Thoughts at the End of the Year

 

2017 was the year I decided to publish independently. So far, it is exciting but there’s also much to learn.

I must learn to balance social media involvement with writing time. I must learn how to make sales and get reviews, something I never thought of before I published.

Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t do this earlier. But maybe I’d just have made a mess of it. It’s true that I didn’t know about blog-tours, promotions, or (online) launch parties. Next time I’ll know more and plan before I jump.

Still, it was the right decision to let fly.

What made me decide to go independent?

It was the agents, who encouraged me to believe in my writing, but didn’t snap me up.

While there are aspects of your work that I admire. . .

We have read your query with true interest. . .

You have an interesting story to tell and there’s a lot to like about your approach. . .

I am sure that this could be very intriguing but. . .

I enjoyed reading your work; you write with conviction and your plot promises plenty of action. Unfortunately, as a small agency. . .

You write well, and have some intriguing ideas, but in this harsh climate, when editors (and agents) are being even more cautious than usual, I just don’t think we’d succeed in placing a novel as complex and ambitious as yours. . .

These were mostly well-known agencies. I took up the gauntlet and spent some hectic weeks preparing my manuscript, deciding on a book-cover, etc. On the eleventh of October my book appeared on Amazon.

Of course, I need to sell my book, and I’m pleased with every purchase clocked in by Amazon. It was a milestone getting the first royalties, but I want to do better. Who doesn’t?

Paperback UK:



Paperback US:


Paperback DE:

© HMH, 2017

Christmas Thoughts

This morning I listened to Danish Christmas songs. I started to cry. And asked myself why.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out, the pure voices stirred up emotions and memories, but the obvious answer didn’t satisfy me. There had to be more to it than that. Over the last days, social media has been filled with greetings, expressions of love, and Christmas or Hanukkah thoughts. Even pagan and Saturnalia greetings took up not a small measure of space. The pages almost burst with seasonal cheer, although there were jesting and sarcastic comments, mixed up with the more serious or, sometimes sentimental, thoughts.

On the surface I enjoyed the banter just as much as the pictures. I listened to all sorts of seasonal songs and marvelled at the variety and the inventiveness that went into all these posts.

So, what was it that urged me to think? Also, that wasn’t difficult to answer, not on the surface. Collectively, we love seasonal cheer. We want to leave everyday bleakness to the side, even if only for a few hours. Some of us can’t help thinking bah humbug, but we mostly succumb to the flashing lights and the dream of warm and fuzzy merriment.

There’s no doubt that commercialism has done much to distort our reactions to everything, from Halloween to Christmas, from Easter to Valentine’s etc. On the other hand, I believe that many of these holidays express something that lies deeper. It isn’t easy to define, but is it possible that we long for lost innocence?

There was a time when I thought the world was basically good. I believed in Christmas. Not only that: I thought that life was just, and people got what they wanted and needed. I had no idea that race and religion place barriers between people, at least, I thought that it couldn’t be a big problem. I saw people as a big family. I was hopelessly naïve.

I read about other cultures, about Egypt, about China, about the Middle east and Africa, but I didn’t understand, what seems obvious. To me, we were all the same: human beings, with needs and wishes, which would be granted one way or another. I had no awareness about gender or race. When did it change? I hardly know, but it changed, and it was a long and painful journey.

© HMH, 2017

Vitruvian Man

Establish the navel as centre;

Nobody will question

Head over heels:

Humans were designed as

Cartwheels.

Out-stretched arms

Equals ascertained height

Disguised as twenty-four palms.

Vitruvius saw the significant truth

Vinci subtly dismissed the ruth.

 

The spread eagled male

Can never escape

Circle and Square;

The definite sphere.

Muscles and bones protracted in space

Parts of the Universe:

Skeletal wonders of sombre anatomy.

 

From womb to curtains

He gravely presents

Proportions of Man

 

From ‘Persona Grata e Non Grata’

 

©HMH, 2012

Romance: Treat or Trick?

Like the next person, I do love a good romance, but if, and when, I get a romance overload, I start to question the idea of the whole thing. If girls, or women, always get portrayed as suckers for love, isn’t there something to worry about? Even when the (female) protagonist is successful, it seems that fulfilled love makes the success fade away. Sometimes the promise of love is enough. Of course, it also happens that work fades away, or goes up in smoke with a big bang. Then the romantic, and mostly male, lead appears on stage.

Why is a wedding gown apparently more important than an inspiring work situation? Admittedly, there are many jobs, I would happily ditch for a full-blown knight-in-shining-armour whirlwind romance. I don’t think that there are many women who doesn’t get weak in the knees, when their dream man appears, but. . .

What if the dream job gives more excitement, fulfilment, fun, and creative challenges, than a single man could ever produce? Would the woman, or girl, never stop to think: do I want this? Do I really want to forego the sense of achievement that my job gives me? If it is possible to have both: fine, but mostly it turns out that the perfect job, the artistical ambition, the will to succeed fades away, when the proverbial string-orchestra strikes up a swelling hymnus amoris (hymn of love).

The next big question is: does this all-encompassing love last? What strikes me is that the romantic love stories mostly end when the couple declare their love. The way to this conclusion is hard work, full of misunderstandings, intrigues, sometimes danger. The result is rarely that the hopeful girl, or woman, stays alone. There’s seldom space for private reflection at the end of such stories. No hopeful love-bird rides off in the sunset, searching new challenges or, probably worse, a new love. Life ends where marriage begins, and the observer, aka the reader, must seek another story to complete the picture. That is, if she or, perhaps rarely, he wants to grapple with other realities. Finding love, and saying your ‘I do’s, transforms the setting. And even in a successful marriage, love slowly transforms from romantic infatuation to something else. The ancient Greeks made the distinction, calling erotic and romantic love Eros, naming married bliss Agape.

To me it’s clear that romance-fiction seldom looks further than the proverbial white gown. There’s nothing romantic about marriage, unless the husband is a jerk, and the wife needs another romantic lead to take over and – rescue her.

My question is: do we still buy this, and why? Women can achieve, they often perform better than men. Girls are brighter in school and education but, at a certain point, it looks like their will to succeed dims. Is it the biological clock ticking? Does it all boil down to instinct? Are our genes programmed to carry us into motherhood whether we want it or not?

These questions can’t be answered with a single kiss. Is the problem that we get confused about gender? And what is gender at the end of the day? In the current climate, it becomes increasingly clear that there aren’t just two sexes. In my opinion, the strong divide: female/male is obsolete. Maybe there is a gliding slide from the absolute female to the absolute male principle, and in between every possible variety. It is nothing new. But our focus on this has increased, especially in a time where people must develop courage to see, and accept, diversity.

 

© HMH, 2017

Snippets of Norse Mythology: The Creation and The World Tree, Yggdrasil

In the beginning there was nothing but a void. Then two regions appeared. The southern was Muspelheim, full of fire, light, and heat. In the north Nifelheim came to be. It was made of arctic waters, mists, and cold. In between the two realms stretched a yawning emptiness, Ginungagap. Sparks and smoke from Muspelheim spilled into the gap and met layers of rime and frost. Out of the melting ice, Ymir, the giant, emerged. The cow Audhumla suckled him, and he grew fast and strong. Then Ymir gave birth to man and woman out of his left armpit. The first Jötnar sprang from his legs.

Audhumla licked the salty ice and released Buri.  His son, Borr, begat three sons: Odin, Vili, and Ve. When they were ready, they killed Ymir and the Jötnar, except two.

Odin, Vili and Ve used Ymir’s body to make the land, his blood became the sea. Then the three Vanir raised his skull to create a dome, they called the sky. His bones became mountains, his hair grew as trees, but Odin used his eyebrow as fence against the Jötnar.

Thus, the world came to be. The brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve caused time to begin. They placed two orbs in the sky: the sun and the moon and made them orbit the world.

Then Odin found two young giants, Sol and Mani. They were beautiful, and Odin decided to let them drive the chariots, belonging to the sun and the moon. To make sure they’d keep a steady pace Odin set two wolves to pursue them across the sky, and devour them if they caught them.

Yggdrasil, the World Ash, holds the world together: the roots envelop all the spheres. They also keep different areas separated. At the bottom is the realm of the dead, called Helheim. Hel, who is Loke’s daughter, reigns. Her region is dark: a realm of shadows and hunger, covered by one of the big roots. A wellspring, Hvergelmir, which is infested with snakes, bars the way to Nifelheim. Here the dragon Nidhogg gnaws Yggdrasil’s root. The gods convene at a place known as Domsted. The Norns, Urda, Skulda and Verdandi, live at Domstead. They tend the tree and spin the threads of fate. The root, which runs beyond Domsted supports Midgard, where humans live. The third root supports Jotunheim, the realm of the Giants.

The earth is a circle of land surrounded by ocean. In the ocean resides the world serpent, Midgårdsormen. In the centre of the land stands the World Tree, Yggdrasil. Its roots descend to the underworld, and its branches support the sky.

It is well known that Valhalla forms the playing ground for death heroes. Shield maidens carry the dead from their battles and give them new life. This is where the cauldron of resurrection comes into its own. Each day the heroes fight their old battles again, and each evening the shield maidens submit the dead to the cauldron. This way, they can feast through the night, drinking mead from the goat Heidrun’s udder. She stands atop the roof of Valhalla and feeds from the leaves and branches of the tree.

The gods, the Aesir, live in Yggdrasil’s top branches: their realm is known as Asgaard. Their greatest foes, the Vanir stay in Vanaheim.

The Giants, the Jötnar, have their abode in Utgaard in Jotunheim, which is placed beyond the ocean that surrounds Midgard.

© HMH, 2017

 

Invitation

If you like my blog or Hanne Holten Writes (Facebook), you might like

Snares and Delusions.

Why not take a peek on Amazon?

 

Author pages UK, US, and Germany:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/HM-Holten/e/B076CJP47N/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

https://www.amazon.com/author/hm_holten

https://www.amazon.de/HM-Holten/e/B076CJP47N/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Dreams and nightmares take Hedda to hell and back.

The combined forces of opium and pain brings her face to face with her life. From rural Sweden in late nineteenth century, over Silkeborg to the Danish Capital, and during the Great War, she experiences love and loss, poverty and betrayal.

Hedda gives up everything to win independence. She soon discovers that this is one thing to wish for, but another to achieve. Life handles her roughly, but can she develop strength of character? Will she pay for her freedom in ways she doesn’t anticipate?

©HMH, 2017