flying saucersWhere the English use the expression 'too many balls in the air', the Dutch say 'too many saucers in the air'. Either way, this is how I feel in the last weeks before my summer break. Too many deadlines and last-minute better-fix-it-ugly-than-don't-fix-it-at-all actions.

In my daily occupation, I am responsible for providing our 500 international students with the necessary English-language information. This means coordinating the translations of courses for our nine Bachelor's programmes in English, publish news items, fill our FB page, update the website, write the brochure, etc. The major part of these documents I translate or write myself. In the first six months of this year the number of words I spat out was enough to fill a medium-sized novel, a cool 70,000 words.


Next to that, I have recently been added to our international recruiter team, with the specialisation UK and Ireland. This is new territory for me and for our institute. The Netherlands is flooded by UK students seeking cheaper higher education but so far we've not benefitted from this new source of income. This means setting up a network, making an indepth study of the programmes we have on offer, learning all the additional legal requirements students have to meet when embarking on a study with us. Fun but tough!

Last but not least, our International Office just merged with the Marketing Department under a new manager with lots of changes and sudden personnel hiccups that aren't making a day in the office the smoothes of rides.

So far about the workfloor. Also my family circumstances, the illnesses of my children and the mourning of my daughter and dog, have taken their toll on my energy.

But... soon...

on 17 JULY my time is coming! I will finally be able to do some marketing for my two poor books, sitting quite forgotten on their Amazon and Nook shelves. Also finish the first draft of Book #2 of The Jenna Kroon Series, The Farm on Nieuw Land Road. For me no exotic trips to faraway islands, no drowning in a soaked-through tent down by the river, no tiring my feet and pestering my ears in an overcrowded theme park. I'm happiest when having time to write, to read, to do some gardening and be around my sons.

All I hope for is a blessed summer month.



Today we embark on a great new adventure in the field of author interviews: a cross interview. I interview the lovely Christy Jackson Nicholas and in turn she interviews me on her blog. Enjoy an insight into the inner workings of two Tirgearr authors who just met each other across borders.


Christy Jackson Nicholas is the author of Legacy of Hunger, which is due out in Autumn 2015. She already has two other books published by Tirgearr Publishing.

Mythical_Ireland_by_Christy_Nicholas_200 Stunning_Scotland_by_Christy_Nicholas_200 Hi Christy, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

That’s not an easy answer. I was conceived in England, born in Denmark, lived in Dearborn, Michigan until I was 8, and then south Florida until about 15 years ago. Since then I’ve lived in north Florida, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I guess I’m a bit of a gypsy at heart!

That sounds like an excellent background for an author. Can you tell us a little about the setting of your new book Legacy of Hungert? Why did that place speak to you?

The book, Legacy of Hunger, is set in 1846. The main characters start out in Pennsylvania, and then travel to Ireland in the midst of the Great Hunger, commonly referred to as the Potato Famine. Ireland is my soul’s home, my ‘anam bhaile’. The first time I visited, almost 20 years ago, I felt immediately at home. I’ve been five times now, and will retire there some day. The magic of the land and the people have something integral within them that I must share with others. The novel is set in several of my favorite places – Ardara, in County Donegal, Achill Island, and Kenmare in County Cork.

Oh, I can totally relate to that. The place where your soul can rest its feet. What inspired you to write in the first place?

Actually, finding my father after searching for him for fifteen years inspired me. He never knew I existed, and when I finally found him, he and my mother got together and got married for the first time. I knew that had to be a love story – so I wrote my first novel. It was addicting.

You truly have an exceptional life, it is an inspiring story in itself. I guess you must have had to do a lot of research as it is a historical novel?

A lot more than I thought there would be! Since the novel is set in 1846, there are many small things that I simply didn’t know, such as what sort of foods would the locals be eating other than potatoes? How would one travel from Pittsburgh to New York, since the railroads weren’t that far west? Or across the ocean – the first steam ships were just being used at that point. I found myself writing about the funicular train and boat system on the Juniata River in Pennsylvania, near Hollidaysburg and Johnstown. After the book was finished, I then got a new job and moved to that area, completely by coincidence.

How amazing! How about your writing routine? Do you have a set routine?

