#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Grave Mistake

Crime never sleeps.

Fall fills the air here in Idaho, and Halloween creeps closer. I’m dreaming of autumn leaves back in the UK – well, Wales.

That should mean more Sparkle Anwyl mind games and the next chapter in the six-part story called Custody Chain’. Yes, that is below but a few confessions:

  1. My mind is not yet working at full deviousness. Well, I’ve been distracted by time-wasting games. Not health issues this time.
  2. I wrote this chapter soon after the last one appeared, and the comments inspired me to work on the story. I have edited it in the last day or so, but the changes were minor.
  3. However, Snowdon Shadows have not been absent from my thoughts as I’m devising a novella for NaNoWriMo 2020. The entry called ‘Lost Sheep’ has a premise linked to Sparkle: A retired Welsh farmer faces challenges to his faith when his legacy is threatened. [Clue: Grandfather.]
  4. Unfortunately, the revision of my first Sparkle Anwyl novel, ‘Fevered Fuse’  is more like an ongoing stoppage. Perhaps working on related tales might rekindle the fire – or sparkle in the gloom.
Graphics by Jonathan Temples – 
http://jonathantemples.co.uk/

Without further excuses, let’s move on.

If you missed the first four parts of the story, or would like to refresh your memory, here are the links:

Chapter One – Café Terrace:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/02/19/wep-iwsg-february-challenge-cafe-terrace/

Chapter Two – Masterpiece:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/15/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-antique-vase/

Chapter Three – Cryptograph:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/06/17/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-urban-nightmare/

Chapter Four – Umbrage:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/08/22/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-long-shadow/

Please note there may be minor oversights/errors/omissions which editing of the final story into a novella will address. Writing new chapters throws up new clues to fathom.

Anyway, enjoy this new chapter, and if you wish, please comment, or suggest what happens next. Many thanks for reading.

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

CHAPTER FIVE – CYPRESSES

2014

Thursday, March 20th

Dappled sunlight plays among the trees as we return to the barn in Llanystumdwy. The tranquillity deceives and suggests Tesni and Urien’s haven is safe.

But it won’t be until the threat of Barangó Fekete is removed.

Urien had admitted that the extortionate debt arose as the gang leader had secured the papers for Csilla to leave Hungary – at a price.

The price is now Tesni’s artistic talent.

“Will Fekete use his contacts to kidnap Urien’s daughter?” I have my evolving idea but trust Kama’s opinion – always.

“Unlikely. He’ll know the barn is under police protection. And with his sister Tűzvirág in custody here – until his lawyers get her extradited back to Hungary – he’ll find another way.”

“Like threatening someone else Urien cares about. Aranka – Csilla’s sister – even if he’s married to her.”

“His record from Interpol shows his methods are ruthless, and Urien described the marriage as violent – Aranka being the victim. At least, he appears to care for their children.”

We approach the barn as PCSO Lleilu Dace opens the door.

“Mr Cadwallader is anxious about his daughter, as am I. She’s become obsessed with drawing the same images repeatedly. It’s been hard to persuade her to eat or sleep since you left on Tuesday with the suspect.”

My tattoos tingle and I tap out the first letter of a mnemonic. C for Compulsion.

“There must be a reason. Art is her life. Kama and I will see if we can help.”

Tesni is in the studio section of her open-plan home. Light from the picture windows floods the area, flickering across numerous sketches in charcoal and paint.  From sepia shades to vibrant colours, the swirling strokes are distinctively Vincent Van Gogh – and his wonderful cypress trees.

“Some of these I recognise,” says Kama, “but why those trees?”

I shudder. “Across much of Southern Europe, cypresses are most often associated with churches and graveyards.”

Tesni watches my lips, then nods and signs. “Vincent – final creations in Provence feature cypresses.”

Urien steps into the sunlight and gestures to an evolving painting. “Those swirls are rising to form halos around the crescent moon and solitary star. That has to be Road with Cypress and Star – painted just two months before Van Gogh’s death.” He grabs his daughter’s hands. “What does this mean? A final painting?”

“No. To save Aunt Aranka.”

My tattoos sting and I wince. But I tap out letter clues on my bracer. C for Cypress and Compulsion. A for Aranka and Artist. G for Grave and Grief – but also Gift and Grifter. A mnemonic forms: CAGE – E for Entrapment. 

