#WEP/IWSG April Challenge – Freedom Morning

Crime never sleeps.

Post II in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge and on the theme, the Year of the Art. As before, this theme ties in to my novella for last year’s challenges, the six-part story called Custody Chain’.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them.

Another Snowdon Shadows novella was too daunting – and a commitment too far. Although I managed to eke out the end of ‘Custody Chain’ sentence by sentence, I wasn’t in the right space to do that again.

So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

Apologies, the word count was over the limit – but then I over-edited it…………………. or something. With the deadline imminent, I’m resisting the urge to put the details back. Sorry.

If you wish, please comment, or suggest what could be missing.

Many thanks for reading. Please note, my writing situation is in a poorly state – more details here: https://rolandclarke.com/2021/04/07/iwsg-co-author-search/

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

STIRRED EMBERS

2015

Saturday, March 21st

Kama slips a hand across the table, candlelight glinting on her teasing eyes.

She squeezes my fingers. “The other diners are too engrossed in enjoying the food. That’s why this is the best place to celebrate your 21st.”

“With promised enjoyments to come.” I kiss her hand.

“You deserve a weekend of pleasure, before returning to Detective Training. Not that you need any—”

I grin as she knows there were few setbacks.

Raised voices break our focus. Two couples are arguing from separate tables.

Amser ichi adael Cymru,” shouts a grey-haired man as his partner gesticulates.

A tweed-suited customer retorts, “Speak English – not your foreign gibberish.”

“You’re the damn foreigner. I said, ‘Time for you to leave Wales’- in Welsh.”

“This is our home. We’re staying. What can you do? Torch our house as you did thirty years ago? Hopefully, this time they’ll lock you up for good.”

The Welshman raises his fists. “Or I can—”

A colourfully dressed man intervenes. “If you can’t be civil to each other, I must request you leave my restaurant. Or I’ll call the police.”

“He started this,” shout both men. The owner holds them apart.

As they continue to quarrel, turning their abuse on the coloured owner, Kama and I cross over.

We show our warrant cards.

Kama tries to calm the situation. “If everything stops now, we can continue to enjoy what should be a relaxing evening.”

“You can’t understand. You’re like this darkie,” says the Welshman, “Another outsider.”

She laughs, replying in our mother tongue. “Cefais fy ngeni ym Mhontypridd – I was born in Pontypridd.”

“And my family have farmed here for centuries. We don’t condone arson, but this man has served his time—”

“—and you have a right to live here. Let’s all get on then”.

“Like you two dikes?” The English woman jabs a finger at us. “The police shouldn’t take people like you – slobbering across the table at each other.”

I suppress my frustration. “Shame you don’t respect the law – or the arresting officers. Incitement to violence is—”

The woman glances around the staring restaurant. She grabs her belongings and slips out, leaving her husband to pay.

One gesture from Kama, and the Welsh couple go as well.

“Thank you. I can do without customers like that. I thought I’d left prejudice behind in Trinidad. Having mixed race parents prepared me for the worst.”

“From the food, I’d say a fusion of African, Chinese, and Indian.” Kama points at the reproduction painting near our table. “And that.”

“Claude Clark’s Freedom Morning has guided my approach to life. Indirectly the reason I named this refuge Nalaikku—”

Tomorrow in Tamil,” we reply.

453 words FCA

For more on the theme of art, check out the amazing WEP/IWSG Challenges Calendar for 2021 with designs by Olga Godim:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/12/announcing-wep-2021-calendar.html

For more on Claude Clark see:

https://www.claudeclark.com/

And for other April entries visit:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

#IWSG – Co-Author Search

By friends-request, last month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post was not farewell. So, I’m back grinding keys – well, mis-stabbing…hunt & peck fails. Hence, this post has been assembled over time so bear with the weirdness.

On one score, there has been little progress on Fevered Fuse – and other writing. That- has ground to almost nothing. To recap: at first, it was distractions, until I realised my health had taken a dive too. I had problems typing, even when my brain was frazzled.

Basically, I fear Fevered Fuse will never be ready for my editor, let alone a publisher. It seems even less likely the graphic novel concept will progress, or any of the subsequent novels in the Snowdon Shadows series.  My Unfinished Oeuvre? The first sequel, Fates Maelstrom was written as the opener, but after draft 5 I decided Fevered Fuse was needed to establish the series. However, FM needs a rewrite to reflect events in FF and to change the POV.

I’ve also outlined-drafted Seeking A Knife (incomplete), and Ruined Retreat (draft 1.2). Then there’s Azure Spark and Custody Chain, the novellas I posted on this website, which could be edited and revised. (And I realise my dilemma is not new: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/05/13/sleuthing-snowdon-shadows/ – just more muddled.)

However, none of these scribblings will reach an audience now – even if I resolve some of the problems by using Dragon Naturally Speaking. [Voice recognition doesn’t work so well if one’s speech is slurred by health issues. So, this post has necessitated multiple typing sessions.]

But there may be another solution: find a co-author who relates to my characters and can make sense of my ‘vision’. When I thought about that idea, I wondered about my beta-diversity reader. So, I approached her and although she declined due to her workload, she suggested a young not currently employed lesbian college grad / English major could be a good partner. I accepted her offer to ask around among her friends who have kids about that age.

If that route doesn’t work out, does anyone have a suggestion? Is anyone out there interested? Or do you know someone who would be able to help?

The key aspects: this is a police procedural series with two lesbian MCs, set in North Wales, UK. Much of the research has been done, although more is sure to be required. Although some elements like specific towns are real, I’ve created elements – like the family farm. I’ve devised much of the backstory and plots across those first four novels mentioned above.

But I’m open to fresh ideas.

Anyway, I’m stopping here before my brain or fingers freeze.

I’m back at the keyboard and ready to address the other reason I’m here – the monthly IWSG post.

First, thanks to the Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh for all you do – and thanks for creating the Insecure Writer’s Support Group without whom my writing would be non-existent…and last month’s post might have been ‘farewell’.

Second, my thanks to all those whose encouraging comments added to Alex’s gentle push. Many thanks too, for the reading guidance and support. I just wish I’d helped you guys as much.

Anyway, don’t forget to visit real writers via the IWSG site, and for better answers to this month’s challenging question.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Although the question is optional, I’m again tempted to answer.

April 7 question – Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Risk or radical? Sounds more like my pre-retirement career choices/actions. Attempting to sell organic produce 40 years ago was ‘cranky’…but not my writing.

My journalism was non-controversial – except one piece on a high-profile doping case.

When I focused on fiction, I chose the mystery genre, although as a teenager I wrote SF and fantasy. I admit I’ve wandered into other genres – like alternative history- but no risks.  Unless the hunting debate in Spiral of Hooves is deemed controversial – the real-life debate can be violent.

Controversies were evaded in my writing – murders aside. Until my current project – the Snowdon Shadows series. 

At first, the series started with another 3rd person POV, mystery set in the UK – Fates Maelstrom. Then my rebel detective emerged – Sparkle Anwyl.

She wanted me to write 1st person – a radical change, but not a risk as we had our reasons. But the next revision/rewrite of FM will mean major POV shifts, from multiple 3rd person to 1st. However, for now I need to focus on earlier Sparkle cases in Fevered Fuse – drafted in 1st person POV from the start.

Typically, Sparkle refused to conform – not surprising for a girl from a nonconformist (Welsh Presbyterian) family. Except her rebellion proved radical – and challenging to write. Mid-case, she chose to identify as a lesbian. Controversial in her family and areas of her world, but not in the writing world – although, some readers might refuse to read such stories.

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

I’d already explored the fringes of diversity in the early drafts of Fates Maelstrom, with a Romany female MC and a mixed-race male MC. But researching and understanding the lesbian psyche and writing from Sparkle’s POV has proved challenging – and rewarding.

However, that means I need help if my writing is not relinquished.

Risk – Radical – Rebels – Refusal – Reasons – Revision – Rewards

***

The awesome co-hosts for the April 7 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!

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.

For more on the IWSG monthly post and links to other participants visit:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – The Kiss

Crime never sleeps.

This year’s WEP/IWSG challenge theme, the Year of the Art, ties in to my novella for last year’s challenges, the six-part story called Custody Chain’.

I was wary of attempting another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, but I sensed many of you would expect something else involving them.

However, another Snowdon Shadows novella was too daunting – and a commitment too far. Although I managed to get there, I had to eke out the end of ‘Custody Chain’ sentence by sentence – sometimes one each day.

So, I’m going down the stand-alone path, although there will be a few links – beyond my dynamic duo.

Apologies, the word count is over the limit – but let’s move on.

If you wish, please comment, or suggest what links are ongoing.

Many thanks for reading.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

LIP SERVICE

2015

Friday, January 9th

Surf crashes onto the beach, churning the sand and tossing seashells aside. Rollers rush the rocks bordering the bay.

Perfect for thrill-seeking surfers, but treacherous for casual swimmers. Deceptive currents.

Another challenge for Kama and me. Nothing deflects us from our dawn swim.

We race into the roiling sea, limbs driving us out until Morfa Bychan disappears.

Then we turn for shore and breakfast.

A familiar figure waits for us. A brunette in uniform, with sparkling eyes – and a worried expression.

PCSO Lleilu Dace, the police community support officer, who proved so invaluable on an art theft case the previous year.

She waves as we walk ashore.

“I knew you’d both be here, so wanted to catch you off-duty. Sorry for the intrusion—”

“—anytime. What’s the problem?” Kama’s tone is calm and encouraging.

I find myself reading Lleilu’s lips. The case had involved Tesni Szarka, a deaf painter.

“Don’t take this wrong. I’m not proper uniform and certainly not a detective—”

“But you’re part of the team with vital input. What’s happened? Sexism?”

“Too often – some of your colleagues expect me to make their tea, even when they are capable. No, it’s the paperwork. It has to stop.”

I share her frustration. Time sheets, surveys, assessments, as well as our regular case reports.

“We do depend on non-police staff to type up our Smartphone notes.” Kama shakes her head. “But only if we’re stretched and we shouldn’t expect PCSOs to do that. You have key support roles – and you’ve proved invaluable. You should talk to DCI Baines – she’d understand.”

Lleilu shakes her head. “It’s just my observation, not an official complaint. That would require triplicate form-filling. Paperwork will be the kiss of death for real policing. Anyway, I’m going for a swim.”

She slips out of her uniform, down to a swimsuit and a lithe body. Warmth spreads up to my face and I glance at Kama. Resist, her face says.

Lleilu plunges into the sea and begins to carve her way through the turbulent water.

Pounding. My chest. She’s disappeared. Undertow.

Kama and I dash in, diving underwater. Searching.

I find Lleilu fighting to surface. Fighting to breathe. Choking.

As I reach her, she collapses. Remain calm. Slow my racing heart.

I slip hands under her armpits, then kick to the surface, swimming parallel to the shore – out of the undertow.

Kama is beside us, guiding us back to the beach once we’re out of the undertow.

We lay Lleilu on the sand. Her pulse is weak. Not breathing. Kama presses her lips to another. I shiver. No. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Kiss of life. 

Kama continues the methodical airway-breathing-circulation then chest compressions. Lleilu’s eyes flutter. No gasp for air.

My partner motions for me to take over. I press my mouth to Lleilu’s, pinching her nose – and praying.

She chokes up seawater, then forces a smile.

***

Sunday 25th January

Kama and I kiss, lips soft as tongues tease. Then we zip up our leathers over evening glad rags.

The front-door bell rings.

Lleilu – with a large package.

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus. I have a gift for you both – for saving me.”

She kisses us on both cheeks, then hands us the wrapped gift.

We undo the protective cloth, revealing a painting we will cherish.

“Tesni Szarka painted this replica. Dropped everything to finish it for—”

“St Dwynwen’s Day. Our own version of St Valentine’s Day – which we’re about to celebrate—”

“Join us – unless there’s someone—”

“Not yet, but he’s out there.”

I place the replica of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss on our mantelpiece.

1077 words FCA

For more on the theme of art, check out the amazing WEP/IWSG Challenges Calendar for 2021 with designs by Olga Godim:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/12/announcing-wep-2021-calendar.html

For more on Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss see:

For details on St Dwynwen’s Day:

https://www.visitwales.com/info/history-heritage-and-traditions/st-dwynwens-day

And for other February entries visit:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Unmasked

Crime never sleeps.

Winter must be here as we have settled snow here in Idaho, although later than a few places in the UK – well, they’ve had the first snow in Snowdonia days. Anyway, time to conclude my WEP/IWSG challenge novella, even though this challenge is not ‘official’.

Well, I had to conclude the case.

When Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai began investigating the ‘Café Terrace’ theft, we didn’t know where their six-part story called Custody Chain’would lead. However, Snowdon Shadows always throws up rabbit holes to test me. So, unsurprising, the villain of the case was shrouded in mystery.

But we have reached a conclusion, although it’s taken weeks of writing. NaNoWriMo 2020 was a related tale meant to rekindle the fire – or sparkle in the gloom. But that failed and since last month, I’ve had to eek out the end of ‘Custody Chain’ sentence by sentence – sometimes one each day.

But, as an inspirational postcard on my desk – from Writing.com –  says:

A little progress each day

adds up to big results.

Despite everything, I finished, although the word count is over the limit – so, apologies. Anyway, let’s move on.

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

Chapter One – Café Terrace:

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

Chapter Two – Masterpiece:

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

Chapter Three – Cryptograph:

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

Chapter Four – Umbrage:

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

Chapter Five – Cypresses:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/10/21/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-grave-mistake/

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

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

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

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

CHAPTER SIX – SEASCAPES

2014

Tuesday, April 8th

We’re apprehensive.

Tesni and Urien have left the Llanystumdwy barn’s safety, although PCSO Lleilu Dace is still with them and in touch with backup. We’ve ensured Tűzvirág had minimal contact with her brother, Barangó Fekete, and all attempts by her lawyers to have her sent back to Hungary failed.

Kama and I park our motorbikes in the dunes overlooking the shingle beach west of Criccieth. We’re far enough from the town for the area to seem deserted, bar a solitary woman with a dog.

Out in Cardigan Bay, a boat bobs on a sea anchor. A figure clutches a fishing rod at the stern.

I scan the boat with my binoculars. Suspicious?

“Shark fishing is dangerous, Sparkle. We knew the risk.”

“We were warned about Barangó Fekete’s long reach. It’s what we counted on – and on his greed.”

In a sheltered spot among the dunes, Urien and Lleilu are sitting on a rug with a picnic hamper – like holiday makers. Tesni has an easel with a canvas on it and is applying oil paint with a palette knife.

The distinctive bold Van Gogh strokes flow fast, although the image is Welsh – the boat in the bay. The blue and white waves have streaks of green and yellow, brightening the scene.

“The sea and fishermen. A tribute to his passion.” Tesni turns to explain, then signs. “In Vincent style. Not replica but Mediterranean colours. Changing as we are.”

“My daughter seems to be moving on. She insisted on coming here – and painting for herself. Is it safe? Are you the backup Lleilu mentioned?”

I need to reassure her, even if I’m uneasy. “We’ve someone watching this area – the backup is hidden. So, why this spot? It’s secluded and beautiful–”

“—Tesni received a postcard from her aunt Aranka.”

Urien produces a card of a Van Gogh seascape, with writing on the back in what must be Hungarian.

‘Most ugrik a majom a vízbe.’

“It says, ‘The monkey will now jump in the water’, meaning now we will see what happens.”

Tesni turns from her artwork and gestures at the card. “Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Painted by Vincent in June 1888 – from the beach, as sand grains found in the paint layers. Done at a fishing village in the south of France.” She points with her palette knife at the boat. “Real fisherman. Not our watcher. Here as expected. Vincent say, ‘There is safety in the very heart of danger’.”

Kama nods towards the boat. “That fisherman appears unwelcome.  I suspect Aranka knew what would happen. We’ll investigate.”

Another morning swim is welcome, so I peel off my leathers. Forewarned we’re both wearing our neoprene costumes, so tumble like tourists into the surf.

The plunge invigorates. Cool and inviting.

When the bottom drops away, I dive, arms streamlined like an arrow. Slice underwater in a smooth breaststroke with a strong dolphin kick. Surfacing, I switch to a crawl away from the beach. Kama keeps pace beside me.

My head dips under the surface after each breath and we carve through the waves. A normal swim except we are on duty.

As we draw parallel to the boat, the fisherman watches intently. Although dressed the part, his gear is freshwater not sea angling. He jerks his rod up, tugging his line, then drops all the tackle and grabs a gaff, which he brandishes.

“Stay away. This here catch is mine.” His Black Country accent has a foreign edge – and menace. “Leave us now, or else.”

We tread water as he prowls. A splash behind the boat alerts me. I duck dive – deep and towards the sound.

A figure in scuba gear is working their way around the boat, spear-gun in their hands. As the weapon is levelled at Kama, I grab the diver and wrench it free. The figure whirls as another one surfaces by Kama.

But she back flips and lashes at him with her right foot. Then she grabs him in a neck lock, as I fend off the first with the butt of the spear-gun. Resist the blood pounding urge to use the spear. An arm-hold works – until a gaff forces me to duck.

Outnumbered – even in our element.

A blue and yellow shape powers up. Backup. POLICE HEDDLU on the air-tube sides.

An officer leaps  from the rigid inflatable boat at the gaff-wielding fisherman and disarms him.

Our colleagues from the North West Police Underwater Search & Marine Unit haul the divers on board.

“Your DCI Baines told Inspector Varley you might have company.” As Kama and I board, the senior officer unmasks the two divers, then smiles. “Well, these guys are known to us – for evading smuggling charges.”

Once we have read the trio of attackers their rights and charged them, Kama confronts the fake fisherman. “Who arranged for you to be here? And don’t claim you were just fishing.”

“Anonymous request to be here.”

“In English? What for?” His twitching face glancing at the beach answers. “So, a passenger – and in Hungarian. Correct?”

He nods and I turn to Kama and speak in Tamil. “The long shadow – Barangó Fekete’s reach. Guess the painting wasn’t enough on its own. Time to close the trap.”

**

As night enfolds the barn at Llanystumdwy, we wait with Tesni, Urien, and Lleilu for news on the ‘art theft’.  

The kidnappers are in custody – keeping Tűzvirág company.

The phone rings and Kama answers. As expected, it’s her friend in Interpol, Krystian Skala who heads the unit handling ‘the theft’.

“Arrested…attempting to sell the replica as genuine. To whom?”

She allows Krystian to explain, then updates us – facing Tesni so she can read her lips.

“Seems Fekete sold Tesni’s painting as the real one. He approached a collector of stolen art with a convincing explanation of how he acquired it—”

“Mentioning Tesni or the theft?”

“He described the theft in detail – the fabricated details the Dutch police ‘leaked’ on Interpol’s suggestion.  Fortunately he was too greedy to realise the collector was co-operating with our continental colleagues.”

I laugh. “”Guess Fekete believed he’d get more for the stolen painting,so he had to create a fake custody chain. Foolish. Even if he secures a reduced sentence, his credibility as a criminal mastermind is unmasked. But he will be watched so you are always safe..”

Tesni smiles, then signs, “One must work and dare if one really wants to live – as Vincent said.”

**

1093 words FCA

*

One of my commentators gave me this link, which is brilliant: Doctor Who and Van Gogh:

As for other rabbit holes encountered while researching this chapter, I found several fascinating and invaluable articles, which helped me write this piece. I often say, when reality and fiction meet, sparks ignite the little grey cells.

https://marine-cafe.com/a-legacy-of-love-fishermen-in-vincent-van-goghs-art/

http://www.vangoghreproductions.com/art-techniques/van-gogh-art-techniques.html

On the theme of art, check out the amazing WEP/IWSG Challenges Calendar for 2021, which will yield some great pieces from colleagues:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/12/announcing-wep-2021-calendar.html

#IWSG – Productivity

Apologies for my minimal presence in the writing community recently. This is an attempt at my monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post – with the usual raft of flimsy excuses.

The encouragement of the Ninja Captain avoids me missing a month as he’s such a stalwart follower. Without IWSG, my writing would be post-it notes. Thanks Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where you can find better answers to this month’s challenging question.

I need to remind myself the question is optional, but why not attempt an answer. 

December 2 question – Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

In a normal year, November has led my output as NaNoWriMo has motivated me. Otherwise, the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly Challenges have kept me writing throughout the year. And I should thank all the fans of my Welsh police detectives, Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai, for keeping me ploughing on with my Snowdon Shadows tales. Book 1, Fevered Fuse, will appear one day.

However, this year has seen me struggle to be the writer I was.

NaNoWriMo: although I outlined a rough plot, I was unable to write more than a thousand words of my 2020 NaNoWriMo entry called ‘Lost Sheep’ – even with a premise linked to Sparkle Anwyl. But the plot is there as a Scrivener project, so perhaps that will be my 2021 NaNoWriMo entry.

WEP/IWSG: I started a novella with the February challenge, and ‘Custody Chain’ nears the conclusion after five chapters. Although this month’s challenge is now no longer a formal challenge, I’ve started writing the conclusion – despite my state of mind/health etc….

Distractions – Dungeons and Dogs and Depression.

How can I write when everything is falling apart? From the world to this country to my body.

In fact, I failed to read the other WEP/IWSG posts last month or finish answering comments. Well, I did hit ‘Like’ – and wrote one reply/apology for each recent post.

Okay, excuses over as I’m climbing out of the slough of despond, and writing again – well, a bit. However, January 31st looms and I must do my dreaded UK tax return – not writing in that month…except ‘writing it off’ as I do every year.

Somewhere, I must fit in getting ‘Fevered Fuse’ ready for professional editing….and I owe a beta read that’s overdue.

**

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia,Sylvia Ney,Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

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

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

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

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

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

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

For more on the IWSG monthly post and links to other participants visit:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Grave Mistake

Crime never sleeps.

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

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

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

Without further excuses, let’s move on.

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

Chapter One – Café Terrace:

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

Chapter Two – Masterpiece:

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

Chapter Three – Cryptograph:

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

Chapter Four – Umbrage:

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

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

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

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

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

CHAPTER FIVE – CYPRESSES

2014

Thursday, March 20th

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

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

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

The price is now Tesni’s artistic talent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. To save Aunt Aranka.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 24th

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

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

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

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

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

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

The siblings smile. “We have terms.”

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

Sunday, March 30th

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

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

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

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

**

Word Count 999: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

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

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