What words are left in me?

 

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My pen dips softly

Into ink

To see

What words are left in me.

 

No vista’s

Nothing but the ceaseless wind

Lurking my memories

Into corners of despair

And unclear thought.

 

She’s gone

So much is clear

The girl I brought

Into this world,

Once world of Joy

Now world of Pain.

 

My Joy, my precious darling

With her wit and charm

She lies in darkened earth

Sheltered from wind and memories.

 

She comes in dreams of pristine white

To others

Not to me

Who seeks her everywhere.

In flowers, beasts and birds.

 

I see her here

Slipping round corners

The diamond smile

Steals over a bronzed shoulder

Giving me hope

Against hope.

 

For sure, her lips are dead

And pale, so pale

I never saw before.

Her eyes dark sparkles of delight

Are marbles without shine

The long lashes creased.

 

If no more pain for her

Means

This pain in me

Then tell me

-Whoever is in charge-

Is there truly no end

To suffering?

 

Joy’s beauty shattered

Into a myriad

Of pieces

Pierced in so many hearts

That bleed from crimson wounds

Of  so much love and care.

 

No comfort in the love as yet

Just shredded tear-soaked tissue

Raw, bruised, defeated.

 

I cannot go on, I can not.

Don’t ask me to live again

Life’s for the living

Sunshine, good fortune, laughter and the rest

I am no part of that.

My days are veiled

In seeking answers, seeking her

My self wrapped up

In black and agony.

 

She’s safe, so much is clear

Has taken up her high position

Amidst the Angels

But I, my mortal self,

Weeps with the winds

For God and daughter

From now on

Together, There, Away, Above.

 

While I

Am here

Dipping my pen

So softly

Into ink-black words.

 

14-04-2014

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A Year To hold My Breath

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First of all I want to wish you all a belated Happy and Healthy 2014. My website was down for two weeks because my youngest son made a programming mistake, which he was unable to reverse and the whole website turned into a series of empty links. :-( My webmaster was enjoying the season festivities but – thank God – he got everything back into place yesterday. Only now I realise how much I have become attached to my website and blog over the past three years.

2014 is going to be the toughest year of my life. My 29-year old daughter is seriously, seriously ill with a very malignant tumour so we’re completely thrown out of our stride and forced to live on a day-to-day basis. Reasonably good days are cheerful ones and bad days are days we – her loved ones – dangle in mid-air not knowing how to alleviate her suffering and almost afraid to breathe. However, the Leitmotiv through it all is that we stand in awe of her courage, optimism and Faith. They say only great suffering and acute danger show someone’s true strength, well I see hers and it humbles me to the core.

My Facebook writer friends from around the globe and my own family and friends burn a candle for Joy every night at 10pm Dutch time to think of her and/or pray for her. This one in particular touched me deeply. A kind of shrine made by my friend Melissa Eyler’s son Michael in Carlsbad, New Mexico. All positive thoughts and love is important to us so please join in if you like. On the whole, however, I’m rather reluctant to speak openly about her illness as my daughter is a very reserved lady and doesn’t want her story to be all over the Internet.

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The other big change this year is that I’ve decided to leave my publisher Taylor Street Publishing and “go Indie”. I have been thinking about taking this step for a long time as having a publisher in San Francisco didn’t really work for me. It is too far from the Netherlands (where I live) to build up a good working relationship despite all the online contact you can have these days. Plus many of my writer pals, who took the leap, are satisfied about it and advised me unanimously to take control of my own work. My debut novel didn’t sell very well and I blame it on the relaunch under the meaningless title and cover When The Ink Dries. The story partly takes place in Morocco but because my publisher feared anti-North African sentiment in the US, he stripped it of its oriental spiciness. Soon Casablanca, My Heart will see a hopefully successful second start.

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On 13 January I will pay a visit to the local Chamber of Commerce to register my own publishing company Hannah’s Book Business. Apparently this is necessary to smooth possible tax issues. This will give me the opportunity to publish my own books, perhaps even that of other authors in future. Hiya!

