#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Narcissus

I feared my entry for this month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge would be too late, but then as I wrote this short piece, I realised I had to post today. The reason might become relevant on reading the last scene. As for the theme, I found a Welsh element to tie elements together for Sparkle and Kama.

This 2021 Year of the Art theme has provoked some interesting thoughts – and trips down rabbit holes.

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

But this time, I’ve tried a change of genre – well, perhaps. Also, this is a response to my editor pointing out an oversight in my Fevered Fuse novel – the lack of personal growth.

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

BLURB:

Uplifted by daffodils, two women affirm their love and pledge to fight for human rights.

MIRRORED PRIDE

2016

Saturday, 10th December

I stare at the unfamiliar reflection and wince. Pain comes with the job,but I can’t go out like this – not to celebrate.

Stupid. Some guys never give up easily – even cuffed.

Does it matter how I look? I purse my lips. Perhaps. I’m not vain, but tonight is special.

I reach for the makeup bag. Should I use some yellow concealer to hide my black eye? The icepack helped, but it’s still obvious. People might jump to the wrong conclusion. Abusive partner.

My fingers touch the slash on my cheek. Is a scar a turn off or a mark of courage?

Will Kama care? My whisper echoes round our bedroom.

“Of course not, cariad.” Kama replies in the doorway. I swivel and smile as she walks over, then kisses me softly. “You’re beautiful whatever happens.”

Then she sits down beside me at the vanity table.She traces the cut, then my nose. “At least, he didn’t break your mischievous feature.” She continues caressing my face.

The perfect excuse for my own daring exploration for hidden pleasure.

“Leave something for later. We need to get dressed up not down. After dinner antics are best.”

“Haven’t we always eaten first.” I slow my teasing hands, then add, “We never break the rules.”

“Except speeding on our bikes. That’s an unbroken addiction.”

Motorbikes brought us together nearly five years earlier – as did crime and our first case together.

I let our lips meet, and I enjoy the taste of minty cardamom. Long and lingering, and then I ask, “Do you ever regret the life we lead?”

“Never. I’m proud to be your partner. Both as a wife and a cop. You have doubts?”

“No longer, chellam. I admit my heart has wavered – doubt can be a mischievous trickster – was once. But we’ve proved ourselves as women, as lovers, and as crime busters.”

Kama clasps my hands. “Now we can be open with our pride, despite the risks.”

“Risk is our adrenaline and will be forever. And there are tests ahead, but we have each other. Still, I’m covering up these blemishes before we go out.”

“The table is booked for eight so I can pamper myself too. And then I’ve a present for us downstairs. Seasonal light for the cottage.”

***

A floral feast fills our front room. Dozens of displays of daffodils, not yellow but white blooms.

Kama beams with the flowers. “It may be eleven weeks until St David’s Day on March 1st, but why wait until our Welsh National Holiday?”

“Paperwhites – I love these daffodils. Perfect Christmas light bringers.”

“And I bought some bulbs to plant for the Spring as well. Plus, I added some which might flower on New Year’s Day. Those bring good fortune according to Chinese legend.”

“A bonus – even if having each other is our valuable destiny already.”

“I’ll echo that sentiment, cariad.”

***

We arrive on time at the Italian trattoria to celebrate and ‘Stand up for someone’s rights’ on a day when we are lucky to be in Wales.

When our cocktails arrive, I toast all those who fight for justice. “Not just on Human Rights Day but at every moment, chellam.”

“And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.”

On the wall behind, the face of Caravaggio’s Narcissus looks down through his pool of water at us and the vase of paperwhites on our table.

571 words FCA

Crime never sleeps.

Nor does the fight for justice and human rights.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/HRDay2016/Pages/StandUp4HumanRights.aspx

#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – The Scream

Crime never sleeps.

Well, despite destroying the original version of my October/Halloween WEP/IWSG challenge – accidentally – I managed to recall enough for another version. Only my wife read/heard the original, so might sense where this differs. We didn’t tempt fate by re-reading this version. Please note, she wasn’t the one who destroyed the earlier draft – unlike Fanny Stevenson’s response to her husband’s creation:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/oct/25/books.booksnews

I’m not saying my short is comparable to the famous novel, but reading this article, I see a few echoes – or maybe not.

