot as we are with exploring our humanity. So, where does a review come into the scheme of things? If all stories follow a narrow pattern, the review must be about delving into what inspired the reviewer to think. If anything did. Maybe my thought here is that a spoiler can’t spoil an excellent book – one that has more to offer than merely a plot. A book that lets the reader delve into what it might be that makes humans tick offers far more.

Hence, I dare to suggest that there’s no point in reading books that get spoiled through a ‘spoiler’.

© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM Poetry

Lover-Boy

He said: I’ll miss you too.

He said: we’ll stay in touch.

Weeks passed

*

She waited unwearyingly, trusting his words.

Once she wrote and every day afterwards

She looked for his non-existent answer.

She puzzled about it but found no reason:

Nothing to solve the riddle

That haunted her waking hours and

Turned to nightmares in the dark.

*

Remembering how it began, she wondered.

Reluctant or merely confused

He seemed arduous but sweet.

*

His passion kindled regardless of every misgiving

And so, she relaxed, accepted the marvel.

Snowed under by charming or often silly letters

She dared believing that he loved too.

*

Their intimacy soared

Lovemaking, tender and passionate

Taught her to feel sheltered and cared for

Until they were almost caught out

(Clandestine affairs never thrive)

*

At present she still sits on a monument

Smiling at grief

***

***

© HMH, 2013

Categories
HM Paintings

Anna Casamento Arrigo Mini-Series II

It is a great pleasure to present Anna’s second instalment in this mini-series, concentrating on her – other – talent. Anna is an accomplished poet and author, who has great success with her writing. Here we focus on her paintings, which are beautiful as well as unique.

***

Slowly, ever so slowly, as fluttering began in my paralyzed left hand, I began pushing its use so that I could attempt new and paintings that had had greater detail and depth. It wasn’t always easily accomplished and, admittedly, quite a few attempts ended upon the trash. Nevertheless, since this new discovery and cathartic, and satisfying release encouraged my need to bring about and, yes, even awakening of all I, just months earlier, thought all, I, was lost. My occupational therapy continued both at Kessler and, more so, at home! My second painting, using the drop method once again, I called ‘A Congregation of Swans.’

***

***

Here’s a reminder of Anna’s links:

https://www.annacasamentoarrigo.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Anna-Casamento-Arrigo/e/B00G2UY84G%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM On Writing

My Newest Reviews

Suzy Henderson, The Beauty Shop

World War II Romance

Archie McIndoe, John (Mac) Mackenzie and Stella Charlton are the main protagonists in Suzy Henderson’s WWII novel. The ‘beauty shop’ refers to the Guinea Pig Club and gives its readers a different viewpoint of the horrors happening during the Second World War, presenting the pilots who become casualties, with horrific burns, often permanent damage to their appearance, and, in many cases, their mental well-being. A New Zealand plastic surgeon, Archibald (the Maestro) McIndoe does wonders in restorative surgery at East Grinstead, the home of the 91st Bomb Group. 

From the start, Stella is torn between her proposed fiancé and the American pilot she meets, doing service at close to the airfield. Mac falls for her the moment he sets eyes on her. He admires her integrity but can help to pursue her regardless of her prior ties. Stella’s doubts about her fiancé become pressing, especially because Mac shows her admiration as well as understanding.

The Beauty Shop is not only a romance, but it gives insight into the horror of war. Ms Henderson describes war action in all its aspects when the crew can return after a successful drop, and the anguish they live though when things go wrong. This is a realistic but touching read that leaves the reader wondering about human folly. Highly recommended.

***

Pearl Tate, Bren’s Blessing

Erotic Sci-Fi Novella

Hannah is a high-ranking scientist on a solitary mission to Mars. Bren is a commander of one of many spaceships that circle the universe. Bren’s world is stagnating, due to infertility. This is a female-led world where the males must share married life with several other males. Procreation can only be achieved by insemination. These are the premises for an outer space romp that involves numerous erotic scenes and an exploding spaceship, Hannah’s.

Conquered by the aliens and taken aboard their ship, she realizes that she has become a slave. At the same time, she feels exceedingly attracted to the seven feet tall Bren, who claims ownership over her. In a mindbogglingly fast courtship, the two come together – and it becomes clear that Bren has dreamed of his human mistress for a long time. Their bonding is instant – and politically incorrect.

Pearl Tate pulls all erotic stops.