More on this new venture in my next blog. I’m greatly indebted to my Indie friends who are helping me with every step on the way. Becoming my own publisher is an exciting, yet challenging path. I’m looking forward to learning the ropes.

2014: a year like no other, so much is sure!

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My Message for You

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There are so many thoughts going through my head this Christmas Eve and yet I find it hard to put the words to paper. 2013 has turned out to be a year that took us from hopeful recovery to utter despair. We’re on our knees; life having become a daily struggle to cope with what is – almost – beyond human capacity. The reason is cancer, an incurable form, a young beautiful woman, my child. This verse from Black’s song Wonderful Life is with me on a daily basis:

“Look at me standing

Here on my own again

Up straight in the sunshine”

Up straight is the word like a ringtone in my head. I’m still standing up straight in this life, doing what I have to do, am supposed to do although staggering in the dark trying to find reason and motivation. So before I take you staggering in the dark with me, into gloom and doom, let me tell you a tiny fairy tale at the end of 2013.

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“There was once a beautiful young princess who was walking alone in the palace gardens with a very unhappy look on her face. Listlessly, she strolled over to the big pond, sat on the stone wall and sighed. She let her thin white fingers glide through the clear water. Immediately three frogs jumped onto three leaves from the Nymphaea Tuberosa Richardsonii, the white waterlily, croaking in tune:

“Your highness, tell us, how can we lift your spirits today?”

 “Oh Frits, Frats and Frolic, thank you for asking but there really is no cure for me. I wasn’t born for happiness, that’s all there is to it.”

“Nonsense, Royal Highness,” was the synchronous reply, “everybody is born for happiness, you just have to change your focus from sadness to joy.”

“Bah!” The princess protested, “that is so easy to say. My dear uncle just died and my little brother has anaemia and Prince Vladimir – whom I dote on – has not shown any interest in me during yesterday’s ball.”

“But are you healthy of life and limbs, your Highness?”

‘Yes, of course, Mama the Queen sees to that. I have to drink seaweed juice every morning which probably tastes like the water of this pond – so perhaps you would love it – but it is utterly disgusting and after that I always have to jump in the skipping rope for ten minutes, which exhausts me beyond measure. So yes, I’m very healthy although I fail to see how that’s going to make me happy?”

The frogs only looked at the princess with their eyebrows raised and replied:

“Hum.”   

Did the dedicated frogs make the sad princess think a little more outside the box? Ah, that we’ll never know!!”

I want to thank all my dedicated readers and random visitors to my blog. A very special thank you to all my dear kind friends, who have taken the time to write a comment. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a HEALTHY 2014! It’s really the only thing that matters: health.

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Doctor Zhivago and me

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The day is tough

The night is black

I have been sitting here so long

My feet are numb

My heart pounds loud

I am forgotten in the wind.

………………………………….

My soul whirls round, a silken scarf

My mind a military camp

I cannot do this anymore

I must desert. Must leave.

The day too tough

The night so black.

Hannah, 17 December 2013

I wanted to write a blog post about stagnating words, the long wait for the publication of my second book and a terrible illness that leaves no nerve undone but instead I wrote a gloomy poem of no comparison to Pasternak’s Hamlet.

The days are so short, the weather so cold and nature so bare. I cannot find things to be really grateful for anymore. I tried honestly for two weeks to write 5 things a day that I was grateful for but it became a trick, the heart wasn’t in it anymore. These are trying times, standing upright in the weak and rare December sun demands all my concentration. Yes, Pasternak by mouth of Yuri Zhivago, said it all: Life is no stroll through a field

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Hamlet

The hum dies down. I step out on the stage.

Leaning against a doorpost,

I try to catch the echoes in the distance

Of what my age is bringing.

 

The night’s darkness focuses on me

Thousands of opera glasses.

Abba Father, if only it can be,

Let this cup pass me by.

 

I love the stubbornness of your intent

And agree to play this role.

But now a different drama’s going on -

Spare me, then, this once.

 

But the order of the acts has been thought out,

The end is inevitable.

I’m alone, all drowns in Pharisaism.

Life is no stroll through a field.