I do set myself a minimum of about 2000 words per day. Usually I can make it, but sometimes I cannot. If I haven’t, I try to make it up within that week. I take the weekends off.

That's a lot of words! I could learn from your routine. And how about music? Do you listen to music when you write?

Absolutely! Silence just highlights the annoying noises around. Some pleasant background music is essential. I usually listen to either 80s rock or Celtic music – everything from Enya to the Pogues.

What do you like least about writing?

The editing process, hands down. I love planning portion, and writing the first draft. I hate the part that comes after – endless editing, changing, shifting, improving, refining. I think because it’s more of an organic process to me than writing it is. I am very methodical in my writing – plan everything out, write scene by scene in order, etc. I can change my plan as I go along, and I frequently do, but still push on bit by bit. After that, it’s all rather nebulous.

How different writers can be! Though I don't like the editing phase particularly, I find it a lot easier than the discipline to sit down and write the first draft. But then again, I write without a real plan. Funny, those differences, don't you think? So, can you tell us a little about your next project.

I’ve already written the first drafts of two more books, prequels to Legacy of Hunger. There will be a trilogy, if all goes well! Legacy of Truth and Legacy of Luck.

Wow, Christy that sounds fantastic! I will definitely want to read Legacy of Hunger! Thank you so much for this interview! I loved meeting you like this.


Valentia had discussed the trip with her mother at length two weeks earlier, when she had first conceived the plan, before they left for Pittsburgh. She had needed the information of her grandmother’s family that only Majesta remembered. Her grandparents’ names, for instance, and where in Donegal they had lived, and what her sisters’ names had been.

“I think the place began with an ‘A’. Amra? Ardra? Something like that, at any rate. Of course, that won’t be how it’s spelled. Irish spelling is infernal. It’s likely got twelve letters, none of which are actually pronounced.” Majesta’s cynical laugh had made Valentia frown.

“And do you remember anything else about the place, mother?”

“I was never there, child. I remember what grandmother said in her stories; but who knows how much of that was truth, and how much was fairytale? Your grandmother had a vigorous imagination, after all. Oh, I do remember one thing she mentioned… a sort of special heirloom. A brooch, I think. Yes, sit tight here one moment…”

Valentia had often heard of the brooch from Grandmamma and had hoped her mother knew more about it. She trembled with suppressed excitement. Majesta went to her desk and thumbed through her papers. After rifling through three drawers, she exclaimed and held one up in triumph.

“Here! This is what I was looking for.”

The thick paper was old, yellowing at the edges and creases. Valentia carefully unfolded the ancient document, and gasped.

The drawing, done in clean, neat lines, was of an intricate pennanular brooch. It was almost a circle, with a straight pin on the curve to go through the small opening. There were delicate intertwined creatures detailed on the circular edge, as well as on the straight pin. Several stones were imbedded in the design. The piece was exquisite.

Valentia could almost see faint sparks of light crackling along the lines, sparks of blue and purple. She blinked her eyes several times to clear her vision.

“It’s… it’s stunning.”

“My aunt had this special piece of jewelry. She never said how it was special, other than being beautiful. Simply that it was priceless and unique.” Her mother’s voice had a dreamy quality, like she had been speaking from a long-distant memory.

Valentia couldn’t take her eyes off the sketch. She was drawn into the labyrinth of line and form, as if she would be lost forever in the art. It looked just like she had imagined from Grandmamma’s description.

Her mother’s abrupt voice snapped her from her reverie. “If you can find this and our family, the journey would be well worth the trouble, I think.”

But now, the fire and the subsequent resistance from her father had quelled her hopes. She pushed through the day’s work as they helped the local people rebuild their lives.

Christy's Bio

My name is Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon. I do many things, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing and photography. In real life I'm a CPA, but having grown up with art and around me (my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected me, as it were. I love to draw and to create things. It's more of an obsession than a hobby. I like looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or a fragrant blossom, a dramatic seaside. I then wish to take a picture or create a piece of jewelry to share this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus I write. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. I do local art and craft shows, as well as sending my art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.


