#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Horrible Harvest

Today’s offering for the WEP+IWSG Challenge is the climax of the piece I wrote for August’s Red Wheelbarrow prompt – HERE. However, I’ve changed the POV, and as some people requested, we are back with Detective Sparkle Anwyl, who is a guest at the wedding. Enjoy – if I do not scare you with the gory finale of my vampire tale.

Another Horrible Harvest

Saturday 8th August 2015

The glass goblet of crimson wine looks tasty. Maybe not summery but tempting.

Yet Mina is hesitant. Scared. Unlike the Mina Westenra of the Goth Patrol, ready to tackle a bully or a ghoul.

A for Atypical.

Kama bites my ear, then notices my stud-tapping. “What did the elderly guy say to her. Or is it hard to lip read from here?”

“A welcome. Something about his addiction to blood. He freaked Mina out. Not the Goth reaction I remember. Acting has changed my friend.”

Has policing changed me? Enriched if meeting Kama is included.

“If that’s human blood, this could be a crime scene.”

“Or a vampire case. That ghost was a cold case, not outside our remit as detectives. Anyway, we’re off duty. Let’s watch and listen, cariad.”

My school friend’s behaviour jangles every nerve and tattoo. Why?

The old man? A for Ancestry. V for Victim. P for Plasma.

He can’t be Owain Glyndwr, even if I’m proud to be Welsh and await the return of our national hero.

Another actor?

The best man finishes reading email greetings to the married couple, then nods to the elderly man.

“I’m cutting my speech short in favour of the wisdom of our host and hero.”

Owain springs to his feet, belying his reputed years.

“Over the centuries, I’ve watched and waited. History says I’ll return to set Wales free from the conquerors’ yoke. But blood is the charm today, and we’re all here to celebrate this blessed union instead. I could regale you with tales of battles and feuds, with horrors wrought and deeds undertaken. But my life was nothing compared to the future ahead for Mina and Dafydd.”

With a wink towards Mina, he raises his glass of crimson wine. “Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. This is your century. May you and my Great Nephew have many decades of fun ahead.” Facing the gathering, he continues, “Ladies, lords, friends, join me for a bridal toast. May you thrive and spawn many generations, Mina and Dafydd.”

He drains his glass.

No excuse needed to drink – in moderation. Even if us guests are served champagne – and there might be a crime lurking.

Mina smiles but doesn’t touch her glass.

“Your actress friend is scared to drink hers. A poisoned chalice, perhaps.”

My tattoos tingle at the scene. P for Poison. M for Murder. R for Revenge.

“I never knew her to refuse alcohol as a teenager.”

Mina reaches for a glass – of fruit juice.

Her stand-in father, Victor Frankel leans over to Dafydd, who mouths back, ‘Your moment.’

Victor rises.

“In the sad absence of Mina’s late father, I’ve been proud to give her away to another special person and talented actor. As their director, I see a fruitful partnership ahead – even under another’s direction.”

We all laugh or clap. He pauses, then removes a sheaf of paper from his jacket.

“I’d like to thank our host, the irrepressible Owain Glyndwr, for making today possible. As a descendent of the last true Prince of Wales, it’s fitting this ancestral home is where I’m announcing the next film from Oriole Productions – Horrible Harvest.”

Suitable cheers and foot stamps. My tattoos tingle – a pleasing sensation for once. E for Excitement and Error.

“Our new tale of bloody murders, duplicitous intrigue and evil disguised as good will star our talented couple – and chill our audience. Perhaps, our usual smoke and mirrors will garner its own harvest of honours. This will be our version of that classic, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But transposed to the mist shrouded but beautiful mountains of North Wales.”

The evidence is in the speeches. Case resolved. Everyone plunges back into festivities.

Congratulations are due the glowing couple.

Mina and I embrace. I tease her.

“Not the Goth you threatened to run away with. But he’s a catch.”

“Even as a teen, I wanted attention. Just as you wanted to fight injustice. And I guess your partner is—”

“Another injustice warrior. Kama – the best woman and detective in my life.”

The untouched glass is behind her. Tempting me to smell and taste its contents.

Kama distracts Mina. “So, when we get married, you must both attend the celebrations. No date yet, but we’re making plans. Not straightforward…”

Letting my distraction distract, I step behind and take the cup.

Musty but not sulphurous. I dip my finger in, then lick it.

R for Robust and E for Energising.

Time to REVAMP our fears.

