The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths – a review

Thursday_horizons

For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m catching up on an outstanding one from March when. I wrote a few words on Goodreads for this third book in the Fiona Griffiths series by Harry Bingham and promised a longer review.

This will be my third review of a Fiona Griffiths book – see also: Book 1. Talking to the Dead and Book 2. Love Story with Murders.

Anyway, as promised…

StrangeDeath

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths

(Fiona Griffiths #3)

by

Harry Bingham (Goodreads Author)

It started out as nothing much. A minor payroll fraud at a furniture store in South Wales. No homicide involved, no corpses. Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths fights to get free of the case but loses. She’s tasked with the investigation.

She begins her enquiries, only to discover the corpse of a woman who’s starved to death. Looks further, and soon realizes that within the first, smaller crime, a vaster one looms: the most audacious theft in history.

Fiona’s bosses need a copper willing to go undercover, and they ask Fiona to play the role of a timid payroll clerk so that she can penetrate the criminal gang from within.

Fiona will be alone, she’ll be lethally vulnerable – and her fragile grip on ‘Planet Normal’ will be tested as never before …

Review 5 stars

Fiona Griffiths is one amazingly quirky detective and this third book adds just another layer or two to her persona. Harry Bingham continues to throw curve balls in her path, starting with that title.

When DC Fiona Griffiths is tasked with investigating a minor payroll fraud, she discovers a vaster crime is lurking within the first. Fiona is asked to go undercover as a timid payroll clerk to penetrate the criminal gang from inside. But, being alone and vulnerable, challenges her ability to cope with reality.

I enjoyed this third book even more than the previous. Fiona continues to go down unexpected paths and evolve in unexpected ways. With her new persona, she is so complex and fascinating that there was room for her to explore this new world, discover different people – all well portrayed – and prove she can interact convincingly with criminals. If you have read the first two books, then you know that her father has criminal connections. However, she is always operating on a precipice – in reality, and in her mind.

As Fiona becomes Jessica, there is a clever change of pace that matches the new character – a new character that Fiona inhabits almost too well. The title began to make sense, but then the author added new twists and turns – new layers to his protagonist and that title.

The settings are crafted with a realism that matches the unfolding story – from London offices to remote Welsh farms. Gritty when the scene requires that but uplifting when the reader needs green spaces and strong breezes. A year in Fiona’s life covers so much territory.

Harry Bingham is a great believer in keeping readers thinking as well as the coppers and the criminals. He creates believable situations and demonstrates the depth of his research, even down to the details of forms that Fiona/Jessica handles and the electronics both sides use.

Nothing is ever easy or calm when undercover, and as Fiona/Jessica got deeper into this criminal world, I asked, “Will Jessica survive?” Prepare for another awesome ending.

I look forward to visiting Fiona Griffiths’ Cardiff/South Wales world soon, especially as she has ongoing questions to resolve.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

#TheIWSG – What Publishing Path?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I’m using a lull in the chaos to write this month’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post as the undisciplined step-great-grandkids are out raising hell in Walmart. My biggest concern is now my wife who fell badly yesterday (Sunday) because of one selfish kid and smashed her weak knee so she has to use one of my wheelchairs to get around. We will be glad when this extended month’s stay is over.

Anyway, on with this month’s question.

September 5 question – What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

The future is a mystery as I’m unsure what path I will choose for my Snowdon Shadows mystery series. Is that why I’m evading the finish line by writing shorts about my heroine? Those tales may appear as a self-published collection or as freebies here. The first novel of the series – three drafted so far – I will offer to a few small presses when it is finished.

I’ve been down the small press path with my debut novel Spiral of Hooves, which was published as an e-book on Monday, December 9th, 2013, by Spectacle Publishing Media Group. When SPMG changed hands and I got the right back, I released a paperback revised edition on August 7th, 2017 – self-published via CreateSpace. Neither release garnered much attention, so I have little to base any future publications on, except—

  • The small press put me in touch with fellow authors and they were supportive; self-publishing was a lonelier path.
  • Self-publishing allowed me to choose more about the release like format and cover. And that meant assembling my own team.
  • Publicity with the small press was a mix of them and me – their suggestions and my workload.
  • Self-publishing was costlier overall – in theory, the profit margins were greater, but I never sold the copies needed to cover my costs.

Perhaps, I am writing for my pleasure alone, so publishing is not important?

Or I have a blockbuster rather than a money-pit.

What’s in your wallet/on your publishing schedule?

Roland_PBookV1

Cover design by Jonathan Temples. Cover photo by Nick Perry

**

The awesome co-hosts for the September 5 posting of the IWSG are Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

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 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

 

Horsemanship – a review

Thursday_horizons

Horses will always have a place in my heart, so today’s Thursday Creation Review is special in many ways. When my freelance equestrian writer friend, Gina McKnight collated some quotes from horse people around the world, I was interested, especially as these were an extension to the interviews that she had done with them. And one of those interviews was with me – https://ginamc.blogspot.com/2014/02/roland-clarke.html. (My quote, though, is only in the book so you will have to buy it…)

Horsemanship

Horsemanship

by

Gina McKnight (Goodreads Author)

0.0  ·  Rating details ·  0 Ratings  ·  0 Reviews

Journey through country stables, city trails, working round pens, and shining arenas where you will find equestrian wisdom from around the world. “What does horsemanship mean to you?” The question asked of cowboys, horse trainers, clinicians, equine writers, eventers, bull riders, barrel racers, and more! As a freelance writer, Gina McKnight connects with amazing horsemen and horsewomen. They are the inspiration for this book. To read their entire interview, visit www.ginamc.blogspot.com. Thanks to each one for their contribution to this volume. Special thanks to Zorka for inspiration and motivation. Her charismatic character, along with her engaging art, continue to encourage and support our love for horses. A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to local horse rescues

Review 5 stars

This collection is more than a taster as it contains some profound quotes by equestrian people from around the world who were interviewed by Gina McKnight over the last few years.

I enjoyed reading the diverse interpretations of ‘horsemanship’ and was not surprised at the overlap. Trust and respect kept being mentioned as well as understanding the horse’s language.

“To me horsemanship means two-way communication between horse and rider based on mutual trust, respect and affection. It is more than physical communication, it is mental and emotional as well. Horsemanship leads to an intuitive connection so that communication requires no conscious thought.”

Lee Atterbury

Wisconsin, USA

Equestrian

Author of Big Fracking Mess

www.leeatterbury.com

 

Another theme in the ‘thoughts’ is how important it is to develop a special relationship on an equal basis. In fact, that seems to be the hidden message to many regardless of discipline or nationality.

“To me, horsemanship, is having the ability to establish and then develop a productive relationship with a horse, which subsequently leads to earning the horse’s trust and confidence in you.”

Bill Slader

Ohio, USA

Equine Photographer

www.billsladerphotography.com

 

I loved reading about all those subtle ways of asking a horse to flourish, not forcing them but forging a natural bond. These horse people understand that a rider must feel what is best for the horse. This is real teamwork – when human and horse are working together for fun or sport. We are reminded that the horse can be a trainer and a partner. And there is another crucial bond.

“The definition of horsemanship is basically the skill, art or practise of riding horses. What it means to me is love. Pure love. Love of a beast that is so big he can squash you like a grape…but he won’t…because he loves you, too.”

Karen Miscovich

Florida, USA

Optimal Horse Environment Horse Boarding at Picalata Farms

 

There are pages of horse wisdom here, and some of my favourite equestrian writers share their thoughts as well – why not, they are equestrians too.

“…It would make for better equine/human relationships if the human tried to think more like the horse when in the saddle instead of assuming the horse is thinking/feeling human thoughts and emotions.”

TK Lukas

Texas, USA

Equestrian

Author of Orphan Moon

www.tklukas.com

 

I have watched many proponents of horsemanship with their own techniques and yet, as this book shows so well, their approaches overlap – they seem to have become unified with the horse.

Glimpse that through this collection and at Gina McKnight’s site – www.gmcknight.com

HorseCoverRC

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish AUGUST Challenge

a wep change of heart final
This month, I am taking part in the #WEP August Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges which the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined.

The WEP team had a GUEST POST on the IWSG website on August 6. Here is the link http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/2018/08/writing-together-with-wep-and-iswg.html

WEP_IWSG
So, it’s now the correct day for the AUGUST challenge, CHANGE OF HEART. I confess that I posted nine days early – https://rolandclarke.com/2018/08/06/wep-change-of-heart/ – but I have since made a few minor edits so I’m re-posting.

I was also reminded to add some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is an incident in the backstory of a central character in my WIP – SPOILER ahead. This is when my MC in the Snowdon Shadows series of police procedurals was a teenager. I am currently using this as a flashback within a framing story (‘Fevered’) set a year before the WIP entitled ‘Fates Maelstrom’.

Change of Heart

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Shadows in the moonlight flicker like my mind churning with every bleating sheep. What does Taid want? Does he know our secret?

My morning swim in our lake was invigorating, but after breakfast, he triggered the thoughts.

“We need to talk, Meinwen – this evening when your chores are done.”

I daren’t ask Mam what he wants – even if he’s her tad. Patience would be her answer. My siblings don’t act suspicious, but Taid has rules.

Where have I strayed?

My love is forbidden in his chapel eyes. But we kept it secret. Six weeks of passion on the beach had to end. But not with punishment.

He doesn’t know. We were careful – once the school buried the incident. Tad never dug – believed we were bullied for being different – two Goths.

It’s my parents – Tad and Mam. Their time apart, after the arguments about his work, has been hard. I chose to be with him. No, by the sea in Porthmadog – to be near Esyllt. My brothers came with mam and our sister, up here to the farm.

Is there a distance in their eyes? Am I the betrayer who stood with Tad? Am I being sent away?

I love them all. I can’t choose. But my family comes before Esyllt – it must. Or can our affair become more? Or are we doomed?

What does Taid want? A grandchild that lives by the rules. I don’t.

Are my tad and mam following his advice? Have they changed their minds? Are they getting back together – as we all want?

Cregennen-Lakes-5

Cregennen Lakes © Ian King – http://snowdonia.info/

The porch door opens and Nain Gwyneth and Taid Hywel walk out, smiling as they hand me a cup of hot chocolate.

“Another beautiful evening,” says Nain as she sits on the couch and gestures for Taid to join her. “It’s good to have you home, cariad. How was your stay with your tad?”

“Awesome – well good.” I mustn’t be too happy as I want to be at their farm now. Well, I want everyone together. “I enjoy being here at Tyn-y-llyn – in the mountains…swimming in the lake—”

Taid takes my hands in his gnarled ones. “Your mam, our Glenys wants this to be your home. You want that?”

Leave my tad. Leave the sea…my friends – Esyllt. For a new life?

“If you want me here. But school? I was changing, though—”

Taid nods at Nain and smiles. “Your mam says that you’re going to sixth-form college – in Pwllheli. Why? We’d hoped you’d do agriculture at Glynllifon – then help your Ewythr Ivor here on the farm.”

I stare across the yard at the farmhouse where my mam’s brother is sleeping with his family. Do I want that life? I love it up here – but something is missing.

Esyllt? No, she is not my future – even if I feel the passion and the excitement…and the guilt.

“I need to keep my options open. I’m sixteen and I want to do AS and A levels in different subjects. I’m not ready to commit.”

They watch me…study me. What do they see? The guilt or vague potential?

“You’ve no idea what you want to do? You can’t be like your tad – look what he’s put our Glenys through?”

The cop-option. The one that tackling the bullies triggered – Esyllt’s suggestion. My tad’s secret desire. Or did he say it was too dangerous? I must evade this.

“I like swimming—” I stare into their eyes then glance towards the land. “And running across the fields. Okay, I can do that as a farmer. But I’d like to learn about the sport and leisure industries, whilst learning more skills – like more Welsh. It’s our language.”

They smile, and Nain reaches over and pats my knee. She takes my hands.

“If you go to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor how will you get there – you can’t live there?”

I let the conversation move on – hoping that we are past the tough grilling.

“I’ve passed my moped test and it will only take an hour – better than cycling and quicker. That means I can stay here – please.”

They embrace me, and I think they are leaving as Nain goes inside. But Taid sits back down.

“There’s something else. We’ve heard disturbing rumours from your school…” He looks up, and I shiver. “About an incident, you were involved in. What is the truth?”

As I dread. The whispers have spread into Snowdonia. It’s over. First Tad – but he didn’t tan my ass, just lectured me about vigilantes. Seems my school didn’t like the Goth Patrol standing up against bullies.

“It was a buddy system to protect kids needing friends.”

I listen to the hunting owls and Taid’s breathing. Did the family hear more? Or just about the assault in the swimming pool? I could have been drowned, but my friends rescued me – with Esyllt.

“In the eyes of the Lord,” he says, staring up into the night sky. “We can’t be the judges. But our friends talk – about our reputation in the community, and yours. Is there someone else?”

Here it is – the sin is exposed. Unless I lie.

“Not that I know – just friends.”

Lies are hard, but so is facing the truth. It won’t just be Taid and Nain. What will the family do next?

“Who is Esyllt Jernigan?”

I close my eyes and pray for guidance.

“One of my friends – another Goth like me.”

He frowns, and I realise my mistake – my other rebellion.

“Goth is darkness, isn’t it? A sin, in some eyes. You…like this other girl?”

Do I confess my sin – that I’ve slept with another woman? Or do I deny our love and perjure myself in the eyes of God? Three denials like Saint Peter is a sin.

But I want a future. Esyllt was the future but so are my family. Are the chapel rules just? Are Taid and Nain correct?

Must I change what my heart feels?

“There’s this guy – Bran. He likes me.”

Scooter

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 991: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

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READ MORE ENTRIES BY FOLLOWING THE WEP – Write…Edit…Publish URL:

http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/

 

 

Exploration or taster?

Scooter

As my regular followers might know, I’m exploring my Fates Maelstrom main protagonist’s backstory by writing short stories that are also a means to try a different POV.

After writing the first story about Sparkle Anwyl, Goth Patrol, in first-person present POV, I’ve stayed with that for three more shorts – two set some years earlier, when Sparkle was sixteen, and one set a year later when she is 23. (She’s 25 in the novel.)

I like the first-person present POV and I’ve even attempted a version of her first POV scene written in the first-person present – it seems to read okay. As for the backstory developed in these stories, the key incidents are already referenced in the main novel, Fates Maelstrom.

Now, I have two questions:

(1) Can I have other POVs in third for some scenes and Sparkle’s in the first-person present?

(2) The crucial question is – What do I do with the short stories?

I have been working on a framing story, ever since I read Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Last Wish – http://witcher.wikia.com/wiki/The_Last_Wish – in which the Polish writer cleverly uses one for his first shorts collection. However, the norm seems to be to release shorts totally independently, or as free rewards for followers/subscribers.

I decided to research this, and on the internet, I found this interesting article at Writer’s Digest – http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/writing-short-stories-novel-writing – that included this interesting point:

“Short fiction can be a toy box for your novel’s secondary characters, “offstage” action and locations. Outside the realm of your larger manuscript, you can do things like mine the protagonist’s past to find the source of her inner struggle, then use what you’ve learned to add a richness to your novel. (As a side benefit, these stories, if you’re pleased with the results, can later become great marketing tools: Sell them first, to prove the related novel has a receptive audience, or use them as a “bonus” read for novel fans who join your mailing list.)”