Tirgearr author page:





writerA couple of days ago I had a chat at work with one of those so-called life-style coaches. The staff had been invited to take part in a health and fitness test. After the test, which showed I was overweight (!), you could make an appointment with one of those swift-sneakered, forever optimistic young lads, who ardently believe it is your own happiness that makes the world go round. To them everything, every dream, every mission seems attainable. Life to them is makeable, a totally mallable thing in your own hands.

My story - the death of my brilliant daugther at 29 and the severe illness of my son at 25 - didn't fall in any category the baffled coach had ever heard before. I felt sorry for him as I always do when I have to tell the truth and thus rob folk of their faith in fairytales. His immaculate white sneakers shuffled the linoleum uncertainly and the look in his clear blue eyes - so 100% free of any toxic substance in a body trained to the nines, lost its zipped-up positivism. I explained to him that my entire system - body, mind, soul, heart - is out of balance due to the mourning and survival mode I'm constantly in and that the extra fat is the result of long hours when I'm frozen with fear for the future.

lightI wasn't expecting much from this talk but I was willing to listen to what he had to say. And then - as we talked on - he said something that I've been mulling around in my mind ever since. He explained that when you want to make a change in your life, e.g. get rid of a bad habit, you start with feeling unnatural at first as you're still incorporating the good habit by 'getting used to it'. Then you arrive in the phase that you still have to think about 'staying on the right path' but the situation is not so strained anymore. Ultimately the new habit will have become a routine, fitting in your day, like all your other routines.

While the young coach found his feet again, happily returning to his cheerful, talkative self, my thoughts drifted to the stagnated manuscript on my home computer. Did this mean I am not a writer yet as I still do not have the routine to sit down and make a go for it? In this totally silly situation - two people who had nothing in common with each other and whose lives couldn't be further apart, I learnt something valuable. It made clear what my goal is: turn writing time into such a routine that it becomes an intrinsic part of who I am. Only how to find the time to figure that out with all else that's going on? I will. Eventually.

Thank you for that insight, young optimist. After all, every change starts with insight.



tp1There is no happier day in a writer's life than when your publisher announces your book is live: available to readers across the globe!

This feeling of being a published author certainly competes for first place with that strange, giddy feeling when you type THE END, usually a moment packed with the contrasting emotions of trepidation & exhilaration.

But these are two very different peak experiences in the usually dull life of a hermit author. The first draft and the polished product.

There are still other heights that befall the humble writer: the first sale, the first 5* review, the first email from a happy reader.

You must forgive me a little rambling today as I'm so happy. Tirgearr Publishing republished not one but two of my novels yesterday, Friday 29 May 2015.

Casablanca, my Heart and The Cottage on The Border. Available on all the Amazons, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo and Nook. Now as an eBook but soon also as a hard cover. I feel so rich!


Excerpts of both books can be read for Casa here and for the Cottage here.

More soon!

Hope you like the new covers as much as I do. Back to writing now! :-)



white dovesWhit Sunday 2015

Here are the sounds that wake me up

And make my spirit sing the praises

Of this lavish day in May.

For once the shadows free the sun

With sky-high blue and endless space

To spell the makings of this day.


Far-off the greeting of a dog

A gentle barking, yes I’m here

The white dove couple so in love

Pay court high in the cherry tree

Children’s voices full of play

Cut through the merry breeze of May

The world alight, the world at peace

For once, this fragile hour in time.


I hear the silence in the sound

Silence so deep it covers me

A quilt, a myriad of play.

I take no active part in this

I am a breeze, a song, a dream.

A worship of the innocent

Deep, silent peace that follows me

Beyond the edges of this day.


It isn’t good, it isn’t bad

It is.

Hannah Warren

24 May 2015


tp1Wonderful news! You can now pre-order Casablanca, My Heart and The Cottage on the Border, Book 1 in The Jenna Kroon Series, on Kindle and Smashwords. My new publisher Tirgearr Publishing has relaunched them with shiny new covers. Aren't they breath-taking?

Here are the links:

Casablanca_My_Heart_by_Hannah_Warren-500Casablanca, My Heart on Kindle and on Smashwords


Author Heather Simpson takes a cruise to Morocco where she meets Ghalib, a French-Moroccan aristocrat who seems to know everything about her and invites her into his home and into his heart. Once home, Heather faces a dilemma. Are we destined to meet the love of our life for only a fleeting moment, leaving us thinking, 'Did fate work so hard to bring us so little or is there more to come?'
This glorious romance will take you to the exotic, stranding you in love's oasis, feeling as if you too have captured the diaphanous emotion of soul-love, questioning your choices and your destiny.



