#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – Cafe Terrace

At the end of last year, I was in a dilemma over the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges and what I should do. I even ran a poll with 3 options, but it left me wavering between Skaði and Sparkle as the Facebook votes balanced the ones here.

I envisaged some Skaði tales in my Viking Age Alternative History timeline. I sketched a story with Skaði and a successful Vincent Willem van Gogh. But would such a devout Christian have allowed himself to be saved by a Norse goddess? Antique Vase in the desert and Agatha Christie?

Crime never sleeps.

Anyway, it’s now the Year of the Jackdaw, so Sparkle Anwyl returns in a six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.

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

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/02/wep-february-challenge-cafe-terrace.html

CAFÉ TERRACE

2014

Sunday, March 16th

Waves sigh up the beach as I gaze into the starry night over Cardigan Bay.

But I’m distracted.

Where is Kama? She’s late and I feel exposed in the black dress she insisted I wear for my 20th birthday meal.

Some customers at Surf’s Up have attempted pick-up lines. But saying I’m waiting for the woman of my dreams scares them off.

The bar is packed, so escaping onto the balcony was my only option. I’ve kicked off my ankle boots and when I need my glass refilled, the owner Heilyn Trevor appears.

Followed by Kama in an emerald and black Kandangi Saree.

“Sorry cariad, Ffion assigned me a new case. I pulled the files as your insight is devious. But after our meal.”

I silence her with a long kiss. “For you, I might wait.” Her excuse triggers questions. “Tempt me with a taster. Then we eat.”

We laugh.

“In brief. A collectible forgery of a Van Gogh painting was stolen last night from a connoisseur’s Llanystumdwy home. And he was savagely assaulted. The files are at home so can wait. First, our tryst at Agnelli Trattoria.”

*

I’m sated by the celebratory Italian meal – and our after-dinner exertions. But I want more. My mind switches from caresses to clues.

So far, the burglary details are minimal.

“Professionals if they breached the victim’s high-tech security.” Crime scene photos present another angle. “Vicious pros. The assault looks–”

“—excessive.” Kama paces. “The collector, Urien Cadwallader is unconscious in hospital. CCTV tapes wiped. No prints. No witnesses as the house is hidden in a wood.”

C for Collector. E for Expert. R for Replica. T for Tapes. A for Art.

TRACE

“Did the crime scene assessment produce anything to show the art’s origin?”

I lean over Kama as she opens her laptop and accesses the case on the internal North Wales Police site.

“This contract suggests our connoisseur wanted to ensure the provenance – even for a forgery.”

“A replica by a ‘reputable artist’ with the pseudonym Turbulent Sky. My tingling tattoos imply it’s relevant.”

Kama strokes my face.

“Then it is. The painting was acquired from Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno six months ago.”

I groan. A dealer on West Conwy Coastal’s patch. My involvement slips away. I’m a PC with no standing outside South Gwynedd.

Kama reads my dejection. “But I’m a Detective Sergeant, so as our DCI, Ffion can authorise I interview the dealer – with my PC assistant.”

True, even if we risk questions about our relationship.

*

Monday, March 17th

Behind his glasses, Desmond Deckard’s eyes study us as we show our warrant cards.

Neatly dressed, even if the plaid flannel suit fails to hide his anxiety. Guilt or habit?

“Always happy to oblige the Heddlu,” he says in posh English. “Especially when they send such exquisite coppers. Another inspection? You’ll find everything in order.”

He grandly gestures around his gallery at familiar masterpieces and obscure art pieces. Forgeries?

“Every replica is genuine and documented as required. All legal, ladies.”

Kama leads. “By genuine you mean by artists working openly making copies.”

“Paying tribute to the Masters and making accurate replicas for art connoisseurs. Each one carries a subtle statement that it is not a forgery but an object of devotion.”

Glossy words to hide the reality? Or genuine talent? Manipulated for profit?

Kama will get to the truth. “So, all traceable. Tell us, Mr Deckard, about these artists, especially Turbulent Sky, please.”

My fingers tap studs. T for Turbulent Talent.

 “Every artist is a modern master with temperament burning from the canvas, clay, or chosen medium.”

“And Turbulent Sky. What can you tell us about them?”

Deckard shakes his head. “I’m afraid details on my artists and clients are confidential. I’m their confessor.” He grins.