***

Mary Anne Yarde, The Du Lac Chronicles

Medieval Fantasy with a Dash of Mythology.

We are in post-Arthurian times, the Roman influence is still to be found, but the Saxon impact is strengthening. Alden, Eighteen-year-old king of Cerwin and a younger son of Lancelot Du Lac, was defeated and captured by Cerdic of Wessex. Alden has been lashed to within an inch of his life. He will be executed on the morning – but Annis of Wessex, daughter of Cerdic, has other ideas. She rescues Alden – and this is where the narrative begins.

Mary Anne Yarde weaves a tale of intrigue and violence, romance, and myth. There are vivid characters to love or hate – beautiful descriptions and excellent dialogue. All in all, there is everything that befits a historical fantasy. We are in safe hands, Ms Yarde knows how to create a believable web and hold a reader’s attention. The only thing that mars the reading experience, in my opinion, might be a moot point, but it needs a mention. So many series leave the story with an obvious hook. That means the novel has no true ending, which may fit other genres, but in this case, I at least long for closure. At 317 pages, the book isn’t too long to bring this chronicle to a more satisfying end.

***

Ellie Midwood, The Lyon Affair

French Resistance WWII Drama

A resistance-conspirator’s life is never simple. In The Lyon Affair, Ellie Midwood shows many aspects of the drama, the uncertainty, and the crises that can mar or make their existence. To survive, it is necessary to leave behind name and identity. It doesn’t end there; the resistance operator must learn to stay silent and detached. That is what becomes an issue for Blanche, newly arrived from the north of France. She enters the resistance out of conviction, but her character may not be suitable for the work. Other people in the Lyon Group are suspicious of her, but they still accept her for simple duties, like delivering a banned newspaper. The focus doesn’t stay on Blanche, and that’s what makes this such a compelling read. The gallery of strong characters is complex and convincing. There is Jules, or Marcel, which is his real name. He is young and fervent but also gets into trouble. The group leader is a strong man and manages the group carefully. When it breaks up, as all such groups may do, most of the members survive and move on to other work.

The German characters, especially Standardführer Sieves and Karl Wünsche, are vivid. They show the right mixture of humanity and nihilism to send chills down the readers’ spine.

While reading The Lyon Affair, it never occurred to me that this was the second part of a trilogy. That says a lot for Ellie Midwood’s writing acumen. Highly recommended.

***

Susanne Leist, The Dead Game

A Haunted House with a Vengeance

Vampires live disguised in a small town in Florida, mixing with the population. Newcomer Linda opens a bookshop and befriends Shana, who has an esoteric shop. There are young men and a blonde bimbo to go out with – and everything is fine until they get an invitation to a party at End House.

In Ms Leist’s village, there are several unexpected species. The hybrids, half human, and half-vampire, are difficult to single out. Then there are two groups of vampires, one of them working to protect humans and hybrids. The other group, the DEAD, wants to take over the world and rid it of human beings. Of course, the humans just want to live normal lives. Also, the village, and especially, End house, is full of illusions, some resembling the scary house in a fairground, except for the fact that they are armed with real predators and flying saws just to mention a few. The horror isn’t absent, but it is accompanied by not a few winks. It was an entertaining read that gave an insight into the antics of humans – let alone the vampires.

***

Elliott Baker, The Sun God’s Heir

The Ultimate Swashbuckler

The Sun God’s Heir has everything – ladies in distress, pirates, a proverbial wonder-woman, evil villains, heroes, comrades, magic, Egyptian mysteries, Pharaohs – and sailing ships (Windjammers). A case of less is more.

All in all, there were positive passages and well-developed characters. I’m in no doubt that Mr Baker had a whale of a time putting this tale together, and he has managed to give it some basis in the fifteenth-century reality. The sea fights are superb. The educational sword fights between the protagonist René Gilbert and his master, the Maestro are interesting and reminded me of certain passages in books by Rafael Sabatini. On the other hand, the use of metaphysical lucid dreams came across as a bit heavy-handed.

In my opinion, the use of French phrases like ‘S’il Vous plaît’ and ‘merci’ became repetitive. The triangle between René and the two heroines established the need for more books in the series, as did the reincarnated supervillain. The use of a hook at the end of the book always leaves me with a feeling of being cheated, but it seems to be the trend these days. No doubt, Mr Baker knows his metier.