The_Cottage_on_the_Border-Hannah_Warren-500The Cottage on the Border on Kindle and on Smashwords


Jenna's earliest memory is of her mother's feet dangling in dust motes, her corpse hanging from a beam. When Jenna's own life falls apart, this memory becomes her anchor; she too wants freedom. Vincent is her adopted brother and perhaps her only friend. He takes her to the cottage for recovery. The cottage awakens Jenna to the psychic world; the voices of the past and what happened on the border.

The Cottage on The Border is a tale of murder, mystery, intrigue, familial despair, heartbreak, and spiritual resurrection.

On 29 May both books go live!

Check out my Tirgearr author page on my publisher site!

1 Comment

blockThis blogpost is for myself, to keep me going.

I'm going through one of my worst fits of writer's block, forcing myself to stay in my office chair but not believing it's anything but crap my fingers are typing. I've never had the type of block (so far) that makes me go blank. I keep pouring out sentences but every sentence laughs out loud in my face: "A story? Ha, don't fool yourself. It's not going anywhere and certainly not in the right direction." Such misery, such doubt. Sometimes  - in agony - I crawl out of my chair only to bury myself in some garden work. When I'm kneeling down, close to the worms and the beetles, I feel I'm at the right level. Maybe this is where I belong. Forget for good about that silly self that tells me to return to my desk. Ha!

Why am I doing this to myself? I don't enjoy it, far from it. I hate myself until I need chocolate and more worms. orwellNeither need me! Oh stupid self-pity, self-loathing, self this and that. There is no escape and another sentence, tentatively, virginal like Madonna - it's all been done and said before - trickles onto the patient screen. I will continue, despite myself, despite my expanding waistline and the unperturbed insects in my garden. I will because I have to. Writing is that kind of vow. 'Unbreakable', says Orwell and he could know.


So for your judgement I add some of these sentences I'm so uncertain about. This is part of The Farm at Nieuw Land Road, Jenna Kroon Series #2

Chapter 18
The Bad Omen

“Wake up, Jenna!” A voice next to her ears shouted. “Sorry to have bored you so much you fell asleep.”
“I didn’t!” The protest came instantly. “I was wide awake. It’s difficult to explain but it’s a thing that happens when I watch a photograph. I disappear in it and then I see the whole story.” Jenna rubbed her eyes, red and sore, from peering into Denise’s Venezuelan adventure. Her host was staring at her intently, the grey eyes dilated with surprise. She shook her head, “That’s impossible, Jenna. Only psychics can do that creepy stuff.”
“Who says I can’t?” It sounded defiant.
“Bloody hell,” Denise cursed, pressing the air through her teeth and lips so it made a whistling sound, “I’ve never come across a real-life psychic in my life.”
“Please don’t call me that,” Jenna pleaded, “I never think of myself as such. Hate the word. I’m a dancer. That’s what I want to do with my life. Not that photograph stuff. That’s only useful when I want to know something.” She suddenly stopped talking, realising she had already told Denise more about herself than she had any other person in the world. It meant, she was on thin ice. Could she trust this blond woman, this distant relative, this easy-to-approach, non-judgemental …'friend’? The word itself signalled danger. ‘Better shut up now,’ Jenna told herself but it was too late.
“I really need to see this myself,” Denise said, rummaging in the drawer of her bedside table.
“Please,” Jenna begged, “I really feel uncomfortable with this. Like it’s a trick or something.”
“Don’t worry, Jen.” Denise voice was soft, kind like a mother’s. “I’m not interested in your gift to make fun of you, or to expose you. As you’ve been honest with me right now, let me tell you something I haven’t told you yet.” Jenna’s perfect eyebrows went up, her violet eyes had a cautious expression. Denise continued, “When I found you at Oud Land Cottage, unconscious and thin as a rail, I vowed to myself that if I would be able to get you around again, I would look after you until you were safe. Call it my nurse affliction or whatever, but I don’t think it was that. I just loved you right there and then, it went right through me and you gave me a new purpose. I even believe Carlos showing up here, and getting killed on my doorstep, was in the stars. You bring us luck, Jen, despite the fact you think you’re a bad omen.”