“Unwise when a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night has been stolen, and its collector’s in hospital.” Kama hands him a copy of his contract. “We appreciate your assistance.”

S for Shamefaced Suspect.

“Turbulent Sky is a unique talent I’ve nurtured. Well, I encourage them all – even if some galleries are outraged by my support. Antagonism forces artists to adopt alter-egos. If I supply Turbulent Sky’s details, treat her gently, she’s had it rough.”

We promise, so he scrawls on a compliment slip.

“Anything else, ladies?”

“What’s the value of the reproduction?” asks Kama.

“Turbulent Sky’s crow sigil commands exceptional prices, as does an original Van Gogh. He died penniless – a fate never to be shared. She tries to emulate all elements, so Cadwallader paid five thousand in this instance. If this was an attempt at forgery, the work would have earned her millions.”

A for Affluent. R for Rarity. S for Sigil.  

STARS.

Van Gogh’s star-filled sky reproduced by Tesni Szarka.

In Llanystumdwy.

Llanystumdwy, with its pretty bridge across the Afon Dwyfor.
http://people.virginia.edu/~hnw/Lleyn/Lleyn3.htm

*

Tesni’s home is a barn in the same woodland as the crime scene.

“A witness we missed?” Kama points through the trees to a walled retreat. “Uniform overlooked this barn.”

“I suspect my colleagues never realised it was converted.”

I press a button beside the yellow door. An oscillating buzz echoes inside.

Cautious footsteps.

The door camera lights up, so we show our identity.

A young woman, my age, opens the door. Dark, high cheekbones, sculpted face. Riveting eyes. 5 foot 6 inches in jeans and sunflower T-shirt – Vincent’s work.

She says nothing but touches her ears and mouth.

Then, she signs. “If you understand BSL, come in. What can I do?”

I sign back, “We both know British Sign Language – my sister taught us. We’re investigating the theft of a Turbulent Sky painting. We have questions.”

She smiles, then leads us into her studio home.

The smell of paint, varnish and coffee percolate the air. Her workspace is a chemistry lab to age her art decades in days.

On the wall are Van Gogh masterpieces. All with the crow sigil.

On an easel is Café Terrace at Night.

***

Word Count 991: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

#IWSG – Inspiring Artwork

Today brings us closer to the release of the new IWSG anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost on May 5, 2020. I can’t wait to see what other contributors have penned.

Review copies have been ordered and the eBooks uploaded. These are the purchase links:

Amazon – Print https://www.amazon.com/dp/193984472X/ Kindle https://www.amazon.com/Voyagers-Third-Ghost-Yvonne-Ventresca-ebook/dp/B083C4WPR5/

Barnes & Noblehttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/voyagers-yvonne-ventresca/1135912991?ean=2940163430857

ITuneshttps://books.apple.com/ca/book/voyagers-the-third-ghost/id1493413956

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/voyagers-the-third-ghost

Today also sees ‘Flying Fur’, my post about the emergence of my tale. Read the post on the IWSG Anthology blog at https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/02/in-spotlight-roland-clarke-author-of.html?showComment=1580912370761#c7777400888558189756

Posts from the other authors will appear in forthcomings weeks and months – as will other news on Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

I’m grateful the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh who created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group as they do such amazing things for writers, from the annual Anthology to the IWSG monthly blog post. Many thanks, Captain Alex.

And that IWSG day is here again – and so am I, less insecure after jumping that first Anthology hurdle.

Anyway, on to the monthly question which creates so many fascinating posts – apologies in advance for the slow visits on my part – I’m wading through January’s email backlog still.

February 5 question – Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

Although, inspiration comes from various directions including dreams, I’ll have to admit that photos and works of art do trigger my mind to create.

First off, I was a photographer so trained my eye to frame a picture and learnt to appreciate other photographers’ work.

Borde Hill Horse Trials publicity shot – Photo: Roland Clarke

While editing my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves, I thought about the sequel, provisionally called ‘Tortuous Terrain’, and again about crime in the horse world. But not the sport of eventing where I worked as a journalist and photographer.

I had considered Endurance but never photographed it, although there is a short scene in ‘Spiral of Hooves‘ foreshadowing the sequel’s sport. But it was this photo from the 100-mile Tevis Cup that inspired the main plot-line. However, another equestrian sport, Barrel Racing is also featured – and I have taken some photos of my step nieces competing in that.

