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?
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Welcome to 2020, the Year of the Jackdaw – in my world of North Wales crime.
That’s the plan and I’m serious – if I can stick to one, health willing.
Anyway, the Jackdaw is Negesydd, the trickster-messenger who adopts Sparkle Anwyl and her lover Kama in my Snowdon Shadowsseries. He first appears in Book 1, ‘Fevered Fuel’. Yes, my aim/dream is to get at least that novel ready to be published this year.
However, there are numerous hurdles ahead and I’m hesitating over what order I must tackle them.
What comes first? Beta readers, diversity readers, or assessment? It must be some willing soul.
Then do I turn to a development editor or a line editor? Without checking, I think development comes first.
When I think about all the steps, I stress – not helped by having barking dogs and screaming step-great-grandkids invading my head. At least, the kids have gone for the weekend leaving the dogs to bark at cars, squirrels, cats, other dogs, and probably ghosts.
Okay back to the scheduled strategy and some helpful links:
For suggestions on editing and self-publishing, I’m following an invaluable series on Bookbaby:
I’ve also approached a couple of the editors who have done work for me in the past. One suggested it might be worth approaching the Literary Consultancy people. This proved helpful and added to my knowledge:
But maybe, I need to revise the manuscript again – not the MS as that means my health MonSter, Multiple Sclerosis. That alone derails my progress much of the time. So, when anyone says MS, I react confused.
Anyhow, one stage in my editing/revision process has been using Fictionary – an invaluable tool which might save an editor from unnecessary work. Here’s a glimpse of what Fictionary can do to help:
So, where does that leave me? How can my supporters help? Where first?
I’d love to hear from anyone feeling brave enough to be a beta reader. Bear in mind ‘Fevered Fuel’ is a police procedural set in North Wales, and features a MC facing prejudice issues – some of you have even read shorts about her on this blog. Hopefully, it’s clear why I need diversity readers to correct potential errors. Do you fit The Bill?
As for my next step, one editor has asked to see the opening scenes and a synopsis, so she knows how much work is entailed if I want her to edit the document. I’m budgeting on any editor clearing out my writing budget. First, then that synopsis.
But at least, after a professional editor tackles the novel, I’ll be a step nearer the finish line of another marathon – once I’ve absorbed the suggestions.