#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Grave Mistake

Crime never sleeps.

Fall fills the air here in Idaho, and Halloween creeps closer. I’m dreaming of autumn leaves back in the UK – well, Wales.

That should mean more Sparkle Anwyl mind games and the next chapter in the six-part story called Custody Chain’. Yes, that is below but a few confessions:

  1. My mind is not yet working at full deviousness. Well, I’ve been distracted by time-wasting games. Not health issues this time.
  2. I wrote this chapter soon after the last one appeared, and the comments inspired me to work on the story. I have edited it in the last day or so, but the changes were minor.
  3. However, Snowdon Shadows have not been absent from my thoughts as I’m devising a novella for NaNoWriMo 2020. The entry called ‘Lost Sheep’ has a premise linked to Sparkle: A retired Welsh farmer faces challenges to his faith when his legacy is threatened. [Clue: Grandfather.]
  4. Unfortunately, the revision of my first Sparkle Anwyl novel, ‘Fevered Fuse’  is more like an ongoing stoppage. Perhaps working on related tales might rekindle the fire – or sparkle in the gloom.
Graphics by Jonathan Temples – 
http://jonathantemples.co.uk/

Without further excuses, let’s move on.

If you missed the first four parts of the story, or would like to refresh your memory, here are the links:

Chapter One – Café Terrace:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/02/19/wep-iwsg-february-challenge-cafe-terrace/

Chapter Two – Masterpiece:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/15/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-antique-vase/

Chapter Three – Cryptograph:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/06/17/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-urban-nightmare/

Chapter Four – Umbrage:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/08/22/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-long-shadow/

Please note there may be minor oversights/errors/omissions which editing of the final story into a novella will address. Writing new chapters throws up new clues to fathom.

Anyway, enjoy this new chapter, and if you wish, please comment, or suggest what happens next. Many thanks for reading.

Apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: 

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

CHAPTER FIVE – CYPRESSES

2014

Thursday, March 20th

Dappled sunlight plays among the trees as we return to the barn in Llanystumdwy. The tranquillity deceives and suggests Tesni and Urien’s haven is safe.

But it won’t be until the threat of Barangó Fekete is removed.

Urien had admitted that the extortionate debt arose as the gang leader had secured the papers for Csilla to leave Hungary – at a price.

The price is now Tesni’s artistic talent.

“Will Fekete use his contacts to kidnap Urien’s daughter?” I have my evolving idea but trust Kama’s opinion – always.

“Unlikely. He’ll know the barn is under police protection. And with his sister Tűzvirág in custody here – until his lawyers get her extradited back to Hungary – he’ll find another way.”

“Like threatening someone else Urien cares about. Aranka – Csilla’s sister – even if he’s married to her.”

“His record from Interpol shows his methods are ruthless, and Urien described the marriage as violent – Aranka being the victim. At least, he appears to care for their children.”

We approach the barn as PCSO Lleilu Dace opens the door.

“Mr Cadwallader is anxious about his daughter, as am I. She’s become obsessed with drawing the same images repeatedly. It’s been hard to persuade her to eat or sleep since you left on Tuesday with the suspect.”

My tattoos tingle and I tap out the first letter of a mnemonic. C for Compulsion.

“There must be a reason. Art is her life. Kama and I will see if we can help.”

Tesni is in the studio section of her open-plan home. Light from the picture windows floods the area, flickering across numerous sketches in charcoal and paint.  From sepia shades to vibrant colours, the swirling strokes are distinctively Vincent Van Gogh – and his wonderful cypress trees.

“Some of these I recognise,” says Kama, “but why those trees?”

I shudder. “Across much of Southern Europe, cypresses are most often associated with churches and graveyards.”

Tesni watches my lips, then nods and signs. “Vincent – final creations in Provence feature cypresses.”

Urien steps into the sunlight and gestures to an evolving painting. “Those swirls are rising to form halos around the crescent moon and solitary star. That has to be Road with Cypress and Star – painted just two months before Van Gogh’s death.” He grabs his daughter’s hands. “What does this mean? A final painting?”

