#IWSG – Holiday Writing

This month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post might be a mite rushed, but not because of the holidays… well not directly.

Rather, I’m still working on my December WEP-IWSG Challenge, which, although part of my ongoing Ukraine story, this month has a holiday element and is set during the festive season.

However, I have posted Acts 2 & 3, and I’m now writing Act 3 – Swords to Ploughshares – to give a more upbeat closure to my story, which closes on Christmas Eve.

I will probably write more as the end to this disastrous war remains uncertain.

As for me, I am still attempting to concentrate on the key tasks… my second chance.

To focus on family and writing… on leaving that loving legacy.

My Snowdonia police procedural will be finished, although I fear getting my desktop installed looks unlikely this year. After six months, it’s no longer a priority for others amidst their real-life emergencies.

So, my New Year resolution is to re-start my revision of ‘Fevered Fuse’ afresh.

**

Every month, IWSG 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. 

Remember, the question is optional!

December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

If the question is general, I would guess for many writers the holidays cut into their writing time. Celebrations and family time come first.

For me, this has been the norm for many years, even when I was retired.

However, ill-health has given me an excuse to leave gatherings early… so, slip away and write… or sleep for hours.

Now I’m bed-bound, gatherings are different. The family hold them in our trailer park’s clubhouse. In theory, if a few people were able to transfer me from bed to powered wheelchair, then I could drive to the gathering.

But so far, for a step-granddaughter’s first birthday and Thanksgiving, I haven’t braved the cold nor the noise. Instead, most of the family have dropped round afterwards. Thus, good to see them, and more writing/sleeping time… plus, less noise… and warmer.  

On Monday, I was intending to celebrate St Nicholas Eve, but arrangements went awry.

An icon of St. Nicholas painted in 1294 for a Russian Orthodox church on Lipno Island in northwestern Russia. Public Domain

First though, I’m not Catholic, but my maternal grandmother was, and my mother was High Church Anglican, we observed a few more feast days. I have a memory of celebrating St Nicholas Eve as a child, especially when we had two Austrian servants (Anna & Anton).Of course, Santa Claus is real as the spirit of St Nicholas lives on… or should.

 Our original plans this year were derailed by a mix of menu indecision, other priorities, and then family sickness. Thus, we plan with a few select family and friends to celebrate the Feast of St Nicholas on December 19th, the day Christians who follow the Julian calendar, as some Eastern Orthodox do.

Krampus is alerted and available.  

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The awesome co-hosts for the December 7 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Chemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

Purpose: 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!


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 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!

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – First Time Ever

As the war in Ukraine continues, so must my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian pilot cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

However, my ability to write cannot keep pace with reality. I had outlined a three-act story, but as I wrote it, slowly… while struggling to stay awake – like now – I realized the length would be unacceptable.

So, I dropped Act 3, the promised Swords to Ploughshares scenes. It’s still too long, but my editing brain is frazzled – apologies. But Act 3 is not abandoned, and since it gives a positive conclusion to my Ukraine tales, I will post it in a few days.

As for the horrific war, a just peace is likely months off. Thus, my characters’ trials haven’t ended, so, I may have to write more… if I can prevail.

That depends on my health and the overdue revision of Sparkle Anwyl novel ‘Fevered Fuse’. I’d be remiss if I abandoned my Snowdon Shadows mysteries.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

Part 4, Winged Death, for the WEP/IWSG October Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-thriller/

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

Blurb: Night Witches commit to soul mates in the season of what should mean Peace.

Part 5

Soul Seeds

2022

Saturday, November 26thAirfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

As her ground crew maneuvered the Gripen C into its shielded revetment, Anzhela Havrylyuk tried to ignore the mischievous glances of her partner Larisa Kovalyov.

Shouldn’t she behave now she’d been promoted to Kapitan and given command of Gold Wing?

Yet, everyone knew how intimate they were.

Larisa nodded to her crew mates, then sidled up to Anzhela, snaking arms around her.

“It’s been too long, lastachka.”

“One lonely night apart, myshka, while we moved back here.”

The embrace became a passionate kiss, broken when the Chayka majors approached.

“Sorry to interrupt your reunion,” said Vasy. “We have an urgent request, Kapitan.”

“We need you to take command of this squadron,” said Kalyna. “Temporarily… while Vasy and I are in Canada raising support for Ukraine.”

Anzhela gulped at the responsibility… the expectations. Air Force command no longer saw the Night Witches as an effective squadron after the high casualties during the Kharkiv offensive.