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A Swaying Writer

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I don’t want to be a romance writer anymore but I catch myself sitting up straighter in my chair tapping away happily on the keyboard when one of my characters happens to fall in love and butterflies flutter all over the page for a while. So part of me deep down must still be the romantic.

My first published book When The Ink Dries is a romance set in various countries in Europe, North Africa and USA and for years I thought contemporary romance was my genre. To tell cosmopolitan stories about relationships that end in blissful heaven. The real world is – after all – a grim enough place as it is.

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But there was something not satisfying the writer in me when the plot solely revolved around the sacred male-female dance, so my second book took me to a deeper level in myself, a level where I thought I would stay for the rest of my writing career: suspense with thriller-like aspects. Grim, cruel, grey and cold: The Collaborator’s Ghost, set solely in the Netherlands and Germany. Out hopefully very soon!!

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When I set out to plot with my third book, I was convinced it would lead me in the same direction suspense/thriller but again I found myself uncovering a different layer of the writer-in-me: Daughter of The Alvar is a historical family saga with a spiced mixture of plush and grim but definitely not a romance in the traditional sense of the word. The love story is not central to the book, almost an accidental happening and doesn’t lead to the desired result. There are no heroes in the book, and everybody loses something or someone in the end. Set in Sweden, Paris and New York between 1860-1895.

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Number four? Maker of Despair? Absolute the opposite of romantic love: Fake online love set in Accra, Ghana en The Netherlands.

This is how it will probably start:

I am poor. I am black. I am African. I don’t need to defend myself that it is my job to rob rich, white women by chatting them up on the Internet.

For myself I have decided I’m a multi-genre writer but I am curious to find out what the reader thinks my forte is. :-)

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I did it! 3rd time in a row!

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It’s been an enormous challenge this year due to the unprecedented stress and sadness about my daughter’s health (and some other issues not as grave, but still tougher than most!) BUT I DID IT AGAIN! I’m very proud of this achievement – I must say – which is not my normal state as I’m not easily satisfied with myself.

So another 50,000 words into my third – to be published – novel with work title Daughter of the Alvar. A project I promised – and will therefore dedicate posthumously – to my dear Swedish friend Rolf Arnemo 

I had already written some 25K of the book + the 50K of NaNoWriMo brings it to 75K but the book is not finished. I guess it will take me another 25K to reach la grande finale. Will go at a slower pace now, hopefully some 500 to 1,000 words a day and not the almost 2,000 of this month :-)

A taster: the final paragraph of this year’s NaNoWriMo (still to be edited) and a home-made book cover I used for inspiration this year.

The next morning it buzzed in Smedby and surroundings that Agneta Forsmann had eloped with Kalle Ljundberg. Even bigger was the hubbub when Kalle showed up at his work at the regular hour, calmly setting his stool to milk the cows. He got no time for that. All the villagers came at him with rakes and spades and chased him away over the Alvar. He was faster than them and he ran with all his might. He made it safely to the other side of the Alvar at Gräsgard Hamn, where he managed to hide in a shed near the harbour. So no one ever found out what he had done with Agneta Forsmann, who was never seen in the area again.

To be continued…

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Some characters! I could cheerfully murder them…

 

charactersWhen I’m totally immersed in my writing, like now during NaNoWriMo, I oftentimes find myself waking up to a discussion with one of my characters. In the process of writing, they make their appearance on the page as if being part of me but when I retire to my slumber, I realise they’re not me and we are only trying to get to know each other, layer by layer, as the book progresses. They stay with me through my nightly hours and we attempt to work out our issues in my subconsciousness. They share their views of their world with me. It’s similar to a new friendship but with some of those characters I wouldn’t dream of starting a real friendship! Some of them are utter villains.

They do and say things I don’t understand, things I could never imagine myself saying, or doing but don’t question while penning down their actions. Such as killing another person just for fun, or cheating on your spouse without so much as a blink of the eye. Hence the discussions we have. Questions I’m dying to ask them; sometimes they’re more like interrogations.

