Sparkle or Skaði

My mind is already churning around the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges. There are 3 options:

  1. Standalone Stories inspired by the individual themes. Six separate spontaneous seasonal stories.
  2. Sparkle Anwyl case. Six episodes of a new Snowdon Shadows case for my Welsh detective and her partner-lover, Kama. The threads for this are scribbles with substance.
  3. Skaði, Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. More Norse mythology with a twist – and a few more kennings. Not sure why Skaði is at a cafe with my favourite artist or his sunflowers.
Skadi by Michael Jorvik
Eve Myles as Sparkle Anwyl

I could try doing a poll but comments seem better – if I get any. Tell me what you would like to read, please.

Nano Notches

After I recorded the final word count for my 2019 NaNoWriMo attempt, I began wondering, ‘Am I a cheat? What is a NaNoWriMo win? How did I get here?’

If a win means writing 50k words of a new work in November, then I’m a cheat. How many times?

The rules have been flexible for many years, and over the years, I’ve adapted those rules to fit my situation.

I’m no longer a ‘purist’ after a few NaNo successes. Nowadays, my draft outlines written in October are always part of the attempt. I always copy my outline and write over it. Even notes and comments to myself now become part of my ‘splurge’ draft novel.

My declining ability to write/type long and fast enough to tackle a fresh 50k has put paid to new creations. Anyway, with a few drafts clamouring for completion, adding to the heap seems foolhardy. So, I reuse drafts already written.

2019 was my ninth year of doing NaNoWriMo, but I’ve only worked on seven different novels. This year was a revision of last year’s success so a perversion of the rules.

My first attempt was in 2011, when my outlines were rough notes—a scrappy road map with room for detours. However, I’d already resorted to planning after my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves, was taking 13 years to publish as my plotlines kept changing.

Here’s a run-down of my NaNoWriMo journey:

2011:   The Last Leaf. I wrote 50k but didn’t know how to validate. Preparation—minimal research and a scrappy road map. A fantasy novella and part of my ‘Gossamer Flames’ saga.

2012:   Wyrm Blood. 54,817 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Sequel to a draft mystery, called ‘Wyrm Bait’.

2013:   Tortuous Terrain. 56,169 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’ awaiting reader demand.

2014:   Fates Maelstrom. FAIL with zero words after poor preparation. Intention was to relocate a Dartmoor draft novel to North Wales.

2015:   Fates Maelstrom. 70,274 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Dartmoor novel was heavily re-written to introduce my Welsh police detective Sparkle Anwyl. Originally, Book 1 of Snowdon Shadows series.

2016:   Eagle Passage. 55,612 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline using a Heroine’s Journey plotline. An alternative history set in a 21st century Viking Age with airships.

2017:   Ruined Retreat. 60,264 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Last true fresh draft-win. Originally, Book 3 of Snowdon Shadows series.

2018:   Fevered Few. 54,599 words—a validated win. Preparation: this started life as a collection of short stories about Sparkle Anwyl prior to Fates Maelstrom. So, I devised an outline plot to bookcase the stories and provide the framework for new material. Cheating?

2019:   Fevered Fuse. 68,535 words. A revised version of ‘Fevered Few’, with a revamped title, an amended plot and new scenes. I worked on a new outline/order in October—and even made notes. But was it a real win? Is it even Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows series? ‘Azure Spark’–my A to Z story–is a prequel of sorts.

What is on the cards for NaNoWriMo 2020? Perhaps, it will be a chance to revise a draft from the archives. Another cheat?

Seeking A Knife’? Part of the Snowdon Shadows series—originally the sequel to ‘Fates Maelstrom’. Although, half-written–before Sparkle’s sexuality evolved–I need to rewrite earlier Books first. 

Wyrm Bait’? An old mystery I regret filing away after detailed comments from a reputable British editor, who was positive while suggesting a logical approach to the rewrite.

I will have to plan further ahead if I intend to write anything. October will leave things too late. With MS an MS gets tougher every year—even an MS MS.

However, I’m amazed at one genuine win—my short story selection for the forthcoming IWSG Anthology. I never expected ‘Feather Fire’, my attempt at a MG story, to make it past discerning judges. I was wrong and stand alongside some great fellow writers. So, I congratulate those other writers and thank the judges.

Nearer the release date, I’ll share some nuggets from the research behind the adventure set in 1944.

For now, I’ll share the announcement of the winners of the IWSG Anthology Contest!