***

M Ainihi, Rise

YA Fantasy

A girl, Amanda, and her father live a comfortable life together. They make weekend trips, and on one of these, Amanda finds an artefact. It turns out to be the prison, holding a jinni, Erol. Erol must serve her for the rest of her life. Amanda has no idea of the dangers surrounding her, but she soon loses her father and gets confronted with an evil Sorcerer and his creature a twisted Genie. The sorcerer sends Amanda on a quest and, unable to resist, she complies. This opens new worlds to her and forces her to change her opinion of a world where mythologies clash.

Sending a youth on a quest, a common YA fantasy idea that may seem inept, but Ainihi’s writing brings the different realms to life. This is as much a coming of age tale as a fantasy and that’s what makes it worthwhile.  The characters are solid, and all, maybe except the evil sorcerer, have a share of humanity. A fast-paced novella that serves as an introduction to the four-part series of which it’s the first part. Recommended.

***

Daniel Kemp, Once I Was a Soldier

The Key is in the Prologue

Melissa Iverson, newly orphaned and rich, plays lightly with her power and may live to regret it. Francesca Clark-Bartlett, socialite, and power-hungry is married to a man who wants to become the president of the US. Terry Jeffries is a British intelligence officer and a womanizer. These are the pro- and antagonists of Daniel Kemp’s intriguing thriller Once I Was a Soldier.

The (triangular) power game and the underlying sexual tension is one of the elements in this work, and Daniel Kemp uses it with skill. There are several levels of deception and that causes unexpected twists and turns. There is also a rampant maniac, who threatens Melissa’s life. The questions posed, span from ‘who is who’, and ‘who plays with whom’, to ‘who serves whom’, and why. Also, the identity of the maniac and his motivation comes as a shock to the unwary reader.

This is a complex and ambitious work with many characters and strong prose.

***

© HMH,2020

Categories
HM Poetry

Sea Picture

***

Beyond the obscure city’s

Green light and blue grass

Rolls the sea under the night sky.

The beach is empty, though

A boat against the current

Beats on, borne on the waves.

Incoherently, steadfastly, it

Moves into the past.

*

There the Norns spin their endless yarns,

Waiting for storms to

Upset the world.

*

We are helpless

When the fates play

And wreck our lives

Under emerald waves.

Pulled under through seaweed,

Churned in the tide,

There is no escape or sanctuary.

***

***

© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM Stray Toughts

Collective Living: A Utopia?

Does twosome bliss exist? Some people claim that it exists, but there’s little evidence of it. Most individuals seem to go along with less than ideal conditions. Ask Graham Greene, he dissects so-called happy marriages in The End of the Affair in the most appalling manner. He cuts deep, but there’s no doubt about his understanding of the mechanisms of jealousy, boredom, loneliness, and heart-wrenching sorrow that goes into a marriage.

Must we pity or envy those unmarried lovers that stand outside, longing to be inside? Maybe no good solution can be found. So many humans are lonely whether in or out of relationships. Those who know how to deal with our innate loneliness, or learn to enjoy solitary pleasures, are probably better off than everybody else.

Of course, there will always be those moments of doubt. Moments, when we crave company, but there’s nobody to talk to. Friendships may be the best alternative. Still, there’s the question of sex. Is it true that sex and marriage don’t go together too well? Promiscuous sex causes all sorts of problems. Yet, we need somebody to make love to, to feel we’re truly alive. It could be so simple if we didn’t have the idea that we can own a person. When will we learn to understand that ownership has nothing to do with love?

Love is a gift, but not a contract. Marriage may be a contract, but then it has little to do with love. Is it a common mistake that Eros and agape are one and the same? It couldn’t be further from the truth.

That brings me full circle. Would it hurt a good erotic friendship to turn away from being lovers and elect twosome and married bliss? Probably. What would model love-life be like in an ideal world? Is it possible to avoid being possessive in love? Who knows?

I suppose there were attempts to rule out such complications in the sixties’ and seventies’ collectives. If ten or more people share a living space, the questions of loneliness don’t arise. There might be other problems though. Like how to sort out practicalities: who should cook, get in groceries, clean, and do the laundry? That can be difficult in a small family unit, but would these difficulties increase, or would it be a matter of organisation. How would the free love-life fare? Nothing is simple where humans get involved.

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© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM Poetry

Eternal Friends

Noble pursuits of gracious souls

Perfume the garden where resides

That unattainable courteous devotion

Walled in by ideals or ruled out as unruly.

