Online Writing Resources ~ Part 2

On the IWSG Anthology blog his week, the second group of authors featured in the 2020 Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology Voyagers:  The Third Ghost are sharing some favourite online writing resources beyond the IWSG.  From the Rosetta Stone to online archives discover what great resources our Voyager authors have found!   

And thanks once again to fellow Anthology author and blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour for keeping us inspired.

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/07/favorite-online-writing-resources-not.html

#IWSG – Altered States

Another new month dawns, as does the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Where would I be without the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh who created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? Lost in some cultural desert as IWSG do such amazing things for writers, from the annual Anthology to friendly advice for all us vacillating writers. Many thanks, Captain Alex, for keeping me focused on my real goals. Especially at this difficult time when world news is so depressing – from Covid-19 to environmental degradation.

Before I forget, I’m attempting to stay motivated so I can write another short story – an entry for 2020 IWSG Anthology Contest. It’s a challenging theme again – Dark Matter – so my old brain is attempting to re-awaken my initial leanings. More about the contest at:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/the-2019-annual-iwsg-anthology-contest.html

June was a confusing month, filled with distractions from my WIP writing/editing. However, the promotion surrounding the launch of Voyagers: The Third Ghost on May 5th has continued to inspire me. Here’s one of the last posts referencing that anthology:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/06/24/online-writing-resources-part-1/

Anyway, on to the monthly question which worried me – even when the blocks fell away – or rather the chocks were pulled aside. At least, I’ve attempted something – hopefully coherent and entertaining if not useful.

Supposedly– the question is optional! 

So?

July 1 question – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I may be a plotter but not when it comes to the distant goal of publishing even my current WIP. That strategy is as flexible as my decreasing writing budget. A few months ago, I had the money for an editor, but it’s been frittered away on other non-essentials.

Which? Too many to mention. Or am I being too vague – or evasive? Let’s just call some escapism and some household.

Well, not exactly all unrelated to my writing. There was the graphic image for my WIP:

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

Graphics by Jonathan Temples – 
http://jonathantemples.co.uk/

…and that was based on future publishing potential. Graphic novels do seem to appeal to fit with a generation of shorter-attention span, minimal-readers. Also, we are becoming visual consumers so why not. Or it could be adapted into cover art if the traditional route survives.

And I sense the traditional will thrive in some guise, whether it’s e-books, audio-books, or page-turned paper touchables. OK, there may be a more visual offshoot related to Virtual Reality technology, but like graphic novels, words and stories will be crucial elements.

Genres will be as fluid as they seem to be whenever I glance at Amazon or Book Bub. I don’t suspect my genre – crime/mysteries – will diminish since it’s endured for decades, nor other genres I tend to read like historical fiction and fantasy.

However, I’m wary of predicting or planning for anything. I write what inspires me, not what seems marketable. If the industry changes, my manuscripts will gather dust and become my legacy – or scraps to be recycled. Anyway, my minimally-selling debut created no precedence – even in waste of space or dust-gathering.

One prediction though: the IWSG Anthology will continue for the near future as it’s a worthwhile exercise. So, I remind you again to check out the details of the next IWSG Anthology competition here:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/the-2019-annual-iwsg-anthology-contest.html

Stay sensible, safe, and inspired, please

***

The awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting of the IWSG are Jenni Enzor,Beth Camp, Liesbet,Tyrean Martinson, andSandra Cox!

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.

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 something to say.

Witcher Boxed Set – a review

Ever since I met Geralt of Rivia in the game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and posted about it in W is for Witcher, I have been exploring the origins of that world in the creations of Andrzej Sapkowski.

Most recently on this blog site, I posted a brief update in my 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits – my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges. The post was a link back to my 2018 delve into the Witcher origins:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/27/w-for-witcher/

The extent of my interest/obsession with all things Witcher extended to a game review:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/07/19/witcher-3-the-wild-hunt-a-review/

And a review of the first book in Geralt’s chronology – a collection of short stories which introducing Sapkowski’s character to a growing audience: The Last Wish:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/05/24/the-last-wish-a-review/

Then the second collection of shorts – Sword of Destiny:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/06/28/sword-of-destiny-a-review/

However, my journey didn’t end there as the Witcher world is growing – even before Netflix released the TV series over Christmas. In Witcher 3, there was an addictive card game called Gwent – well, addictive for some players like me. I even have a physical set of all the cards and a board.

Plus, the developers behind the video games, CD Projekt Red, have an ongoing online version of Gwent, which even includes international tournaments. I’m now addicted to online Gwent when I can find the time. I also completed CDPR’s Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, which also has Gwent at its heart.