Coming May 5, 2020 –

Voyagers: The Third Ghost


Middle grade historical/adventure
Featuring these stories and authors:


The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
Winter Days – Katharina Kolata
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
Dare Double Dare – Louise MacBeath Barbour
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
The Orchard – Beth Anderson Schuck
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Simon Grey and the Yamamba – Charles Kowalski

We’d like to thank our amazing judges:
Elizabeth S. Craig, author and honorary judge
Dianne K. Salerni, author
Lynda Dietz, editor
S.A. Larsen, author
Rachna Chhabria, author
Lindsay Davis Auld, agent – Writers House
Tonja Drecker, author
David Powers King, author

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane–what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski  Louise MacBeath Barbour , Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

#IWSG – Role-play Reverie

Why am I getting repetitive? Because it’s that time again.

Yes, that one.

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here and so am I, insecure, although a chunk less since I’ve finished another WIP draft for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

I finished the revision before Thanksgiving so had a few days grace. And time to worry about this post and my WEP-IWSG flash on the theme of Footprints. But for the latter, don’t expect another Sparkle tale as she’s off-duty after a tough month. Instead, I’m revisiting another character’s world.

More insecurity/stress inducing -great for the MS, not- is the editing.

I’m trying to get my head round modern grammar rules: en-dashes, em-dashes, ellipses, etcetera. Whatever I learnt at school in the last century seems wrong—or old-fashioned. Was that last em-dash correct? Just when my fuddled brain sees the light, I get hit for six. [In cricket terminology. In baseball lingo, a homerun?]

Do editors differ in terms of style? AP or Oxford? Brits or Yanks?

Plus, this post comes with a warning: I’ve still got old IWSG posts to visit from months back – buried in the daily avalanche of emails. A never-ending avalanche. So, expect a visit in 2020. You’re filed.

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question which will result in more fascinating posts elsewhere.

December 4 question – Let’s play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

My fingers fly furiously over my keyboard. Finished correcting my latest novel—Book 8 in the Snowdon Shadows series. Yet more challenging cases for DI Sparkle Anwyl. Yet more animating accolades for Roland Clarke. Grin inanely, autograph another book, drink another toast with my agent. Life is great and comfortable for me, my wife and our furry family. Exotic escapades entice. Relaxed, warmth spreads from my chest to my body—to everyone.

Screech of brain-brakes.

Book 1 isn’t even ready. Is it Book 1 or just backstory? My fingers and brain are cramped. Sparkle is only a DC—Detective Constable. The ending feels flat. No agent. No publisher.

The only MS is my chronic illness.

So, hold the Role-play Reverie.

I fear I’m writing to leave a legacy of words to a family who doesn’t care. Most of our money goes to them—not to even an editor who can tackle my mixed-up words/grammar. Why bother to write?

To sleep, perchance to dream.

Because I dream of someone having a use for my scribblings—once I’ve found the best way to end the current WIP.

Is publication ambitious or justified? Necessity or luxury? Reality or Role-play?

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The awesome co-hosts for the December 4 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson!

(You must agree these guys all have commitments too—but they are the best. Ticker-tape applause for all of them—plus toasts too.)

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. 

#IWSG – Word View

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I, insecure, although a notch less.

I finally got my entry for the 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest in with a day to spare. Finally, I suppressed my fears, switched off my urge to edit, edit, edit, and edit forever. I managed to integrate almost all the comments from my wonderful beta readers. However, my step kids were no shows as readers. But I had an awesome MG kid-reader from the UK – thanks Rebecca, for some awesome suggestions.

Insecurity postponed until the results appear next year.

Now, I’m stressing about my Pitch Wars 2019 submission – Fevered Few. The required query letter, one-page synopsis, and the first chapter of my completed manuscript are achievable by the September 25th-27th deadline. But I’m unsure if I have a “completed and polished full-length, fiction manuscript”. Complete perhaps, but ‘dusted’ might fit better than ‘polished’.

So, another insecure month. Or maybe, I’ll work on my short stories and the drug cartel in Bolivia.

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question.

September 4 question – If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

 I’m writing this in an office shared with my wife, that overlooks a suburban US street – not my dream location.

Requirements for change:

  1. Water view: by a river would be good or overlooking a beach or ocean.
  2. Mountain view: looking out onto green alpine meadows or something with a snow cap.
  3. Log cabin: a feel of being in the woods, surrounded by trees.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA, Phantom Ship – Photo by Brian W. Schaller
Published under the Creative Commons license – CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

In my mind, I see a cabin on Crater Lake in Oregon, USA. We once looked at murals to create some of that on the wall behind/beside our desks. Sound effects? We were planning to move to a mobile home park with houses overlooking a lake – but that’s not happening.

Of course, our house and office in North Wales was on the edge of woodland, overlooked Ceredigion Bay, and had a view of Snowdon. Plus, we had jackdaws in our garden. Just try ignoring our neighbours-from-Hell.

My wife’s photo may not show the estuary or the tip of Harlech Castle, but we could see them, especially from our landscaped garden. But the memories are there – and inspire my writing about Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police/Heddlu Gogledd Cymru in my Snowdon Shadows series.

And that photo has been enlarged, so it hangs above my desk with a red Welsh Dragon in front. Outside the window, beside our new rose garden, is a fountain of running water. Good enough for the next story, especially as we are spending the last weekend of September in a cabin in the mountains surrounded by pine trees.

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The awesome co-hosts for the September 4 posting of the IWSG are Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantiner!

(I so admire these guys as I know they have commitments too. Ticker-tape applause.)

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. 

#IWSG – Trait Train

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I, insecure or maybe just ashamed.

Ashamed as my writing in June has been minimal: a few book reviews and my piece for the #JUNE #WEP/IWSG CHALLENGE – since the last IWSG monthly post. My excuse is that I’m still wading through a backlog of emails that fills up like sand.  Or is it my forays into Greece that distract?

Anyway, on to the question.

July 3 question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

At first glance: none directly. My characters are somewhat different from me in terms of profession and in some cases gender. Those factors make their central distinguishing traits distinct from mine, although my protagonists tend to be tenacious – a trait in me that is stubborn if something needs to be done. Dogged.

Rose Gold Pendant –http://celticandwelshjewellery.co.uk/product/rose-gold-pendant-26/

I’m not my current MC, Sparkle Anwyl – even if Wales is where my heart is – but I admire the traits that make her a good detective. Her mind games like her mnemonics are a method I use to overcome the memory problems associated with multiple sclerosis. Mnemonics preceded Sparkle, but is it a trait?

No more than sneaking in horses where I can. That’s just a result of my last career move – equestrian journalist. Yes, I had to be dogged and focused for that. And Sparkle must stop her mind from pursuing rabbit holes. Focus.

I have snuck in a journalist or two. But careers are not traits, even if I use mine. I made Carly Tanner, the heroine of my equestrian mystery ‘Spiral of Hooves’ a staunch organic farming advocate. Organic food is a personal passion and drove an earlier career.

But maybe there is a trait there – a fervent commitment to a cause, whether green issues, horses, or justice. Fervour.

Even Norman, the protagonist of ‘Wyrm Bait’ – an unpublished gaming mystery – had a strange type of ‘dogged and focused fervour’ in the way he pursues the game objectives, the mystery girl from his game, and the antagonists. I suspect I wrote more of me into Norm than I would admit.

Now where did I bury that old wyrm-chewed manuscript?   

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The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

(I so admire these guys as I know they have commitments too. Ticker-tape applause, please.)

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. 


#IWSG – Favoured Genre

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

I’m still recovering from the A to Z month and INSECURE as I have a shrinking backlog of emails/blog posts, reviews to write, as well as the final few WRiTE CLUB rounds, plus short stories to write.

These include an entry for the 2019 IWSG Anthology – another Insecurity. I’m going to write outside my comfort zone as the requirement is: Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy. Sounds great. Middle Grade – I’ve never tried. Historical – I read so okay. Adventure – check. Fantasy – check. But together? What sort of genre is that?

Theme is no problem as ‘Voyagers’ can be interpreted lots of ways. I even have two historical ideas, but they aren’t fantasy as such – not yet.

I’m going to read The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell as it’s MG. It’s MG, historical, and fantasy – according to Goodreads – and it’s on my desk. But I’m unclear whether my ideas fit ‘Historical – Adventure/Fantasy’. More research?

Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale as a read might fit, and it’s on my bookshelf – but it’s YA not MG.

Lots of reading ahead whatever path I tread.

Anyway, on to this month’s question.

June 5 question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favourite to write in and why?

Interesting question as I read multiple genres: mystery/crime/thriller; historical; alternative history; fantasy; science fiction/speculative; post-apocalyptic. Over the decades, I’ve tried to write most of those.

But – for now – I come back to crime. Crime in the sense of my police procedural series, Snowdon Shadows.

Why? As my protagonist, Sparkle Anwyl is a fascinating character to write – quirky and a detective with her unique approach to solving crime. Plus, my heart is back in North Wales, where the series is set.

Yes, there are other draft novels in different genres. But Sparkle and duty calls.

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The awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton,Kim Lajevardi,Sylvia Ney,Sarah Foster,Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

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.