Anyway, this 2021 Year of the Art theme continues to provoke some interesting thoughts – and tempts me down rabbit holes. One of those arose from an interesting link on the WEP site – more on that at the end.

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

But this time, I’ve tried a change of genre – well, perhaps.

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

BLURB:

A detective confronts a deadly foe in the mist to save her wife from Death.

(Or for those familiar with the dynamic duo: ‘Sparkle confronts a deadly foe in the mist to save Kama from Death.)

VULPINE MIST

2016

Monday, 31st October

I jerk awake. A shriek pierces the darkness.

Relax. Just a fox howl. A vixen calling for a mate.

Wrong season as cubs now hunt alone.

The wail is almost human. A cry for help?

I turn to Kama, but she’s gone again. Only the curled indent beside me and her scent of vanilla and bergamot remain.

She must be wandering in our family home, Tyn-y-llyn, nestled in the Snowdonia mountains.

I creep downstairs, searching for Kama. I whisper her name. Only an echo from the gloom. No answer.

Call louder but I mustn’t wake the family.

But nobody stirs. My thorny rose tattoo prickles. I search every room –  no Gwawr, nor mam, nor my grandparents Gwyneth and Hywel Pugh. Nobody.

I’m alone.

A sigh from outside. “Fy ngwraig! Fy ngwraig!”.

Who’s calling ‘My wife! My wife!’ in the night? The voice sounds female. But not Kama’s sultry tones. Where is she?

Fog slithers under the front door, yet I’m drawn outside to the farm.

Tattoos jangle as the mist welcome me with cold embrace, clutching for my heart.

“Kama – where are you?” My shout recoils off the billowing barrier.

A chill as folk memories uncurl. A cyhyraeth is stalking the darkness, its disembodied wail sounding before a person’s death. Invisible but unyielding.

Who is it after?

Kama. My wife mustn’t die. I can save her.

I grope my way towards our llyn, where we swim and relax. But the pastures are overgrown with brambles. I must reach the safety of our lake.

More moaning. Closer.

“Fy ngwraig! Fy ngwraig!”

I shudder as thorns rip my skin. ‘My wife! My wife!’ is the summons of Gwrach-y-Rhibyn. The monstrous Hag of the Mist claims Kama. Never. She’s mine and I am hers – forever and eternity.

Fighting my way through the thicket, I follow the groans, now interspersed with cackles. At the stream feeding our deep waters, I confront my deathly foe.

The Hag washes her hands, polluting our pure brook. Her unkempt hair hangs around her wizened body. Withered arms widen and skeletal hands beckon. As a harpy, she hovers on leathery wings, and bares long black teeth dripping with gore. My heart pounds as I face this grim corpse of doom.

No sign of Kama. She’s safe – somewhere.

Gwrach-y-Rhibyn shimmers in the swirling mist. And morphs into a flame haired woman, beautiful with luxuriant locks falling over her revealing red dress.

A gust of wind shifts my vision. Kama is in this sensuous siren’s embrace, her head nestled between the seductress’s naked breasts. My wife moans, aroused. I’ve lost my skilful lover to this sultry temptress.

Tears well as rosy lips kiss Kama’s neck. Fangs glisten in the moonlight, dripping with blood – the life-force of my soulmate.

The vulpine shape-shifter laughs – howling as she licks her bloody mouth.

“Love and Pain”

The mist turns to dense blackness. Kama becomes a man – in the arms of a scarlet haired woman. Then everything freezes.

No sounds. No movement. I stare at the Vampire painting.

The canvas creeps towards me. Creaks and cracks – closing.

Behind, I hear a sibilant sigh, rising to a shriek.

I turn and face another painting – The Scream.

Munch’s master creations curl in on me. Trapping me. Sucking in the air, stifling me.

I scream – silently.

And wake entwined in Kama’s arms. Her lips are on my neck.

Our jackdaw trickster, Negesydd taps at the window banishing the Nos Galan Gaeaf spirits. Halloween is buried – for another year.

Sunbeams dance as we caress each other.

From our beach, the sough of the surf carries on the sea breeze, the salt scent tempting us outside to swim.

