Sleuthing Snowdon Shadows

Where is Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police heading?

Or rather where do I start her story? What comes first? The goth teenager or the quirky detective?

For the Blogging from A to Z April (2019) Challenge, I wrote a 19,000 word Sparkle story in twenty-six parts – Azure Spark. It is a standalone case that some readers have said I should publish as a novella. However, that throws up some complications.

First complication: although Sparkle & Co., resolved the Azure Spark case, an arson investigation was left ongoing – my ‘O for Obstruction’ post,  for the bi-monthly WEP/IWSG Challenge. April’s theme was ‘Jewel Box’ which became the name of the torched gift shop. Initially, I planned to continue the investigation with the June theme, ‘Caged Bird’ and then in the three subsequent WEG/IWSG posts, culminating with ‘Footprints’ in December. But that means holding back Azure Spark’. Doesn’t it?

Or I can write that arson case now as a ‘bonus’ incident.

Second complication: backstory. I can add a few pieces of backstory in ‘Azure Spark’ when I re-draft the story. What do readers need to know? Why did Sparkle become a cop? How did she meet her lover, Kama? However, all these incidents exist as short stories. Sparkle’s backstory unfolded as various shorts I developed as a collection with a framing investigation for NaNoWriMo 2018, titled “Fevered Few” – including a case I wrote for the WEP/IWSG Challenge last year.

What do readers want now?

Third complication: ‘Azure Spark’ references a key case in ‘Fevered Few’but in a way I hope gives all that the reader requires. Or does the case need more detail? How much detail is too much? Or should ‘Azure Spark’ be part of the collection?

Okay, my gut feeling is that ‘Azure Spark’ the novella is my starting point. Test the water/market with that, then continue with the other Sparkle Anwyl stories.

Do you, dear reader, agree?

I intended ‘Fevered Few’ to be the opening of Snowdon Shadows, a series of mystery novels set around Snowdonia in North Wales. However, in the beginning of that WIP, Sparkle doesn’t know she’s a policewoman – or Heddlu as the Welsh police are called. Amnesia is the antagonist blocking her memories of her first cases and more. So, ‘Fevered Few’ was the start of the series – before April 2019’s A to Z Challenge.

I also have three novels to complete in order: “Fates Maelstrom”, “Seeking A Knife”, and “Ruined Retreat”. I’ve drafted FM five times, SAK is still incomplete, and RR was my 2018 NaNoWriMo novel (draft one).

So how do I make ‘Azure Spark’ fit into the release schedule?

Does anyone want to read more?

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – Azure Spark

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – #AtoZChallenge #ThemeReveal

This year, I am better prepared for today’s A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal day than I have been in recent years.

Initially, my thoughts had been drifting around the thoughts I scribbled down after 2017’s Challenge and kept adding to after last year’s Challenge. One ongoing possibility was to work with the list of places in North Wales that were linked to my Welsh detective series.

As many of you must know, I’ve been working on various aspects of Sparkle Anwyl’s career from the revision of her case, Fates Maelstrom, to short flash posts for WEP/IWSG. I have also been deliberating over what to do with my writing. Do I just blog more Sparkle posts? Do I focus on my Sparkle novel, Fevered Few?

Well, for the 2019 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I will be releasing a new Sparkle Anwyl short story, called Azure Spark.


Aberdaron Beach, Gwynedd, looking towards Porth Meudwy – author: Skinsmoke https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Skinsmoke

Each day’s post will move the story forwards with the appropriate letter playing a prominent role. For instance, the letter A is for Assault as in the incident that triggers the story. This plays well with Sparkle’s idiosyncrasy of using mnemonics to help her tackle crime. You’ll have to wait to see how that ‘spells’ out.

I may add a little extra with a daily musical offering. After last year’s A to Z challenge, I began collating a musical list for this year, so at least it might survive in some form. For a taster, here – if this works – is the soundtrack for one of the games that I play. Also, an echo of my 2018 gaming theme. This is one of the pieces of music playing as I work.

That’s all for this reveal. I’m off to work on Sparkle’s current case. There are quite a few alphabetical threads left – blame it on my health not my devious mind.