Minstrels build castles in the air bending the ears of

Exquisite maidens who never age or change;

Box hedges and labyrinths lead the applicants

To bowers of roses where turtle doves nest.

*

Peacocks flutter their shrill voices and

Cause the construction to tumble and fall

Dreams easily shatter when visions become overblown.

Courtly love was ever under siege:

Every victory left perpetual misery in its wake

***

***

© HMH, 2014

Categories
HM Paintings

Digital Sketches

At present, I’m figuring out what to paint next. These are my options.

The moon always fascinated me, especially the full moon. I’ve numerous sketches and photos — more or less successful — but this isn’t all bad.

You could say that this is a tropical fantasy, I’ve no idea where it came from. Maybe it was a dream. If so, it must’ve been glorious. What I like about it are the colours.

This last one, I fancy is an autumn scene. Pine tree on a beach. Again, I’ve no idea of the origin. Anyway, I believe it too could work.

© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM On Writing Stray Toughts

About Men-watching Women and Women-Watching Men and Everything In Between

People watch people. There’s nothing new in this, but the trend may have intensified over the last few decades. May I add that I’ve chosen the terms ‘woman’ and ‘man’, ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ for clarity? With the gender diversification that is an important part of our world, it would be difficult to give everybody his or her due.

Every second cover of a romance novel presents broad chests and a six-pack, preferably naked. Throw in a few tattoos and the heartthrob of the twenty-first century appears. Opening such books, it is no surprise that the content matches the cover. The heroine is obsessed with the hero’s physique and sometimes it seems that his appearance is her only criterium for falling in love. The reader wades through broad chests, strong arms, and hefty built creatures, who often haven’t got much to say for themselves. If the heroine is only interested in a man’s appearance, no wonder that she gets into trouble.

Broad chests and rippling muscles are all very well, but other aspects may help to enlighten the reader to a character’s personality.

No doubt, this mirrors the situation in the world at present. At least, in the corporate world. Nobody who isn’t groomed to within an inch of his or her life should bother to seek an interview. It is good for the beauty industry of course. It is good for the nail salons and the beauticians, and all the other well-educated people who work in clothing design or peddle the newest diet. It is good for all the gyms that sprout all over the place. People get healthier through exercising and eating healthy food.

That is all good. All the same, many people can’t afford to follow the trendy diets or get the perfect haircuts. Some of these, especially the most vulnerable, get depressed and fat through being confronted with endless youth and beauty. They may be as worthy and as intelligent as those high-flying lookers. Don’t forget, some people just can’t or may not want to follow the trends. On that note, how can we forgo mentioning the surgeons that enhance or diminish body parts according to their clients’ wishes? Botched operations can ruin lives too. Is it worth it?

To return to the romance novels and their part in this. One could add Hollywood and – Bollywood films to the offenders. Don’t get me started on the advertising world. I digress. Is there anything as endearing as the floppy male with wit? What about people with eyes to die for? What happened to intimate talks and banter? A protagonist with pumped-up biceps can never cut it compared to a man or woman capable of a well-turned sentence. Am I wide off the mark here?

I agree that there is something restful in watching a beautiful person, regardless of sex. For me, that is something different from the current trend. Long and lean muscles seem more attractive to me, compared with the gym fabrications. Tell me what is wrong with a small pot-belly – if it’s combined with a soul? At the end of the day, how many men – or women – have ‘perfect’ bodies joined with an enjoyable mind? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with natural beauty, but it isn’t the beginning or end of the world.

Free us from heroines that can’t see a soul for a display of muscles. Free us from the hero who is attached to a mirror. Free us from heroines who spend their time shopping and believe that looks alone will engender happiness.

© HMH, 2020

Categories
HM Poetry

Waterford Crystal

Prism of molten crystal

Red-hot miracle of light, heat, and skill

Fiery inferno throwing sparks and glittering shards

As the cutters scream through to the core or graze the surface

Crafting fabulous shapes and abysmal compositions.

Shapes of distinction meet frozen eagles

Or strange blossoms budding among stars and spangles

Secret visions create chandeliers that sing and glitter,

Wondrous phenomenon of this world or another.

Chalices of light shed colours of every rainbow

Dreams of waterfalls and bright green woods

Saturated with soft luminosity

Steeped in wonder

But hard as steel

Until it shatters

Turning back

To the core

To resurge

Set for renaissance

In ever changing spectres

***

***

© HMH, 2013