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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #47

Dear Reader,

This is exciting, Looking for Rosanna Mee, which is published in September, is a Hot 💯 new release sitting alongside the legendary Bill Pronzini 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Rosanna-Mee-Smith-Mystery-ebook/dp/B086C624BC/

I suspect this will be my book statistic of the week, my sales on Kobo are up exactly 1,000% (!) 🙂

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=hannah%20howe&fcsearchfield=Author

A busy week with audiobooks with five in production: Smoke and Mirrors, Stardust, Digging in the Dirt, Boston and The Devil and Ms Devlin, all in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. It’s always fascinating to hear how narrators interpret your words and it’s always great to work with other creative people.

Here’s some we made earlier https://hannah-howe.com/audio-books/

My Author of the Week, Val Tobin

As part of the Authors Give Back sale where authors support readers during this difficult time Val Tobin is offering her books for free and at 60% off the recommended retail price.

Nothing is more glorious than finding a book that keeps you turning pages to discover what happens next. Val Tobin’s stories will do just that. Take a journey with characters who will inspire you, intrigue you, and entice you to read just one more chapter.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/valtobin

The Chocolate Egg and the Router

Earlier this week, I lost my Internet connection. An engineer was due today, so yesterday evening I decided to tidy the living room to make space for him. And guess what I found? In a corner inaccessible to man or beast, the router plug was sitting on the floor. I plugged it in and within ten minutes our Internet was restored.

So, how did the plug get on to the floor? As unlikely as it sounds it seems that one of my children reached for an Easter egg, knocked a small 5.1 music speaker off the shelf, the speaker landed on the plug and knocked it out of the socket. Throughout this a light remained on the router – it’s fed by two sockets – and the corner is inaccessible except for the plug sockets so no one thought to look there.

I told the engineer there was no need to call because I’d fixed the problem. Doubtless, he was impressed. However, I didn’t tell him how I did it 😉

My current reading list for Eve’s War

Madame Fourcade was an amazing woman. Forget de Gaulle, Madame Fourcade was the real leader of the French Resistance. She was the one who rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in when it came to fighting the fascists.

Most of my Eve’s War series is set in Brittany, hence the need to top up my knowledge of that region.

After the war, Ann-Marie Walters established a career in literature and her book is the best written account of an SOE agent’s experiences in France.

“I’m very nervous, but patient. It’s a funny mixture really and you need that for radio work. You need the patience to do the coding and decoding. You need the resourcefulness of nervousness to be able to decide to go on if you think somebody’s listening in (the Gestapo used to listen in to transmissions in vans disguised as Red Cross vehicles) or to cut off and ask for another sked (transmission schedule).” – Yvonne Cormeau.

Yvonne was the ‘fastest finger in France‘. She transmitted Morse code messages at a rate of twenty words a minute (the average was twelve words a minute) and she sent more messages than any other female SOE wireless operator.

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/yvonne-cormeau/

In 1944, SOE agent Anne-Marie Walters, pictured below, had a narrow escape when travelling by train to Condom via Tarbes. A Gestapo officer approached to search her cases, which contained small arms and demolition equipment. However, a young woman with two babies, unknown to Anne-Marie, but sensing danger, created a fuss over the Gestapo searching her bags. In the commotion, the Gestapo officer didn’t search Anne-Marie’s cases. When he left the carriage, the young woman offered Anne-Marie a smile of understanding. In that moment she had saved Anne-Marie’s life.

On another occasion, Anne-Marie found herself at a bus stop facing a snap search. While one fascist inspected her (false) documents another searched her handbag and pulled out a crumpled ball of toilet paper. Anne-Marie blushed at the sight and the fascist returned the toilet paper to her handbag. That toilet paper contained thirty coded messages. The BBC broadcast these messages at set times during the day. They carried instructions for the Resistance, informing them of arms drops via parachute, details of other networks and most famously of all the timing of the D-Day invasion. The code for that message was the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d’automne”. The first part of the stanza, Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne (“the long sobs of the violins of autumn”) indicated that the invasion would begin within 24 hours; the second, Blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone (“wound my heart with a monotonous languor”) was the specific call to action.

A memorial to the SOE agents of the Wheelwright network in Lapeyrade, Landes. Yvonne Cormeau, Anne-Marie Walters and Yvonne Baseden have featured on my website.