“No. To save Aunt Aranka.”

My tattoos sting and I wince. But I tap out letter clues on my bracer. C for Cypress and Compulsion. A for Aranka and Artist. G for Grave and Grief – but also Gift and Grifter. A mnemonic forms: CAGE – E for Entrapment. 

“This buys her freedom? Or Barangó wants more.”

“He thinks that. But this is trap. We set together.”

I stare at the emerging painting and search for clues. No crow sigil in the corner? But as a forgery worth millions, it would be traceable with one.

Urien grins and embraces his daughter. “Clever and subtle. Hidden provenance.” He gestures at the cottage emerging on the upper right. A distant crow hovers between two cypresses. “Only an expert in bespoke forgeries would spot that.”

“Like Desmond Deckard.” Kama turns to me. “Do we trust him to negotiate the deal? Or would that be a grave error?”

Monday, March 24th

The owners of Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno gaze at the painting in disbelief. Only screeching seagulls and early tourist traffic on the seafront break the silence.

Desmond and Carys Deckard glance at each other, nodding. The sister speaks first.

“If we didn’t know the original of Road with Cypress and Star was safe in the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands, we’d say this was genuine—”

“Instead of another exquisite Van Gogh replica by Turbulent Sky. Except—” Desmond peers more closely in the lower corners of the oil painting. “Her sigil is missing. Why?”

“So it can be sold as genuine – to the right collector.” I wink at Kama. “We even have a desperate buyer – in Hungary.”

“Or rather a dealer who doesn’t have your scruples or morals. Can we trust you to make the exchange – knowing what we’ve told you?”

The siblings smile. “We have terms.”

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Road with Cypress and Star (1890), oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. WikiArt.

Sunday, March 30th

Grave Mistakes as Priceless Van Gogh “Road with Cypress and Star” Painting Stolen

The Associated Press reported Friday that a priceless Van Gogh painting was stolen from a museum in the Netherlands, the home country of the post-impressionist painter, one of the most important figures in western art. Van Gogh died in 1890, when he was in his late 30s, committing suicide after a life of poverty, marred by mental illness and substance abuse.

The artwork – “Road with Cypress and Star” – was taken in a raid in the early hours of the morning. Dutch police have unmasked the culprits, according to AP.

Ironically, March 30 is Van Gogh’s birthday…he would have been 161 today.

**

Word Count 999: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

While exploring rabbit holes for this chapter, I found several fascinating and invaluable articles. When reality and fiction meet, sparks ignite the little grey cells.

https://safehaven.com/news/Breaking-News/Priceless-Van-Gogh-Spring-Garden-Painting-Stolen.html

Voyagers Author Yvonne Ventresca’s “Pandemic” – A Great Read for This Trying Time

Currently the IWSG Anthologies blog is featuring posts from the winning authors in this year’s IWSG anthology VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost.

This week’s post features Yvonne Ventresca, the author whose short story “The Third Ghost” won the top honour in the Voyagers anthology, giving the book its title and cover.  Yvonne is sharing the backstory to her award-winning young adult novel Pandemic., which was written before the current Covid-19 pandemic, but her research into the Spanish Flu crisis proved invaluable – and chilling.

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/10/yvonne-ventrescas-compelling-young.html

#IWSG – Distracted Writer?

September has been another of those catch-up month – sporadic fail – after I was ill in August. In short, backlog has multiplied.

Therefore, this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post crept up before I’d found the time/energy/motivation/space/whatever to visit last month’s visitors. Apologies to you all – or is that excuse getting stale?

Anyway, I can’t disappoint the Ninja Captain himself by missing a month – especially as he’s such a stalwart follower. Thanks Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where you can find better answers to this month’s challenging question.

October 7 question – When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

My image of a successful working writer is possibly Ernest Hemingway, at the end of his life an Idaho resident – like me, but I avoid the drink and guns, or the suicide ending.

