Hannah Warren

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4th time NaNoWriMo Winner!

Written By: Hannah Warren - Nov• 22•14

nanome

It is with intense pride and with extreme tiredness I announce to have won the National Novel Writing Month 2014, making this 4 subsequent years I have ‘done it’. This means: having written over 200,000 words written in 120 days on 3 different novels and 1 short story under very difficult personal circumstances that I do not want to further elaborate on right now but are the worst any parent can be made to bear. So, I’m crying, celebrating and shaking; wondering what the hellish attraction in it is for me but succumbing to this fever every year. Only those who take part in NaNoWriMo can actually understand its allure and I must tell you many of my writer friends don’t “buy it”.

Is it crap we write, is it a rough diamond or is it mediocre? The editing rounds that follow will tell us but I know that I write my best stuff when my ego is not in the way and when the quota I have to make for that day is the only thing that matters. When that hurries me on I seem to lose all sense-of-self-as-a-writer, the whole critical mind telling me to go hither or thither, crap-no-crap-possible crap etc,  and the characters take over and I type and type and when I read back what was actually written I’m often surprised at what I find. I don’t even recall having registered that move of a bare arm in the late afternoon sun, or the light breeze that made the glass curtains bellow out through the french doors or the deep love and despair that pierced my male main character’s heart. Ah yes, that’s the reward of writing with lose wings!

Here’s a sliver of what I penned down in this year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s the epilogue to the short story I wrote for the Thorstruck Anthology that will come out this Christmas. We are in the year 1919.

1919Epilogue

Château de Drakòn 1919

Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born – Anaïs Nin

Max Dupuis de Melancourt and his wife Elise, née Aberg, were sitting under the chestnut tree in the garden of their Château in Picardy drinking their morning coffee and chatting about this and that in an amiable way. Through the French windows Agnes and Angèle stepped out, dressed in light summer dresses, their straw hats tied under their chin with colourful ribbons. They had arrived from Paris the night before where Agnes was specialising as a gynaecologist and Angèle worked as a family doctor in the Nanterre district. Both were still single, as – like with so many women of their generation – their lovers, Gregor and Anthony, had not returned from the front. Agnes was twenty-six now but didn’t look a year older than twenty with her wavy blond hair and clear blue eyes, perhaps a little too thin and ethereal and serious but a beauty none the less. Angèle was still the tiny spirited, mass of copper curls with a decisive look around her mouth but a certain softness surrounded her now due to all that they had gone through in the Great War.

“Papa, we are expected at Château Drakòn this afternoon. Elle and Jacques invited us to stay with them for the weekend. Will you excuse us?”

Max, at fifty-two still upright and with a full head of hair that had turned completely grey, smiled as his daughter and her friend joined them:

“Of course, my darling. Please give them my greetings. I am so pleased you have become friends after all.”

Tons of memories made the trip to the Château near Roye very emotional for both young women. They parked the Renault Torpedo at Roye British Cemetery and walked among the endless rows of white crosses, the silence only broken by the lonely song of a nightingale high in the blue sky. Agnes laid a white rose under the cross that read Revant Chopra Sehgal, born Lahore, Punjab 2 January 1900- died Roye, France 5 August 1917.

They continued their journey in silence, wondering what they would find at Drakòn, which they had left soon after the Armistice on 11 November 1918 to return to Paris to recuperate. Although there had been an exchange of letters so that they knew Elle and Abigail had visited Valérie in the States and Jacques was still busy returning some normality to the castle and the old countess was still unchanged in her state of dementia, they hadn’t met up.

Arriving on the familiar gravel parking place in front of the castle, they were surprised to see quite a number of cars, also with English number plates.

“I don’t hope something happened to the old countess,” Agnes observed, “of perhaps her relatives are here.”

A broad-smiling Jacques and Elle stood on the steps of the castle in light summer gear, both in trousers and it dawned on Agnes she always seemed to arrive here in full summer. Only the last time she’d left, it had been a grim Autumn day.

“Welcome again,” brother and sister de Dragoncourt chimed. “Let’s go straight through to the garden, there is no time to waste,” Jacques added. After many kisses and bonjours, they tugged the two young doctors by their sleeves and dragged them to the garden where there was quite an assembly of people dressed festively but also men in military uniforms. Under an arbour a small string quartet was playing Irving Berlin’s That International Rag, which sounded quite cheerful and had already drawn couples to the wooden dance floor that had been created on the lawn. Electric lights were decorating the trees and the necks of champagne bottles stuck out of silver buckets filled with ice. The staff no longer in blood-smeared clothes but in immaculate black and white uniform served the guests as if they had not been through the war.

Two tall uniformed gentlemen with rows and rows of decorations went up to stand behind a table and signalled the musicians to stop playing. The two generals, one British and one French, stood side by side, looking imperial and victorious on the Drakòn lawn. The British general cleared his throat and in his deep loud voice announced:

“It is an honour to be here today to present to four young French citizens and one former British subject the British War Medal 1914-1918. These five young people have shown immense strength and courage during the Great War. This silver medal, also jokingly known as “Squeak” is awarded to men and women of the British and Imperial Forces who either entered a theatre of war or entered service overseas between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. For over 1100 transports of wounded military from the front to the war hospital here at Drakòn, on numerous times descending into the trenches herself to carry out the wounded men, I’d like to ask Elle de Dragoncourt to step forward.”