Pictures taken near my home in South Wales this week: Kenfig, Mawdlam, Cefn Cribwr, the Goylake River, Kenfig and Ballas

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

SOE agent Eileen Mary “Didi” Nearne was born on 15 March 1921 in London to an English father, John, and a Spanish mother, Marie. She was the youngest of four children while her elder sister, Jaqueline, and her brother, Francis, also became SOE agents.

In 1923, the family moved to France where Eileen became fluent in French. After the German invasion in 1940, Eileen and Jacqueline followed the well-worn path to London via Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Glasgow, while their parents and brothers remained in Grenoble.

Eileen Nearne

In Britain, the SOE soon identified Eileen’s talents. Initially, she worked as a signals operator decoding secret messages, often written in invisible ink, received from agents in the field.

After a period of training, on 2 March 1944, Eileen arrived via Lysander in Les Lagnys, Saint-Valentin. Her mission was to work as a wireless operator for the Wizard network. She also organised sources of finance for the Resistance. Over five months she transmitted 105 messages, each one sent at enormous personal risk.

Coincidentally, Eileen’s organiser, Jean Savy, returned to Britain on 9 April 1944 on the same aircraft as her sister, Jacqueline, who had spent fifteen successful months in the field. Savy arrived in Britain with important information about the Nazi’s V1 rockets.

In July 1944, the Gestapo detected Eileen’s transmitter and arrested her. A period of barbarity followed, which included crude forms of inhuman treatment. Nevertheless, despite the torture, Eileen convinced the Gestapo that a businessman had hired her to send messages and that, at the time, she remained innocent of his British nationality.

In August 1944, the Gestapo sent Eileen to Ravensbrück concentration camp then on to Silesia. At the camps, the guards forced her into slave labour. However, she remained defiant and, despite more torture, refused.

Jacqueline Nearne

On 13 April 1945, Eileen escaped with two French women. Marching to another camp through the snow and dark they hid in a forest then travelled to Markkleeberg where the S.S. arrested them. However, they managed to fool the S.S. (it’s remarkable how many agents managed to do this) and with the aid of a priest they hid in Leipzig until the liberating Americans arrived a few days later.

It’s ironic that Eileen constantly lied to the Gestapo and, for the most part, the believed her. They regarded her as ‘a silly little French girl who was wasting their time.’ However, when she told the Americans the truth they didn’t believe her and it took some time before they handed her over to the British authorities.

After the war, Eileen suffered from what we now recognise as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Jacqueline cared for her and in 1997 she felt well enough to appear on a Timewatch television programme where she discussed her wartime experiences.

Eileen died in September 2010 aged eighty-nine.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #40

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week with Mind Games making the biggest leap up the charts.

The proof copy of Snow in August, which arrived this week.

Authors take two basic approaches to long-running series. 1. The lead characters remain exactly the same (Columbo is a good example of this). 2. The lead characters develop over time. My Sam Smith Mystery Series slots into the second category.

Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, will see a development of Faye’s character. Sam will narrate, but Faye will lead the investigation. This will also be an ‘Alan story’ with the psychological aspect well to the fore.

Looking for Rosanna Mee will be available for pre-order shortly and the book will be published later this year.

I’m writing The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. In book one, Roots, Prince Nicolas Esteban invites author Naomi Parker to dinner. What should she wear? She decides on this dress by Madeleine Vionnet.

Recently, I enjoyed Dangerous Crossing, a 1953 film noir mystery, on DVD. Directed by Joseph M. Newman and starring Jeanne Crain and Michael Rennie, the movie was based on the 1943 play Cabin B-13 by John Dickson Carr.

The plot centres on the gaslighting of Jeanne Crain’s character as she embarks upon a honeymoon cruise.

A low-budget movie devoid of special effects, Dangerous Crossing relies on strong characterisation and a genuinely suspenseful plot.

Jeanne Crain is an attractive heroine who features in almost every scene while Michael Rennie lends solid support. To see the best of Jeanne Crain, however, I recommend Leave Her to Heaven where she excels in her trademark ‘girl next door’ role.

Research Makes Writing Easier

In Eve’s War, Guy Samson, my male SOE agent, is loosely based on three people. Guy has a Welsh mother and French father, but these people did not have that background.

While researching the area where my SOE agents will operate, Brittany, I discovered another agent, Andre Hue, who had a Welsh mother and French father. This coincidence completes the circle and makes Guy’s character much stronger. And strong characters make the task of writing so much easier.

Pictured: the ancient links between Brittany and Wales.

I completed the storyboarding for Operation Locksmith this week, fifteen A3 pages of squiggles. In Operation Locksmith, Eve, Guy and Mimi train to become SOE agents, but is there a traitor in the camp?