623 words FCA

I mentioned a rabbit hole, and from The Scream prompt, I was led to Edvard Munch’s Vampire painting: https://www.edvardmunch.org/vampire.jsp. Reading this gave me my climactic scene – including that last piece of suggestive dialogue, “Love and Pain”.

As for December’s Challenge – Narcissus – my mind is already pursuing that one down a burrow. Google, isn’t a daffodil – the Welsh national flower – a narcissus? Tune in next time for the answer.

Finally, for those wondering about my first Sparkle & Kama novel – Fevered Fuse – I managed to collate the feedback from my stalwart beta readers. The manuscript is now with my editor, who helped get Spiral of Hooves published.

#IWSG – Shelf Life

Another month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, so I’m back hunting & pecking keys. I’m also having issues scrolling my mouse, so health issues dictate. Therefore, like the two or three previous IWSG pieces, this post will be assembled over time – please bear with the jumble.

No change with progress on Fevered Fuse – and other writing. Sorry, I’m sounding like a stuck record or something.

Anyway, I’ve tapped out a few thoughts for the next bi-monthly WEP/IWSG Challenge flash – another Sparkle & Kama incident. Due June 16th-18th with art inspired prompt ‘Great Wave’, so I’m going with some storm surge inspired ideas. Check out more on the flash theme here:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2021/05/wep-2021-continues-artistic-inspiration.html

Writing even briefly about my Welsh duo should ensure my mind stays focused on Fevered Fuse even if that’s all. There’s no sign of a co-author – but some avenues might be emerging.

1st Avenue Approach.

I remembered that two of the editors I used previously were part of two different groups of writers. So, I’ve approached them about my search for a co-author. One is connected to a publishing company and a collective of writers. The other runs a writers’ group and put me in touch with my key diversity beta reader. Perhaps, one will produce something.

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

2nd Avenue Approach.

My family seemed like a dead end, until I remember a cousin was married to a book abridger. I mentioned that to my brother, who is in regular contact with them. However, he said a better option was another cousin who is a writer. Anyway, he will approach both and give them my details. So, maybe that avenue will yield something.

Mind break I.

I’m back at the keyboard, attempting to address the main 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 March’s post might have been ‘farewell’.

Second, my thanks to all those whose encouraging comments ensure I scribble onwards.

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.


June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

In the beginning – in the last century – I suspect I never shelved my attempts at writing anything. Certainly, as a journalist, I was forever juggling/chasing deadlines, so read throughs, editing, revisions, etc., rarely involved shelving.

Anyway, the shelf life of journalistic scribbles was usually short.

Unlike my fictional opuses – or should that be opera? Tragedy? Historical?

When I wrote my first completed novel, Spiral of Hooves, I shelved it for a couple of months on the advice of the writing group I belonged to – Tunbridge Wells and District Writers Circle.

Mind break II.

That approach worked for me – even if I rewrote the novel multiple times, even abandoning certain plotlines in the first draft. In fact, the novel got shelved so many times – for various reasons – that it took 13 years for Spiral of Hooves to be published. Even then, I needed to make revisions for the second edition – the first paperback version.

From then on, I continued the habit of shelving or ‘marinading’ first and subsequent drafts of novels and shorts for as long as possible, sometimes even six months. I even put my posts on the ‘shelf’ overnight as my mistakes/improvements are revealed on a ‘fresh’ reading.

Whether this works like quality wine, I’m unsure. Maybe, when I revisit some of my older/other projects – like Eagle Passage  – I’ll either recognise a potential vintage or a bottle of vinegar.

Innovation Never Stops @ www.aeroscraft.com

Mind break III.

Suffice to say, the sequel to Spiral of HoovesTortuous Terrain – might surprise me as well. Well, it is partially set in the US state where I live – Idaho.

But first comes where my heart is: Wales and Snowdon Shadows.

And that depends on a co-author. Shelved surprise or cryogenic legacy?

Watch this space.

 Synopsis – Starters – Side-lined – Shelved – Spirals – Surprises

***

The awesome co-hosts for the June 2 posting of the IWSG are J Lenni Dorner,Sarah Foster,Natalie Aguirre,Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Well, they are – 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.

Overnight Marinade.

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

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

#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/