Elle looking rather nervous for the first time in her life but hiding it under her usual air of bluff and bravery, marched up to the table, clasping her hands with the invariable red nails in front of her. She slowly bent her head as first the British general pinned the British War Medal and then the French general awarded her with the Croix de Guerre 1914-1918. The sun shone abundantly on her short brown crop of hair and for the very first time in her life, Elle looked vulnerable. A tear slipped down her cheek that she wiped stealthily as she took her up her position next to her brother again.

The general continued: “Abigail MacDonald you are awarded these crosses for at least 700 hundred ambulance rides to the front and back.

“Count Jacques de Dragoncourt you are awarded these crosses for the more than 6000 wounded soldiers that you looked after in your war hospital here at Château Drakòn and giving a temporary place for the almost 700 who didn’t survive their wounds.

“Angèle Brest, you are awarded these crosses for carrying out more than 500 operations on wounded soldiers of the Allied Forces.”

“Agnes Gunarsson Dupuis de Melancourt, you are awarded these crosses for carrying out more than 500 operations on wounded soldiers of the Allied Forces. Thanks to you, doctors, almost all these men have been able to return to their families.”

The group of young decorated war heroes were quite overcome by these words of such high distinction for what they had only considered their duty. None managed to mutter more than a soft ‘thank you’.

Later, when the music had resumed and the tall champagne glasses stood bubbly and tingling in front of them, they shyly inspected each others’ medals, still quite wordless. The wordless silence of the men gone, the men they hadn’t been able to save and those they had.

They raised their glasses to victory and to friendship, blessing and cursing the blood-red nails of war.

THE END

For Real?

Written By: Hannah Warren - Nov• 14•14

undergroundwho knows…?

But this certainly is!!!

The Cottage On The Border will most probably be available as from next week and for me the good news is that amazon.nl  launched this week so now my books are also available to the Dutch audience. So far only the literary romance Casablanca, My Heart but soooooon my family saga with thriller elements. Both books partly take place in The Netherlands and The Cottage On The Border also deals with World War II, which – of course  – is a current topic so lets hope the readers of The Netherlands will find their way to my books. I will certainly target by marketing to my country of residence.

index

The All-Important Byline

Written By: Hannah Warren - Nov• 12•14

Very proud to show you the cover of my upcoming family saga The Cottage On The Border by Thorstruck Press with the definitive byline. Sadly, the byline can’t be read by everyone as the printing  is so small but it says: “She alone emerged from the rubble of six decades of troubled family history, a lone phoenix.” This is a line of Chapter One.

Out very soon now!! I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and another snippet from the book. Part of Chapter 48 It’s So Easy. A warning though, it’s rather a cruel scene.byline

Markus and Dieter got out of the cab in the Tiergarten Strasse and went further on foot. As they came closer to the Kaiser Wilhelm Allee, they could hear the yelling and screaming of the angry mob. Some fifty to sixty people, most of them black, had gathered before the huge warehouse and were throwing everything they could find, from bricks to sticks, at the small barred windows. As far as Markus could see, the police had not yet arrived, which surprised him but he suspected plain-clothes policemen were keeping an eye on the crowd. With all the fights that went on between the extreme right and the immigrants the police had taken up a neutral position, which in fact wasn’t neutral, but consisted of letting the immigrants suffer the consequences. German middle classes, to which police officers also belonged, viewed the arrival of waves and waves of immigrants in their cities with disfavour and weren’t as eager to defend their rights as if they were their own flesh and blood. Still, Markus knew he had to be careful, so he summoned Dieter to jump behind a stone wall to make sure they stayed out of sight.

“You only shoot when I tell you to,” Markus ordered Dieter. He took in the colourful group–most likely Ethiopians—a rolling mass of some fifty males, moving in chaotic spasms. He aimed his Micro Uzi with almost leisurely ease. It was the first time his target was a human being and a powerful, undeniable desire took hold of Markus. He sought out a young man with a bright blue shirt and brown pants, short curly hair, the ebony skin lighting up in the late afternoon sun. With angry fists, the black man was banging on the doors of the warehouse where the white men who had raped Gabra Telahun Ketsela were hiding. The distance was too great for Markus to hear what his target was yelling, but the degree of upset he displayed made clear he must be related to the girl.

Markus kept him in sight, following his elegant moves, the slim, tall body; pure anger in a naked soul. He took in every detail of the man and his entire life sprang up before him. How he had walked barefooted through deserts in his homeland, sat cross-legged in front of the family tent, drinking coffee, laughing, discussing the world. This was an intelligent man. Born under different circumstances, in another country he could have been a doctor or a lawyer. But now he was not going to be either, ever, anywhere. This nameless Ethiopian would have to pay for all Markus had never achieved himself, because he too was born under circumstances that could never lead to a better life. As he fired, Markus became one with the man that fell. He fell with him.

When the shot rang through the air the crowd burst apart; leaving twenty-four-year-old Dabir Telehun Ketsela, the uncle of the raped girl, dying in a pool of his own blood.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

Family Isn’t About Blood

Written By: Hannah Warren - Nov• 02•14

family

As we have moved into November – the release month of The Cottage On The Border by Thorstruck Press, oh what a thrill!- I would like to talk a little more about the core theme of the book. I know it is hard to say it really has a core theme as there are so many sub-themes but this was the original idea I had for a story.

