Another of my fellow Anthology author’s is In the Spotlight today. Meet Charles Kowalski and learn about the Yokai at the IWSG Anthology blog.
Precocious prodigy, genius gem, or crazy contrivance?
Yes, I’m questioning the age of my detective Sparkle Anwyl. Acorns of doubt were understandably planted by some comments on my Café Terrace piece for the WEP/IWSG Challenge. All were uplifting and inspire more writing.
For instance, Nilanjana Bose ended an encouraging comment of great value by writing, “…Oh, I’d just like to mention that ’20th birthday meal’ threw me for a minute, because 20 seemed too young for Sparkle to have the experience/gut instinct she has. 🙂” Likewise, Donna Hole heartened me and helped motivate me, and added, “…An intuitive detective at 20? Hmm, I’m not buying it, but I think it plays well to today’s young readers…”
Nancy Drew or Mary Sue?
Anyway, those are valid points which made me look at my timeline for Sparkle and her backstory.
Not in the sense of greats like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Stuart Mills, Marie Curie, or Stevie Wonder. There are less well-known examples in other disciplines and countries if you want to learn more at https://247wallst.com/special-report/2020/01/24/31-famous-child-prodigies/ Or visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_child_prodigies
However, Sparkle Anwyl was never in the child prodigy category – not from what I know. However, as I replied to Nilanjana, “I agree Sparkle may seem young, but she has the background to give her experience – father a copper, farming family, deaf sister, vigilante at 16, met Kama at 18 just before police college so has learnt from her too…”
Note that I mentioned Stevie Wonder as a prodigy. He overcame his blindness with music, an art form which has also helped the deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Sparkle’s sister Gwawr is deaf from birth so I envisage that means as the older sister by six years, Sparkle must be responsible around her sister, and even learns British Sign Language and lip-reading.
From my observations of farmers, when I worked in the organic movement, the kids were growing up with more responsibility, caring for animals and plants, handling and driving machinery, and tasked with crucial chores. Sparkle’s family have a sheep farm and she would have had obligations as a kid, like looking after lambs and learning to work a sheepdog.
Other occupations place similar demands on kids. Teenagers too. Think of all those young people who fight for their country – and many have died. Other services too. As a dad, policeman Marc Anwyl would be a role-model, even if his work creates domestic problems so initially his actions deter Sparkle.
But observation might encourage her own gut instinct to kick in. Events at school – bullied as a weirdo – take her down a darker path as a vigilante, yet her fate leads her back to the police.
I reveal some formative incidents in the novel I’m editing now – Fevered Fuse, the one needing beta-readers. However, I may tweak the timeline to make Sparkle’s age fit better. I can’t change the age when she’s at secondary school (11-16) and sixth-form college (16-18), nor when she can start at police college (18), but beyond that there’s leeway.
Sparkle is still a police constable in my Café Terrace piece. But she’s only aged 21 when she qualifies as a detective, while Kama is 25 when she first appears as a Detective Sergeant. Detectives in the United Kingdom are older according to recent surveys. In most UK police forces, the youngest DC is 27 and youngest DS is 29. But there have been a few younger ones, according to my research, so they confirmed my ‘dynamic duo’ were not far-fetched.
Or are they?
Should I age my characters to add maturity, experience, and realism?
Develop their backstories?
More cases and more criminals while trudging Welsh streets means more tales and more settings.
Another of my fellow Anthology author’s is In the Spotlight today. Meet Louise MacBeath Barbour and learn about the forbidden room at the IWSG Anthology blog.
At the end of last year, I was in a dilemma over the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges and what I should do. I even ran a poll with 3 options, but it left me wavering between Skaði and Sparkle as the Facebook votes balanced the ones here.
I envisaged some Skaði tales in my Viking Age Alternative History timeline. I sketched a story with Skaði and a successful Vincent Willem van Gogh. But would such a devout Christian have allowed himself to be saved by a Norse goddess? Antique Vase in the desert and Agatha Christie?
Crime never sleeps.
Anyway, it’s now the Year of the Jackdaw, so Sparkle Anwyl returns in a six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.