I hand Mina the goblet. “An unusual concoction that suggests blood. But it’s not a case for our forensic guys. Maybe special effects are responsible. Enjoy it without fear.”

She sips, then smiles, and laughs.

“Better than blood. Also, revitalising. I will get addicted.”

“The power of suggestion. Blend fruit juice, red wine, herbs and spices. Call it blood. And throw in vampires.”

***

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Word Count 830: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Red Wheelbarrow

Once again, this is a standalone tale – or is it. There’s a subtle link to my ‘Jewel Box‘ story – if you spot it – and some characters may appear again. Plus, the setting is probably Wales or the Borders.

WARNING – there is blood, but be brave…like Mina. Remember, the dragon is red, and so is the beetroot of shame – and some wheelbarrows.

Enjoy.

Blood Bridal

The shooting had been tough.

Yet, Mina was relieved. Her life was changing, although not as planned after her parents died.

Still, she had a few weeks off before Oriole Productions needed her and Dafydd back for dubbing. By then she’d no longer be Mina Westenra, but Mina Glyndwr.

Biting her lips didn’t bury her pre-nuptial nerves as the limousine pulled up outside the grey-stone church.

“You can still call it off, although the family might kill you after all they’ve arranged.”

A shiver washed over her at Victor Frankel’s words. Her director was standing-in for her deceased father. If only her mum hadn’t died of grief or her dad had survived the blood disease.

She swallowed and attempted bravery.

“No more killing – fictional or real. I’m marrying Dafydd. I just wish one parent was here.”

“I can never replace either in there.” Vic pointed at her heart. “They are watching and proud. Dafydd isn’t just a fine actor – perfect for a classic remake. He’s genuine – like the Glyndwrs.”

Their bloodline was as ancient as the yew tree guarding the grounds. Descended, as Dafydd claimed, from the famous Owain Glyndwr, the last true Prince of Wales.

Y Ddraig Aur (The Gold Dragon), c. 1400 – c. 1416, the royal standard of Owain Glyndŵr, Prince of Wales, famously raised over Caernarfon during the Battle of Tuthill in 1401 against the English. It is evident in Glyndŵr’s privy seals that his gold dragon had two legs. –
Copyright ©Rhŷn Williams

They climbed out of the limo, then walked up the path through the graveyard. She drew strength from the man who had guided her career.

Ahead some late comers dashed out of the rain towards the sanctuary. An elderly man greeted them. He was about seventy from the grey hair, white beard and old-style tweed suit and waistcoat.

Standing outside, he braved the foul weather. So much for a summer wedding with blue sky.   

The man smiled at Mina and reached into the basket on his arm.

“A first gift on your bridal day. Our custom, since Dafydd brings us new blood.” He handed her a circlet of lilies, entwined with roses and sprigs of rosemary. “Gwna dda dros ddrwg, uffern ni’th ddwg – or as the English say, Repay evil with good, and hell will not claim you.”

Did he mean to sound so archaic, thought Mina – like the Count in their movie. Her skin prickled and icy fingers crawled across her.

Had anyone noticed?

Vic was chatting with the old man as he took the petals the creepy man removed from a blood-red wheelbarrow.

“You’ll be a needing these. Better than confetti for the ground. Food for the soil so play on, as my friend Will said.”

A poet gardener not a legendary creature. She relaxed and let Vic guide her into the packed church for this best day of her life. Marrying the man, she loved. Witnessed by friends she valued. The family welcoming her.

Petals strewn underfoot, crushed releasing their scent, suppressing all else.

Her glances as she was walked down the aisle showed the old man hadn’t joined them.

Why not?

Only a gardener.

Except vampires couldn’t step inside a holy place – according to the script.

The vicar banished the misleading thought. The blissful moments grew as the wedding service lifted her and her heart. She made her vows committing her future. Dafydd’s lips sealed the union.

Here before her, hands cupping her face, was the dream guy who was worth putting her BAFTA dreams aside for.

Their identical Welsh gold rings were their eternal bond. Her blood warmed her as they walked out of the church arm in arm – united forever. Into the sunshine which bathed the churchyard, banishing the last vestiges of a dead writer’s imaginings and a scriptwriter’s fantasies.

Petals showered them. Joy and warmth. Heart bursting. Congratulations flowed as their photographer posed them.

On the edge of the graveyard, the abandoned wheelbarrow. And the thought – vampires don’t like churches or sunlight.