7th October 1939: American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) works at his typewriter while sitting outdoors, Idaho.
(Photo by Lloyd Arnold/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

When I started down my writing path, I took the journalist calling – like Hemingway sin estimulantes. In fact, I was interested in warcos, such as Hemingway’s 3rd wife Martha Gellhorn. But I wandered along sylvan paths following country pursuits, and my image of a writer scribbling in notepads evolved into a writer at a typewriter with a wastebin of discarded pages.

Even now I have the image of a serious working writer in their dedicated space transforming the notepad scribbles into a manuscript – albeit on a laptop. Whatever the means, that still means dedicated time -a space of regular time set aside each day to go to that space and work. Yet, J K Rowling was forced to use coffee shops and why do I see Mary Wesley writing in her garden?

There’s as many different types of writers as genre variations multiplied by sheets in a ream.

Time to answer the hardest question: what sort of writer am I?

First, a retired equestrian journalist with a notepad/recorder and a desktop PC.

Second, a writer who aspires to release another book into the world, probably set in Snowdonia.

Third, a distracted writer who too easily finds other things to do whether that’s wading through and deleting endless emails, sleeping, or attempting to beat a game.

Are role-playing games my version of Hemingway’s addictions?

Or fourth, at this time of year, I transform into a NaNoWriMo writer. Come November and I usually manage 50,000 words plus in the month. Most of my draft novels were written or revised in November – although one was written at the same breakneck speed one April.

Does that make me a hobbyist? Or a spasmodic writer? That fits the spasms in my limbs/nerves as well as the tingling tattoos of my MC, Sparkle Anwyl.

For the record, I’m prepping my 2020 NaNoWriMo entry called ‘Lost Sheep’ with a premise linked to Sparkle:

A retired Welsh farmer faces challenges to his faith when his legacy is threatened.

Clue: Grandfather.

My thanks to Debs Carey for triggering my NaNo brain with this insightful post:

https://fictioncanbefun.wordpress.com/2020/09/27/secondthoughts-older-people-in-books/

 Also thanks to Fundy Blue who encouraged me to contribute a post the IWSG Anthologies blog today:

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/

And a footnote: Hemingway disapproved of the 1939 Idaho photograph, saying, “I don’t work like this.”

Hemingway on Writing

*

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp,Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner! 

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available. They are truly the best.

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with someth

Princelings Revolution published #princelings #booklaunch

The chronicles of the Realms are concluded!

Yesterday, October 1st, 2020, the much-anticipated last book in Jemima Pett’s popular Princelings of the East series was released.

Jemima started writing it in the dim dark days of 2008, thanks to inspiration from some guinea pig friends. Today’s post has an extract and a Giveaway, so there’s a lot of reading!

In 2008 it was just a trilogy. But the characters wouldn’t accept their fate and demanded more. And so, the saga of the Realms wound its way from south to north, and even into Germany before returning to the east.

1. The Princelings of the East
2. The Princelings and the Pirates
3. The Princelings and the Lost City
4. The Traveler in Black and White
5. The Talent Seekers
6. Bravo Victor
7. Willoughby the Narrator
8. The Princelings of the North
9. Chronicles of Marsh
10. …..

Princelings Revolution

Jasmine’s birthday party ends in disaster. George seems to have lost a phial of highly dangerous liquid. And King Fred is battling politics, relatives and self-seeking dignitaries in his aim to give the people a better way of living.
But can Fred keep the promise he made to an engaging chap from another time when he was just a princeling? Or will all their hopes fail?

Jemima’s favourite quotes from the book

“Hector, in charge? Couldn’t lead a file of caterpillars, that one!”

The way Jasmine said it made Fred raise an eyebrow. It was exactly how Kira said it when she wanted to say something privately.

“The usual suspects are people we know. I reckon these are people we don’t know. And who don’t know us.”

“Oh.” George considered all the other uses he had found for it. This was not a good one. “It’s called duct tape,” he said.