Six… including her wing leader and friend Ksenia Zelenko. Killed saving her.

“You are the best person to guide the sisters through this rebuilding,” said Vasy, putting a reassuring arm across her shoulders. “Our seven recruits will be in good hands.”

“Ignore any male prejudice, which questions the Witches’ ability to train new pilots,” added Kalyna. “We were given the most dangerous night missions… and still succeeded.”

Anzhela saluted, saying, “I’m honored you entrust the squadron to my care. I feel this winter will see us all demonstrate our effectiveness. When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning, we drive across the border to Rzeszów,: said Kalyna. “There we join the fifty-three refugees we are helping join families in Canada. On Tuesday, our whole group flies from Kraków via London to Calgary—”

“Our full itinerary and contact details will be posted in the office,” added Vasy. “Plus, a duplicate in the shelter… in case a stray Russian missile deletes our records.”

“As long as it spares our canteen this time,” added Larisa. “Doesn’t a squadron fly better well fed?”

**

“The first time ever I saw your face,” said Anzhela, as she traced her lover’s nose, “I thought the sun rose in your eyes.”

“A lifetime ago,” replied Larisa. “Yet still, the moon and stars rise in yours. But if you weren’t studying in Kharkiv when my cousin Sergei was exploring clubs there, he’d never have introduced us.”

“And my life would have been dark. Now we share endless skies, my love.”

The couple embraced, letting the moon play across their snuggled bodies, as it shone through ice-frosted glass.

“Where is Sergei now?”

Larisa wiped tearful eyes. “I read on Telegram he was arrested for protesting mobilization and sent to the front.”

Anzhela shook her head. “That’s so wrong. He’s not a soldier.” She clasped her hands to her head. “I can’t kill him. I’ve already blood on my hands. Why can’t it be Putin’s.”

**

Monday, December 19th – Chayka Air, Cold Lake, Canada

The main hanger was transformed for this crucial fundraising event. Photos from Ukraine, from proud defenders to precious land, lined the walls. Among them the Night Witches, their jets, and ground staff. If supporters wondered where their aid was going, here was a photographic record.

Above was the Polikarpov U-2 flown to freedom by the Chayka sisters in 1944 – the iconic biplane of the original Night Witches.

Kalyna turned to her husband Leonid Sokol, saying, “Our eldest Aliona has excelled herself organizing tonight’s fundraiser.”

“I said she had your PR talent. Expect to raise another million tonight.”

From a dais at one side, Aliona addressed the gathering.

“Before we eat a traditional Ukrainian meal, I would like you to watch a documentary about the Russian Invasion and our reborn Night Witches – Nochnyye Vedmy.”

Even though she’d been in Ukraine since early March, and seen the team making the film, Kalyna was always moved reliving events and seeing departed sisters… like Ksenia. Looking at the guests, she knew the documentary touched them too.

After it concluded, Aliona said, “While you’re enjoying your meal, study the sheet on your table listing the items Ukraine need this winter. Many like warm gloves are things we take for granted as Canadians, when winter temperatures fall as low over there.”

She paused, and everyone looked at their lists.

“Now consider what you can spare this holiday season to donate to their struggle for their freedom… for ours. Whether it’s money for blankets or a jet, no sacrifice goes unseen. We thank you.”

The Cold Lake Garrison Commander opposite Kalyna leant forwards. “Major Chayka, as you’re serving with the Ukrainian Air Force, I must ask a question before I give my speech. By my count your squadron is five jets short if every trainee qualifies—”

“—and all six recovered wrecks become spare parts. Correct. The UAF who insists on giving us dangerous night missions wont supply new planes, even MiGs.”

“Do you prefer Hornets or Gripens?”

“Gripens suit Ukraine’s situation best. But it’s unlikely Sweden will give us more unless that gives them an advantage over Russia.’’

“Okay. I can work with that for now.”

The commander then talked with his deputy, while studying the donation list.

“Yoi made a good impression on him, lyuba,” said Leonid. ”As you did with me… in a different way, the first time ever I kissed your mouth. As I felt the earth move in my hand.”

He held her close, ignoring others. Kissing her deeply.

“And your trembling heart was there at my command, yagudka.”

**

As coffee was served, Aliona welcomed the Cold Lake Garrison Commander to speak.

He expressed his pride at being amongst so many brave people, especially the refugees, and those who were helping them settle in Canada.