She laughed – cracked and shaking.

“The photos are a formality and a memento.” Her husband sounded reassuring but then asked, “Or did something else unnerve you?”

She needed an excuse. “I wondered where the gardener was.”

“Gardener?”

“The elderly guy who gave me the circlet as we arrived. He wasn’t in the church, so I presumed—”

Dafydd laughed. “You mean Great Uncle Owain. He’s never been inside that church. Old but not the gardener. But he likes plants, and creatures though, bats especially. Creatures of the night and their ilk.”

He laughed again. Her head and heart churned but wedding customs propelled her through cheering people to the limo.

Dafydd kissed her in the back seat.

“Great Uncle Owain will be at the reception – it’s in the garden of his old ancestral home. Well, the house he’s lived in since before the Great War. He’s a true war vet – valiant as a lion, Will said.”

Over one hundred years old. Yet she’d guessed seventy. Age was deceptive.

Great Uncle Owain’s house felt forgotten. Ancient. Nature had overrun it, with ivy and Virginia creeper vying for the prime masonry.

However, the garden was more ordered.

“You asked if Great Uncle was the gardener. Well, this is his creation – over many decades.”

“How many decades? He must be older than he looks.”

“He keeps young. The family trait – passed down the generations. A secret like my love bites – hidden from view.”

Warmth spread across her face at the memory. She laughed, right hand caressing her neck where the marks had been.

Her excuses for the pinpricks where he had drawn blood.

Like the Count.

She suppressed the shivers as they walked into the crowded marquee.

Tables – their white linen surfaces decorated.

Gifts on the wedding table at one side.

Flowers in green and red wheelbarrows.

Laughter. Music. Chatter.

Great Uncle Owain leaning in for a kiss. Breath on her neck. Lips hovering.

She stiffened.

He kissed both her cheeks.

His voice – rich and smooth. Relaxing. Hypnotic.

He raised a glass of crimson liquid.

 “Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. Don’t let the rumours of my addiction to blood disturb you, my dear Mina. It’s kept me alive for generations. We all get used to its taste. You will too. Try some.”

Word Count 1000: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

#WEP/IWSG June 2019 Challenge – Caged Bird

Originally, I had planned to write a Sparkle Anwyl case for the 2019 WEP + IWSG Challenge starting in April and ending in December. I wrote the first episode in April, but then posted the next episode of Kindled Casket, last month. There is a ‘caged bird’ in the episode but not as planned – that follows in the next episode. That case will unfold over the next few months.

Hence, the attached standalone short – Fettered Air. A departure from my Welsh police procedural, so your responses will interest me.

Fettered Air

I slide ski-swift across the winter’s blanket under the Blood Wolf’s Moon. Beside me the chicken-legged hut creak-crashes through the forest.

We’re alone in the taiga.

No sign of Baba Yaga. She’s vanished as have the denizens. No howling wolves. Nor snow leopard scents. No eagle-owl hoots. Nor honking swans. No ice-crawlers corpse feeding.

For nothing breathes in the wailing wind.

Yet, Nature writhes in pain, dragon’s bile dripping on her from mortal fangs.

I am Skaði. Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Size is not the issue. Speed is.

The house is noisier, but we make a team. This hut can track her mistress better than even I, its feet scratching up clues, windows watching for signs.

Our mission came from Svetovid, seer and guardian god – and we had no choice.

“Find Baba Yaga before this world rebels.”

Why me, a giantess from Jötunheimr? Because neither Odin nor Thor will ask me ever since the marital strife with my spouse, Njörðr.

“Nobody else volunteered,” added Svetovid. “Besides those deities I posted on separate operations.”

He’s as secretive as my Vanir and Aesir brethren. Not just Loki plays with intelligence. Our trickster-thief and clown has too many imitators.

“Others are missing?” I asked, expecting evasion.

“Find Baba Yaga. That’s all.”

So, a need-to-know answer means Skaði is disposable. Nothing has changed.

Am I that terrible?

I had my reasons for smashing my husband’s sand sculptures. The whale-way was a prison with seabirds flaunting freedom.

But he called my majestic mountain retreat a dreary cell. “I’m trapped here. I can’t ski or snowboard like you.” He ranted and ripped down my hunting trophies.

“Skadi Hunting in the Mountains” (1901) by H. L. M – Foster, Mary H. 1901. Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology. Silver, Burdett and Company

Marriage dissolved.