About the series

Ten books take us from 2009 through to 2021, with a prequel at Book 4, explained from Lord Mariusz’s point of view. The feudal structure of the Realms, the changes wrought by new technology, largely promoted by Princeling George, Fred’s brother. The demise of paranormal creatures, thanks to George’s use of garlic in the fuel cells; the rise of an anti-monarchist group called the Causists, and the resilience of characters great and small, trying to keep their pleasant and friendly society together in the face of so-called freedom fighters. One simple book at a time creates a world of change that will be somewhat familiar to every reader on today’s uncertain planet.

Suitable for good readers 8 years and up, although some parental guidance may occasionally be needed. Generally listed as age 10 and up.
The first three books in the series are also available as Audiobooks:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Princelings-of-the-East-Audiobook/B084Q628TH

About the author

Jemima at Bloggers Bash 2018

Jemima Pett started writing stories when she was eight. By ten she was designing fantasy islands, complete with maps and railways timetables. There was no call for fantasy island designers then, so she took the science route through university and went into a business career, then retrained for environmental technology. Once in a policy research organisation she started writing again, reports, papers and briefings. She didn’t believe she could write fiction until her guinea pigs came along, and inspired her to write The Princelings of the East. Now she enjoys writing short stories and science fiction novels, and has been published by Third Flatiron Press, among others. She lives in Hampshire with Roscoe, Neville and Biggles, who all appear in Princelings Revolution.

Find Jemima at: Twitter Amazon Goodreads Facebook Website

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Buy The Book

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Enter the Giveaway!

Entries close at 11.59 23rd October, New York time. Open for entries in all countries and states where this type of raffle is legal. Some additional entry options may be added: please check back if this is important to you.

Follow this link to enter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/af859da968/


Extract

The beginning

King Fred of Castle Marsh surveyed the pile of messages from other kings and lords. They were all urgent, self-important, and harassed. Everyone had trouble with newcomers spreading malicious gossip, stirring the local people into argument and fractiousness. And worse.Then the last one he’d picked up, from Alexandre Kurtz in the Rhineland. She apologised but said there was no chance of sending the replacement metal flying machine to them this side of Solstice. Fred’s stomach did a loop, distressed that this meant there was almost no chance of keeping their promise to a guy called Mariusz the following summer. Fred sank onto his elbows, head bowed, then rubbed his hands over his face, and pushed his chair back. What he needed was a break.

He came out onto the terrace at the end of the corridor from his office, and looked over the balcony. It was a fine day for December. The reeds were crackling in the marshes and a few people were out gathering them for firestuff and to patch roofs that had been damaged in the past week’s gales. A small party had gone out on a second wagon to the forest to gather what wood had fallen down. The first wagon had come back fully laden, with two stranded travellers as well as a stack of gleanings from the forest floor.

The murmuring in the room behind him comforted him. His team of cartopetrarchs, as they styled themselves, were working together well, putting together their latest observations and measurements. One of the ideas brought back from last year’s summer school was to record the differences in soils and rocks around the land, as well as the relationship of the places to each other. And they were still charting the positions of forests and mountains and rivers… “Yes, I really do want to map the world”, Fred thought, with a smile—then a sigh. If only he could spend all his time on it instead of having to run things as well.

BANG!

The whole castle shook.

Birds flew up, cawing raucously.

People rushed out of arched doors, pursued by a blast of thick black smoke and dust.

A few screams came from elsewhere in the castle, but they sounded more of fear than of pain, and a general hubbub of running feet on stone stairs and corridors started to echo through the building. Residents appeared at windows, leaning out and craning their necks to see what was going on.

Fred watched anxiously from the terrace balcony to see his brother George emerging, not from his usual laboratory door, but further along from the main blast area. He was dusting his head and coat down. It seemed to have turned him a fetching lilac colour instead of his customary ginger. He looked up at Fred and waved sheepishly, then signed ‘one of those things,’ as if no harm had been done.

Princelings Revolution © J M Pett 2020

Badge for the Princelings Revolution launch tour