Thank you for reading!


I'm not really one for the gossip columns but I'm totally hooked on authors' lives. We're such a particular specimen. No one in my private circles even dreams of writing fiction so I hang on to every word my author friends tell me about their outlook on life and their struggle to fit in in the non-writing circles they frequent as wife, mother, employee, etc.

One thing is as clear as a bell: when an author is taken on by a publishing company, it becomes the extended family. Jumping the band-wagon with like-minded folks is like a great creative homecoming.

There is no better way to get to know my new family at Tirgearr Publishing then by interviewing some of the authors.

Today, I'm very proud to present to you the lovely Irish writer Mary T. Bradford. Right from my first day at Tirgearr, only a couple of weeks ago, there was Mary, befriending me on FB and in our Yahoo group, making me feel less like an ugly Dutch duckling in an unfamiliar Irish pond. That she said yes to my suggestion to do an interview with her, just shows how nice she is.

Mary is a writer with a keen eye for detail. Her prose runs smoothly and her storytelling quality is apparent. Why are the Irish so good at this? It must be in their genes: creativity and richness in words and images have been with them from the beginning of time. I look forward to reading more of this author, who isn't afraid to write in different genres: a western, a family saga and soon an erotic story!


Get to know the author Mary Bradford...

Have you recently had a book published that we can congratulate you on?

My debut novel, My Husband’s Sin, is with Tirgearr Publishing and was launched last August.

My above mentioned book, is centered on the Taylor family, in particular, the youngest adult child, Lacey. The Taylors are a happy family unit until the mother, Lillian, dies. It is at the reading of her will, revelations come to the fore and rock their whole lives. How the family cope and how Lacey deals with this devastating news, is the road the reader walks with them.

Also my first western genre novella, The Runaway was launched this April, 2015.


Please tell us about your journey to publication.

My journey started when I wrote short stories way back when… I submitted them to magazines and papers and I was lucky in being accepted. Then one day I started a story that grew and grew and I ended up having my novel, My Husband’s Sin before I knew it. So I started sending it out to publishers and I got my rejections but I persisted and hey I was successful.

What does Tirgearr Publishing mean to you?Tirgearr logo-125x158

I have been very lucky with Tirgearr Publishing. I have made friends with other authors and Kemberlee, the owner is very approachable and always there to help. I know one hears about being a big family but in all honesty, Tirgearr Publishing is just that. Everyone will try to help others if they can.

 Where did the idea for your first book come from?

The idea came when I was standing by a graveside attending a family funeral. I looked around and thought about the idea of secrets being buried with the deceased. I thought it would be a short story but it grew and grew. And hey, presto, My Husband’s Sin.

Who has inspired you as an author?

I really don’t know if I am inspired by any one author. Those that inspire me most are my writing friends, they don’t give up, and they plod along no matter what. People who chase their dreams and believe in themselves, these are people I admire.

What do you do in your free time?

Free Time?? Well when I do take a break from writing/promoting/editing, I read. Then when I tire of words, I craft, mainly crochet and cross-stitch.

What's next for you?

I have my first erotic romance being launched on June 24th, this year. It is titled, One Night in Barcelona, and is part of the Tirgearr Publishing, City Night Series. I am so excited about this and really looking forward to having it out there.

Thank you so much, Mary, for this lovely interview!

Mary's Bio:

I am Irish and a mother of four and I enjoy crafting and reading when taking a break from all things writing. I am an open heart surgery survivor since my mid-forties and give thanks daily for my second shot at life. I love to travel and as of yet I have not been Stateside but hope to visit the US in the coming year.

Where to find Mary:















srteinbThis afternoon I had a Skype session with the son of a Dutch friend of mine. This young man has plans to start writing a book in 18 months and wanted to pick my brains about writing. He is very serious about it, has a degree in journalism and is currently saving money to give up his full-time job and start on his endeavour with a 10-hour job so he has all the time in the world to concentrate on his manuscript.