He praised the documentary, adding, “All those associated with what Chayka Air are doing for Ukraine deserve gratitude. However, we all know more is needed.

“Please, give generously… as I and my fellow officers here will be doing, We can’t donate fighter jets, but we can ensure the Canadian Armed Forces pledges to fill the shortfall of the Night Witches squadron. Slava Ukrayini.”

Everyone clapped, then repeated the battle cry.

The commander approached Vasy and her husband Marko.

“Major and Mr Holub, may I join you, please?”

“Of course,” said Vasy. “We welcome whatever CAF can provide. Can they really fill our shortfall this winter?”

“When I report what you’ve achieved, Hornets will be found. CAF has been pledged to helping Ukraine since 2014… not just in military aid, but also humanitarian. Your help mirrors that and continues to.”

“We have to,” said Marko. “The war will end with our victory. But the recovery will be traumatic and long.”

“Have you made plans beyond the peace?”

“The immediate medical needs,” said Vasy. “More accessible health services for survivors, especially of sexual-based violence. As an all-women squadron we’ve learnt a lot about what remains buried.”

“The commander stood and exchanged salutes with Vasy, then joined his fellow officers.

Marko kissed his wife, long and tearfully.

“I don’t ever want to let you go… not now, not the first time I saw your face.:

“Nor I. The first time ever I felt your heart so close to mine and knew our joy would fill the earth.”

“And would last ’til the end of time, moya dusha.”

1229 words FCA

Slava Ukrayini

#IWSG – Miracles

Apologies if this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post seems ‘off-theme’, but I will get to the point… eventually. First, I must unburden myself.

I was unaware of the fateful significance when I wrote the following words within my October WEP/IWSG Challenger post:

“How much longer have we? We’ve so much to share. Evading death takes a miracle.”

On Sunday October 23rd, I was rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pains, which had me screaming in agony. The emergency medics were unable to identify the problem beyond suspecting some sort of blockage, from their initial tests – and my constipation for five days.

A nasogastric tube was inserted through my nose, down through my throat, and into my stomach, to remove whatever might be obstructing my intestines.

More pain. More medication.

I was taken to a room on the medical/surgical floor, pending further tests and prior to any surgery. Overnight, gunk was sucked out via the NG tube, and the worst of the pain subsided. A CT scan revealed a section of my upper intestine twisted around itself, but at this stage my doctor (surgeon) and I felt cautious about operating given various factors, not least my age, existing medical conditions – MS and leukemia – and my minimal but positive progress since admission.

By Wednesday, I had finally shit and my abdominal pain was minimal. But worried about a possible surgery still being needed, I had asked my Hospice chaplain to visit. His visit was more a chance to discuss what I still had to finish, than confess to decades of sin.

Publishing at least one more book must be one task to complete.

His prayer encompassed both paths, Heaven and more Time. And hence the miracle unfolded.

A second CT scan showed the twisted gut had cleared. The doctor said my progress had made surgery less necessary, although why the gut had twisted remained unclear. If the blockage reoccurred, then he would have to operate. My choice therefore was to have investigative surgery that day or later, if the blockage returned.

My wife wanted me home, and I agreed.

So, after another night monitoring my recovery, I came home—

–to concentrate on the key tasks… my second chance.

To focus on family and writing… on leaving a loving legacy.

My Snowdonia police procedural will be finished, and my December WEP-IWSG Challenge, titled ‘Swords to Ploughshares’ is being outlined.

Anyway IWSG. Remember, the question is optional!

November 2 question – November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

2019 was my ninth year of doing NaNoWriMo, and my last… so far. My reasoning for stopping and a rundown of my attempts is in this December post: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/12/09/nano-notches/

In 2020, I sketched out an idea for ‘Lost Sheep’, a Snowdonia Shadows novella from a different POV – Sparkle’s maternal grandfather. The retired sheep farmer is a devout Presbyterian, who disapproves of her sexuality. However, I struggled to get beyond the opening scenes due to a mix of NaNoWriMo pressures and the first signs of writing debilitating health issues.

So, I’ve since stuck to the slow-plod writing.

However, I was tempted – for a few hours – to use November to work on ‘Freedom Flight’, the collation/collection of all my Ukraine stories. But that would have been the worst kind of cheating… the kind discussed in that 2019 post.

Strange though, I announced the IWSG Anthology Contest 2019 winners in the same post. And one was ‘Feathered Fire’, my short which began my Ukraine journey.

