Tag Archives: Writing

Dear Reader #41

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten sales in Europe this week.

A Lovely Review for Sam’s Song 

A stalker. a murder, a bevy of marginally odd-ball characters, emotion, violence, and a touch of humor and romance describe the novel.

Sam is in the process of finding herself after a troubled childhood and a brutal, failed marriage. She tries for self-confidence but it slips away when the past comes calling. She is frightened of relationships. However, in the hidden depths of her mind, she is strong. As a PI, she is determined to solve the case.

The author has a breezy style of writing, drawing her characters with a light touch. But it is also serious, intense especially. The main characters are displayed with all their quirks and peccadilloes showing.

Amazon Vine Voice, Five Stars

Published today, here’s one for the album, Snow in August is sitting alongside Dorothy L Sayers as a top thirty hot new release.

https://books2read.com/u/megq6A

From childhood, I’ve always read at least four books at once. I think the reason for this is I’m a fast reader and when I’m enjoying a book I don’t want to race to the end. 

At the moment, I’m reading over forty books at once. These books are linked to my research and most of them are chronological therefore I’m reading the timeframes that tie-in with my current stories.

The above is a preamble to say that currently I’m working on four books at once: I’m editing The Olive Tree: Roots and Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, storyboarding Eve’s War: Operation Locksmith and developing the characters for Looking for Rosanna Mee: Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen. All four books will be published this year.

The Olive Tree, a Spanish Civil War Saga is about two women from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Therefore, while impoverished nurse Heini Hopkins collects clothing for the poor people of Spain, aristocratic author Naomi Parker enjoys this menu with Prince Nicolas Esteban.

This is Llancaiach Fawr Manor, a sixteenth century manor house in the heart of the Rhymney Valley. This house is the inspiration for the central location in Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen. Rosanna, a young housebound woman, has disappeared. Where could she be?

The gothic atmosphere of Llancaiach Fawr is highlighted by the four ghosts who are said to haunt the house, including a man in black, a murderer who patrols the perimeter.

Mark Knopfler said that his best songs develop from two ideas that marry at an opportune moment.

I already had an idea for Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, and I’ve married that to an article I read this afternoon about a sleazy politician who is exploiting vulnerable people.

Modern British society doesn’t care about its vulnerable people, but Sam does. Expect plenty of fireworks in this one.

Eve’s War Research 

A small number of SOE agents arrived in Occupied France over land while others arrived by sea. The vast majority, however, parachuted into the country. What did they take with them? Here’s a basic 24 hour survival pack.

1 packet of plain biscuits 
1 block of chocolate 
1 sachet of boiled sweets
2 blocks of tea
1 packet of sweet biscuits 1 packet of plain biscuits
1 box of matches
1 roll of toilet paper
1 packet of oatmeal
2 packets of meat broth
2 packets of chewing gum
1 packet of sugar tablets
1 tin of Spam

Agents who were met by the local Resistance often received a warm meal in a farmhouse, but those who jumped ‘blind’ into the wilderness relied on their rations.

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Marguerite Diana Frances ‘Peggy’ Knight was born on 19 April 1920 in Paris. She was a member of the Women’s Transport Service before joining the SOE as a courier, a role mainly performed by women.

The daughter of Captain Alfred Rex Knight and his Polish wife, the former Charlotte Beatrice Mary Ditkowski, Peggy was a perfect French speaker and this ability captured the SOE’s attention.

On 11 April 1944, Peggy began her training. The SOE rushed her through the course in two weeks during which time she completed only one practice parachute jump from a static balloon instead of the customary three or four. After training, she landed in Vichy France under the code name Nicole to work for the highly compromised and deeply divided Donkeyman network.

Following D-Day, in June and July 1944, Peggy crossed the battle lines many times, carrying intelligence messages and gathering vital information. She did this by travelling vast distances on her bicycle. She also participated in an attack upon a Nazi military convoy, firing her Sten submachine gun.

Later in 1944, Peggy narrowly escaped capture and executIon when one of her colleagues betrayed her group of resistance fighters to the Nazis. One of thirty people, Peggy fought her way out of a forest through the encirclement.

Roger Bardet, the man responsible for the betrayal, was later arrested, tried and sentenced to death as a collaborator. However, his sentence was commuted and ultimately he was released from prison in 1955.

Peggy and Eric’s wedding registration

Her missions complete, Peggy left the SOE in November 1944. In December 1944, she married Sub-Lieutenant Eric Smith of the Royal Navy and gave birth to two sons within two years. Later, she told a local newspaper that her main concern now was ‘getting enough soap during austerity to keep the family clean.’ 

Highly praised by her masters at the SOE for her bravery and commitment, Peggy settled down to a life of domesticity.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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

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

Dear Reader #23

Dear Reader,

You know you’ve hit upon a good idea when the concept comes to you fully formed. That happened with Sam, Ann, Grace and my Spanish Civil War mini-series. Recently, while reading an item about the Second World War the idea for a mini-series came to me, fully formed. The central character, themes and events are clear in my mind. Now, I need to do more research and develop the characters. Then I can add my new idea to my writing and publishing schedule 🙂

3A44E563-68CF-437D-9871-A54AFE16755A

And speaking of research… Currently I’m reading The White Mouse, Nancy Wake’s autobiography. It’s a remarkable story, an example of the tremendous courage people have shown throughout the ages in their fight against fascism.

8C36885C-97B0-4B57-ABB5-B63BCD89651F

Another excellent translation from Laura. This is the fourth book she has translated for me. I look forward to working with her in 2020 on new titles. Meanwhile, here’s an example of our partnership 🙂 https://hannah-howe.com/translations/francais/

RIPPER FRENCH
Many thanks to my readers in Australia for placing seven of my books in the top
💯 alongside greats such as Robert B Parker. And here’s a curiosity, the Italian version of Betrayal is #1 in Australia.

6815577A-043E-4481-98AC-C9C0F0AC15D6

A startling graphic highlighting the global climate crisis.

2D7C44C2-5F3D-42CF-97FE-7620FCF0EDFB

And a moving graphic from Remembrance Day.

5AE74EA1-BCD8-48AD-A7FC-C3918199191B

I’ve been updating my Amazon author page and discovered that I have sixty-nine books listed. Many thanks to my readers, publisher friends, author friends, translators and narrators for making this possible.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

– Helen Keller

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00OK7E24E

CB239F01-31D1-4659-9C92-F52C40F18C70

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #19

Dear Reader,

Why do authors write? Apart from the elite 1% there is no money in writing, so unless you are in that 1% or churning out words to order money isn’t a motivation. Fame? Fame is shallow and does more harm than good. Some authors want to be famous, and good luck to them, but fame isn’t for me. Praise? It is rewarding when readers appreciate your books, look forward to them and write nice comments. Kind words mean a lot. That said, writing isn’t the best occupation if you are looking for praise. Even if you are a mega-bestseller the majority of people will ignore you or dislike your work. So, why do writers write? I believe it’s because we are blessed, or cursed, with story ideas and we need to express those ideas to find a level of contentment and peace of mind. We need to release our creative energy through writing. Of course, finding readers is rewarding and satisfying, but the main motivation and enjoyment comes from turning a blank manuscript into a story. There is something magical about creating a story that is unique.

4EBE11ED-207A-4CBE-BEB1-5795C2EC4DAC

Chapter one of Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen is complete. Here’s a clue…

1D3A6A26-6FCE-4666-822A-FEF38C20D634

Caerau Hillfort and the ruins of St Mary’s church, pictured, get a mention in chapter two of Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen. These landmarks are on the road Sam takes to her office houseboat.

15788064-7F60-4265-B48B-CC2B6F64ACFE

Chapter three of Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen, sees Sam at Caswell Bay where she meets her new client.

CEF11F3F-5557-4936-B0FE-399201F16216

Five more translations published this week, three in Spanish, one in German and another in Portuguese. Many thanks to my talented team of translators for all their hard work and for sharing my stories with the world.

6831c53f-45bc-4f42-a97c-888547bf6fb9

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #13

Dear Reader,

A very busy week with translations again this week. More translations were published while others were confirmed. Along with my English language titles this means I now have 74 books published or in production.

When talking about his album, Sailing to Philadelphia, Mark Knopfler mentioned that he often creates songs when two separate ideas come together. I agree with him. My books are often a marriage of ideas. This week, I had ideas for another mini-series when two totally separate thoughts came together. I might write this mini-series under a pen-name to give readers a break from Hannah Howe, and because the subject matter is different from my mysteries. This morning, while gardening, I created a storyline. If I have a strength as a novelist it’s that ideas for stories come easy to me.

Mark Knopfler

I have received great help this week from experts with a detailed knowledge of the Spanish Civil War. In these mean-spirited times when some people are interested only in themselves and are prepared to see others suffer in the pursuit of their selfish goals it is life-affirming when kind people go out of their way to help you.

My Spanish Civil War Saga, The Olive Tree, will feature six main characters and follow their lives over the five books. Heini Hopkins, my nurse, is the main character. Heini is a rare name. It means “fit” in the Welsh language and is both female and male.

In Roots, book one, Heini is in Wales nursing her sick mother, debating whether to marry her childhood sweetheart, coal miner Deiniol Price, while collecting food, clothing and medical supplies for the people of Spain. Then the fascists bomb Guernica, killing hundreds of innocent people and, even in Wales, everything changes…

Heini’s home, Cleavis Cottage, Lamb Row, South Corneli, Glamorgan

I mentioned Mark Knopfler earlier, and here’s his classic album Sailing to Philadelphia.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #11

It’s been a summer of ideas. Initially, my goals for the year were to publish Victory and write Snow in August. However, in May I had an idea to write about the Spanish Civil War, a subject I had never considered writing about before that moment. I hesitated, because it is a big subject, but the ideas kept coming. I believe there is truth in the saying, ‘Subjects choose their authors, authors don’t choose their subjects.’

Since May I have had ideas for five books in my Spanish Civil War series plus three ideas for Sam Smith mysteries. Today, I developed ideas for a Sam Smith mystery and got stuck around chapter twenty-three. That’s because one of the characters proved elusive to me. Then I realised he didn’t really fit into the book because his involvement dragged the story away from the central character and complicated the theme. So I returned to the theme and the central character and the full story unfolded naturally. 

This story, so far untitled, will see Sam get very angry on behalf of her client. I love writing Sam when she’s angry and, believe me, she’ll be tearing up some trees in this one. The source of her anger is a woman who does something that is beyond the pale. Furthermore, the story is based on reality.

I’m delighted and honoured to be featured by the Fussy Librarian this week. You can read my interview with Sadye of the Fussy Librarian here https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/newswire/2019/08/02/author-qa-hannah-howe

This week, my Spanish Civil War research led me to Dorothy Parker.

During 1936-9 the Conservative government in Britain, plus the governments in America and France, adopted a stance of ‘non-intervention’ in the Spanish Civil War. In fact, this amounted to support for the fascists because of the various outcomes these governments desired a fascist victory over a victory for the Spanish people. Of course, Britain, America and France paid heavily for this stance because it encouraged Hitler and Mussolini, and this led to the Second World War.

With no support from overseas governments, the Spanish people relied on individuals and organisations for support. Dorothy Parker held her hand up and stepped forward as one of those individuals.

A celebrated poet, writer and wit, Dorothy Parker was one of the founders of the Anti-Nazi League in Hollywood. She helped to raise $1.5 million ($65 million at today’s value) for Spanish refugees. For her trouble, she was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, ‘the time of the toad’, as she called it. However, history smiles on Dorothy Parker while McCarthy’s name is associated with all that is dark about humanity. 

While in Spain, in October 1937, Dorothy Parker said, “It makes you sick to think of it. That these people who pulled themselves up from centuries of oppression and exploitation cannot go on to a decent living, to peace and progress and civilisation, without the murder of their children and the blocking of their way because men want more power. It is incredible, it is fantastic, it is absolutely beyond all belief…except that it is true.”

I have added lots more to my website pages this week – the pictures offer a clue – so please take a look around. I hope you will find something of interest.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx