One word could summarize how I feel: AAAAAAAAAARGH!
Time, whatever happened to time. That’s certainly true when you prepare for a large convention where you have a major investment while also being eighteen days away from a major book release. Now to be fair, I am doing okay. Maybe it’s reading all those posts in the GRL Facebook group form all those people with (admitted) OCD who have already packed their bags (that’s on my mental – mind you – to do list for next Tuesday, the day I fly out), people who are already on their way to the airport and what not, worrying about spending money, taxi fares or high altitude sickness. I’m not even close, and life just handed our family a major curve ball last week that threw our planning about as out of whack as only life can do.
A trip to my native Switzerland and St. Gallen with its beautiful hinterland beckons this week. Nothing like coming home…
Oh, did I mention that we have another trip planned between now and next week? Yeah! GRL is the last convention of the season for me and as it is the largest one, I’m always looking forward to it. New city, old friends, new acquaintances, and you always have to come up with new ways to please readers, not just with better books, but more exciting swag, crazier costumes and funny or tear-inducing readings.
I DO have a bit of a reputation in a couple of departments. My planning for GRL starts early, along with everyone else, as we sit down on a Saturday evening (my time) and engage in a crazy game of “fastest clicker”… I won again this year and as a sponsor of the event, my nerves were not as tested as some of my friends’. After that, there are discussions with the organizers of what to do with my investment as sponsor, and then spring and early summer settle into a calm rhythm of monthly payments, and waiting. Waiting for the theme of the costume party to be announced, waiting for the Facebook groups to open, waiting for program advertizing, waiting, waiting…
Meanwhile, I was working on my fall release, Disease, to be finished, and this year, my publisher and I are doing a special, to sell Disease exclusively at GRL, a full week before it releases to the public. We’ll see how that works. That also meant that we had to finish the galleys earlier than usual, to make sure the print copies made it to Denver in time. As I am writing this, my publisher just sent me the tracking number for my four parcels on their supposed way to Denver. Given that the hotel threatens to charge $20/day if they packages arrive more than three days before the guest, we’re playing a weird game of target practice with a moving target, as postal services and deadlines are notoriously unreliable, no matter what country you’re talking about. Oddly, my pre-order of ten copies for myself and family has already been delivered to the hotel we’re going to this week, four days ago. Color me puzzled.
This week on Thursday, we fly to Switzerland, for our annual visit of the St. Gallen agricultural state fair, OLMA. It’s an old family tradition and my son loves the rides as much as the animals on display, and we enjoy the culinary delights and seeing relatives and spending time together. Plus, I’ll be stocking up on chocolates for friends stateside and for my surprise cornucopia giveaway for people who sign up for my newsletter. It will be filled with an Amazon gift card as well as Swedish candy and Swiss chocolate. Hopefully it’ll prove to be irresistible to readers attending GRL. We return on Sunday afternoon to do laundry and grocery shopping (you know those pesky weekly tasks of survival in your average family) and next Monday I’ll get my GRL haircut, I’ll write my final pre-GRL blog post and then on Tuesday, I’ll pack my bag(s). I’ll hopefully have bought all the stuff that I need for Denver, but Monday-Tuesday are sort of my final days to sort out any last minute glitches and “shit, I forgot to…” Knowing me, there will be more than one of those.
Tuesday night, my family will drop me off at the airport and I’ll fly to Munich, where I’ll have to spend the night at an airport hotel, as I would not be able to catch the early morning flight on Wednesday, seeing as my first ferry in the morning reaches port fifty minutes before the morning flight leaves… Unless you travel faster than the speed of light, a no can do. Wednesday morning, I’ll take it easy and board my flight to Denver just before lunch, arriving there at two pm. I’ll have my bags with me (hard to get lost on a direct flight), I’ll hopefully be able to breeze through immigration, I have my sales permits in order, I (will have) all my ducks lined up in a row and I’ll be ready. I usually use the flight to prepare for my readings (two this year, allowing me to read slightly longer passages from my two most recent novels) which is great. And I’ll spend some quality days with my tribe of friends, unless life decides to throw us another curve ball…
Yeah, life. It has a tendency to foul most plans and because shit happens, shit tends to happen when you least expect it (or need it). Last week, my mother in law was admitted to the hospital for difficulties breathing, in the middle of the night. Now here comes the odd part: turns out she needs major open heart surgery, and as relatives we obviously wonder how doctors could have missed that, given that she’s been in and out of hospitals on four occasions in the past twelve months. I’ve had more doctors listen to my heart in the two visits I’ve had in this time than she did. I had two, she had one. I’m fine. She’s not. Needless to say, that this is really throwing our lives out of sync, not to mention that my MIL is suffering. My husband is a mess, it’s the second time he has to deal with this, and with a family trip and my GRL-trip ahead, we struggle to make this manageable. Somehow. Coping. Breathing. Speaking of moving targets… This is a developing situation and we don’t really know what is when and how or even if.
Makes no sense? Welcome to mi vida!
This has ben a great way for me to be seen by readers, meet new ones, and just talk. Goes far beyond just selling books. I’ll once again have a table to sell books in Denver. Just two more than last year, plus the beckoning cornucopia as a prize for signing up to my newsletter.
So, GRL. I’m nervous. Nervous, because my new book is miles apart from what the vast majority of the other authors are there with. So much more than any of my previous releases. I’m a gymnast among swimmers, a dodo among flamingos. This is gayROMANCElit after all, not gayFICTIONlit. I feel at home, don’t get me wrong, but Disease is a very different beast. And I’m nervous about the week as such. I fly in late (for different reasons, but maybe it was foresight?), I only stay Wed-Sun before I fly on to Tucson to see family, and I just couldn’t come up with a decent costume idea this year, so rather than failing expectations this year, I decided to skip that night and “Do Denver” on Saturday night.
I mean really, “Wild Wild West” (the second wild added late in the season, once again throwing me a curve ball, alluring to a crap Hollywood movie), just as last year’s “under the rainbow” was suddenly changed to “The Wizard of Oz” making my gay roman emperor look weirdly out of place among emerald cities, tornadoes and munchkins. How can you make a costume pop out among cowboy hats? How could I possible top Her Majesty? It’s all either cowboys or inappropriate “Indians”. Unless you show up as a wagon, full with four drawing horses… I just couldn’t come up with any fun ideas, maybe I was too preoccupied with writing Disease at the time, maybe you’re only afforded one good costume idea in a lifetime… So no costume, no party this year, but maybe pleasures of a different kind? I can be as wild in the wild west as the next person…
This week will also include some minor GRL and book launch activities, mainly blog posts for the time while I’m gone, release interviews etc., but also some time allocated to look after my mother in law. She lives three and a half hours away from us, and we just visited her yesterday. This week we’ll be dealing with doctors and planning for the next steps in her care. As her guardian (after her stroke last year), the buck stops with me. I’l have to make the final decision on a surgery, which – trust me – is not a situation I ever envisaged myself (or hoped) to be in. But with my husband and my sister-in-law, I’m sure we’ll find a way forward that we feel is in her best interest. Ultimately, this proves once again that we may feel that we are in control of our lives, our fate. We may write long to do lists, set goals for this and that, but ultimately, life always sits on the biggest trump card, and we just have to learn to deal with that, as best we can. Maybe something to keep in mind…
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. I hope your week turns out to be calmer than mine, and peaceful, and may Prozac and Valium guide the world away from the precipice of another global conflict…
Hans M Hirschi
I’m not sure who profits more from my writing: me or my readers…
We often talk about how a writer’s life affects their writing, and you know that I think this question to be boring, irrelevant even. Alas, we still keep talking about it. But the opposite? The question of how writing affects me or other authors came to my mind (again) this weekend. It is somehow tied to the question of why we write, but not only. Here’s the thing: I know that a great many of my colleagues write because they don’t have a choice (to make a long answer short and simple), the words just keep pouring out and we find ourselves vessels to hold them in our novels, stories, poems and plays. For some of us, writing is deeply therapeutic, a form of cheap psychotherapy. But that’s not what I had in mind today. No, I wanted to talk about something else entirely, based on my trip to Sápmi this past weekend. Care to join along?
The cover for my novel Last Winter’s Snow.
I know an author for whom writing was a form of working through her childhood (sexual) abuse, others (myself included) write about things that have touched us personally in one way or another, from abuse to illness, relationship conundrums and family challenges including the death of loved ones. Stories are woven from our lives’ experiences, so far so good. But what about the opposite? How do our stories affect us? I’ve just returned from a four day trip to Sápmi, to the land where my latest novel, Last Winter’s Snow plays out (in part). I had already traveled to Ammarnäs in January for research, and I had to promise my Sami guide and my hotel manager to return in the summer. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I try to be a man of my word and I did return last week, as promised. I also took along my own extended family for the trip.
What I found has had as deep an effect on me as my first trip, and I’m not entirely sure (in fact I can’t make up my mind) as to which is better: Sápmi in the summer or in the winter. What I did learn however is that the two places are completely different. It’s like coming to a different world altogether. Here are two pictures to highlight this difference, although I’ll be honest and admit that my phone camera, as good as it may be, doesn’t do reality justice:
There are traces of Sami cultures everywhere, but they’re invisible to most of us. This, for instance, is a trail marker. Photo: Private
Another Sami marked birch, but look at how different the forest looks… Photo: Private
The summer in Sápmi is very short, as there’s still snow in April and well, the first snow can easily fall in late August. Mother Nature is rushed and it seems as if life virtually explodes all around with dozens of different varieties of colorful flowers, grasses etc. Up on the mountain, the birds are nesting, and there is a sweet fragrant smell in the air, mountain flowers needing an extra strong scent to attract pollinators.
I took my husband on a long hike to visit the lake that is prominently featured in my book, and the sight took my breath away. I feel extremely fortunate that my writing has taken me to such a beautiful place, again. And it’s not just Mother Nature putting on a display to leave eternal marks in my memory, the people of Ammarnäs are still as friendly and welcoming as then, and it may not come as a surprise that we are already planning our next trip. The journey hasn’t just affected me, my entire family was taken by the ethereal beauty of Sápmi. My dad, normally not very fond of Sweden and our rigid DIY attitude to service and our cool approach to each other, was almost in a trance state the entire weekend, his emotions deeply affected by the landscape, and it was he who wanted to see this in the winter. Needless to say that it made me happy to see him and my family so content. Even my husband, normally not the emotionally outgoing person (he dreams of achieving a Vulcan Kohlinaar) thanked me profusely on one occasion for having taken him and our son along on the trip. Another ego boost for the author.
I am lucky, and this really isn’t the first time I’ve been to visit a place of my writing to complete my journey with my characters. Here’s a photo my dad took three years ago, as I reached a very important point in Haakon’s journey in The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. You can tell by my self-embrace how emotional the moment was for me (unaware of the picture being taken):
From this jetty, my protagonist travels to his private island, an inheritance of dubious character… Photo: Private
And just last Christmas, while in Cartagena, Colombia, I visited the beach where two of my characters had an important philosophical argument about the limitations of “for better or worse” in a relationship:
On this beach, Jonathan’s grandson and his boyfriend have a very important discussion about what they expected each other to do in case of a severe illness or accident. Jonathan’s Promise. Photo: Private
But that’s not the only thing. I also learn from reading other authors, from having my own views and preconceptions challenged. I’m no perfect being, far from it, and while I read my colleague’s books, I learn a lot, not just professionally about the actual “craft” or “art” of writing, but also philosophically. Reading about other people’s point of view, seeing life lived through someone else’s lens is extremely valuable. Be it the experience of coming from a slightly different culture, or a radically different one. But also what it means to have a completely different human experience. I’m readily admitting to being small-minded and conceited at times, and reading (as well as my own writing research) helps me become a somewhat better person.
Last, not least, I also learn from my readers and my author friends, as well as other people I’ve met through my work. Things I never knew I needed (wanted?) to know, from fat phobia to the impact of living a life caught between gender expectations and your own reality, how to be a better chef, the impact of large breasts on your body, to being sexually or psychologically abused as a child, to risking to lose your child to your own rapist or, to complete this kaleidoscope of lessons, living life in a wheel chair, getting a little worse, day by day. No one mentioned, no one forgotten, but thank you to all for your stories, your experiences. Somehow, they all find their way into my subconscious from where my brain will knit all new stories.
I may not earn money as an author, but writing and being an author has certainly not been a vain exercise. I’ve learned more than I have in many other professions before, not just about other people, but also about our planet. Allow me to finish the post with the usual question about your experiences and a couple of photos to really drive home the point of just how lucky I am to be alive and being able to travel and learn:
Isn’t this gorgeous? Just a simple stream, but absolutely breathtaking. Photo: Private
The mountainous region of Sápmi is breathtaking, with lakes, moors and tundra, and always a slightly sweet scent from all the flowers. Photo: Private
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, the next one due next week. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week. If you want to comment, go ahead. I like to see my posts as conversation starters, so let’s talk to each other…
PS: Speaking of “talking to each other”. I saw this commercial for Heineken today. Have a look. You may agree with me, that it is something worth sharing…
Disease is the story of one man’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, and ours, to get the cover done…
This is how we were welcomed home yesterday. Today, the sun is shining.
I normally blog under the #MondayBlogs heading on Mondays, but that hashtag doesn’t approve of self-marketing, so I’ve omitted it today. We came back from vacation yesterday, a sun-filled three weeks around the Italian peninsula so to speak with excursions to Croatia (Split & Dubrovnik), Montenegro (Kotor), and Greece (Olympia & Athens). Upon our arrival back here in Gothenburg we were greeted by a depressing sight of rain and various shades of gray. Fifty? I wouldn’t know. I didn’t count them. Anyway. I wasn’t going to talk to you about my great vacation, even though I will tell you one anecdote further down, but this post is about the Disease cover reveal, my upcoming novel about Alzheimer’s.
One of two of Natasha’s original design ideas. Twelve plus iterations later, we were done.
I won’t hide the truth from you. Disease is a novel that is as much about me as any book. The fear of something being amiss is at the very core of this story, and it begins the day our protagonist learns that he suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s, a particularly vile variety of the disease that affects people as young as fifteen. Life still ahead, yet stamped with a brutal “best before” date. Here’s a “tentative” blurb. As most authors, I abhor writing them. Why write fifty, sixty or more thousand words if you could do it in 100?
But alas, blurbs are a necessary evil:
When journalist Hunter MacIntyre is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, he realizes that his life is about to change, not to mention that he’s been handed a certain death sentence. Alzheimer’s is a disease affecting the patient’s loved ones as much, if not more: Hunter’s partner Ethan and their five-year old daughter Amy. How will they react to, and deal with, Hunter’s changing behavior, his memory lapses, and the consequences on their everyday lives? Disease is the story of Alzheimer’s, seen through the eyes of one affected family.
Working on the cover for Disease wasn’t easy. Just ask my cover designer Natasha. I don’t think we’ve ever gone through so many iterations and design specs to get to the final product. There were even times when Natasha was about to give up, times when I consulted with other designers, but in the end, I liked the original direction we were heading, and we persisted. I think it pays out. You can find some early versions of the cover here, to give you an idea just how difficult this process was. But alas, let me show you the final product, before sharing one more morsel of the story with you, below (remember my vacation?):
The final cover for Disease. We worked on this for a long time, to get the right feel, the right “temperature”, not to mention the fog, the foliage etc.
One of several abandoned design ideas.
How do you like the cover?
I think the tree is a great symbol for our brain, and both the fog and the dead branches stand for the effects of Alzheimer’s. Anyway, I also promised you a tidbit of my vacation and how it relates to the book. We spent a few days down in the south of Italy, in a small town called Praiano, on the beautiful Amalfi coast. On our last day, we ventured into the small town of Amalfi, to wander, explore and have dinner. In the book, there is a wedding scene which takes place in Amalfi. When I wrote it, I knew I’d travel there, but I hadn’t been there myself. In the story, the couple getting married does so at the end of a jetty, on a small elevated platform of sorts. I had no idea whether that would be possible in real life or not, and quite frankly it doesn’t matter because those are the small freedoms we are allowed to take as authors. Imagine my surprise when we were sitting there, at the end of the jetty, taking amazing pictures of Amalfi when suddenly a bride and groom appeared on the jetty to have their pictures taken… You really never know, but it’s always nice to be realistic, even in the smallest details, right?
Amalfi, on the coast bearing its name. Isn’t it a beautiful town? A perfectly romantic backdrop for a wedding? Well, seems I’m not the only one thinking so…
Here they are, the happy couple walking out on the jetty to have their wedding pictures taken. Incidentally, they later dined in the same restaurant we did.
Anyway, I’m glad we finally managed to get our cover done, and this also means that I can focus on other aspects of the marketing of Disease, which btw. is due October 26 from Beaten Track Publishing. I’ll work on the book’s own page here on my website, and get pre-order forms out for my final convention this year. If you are attending GRL, you are lucky, because you’ll be able to buy the book (and read it) before anyone else in the world, as I’ll be selling it exclusively at the convention, two weeks before publication. As a little treat to all those amazing fans out there who spend so much time and money to see us authors once every year. They deserve a little something extra.
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.
Plot holes, oddities and other (near) misses which could easily have been remedied
I read a lot, at least when I’m not writing, and most of the books I read are amazingly written. But every now and then I come across a book that is, for all intents and purposes, not finished yet. The research is sloppy (if researched at all), there are plot holes etc. Why? I do a lot of research into my novels, recently even traveling to the area that is included. But even when I can’t go to the area, the research conducted is extensive.
It’s easier to see Sacré-Coeur from The Arc the Triomphe than vice versa. But you have beautiful views from the elevated vantage point of the famous basilica. Photo: Aarya through Wikimedia Commons
Let me exemplify. You write a scene taking place in Paris. Your protagonist resides in a hotel up on Montmartre, near the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, with a beautiful view over Paris, looking southwest. Describe what you see? Landmarks, rivers etc. Well, given that we are in Paris, what would you see from the elevated vantage point that the place provides? Yes? No? Well, allow me to help, since I’ve actually been both in a hotel in that scene and seen the view on many occasions: You see you see the Louvre, Bois de Boulogne, you see the islands in the Seine with the Cathedral Notre Dame (almost due south), the impressive tower of Montparnasse, you can spot Le Trocadéro etc., but most importantly, you see the Eiffel Tower, probably the most important sight in Paris. However, you may not see the Seine, or only a tiny sliver, because of the buildings that are in the line of sight. The same is true for e.g. the Arc de Triomphe, impressive if you stand on the Champs Elysées or any of the other streets approaching it, but from afar? You might not be able to spot it.
Whether your readers have been to Paris themselves, or not, is not essential. If they have, they’ll relive wonderful memories of vacations past, if they haven’t, they most likely will have seen a picture of Paris, either in a newspaper, on TV or in a movie. Now, follow me a bit further: imagine a story where the protagonist is looking over Paris at night, relishing the sights. The author beautifully describes the views but forgets to mention the Eiffel Tower… Would you notice?
Where’s the Eiffel Tower? Didn’t you just say you could see it? I did, but it all depends on the angle and where on Montmartre you stand… It’s around the corner to the right, the people in front can probably see it. Whether you see it, or not, you’ll need to let people know why! The devil is in the details… Image: Neo007 via Wikimedia Commons
Well, would you notice if an author described London without Buckingham Palace? New York without Manhattan? How could something like this happen? I can only assume two things: the author hasn’t been on site, and they haven’t done their research. Because you can’t go to certain places and not notice these things. I once wrote a scene on a Caribbean island involving a jetty and a path leading to that jetty from the airport terminal. However, I hadn’t been on the island myself, and my research online was inconclusive. I couldn’t be 100% sure if the pathway was leading all the way or if there was a fence in the way somewhere. I was lucky. Three months after I published the book, I was on site to walk the walk myself. This was a tiny detail, and nobody would’ve noticed if you hadn’t been on site. Pathways from small airports are not common knowledge, other things are.
See? You can see it, it’s just a matter of vantage point.
Colloquialisms are another pitfall. While English is a global language, there are countless local varieties in its use, and even native speakers don’t always catch the finer details. I’ve made mistakes myself in this area. Color me very embarrassed. But I’ve also seen authors use fairly well-known terms the wrong way, by the wrong people, in a failed effort to sound a certain way. Thing is, the devil is in the detail.
One more example: plot holes. What if your story has a plot hole you are aware of? How likely do you think your readers are going to see it, too? Particularly if you mention it in the book as an inconsistency? Make it a “thing”? Leaving it unresolved is just going to get people confused. Keeping a story “plausible”, “credible”, “believable” is important, even if you write fantasy or science-fiction.
So, how do you avoid such mistakes? The easy way out is to write about that which you know, which is probably the easiest way. I’ve read books from authors that all play out in the same city. Or, you could make up a town, thus making the story more generic. I did that in Jonathan’s Hope. Or, you have to do your research. I got myself into a lot of trouble when I decided to use a street called “fifth avenue” in my most recent book. No, not New York, but the character makes that reference, too. And then you begin to research where, if at all, such a place exists… It affected the rest of the book immensely because that bloody place is in a state that affected my protagonists in many ways.
Do mistakes like that affect your enjoyment of a book? Sadly they do. Particularly when there are many such mistakes in one single story. Does all the blame fall on the author? No. Unless they self-publish. I’ve seen how some publishers are more thorough in their editing, and there are some publishers I avoid these days, simply because they don’t care enough about the quality of the works they publish.
Readers, what is your experience? Is this something that bothers you when you read? Authors, how do you research your stories? Have you made mistakes you’re ashamed of? Let’s hear from you…
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).
Maintenance: to keep your author site up to date, and other little chores we all have to do
Good morning. It’s been a weird week for me. I’ve had handy men in the house every day this week, and I just didn’t get a chance to sit down and actually do any writing. Go figure! So I did maintenance on my authorship. Well, mainly my website, but you know what I mean. But before I jump into that, let me go back to last Saturday:
I finally got to meet Michael Bakkensen at my table at the Rainbow Book Fair. Great guy!
New York, the city that doesn’t sleep. I arrived timely on Friday night and went straight to my lodging to basically go to sleep. My host, Brent Cope, is also an author, his debut was published in December, so that was a bonus. I slept for a few hours (you know what jet lag and a new bed is like) and was up early enough for my day: Rainbow Book Fair. To meet lots of old friends, like cartoonist Greg Fox, Michael Murphy, Johnny Williams et al.
I also, finally, got to meet the man who narrated my first audio book, Family Ties, Michael Bakkensen. Great guy and we had breakfast the next day up where he and his gorgeous family live. Quite the treat! I can’t wait to work more with this talented actor. The day went by in a haze. It was scorching (for a Swede) hot that Saturday and yeah, not as many people attended as I could’ve expected, but I sold a few books and only carried home three. So that was really good.
So difficult to choose a shot of New York, but I really did enjoy seeing this part of town with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background. Photo: Private
Andrew, a New Yorker in training (his words, not mine), and I spent Saturday night in the company of the hosts of GayTalk 2.0, the ultimate (it is!) podcast, having a great dinner. Sunday was sightseeing, and I don’t think I ever walked this much in one day. We started out downtown, at the new subway station slash shopping center, the Oculus, rode up to the top of the Freedom Tower, before we began to walk through downtown, down to the piers on the east end by Southport, over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn and Dumbo (an area between the Brooklyn foundations of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges), walked back to Manhattan on the latter bridge and finally walked all the way up to the 14th street subway station via Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn (I had actually never been there before). Phew! I was exhausted that night.
On Monday, I met with another person who’s been following my writing career for years, photographer and artist Alina Oswald. We’d first met after she’d written an amazing review in A&U Magazine for my novel The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, and we became friends in the years since. She was the first to highlight the HIV component in the novel. Not that I wasn’t aware of it, but I never saw it as an HIV novel, yet given that Haakon is positive means a lot to a community who doesn’t have a lot of role models that are described in a positive way.
Anyway, we had brunch and then she took some new photos of me. She did an amazing job, and Central Park basking in sunshine were the perfect backdrop. Here’s just one example:
Photographing author Hans M. Hirschi in Central Park, NYC. May 1, 2017. Photo: Alina Oswald
After that it was time for me to head home to Sweden, and you guessed right, maintenance and handy men. They came Tuesday, an hour after I reached the house, and immediately went to work, tearing down parts of the tiled wall, redrawing water pipes etc. Let’s just say they’re still not done. The installation of the bath tub proved more complicated than they thought… They’re coming back today, one last time, I hope.
Meanwhile, when not serving them coffee or checking in on progress, I spent time working on my website. I tweaked the look and feel, and replaced the static images on the book pages with a neat little Amazon plugin that allows readers to get a preview of the text and buy the book straight from my website. Neat little feature!
I also added a plugin from a site called Authorgraph. I know it sounds “wrong”, but alas, that’s the name of the site. It is geared toward ebooks, and allows readers of ebooks to get autographs for their cherished possessions. You should check it out. I’ve uploaded all my works. It doesn’t add the autograph to the book, but if you have a Kindle account, it will add the page to your Kindle. I can personalize the greeting and – once I get my hand on an iPad large enough, I might even be able to personalize the signature (signing with my fat digit just feels weird and looks yikes!)
Did I ever mention my “Donation” button? I added that a while ago. Now I’m not expecting to make a fortune through it, but if you like my work, if you appreciate my blogging or my videos, or my books, you have the possibility to support me with a voluntary donation. Why am I doing that? Since I can’t make a living on my writing, this is just one way to possibly earn a few bucks extra. I have been considering a Patreon account, but given my obscurity and how “unknown” I am, the extra work to fulfill all the promises you have to make to get funding, I just don’t think I will have the time to do it. Who knows what the future holds.
Anyway. It’s Friday, the week is almost over, and hopefully, after a week of mostly maintenance, I’ll get back to writing next week. I have a novel to finish in time for GRL this fall. But not today. The sun is shining, and I just need to get those workers focused and out of my house so that we finally, two weeks late, get our new bathroom…
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I am grateful beyond measure for the trip I took this week
Sometimes you do things just for fun. You know to visit a place you’ve dreamt for seeing. And sometimes that place leaves a mark on you. I recall the Taj Mahal in Agra or Uluru being two such places which have left deep marks in my soul. Those places, albeit visited just for pleasure, as a tourist, are very powerful. They taught me things I never thought possible, never thought I needed to know. They’ve changed who I am as a human being. As an author, I am lucky to have been able to use those lessons and the imagery etched onto my retinas in more than one of my books, but mainly The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. This week, I did something I had not done before. I left my house to travel to a place I have already written about, in my current work in progress (WIP), tentatively still called “The Pillow“, although that, too, may change.
