Hannah Warren

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Three more reviews for Casablanca, My Heart?

Written By: Hannah Warren - Jul• 23•14

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My current target is to get 20 reviews for my debut novel, the literary romance Casablanca, My Heart 

Also available on iTunes

THREE More to go! So far the book has been given thirteen 5-star reviews, three 4-stars and one 3-star!  Not bad, huh? So will you help me out? Become a reviewer for my publisher Thorstruck Press and get a copy for free.

5654682Here’s a taster from Chapter 14 A Star is Gone.  (One of the chapters set in Holland)

The day starts as a brilliant, glittering ode to a great soul who died too young. Before climbing over the horizon, the sun arranges her favourite colours on today’s palette. She spreads them across the sky and over the polder landscape with long, lavish strokes of dark green, milky blue and sandy yellow. It is nectar to any painter ever mesmerised by the Dutch light who attempted to rival her momentous panoramas. She frees herself from the horizon and ascends swiftly to oversee her work, supervised by the eye of the Master himself. For a few moments her radiance falters as shreds of a slate grey cloud drift her way, but she vanquishes the veil of obscurity and floats onwards, steady as a massive hot air balloon. She summons all her strength to perform the Missing Man Formation alone, rising higher and higher in a glorious salute to a dead co-creator.
I’m awestricken. Gooseflesh covers my bare arms, bringing me back to the solidity of my body. We’re still here, standing at the kitchen window, Rita and I.
“Staring and dreaming again, Heather?” I ask myself out loud.
Luuk used to snap me out of my daydreams several times a day, but now I have to do that myself. I walk to the tap and pour myself a glass of water.
“Want some, Rita?”
She hasn’t moved, but now nods with the ghost of a smile. It’s unlike her. She hasn’t even opened her mouth since I joined her. I fill a second glass and hand it to her. Not knowing what to say, I lean against the sink, waiting.
Victor and Marcel have taken up their positions at the gate to our driveway, at the end of the row of poplars, where the local road to Bergen passes. Through the leafage glimpses of their upright, vigilant postures can be seen, clad in dark business suits. They’re in full regalia, equipped with sunglasses, earphones and mouthpieces, so there will be no doubt about the role they’re playing in today’s ceremony.
I am still standing with Rita at the kitchen window and find I can breathe more freely. Just a couple more hours and it will be over.
“You were right,” I say. “We did have a peaceful night.”
“Yes, Hon,” Rita replies, with a deep sigh.
At that moment we catch sight of the cortege coming along the road from Bergen, shimmering in the morning light. It moves slowly, very slowly, in our direction. The scenery is a caress, today’s second ode to the world of visual arts. On either side of the straight, narrow road lie green meadows where hundreds of black and white cows enjoy their meal of dewy grass. When the white hearse, followed by two black funeral cars, approaches the grazing cattle, the beasts lift their weary heads to gaze with sorrowful eyes at the unfamiliar visitors moving through their midst. One by one they return to grazing under the sheer blue sky.

Hope you will be my next reviewer! Thank you very much!

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Poll results: series vs stand-alone books

Written By: Hannah Warren - Jul• 21•14

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I’d like to thank everyone for reacting to the poll and giving me their opinions and preferences. What do you like best? Writing series or stand-alone books? One writer commented that the phrasing of my poll was slightly wrong because any book – whether part of a series or in stand-alone version – has to be able ‘to stand on its own’. I understand and underwrite that. Perhaps I should have explained more clearly that I meant with what vision the writer starts his/her project. To write a series or a stand-alone book. But then again some commented that a change from stand-alone to series can take place during the writing process. The choice is obviously not set in stone.

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to promote the poll more and thus get more results but illness in the family has claimed most of my attention in recent weeks. Please feel free to leave your contributions to this discussion in the comment section. It might tip up the current outcome.

Overall preference of this modest-size poll seems to be for writing and reading series. After all, writers tend to write what they like reading themselves but the commercial aspect also seems to play a part. Write what the audience asks for. Makes sense, no?

Although some ground is covered with the answers below, I think we haven’t touched the bottom of this topic. There must be many more pros and cons. My curiosity is not completely satisfied.  So, let us hear from you!seriespic2

The Poll answers:

Kate Jay-r: I prefer to write standalone books because a) I prefer to read them and b) I am ready to move on to another story and a whole lot of new characters by the time I’ve written a book. It takes much longer to conceive and write a book than to read it so I am often fed up with the characters by the time I am ready to inflict them on the public! That said, I have on occasion, come back to write a second book involving same characters but not as part of a series.

Sheri Wilkinson: I am not an Author, I am a reader. I am split on this, as I have read and liked both, stand alone and series.

George Polley: I like them both, have read both all my life, and have written both. To me, it all depends on the character and the story (or the story and the character, to reverse the order).