Like many writers I do not come from a very stable or happy family background. Already as a toddler, I was dreaming of a real, loving family which I pictured as having window frames with frilly, lace curtains and beautiful potted plants in the window sills. Inside the children were sitting on the thick carpet closely together in front of a nice fire, hugging their knees, laughing, telling stories and sipping hot cocoa while a loving pair of parents looked on, pride in their eyes. My longing flared up to such an extent that I would climb on top of the stone well of our neighbours’ big farm house to peek through their window. I would stand there for hours, taking in the scenery which in my eyes was picture perfect, hoping – and once in a while my hope materialised – I would be invited in when they saw me on the outside and would temporarily make me part of their household. Later, I would lie in my solitary bed, hugging myself, praying to the universe that I was not a member of my own family but there were unmistakable feature resemblances between me and my father so I knew I couldn’t be the foundling I fantasized about.

I also always dreamt of my big brother, the one who was different from my other siblings and who actually cared and had a heart and understood me. But only when I was an adult I came to understand I actually could have had such a brother, who should have been born in 1952, the reason my parents got married. But his prenatal existence vanished under shady circumstances. Originally, I dedicated The Cottage On The Border to my big brother, this lost sibling as respect for blood ties that were never given the opportunity to develop, he – I called him Tristan Warren – who might have made the unbalanced stellar composition of our family so much better. He’s still embraced in the current dedication: For my precious family, here and hereafter.

Being a writer is an excellent opportunity to rewrite your own past. So I decided I would describe a family life that would have been much better for me: to be taken in by a family that actually loved me, fostered and protected me. That is what happens to the main character in The Cottage, Jenna Kroon de Coligny, when she is taken in by the farmer’s family Van Son at the age of 3 after her mother’s suicide.

v&jHer foster brother Vincent is Jenna’s senior by 6 years and because of his stable background is able to offer her some form of strength and continuity in her disrupted young life. But Jenna is too mentally broken to really bond with her new family, leaving Vincent and his parents in a constant strained uncertainty about her next move. As Vincent feels – despite his young age –  that he’s the only one who can actually reach this wild, deranged little person, he decides to become a psychiatrist. But exactly that fact is the final snap of their bond.

The Cottage On The Border picks up after 7 years of no contact: Vincent is almost a certified shrink and Jenna a professional dancer. It takes the whole book though, 318 pages, for Jenna to realise what filial love is and what it means to her.

In the next snippet from the book, we see the breakthrough of her feeling for her foster brother. The moment she realises where she comes from and what a great gift she was given in the form of the Van Son family:

‘I’m not strong enough for this,’ Jenna sobbed. ‘I cannot face so much murder, so much annihilation. I would rather die than see all the horrors of the world repeated.’
Jenna slowly walked over to the black Bakelite phone in the hallway and dialled Vincent’s number.
“Hello, this is Vincent van Son speaking, how can I help you?”
Hearing the kind voice, ready and open to help anyone who called him, was too much for Jenna. She suddenly broke down, her voice choked by tears so she couldn’t answer him. It seemed a repetition of her call to him two weeks earlier, but he knew.
“Jen, what’s up? You’re okay?” The familiar concern only made things more difficult for her. Her body folded double from a sharp pain in the region of her heart, and tears were streaming down her cheeks.
With a lot of difficulty she managed to bring out, “I’m sort of okay, again but there’s stuff—stuff you need—to know.”
Dealing with panic-stricken patients was something Vincent had learnt. ‘Buying time,’ he called it. Always ask practical questions, keep the patient grounded by means of reality checks.
“Okay, first things first. How are things physically, Jen? Any pains?”
“No-yes.” It sounded small.
“No nausea?”
“No.”
“Have you eaten enough?”
“Yes.”
“No temperature?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Okay, take some deep breaths, then exhale slowly. Do it a few times. I’ll wait.”
From her long practice as a dancer, Jenna knew exactly what he wanted her to do, turn her attention to belly-breathing, to calm her mind. Vincent continued talking calmly to her, his voice a reassurance so her panic attack could subside.
After a while he continued, “So, you found out stuff which upsets you and we need to talk, is that it?”
“Yes.”
“Can you manage to stay another night on your own, or do you need me to come right away?”
“Tomorrow morning would be okay. I know it’s late now.”
“I’d much rather come down straightaway to see your face as we are talking, but I’m on duty tonight and I can’t cancel my shift at the last minute.”
“I’ll be okay for tonight, Vince.”
“Sure?”
“Yeah. Sure.”
“I’ll come down first thing in the morning.”
“Thanks, Vince—uh—“
“Yes?”
“Nothing. See you then. Good night.”
“Goodnight, Jen, you can always give me another call at work tonight if you’re not feeling well.”
“Thanks, but it can wait till tomorrow.”

jennaThe house was very silent after she had hung up. Even the wind, the eternal wind, had died down. Jenna doubted her plan to let Vincent come all the way from Amsterdam just to talk about her deranged family, but on the other hand she needed him. It had been almost on the tip of her tongue to tell him she loved him. Something she had never, ever thought of saying to him. But the connection with Vincent was undeniable now. He was her beacon of light in this grim history. Jenna was so thankful for having been taken in by the Van Son family. It had always felt as if she was the ugly duckling, the black sheep, the odd one out, no matter how hard they had tried to make her feel at home, one of them. She now realised it had been her, not them, who had kept the contact at bay. She hadn’t invested, hadn’t wanted to, because there had been no need. It had been easier to be negative, to upset, to deny. It had become her second nature and she had denied herself all that was positive and trying to bond.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

Mist

Written By: Hannah Warren - Oct• 26•14

mist

 

Another recurring theme in The Cottage On The Border  – to be published by Thorstruck Press in November –  is MIST.