This is Sápmi, the land of the Sami people. Source: samer.se
This trip was different. I had planned it to learn. I did not go there to have fun. I went alone, without my family, at a time where there are no tourists (I was the only guest in town) to understand the soul of the Sami people, to learn what it means to be Sami. Not having been brought up in the Swedish school system, I knew nothing about that people, yet somehow, in my semi-conscious efforts to highlight diversity in my work, my main character decided to appear as a Sami. To do him justice, I had to learn. When I write about a specific place, particularly if I haven’t been there, is to go online, look at pictures, maps, and web sites to get the information I need. I tend to keep it generic and I rarely go into great detail. When I’ve been to the place, it’s obviously much easier to be specific. Although, my storytelling focuses more on the emotional impact of a place than lengthy descriptions of wall papers or architectural details. A choice.
The mountains are impressive. Different than the Alps, the Andes or the Himalayas, but massive nonetheless. The cultural landscapes of Sápmi.
For some reason, and the faithful among you are free to claim divine intervention, the land of the Sami, Sápmi, called to me. The mountains around Ammarnäs called to me, and I had an almost physical urge to visit. Yes, to learn about the Sami, but I was sure it was primarily to ‘see’ what Nilas would see, to get a feeling for the land.
Now I understand it was more than that. The Sami ARE the land. There was a point in my conversations with my guide Mikael where he told us how deeply wounded his people feel every time the colonists (aka the Swedish) talk about the “wilderness” of the mountain landscapes of northern Scandinavia, where in fact, they would never apply that term to their own back yard.
There are traces of Sami cultures everywhere, but they’re invisible to most of us. This for instance is a trail marker.
To the Sami, who have lived around these mountains for thousands of years, this is not wilderness, it is their home, a cultural landscape. And while we as visitors or colonizers may be unable to see it, there are countless signs of culture: trails, places of worship and sacrifice to the gods, homesteads, milking stations, etc.
The Sami live in harmony with nature, and unlike the Abrahamic Peoples who believe that the earth is ‘theirs to subdue’ (Genesis 1:28-29), this indigenous people understands to take only what they need to live. Not more. And their needs are simple. Their joy is to watch a reindeer calve, to see an arctic fox hunt lemming, an eagle soar, or commune with a bear, the carrier of messages to and from the afterlife.
After my first day on the mountain I was exhausted. More so from the stories I was told, the lessons I had learned, than from the physical fatigue of riding a snowmobile all day. And it wasn’t until the end of the second day when I realized the power of this land, how it beckons and calls. I’ve learned to see it differently, and I now understand that it called upon me because Nilas is the mountains and the land is Nilas.
Back in Gothenburg, in my own four walls, I wonder how the first draft will be affected. How much of the Sami story will find its way into the pages of it? Nilas has morphed before my eyes. I see him much clearer now, his life, his soul. I also understand why the books ends the way it does, and it is the perfect ending (if I may say so). I have a lot of work to do in the coming two weeks before the manuscript is due to reach my publisher.
The Sami are the land and the land is the Sami. In the total absence of sound you finally hear earth talk to you, if you’re ready to listen.
I’m glad for this enlightening journey, this pilgrimage of sorts, because it has once again instilled in me a sense of purpose, and maybe, just maybe this is what we need from time to time: to shut up and listen. Not just to each other, as important as that is, but to listen to the earth talk to us. I know this sounds very new age and strange, particularly coming from someone who does not believe in deities. However, I do believe that we and all living things are connected somehow and that we simply don’t fully understand how the neutrons, protons and electrons that make up everything, how the basic strings resonate. Maybe when we’re totally still, in a place where silence reigns, maybe, just maybe, we can here those strings swing, resonate and talk to us…
Have a wonderful weekend!
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