I love this aspect of the creative process and cherish that time between slumber and my first morning coffee. Who wouldn’t want to look inside the head of an axe murderer without the risk of becoming an accessory? Who wouldn’t want to throw herself in the arms of an irresistible rogue and still enjoy the money and position of a married woman. (Well not everybody- I know- :-)- including me!). But it’s fun to trespass all ten commandments and still be a reasonable unblemished Christian, or a regular human being, whatever you choose…

I often think of my authorship as comparable to acting. You dive deep inside yourself to unearth these (un)human traits that normally remain hidden beneath the facade of respectability.

So, with whom am I having the fiercest discussions this time? It certainly is with Max Dupuis-de Melancourt. In essence, the young Frenchman of noble blood does nothing wrong but he has a tendency to weakness and shyness. His tendency to postpone decisions ultimately leads to disaster in other people’s lives. He is too brainy, too much in his thoughts and too little in his guts. He could have saved the leading lady, easily – easily! – but hesitates whenever complications arise or obstacles are placed on his path.

Argghhhh.

It is his fault that the book can’t have a happy end. There, it’s said!

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A rubbish writer or a maniac? Or normal, after all?

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Having poured out more than 33,000 words in the last 18 days and some 60,000 words into my third novel, you would think I consider myself more than a writer in the fringe. To be honest, I’m still doubting what I am writer-wise. There are, of course, as many types of writers as there are books written but I am of a type that I haven’t yet come across among my writer-pals.

The past three Novembers I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo and managed to cross the finishing line of 50,000 words with relative ease. (I mean… uhm… I fully intend to jot down the remaining 17,000 words this year too!). But beyond the month of November I write very little. So is this a simple question of 2 +2? I write too much in too short a time thereby exhausting myself and my creativity? But it doesn’t feel that way. I’m in the flow. I write with poise and character. Then comes December and I falter, finally coming to an almost standstill in January.

Is it sheer rubbish I’m writing because I go so fast and take no time to check spelling, grammar, sometimes even facts and ideas? Doesn’t feel like that. As always, my characters are doing their surprise things; they are in command of tempo and direction. I just try to get down their trials and tribulations as fast and as accurately as possible before they go hibernating until next November. And the work needs editing, there is no doubt about it. 11 months for that!

So is there something wrong with me as a writer? Should I go on some sort of course that will turn me into a normal writer? Or is this is how I function on the page, at least for now?

Of course, I have spoken in my sternest voice to myself, telling me that I will be very, very cross when I don’t do my daily 500 words as from December 1. There will be no pudding!

But?

Yes I’m odd!

Tell me about it. <Sigh>

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W.I.P. Daughter of The Alvar

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In the scope of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing month), which takes place every November when writers all over the globe devote themselves to penning down 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m working on my third novel with working title Daughter of the Alvar. Here’s a taster.

Time: 1890.

Place: Sweden, in the Island of Öland in the Baltic Sea.

Characters: the main character Ingrid Gunarsson, 16 year old, daughter of the Vicar of Smedby and her brother Johan Gunarsson, 20 years old, student of theology at Lund University. The third character, Kalle Ljundberg, who is only mentioned briefly, plays a major role in the book later on.

This is the beginning of Chapter 6. Please note that it is a work in progress and not yet edited. :-)

Chapter 6 The Start of the Journey

The summer sped by as seems to be the trademark of that season and Ingrid was so engrossed in the approaching parting from her brother that her Kalle mission temporarily resided to the background. It was only Johan’s promise and her father’s consent that she could visit him in midterm that prevented Ingrid from falling into a deep depression. Although Johan had spent less time with her during his last leave than he had at other times, the mere fact of his presence in the lonesome vicarage on that remote island in the Baltic Sea had been enough to make Ingrid open her eyes with happy anticipation every morning. But 1 September was approaching with big strides and Johan was already collecting his books and papers, which were strewn over the dining room and his father’s study, both places he used to study and write.

“Don’t sulk, sister dear,” Johan said, pushing one of his dark locks from his eyes and fixing his steady grey gaze on the girl in her blue and white striped dress, who was sitting on a dining room chair with her legs tucked under her, hugging her knees, “You must be pleased that Papa gave you permission to come and stay with me in Lund. It’s only seven weeks from now. The time will fly past without you noticing it.”