The definition of mist is: a cloud of tiny water droplets suspended in the atmosphere at or near the earth’s surface that limits visibility (to a lesser extent than fog; strictly, with visibility remaining above 1 km).

More importantly, however, is our personal relationship with mist, everyone has it. To me it is the most dangerous type of weather, just because it is so still, so dense, so sudden. Storms can be extremely destructive and frightening but at least you hear them coming;  snow is treacherous but visible, you can prepare for it; hail stones and heavy rain also make noise to prepare you for their arrival, but mist…? Mist is a sniper.

Only a couple of weeks ago commuters on my local motorway were suddenly caught unawares by low hanging morning mist, at three places simultaneously, killing several, wounding many and the wrecked cars were sufficient to fill a modest scrapheap.

Mist leaves you without sense of time or direction, it robs you of your most important survival instincts: your senses. And that’s just the physical part of it.mental illness

Mist also conjures up mental notions. In The Cottage On The Border the main character Jenna Kroon de Coligny always finds herself in misty conditions when there is also a fog in her head. She can’t think clearly, mist envelopes her both inside and outside because she doesn’t know what to do with her life, which path to choose, where to go, whom to ask for help. Mist is a part of her mental illness. The Polder landscape at the end of October that she retires to is always full of mist and I can guarantee you that this is truthful as I live in these surroundings myself. Cold, grey mist belongs to the the autumn when the last dripping leaves let go of their stems and all in nature becomes humid and still.

On yet another level the mist is the prelude to darkness, after all mist prevents the light of the sun from shining through. The next realm is that of the dark forces. Even in the Bible Peter – where he talks of false prophets (and Markus Brenner is definitely a false prophet!) – says: “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them“.

fijdfe For me personally, mist is also symbolized by the fifth chakra. Located at throat level, Vishuddha chakra is associated with the element ether (Akasha) and controls the principle of sound related to the sense of hearing. Its colour is a pale, smoky, misty violet. Reigned by the moon quality, this chakra is also called “the widow’s chakra” because men tend to die earlier than their wives, leaving them widowed. So it’s the chakra of mourning, the loss of what you knew to be true. As if you arrive at a narrow passage (the throat is the narrowest place in the human body) with loads of bulky suitcases filled with and precious memories & personal stuff but you have to leave most of it behind to travel to the sixth chakra: insight.

I could go on about the theme of mist for much longer but will conclude with a part from the very beginning of The Cottage On The Border where Jenna finds herself lost in the morning mist, wounded, in her nightie, out of her senses.

“All was still. A low fog was hanging over the meadow, covering the grass and the cream-coloured cows. In a gush of wind the veil floated upwards, showing their bulky shapes in the diffuse morning light. They stood in that typical cow mode, impervious to the human mind, just stolid watching. The next moment they were gone again, absorbed by the mist. The grey shards drew closer and enveloped the girl’s thin white nightdress, glued strings around her alabaster body, spun webs around her hair, her arms, her legs. She welcomed the webs, opened her arms, felt dressed in filigree again. She was back on stage. Adieu downfall! If only her legs would stop shaking. Then she would dance again, dance again.
Everyone was waiting for the day to break, ready for the change it would bring but nothing happened. No sunrise was scheduled for that autumnal Monday. Somehow Jenna knew the reason for it all but it kept escaping in the mist of her thoughts. A dark force was rising, pushing the light away, refusing to wait in the wings any longer. It was omnipresent, clouding her head as it hovered over the straight row of chorus line dancers, all focused intently on the rising curtain. They knew exactly what to do, the steps, ten-thousand times rehearsed, so intricate, always in time, not one step out of line, fast, smooth and wonderful. The trampling feet swayed forwards, backwards, until one stumbled … it had to be her! There was a hissing in her ear, something about a doom-or-glory type of person, expected for 2,000 years, feared, bespoken, that ‘thing’ in our sub-consciousness, sub-human, which we repress, we are so good at repressing, pressing it down to where it is forgotten, until next time. She was holding her breath—can’t say we haven’t been warned—and then she fell. Warned? Mr Mozzi simply dismissed here, she was ill, too thin, that was all. It could have happened to anyone. She only had to eat, to eat more, more, more.
Before her eyes, the filtered scene was changing. The silhouettes of the horned beasts loomed up, moving closer to the fence. They rested their dewy eyes on her. A fraction later, the air was split in two by the high shriek of an invisible chainsaw. Abruptly, it stopped again. The cows fled, their galloping hooves throwing up sods of wet mud. Jenna shivered, fear enveloped her like a grey, wet blanket weighing her down. The fog had become so thick that she was lost in time and place. From the other side of the veiled wall, Vincent was calling her name.

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The Point Of No Return

Written By: Hannah Warren - Oct• 22•14

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In every dramatic story the main character goes through a point of no return. In The Cottage On the Border, my new Thorstruck Press novel coming in November, Markus Brenner – as a boy of 5 – witnesses how his Nazi-sympathizing mother is humiliated after World War Two. She is put on a wagon where her head is shaven roughly in front of the entire community. Earlier that night his father has been arrested for his wrongdoings, the handing over Jews and resistance fighters to the enemy. Not understanding what is happening to his parents, the boy’s powerlessness festers and a seething hate is born. It will awaken in Markus’ soul a rage that is going to leave a trail of disruption and fear throughout Western Europe in the second half of the 20th century.

This is generally labelled Neo-Nazism but Markus’s Movement “Eradication” could reign under any fanatical political or religious flag. I believe that the terror of terrorism, born in the latter part of the 20th century and continuing in the 21st, is one of the biggest threats to the human right for safety and freedom. The cruelty of sudden, vicious attacks on innocent people is the true ulcer of our times. Every terrorist will have his or her own history, that moment the wrong choice was made. The Cottage On The Border shows how two generations are shaped on similarly wrong decisions.

This is but one of the themes of my new novel.

Here’s snippet of Isobel’s public humiliation.

isobel.jpg2“German whore! Scum of the earth! Whore, whore, whore! We’ll get you.”
Isobel wanted to recoil in horror, but she was grabbed roughly by the sleeve of her coat and dragged down the stairs towards the angry masses. Markus was taken away from her and started screaming at the top of his voice. Above all the jeering Markus’s crying could be heard, shrill and inconsolable.
“Mummy, mummy, mummy!”
Two police officers picked her up and placed her on a farm cart with two horses in front. One of officers pulled off her elegant hat and threw it into the crowd who got hold of it and ripped it to pieces. Bits of the long pheasant feather were seen whirling down. The crowd roared and waved clenching their fists at her.
Two men held Isobel’s arms behind her back, a third brought out a pair of scissors. With rough movements, he cut off her long blonde locks, threw them on the ground, stamping his feet on them. Then, when most of her hair was gone, he got a pair of shears from his pocket to shave off the rest of her hair until her skull was bare and bald. Blood was oozing from the cuts made by his rough treatment. Isobel was hanging limply in between the two men, almost on the brink of fainting. Markus’s crying had reduced to an agonised whimpering. When they were done shaving her, the boy was picked up and placed on the wagon as well. Farmer Hermsen, the Brenner’s neighbour, took his place on the box and whipped the horses into movement. Hermsen slowly manoeuvred cart and horses through the crowds, who were still delirious, shouting over and over again.
“Serves you right, German whore … traitor, traitor, traitor!”
Isobel was shown in this disgraceful state throughout the provincial capital of Middelburg, together with her five-year-old son who didn’t, and couldn’t, understand why people were treating his mother like this, all the time shouting the most awful words at her. He had been naughty in his life but nothing like this had ever happened to him. His mother must have been very naughty, but what had she done? And what had his father done? Why was his Pa taken away from them as well? Hermsen drove mother and son all the way to Oud Land and everywhere along the road people came out shaking their fists at Isobel, calling her names. Her head was bent down, blood dripping down on her chic beige jacket, her skirt, her hands, her nylons were tattered, her soul broken. At the gate of Oud Land Farm they were thrown off the cart and left to themselves. Isobel fell by the side of the road, unable to get up. Markus stood next to her, looking at her closed eyelids and he was afraid she had died.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Release November 2014: The Cottage On The Border

Written By: Hannah Warren - Oct• 18•14

1924842_755168261197322_3106324557973190171_nIt is with immense pride & joy that I am finally able to announce the publication of my second novel: The Cottage on The Border by Thorstruck Press in November 2014. Exact date will soon be made public. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be blogging extensively on this new release. I hope you will become as enthusiastic about my new novel as I am. I’ll also let you know when it is available for pre-order.

The Cottage on The Border has ‘ripened’ for 13 years before being ready to be consumed. The story original came to me in a dream shortly after my writer dad passed away in 2001 and handed the pen down to me to continue the job.

This family saga, with a hint of autobiography where the war part is concerned, is based in the Netherlands and Germany. It spans six decades of troubled family history, unravelling the traumas of too many secrets and lies through the eyes of 19-year old Jenna Kroon de Coligny, descendant of one of the oldest Dutch aristocratic families.

Here’s the family tree:

familieboom

Soon more on these complicated family relationships and the deep unhappiness that binds them. An inspiration to write the book has certainly been the famous opening line of Anna Karenina by my all-time hero Lev Tolstoy: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Both Jenna’s grandparents and her parents are without exception extremely unhappy in their own way.

One of the basic rules of characterization is that in the course of the story the main character goes through various stages and as a result develops. Becomes better or badder; is either  victorious, or perishes. And yes, sometimes death can be considered a victory as well, a successful completion to earthly existence. There is a beautiful saying (unknown): “The grape passes through the press to yield wine. Your life must pass through the press of passion and pain to yield the wine of wisdom.”

Here’s a taster to The Cottage on The Border. It is part of Chapter 17: The Door to Life.