My wife’s photo of Snowdon on this website’s header and above my desk is one of the inspirations behind my series Snowdon Shadows, police procedural stories featuring Sparkle Anwyl.

Which brings us to art and a decades-long appreciation for Dutch masterpieces. Although my initial appreciation was for 17th century works as my family owned a few, it was Van Gogh that capped the passion. So, Café Terrace at Night (1888) is special and will be the inspiration for the WEP/IWSG Challenge flash creation in two weeks. But I need to work on the new case for Sparkle and Kama, ‘Custody Chain’, even if Skadi wanted to meet Vincent at a Stadacona café in 1892.

**

The awesome co-hosts for the The awesome co-hosts for the February 5 posting of the IWSG are Lee Lowery, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Jennifer Hawes, Cathrina Constantine, and Tyrean Martinson!

(Once again, you must agree these guys are the best. They all have commitments too – but they volunteer. Ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts too.)

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 to say.

#IWSG – In The Beginning

The countdown has begun for the new IWSG anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost, coming May 5, 2020. I can’t wait to see what other contributors have penned. Whether my story works with the readers remains to be seen; selection was the first hurdle.

Review copies have been ordered, and the eBooks uploaded. These are the purchase links:

Amazon – Print https://www.amazon.com/dp/193984472X/ Kindle https://www.amazon.com/Voyagers-Third-Ghost-Yvonne-Ventresca-ebook/dp/B083C4WPR5/

Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/voyagers-yvonne-ventresca/1135912991?ean=2940163430857

ITunes – https://books.apple.com/ca/book/voyagers-the-third-ghost/id1493413956

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/voyagers-the-third-ghost

I will be posting more in forthcomings weeks and months—with links to other contributors’ blog posts as well.

UPDATE…STOP PRESS…NEWSFLASH: For the latest anthology news, visit the IWSG Anthologies blog at https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/

I’m grateful the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group as they do such amazing things for writers, from the annual Anthology to the IWSG monthly blog post. Many thanks, Captain Alex.

And that IWSG day is here again – and so am I, less insecure after jumping that first Anthology hurdle.

Anyway, on to the monthly question which creates so many fascinating posts – apologies in advance for the slow visits on my part.

January 8 question – What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

Do childish scribblings count? School projects? Storytelling with toys?

There were early cases, but my memory is foggy. There was a scribbled tale about a fox – stolen from an old book my father owned as a child.

Westland WS-61 Sea King HAR3 – Photographer: Anthony Noble. GNU Free Documentation License

However, I have a letter dated 6 August 1965 – when I was eleven – confirming I won a first prize in the Frog Navy Competition, which offered three days with the Royal Navy. To win, I wrote an essay on ‘A Day in the Life of a Helicopter Pilot’. That sounds factual, but with no family knowledge, it must have been a tad fictional. I believe my imagined pilot flew a rescue chopper.

Did I explore RN/RAF rabbit holes? Probably. But, like many boys of my age, I was fascinated by war stories so read about them in comics and books. I watched some old B&W films at school. I made model planes and boats. The latter included models from Airfix, and that was how I learnt about the competition.

My reading went beyond war, fortunately. History was not just fighting. Fantasy played a major role in the choice of books – and in what I wrote. My first draft novel – a lost manuscript – was fantasy. But it was my first proper job, as a sub-editor on The Field magazine, which triggered my debut equestrian mystery – even if it didn’t emerge until I retired four decades later.

Strange, it’s taken me 55 years to win again, and the latest story merges history and fantasy.

*

The awesome co-hosts for the awesome co-hosts for the January 8 posting of the IWSG are T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, Renee Scattergood, and J.H. Moncrieff!

(You must agree these guys all have commitments too – but they volunteer. These are the best. Ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts too.)

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 to say.

Sparkle or Skaði

My mind is already churning around the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges. There are 3 options:

  1. Standalone Stories inspired by the individual themes. Six separate spontaneous seasonal stories.
  2. Sparkle Anwyl case. Six episodes of a new Snowdon Shadows case for my Welsh detective and her partner-lover, Kama. The threads for this are scribbles with substance.
  3. Skaði, Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. More Norse mythology with a twist – and a few more kennings. Not sure why Skaði is at a cafe with my favourite artist or his sunflowers.
Skadi by Michael Jorvik
Eve Myles as Sparkle Anwyl

I could try doing a poll but comments seem better – if I get any. Tell me what you would like to read, please.