Slava Ukrayini

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The awesome co-hosts for the November 2 posting of the IWSG are Diedre Knight,Douglas Thomas Greening,Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton!

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

The Ongoing War in Ukraine

As I wrote the October Challenge post, Putin’s disastrous invasion escalated. So, I ended up writing more background information. So, this is Post II, in which I refer in places to the Challenge post:

https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-thriller/

Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive revealed likely war crimes from a torture incident to mass graves in a forest. Russian troops and separatist forces ran en masse, abandoning valuable equipment and supplies.

This was swiftly followed by Russia’s sham elections and illegal annexation of four regions of Eastern Ukraine.

Echoes of Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland before WWII.

Internationally, almost everyone condemned the annexations, especially given the evidence of coercion by Russian forces, and the ludicrously inflated results. And Ukraine already controlled a percentage of the regions, then liberated more of the occupied territory after the pronouncement.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/10/1129492

As his invasion failed, Putin announced partial mobilization which resulted in thousands of eligible Russians fleeing the country. Meanwhile, those conscripted seemed poorly equipped, barely trained, and sometimes dispatched overhastily to the front-line. There, hundreds are surrendering, rather than fight.

Putin and some in his clique have threatened the use of nuclear weapons. For now, the West has promised a punishing conventional response.

When someone, probably Ukraine, bombed the strategic Kerch Bridge linking Russia to Crimea, annexed illegally in 2014, Putin’s birthday was ruined, and he ‘lost his rag’.

The bloody reprisals were as expected from Putin’s newly appointed commander for the retreating invasion, SERGEI SUROVIKIN. Raining missiles down on Ukraine’s civilians is a typical war crime ordered by General Armageddon – hence that playground attack.

Amidst the ongoing brutality, this had to be my closing scene of my October Challenge post.

Putin was hoping he could frighten Ukrainian civilians into capitulation. But they are more determined to prevail, as the British were during the Blitz in WWII. The bombing of German cities had a similar reverse effect.

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/11/opinions/ukraine-russia-war-playground-parenting-children-stefanova

Looking ahead, my flash for December flash is provisionally titled ‘Swords into Ploughshares’ as that is where my green conscience needs to go.

War fever has engulfed so many of us. Yet, when even Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, is a Green and strong supporter of Ukraine, I feel my response is somewhat vindicated. But there must be a humanitarian solution, not one that strengthens the military-industrial complex I so vehemently opposed when active in green politics.

I must end with this video of Ukrainian women soldiers singing the protest song Bella Ciao in Ukrainian.

This is the flower of the partisan,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao

this is the flower of the partisan

who died for freedom

Slava Ukrayini

#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Thriller

As the war in Ukraine continues, so must my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian aviatrix cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

This October Challenge presented another interesting writing prompt in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. The war continues to throw up horrific images, but the extraordinary Kharkiv Counter-offensive seemed to be more encouraging.

However, I had sown a spectral seed in the last scene of the August Challenge, with aviatrix Ksenia Zelenko frightened for her brother in a Russian prison.

So, I wrote the Ksenia story as the main arc, and tried to fit in two additional events in real life, which felt significant.

But there was too much ongoing destruction and too much escalation that I had to discard one of those real-life incidents – the discovery of a Russian torture building – and so many more tragic events. This seems to be one of those tough choices writing historical fiction entails, especially in historical flash.

Instead, I pruned enough words to add a closing scene echoing ‘Thriller’ and reality.

I am aware how this war has distracted many of us from other pressing crises like climate change. And there are other humanitarian emergencies, so I’m impressed when the Ukrainians are trying to help others in say African countries. And don’t forget their concern, a few months back, for getting their grain out to those starving abroad.

Although most don’t see this terrible war ending soon, I am outlining an upbeat positive piece for the December Challenge. However, I am prepared to keep writing into 2023, even if the pieces don’t fit with Challenge prompts and I must post ‘independently’.

That depends on my health and the overdue revision of Sparkle Anwyl novel ‘Fevered Fuse’. I’d be remiss if I abandoned my Snowdon Shadows mysteries.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

As people have asked where to find all my Ukraine stories, I’ve started creating ‘Freedom Flight’, which will be a collation/collection of them all.

Chapter/Part 1 will be ‘Feathered Fire’, my historical fantasy which at present is only available in the IWSG Anthology ‘Voyagers: The Third Ghost’.

However, there may be complications using a published piece. Will it be difficult getting permission?

Part II will be all my Challenge pieces on the current conflict in Ukraine, however that may resolve.   

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

Blurb: In Ukraine, Night Witches gamble their lives against Fate.

Part 4

Winged Death

2022

Ukraine

Tuesday, August 30th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast.

Ksenia leant closer to her brother Kyrylo as darkness shrouded them.

“How much longer have we? We’ve so much to share. Evading death takes a miracle.”

“No time to talk about the Azovstal steel mill. Nor enough faith for your miracle. Soon I must go. Tell me about the counter-offensive, please.”

Did he know? Why? Had he chosen to die again?

No. Never let him leave. Sibling persuasion.

“Our squadron received official approval as an active unit… for this offensive. We have fifteen pilots now, all-women. Plus—”

“—six more NATO compatible jets.”

He knows everything. Of course.

“Yes. The Swedes sent more Gripens. With our new command-and-control systems and surface-to-air defenses, we can field an integrated air and missile defense force—”

“—all-women like the original Night Witches, but deadlier. But I must go home now.”

“Not yet, Kyrylo. We need each other. Stay, please.”

“We will be together soon – forever.” His figure wavered in the moonlight.

“How?”

“Sacrifice. Please. Grandma calls.”

Then, he vanished – joining their ancestors.

A harbinger of fate? Whose?

Thursday, September 8th

Cold Lake, Canada (21.00) and Kanatovo, Ukraine (Friday, 06.00)

Leonid Sokol had been in shock since hearing the news at 11.30. Reaching his wife Kalyna in Ukraine had proved disturbing as front-line information was shrouded in secrecy. Rumors of high casualties made him fear the worst as time passed with no contact.

How dangerous were the current air operations? Were the Witches being used for night missions? What was the cost in lives?

The sound of her voice was relief, but tears flowed as he said, “Queen Elizabeth died today… we knew it would happen. We’ll mourn her.”

“We heard when Zelenskiy extended sincere condolences on behalf of the Ukrainian people. What did our prime minister, Justin Trudeau say? He’s known her personally much of his life.”

“He called the Queen ‘a constant presence in our lives’ and said his compatriots would always ‘remember and cherish Her Majesty’s wisdom, compassion, and warmth’—”

“Agreed. A life of dedication well lived. Time now to end the horrors here. Make all this carnage meaningful.”

“I fear what’s ahead. More than weapons are needed.”

Sunday, September 11th – Eastern Ukraine

The twelve Night Witches went silent as their three majors entered the briefing room, along with the commander of their ground units.

Vasy uncovered a map showing Russian positions east of Kharkiv. “Again, we’re tasked with a front-line night mission clearing enemy command & control targets. First, we must clear obstacles facing tomorrow’s thunder run. The lighter faster vehicles our brigades are using will bypass strong units. So, our second selection of targets are those.’

Ksenia continued the briefing assigning targets to the various wings.

“My wing will clear out this detachment of tanks. Remember everyone, we don’t have air supremacy in this sector.”

**

Explosions lit the night as the other wings found their targets. But Russian defenses were now alert and their rockets were incoming.

Ksenia’s Gold Wing had yet to attack their target, although their drone operator had locked in the co-ordinates.

As Ksenia and her wing-sister Lieutenant Ganna Kohut flew a protective pattern above, Lieutenants Anzhela Havrylyuk and Mariyka Shevchuk closed, launching multiple AGM-88 missiles.

Several explosions were confirmed as hits by her instruments. Ground defences tried to bring down the attackers as they climbed out of range.

Before Ksenia and Ganna could attack, four Russian Sukhoi Su-30s flew towards them.

“Don’t engage. Evade. Jink home.”

As the enemy launched heat seeking missiles, Gold Wing all fired off flares and chaff. Then began a combination of tight maneuvers, knowing missiles couldn’t maneuver as nimbly as their jets. And their Gripens’ electronic counter measures sent strong electronic signals, jamming radars.

More projectiles closed from below as the wing turned and barrel rolled in different directions.

Unable to track the jets anymore, most missiles flew past, losing their locks.

But the Russian Su-30s kept following, despite the danger of Ukrainian anti-aircraft defences nearby.

Russian Su-30

Ksenia prayed at least one enemy would be downed.

But they too were dodging attacks, and the Russians seemed intent on one target now – Anzhela.

Ksenia had to protect her friend. She turned towards the pursuers and when in range opened fire with her Gripen’s Mauser BK-27 cannon. Then rolled away, diving groundward.