“On the contrary, mon frère!” Ingrid stretched her legs from under her long cotton skirt and got up from the chair, a defiant look in her blue eyes, “they will crawl past like lazy spiders. I will be counting the minutes and the hours.” Then she added a little less fierce, “Oh yes, I am very, very happy with the prospect, of course, but I’m also slightly anxious that I will look quite passé in my Öland outfit. Are you sure the ladies in Lund will not turn their heads and think me quaint?”

“Why would they, dearest sis? You look lovely even in this simple housedress but then again I am not up-to-date with fashion as I have not the least interest in it.”

“There you go,” Ingrid cried, throwing herself on the chair again, “there is nobody in the whole world who can tell me what to wear in Lund as none of the ladies here on the island have ever been there. So even haughty Elise Aberg, who claims she’s the most fashionable girl on Södra Öland, is not going to be of any help to me.”

Johan looked helpless. He hated it when his sister had one of her tantrums, especially if he saw no way to lighten her burden for her. But a flash of inspiration came to his rescue.

“What about the lovely dress you wore on your 16th birthday party? You could bring that? Everybody was saying you looked absolutely stunning in it.” The idea worked wonders.

“Mr Malkovitch! Of course!” Ingrid jumped up again and into her brother’s arms, “how could I forget his Kalmar atelier! Oh I must persuade Papa to let him make an entire new wardrobe for me. He will know what fashionable city girls are wearing these days.”

With the crisis over, Johan devoted himself to organising his notes again and Ingrid skipped off in search of her father. It was so typical of her age that she was completely oblivious of her recent interest in working for the poor while now her head was swimming with mousseline, fur and lace and of course the most delicate Gants de Suede, extra soft gloves.

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On Dying

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Dying is what we, humans, constantly do. Some of us die tragically, brutally young and others at a ripe old age in their comfortable chair. We all die without a completed tick-off list. Never done all we were supposed to do or wanted to do.

Trees also die, as do ants and lions and jelly fish. We all die and we all die all the time, incessantly. In the middle of life, we’re surrounded by death. It’s death that makes us live.

But we’re scared and horrified about death being on its way to claim us. While living, we mostly – gladly – forget about it. We hang on to the frivolity of sweet life.

Death is not our friend, it’s our one and only enemy. We cannot come to terms with it, not in our life time.

But when it is there, knocking on your door, not even to claim you, but to claim one of your beloved, what do you do? Suddenly, the frivolity of sweet life is light years away.

What do I do?

I pray.

Constantly I pray, in and outside Church, asking, pleading, whispering desperate words in an attempt to put my case before the Almighty and have my child pardoned.

At the same time I also ask why?

Why? Why? Why?

Why not me or why not my sweet demented mum at 85? Both of us would swap places with a 29-year-old without a second thought.

Why gruesome illnesses?

Why intense physical, mental and spiritual suffering?

Why now? Why this? Why doesn’t it evaporate like a bad nightmare?

No answers!

Death is the enemy. Invincible, sharp and sure as the sharpest blade.

What part of us dies when we die? Some believe all of us dies. I don’t believe that but I haven’t got the answer either.

My dad once wrote a beautiful poem about a heron. It’s my favourite. Translated from the Dutch, it goes something like this.

Heron

Thin still bird

Bent by the waterside

The winter is a grey reflection in your eyes

The tides flow whispering

Through endless creeks

A frail reed stem snaps

Bird who half listening

For the stirring of a distant fish

And half frozen of privation

Sinks his beak in his feathers.

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Always when I see a heron in the landscape, I greet it: “Hi dad, how are things on the other side?”

In the past week 3 times a heron landed on my lawn. I’ve never before seen the grey, lonesome bird stand in my secluded garden in broad daylight, keeping me in its watchful, yellow eye.

So I pray in an attempt to boost my Faith. God walks mysterious ways and although I feel like kicking His shins hard and painful right now, He is my Comfort, my Refuge.

Without God, death is truly gruesome. With God, it’s barely bearable.

 

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