No, Vincent would never get this. Vincent didn’t think in terms of death. He thought in terms of life. Like Dora did, like Theo. But the Brenners and the Kroon de Colignys thought in terms of death. They were from a world where the dark souls gather to spin their yarn, the underworld.
“Jenna, breakfast.” Vincent’s baritone was calling her from the bottom of the stairs. She hid her head under the blankets lying as still as a corpse. She heard him call again. In a minute he would be knocking on her door.
But Jenna had no lust to face this day, not yet. She was a small child again lying on a warm blanket on the lawn. The sun was out. She woke from her afternoon nap hearing happy birds chirping in the large chestnut tree, a waft of sun-drenched roses drifted up her nose. Vincent was close by talking to Mama Dora, his voice shrill and cheerful. He was chattering about train engines and Mama Dora replied in short, affirmative sentences. Jenna pulled herself to a sitting position to watch mother and son sit together on the old wooden bench that leaned against the wall next to the front-door of the farm, right under the two big windows with all the little window panes. Vincent went on and on about his trains, meanwhile rasping his sandaled feet in the gravel. Mama Dora’s full round face was one big smile. When she saw Jenna had woken up, she gestured for her to come sit with them but Jenna let herself drop on her back again, pretending to sleep. She didn’t want to hear the drone of their voices anymore, so she put her fingers in her ears.
The bedclothes were drawn back. Vincent’s face was hovering over her, a deep line of concern between his brown eyes, showing above the round spectacles.
“I’m only playing hide-and-seek,” Jenna lied glad to see the line ease out a little. She tried to pull the blanket back over her but he held it tight.
“Time to get up, Jen. How did you sleep?”
“Didn’t.”
“That sucks. How come?” It sounded too shrink-like. Funnily enough, she could see he knew it too. She didn’t answer, but slowly got up meanwhile slipping into her dressing gown. It was freezing cold in the small bedroom that, once upon a time, must have been Markus’s. Following Vincent down the stairs, she hesitated. She would have to walk into that kitchen where the murder had taken place. Faint in her legs Jenna had to hold on to the railing. She lingered on the threshold, as if trying to get past Isobel but a strong hand was stopping her. It froze her in her tracks. Vincent was busy at the stove with his back to her, so he didn’t see the seizure that attacked her, made her collapse in the doorway.
When she came round, she was lying on the bunk in the corner of the kitchen. Vincent had his stethoscope around his neck. He was sitting close by talking into his mobile. Jenna heard him say:
“Pulse normal, no temperature. Oh, I see she’s coming around. Talk to you later, Jean. Yes, I will call you on your hospital number this afternoon.” He slipped his phone into his pocket turning his full attention to her.
“What happened?” Jenna asked; her voice small and girlish.

duitslanddansschoen

 

TO BE CONTINUED :-)

 

Audiobooks Part II

Written By: Hannah Warren - Oct• 10•14

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The steep rise in the interest for audio books has not been received favourably by everyone. Having been used to ‘reading’ books as the sole way to consume literature, ‘listening to books while multitasking’ is bound to be frowned upon by print purists. Basically, they doubt that the listening experience will deliver the same experience as sitting down and reading silently. Well, you don’t have to be a print purist to understand the two of them (reading versus listening) are very different experiences indeed. But the question is: does it matter? Watching a film based on a novel is not the same either but each experience has its own beauty and its own fulfillment. What’s more, most of us writers stem from the oldest profession in the world: the oral tradition. I bet many of my writing pals were the ones telling scary tales by the campfire on the beach as teenagers or making up fairy-tales when little brother, sister or cousin wouldn’t go to sleep. The step to penning down these fantasies was not such a big one. In essence oral and written storytelling have the same source: the artist’s imaginative powers. There may be a difference how our brains absorb stimuli of the eyes or the ears but the same old heart will beat quicker when the suspense rises.

luisterenHowever, you may be pleased to know that scientific studies also show that for competent readers it hardly matters whether they listen to a story or read it. The format has little bearing on their capacity to understand and remember a text. Some even argue that listening to a text can even improve understanding, especially for difficult works such as Shakespeare, where a narrator’s interpretation of the text may help to convey the meaning.

Because multitasking while listening is a relatively recent phenomenon, little is known about how well people absorb stories while they’re driving, lifting weights or chopping vegetables. Commuters account for half of all audio book buyers, according to research firm Bowker, which tracks the book business. A study by the University of Virginia researched reading and listening comprehension and found that multitasking does compromise a listener’s attention, unless the task is fully automatic. Jogging on a treadmill wouldn’t hamper you to fully absorb the text but running on a trail might. So, driving on the motorway will probably keep your attention fully fired whereas complicated traffic situations will make you loose it. No harm done there. I’m sure a listener will notice the distraction without being told by scientists and reread the passage or relisten to it when things have quietened down. After all, this story absorbing is for fun and you want to hear what’s happening.

boeksSome writers worry that the practice of silent reading may become extinct due to the audiobook boom, as impatient and busy readers are no longer taking the time to concentrate on their works of art. This view sees humanity as becoming the passive consumer, to whom reading has become a secondary activity that is performed while doing other, more important stuff. This way, we would lose that deepest and most important kind of reading, turning in to our own world where we may hide together with the story. Humanity seems to be on the brink of succumbing completely to technology, where we can do anything and everything simultaneously, including reading. I cannot but agree I often marvel at the ability of people younger than me to do multiple things at the same time but I always put that down to the development of the human race: we’re becoming quicker, more intelligent, more versatile. As yet, it’s hard to say whether this ability is to the benefit of the human race or going to leave us burned-out and shattered before ripe old age has set in. Really I don’t know. Time will tell.

mtAudible is meanwhile funding cognitive research at Rutgers University to study the brain activity of test subjects while they are reading a text, listening to it, reading and listening simultaneously, and switching between the two modes. The results of the research have not yet been published, but there are early signs that suggest that listening to a narrator may be more emotionally engaging than silent reading, particularly for men, according to Guy Story, Audible’s chief scientist.

Book lovers with a long history of reading texts will most probably need a longer time to adapt to listening to books. The change is much bigger than it was from paperback to Kindle. I’m an example of this trepidation myself. My publisher Thorstruck Press kindly gifted its authors a number of audiobooks but I fidget and doubt where and when to listen to them. Do I have the necessary equipment? Will I sit down to listen or go for a walk and try it out? The idea of the freedom to do two things I love at the same time, walking and ‘reading’ sounds enticing but my restricted phone is incapable of storing the audiobooks and my tablet might slip out of the pocket of my coat.

However, I’ve decided to become a test subject myself! I want to find out whether it is true that it is easier to recall the parts listened to than the passages read, which apparently is the case when a talented narrator has read the book. I want to be able to say when people ask: Have you read that book? No, I listened to it! And I want to write my first Audiobook review.

So: Audiobooks III will solely be based on my own experiences. See you back in a couple of weeks when I return from traipsing the Polder land and listening to Indigo Vamporium and Offshore. Sorry Paul Rudd, I’m too afraid to listen to horror book Sharc.

boekz

Audiobooks Part I

Written By: Hannah Warren - Sep• 29•14

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I’m very happy & proud to announce that my debut novel Casablanca, My Heart will be turned into an audiobook narrated by Kate Fisher. Hopefully available for Christmas. :-)

High time to find out some facts and figures about this booming new industry: The Audio Book.

We all know the printed book industry has suffered a great deal from the digital revolution. In the second half of the 20th century, films, television and then the internet have torpedoed centuries of book-reading monopoly. But now in a funny way literacy is spreading again due to the arrival of the Audiobook. People who aren’t used to picking up a novel outside their holidays, are massively embracing the new technology…and again “reading books”. It’s so very convenient to listen to snippets on your smartphone during your workout, while commuting, cooking, cleaning or walking the dog. And the wonderful thing is that when you want to continue reading in bed before you go to sleep, the eBook on your Kindle will switch exactly to where the narrator left off. This makes listening/reading interesting to a whole new group of “book lovers”. beer

When my publisher Thorstruck Press announced our novels would be turned into audiobooks (at least some 20 are currently being read by our narrators or have already been released and the number is growing every day!), I was still very unaware of the huge industry behind this new technology. My mind frame was still the recorded books for the blind, the “talking books” from the 1930s. Renamed “audiobooks” in the 1970s when cassettes replaced the original records. These books on cassette decks enjoyed some popularity in the 1980s – also for the non-blind, after which CD’s followed, but overall audio books failed to keep pace with other forms of digital entertainment. Personally, I’ve listened to one or two in my car but never got the hang of it. Did you? These narrated books were very expensive, $50 or more (for example, $100 for Stephen King’s lengthy “The Stand”), so audiobook lovers usually borrowed them from libraries just like ordinary books.

Today, audio books are booming business. The reason: every soul owns a smartphone and we love to experiment with all the downloadable apps. So, the smartphone has broadened the pool of potential listeners extensively. You can download an audiobook onto your phone with just one click, often for almost the same price as an eBook. The prices have dropped due to lower production costs and higher demands. Today, an average audiobook will cost you around $20.

By 2013, audiobooks had grown into a $1.2 billion industry. So far, Audible, which Amazon bought in 2008, has paired some 26,000 eBooks with professional narrations. The company is adding more than 1,000 titles a month and aims to eventually bring the number to close to 100,000. (figures in 2013). Audible has a subscription service with millions of members listening to an average of 18 books a year.

 

boek2Audiobook producers have been dramatically increasing their output. 13,255 titles came out in 2012, up from 4,602 in 2009 (Audio Publishers Association).

Audiobooks are now a brand of their own. Some audio publishers see them as a distinctly different medium from the printed book, calling them “audio entertainment”. Sometimes these stories are exclusively aimed at narration only, holding their own as original works of art. In a way, these full-cast dramatizations resemble the old radio plays, complete with music and sound effects. And how popular radio plays were at the time!

Some novelists are bypassing print entirely these days and release novels as audio exclusives, such as the British novelist David Hewson, who released his new mystery “The Flood” straight to audio with no print edition. But “audio authors”, who have embraced this new hot medium, usually already had quite some avid listeners to their earlier recorded work. Like with eBooks “listeners” can leave a review on Audible. We can gain some insightful advice from Mr Hewson as writing for audio apparently requires different techniques to prose writing.

–          Word repetition becomes glaringly obvious. So do unintentional rhymes. boek

–          Location changes have to be telegraphed at the beginning of the scene, so that listeners do not get confused.

–          Complex sentences, long subordinate clauses do not work, people get bored and confused by them.

–          Aim for the writing to disappear so that all people hear is the story.

 

audible This is just to give you an idea what the Audible screen would look like on your smartphone, not to make any advertisement for a device or Audible.

In my next blog I will investigate the passionate debate of advocates and opponents of listening to versus reading books.

 

Oh and thank you Thorstruck Press for responding adequately to the changes in the book industry!

Poll: Is your writing style geared to the present-day reader?

Written By: Hannah Warren - Sep• 20•14

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I’ve never made an attempt at disguising I’m a fan of 19th century literature (French, Russian, English). Although I read (past and present tense!) plenty of contemporary novels, I am mostly inspired and influenced by the very start of novel-writing as we know it. Austen, the Bronty Sisters, George Elliot, Stendhal, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky to name but a few, and of course my all-time hero Lev Tolstoy. Time after time I can pick up one of his books just for the pleasure of savouring his sentences. This love for old books goes so deep that I’m currently taking a shot at writing a historical novel myself, Daughter of the Alvar, set in Sweden in the 1890s. No Iphones, sex-talk, SatNav or fast-food but horse-and-carriage, chaperoned walks, poachers and kitchen maids.

However, I’m currently going through a phase in which I wonder whether indulging in the work of dead authors may be making my own writing style a tad old-fashioned. I may be running the risk of writing for my own pleasure, with zero commercial appeal. So, from a sales point of view I was interested in writers’ opinions on the marketability of their books and created a poll on Facebook. Ten people were so kind to answer the 6 questions. Thank you so much.

Here are the results!

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Question 1: Do you feel you can tap into the interests of today’s readers?

–          That’s a difficult one. I hope so but I don’t obsess about it.

–          Yes

–          Yes – for the segment of the market that I target. (I could not tap into YA, or Hot hot romance – not my area of expertise – age, interest or otherwise.)

–          No.

–          I can tap into a niche market of today’s readers, not into a wide pool.

–          I think I can sell to serious readers.

–          Most of the time. It depends on the genre

–          Yes.

–          Yes, I write fantasy with a strong streak of humour. People like my characters and the situations I get them into.

–          Some of them, I hope.

you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 2: How much does your audience matter to you?

–          I feel my audience is a niche one and they matter very much although it’s often hard to find them.

–          A lot

–          Audience is everything if you are a publishing author. If you write solely for your self – that’s another game altogether

–          A great deal.

–          My audience is very important to me, their comments and feedback keep me inspired to continue writing for those whose tastes veer from the norm

–          I write the stories that I can put my hear and soul into. My audience is ever so important, but I can’t write a genre that I have no interest in.

–          Vital. If you want your book to sell.

–          A lot

–          A lot, but in the end the only judge is me. If I’m not entertaining me then I doubt I am entertaining the audience.

–          Fair bit

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Question 3: Do you think best-seller writers have fine-tuned antennae with which they detect the general taste?

–          I’m sure some do, but others may be best sellers because they’re celebrities and have employed ghost writers. But other variables such as luck and timing are also important.

–          No

–          Yes quite possible- also a shot of luck, and sometimes their books are so good they generate a new taste.

–          Probably.

–          Not really, I think they choose to write in the most popular genre, generally, which gives them the widest pool of potential readers. Then they need to have a compelling plot. Once someone has had one bestseller they have a huge pool of people willing to try their next book, but if it doesn’t live up to the first book they will lose that audience quickly.

–          I think that if an author writes chic-lit, mysteries, and romance (geared for younger readers) they can sell books, if they write reasonably well. I have an antenna but I go with my gut. I put too much into a book to try and write something I don’t really want to. It wouldn’t be any good.

–          I think they pick the trends and look out for what is hot right now. Sometimes, though, they make the trends.

–          No

–          No. I think they write good work and then circumstances turn the readers towards them.

–          Again, some of them.

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Question 4: Is it possible to learn to adapt your writing to the taste-of-the-day?

–          That’s interesting , Hannah, because I feel that my writing is very contemporary in style and yet I wouldn’t necessarily say ‘it’s the taste of the day’. For me, the taste of the day – certainly in terms of genre is – for paranormal and also for trilogies, although some writing is perennially popular eg romance. But I think you’re asking more about writing style. I guess you can learn about writing in a contemporary style eg more concise sentences, shorter sections, shorter books etc but if it isn’t something instinctive then that might make it more of a chore, certainly more challenging at any rate.

–          Yes

–          If you want to, yes – but you should only do so if it interests you. For example, I’d never write a zombie book – I’d be terrible at because it is not a topic I like or know about.

–          Yes.

–          I’m sure it IS possible, but it doesn’t interest me.

–          It’s possible for some writers.

–          If you want to sell books I think you have to do this to some degree.

–          Yes

–          It must be possible, but what fun would it be?

–          I am trying

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Question 5: Could it be related to age, e.g. not being in touch with what is en vogue when you get older?

–          I think age is a factor but I find it fascinating, for instance, watching the changes in language and colloquialisms. I think it’s important to keep abreast with changes in such things if you want characters to have authenticity and speak in the lingo of the day. Equally, if your novel is set in the past then it’s also important for the language and other details to be authentic. It really irks me, not only in books, but in TV series that are set in the past when they use figures of speech from a much later time.

–          NO

–          There are always a wide range of tastes – older writers can write for the 90 million baby boomers in Nth America – know your audience!

–          Yes.

–          Doubtful, my work is not for the ypung ;)

–          It could be.

–          I think we can all be young at heart. But you need to read what your readers are reading and try to tune in from there.

–          Yes

–          No, people are people. Nothing has changed except a few words and phrases.

–          Yes, I can relate to an internet world, but smartphones & texting are still unknown territory.

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Question 6: Anything else you’d like to add to this topic?

–          I just want to thank you for the opportunity to partake in this thought-provoking discussion. Thanks Hannah!

–          No

–          I cannot bring myself to write down to my readers: so I don’t.

–          Building an audience is a difficult thing. Consistency has to be a big part of it. People who buy one of your books and like it must get the same experience if they buy another.

–          <3