#TheIWSG – What Publishing Path?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I’m using a lull in the chaos to write this month’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post as the undisciplined step-great-grandkids are out raising hell in Walmart. My biggest concern is now my wife who fell badly yesterday (Sunday) because of one selfish kid and smashed her weak knee so she has to use one of my wheelchairs to get around. We will be glad when this extended month’s stay is over.

Anyway, on with this month’s question.

September 5 question – What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

The future is a mystery as I’m unsure what path I will choose for my Snowdon Shadows mystery series. Is that why I’m evading the finish line by writing shorts about my heroine? Those tales may appear as a self-published collection or as freebies here. The first novel of the series – three drafted so far – I will offer to a few small presses when it is finished.

I’ve been down the small press path with my debut novel Spiral of Hooves, which was published as an e-book on Monday, December 9th, 2013, by Spectacle Publishing Media Group. When SPMG changed hands and I got the right back, I released a paperback revised edition on August 7th, 2017 – self-published via CreateSpace. Neither release garnered much attention, so I have little to base any future publications on, except—

  • The small press put me in touch with fellow authors and they were supportive; self-publishing was a lonelier path.
  • Self-publishing allowed me to choose more about the release like format and cover. And that meant assembling my own team.
  • Publicity with the small press was a mix of them and me – their suggestions and my workload.
  • Self-publishing was costlier overall – in theory, the profit margins were greater, but I never sold the copies needed to cover my costs.

Perhaps, I am writing for my pleasure alone, so publishing is not important?

Or I have a blockbuster rather than a money-pit.

What’s in your wallet/on your publishing schedule?

Roland_PBookV1

Cover design by Jonathan Temples. Cover photo by Nick Perry

**

The awesome co-hosts for the September 5 posting of the IWSG are Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

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 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

 

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish AUGUST Challenge

a wep change of heart final
This month, I am taking part in the #WEP August Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges which the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined.

The WEP team had a GUEST POST on the IWSG website on August 6. Here is the link http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/2018/08/writing-together-with-wep-and-iswg.html

WEP_IWSG
So, it’s now the correct day for the AUGUST challenge, CHANGE OF HEART. I confess that I posted nine days early – https://rolandclarke.com/2018/08/06/wep-change-of-heart/ – but I have since made a few minor edits so I’m re-posting.

I was also reminded to add some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is an incident in the backstory of a central character in my WIP – SPOILER ahead. This is when my MC in the Snowdon Shadows series of police procedurals was a teenager. I am currently using this as a flashback within a framing story (‘Fevered’) set a year before the WIP entitled ‘Fates Maelstrom’.

Change of Heart

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Shadows in the moonlight flicker like my mind churning with every bleating sheep. What does Taid want? Does he know our secret?

My morning swim in our lake was invigorating, but after breakfast, he triggered the thoughts.

“We need to talk, Meinwen – this evening when your chores are done.”

I daren’t ask Mam what he wants – even if he’s her tad. Patience would be her answer. My siblings don’t act suspicious, but Taid has rules.

Where have I strayed?

My love is forbidden in his chapel eyes. But we kept it secret. Six weeks of passion on the beach had to end. But not with punishment.

He doesn’t know. We were careful – once the school buried the incident. Tad never dug – believed we were bullied for being different – two Goths.

It’s my parents – Tad and Mam. Their time apart, after the arguments about his work, has been hard. I chose to be with him. No, by the sea in Porthmadog – to be near Esyllt. My brothers came with mam and our sister, up here to the farm.

Is there a distance in their eyes? Am I the betrayer who stood with Tad? Am I being sent away?

I love them all. I can’t choose. But my family comes before Esyllt – it must. Or can our affair become more? Or are we doomed?

What does Taid want? A grandchild that lives by the rules. I don’t.

Are my tad and mam following his advice? Have they changed their minds? Are they getting back together – as we all want?

Cregennen-Lakes-5

Cregennen Lakes © Ian King – http://snowdonia.info/

The porch door opens and Nain Gwyneth and Taid Hywel walk out, smiling as they hand me a cup of hot chocolate.