Greta van der Rol: I write series because people want to know more about the characters. They already know the universe and want to learn more about it. And because of that, there’s an audience for the books.

Robb Grindstaff: I’ve never been a reader of series, and I’ve never had the desire to write a series. Characters show up in my head with a particular conflict, and I write their story to its natural (or unnatural) conclusion. Then I’m done with that story, and I’m done with that character — or rather, the character is done with me. She’s told me her story. I have a line of other characters waiting to tell their stories. I want to write a new story with a new character rather than trying to come up with a pale imitation of an earlier book I’ve written, rehashing the same character. I’m not big on movie sequels either for the same reason. Often they are pale imitations of the original in an effort to cash in and make a quick buck. Of course, in movies and books, there are lots of exceptions, but writing or reading a sequel or series just doesn’t appeal to me personally. I know a lot of people love series, I’m just not one of them.

Bill Kirton: Readers seem to want series books so, from a purely commercial standpoint, it makes sense to satisfy them. On the other hand, it’s too easy to become formulaic. I find characters develop from book to book and there’s a certain comfort in revisiting old friends in a new context. I also find that, if the characters are interesting enough in one book, they arouse my curiosity to the extent that I want to write a sequel to explore them further. All of which suggests that a stand alone isn’t enough – unless you achieve perfection, closure and all those other unreachable goals.

Will Hahn: I have no concept of a completely stand-alone book. All my tales are set in the same fantasy world and just like here in the Alleged Real World, everything that happens is connected.

Mandy Ward: I write a book. If a sequel / prequel suggests itself, I write it. TTATE is a series because I had an idea for an overarching plot that needed a different set of characters to be there for the end… I’ve tried to write a series only to have the first book be the last. You can’t really tell if it will be or not until you’ve finished the first book.

Suzanna Burke: Difficult to decide, I have done a 2 part book (Non-Fiction) and a stand alone Fiction novel. My current work Fiction can stand alone comfortably…however I have allowed for a follow on if readers (If I have any) seem to want more. I doubt that I would be comfortable with more than two or at a stretch three books. I think the story lines could become jaded and if they cease to be a challenge to write I would stop. I do love writing about new and different characters and situations.

Elaine Chase: stand alone but I have a mystery series BUT each book stands alone.

Laurie Will: I prefer to write series because that’s what I read. When I really like a book and fall in love with the characters, I don’t want to stop at one book. They become like my best friends. I suppose the same is true for writing. If I’ve spent that much time creating and loving characters, why would I want to leave them after one book?

John Booth: Series are great fun and it allows me to develop characters further than a single book would permit. However, single books have their place because how else do you start a series?

Sessha Batto: I write both – depends on the characters. Some have too much story for one book – others have a straight forward single book tale to tell.

Philip van Wulven: People seem to like Sherlock Holmes in shortish doses, and so buy my novellas in that mini-genre. The characters, setting, style, and subject matter are fairly rigidly constrained, and where possible, fall within the bounds of what is known as ‘the Canon’. This emulates the original stories written by Doyle for publication as a series in a periodical. My own preference is less relevant than those of readers in deciding.

John Holt: I have just published my fifth novel to feature my private detective Tom Kendall. Although all five novels are linked (this last one is however a prequel) all 5 books are also stand-alone books, and you could easily just read one of them, and not continue with the rest; or you could read them completely out of the order in which they were written.

M.A. McRae: You have the question slightly wrong. It is not series vs stand-alone. If a book that becomes a part of a series cannot stand on its own merits as well, then the author has failed.

I like a series – more meat in the meal. But I get very annoyed if a book ends on a cliff-hanger, and will not buy any more from that author.

Juliet Madison: I’ll NEVER get bored writing about DI Frank Lyle and his team.

Tom Winton: Hannah, from everything I’ve heard, series are the cat’s meow.

Sheila Mary Belshaw: If people want more of the same, they go for a series. If they want variation then it’s ‘stand alone’ for them. More exciting for an author to do something different every time.

Alex Butcher: I guess it depends what you want from a book, some work well enough alone, others don’t

Hannah Warren: I’ve never written a series but I’m tempted to try. I love watching television series. However, I see the danger of fading characters and keeping the story lines going just for the sake of income and reader-satisfaction. That would be detrimental to creativity.

 

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Series vs Stand-alone books

Written By: Hannah Warren - Jul• 08•14

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When considering your next book, you nowadays find yourself confronted with the question: shall it be a series or a stand-alone book? Series are as hot as baked potatoes and all over the place. But series have a number of drawbacks, too.

Today, there are publishers who only accept submissions from series-writing authors. And that’s understandable. They’re a lot more marketable/ profitable than their loner cousins.

We’re hooked on television series, historical, legal, hospital, fantasy, Sci-Fi. We want to love our characters forever and ever. And then, and then, and then… we can hear the four-year old in ourselves ask the question over and over again. We will not be satisfied!

But that’s from a reader’s/consumer’s point of view. What is it like for an author to write series upon series? I can’t answer this question as I have so far only written stand-alones. But my interest was triggered by what one of my reviewers of Casablanca, my Heart wrote:

“I loved every moment and was disappointed when I finally read the last page as this reader wanted more.”

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As a writer, I am educated by 19th century novel writers, that’s where I get my inspiration and learn the craft: the origin of the novel. Although books were often published as serials in newspapers or magazines, they consisted primarily of one book cut in chapters. Series writing developed in the 20th century.

To get a clearer picture in my own head about this topic, I’d like to get your opinion on the matter.

So please fill in the poll on my FB author page and I will publish all your interesting answers – pro and contra – here on my blog. Thank you big time!

 

 

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Major website reshuffle

Written By: Hannah Warren - Jul• 04•14

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Time for refreshments and new vista’s. The mourning diary is now removed from the home page and has a separate section under the heading Dairy of a Mourning Mum. I will regularly add new impressions from my mourning state, which is still as acute as it was three months ago.

I’m currently rearranging many posts and pages so it’s a bit of a mess here at the moment but please bear with me. Everything will be sorted out over the next couple of days. The blog is going to be uniquely reserved for writerly business. New work, promotion and the long and winding road of a published author and her mates.

Time to share with you the wonderful cover my new publisher Thorstruck Press made for the recently re-published Casablanca, My Heart. I absolutely love it and hope the book will finally attract the attention it deserves.

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So I’ll give you an excerpt of Casablanca, My Heart as a teaser:

“There is no doubt. He stands there, staring at me, at us, his expression shocked but intense. He is the same person, but looks much older. Lines fan out around his eyes and beside his mouth. He seems to have lost weight. But the light in his eyes hasn’t changed in the least. They still shine with that vivid blue passion that has been with me, inside of me, everywhere I went ever since our brief and fateful meeting five years before. Those eyes take me in with the intensity of someone drinking fresh, clean water after a long period of drought, but there is nothing teasing or lustful in them this time. His gaze is turned inwards, showing a restraint and pain that wasn’t there before. It seems to border on sorrow.
His dark brown hair has started to thin at the sides and is greying at the temples. Compassion sweeps through me, but I control the urge to bridge the few steps between us and touch his hand. I register all his visual details as if catching up on lost years and hoarding them up … for what? The lonely years ahead?
His skin can still be considered dark, definitely darker than most of the North Europeans surrounding us, but even his tan, once so glamorous, has lost some of its southern glow. He’s dressed elegantly in a dark blue business suit, but without a speck of extravagance. At some deeper level his inner posture is still intact, in the way he keeps himself upright, in the distinct classiness that reveals his aristocratic background. On closer inspection I think he looks even more attractive than he did five years ago, now all the former flashiness and arrogance is gone.
He is different from the other businessmen with their raincoats draped over their overnight bags, but he seems deliberately to have chosen a low profile.
This is not the Ghalib Tourniquet I remember. I’m puzzled by the dramatic difference in his appearance and wonder what could have happened in his life to cause such a drastic change. I also wonder why I care, and why I don’t feel angry with him. In fact, anger seems the only emotion I don’t have for him.
Swallowing the dry lump in my throat, I try to think of something to say. We must look like a pair of idiots just standing there, mute and frozen. But no words spring to mind. I realise Lucy’s hand is still squeezed in mine, sweaty and damp and I’m amazed she has stood still all this time. How long we’ve been standing like this, I don’t know.
Just as I’m getting grounded in reality again, he takes his eyes off me and turns his gaze to Lucy, a vague half-smile hovering on his face. Instantly, the smile disappears. His eyes search mine again, briefly, questioning. I see the enormity of the situation as it crosses his mind.
“Heather! Lucy! There you are! I’ve been looking for you!”
“Omyyy!”
The spell is broken. I become aware of the movement of people around us; they pass us by on all sides, swiftly, anonymously. The private moment during which the three of us existed on a remote island has passed.
I turn to face my mother, then turn again, but he’s already moving away, his back disappearing in the crowd, a stranger among the strangers.

(to be continued…)

Hope you like it enough to try a sample at amazon

Thank you and see you around on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

 

 

 

A Year To hold My Breath

Written By: Hannah Warren - Jan• 09•14

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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

Written By: Hannah Warren - Dec• 24•13

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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

Written By: Hannah Warren - Dec• 17•13

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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

Written By: Hannah Warren - Dec• 09•13

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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. :-)

I did it! 3rd time in a row!

Written By: Hannah Warren - Nov• 29•13

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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…

Written By: Hannah Warren - Nov• 25•13

 

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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