But I digress as this post is ultimately a review of the next three books – part of Sapkowski’s awesome world-building. And my reading continues from here, so expect more.

The Witcher Boxed Set

(The Witcher #1-3)

by Andrzej Sapkowski


This special boxed set includes the first three novels in Andrzej Sapkowski’s New York Times bestselling epic fantasy saga — the books that introduced the world to THE WITCHER and inspired the hit Witcher video games.

“The universe of Sapkowski’s The Witcher is one of the most detailed and best-explored in modern fantasy.” —B&N

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

In Blood of Elves, The Time of Contempt, and Baptism of Fire, Sapkowski brings a fresh new voice to fantasy fiction, creating something wholly dark and exciting in this world of fairy tales and witchers.

Review 4.4 stars

I confess to being engrossed – probably obsessed – by Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher universe. It’s a fantasy world unlike the Norse/Anglo-Saxon/Celtic one I grew up absorbing. Trying to review the books out of their overall context is hard. They don’t read as standalone novels, although each one has a different style in how the tale is told and in emphasis, whether in who is the primary character or the overarching theme.

Each novel reads differently, sustaining the epic length of the saga. I admire Sapkowski’s ability to change styles – and applaud the translator. One crucial piece of advice: read the books in sequence and start not with Blood of Elves, but with The Last Wish https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40603587-the-last-wish  –– as past events are key to the unfolding saga.

Blood of Elves: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6043781-blood-of-elves

Geralt may be a Witcher, a hired monster slayer, but his challenge is now the Child of Destiny, the Princess Ciri who escaped the destruction of Cintra. There are monsters, but unlike the two earlier initial books of short stories, his concern is personal and more of the monsters are human. Politics and racial tensions are simmering. 

Ciri and those who care for her have become the focus, not just Geralt. Learning about the Witcher universe is a learning process – for us and Ciri – and the jigsaw shimmers into view…although not all at once.

Some readers expected more about Geralt, but the key to his destiny and others is now Ciri. So, other characters play crucial roles – like the sorceress Yennefer, Geralt’s on-off love.

A second war between the Empire of Nilfgaard and the Northern Realms is brewing – and it helps to know more of the background from the shorts. The reader is given some clues and hints, but explaining the intricacies, the twists, the deceptions of politics – and history – will take a few books. It’s complex as in real life.

Yes, there are ‘pages of dialogue’ and Sapkowski indulges in writing chunks of text, sometimes verging on the didactic. Yet, I was engrossed and never stopped read – and adding to my knowledge of a richly-painted and crafted world. Having met a few familiar characters from the shorts – and played Witcher games – I was keen to read more about the Child of Destiny, about whether this child of prophecy will save the world or herald its destruction. 

The Time of Contempt: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14781491-the-time-of-contempt

The story from Blood of Elves develops with increasing complexity as more players get involved – which means more POVs and threads. For those who want a Witcher slaying monsters, beware. Be prepared for political intrigue instead, when a coup threatens the Wizard’s Guild, war breaks out across the lands, and everyone knows what’s best for Ciri.

Including Geralt, but a serious injury leaves the Witcher fighting for his life, while Ciri, in whose hands the world’s fate rests, has vanished. The threads, twists, deceptions, double-crossings, intrigues, and intricacies are spreading – like a disease.

And yes, there are chunks of Sapkowski’s trademark sermonic yet instructive info-dumps. I welcomed them as I’m open to indulging in his world-building, but I recognise many aren’t. But then I’m an addict who even plays the Witcher games, so I dive down research rabbit holes with little prompting.

Anyway, this continuation builds on the previous book – in a more varied and engrossing style. There are distinct approaches to the storytelling, depending on the protagonist – and there are some more now. We get a chance to see events from various angles, depending on the character’s allegiances to one of the Northern Realms, the Nilfgaard Empire, the non-human Scoia’tael, or those caught up in the struggles. Some are poignant and tragic, like a King’s messenger called Aplegatt – one of my favourite chapters. Trying to remain neutral is hard, especially for Geralt.

“It’s incredible,’ the Witcher smiled hideously, ‘how much my neutrality outrages everybody.’”

The portrayal of the non-humans is not idealised either – be they dwarves, gnomes, elves, or dryads. They may wage a bloody struggle against humans, but I understand why they fight and for what since Sapkowski portrays their dilemma in detail.

The book has a cliff-hanger, but the author’s impudently clever explanation made me chuckle. And I had to read the next book.