Meanwhile, it’s lovely to see that Operation Zigzag is keeping company with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series 🙂

https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Maureen Patricia ‘Paddy’ O’Sullivan was born in Dublin on 3 January 1918 the daughter of journalist John Aloysius O’Sullivan (1873–1949) and Johanna Repen (1889–1919), who died when Paddy was only 15 months old.

At the age of seven Paddy was sent to live with an aunt in Belgium where she attended a convent school in Cortrai. At the beginning of the war she worked as a nurse in Highgate Hospital, London. She joined the WAAF on 7 July 1941 as an Aircraft Handler General Duties, and was later promoted to Section Officer. Her SOE report lists that her hobbies included reading, psychology and walking.

Paddy’s trainers had mixed views of her. She could be stubborn and prone to temper. However, others regarded her as kind-hearted and able.

As a member of the SOE, Paddy parachuted into Limoges on 23 March 1944. Falling through the fog, she landed heavily, sustaining a concussion. She awoke to find a cow breathing on her face. Later, she said that the two million francs strapped to her back, money to fund SOE and Resistance activities, saved her life.

As Micheline Marcelle Simonet, Paddy’s cover story revealed that she was a ‘dame de compagnie’ of a doctor in Paris. She was taking  one month’s leave to look for a lost Belgian parent in Creuse. Her documents, including a letter from the doctor, were good. However, the month-long limitation was a strange decision by the SOE because the intention was for Paddy to remain in the area for considerably longer than that. In the event, she changed her cover story and became the friend of a school-teacher’s wife – the school-teacher was a leader of the local Resistance.

On one occasion, Paddy was stopped by the Gestapo while transporting her wireless, which was hidden in a suitcase. In passable German, she flirted with the officer, made a ‘date’ for the following evening, then escaped, the suitcase forgotten by the lusting officer.

After noble and brave service, Paddy returned to Britain on 5 October 1944. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #35

Dear Reader,

My sales top ten this week with Saving Grace up to #2. Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

My latest translation will be available soon, The Big Chill in Swedish. This is my third Swedish project with Jill, a wonderful translator.

Just published, Mom’s Favorite Reads February issue!

In this issue…

Valentine’s Day 
Leap Year
Mental Health 
Young Writers
Humour
Interviews
Hypnotism
And so much more!

Read online or download your FREE copy today 🙂

Before I write a story l like to know what the last line will be. My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series will be twelve books, so at this stage it’s difficult to know exactly what the last line will be. However, I’ve just thought of the last significant action that will tie up all the threads within the series. It’s magical when that happens.

Local views today, Margam Park.

The alchemy always amazes me, how one line from research notes can transform into a story within minutes. I’ve just outlined Operation Treasure in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Even in war is it possible to shoot an unharmed woman in cold blood? Eve is about to find out.

Meanwhile, Operation Zigzag continues to climb the Hot 💯 Chart, rubbing shoulders with New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Amazon #1 bestselling author Robert Dugoni 🙂

Here’s the universal book link for Operation Zigzag https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Women of Courage, Heroines of SOE

Jacqueline Nearne was born on 27 May 1916 in Brighton. She was the eldest daughter of an English father and a Spanish mother. Her family moved to France in 1923 then when France fell in 1940 she made her way to Britain via Portugal and Gibraltar.

In Britain, Jacqueline applied to join the ATS, but was rejected due to her lack of experience driving in the dark and on the left-hand side of the road.

In 1942, Jacqueline was recruited into the FANYs, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. This was common for many female members of the SOE. During the summer of 1942 she trained as a courier for the SOE. Her younger sister, Eileen, and brother, Francis, also served in the SOE.

Jacqueline trained with Lise de Baissac, and the two became great friends. On 25 January 1943, after further training, as a radio operator, Jacqueline parachuted into France to work for the Stationer circuit.

Jacqueline’s fake ID card while serving the SOE

The SOE provided agents with tailored clothing to suit the French fashions. Nevertheless, Jacqueline noticed that French and British knitting was so different that the Nazis could recognise the stitching. Therefore, she decided to knit socks for her fellow agents earning the nickname ‘Jackie Red Socks’.

Jacqueline carried spare parts for her radios inside a cosmetics bag. The average life-expectancy for a wireless operator was only six weeks. However, Jacqueline remained in the field for fifteen months, returning to Britain on 10 April 1944 via a Westland Lysander, an aircraft commonly used to deliver and rescue agents.