“Another beautiful evening,” says Nain as she sits on the couch and gestures for Taid to join her. “It’s good to have you home, cariad. How was your stay with your tad?”

“Awesome – well good.” I mustn’t be too happy as I want to be at their farm now. Well, I want everyone together. “I enjoy being here at Tyn-y-llyn – in the mountains…swimming in the lake—”

Taid takes my hands in his gnarled ones. “Your mam, our Glenys wants this to be your home. You want that?”

Leave my tad. Leave the sea…my friends – Esyllt. For a new life?

“If you want me here. But school? I was changing, though—”

Taid nods at Nain and smiles. “Your mam says that you’re going to sixth-form college – in Pwllheli. Why? We’d hoped you’d do agriculture at Glynllifon – then help your Ewythr Ivor here on the farm.”

I stare across the yard at the farmhouse where my mam’s brother is sleeping with his family. Do I want that life? I love it up here – but something is missing.

Esyllt? No, she is not my future – even if I feel the passion and the excitement…and the guilt.

“I need to keep my options open. I’m sixteen and I want to do AS and A levels in different subjects. I’m not ready to commit.”

They watch me…study me. What do they see? The guilt or vague potential?

“You’ve no idea what you want to do? You can’t be like your tad – look what he’s put our Glenys through?”

The cop-option. The one that tackling the bullies triggered – Esyllt’s suggestion. My tad’s secret desire. Or did he say it was too dangerous? I must evade this.

“I like swimming—” I stare into their eyes then glance towards the land. “And running across the fields. Okay, I can do that as a farmer. But I’d like to learn about the sport and leisure industries, whilst learning more skills – like more Welsh. It’s our language.”

They smile, and Nain reaches over and pats my knee. She takes my hands.

“If you go to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor how will you get there – you can’t live there?”

I let the conversation move on – hoping that we are past the tough grilling.

“I’ve passed my moped test and it will only take an hour – better than cycling and quicker. That means I can stay here – please.”

They embrace me, and I think they are leaving as Nain goes inside. But Taid sits back down.

“There’s something else. We’ve heard disturbing rumours from your school…” He looks up, and I shiver. “About an incident, you were involved in. What is the truth?”

As I dread. The whispers have spread into Snowdonia. It’s over. First Tad – but he didn’t tan my ass, just lectured me about vigilantes. Seems my school didn’t like the Goth Patrol standing up against bullies.

“It was a buddy system to protect kids needing friends.”

I listen to the hunting owls and Taid’s breathing. Did the family hear more? Or just about the assault in the swimming pool? I could have been drowned, but my friends rescued me – with Esyllt.

“In the eyes of the Lord,” he says, staring up into the night sky. “We can’t be the judges. But our friends talk – about our reputation in the community, and yours. Is there someone else?”

Here it is – the sin is exposed. Unless I lie.

“Not that I know – just friends.”

Lies are hard, but so is facing the truth. It won’t just be Taid and Nain. What will the family do next?

“Who is Esyllt Jernigan?”

I close my eyes and pray for guidance.

“One of my friends – another Goth like me.”

He frowns, and I realise my mistake – my other rebellion.

“Goth is darkness, isn’t it? A sin, in some eyes. You…like this other girl?”

Do I confess my sin – that I’ve slept with another woman? Or do I deny our love and perjure myself in the eyes of God? Three denials like Saint Peter is a sin.

But I want a future. Esyllt was the future but so are my family. Are the chapel rules just? Are Taid and Nain correct?

Must I change what my heart feels?

“There’s this guy – Bran. He likes me.”

Scooter

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 991: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

critique badge1

 

READ MORE ENTRIES BY FOLLOWING THE WEP – Write…Edit…Publish URL:

http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/

 

 

Exploration or taster?

Scooter

As my regular followers might know, I’m exploring my Fates Maelstrom main protagonist’s backstory by writing short stories that are also a means to try a different POV.

After writing the first story about Sparkle Anwyl, Goth Patrol, in first-person present POV, I’ve stayed with that for three more shorts – two set some years earlier, when Sparkle was sixteen, and one set a year later when she is 23. (She’s 25 in the novel.)

I like the first-person present POV and I’ve even attempted a version of her first POV scene written in the first-person present – it seems to read okay. As for the backstory developed in these stories, the key incidents are already referenced in the main novel, Fates Maelstrom.

Now, I have two questions:

(1) Can I have other POVs in third for some scenes and Sparkle’s in the first-person present?

(2) The crucial question is – What do I do with the short stories?

I have been working on a framing story, ever since I read Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Last Wish – http://witcher.wikia.com/wiki/The_Last_Wish – in which the Polish writer cleverly uses one for his first shorts collection. However, the norm seems to be to release shorts totally independently, or as free rewards for followers/subscribers.

I decided to research this, and on the internet, I found this interesting article at Writer’s Digest – http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/writing-short-stories-novel-writing – that included this interesting point:

“Short fiction can be a toy box for your novel’s secondary characters, “offstage” action and locations. Outside the realm of your larger manuscript, you can do things like mine the protagonist’s past to find the source of her inner struggle, then use what you’ve learned to add a richness to your novel. (As a side benefit, these stories, if you’re pleased with the results, can later become great marketing tools: Sell them first, to prove the related novel has a receptive audience, or use them as a “bonus” read for novel fans who join your mailing list.)”

I seem to be trying to see if there is a side benefit or whether I remain in the toy box.

For ongoing research, I asked the Insecure Writer’s Support Group on Facebook, “I’ve taken a diversion to explore the backstory of my WIP’s main protagonist. I’ve ended up with some draft short stories that are all pre-WIP and I have a linking/book-ending story. Should they stay as backstory experiments, or should I release them first singly or as an anthology, OR release as a bonus/taster when WIP published …IF published.”

I got some great answers, most notably: Heather M. Gardner. “It really depends on how short and/or how interesting the stories are. I would recommend leaving them just for you, but you could always include them as a free story at the end of your book WHEN its published.”

Nick Wilford “I think you could offer them separately for either free or a low price – it might help build interest in the “main event”. Either as individual stories or a collection.”

Now, I like the idea of a low-price collection to build interest in the ‘main event’, as Nick Wilford calls it, but then the WHEN of Heather M Gardner’s answer troubles me.

Will the novel get published?

Is that important or only the writing experience?

Am I wasting time on social media if I never release anything more into the world? (My tweets get ignored most days.)

Should I just share one short? (In fact, another as I used one in my premature ‘Change of Heart’ post.)

Have you ever written shorts linked to your novels? What did you do with them?

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on Flickr

 

#WEP – Change of Heart

This post should be scheduled for August 15th, but in the midst of chaos, I failed to realise that – read the rules, dummy. If I manage to re-write this, I will re-post the new version on that date.

UPDATE: I have re-posted and you can find the correct post at: https://rolandclarke.com/2018/08/15/wep-write-edit-publish-august-challenge/

[This is my first attempt to do WEP Challenge which this month has teamed up with the Insecure Writers Support Group – http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/2018/08/writing-together-with-wep-and-iswg.html – which I hope links to the other bloggers.

So I’m hoping that this means that I’ve done this correctly…and this piece of fiction makes sense. I’ve been trying to write it despite screaming kids who stress me out and trigger my MS. Just comment below as usual – many thanks.]

WEP_IWSG

Change of Heart

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Shadows in the moonlight flicker like my mind churning with every bleating sheep. What does Taid want? Does he know our secret?

My morning swim in our lake was invigorating, but after breakfast, he triggered the thoughts.

“We need to talk, Meinwen – this evening when your chores are done.”

I daren’t ask Mam what he wants – even if he’s her tad. Patience would be her answer. My siblings don’t act suspicious, but Taid has rules.

Where have I strayed?

My love is forbidden in his chapel eyes. But we kept it secret. Six weeks of passion on the beach had to end. But not with punishment.

He doesn’t know. We were careful – once the school buried the incident. Tad never dug – believed we were bullied for being different – two Goths.

It’s my parents – Tad and Mam. Their time apart, after the arguments about his work, has been hard. I chose to be with him. No, by the sea in Porthmadog – to be near Esyllt. My brothers came with mam and our sister, up here to the farm.

Is there a distance in their eyes? Am I the betrayer who stood with Tad? Am I being sent away?

I love them all. I can’t choose. But my family comes before Esyllt – it must. Or can our affair become more? Or are we doomed?

What does Taid want? A grandchild that lives by the rules. I don’t.

Are my tad and mam following his advice? Have they changed their minds? Are they getting back together – as we all want?

The porch door opens and Nain Gwyneth and Taid Hywel walk out, smiling as they hand me a cup of hot chocolate.

“Another beautiful evening,” says Nain as she sits on the couch and gestures for Taid to join her. “It’s good to have you home, cariad. How was your stay with your tad?”

“Awesome – well good.” I mustn’t be too happy as I want to be at their farm now. Well, I want everyone together. “I enjoy being here at Tyn-y-llyn – in the mountains…swimming in the lake—”

Taid takes my hands in his gnarled ones. “Your mam, our Glenys wants this to be your home. You want that?”

Leave my tad. Leave the sea…my friends – Esyllt. For a new life?

“If you want me here. But school? I was changing, though—”

Taid nods at Nain and smiles. “Your mam says that you’re going to sixth-form college – in Pwllheli. Why? We’d hoped you’d do agriculture at Glynllifon – then help your Ewythr Ivor here on the farm.”

I stare across the yard at the farmhouse where my mam’s brother is sleeping with his family. Do I want that life? I love it up here – but something is missing.

Esyllt? No, she is not my future – even if I feel the passion and the excitement…and the guilt.

“I need to keep my options open. I’m sixteen and I want to do AS and A levels in different subjects. I’m not ready to commit.”

They watch me…study me. What do they see? The guilt or vague potential?

“You’ve no idea want you want to do? You can’t be like your tad – look what he’s put our Glenys through?”

The cop-option. The one that tackling the bullies triggered – Esyllt’s suggestion. My tad’s secret desire. Or did he say it was too dangerous? I must evade this.

“I like swimming—” I stare into their eyes then glance towards the land. “And running across the fields. Okay, I can do that as a farmer. But I’d like to learn about the sport and leisure industries, whilst learning more skills – like more Welsh. It’s our language.”

They smile, and Nain reaches over and pats my knee. She takes my hands.

“If you go to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor how will you get there – you can’t live there?”

I let the conversation move on – hoping that we are past the tough grilling.

“I’ve passed my moped test and it will only take an hour – better than cycling and quicker. That means I can stay here – please.”

They embrace me, and I think they are leaving as Nain goes inside. But Taid sits back down.

“There’s something else. We’ve heard disturbing rumours from your school…” He looks up, and I shiver. “About an incident you were involved in. What is the truth?”

As I dread. The whispers have spread into Snowdonia. It’s over. First Tad – but he didn’t tan my ass, just lectured me about vigilantes. Seems my school didn’t like the Goth Patrol standing up against bullies.

“It was a buddy system to protect kids needing friends.”

I listen to the hunting owls and Taid’s breathing. Did the family hear more? Or just about the assault in the swimming pool? I could have been drowned, but my friends rescued me – with Esyllt.

“In the eyes of the Lord,” he says, staring up into the night sky. “We can’t be the judges. But our friends talk – about our reputation in the community, and yours. Is there someone else?”

Here it is – the sin is exposed. Unless I lie.

“Not that I know – just friends.”

Lies are hard, but so is facing the truth. It won’t just be Taid and Nain. What will the family do next?

“Who is Esyllt Jernigan?”

I close my eyes and pray for guidance.

“One of my friends – another Goth like me.”

He frowns, and I realise my mistake – my other rebellion.

“Goth is darkness, isn’t it? A sin, in some eyes. You…like this other girl?”

Do I confess my sin – that I’ve slept with another woman? Or do I deny our love and perjure myself in the eyes of God? Three denials like Saint Peter is a sin.

But I want a future. Esyllt was the future but so are my family. Are the chapel rules just? Are Taid and Nain correct?

Must I change what my heart feels?

“There’s this guy – Bryn. He likes me.”

Scooter