Baptism of Fire: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18656031-baptism-of-fire

Onto Book 3 of this Witcher set and the weaving threads bring in new characters – ones I know from the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt game and the Gwent card-game. As I read more and more, engrossed, I was wishing I’d bought the next two books.

Anyway, the plot layers are growing. Now that dark times have fallen upon the world, Geralt is helpless until he has recovered from his injuries – in Brokilon, home of the dryads. While war rages across all the lands, the future of magic is under threat and those sorcerers who survive are determined to protect it. It’s an impossible situation in which to find one girl – Ciri, the heiress to the throne of Cintra. She has vanished – until a rumour places her in the Nilfgaard court, preparing to marry the Emperor.

However, the reader knows differently, although Ciri is struggling to survive and too far from those like Geralt, who want to help her. Her story takes disturbing turns as she stumbles from one challenge to another, discovering innate skills. Her ‘adventures’ are told in a contrasting style to the events of those searching/pursuing her.

More characters are introduced with varying agendas and idiosyncrasies – distinct too…with a few forgivable tropes. However, most are complex and deceptive. Never trust first appearances. Geralt adds to his traveling companions at various crossroads, and I welcomed meeting Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, having encountered Regis in the Witcher 3. Let’s just say Regis, the intellectual barber-surgeon of Dillingen is one of the best characters in all the books – comparable in a way to Borch Three Jackdaws alias Villentretenmerth from one of the earlier short stories.

There are the expected passages that some readers skip as didactic sermonising – or bad writing – and others like me relish as informative. There are other wonderful descriptive passages – as in the other books – but then I’m a sucker for purple prose if it captivates in its craft. Easily satisfied?

By the expected/foreshadowed climax/cliff-hanger, I was wondering where the Rats would end up and whether Geralt would find Ciri before chaos ensued. So, I spent my money and I’m now reading the final two books in the series – but those reviews must wait.

Having given up recently on another trilogy, as scenes felt repetitive – copy & pasted almost – this set of books was an engrossing read.

This isn’t my number one fantasy saga/series, but for all its faults, I rate it for what it adds to the genre. My favourite isn’t even any of the obvious ones. [See the When Women Were Warriors Series https://www.goodreads.com/series/46351-when-women-were-warriors]

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Diversity – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars

Online Writing Resources ~ Part 1

On the IWSG Anthology blog his week and next, the authors featured in the 2020 Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology Voyagers:  The Third Ghostare sharing some favourite online writing resources beyond the IWSG.  Jump in and discover what great online resources our Voyager authors have found!   

And thanks once again to fellow Anthology author and blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour for keeping us inspired.

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/06/favorite-online-writing-resources-not.html

Another fellow Anthology author, Charles Kowalski sent us this:

“In case you haven’t seen it already, a glowing review of “Voyagers” on BookBub came my way today. The reviewer loved all our stories, with a special shout-out to Bish and Katharina. Passing it along!”

https://www.bookbub.com/reviews/3580548828

More Anthology news next Wednesday – July 1st.

Strategies for Promoting a Book ~ Part 2

Fellow author and blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour continues to keep us all informed about the tortuous but fun writing process on the IWSG Anthology blog.

As she says in this week’s post, “Book promotion is a serious topic for all authors, and if it isn’t, it should be!” Last week five of the authors featured in the 2020 Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology, Voyagers:  The Third Ghost discussed the challenge of promoting our book in enterprising ways.

Now, check out the promotion strategies the second group of our Voyager authors use – including my own mistakes.

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/06/strategies-for-promoting-book-part-2.html

#WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Urban Nightmare

Crime never sleeps.

Despite the disturbing world situation, I’ve found bits of time to devise more Sparkle Anwyl mind games as we continue the six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’. Meanwhile, the revision of my first Sparkle Anwyl novel, Fevered Fuse progresses in sporadic spurts too.

I’ve also had a graphic image of Sparkle and Kama created, which I blogged about last month: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/05/31/sparkle-anwyl-comic-book-heroine/ – inspired by  my diligent queer diversity reader.

She said, “Sparkle’s character is so strong and is so appealing, esp. to the younger generation who also love anime and comics, I wondered if you have considered getting an illustrator to have a look at your book and possibly create a comic book character out of her as well?…”

After the feedback on the original image, the illustrator made some changes based on comments. My beta readers should spot the imagined scene from Fevered Fuse – with artistic licence.

Graphics by Jonathan Temples – 
http://jonathantemples.co.uk/

What do you feel about the new image? An improvement? Hooked or confused?

Back though to Custody Chain.

If you missed the first two 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/

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.

On my April Challenge post, some people again commented that Sparkle’s mnemonic usage needed to be explained better – comments echoed by my beta readers for Fevered Few. I have attempted to introduce an explanation in this episode, which I intend to use and evolve elsewhere – if the idea works.