Gosh! He and I couldn't be more different but that was one of the first things I told him about writers. There are not two that work in the same way or follow the same path. The only thing writers have in common is that they type THE END when the job is done. Those that dream about writing a book, never get to that point.

But it got me thinking about my own path while I was talking to this young enthusiast. Here's some of the advice I gave him:

1. Try to find an online group of (Dutch) writers, for example on Facebook and discuss your ideas with them. Most of the folk around you are not writers and have no idea what your life or the inside of your mind looks like. Writing stories is already a lonely business in itself and you need to be able to share your passion with comrades, otherwise you'll start believing you're even a weirder specimen than you already thought. Let them read snippets of your writing, review the work of others, ask questions, plenty of questions. The proper start of my writing career took off when I joined Authonomy in 2010.chandler

2. Don't wait 18 months before you pick up your pen/switch on your laptop. Write little tidbits already, do some research for your story, make a character overview in Excel. For me, writing has nothing to do with creating a special atmosphere or waiting for a special time. It only works to JUST DO IT! But then again I would never give up the day job and seriously spend all my working hours on a manuscript. My young friend, however, said that that was the only way to push himself to it.   king

3. Take part in NaNoWrIMO. Writing 50K in 30 days for me is the best kick-start for a new novel. You have no time to let that horrible inner-critic get hold of you because you have to reach the word count. Again, this works for me, as I suffer greatly from writer's block and for me it's the best (only?) way not stumbling over each word that doesn't exactly fit the bill.nada Perfectionism is my enemy!

4. Writing is the best thing there is in the world and your worst nightmare. It's never easy. You're always sitting comfortably in your office chair uncomfortably out of your comfort zone. Some days are magic, others are agonizing. But beyond and through and above and under it all there is a desire to tell stories, a desire so strong you take all the crap that also comes with it in your stride.

5. Be aware that the publishing industry is completely adrift. Even if you get a contract with a traditional publisher, you'll have to market your book in more ways than you want to consider. It's part of the deal and frankly, I can't say I've really accepted and embraced this fact myself.ff

6. If possible, decide whether you want to write in one genre or in multiple genres. One genre helps to find writer-friends that really support you and can give in-depth advice about how to tackle the specific elements of that genre. And your potential readers will find it easier to relate to your work.

7. Read, read, read. Not crap but authors you really admire and from whom you can learn the craft. It helps when they write in your favourite genre because then your learning curve will be even I read as homework, of course it is fun but I'm always aware that I want to see how the author describes a person or how a dialogue flows.

8. When you're not working on your book, write blogs, on writing, on other hobbies. Reach out to people. Let them know you exist even when the process of writing your book is still in the dark.


Something like this.....


Just had some good news today that Tirgearr Publishing are going to relaunch my two formerly published novels "Casablanca, my Heart" and "Psychic Confessions" in May but with different titles and new covers. Hurray!! A brand new & very hopeful start of my career as a published author. :-) Psychic Confessions final cover half size

Those of you who have read or at least followed the release of "Psychic Confessions" when brought out by former Thorstruck Press in November 2014, will know this is my first attempt at writing a series. "Psychic Confessions" will most probably return to its earlier title The Cottage on The Border and the 3-book series will simply be called The Jenna Kroon Series as the main character is called Jenna Kroon de Coligny.

The working title of Book #2, which I'm currently writing, is "The Angel Within" but I'm now thinking along lines of The Farm on Nieuw Land Road and Book #3 The House on Broadway.

Anyway, my recent research has been the polo game and horses that are suitable to take part in this sport, which is a mix between rugby and hockey, albeit on horseback. My story, which keeps surprising me, has now taken me to Los Llanos in Venezuela where Denise Jansen - who is playing a major role in book 2 as she has rescued Jenna from one of her fainting actions due to her advanced anorexia -  and has taken her in as a sister on her farm in Nieuw Land close to the cottage on the border. But when Denise's former husband Carlos Pérez Rodriguez from Venezuela suddenly turns up on their doorstep, Jenna is dying to know how Denise and Carlos met. Hence the fictive trip Denise takes Jenna on to the ranch in La Enena in the vicinity of San Fernando de Apure, where Miss Jansen studied the breeding of the Criollo horse, next to embarking on the love affair of her life.