All four Russians followed, firing missiles and cannon.

Despite the darkness, she flew as close to the treetops as possible, and under every powerline she remembered.

Approaching Kharkiv, she climbed, hoping her pursuers would flee from Ukraine’s air umbrella.

Hopefully her sisters had followed orders and returned to base.  But two jets remained on her radar – one a Su-30.

Higher she climbed, twisting to lose her pursuer, who before running, launched a final missile.

It exploded by Ksenia’s wingtip.

Blood blurred her vision as her Gripen spun down.

She had to eject.

No. Her plane would hit the city.

Fight to regain control.

Another explosion – the Russian.

Steer to open spaces.

A field of harvested wheat. Food saved.

Too much blood.

“I’m dying. Kyrylo was right. Together forever.”

**

Thursday, September 15th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast

Anzhela planted the sunflower seedling on Ksenia’s grave. “She saved my life. Why?”

Her partner Larisa and their son hugged her. “For freedom.”

“You avenged her,” said Vasy. “By shooting down that Su-30… not over the city. You saved lives.”

The surviving squadron personnel bowed their heads, then added seedlings to the other graves of their fallen friends.

“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”

Above the spirits of all departed Night Witches keened, yearning for a peaceful resolution.

**

Monday, October 10th – Kyiv, Ukraine

The Russian S-300 missile dropped with precise intent toward its military target – Ukrainian children in a playground.

Putin’s genocide mushroomed as deadly explosives fell, and blood was spilt all over Ukraine.

More innocent corpses. Bodies pulled from devastated buildings.

A special military operation with a spiraling cost in lives.

1,000 Words: FCA

KYIV, UKRAINE – OCTOBER 10: A view of the scene after several explosions rocked the Shevchenkivskyi district of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv on October 10, 2022. Vitali Klitschko said that multiple explosions were heard in the center of Kyiv today morning. There is no further detail on the incident yet. (Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Although that’s my October Challenge piece, I have more on the War in Ukraine. So. I’m splitting this post in two. For more on the War, including a link or two and a video, plus plans for the December Challenge, and two female Ukrainian soldiers, watch out for Post II in a minute or two… or go here: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/the-ongoing-war-in-ukraine/

Slava Ukrayini

#IWSG – Twists

I’m writing this monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post as the new month starts… and as my bed-ridden position is bearable this morning.

And my long-suffering wife brought me Apple Orchard tea, despite her bad knees and other ailments. I wish our family did more… but they try given their own problems.

The usual single key tapping continues, but my new pain-med regimen helps ease the intermittent pain, improving my concentration.

My Snowdonia police procedural still depends on my desktop appearing… within another three months, perhaps.

My October WEP-IWSG Challenge – ‘Thriller’ theme – is written but needs honing. I’ve even started creating ‘Freedom Flights’, which will be a collation/collection of all my Ukraine stories.

Part 1 will be ‘Feathered Fire’, my historical fantasy which appeared in the IWSG Anthology ‘The Third Ghost’ and introduced the Cheyka family from Ukraine. However, there may be complications using a published piece.

Part II will be my Challenge pieces on the current conflict in Ukraine.

Anyway IWSG. Remember, the question is optional!

October 5 question – What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

I hesitate over ‘favorite genre’ as my current writing for the WEP-IWSG Challenge could be classed as ‘contemporary’ or will become ‘historical’ in a few decades.

My current audio read, ‘The Last Restaurant in Paris’ by Lily Graham, is classed as Historical, as it’s set in WW2… and present day.

OK… so best characteristics of Historical: seamless blend of fact and fiction.

Does that make ‘Freedom Flight’ historical? Eastern Front WW2 and present-day Russian invasion?

Let’s switch to my equally favorite genre… Crime.

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

As in ‘Fevered Fuse’ my police procedural novel, undergoing revision, well, awaiting that desktop appearance. Plus, all my other Sparkle stories set in Snowdonia are police procedurals.

And my wife and I are avidly watching ‘The Brokenwood Mysteries” on Acorn TV, a New Zealand series with a great mix of quirky characters.

That’s not quite the Crime genre’s best characteristics… almost.

Twists

Whether red herrings, misleading information, false trails, or any crafty plot coils, a devious writer uses.

Used craftily, these keep our little grey cells firing and our minds entertained.

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The awesome co-hosts for the October 5 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker,Victoria Marie Lees,Mary Aalgaard, and Sandra Cox!

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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