Enjoy this opening, and if you wish, please comment or suggest what happens next. Many thanks for reading.
Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/02/wep-february-challenge-cafe-terrace.html
Sunday, March 16th
Waves sigh up the beach as I gaze into the starry night over Cardigan Bay.
But I’m distracted.
Where is Kama? She’s late and I feel exposed in the black dress she insisted I wear for my 20th birthday meal.
Some customers at Surf’s Up have attempted pick-up lines. But saying I’m waiting for the woman of my dreams scares them off.
The bar is packed, so escaping onto the balcony was my only option. I’ve kicked off my ankle boots and when I need my glass refilled, the owner Heilyn Trevor appears.
Followed by Kama in an emerald and black Kandangi Saree.
“Sorry cariad, Ffion assigned me a new case. I pulled the files as your insight is devious. But after our meal.”
I silence her with a long kiss. “For you, I might wait.” Her excuse triggers questions. “Tempt me with a taster. Then we eat.”
“In brief. A collectible forgery of a Van Gogh painting was stolen last night from a connoisseur’s Llanystumdwy home. And he was savagely assaulted. The files are at home so can wait. First, our tryst at Agnelli Trattoria.”
I’m sated by the celebratory Italian meal – and our after-dinner exertions. But I want more. My mind switches from caresses to clues.
So far, the burglary details are minimal.
“Professionals if they breached the victim’s high-tech security.” Crime scene photos present another angle. “Vicious pros. The assault looks–”
“—excessive.” Kama paces. “The collector, Urien Cadwallader is unconscious in hospital. CCTV tapes wiped. No prints. No witnesses as the house is hidden in a wood.”
C for Collector. E for Expert. R for Replica. T for Tapes. A for Art.
“Did the crime scene assessment produce anything to show the art’s origin?”
I lean over Kama as she opens her laptop and accesses the case on the internal North Wales Police site.
“This contract suggests our connoisseur wanted to ensure the provenance – even for a forgery.”
“A replica by a ‘reputable artist’ with the pseudonym Turbulent Sky. My tingling tattoos imply it’s relevant.”
Kama strokes my face.
“Then it is. The painting was acquired from Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno six months ago.”
I groan. A dealer on West Conwy Coastal’s patch. My involvement slips away. I’m a PC with no standing outside South Gwynedd.
Kama reads my dejection. “But I’m a Detective Sergeant, so as our DCI, Ffion can authorise I interview the dealer – with my PC assistant.”
True, even if we risk questions about our relationship.
Monday, March 17th
Behind his glasses, Desmond Deckard’s eyes study us as we show our warrant cards.
Neatly dressed, even if the plaid flannel suit fails to hide his anxiety. Guilt or habit?
“Always happy to oblige the Heddlu,” he says in posh English. “Especially when they send such exquisite coppers. Another inspection? You’ll find everything in order.”
He grandly gestures around his gallery at familiar masterpieces and obscure art pieces. Forgeries?
“Every replica is genuine and documented as required. All legal, ladies.”
Kama leads. “By genuine you mean by artists working openly making copies.”
“Paying tribute to the Masters and making accurate replicas for art connoisseurs. Each one carries a subtle statement that it is not a forgery but an object of devotion.”
Glossy words to hide the reality? Or genuine talent? Manipulated for profit?
Kama will get to the truth. “So, all traceable. Tell us, Mr Deckard, about these artists, especially Turbulent Sky, please.”
My fingers tap studs. T for Turbulent Talent.
“Every artist is a modern master with temperament burning from the canvas, clay, or chosen medium.”
“And Turbulent Sky. What can you tell us about them?”
Deckard shakes his head. “I’m afraid details on my artists and clients are confidential. I’m their confessor.” He grins.
“Unwise when a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night has been stolen, and its collector’s in hospital.” Kama hands him a copy of his contract. “We appreciate your assistance.”
S for Shamefaced Suspect.
“Turbulent Sky is a unique talent I’ve nurtured. Well, I encourage them all – even if some galleries are outraged by my support. Antagonism forces artists to adopt alter-egos. If I supply Turbulent Sky’s details, treat her gently, she’s had it rough.”