I seem to be trying to see if there is a side benefit or whether I remain in the toy box.

For ongoing research, I asked the Insecure Writer’s Support Group on Facebook, “I’ve taken a diversion to explore the backstory of my WIP’s main protagonist. I’ve ended up with some draft short stories that are all pre-WIP and I have a linking/book-ending story. Should they stay as backstory experiments, or should I release them first singly or as an anthology, OR release as a bonus/taster when WIP published …IF published.”

I got some great answers, most notably: Heather M. Gardner. “It really depends on how short and/or how interesting the stories are. I would recommend leaving them just for you, but you could always include them as a free story at the end of your book WHEN its published.”

Nick Wilford “I think you could offer them separately for either free or a low price – it might help build interest in the “main event”. Either as individual stories or a collection.”

Now, I like the idea of a low-price collection to build interest in the ‘main event’, as Nick Wilford calls it, but then the WHEN of Heather M Gardner’s answer troubles me.

Will the novel get published?

Is that important or only the writing experience?

Am I wasting time on social media if I never release anything more into the world? (My tweets get ignored most days.)

Should I just share one short? (In fact, another as I used one in my premature ‘Change of Heart’ post.)

Have you ever written shorts linked to your novels? What did you do with them?

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on Flickr

 

The Case of the Black Tulips – a review

Thursday_horizons

For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m back to tackling a book review – I missed writing a proper post last week, although the excuses were forthcoming.

Anyway, back to today’s review (which I started last week).

I had been reading just samples as books I planned to start next were due to arrive. They did, but one sample had so hooked me that I had to discover more about it first.

 BlackTulips

The Case of the Black Tulips (Caster & Fleet Mysteries, #1)

by

Paula Harmon (Goodreads Author),

Liz Hedgecock (Goodreads Author)

There’s a new detective duo in Victorian London…

When Katherine Demeray opens an unsigned letter addressed to her missing father, she is drawn into a quest to find the terrified letter-writer and learn the secret of the black tulips.

Struggling to support herself after her father’s disappearance, Katherine has neither time nor money to solve the mystery alone. She has no choice but to seek help from a woman she has only just met; awkward socialite Connie Swift.

As the letters become increasingly frantic, this unlikely team of amateur detectives must learn to work together, while struggling to navigate the rigid rules of Victorian propriety, their families’ expectations, and the complicating interference of men.

Confronting danger as they venture into new and frightening territory, Katherine and Connie risk arrest, exposure, and even their reputations to solve the Case of the Black Tulips. Can they solve the mystery before someone gets killed….or they kill each other?

The Case of the Black Tulips is the first book in the Caster & Fleet mystery series, set in 1890s London.

Review 4.1 stars

When typist Katherine Demeray and her new friend socialite Connie Swift attempted to solve a mystery letter to Katherine’s father, I was drawn into their dangerous venture as they struggled to navigate Victorian society and the darker side of London.

The mystery of the letter writer and the clue of black tulips created a plot that worked through to the end, and the ending set up future cases for the endearing – or should that be spirited – lady detectives. (The second mystery is also out, and another is in the pipeline.)

I found that the main protagonists of Katherine and Connie were distinct and worked as a team, along with some memorable key supporting characters. I wondered if each of the authors had taken on a protagonist as the voices were so distinct – and that proved to be the case, with fascinating and effective results. What better way to write two protagonists than have two writers – or a split-personality. This clever approach led to some intriguing cliff-hangers for readers – and it seemed for writers/protagonists in the dark.

Some of that darkness is Victorian London with minimal lighting. This setting felt familiar as an ex-Londoner and yet this London was different with its carriages, rural outskirts (now, houses), plus the ever-present smoke that would soon become smog.

The story, the characters, their situations and the settings felt realistic. Whether this was historically accurate, I’m not sure, but the authors seem to have done plenty of research, and that gives a sense of authenticity that worked for me.

I enjoyed the read and I will buy the sequels. Not five stars but a recommended four plus.

 

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – four stars