Anyway, enjoy this new chapter, 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/2020/06/wep-june-challenge-urban-nightmare-sign.html

CUSTODY CHAIN

CHAPTER THREE – CRYPTOGRAPH

2014

Tuesday, March 18th

Kama and I interview Urien Cadwallader in his private hospital room. Will he allay our suspicions?

“I don’t remember much. Didn’t your colleagues discover more?”

“Anything you can add helps. Did you see anything before you were attacked?”

I flip open my notebook as Kama probes. The CSI report and Tesni’s statement pose questions.

Urien shakes his head. “I’m usually alone – since my wife died. I have my art collection. Comfort—”

He falters. Tears streak his cheeks.

Seated beside his bed, Kama pats his arm.

“Take your time, sir. Your wife must have been special.”

“For 35 years – until…” He shudders. “I prayed Csilla would survive the treatment but— too invasive. I could do nothing so lost her—”

As he starts to cough, I reach for his glass of water, passing it when he stops shaking.

“Lungs – damaged from her childhood back in Miskolc.”

“Hungary?” The names slots together – Aranka, Miskolc, Csilla, Szarka.

He stares at me. “You know already? I thought those records lost decades ago.”

“A deduction. Please, apologies if I’m wrong.”

He shakes his head, then leans back, head lolling. “So, nobody told you. How?”

“Sparkle thinks laterally. Give her clues and she finds new angles.”

Urien gestures at me. “Your personal cryptograph?”

I laugh. “Fancy word for my mind games – but worth adopting. I juggle the initial letters of clues to get a mnemonic so I remember them—”

“And the new angle?”

“Triggered by the mnemonic. Like say M for Miskolc, A for Art, G for Generosity, Y for Yearn, A for Analysis, R for Replica, S for Stars. Spelling M A G Y A R S – as in Hungary where Aranka is from. Plus, Csilla sounds Hungarian as does Szarka. Correct?”

Urien palms his hands and nods. “Impressive.” He closes his eyes. “We met in 1988 when I travelled to Hungary as a mineralogist – my initial career. I was looking for the Herman Ottó Museum and Csilla helped me. A nineteen-year-old engineering student, Csilla captivated me, so I helped her flee the country when it broke from the Soviet bloc.”

M for Minerals, E for Engineer, T for Travel.

M E T

“You married in Hungary?” Kama reaches a shared conclusion. “The missing records. And your child?”

Urien confirms our suspicions. “Born in 1994 – talented and special – our joy in turbulent days. We named her ‘warmth from the sun’ in Welsh. She’s worth everything I spend.”

T for Turbulent Talent. S for Sky Sigil.

METS?

“Does Tesni know she’s your daughter? Or only that her mother was Csilla Szarka?”

Tears return to streak his cheeks. “I’ve failed to confess my relationship, although I’ve always felt she senses all that matters. Her art is everything in her world. Yet Tesni visits often.”

“That’s why her DNA was all over your house. And why she pressed your panic pendant. Did you or Tesni switch off the security you’ve installed? We must identify your attacker.”

“Tesni would never leave me unprotected. The attacker must have disabled the CCTV so he remained invisible. Didn’t Tesni see him before summoning help?”

Kama scrolls on her phone. “Her statement reads, ‘The figure was in black and masked. When I cracked the vase on the masked head, the figure fled…’ Then she helped you and rescued the urn pieces.”

“With her mam’s ashes – Csilla helping still. Did Tesni repair the urn?”

I smile and bow my head. “An invisible repair. The painting is secure too.” U for Urn, P for Protection, I for Invisible. “A mistaken theft that triggered our investigation.”

METSUPI = IMPETUS

“Your case must be closed then. I’m anxious to return home, where my daughter has Csilla and our painting.”

“My cryptograph raises concerns. What compelled your wife to flee Hungary? Her health? Yet she left family behind. Aranka?”

He collapses into the pillows, eyes closed.

“Yes, Csilla was suffering. Her father worked in the steelworks, coming home covered in toxic dust. Love offered a route out of her urban nightmare. Economic recession was sweeping those industrial heartlands behind the Iron Curtain. Her sister, Aranka stayed with her profiteering husband.”

“Could your attacker have been Hungarian? They didn’t try to take the painting – just attacked you. Why?”

Urien shakes his head, but his glance wavers between us. We sense his fear.

“I made mistakes – and enemies. And my assailant must realise who Tesni is – even living apart. Help me protect my daughter, please?”

***

Word Count 998: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies: