#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

Sparkle Anwyl: Comic Book Heroine?

I’m busy revising my WIP, Fevered Fuse – Book 1 in my Snowdon Shadow series – following some invaluable feedback from my three beta readers, which is allowing me to hone the novel some more.

Among the comments was an intriguing one from my diligent queer diversity reader:

Sparkle’s character is so strong and is so appealing, esp. to the younger generation who also love anime and comics, I wondered if you have considered getting an illustrator to have a look at your book and possibly create a comic book character out of her as well? I have a background in merchandising and I just kept thinking how unique and sexy Sparkle is – she could be perfect for merchandising, if you were interested in going that direction.

So, I pursued the idea – well, the first step on an intriguing road. I approached Jonathan Temples http://jonathantemples.co.uk/ – the illustrator who did the cover for my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves and much more for other clients, and I asked him for a concept image.

What do you think of his image below? What does it say to you? What mood does it evoke? Which character is which? Where are we? Do you want to open the pages and read on? Or is this not how you envisage my characters?

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

Okay, I’m trying to let you react before I say more.

This echoes a scene in the novel – with a little bit of artistic licence. For me – and my wife – it captures the right mood, the Welsh setting, and the two main characters. Jonathan made some suggested changes, but his initial drawing provided the right starting point.

But where do WE go from here?

Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai need your input, please

Mystery Author Spotlight

Today I’ve been interviewed at Laura Wolfe Books on why I’m a mystery writer. But there’s more revealed such as the issues driving me. Here’s the link if you’re curious:  

https://sustainablewriter.com/2020/05/12/mystery-author-spotlight-roland-clarke/

T for Treachery

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

T for Treachery (2019)

 At last I can give you the Final Part of Azure Spark, the investigation featuring my Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl and her partner Kama Pillai.  I hope you’ve already joined these main characters in my Snowdon Shadows series.

The case evolved into a novella as I edited the posts into three acts. I suspect not everyone got to read ‘Azure Spark’ last year so this will be your chance to catch up. Enjoy.

Links to my other 2020 A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

To visit other participants see The OFFICIAL MASTER LIST: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/

#WEP/IWSG April Challenge – Antique Vase

Crime never sleeps.

As the Year of the Jackdaw unfolds, it’s time for more Sparkle Anwyl mind games as we continue the six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.

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

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

CHAPTER TWO – MASTERPIECE

2014

Monday, March 17th

Masterpiece. Same colours. Same brush-strokes. Smells original.

The stolen replica of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night? I study the painting on the easel – and Tesni Szarka’s face. Expressive as her gestures.

The artist smiles and signs, “Once each masterpiece. Stay priceless.” Then she motions to seats by a picture window with a view through the trees towards the rippling stream. “Coffee?”

Kama nods. When we’re alone, and as I scrawl notes, she asks, “Did you pick up more?”

“Yes. Hidden meanings I need to interpret. Patience.”

I grew up learning the connotations beneath sign language. An advantage Kama needs.

My tattoos tingle. R for Rationale and Robbery. U for Unique and Urgent.

Kama is scanning the room.

My focus is on Tesni’s work desk positioned in the natural light. Her current project isn’t a painting.

A blue cracked ceramic pot. No clay. But a sanding tool. Smoky epoxy stings my nose.

R for Repair and Restoration – not Replica. C for Cracked Ceramic.

My analysis is interrupted by Tesni’s return with a cafetière, mugs, jug of milk and sugar bowl on a tray. But she’s noted my observation of her workspace.

“I broke. Repair. Return later.”

E for Epoxy and Excuse. S for Sander and Smoky – and Sapphire.

She pours the coffee and passes us mugs of welcome black warmth.

Kama points to the painting and signs. “And that?”

Tesni sips her coffee, brow furrowed.

“Painted for Urien. Someone try steal. Safer here. We protect. Together-please.”

A mnemonic forms – SECURE. Or RESCUE?  Both. She rescued the painting, so secure – if we help.

We need more and Kama delves.

“You in Uriel house? When?”

“To stop thief. I broke urn on head.”

U for Urn.

Hand Painted Plum Blossom Ceramic Cremation Urn – One World Memorialshttps://www.oneworldmemorials.com/products/ceramic-cremation-urn-blossom?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=Social

More notes, then I scroll through my smart-phone to the active CSI report. Chips of pottery…ash.

Tesni tackled the thief – she was at the scene. I show Kama the evidence. “We’ll need her DNA.”

As Kama explains to Tesni about the sample, I examine the ‘weapon’. On closer inspection, the urn looks old – or aged with the same techniques Tesni uses.

“You made this? Another replica?”

She shakes her head and gestures distance. Then signs ‘Abroad’.

Another artist. From the plum blossom, I guess a replica of an antique Oriental vase.

“Whose ashes?”

“Urien’s wife.” Tesni drops her head in her hands and sobs.

L for Loss and Lonely. A for Ashes.

She calls the collector by his first name. Did she know his wife? Is that why she was at his house? Is he a loner too?

W for Wife. F for Familiarity.

Kama reaches out a hand and squeezes Tesni’s knee. The artist looks up and wipes her tears. She stands, then fetches an A4 pad and a calligraphy pen.

On the paper she writes in flowing italics, ‘You need more. My written statement?

We nod and let her write.

FLAW.

In our approach? Her story? The CSI report?

We leave with her detailed statement, which needs corroboration. Plus, the painting and the urn – vital evidence. Tesni hesitates over us taking them, but we reassure her they’ll be protected in police custody.

W for Witness or S for Suspect? A for Attack.

SAW

For now, we have to class her as a vulnerable witness. Disabled, even if she did fend off the intruder.

Have we increased her danger? Even if my uniform colleagues now watch her house?

*

Tuesday, March 18th

A return trip to Llandudno to talk to Desmond Deckard arises as Tesni’s statement claims he imported the urn.

“Bespoke so unique. Ordered specially for Mr Cadwallader – after his wife passed. It’s a replica of an antique Chinese vase. However, as it was crafted abroad, you must talk to my sister and co-owner. Carys handles our imports.” He escorts us to her office.

Carys Deckard is younger than Desmond – and fitter. Early forties. 5 feet 11. Tall and slim.

She smiles as we enter.

“I missed meeting you appealing ladies, when you called before. What can I do? Any excuse to assist you.”

Kama ignores the beguiling undertones.

“Is the artist who made the urn a regular supplier? And where are they based?”

Carys hesitates, then looks at her computer monitor.

“In Hungary. The artist calls herself Aranka.” She scrolls her mouse and clicks. “I wish I had more. Is this important?”

R for Relevant. I write down the name. A for Aranka. But I let Kama pursue.

“Yes, more details could help resolve this. Anything.”

“Aranka is not one of our craftspeople. I only expedited the import of the urn for Mr Cadwallader.” She stares at the view, hand on her lips. “His contact…and the urn was a gift – no charge, except import costs.”

G for Gift. 

Kama’s phone rings – DCI Baines.

We move out of earshot and listen, heads together.

“Forensics fast-tracked their analysis. Same ashes in the urn as at the scene. Plus, Tesni Szarka’s DNA is all over the house.”

T for Tesni Traces.

“Her statement implied she visited often” says Kama.

“There’s more – she shares DNA with the dead wife and Urien Cadwallader. She might be their daughter – if she knows.”

F for Family. GRAFT. By who? Why?

“Urien Cadwallader is conscious. Interview him – gently. He may not know either.”

***

Word Count 988: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

WINNERS UPDATE – 30th April 2020: Many congratulations to the winners of the April 2020 Challenge. This month there were more talented writers on view. Details of all the entries and winners have been announced here:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/04/winners-post-april-challenge-antique.html

And many thanks to those at WEP who awarded me this, again. And especially Olga for designing another great badge.

Precocious Prodigy

Precocious prodigy, genius gem, or crazy contrivance?

Yes, I’m questioning the age of my detective Sparkle Anwyl. Acorns of doubt were understandably planted by some comments on my Café Terrace piece for the WEP/IWSG Challenge. All were uplifting and inspire more writing.

For instance, Nilanjana Bose ended an encouraging comment of great value by writing, “…Oh, I’d just like to mention that ’20th birthday meal’ threw me for a minute, because 20 seemed too young for Sparkle to have the experience/gut instinct she has. 🙂” Likewise, Donna Hole heartened me and helped motivate me, and added, “…An intuitive detective at 20? Hmm, I’m not buying it, but I think it plays well to today’s young readers…”

Nancy Drew or Mary Sue?

Anyway, those are valid points which made me look at my timeline for Sparkle and her backstory.

Precocious Prodigy?

Not in the sense of greats like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Stuart Mills, Marie Curie, or Stevie Wonder. There are less well-known examples in other disciplines and countries if you want to learn more at https://247wallst.com/special-report/2020/01/24/31-famous-child-prodigies/ Or visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_child_prodigies

And then there are the Fictional ones like Dexter in Dexter’s Laboratory and the talented child geniuses in Ender’s Game.

However, Sparkle Anwyl was never in the child prodigy category – not from what I know. However, as I replied to Nilanjana, “I agree Sparkle may seem young, but she has the background to give her experience – father a copper, farming family, deaf sister, vigilante at 16, met Kama at 18 just before police college so has learnt from her too…”

Note that I mentioned Stevie Wonder as a prodigy. He overcame his blindness with music, an art form which has also helped the deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Sparkle’s sister Gwawr is deaf from birth so I envisage that means as the older sister by six years, Sparkle must be responsible around her sister, and even learns British Sign Language and lip-reading.

From my observations of farmers, when I worked in the organic movement, the kids were growing up with more responsibility, caring for animals and plants, handling and driving machinery, and tasked with crucial chores. Sparkle’s family have a sheep farm and she would have had obligations as a kid, like looking after lambs and learning to work a sheepdog.  

Other occupations place similar demands on kids. Teenagers too. Think of all those young people who fight for their country – and many have died. Other services too. As a dad, policeman Marc Anwyl would be a role-model, even if his work creates domestic problems so initially his actions deter Sparkle.  

But observation might encourage her own gut instinct to kick in. Events at school – bullied as a weirdo – take her down a darker path as a vigilante, yet her fate leads her back to the police.

I reveal some formative incidents in the novel I’m editing now – Fevered Fuse, the one needing beta-readers. However, I may tweak the timeline to make Sparkle’s age fit better. I can’t change the age when she’s at secondary school (11-16) and sixth-form college (16-18), nor when she can start at police college (18), but beyond that there’s leeway.

Sparkle is still a police constable in my Café Terrace piece. But she’s only aged 21 when she qualifies as a detective, while Kama is 25 when she first appears as a Detective Sergeant. Detectives in the United Kingdom are older according to recent surveys. In most UK police forces, the youngest DC is 27 and youngest DS is 29. But there have been a few younger ones, according to my research, so they confirmed my ‘dynamic duo’ were not far-fetched.

Or are they?

Should I age my characters to add maturity, experience, and realism?

Develop their backstories?

More cases and more criminals while trudging Welsh streets means more tales and more settings.

Ffestiniog & West Highland Railway departure from Porthmadog.https://www.festrail.co.uk/gallery.htm