After the war, Jacqueline spent some time nursing her sister, Eileen, also an agent who had suffered while in France. Then she moved to New York to work at the United Nations.

In 1946, Jacqueline played ‘Cat’, a character based on herself, in the RAF Film Unit’s production of Now It Can Be Told, which was also released as School for Danger, a drama-documentary about the SOE. As well as her daring exploits, the film also highlighted Jacqueline’s knitting.

Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series is now available to pre-order from Amazon.

Eve’s War is a series of twelve novellas. Each book contains approximately 20,000 words and a complete story. Kindly note that the price throughout the series will be set at the minimum level and that Eve’s story arc will be concluded at the end of the series.

Marseille, December 1942

“We’re in a fix,” Vincent said. “The Gestapo have captured a British agent, code name Zigzag. They picked him up through his false identity papers, only the thing is they haven’t discovered his true identity, yet. But they will. And he will talk. They all do in the end. And when he talks he will reveal secrets that will destroy the local resistance networks, including our own. But there’s a way out, through a guard. He’s open to bribes. We’d like you to meet the guard, bribe him, spring Zigzag from the Gestapo prison then escort him over the mountain pass into Spain.”

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because you helped to establish the escape network. And you know the mountain trails like the back of your hand. Furthermore, as the wife of respected industrialist Michel Beringar you are above suspicion.”

I glanced at Michel. From the stern look on his face, I could tell that he wasn’t pleased. Was this one risk too many? And as for me being above suspicion…the Gestapo were following me and they were tapping my phone.

As a child, I’d run away from home. As a teenager, I’d travelled the world, living on my wits. As a journalist, I’d witnessed atrocities inflicted in the name of fascism. As a member of the Resistance, I’d eyeballed fear and stared it down. For the past thirty years I’d lived a full life. I could do this. However, even as I voiced my agreement I knew that my life in Marseille, my life with Michel, would never be the same.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #4

Dear Reader,

For me, it’s been an eventful week. A very eventful week. I have experienced great distress and great joy. The joy centred on Sam’s Song. On Wednesday, Sam’s Song reached #1 for the seventh time. For the past two years this has been an ambition. You could argue that there is no difference between six times #1 and seven times #1, and you would be right. For a reason I can’t really explain reaching #1 for the seventh time was important and now that that landmark has been achieved the desire to reach new readers isn’t as great. I wouldn’t say that I don’t want to reach new readers, but if it doesn’t happen it no longer matters. In terms of eBooks on Amazon, I have achieved my goals.

I still have goals in other areas of publishing, with audiobooks, translations, paperbacks and secondary rights. I also want to write many more books, develop Mom’s Favorite Reads and her projects, and help authors find more readers. 

I do believe in the concept of setting clear, obtainable goals and plans to achieve those goals. My main aims with writing are: to entertain my readers and to prove certain things to myself. On a personal level, Sam at #1 this week proved something to myself, and that’s all that matters. Now I feel ready to move on.

A great moving on song…

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Authors

Val Tobin

I first met Val Tobin around five years ago, through online author groups. At that stage I became aware of her high quality books in a number of genres, including mysteries. Val studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then obtained a diploma in Computer Information Systems from DeVry Toronto. She worked in the computer industry as a software and Web developer for over ten years, during which time she started to get serious about energy work and the paranormal and occult.

Val uses her background and knowledge in her novels and this adds a great air of authenticity to her stories. She is an excellent author and I highly recommend her books. Furthermore, she is very supportive of other authors.

Fascinating facts about Val.

She had tiny parts in two feature films: Route of Acceptance, where she played the main character’s mother and is on screen for about ten seconds (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2537064/) and I Met You First (http://toeachherownfilms.com/?page_id=1208), where she played a cashier and hopefully won’t end up on the cutting-room floor (movie to be released). 

She’s a member of the Writers’ Community of York Region and volunteers as a member at large. Here’s an interview she did for them: https://wcyork.ca/member-spotlight-val-tobin/ 

Val is doing podcasts on Anchor, reading Walk-In chapter-by-chapter. If you want to hear how she sounds when she tried to mimic a minor character who is Hungarian with English as a second language, you can listen to the story here: https://anchor.fm/val61 

Val did an interview with Melanie Smith when Poison Pen was released and you can read it here: https://melaniepsmith.com/author-val-tobin/ 

Also, you can read another interview on Frank Parker’s blog: https://franklparker.com/2018/05/17/a-date-with-val-tobin/

Val Tobin’s books are available from all major retailers and I urge you to check them out. http://valtobin.com