#IWSG – Role-play Reverie

Why am I getting repetitive? Because it’s that time again.

Yes, that one.

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here and so am I, insecure, although a chunk less since I’ve finished another WIP draft for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

I finished the revision before Thanksgiving so had a few days grace. And time to worry about this post and my WEP-IWSG flash on the theme of Footprints. But for the latter, don’t expect another Sparkle tale as she’s off-duty after a tough month. Instead, I’m revisiting another character’s world.

More insecurity/stress inducing -great for the MS, not- is the editing.

I’m trying to get my head round modern grammar rules: en-dashes, em-dashes, ellipses, etcetera. Whatever I learnt at school in the last century seems wrong—or old-fashioned. Was that last em-dash correct? Just when my fuddled brain sees the light, I get hit for six. [In cricket terminology. In baseball lingo, a homerun?]

Do editors differ in terms of style? AP or Oxford? Brits or Yanks?

Plus, this post comes with a warning: I’ve still got old IWSG posts to visit from months back – buried in the daily avalanche of emails. A never-ending avalanche. So, expect a visit in 2020. You’re filed.

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question which will result in more fascinating posts elsewhere.

December 4 question – Let’s play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

My fingers fly furiously over my keyboard. Finished correcting my latest novel—Book 8 in the Snowdon Shadows series. Yet more challenging cases for DI Sparkle Anwyl. Yet more animating accolades for Roland Clarke. Grin inanely, autograph another book, drink another toast with my agent. Life is great and comfortable for me, my wife and our furry family. Exotic escapades entice. Relaxed, warmth spreads from my chest to my body—to everyone.

Screech of brain-brakes.

Book 1 isn’t even ready. Is it Book 1 or just backstory? My fingers and brain are cramped. Sparkle is only a DC—Detective Constable. The ending feels flat. No agent. No publisher.

The only MS is my chronic illness.

So, hold the Role-play Reverie.

I fear I’m writing to leave a legacy of words to a family who doesn’t care. Most of our money goes to them—not to even an editor who can tackle my mixed-up words/grammar. Why bother to write?

To sleep, perchance to dream.

Because I dream of someone having a use for my scribblings—once I’ve found the best way to end the current WIP.

Is publication ambitious or justified? Necessity or luxury? Reality or Role-play?

*

The awesome co-hosts for the December 4 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson!

(You must agree these guys all have commitments too—but they are the best. Ticker-tape applause for all of them—plus toasts too.)

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 to say. 

#IWSG – To Read or Not To Read

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I, insecure, although a chunk less as I scheme ahead to NaNoWriMo.

Last month, I was meant to be submitting my Pitch Wars 2019 submission. The required query letter, one-page synopsis, and the first chapter of my completed manuscript seemed achievable by the September 25th-27th deadline. But I was unsure if I had a “completed and polished full-length, fiction manuscript”. I decided it was incomplete and ‘dusted’ more than ‘polished’.

So, what started as an insecure month, evolved into a decisive plan to revise ‘Fevered Few’. The short stories at its heart are becoming episodes and memories driving the main story. And I’m working on a new way to open this renewed novel, now called ‘Fevered Fuel’ and slated for its rewrite as my 2019 NaNoWriMo project.

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question.

October 2 question – It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don’t enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Are any ideas new and original?

All writers borrow from others in some measure. Even Shakespeare borrowed – retold tales. Like others, he built on the past weavings of different storytellers – ancient Greek playwrights, medieval histories, and folklore. Can’t we do the same?

For me, reading is like settings and people – enjoyable fuel for the little grey cells.

All this feeds and inspires my writing about Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police/Heddlu Gogledd Cymru – and other scribblings and scratchings.

I’d like to believe Sparkle is unique, but I know she has loaned traits and actions from others. Perhaps, she will inspire someone herself.

*

The awesome co-hosts for the October 2 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

(I have to admit how much I admire these guys as I know they have commitments too – like Ronel’s recent release. Ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts too.)

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 to say.