“This buys her freedom? Or Barangó wants more.”

“He thinks that. But this is trap. We set together.”

I stare at the emerging painting and search for clues. No crow sigil in the corner? But as a forgery worth millions, it would be traceable with one.

Urien grins and embraces his daughter. “Clever and subtle. Hidden provenance.” He gestures at the cottage emerging on the upper right. A distant crow hovers between two cypresses. “Only an expert in bespoke forgeries would spot that.”

“Like Desmond Deckard.” Kama turns to me. “Do we trust him to negotiate the deal? Or would that be a grave error?”

Monday, March 24th

The owners of Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno gaze at the painting in disbelief. Only screeching seagulls and early tourist traffic on the seafront break the silence.

Desmond and Carys Deckard glance at each other, nodding. The sister speaks first.

“If we didn’t know the original of Road with Cypress and Star was safe in the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands, we’d say this was genuine—”

“Instead of another exquisite Van Gogh replica by Turbulent Sky. Except—” Desmond peers more closely in the lower corners of the oil painting. “Her sigil is missing. Why?”

“So it can be sold as genuine – to the right collector.” I wink at Kama. “We even have a desperate buyer – in Hungary.”

“Or rather a dealer who doesn’t have your scruples or morals. Can we trust you to make the exchange – knowing what we’ve told you?”

The siblings smile. “We have terms.”

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Road with Cypress and Star (1890), oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. WikiArt.

Sunday, March 30th

Grave Mistakes as Priceless Van Gogh “Road with Cypress and Star” Painting Stolen

The Associated Press reported Friday that a priceless Van Gogh painting was stolen from a museum in the Netherlands, the home country of the post-impressionist painter, one of the most important figures in western art. Van Gogh died in 1890, when he was in his late 30s, committing suicide after a life of poverty, marred by mental illness and substance abuse.

The artwork – “Road with Cypress and Star” – was taken in a raid in the early hours of the morning. Dutch police have unmasked the culprits, according to AP.

Ironically, March 30 is Van Gogh’s birthday…he would have been 161 today.

**

Word Count 999: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

While exploring rabbit holes for this chapter, I found several fascinating and invaluable articles. When reality and fiction meet, sparks ignite the little grey cells.

https://safehaven.com/news/Breaking-News/Priceless-Van-Gogh-Spring-Garden-Painting-Stolen.html

#IWSG – Distracted Writer?

September has been another of those catch-up month – sporadic fail – after I was ill in August. In short, backlog has multiplied.

Therefore, this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post crept up before I’d found the time/energy/motivation/space/whatever to visit last month’s visitors. Apologies to you all – or is that excuse getting stale?

Anyway, I can’t disappoint the Ninja Captain himself by missing a month – especially as he’s such a stalwart follower. Thanks Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where you can find better answers to this month’s challenging question.

October 7 question – When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

My image of a successful working writer is possibly Ernest Hemingway, at the end of his life an Idaho resident – like me, but I avoid the drink and guns, or the suicide ending.

7th October 1939: American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) works at his typewriter while sitting outdoors, Idaho.
(Photo by Lloyd Arnold/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

When I started down my writing path, I took the journalist calling – like Hemingway sin estimulantes. In fact, I was interested in warcos, such as Hemingway’s 3rd wife Martha Gellhorn. But I wandered along sylvan paths following country pursuits, and my image of a writer scribbling in notepads evolved into a writer at a typewriter with a wastebin of discarded pages.

Even now I have the image of a serious working writer in their dedicated space transforming the notepad scribbles into a manuscript – albeit on a laptop. Whatever the means, that still means dedicated time -a space of regular time set aside each day to go to that space and work. Yet, J K Rowling was forced to use coffee shops and why do I see Mary Wesley writing in her garden?

There’s as many different types of writers as genre variations multiplied by sheets in a ream.

Time to answer the hardest question: what sort of writer am I?

First, a retired equestrian journalist with a notepad/recorder and a desktop PC.

Second, a writer who aspires to release another book into the world, probably set in Snowdonia.

Third, a distracted writer who too easily finds other things to do whether that’s wading through and deleting endless emails, sleeping, or attempting to beat a game.

Are role-playing games my version of Hemingway’s addictions?

Or fourth, at this time of year, I transform into a NaNoWriMo writer. Come November and I usually manage 50,000 words plus in the month. Most of my draft novels were written or revised in November – although one was written at the same breakneck speed one April.

Does that make me a hobbyist? Or a spasmodic writer? That fits the spasms in my limbs/nerves as well as the tingling tattoos of my MC, Sparkle Anwyl.

For the record, I’m prepping my 2020 NaNoWriMo entry called ‘Lost Sheep’ with a premise linked to Sparkle:

A retired Welsh farmer faces challenges to his faith when his legacy is threatened.

Clue: Grandfather.

My thanks to Debs Carey for triggering my NaNo brain with this insightful post:

https://fictioncanbefun.wordpress.com/2020/09/27/secondthoughts-older-people-in-books/

 Also thanks to Fundy Blue who encouraged me to contribute a post the IWSG Anthologies blog today:

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/

And a footnote: Hemingway disapproved of the 1939 Idaho photograph, saying, “I don’t work like this.”

Hemingway on Writing

*

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp,Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner! 

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. They are truly the best.

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 someth

Featuring ‘Voyagers: The Third Ghost’ and so much more

The IWSG on Instagram 
                         Background Photo by Louise MacBeath Barbour

This week on the IWSG Anthology blog, fellow author and blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour continues to share from her teacher perspective. She has recapped each of our stories, focusing on the historical aspect in every tale. Read more and get inspired here:

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/08/voyagers-third-ghost-great-book-for.html

Apologies, but I also failed to share the link to last week’s post on the Anthology blog – a timely book launched by author acquaintance and IWSG Bookclub organiser, Chrys Fey.

So, here that post is as well:

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/08/catch-some-writers-sparks-and-fuel-your_5.html

#IWSG – Planned or random?

I have to confess to not being on the write page for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. OK, I’m still willing to ask where would I be without the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh who created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group?

But I must admit to pulling out of the race to create an entry for the annual Anthology Competition. Many thanks, Captain Alex, but not this time.

However, before I forget, here are the details if you want to enter the 2020 IWSG Anthology Contest. It’s a challenging theme again – Dark Matter –but I’m sure you’ll be inspired. For the contest visit:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/the-2019-annual-iwsg-anthology-contest.html

My mind is insecure and struggling enough with my Sparkle Anwyl cases. Plus, I’m totally snowed under with the mounting emails and outstanding blog posts to read. So, apologies and more apologies to all that may concern.

Anyway, on to the monthly question which is another challenge – and possibly a chance to digress.

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mould into the shapes they need to be.” 
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

I rarely stray from my chosen genre, although I moved from fantasy and SF shorts as a teenager to crime/mystery novels as a retiree. With a few exceptions, although Crime has merged with my Speculative and Alternative History diversions.

The main exception was my MG short ‘Feathered Fire’ for the Voyagers: The Third Ghostanthology. That was my only attempt at writing Middle Grade or historical – although, not fantasy.

However, my intention is to remain in my current genre – Crime – even if the form fluctuates between novel and shorts/flash.

But for NaNoWriMo this November, I may consider writing a longer piece with my characters from ‘Feathered Fire’.

Unless Crime never sleeps.

*

The awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey! 

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 to say.

Writing craft books ~ Part 2

On the IWSG Anthology blog this week we have more great writing craft books to recommend, with more Voyagers:  The Third Ghostwriters and IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh sharing favourite references of theirs. 

Check them out ~ perhaps you will find a new favourite to inspire your writing – and as blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour says, she’ll “have to expand my writing references shelves in my study bookcase.  That’s a great problem to have ~ LOL.  Enjoy!”

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/07/favorite-writing-craft-books-part-2.html

The Occupation Thesaurus – a review

I was privileged and excited to read an ARC of The Occupation Thesaurus. This is my rambling review and I’ll start with the crucial and deserved rating:

5 stars *****

The core of this non-fiction reference book is – as the title suggests – an extensive selection of Occupations with details on them all. I should mention the US emphasis, although the authors clearly state aspects like training/requirements for a job might vary between states and countries. As an ex-pat Brit, I was aware of this but never felt that aspect distracted from the immense value of the information.