Thus, I get the menial tasks. Unless Odin sends his ravens or wolves with heart-baits.

Not this occasion. A telepathic eagle with four heads.  

“Find Baba Yaga.” Svetovid’s orders resound in my brain.

The wilderness wrestles promethium chains. That is enough reason to pursue the quarry.

So we scour Siberia.

The creak-crashing hut spins above the earth-coat. We have the crone’s spoor. 

Calls and cries clamour on the snow-breath.

Ahead a green clearing by a lake glows bright. Invisible to vicious human eyes, but I see the torches, tents and throng bridging the veils.

Baba has parked her mortar by a host of other vehicles, one that is familiar – my stepdaughter’s pantherine-drawn chariot.

With groans and creaks, the chicken-legs spin the hut to a halt by the pestle-guarded mortar. Shutters slam shut. A fence of human bones topped with skulls encircles them.

My gaze shoots arrows at the polytheistic conclave nobody invited me to.

Goddesses gathered from the Nine Realms. They have abandoned their posts to feast. Brews flow, dice roll and deities chatter. Everyone distracted as Midgard clamours for release.

Baba knocks back vodka, cackling to another crone – Hecate, clutching a goatskin of wine. Their dice are corpse-stones, and Hel’s are soul-vessels. 

Are they oblivious to the desolation? Among the feasting, denizen envoys are airing their anxiety.  

My pounding heart settles. Mind muses past irritable white-out.

Not all the deities are wizen and wild in their attire and behaviour. Some goddesses appear serious.

Freyja, stepdaughter and party animal rises – statuesque and sober, despite her goblet of mead.

Her eyes seize mine as she silences the symposium.

“Sisters, the snow-dancer is here. The world cries, and we have battle-sweat to spill. But when shall we three score meet again?”

“When the chaos is banished, when the spear-din is won,” Hel replies.

I add my voice, realising their design. “Ere midnight. After the sleep of the blade claims those flouting our laws.” Faces flash in my head. I smile. “Nature’s justice must wield the icicle of blood against false leaders poisoning life.”

My sisters nod. Creatures yowl.

Freyja smiles and summons her champions. “I come, Durga and Adrastea. We have fangs to extract.”
Her pantherines roar in response.

We will shatter the fetters on Nature. No more will humans build cages entrapping our laughter and song.

Yes, this is my #WEP/IWSG post for June so part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG ChallengeThis a standalone short, although Skaði appears in my novel Eagle Passage, which I wrote the first draft of for NaNoWriMo 2016.

Word Count 660: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

Kindled Casket

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/

Here is the continuation of my Jewel Box story featuring Detective Constable Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police. I posted the opening on April 17th as O for Obstructions – Part 15 0f Azure Spark: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/04/17/o-for-obstructions-azure-spark-part-15/

However, I revised it slightly when I edited ‘Azure Spark’ at the end of April – https://rolandclarke.com/2019/04/17/o-for-obstructions-azure-spark-part-15/ . I intended to continue the story for the June WEP/IWSG Challenge but have something else for ‘Caged Bird’.

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

Kindled Casket

Saturday 1st August 2015 – Early Morning

Swimming settles hangovers.

Kama and I race out of the swell and across the sands of Morfa Bychan beach.

“Your turn to make breakfast, cariad,” she says as I overtake her. “Your full Welsh to prepare us for work. Ffion will await us bright and eager.”

We sprint towards our cottage. “Even if our DI was partying late at our party. I’ll have no excuse to not confront my backlog.”

Resolved one crime – dozens more emerging. Plus, the never-ending paperwork. Stifle the sinking stomach. This is the price of criminal detection with CID.

Bacon, sausages, mushrooms, eggs, cockles and laver bread sets up the day.

Cloudless weather boosts our motorbike ride to Porthmadog.

The paper on my desk has spread overnight. My Email in-box has overflowed again. Fight through this. Make space for the arson.

In forty minutes, I can focus on the case file.

Two conflicting reports on the incident lead. Liam’s forensic analysis suggests arson. Although, Fire Officer Anwyl’s notes claim it was a traffic accident. Did I count on any support from my brother?

No.

Yet, both mention ‘excessive petroleum splashes’. However, Liam detected traces of a silvery powdery crumb that was not a firefighting residue.

P for Petroleum and Powder. A reason to tackle Owen at the Caernarfon fire station.