A taster (still to be edited):

While steering the old Land Rover from Las Flecheras Airport through the sweltering streets of San Fernando de Apure, Emilio drove like a gentleman, minding the speed limit and the other traffic with scarcely suppressed inquietude but when they left the town behind them and they got to the dry sandy road that would take them to La Enena and the Rancho di Pinto, the old farmhand gave the heavy vehicle the gun, creating such a bellowing cloud of dust that Denise could hardly take a peek at the countryside. Her mouth and nose were full of the powdery sand, making her sneeze repetitively, every time eliciting a polite “salud” from Emilio.

The old man had a face that existed of a myriad of sun-scorched wrinkles. A dust-ridden cowboy hat sat firmly on his still raven-black hair. He kept two thin claw-like hands firmly on the wheel as it was an effort to keep the 4-wheel drive on the narrow winding road at a speed of 65 m/ph. Never before had Denise felt such intense heat in February. When she left Holland the day before, it had been 35 ºF, she had only just stuffed her winter coat into her suitcase when she had to change planes at Caracas. Even with the linen roof down, the hot wind that could reach her hair and face brought no comfort. The windscreen in front of her was splattered with dead flies. This seemed very little like the place of paradise she had envisioned when embarking on this adventure, certainly to her tired bones after a 24-hour travel. Emilio, as dry and parched as the land around them, had no conversation or lacked expression in it outside the Spanish language. Denise was too tired to start a conversation herself. Her boarding school training in Switzerland had made her fluent in French, Spanish and German but any word that her flat brain would produce in Emilio’s native tongue, stuck to her palate like the flies on the windscreen.

After what seemed an eternity they arrived at a big white placard which read in decorative dark-green letters "Rancho di Pinto" with underneath a picture of two brown horses with their hooves greeting each other: "Home of the Criollo Horse". Wiry Emilio jumped out of the car with surprising agility to open the big white wooden gate. After he had driven the car inside, he jumped out again to close the gate again. As if the next shot of a film, the world suddenly changed dramatically.          

Emilio now manoeuvred the Land Rover at a snail’s pace along the chalky-white driveway, which wound graciously in between two rows of clipped cedar trees. Beyond the trees Denise saw recently trimmed lawns that were kept fresh and green by the wide wet arms of two large sprinkler systems. While they passed drops of the spray tapped on Emilio’s hat and wetted Denise’s hairdo, which had already been ruined by the dust and the wind. Two gardeners in red dungarees could be seen in the distance scooping spadefuls of fine manure from a wheelbarrow and spreading it in thin layers over the flowerbeds. Soon the ranch came in sight, a magnificent two-storey white-brick house with dark wood-stained window panes, shutters and doors. Along the lattice work veranda in the same dark-brown a rose garden had been planted. The abundant Venezuelan sun in combination with the artificial watering had created a mecca for the rose lover, which Denise certainly was. All her favourite roses were there, the very double, old-rose Pierre de Ronsard, the large, velvet-red Ingrid Bergman, the deep yellow Graham Thomas, the very floriferous white Iceberg, the warm yellow, pink-tipped Peace and of course, New Dawn, light-pink and glorious as its name.

No people were seen near or around the house and the windows and doors were shut. To the right of the house in a strip of shade stood a red Alfa Romeo spider and two black Mercedes. Emilio parked the Land Rover a little further down inside an open barn and quickly got out to open Denise’s door for her but she had already scrambled out herself, glad to be standing on her two feet after a twenty-four hours’ sit, yawning and stretching her tired, stiff limbs. Emilio muttered something which sounded like a swear-word but busied himself with unloading her two suitcases.

“Give one to me, Emilio.” A sudden voice from behind Denise made her jump. She turned around to face a man who by Venezuelan standards had to be considered tall. He had broad shoulders and a clean-shaven face that showed the exposure to many hours of sun. His dark eyes with the heavy black eyebrows knitted together over his eyes took in Denise with a mixture of interest and amusement. His dark hair was combed backwards, kept in place with a generous amount of hair wax. He stepped forwards, a movement made rather from the hips than from the feet, resulting from spending most of his waking hours in the saddle.

“Carlos Pérez Rodriguez”, he introduced himself, letting the r’s roll with relish and stressing his first last name.