The excellent opening sections on numerous aspects of job selection, motivation, and their value to writers, are essential reading. They are jammed full of ideas, observations, and suggestions on how to apply Occupations in your writing.

They triggered some interesting thoughts for me. Topics covered are: It’s All in the Details; The Motivations behind Career Choice; Careers that Characterize; Jobs as Sources of Tension and Conflict; Jobs Can Support Story Structure and Character Arc; Vocations as Thematic Devices; Choosing a Career for Your Character; Additional Tips for Writing about Occupations.

These sections alone make this book invaluable. Many of the comments felt topical in the light of the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, society, and job issues. The authors reference how the trickle-down effect from such a crisis causes a wider economic crisis across multiple industries.

From the opening sections onwards, it’s “a matter of figuring out which ones [Occupations] will work for your characters…” Over 125 jobs are covered from Actor to Yoga Instructor with sections for each job on: Overview; Necessary Training; Useful skills, talents, and abilities; Helpful character traits; Sources of Friction; People they might interact with; How this occupation might impact the character’s needs; Twisting the fictional stereotype; Characters might choose this profession because they…

Plenty to set the grey cells sparking.

I could relate to so much in the light of my own characters’ occupations and my own diverse careers. Some occupations seemed absent at first – until I applied some lateral thinking. For instance, the female protagonist of my debut novel was a horse rider – not included. But as a Professional Athlete her traits were represented. There is enough variety in the detailed Occupations in other related fields presented. Plus, the Animal Trainer applies to horses – and other creatures including marine.

Just think sideways. I have a secondary character who is the PA to a Fashion Designer. No PA, but the Personal Assistant to a Celebrity has relevant elements.

Or to quote the authors, “explore ones with similar responsibilities, risk, or theme to get you started,” using the appendices especially.

Warning – with a wink – rabbit-holes galore abound here. Or triggers for lateral plotting.

For instance, “…even an innocent nosebleed that turns the entryway into a murder scene can create imaginative and embarrassing complications…” That snippet is now my favourite image – and idea rabbit-hole. Don’t ask what Occupation that came from. Real Estate Agent?

Anyway, I didn’t read every Occupation entry in detail, but I ensured I read ones familiar to me – e.g. Actor, Farmer, Police Officer, Reporter – my own profession – and Talent Agent. These all were accurate with aspects I would have forgotten but agree with.

Plus, I read ones I was intrigued by – e.g. Astronaut, Funeral director, Palaeontologist, Robotics Engineer, and Treasure Hunter.

I was tempted to read every entry. My secondary characters have jobs and so should yours. This book will always prove useful – and I’ve found more material for ongoing characters – like that Fashion Designer. And there are enough unusual professions like Dream Interpreter, Glassblower, Podcaster, Reiki Master, and Tattoo Artists, to set your ideas flowing.   

Even the familiar – or not – Novelists, ??!!***

My approach might skim the surface, but this is the way most will use this invaluable resource. Dipping in-&-out, researching for specific Occupations, marker on that key profession, these are some of the ways I use the other thesauri in the indispensable series.

There are also inspirational appendices to spark more thoughts and plotlines.

Appendix A: Occupation Speed Dating: Where you start by identifying a standout trait for your character, then using some graphics find an occupation match.

And Appendix B contains a Career Assessment that can help you put all the pieces together.

In addition, this is not a static reference tool. The list will be updated since “the Occupation Thesaurus at One Stop for Writers isn’t limited by page count, so you will find more of our entries there…”

Navigation in this thesaurus and others in the series is simple, with a clear table of contents including links to external resources. To quote a recent reply I made about the authors’ Emotion Thesaurus, “…I have a Kindle for PC version of ET, The Rural Setting T., and The Urban Setting T., as well – and all three are easy to use. In fact, the Kindle Index facility helps. I’m reading an ARC of the new Occupation Thesaurus as a PDF – also extremely useable.”

This addition to the stable is already proving another winner and an essential in this writer’s library. And as one friend suggested, it could help anyone struggling to figure out what kind of job they want in real life.

Or as another writer friend wrote, “What a totally brilliant idea and resource.”

What better why to improve existing characters or even spark story ideas.

Now to weave in “a part-time pastor or priest doing ethical hacking as a way to supplement his income” as Angela and Becca suggested. Or was it a Ghost doing my writing?