I scan the ‘unrelated jewel thefts’ – low value pieces. There are mixed reports from uniform colleagues. Three statements are meticulous, but the other two are vague. No arrests. Just familiar suspects – including Poulsen Leach.

My tattoos set my skin tingling, and my fingers tapping my bracer.

Hugh Arbuthnot, the gift shop owner, accused his son-in-law of ‘mixing in shady circles’.

Poulsen’s record includes a spell in gaol and fines. Further, it shares a name with uniform’s suspicions. Despite this, we have not recovered any stolen items – yet. Not even at known fences.

A for Arbuthnot, Accusations, Arson and Accomplices.

S for Suspects – and for Suspicious. SAP.

Too S for Simple. Delve deeper and search sideways. Interview Poulsen and his wife, Olivia as she ran Y Bocs. Check if someone stole the 4×4.

*

I power along the A487 towards Caernarfon, gritting my teeth. Owen. Can I work with him, even with the approval of DI Ffion Baines? I must. He agreed to meet on the phone. Since he wanted me investigating. Why?

I park alongside the two-storey fire station, answers vying for dominance. My head throbs in time with my churning guts. Relax. Breathe. He’s like a fellow officer.

“Meinwen, let’s talk over a drink.” He smiles as he meets me at reception. Relaxed and confidant. “We have a great café nearby – not instant muck.”

He shows me back outside and nods at the black motorcycle. “Still a biker. No changes then.”

“Another major incident resolved. On to our burnt-out shop inquiry so I need your help. Why can’t we chat in your office?”

“I’m done arguing in front of my teammates.” He gestures to a red North Wales Fire and Rescue van. “Besides, we’ve family issues to discuss.”

The conversation I don’t need today. The usual blame. You were tad’s favourite. Meinwen did this…

“As long as we still review the arson case.”

*

The coffee is fresh brewed, and the brownie is a decadent treat.

“Talk, brawd dewr,” I say, forcing a grin.

He continues in our mother tongue. “Did our tad want you in the force over me? I never knew.”

The question he should have asked tad before he died. Owen buries his anger – but it’s simmering.

Don’t feed it. “No. He was scared whoever followed him into the police might have family problems like—”

“—him and mam, but that came later. In your mid teens, you were talking about joining—”

“—the force? I was only a vigilante.” I sip the rich brew, searching for a path around the sleeping flames. “That’s what tad called the Goth Patrol – before he inspired us. He must have dropped hints to your class too.”

He sputters. “Community service lectures – from every single emergency service. I never realised tad was behind those.” His turn to bury himself in his mug, then take a final swig.

I order more coffee – without tempting chocolate brownies. Will our chat end the sibling rivalry?

“That road traffic accident might not be arson. I presume you read my exhaustive report.”

I switch into case gear. “Yes. Our forensic guys agree with the ‘excessive petroleum splashes’. What could cause those in your experience?”

“A leaking petrol container.” He hesitates, rapping his knuckles together. “If the vehicle reached the right-hand side of the shop. I’ll run a test back at the station. Maybe a simulation. A smash-raid requires speed to damage the fuel tank.”

“Although, wasn’t it half inside the shopfront?”

Owen nods. “And not all the splatters were there. The raiders might have incinerated the car to destroy its identity.”

“We can still trace it.” If someone from NWP hasn’t yet run a search. “Our senior forensics guy, Liam Rhys detected the remains of a white dust. Not drugs or a harmless household product. Did you take a sample?”

My brother stares at me, eyes ablaze. “You accusing us of missing evidence? The powder is our dry chemical agent, stupid. I will send your Rhys what he needs to strike that off your suspicions, Meinwen.” He drains his coffee and stands. “I need to get back and investigate other incidents – pressing ones.”

Dismissed again. I follow him to the van. We don’t speak until we reach his workplace.

He smoulders as he parks, then slams his door when he gets out. “Thus, a smash-raid gone wrong. Your thieves torched the vehicle and caused a fire – not arson. I’ll put your forensics guy right and you can close your file.”

No fond farewell. He stalks away as if renewing our absurd rivalry.

R for Rivalry and Ram-raid. A for Arson and Anger. P for Petrol and Powder.

RAP sheet or PAR for our relationship?

If I add E for Evidence and Excuses, then PARE. Shave off the distracting details, for now.

I dial Forensics as I walk to my Kawasaki Ninja.