We promise, so he scrawls on a compliment slip.
“Anything else, ladies?”
“What’s the value of the reproduction?” asks Kama.
“Turbulent Sky’s crow sigil commands exceptional prices, as does an original Van Gogh. He died penniless – a fate never to be shared. She tries to emulate all elements, so Cadwallader paid five thousand in this instance. If this was an attempt at forgery, the work would have earned her millions.”
A for Affluent. R for Rarity. S for Sigil.
Van Gogh’s star-filled sky reproduced by Tesni Szarka.
Tesni’s home is a barn in the same woodland as the crime scene.
“A witness we missed?” Kama points through the trees to a walled retreat. “Uniform overlooked this barn.”
“I suspect my colleagues never realised it was converted.”
I press a button beside the yellow door. An oscillating buzz echoes inside.
The door camera lights up, so we show our identity.
A young woman, my age, opens the door. Dark, high cheekbones, sculpted face. Riveting eyes. 5 foot 6 inches in jeans and sunflower T-shirt – Vincent’s work.
She says nothing but touches her ears and mouth.
Then, she signs. “If you understand BSL, come in. What can I do?”
I sign back, “We both know British Sign Language – my sister taught us. We’re investigating the theft of a Turbulent Sky painting. We have questions.”
She smiles, then leads us into her studio home.
The smell of paint, varnish and coffee percolate the air. Her workspace is a chemistry lab to age her art decades in days.
On the wall are Van Gogh masterpieces. All with the crow sigil.
On an easel is Café Terrace at Night.
Word Count 991: FCA
Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:
Welcome to 2020, the Year of the Jackdaw – in my world of North Wales crime.
That’s the plan and I’m serious – if I can stick to one, health willing.
Anyway, the Jackdaw is Negesydd, the trickster-messenger who adopts Sparkle Anwyl and her lover Kama in my Snowdon Shadows series. He first appears in Book 1, ‘Fevered Fuel’. Yes, my aim/dream is to get at least that novel ready to be published this year.
However, there are numerous hurdles ahead and I’m hesitating over what order I must tackle them.
What comes first? Beta readers, diversity readers, or assessment? It must be some willing soul.
Then do I turn to a development editor or a line editor? Without checking, I think development comes first.
When I think about all the steps, I stress – not helped by having barking dogs and screaming step-great-grandkids invading my head. At least, the kids have gone for the weekend leaving the dogs to bark at cars, squirrels, cats, other dogs, and probably ghosts.
Okay back to the scheduled strategy and some helpful links:
For suggestions on editing and self-publishing, I’m following an invaluable series on Bookbaby:
I’ve also approached a couple of the editors who have done work for me in the past. One suggested it might be worth approaching the Literary Consultancy people. This proved helpful and added to my knowledge:
But maybe, I need to revise the manuscript again – not the MS as that means my health MonSter, Multiple Sclerosis. That alone derails my progress much of the time. So, when anyone says MS, I react confused.
Anyhow, one stage in my editing/revision process has been using Fictionary – an invaluable tool which might save an editor from unnecessary work. Here’s a glimpse of what Fictionary can do to help:
So, where does that leave me? How can my supporters help? Where first?
I’d love to hear from anyone feeling brave enough to be a beta reader. Bear in mind ‘Fevered Fuel’ is a police procedural set in North Wales, and features a MC facing prejudice issues – some of you have even read shorts about her on this blog. Hopefully, it’s clear why I need diversity readers to correct potential errors. Do you fit The Bill?
As for my next step, one editor has asked to see the opening scenes and a synopsis, so she knows how much work is entailed if I want her to edit the document. I’m budgeting on any editor clearing out my writing budget. First, then that synopsis.
But at least, after a professional editor tackles the novel, I’ll be a step nearer the finish line of another marathon – once I’ve absorbed the suggestions.
Another of my fellow Anthology author’s is In the Spotlight today. Meet Sherry Ellis and learn about travelling to Pompeii at the IWSG Anthology blog.