“Thanks Liam, for the detailed report on Y Bocs – The Jewel Box crime scene. I’ve just talked with the Fire Investigator – my evasive brother. He insists that the crumb was their chemical agent.”

“A chemical, but an unidentified incendiary.”

Why is Owen ignoring blatant evidence? To provoke or obstruct me? Petty most likely. Does he expect us to do his work? Although, he’s a professional.

“He’ll send you a specimen. Can you help find the actual powder?”

He chuckles. “On it. I’ll email you my conclusion.”

The station doors open and one appliance leaves heading towards town.

“Any identification found on the vehicle used? Or was it too badly torched?”

“The perpetrators tried to erase the plates and other marks. But not thoroughly enough. The 4×4 was a 2012 Dacia Duster registered to Poulsen Leach – reported stolen a week before the fire.”

My heartbeat rises, but tattoos sting. More convenient evidence – more questions for Poulsen and Olivia.

*

Half-an-hour weaving through lunchtime traffic focuses my racing mind.

Kama points at the new row of post-its across my desk. “Compliments of your friends stuck in this hot office. Enjoy.” She winks and takes half. “I desire you home early tonight.”

“For one of your tasty Tamil treats. As you’re cooking.”

More emails too – including Liam’s analysis of the crumb.

Material is an industry standard pyrotechnic flash powder composed of aluminium dust and potassium perchlorate. The natural colour is dark grey, but someone doctored this composition. Hence, it simulates the dry fire suppressant. Look for a pyrotechnician.

As Executive Producer of Oriole Productions, Hugh B Arbuthnot has the special effects contacts. So, the means to frame the son-in-law he belittles.
Too obvious?

R for Ram-raid and Relations. U for Unreal and Used. F for Flash and Film. A for Accusations and Arson. D for Dacia Duster and Deception.

FRAUD. By who?

**

Sleuthing Snowdon Shadows

Where is Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police heading?

Or rather where do I start her story? What comes first? The goth teenager or the quirky detective?

For the Blogging from A to Z April (2019) Challenge, I wrote a 19,000 word Sparkle story in twenty-six parts – Azure Spark. It is a standalone case that some readers have said I should publish as a novella. However, that throws up some complications.

First complication: although Sparkle & Co., resolved the Azure Spark case, an arson investigation was left ongoing – my ‘O for Obstruction’ post,  for the bi-monthly WEP/IWSG Challenge. April’s theme was ‘Jewel Box’ which became the name of the torched gift shop. Initially, I planned to continue the investigation with the June theme, ‘Caged Bird’ and then in the three subsequent WEG/IWSG posts, culminating with ‘Footprints’ in December. But that means holding back Azure Spark’. Doesn’t it?

Or I can write that arson case now as a ‘bonus’ incident.

Second complication: backstory. I can add a few pieces of backstory in ‘Azure Spark’ when I re-draft the story. What do readers need to know? Why did Sparkle become a cop? How did she meet her lover, Kama? However, all these incidents exist as short stories. Sparkle’s backstory unfolded as various shorts I developed as a collection with a framing investigation for NaNoWriMo 2018, titled “Fevered Few” – including a case I wrote for the WEP/IWSG Challenge last year.

What do readers want now?

Third complication: ‘Azure Spark’ references a key case in ‘Fevered Few’but in a way I hope gives all that the reader requires. Or does the case need more detail? How much detail is too much? Or should ‘Azure Spark’ be part of the collection?

Okay, my gut feeling is that ‘Azure Spark’ the novella is my starting point. Test the water/market with that, then continue with the other Sparkle Anwyl stories.

Do you, dear reader, agree?

I intended ‘Fevered Few’ to be the opening of Snowdon Shadows, a series of mystery novels set around Snowdonia in North Wales. However, in the beginning of that WIP, Sparkle doesn’t know she’s a policewoman – or Heddlu as the Welsh police are called. Amnesia is the antagonist blocking her memories of her first cases and more. So, ‘Fevered Few’ was the start of the series – before April 2019’s A to Z Challenge.

I also have three novels to complete in order: “Fates Maelstrom”, “Seeking A Knife”, and “Ruined Retreat”. I’ve drafted FM five times, SAK is still incomplete, and RR was my 2018 NaNoWriMo novel (draft one).

So how do I make ‘Azure Spark’ fit into the release schedule?

Does anyone want to read more?

#AtoZChallenge Reflections 2019

Have I really survived six Blogging from A to Z Challenges? According to my website, yes. Go HERE if you want to read more of my A to Z posts. As for 2019 all the posts were up on time, plus a compilation/edit in three acts – Act One here. However, that is not the end of the Challenge – next comes this Reflections post.

The Reflection post is a tradition at the A to Z Challenge. It gives all us participants a chance to look back at what worked, what didn’t, what we’ve done, what was learned, and where we hope to go from here. At the end of this post, I’ve added a list of direct links to other people’s Reflections. 

But wait. My theme reveal was my downfall. What hurtyn chooses to write a 26-part episodic short story that will read like a novella? Well me. And that was my first mistake. Second was when my keyboard died on me mid-March. Okay, I got all my posts scheduled in time – with a few days to spare at the end of April. But I’m now struggling in a quagmire of emails for fascinating A to Z posts.

Next year, I’m starting in February – or choosing a simpler theme than I’ve ever done – maybe.

Anyway, this year, in honour of the Challenge’s Tenth Anniversary, the brilliant A to Z Team produced a list of ten questions we could use for our posts. Here are my answers:

1. What did you love about the challenge this year?

First, the Challenge kept me writing – the commitment I made, plus the comments. So, there’s more tales to spiel.

Second, I read some great informative pieces [The Great Raven], amazing poems [Liz Brownlee] & [Life In Poetry], great facts [The Old Shelter], invaluable writing tips [Operation Awesome], engrossing tales [Tasha’s Thinkings] and folklore [The Multicoloured Diary], plus, so much more – like the theme I downgraded from ‘Music’ [Wolf of Words].

2. What would you change about it?

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And it isn’t. I’ve read one intriguing suggestion that we reduced the pressure and make it March-April – might help or increase/spread the stress. Even us that prepare badly.

3. What was the best moment for you during this year’s challenge?

Making my ‘O’ post for A to Z and the April WEP/IWSG post around the theme of ‘Jewel Box’ work, even though my overall theme had nothing to do with jewels. But it was Crime and the comments approved of the episode.

4. What is the best comment your blog got during the challenge, and who left the comment?

It’s hard to choose one, from those that persisted with my short story/novella – like Ronel Janse van Vuuren who looks forward to the Arson posts [WEP/IWSG Challenge] and Liz Brownlee, to those from sites I read consistently who were regular commentators – including the Ninja Captain, leader of IWSG. Okay, two made me blush and amp up my fiction writing:

“Wow, I don’t know if it just comes naturally or you did it on purpose, but I loved the numerous uses of D words, then C words, then B words creating a kind of reverse A to Z musical crescendo as the clues to the plot pile up !” Susan Rouchard

“Very interesting, Roland. I picked up on snippets of alliteration sprinkled here and there. (I love alliterative writing).” Michelle Wallace

5. Will you do the challenge again?

Can I stay away? Am I addicted? Of course.

6. Was it well organized and were the hosts helpful? (Did you fill out the after survey?)

Well organised as always. Hosts so good some dropped by to check my glass was topped up and I was enjoying the canapes. I didn’t need to hassle them once – even for some ink for my pen. And yes, I filled out the survey.

7. How did you and your blog grow, change, or improve as a result of this challenge? Did you find new blogs out there to enjoy?

I chose the wrong theme to attract many new followers, but I signed up for a few new sites. My writing has probably improved, but my site has only been tweaked – I may make changes/updates over the year ahead. But those new sites are expanding my horizons.

8. Were you on the Master List? (If you did the challenge last year, was it better this time without the daily lists?)

I was on the Master List but didn’t use it – so, I can’t compare it to last year. In fact, I’ve got a backlog of A-Z blog emails/sites to visit – apologies to those awaiting a visit and a comment.

9. Any suggestions for our future?

Not anything practical at the Team A to Z’s end. At mine – get organised earlier.

10. Any notes to the co-host team? A word of thanks to Jeremy for all his hard work on the graphics? A picture with your A to Z shirt, if you ordered one?

Congratulations and thanks to you all: J Lenni, Jeremy – I loved the badges and used them –  Jayden, Zalka and John, plus last but vitally they key, Arlee for making all this possible ten years ago and counting.

What have I missed/evaded? What questions do you have?

To find, and hop to, all the blogs officially participating in REFLECTIONS, click the following LINK TO REFLECTION LIST:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BakdXuadi9VJE1JM3mcnR9H8ooleTRoX9JGHlF-OYy4