#IWSG – Miracles

Apologies if this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post seems ‘off-theme’, but I will get to the point… eventually. First, I must unburden myself.

I was unaware of the fateful significance when I wrote the following words within my October WEP/IWSG Challenger post:

“How much longer have we? We’ve so much to share. Evading death takes a miracle.”

On Sunday October 23rd, I was rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pains, which had me screaming in agony. The emergency medics were unable to identify the problem beyond suspecting some sort of blockage, from their initial tests – and my constipation for five days.

A nasogastric tube was inserted through my nose, down through my throat, and into my stomach, to remove whatever might be obstructing my intestines.

More pain. More medication.

I was taken to a room on the medical/surgical floor, pending further tests and prior to any surgery. Overnight, gunk was sucked out via the NG tube, and the worst of the pain subsided. A CT scan revealed a section of my upper intestine twisted around itself, but at this stage my doctor (surgeon) and I felt cautious about operating given various factors, not least my age, existing medical conditions – MS and leukemia – and my minimal but positive progress since admission.

By Wednesday, I had finally shit and my abdominal pain was minimal. But worried about a possible surgery still being needed, I had asked my Hospice chaplain to visit. His visit was more a chance to discuss what I still had to finish, than confess to decades of sin.

Publishing at least one more book must be one task to complete.

His prayer encompassed both paths, Heaven and more Time. And hence the miracle unfolded.

A second CT scan showed the twisted gut had cleared. The doctor said my progress had made surgery less necessary, although why the gut had twisted remained unclear. If the blockage reoccurred, then he would have to operate. My choice therefore was to have investigative surgery that day or later, if the blockage returned.

My wife wanted me home, and I agreed.

So, after another night monitoring my recovery, I came home—

–to concentrate on the key tasks… my second chance.

To focus on family and writing… on leaving a loving legacy.

My Snowdonia police procedural will be finished, and my December WEP-IWSG Challenge, titled ‘Swords to Ploughshares’ is being outlined.

Anyway IWSG. Remember, the question is optional!

November 2 question – November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

2019 was my ninth year of doing NaNoWriMo, and my last… so far. My reasoning for stopping and a rundown of my attempts is in this December post: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/12/09/nano-notches/

In 2020, I sketched out an idea for ‘Lost Sheep’, a Snowdonia Shadows novella from a different POV – Sparkle’s maternal grandfather. The retired sheep farmer is a devout Presbyterian, who disapproves of her sexuality. However, I struggled to get beyond the opening scenes due to a mix of NaNoWriMo pressures and the first signs of writing debilitating health issues.

So, I’ve since stuck to the slow-plod writing.

However, I was tempted – for a few hours – to use November to work on ‘Freedom Flight’, the collation/collection of all my Ukraine stories. But that would have been the worst kind of cheating… the kind discussed in that 2019 post.

Strange though, I announced the IWSG Anthology Contest 2019 winners in the same post. And one was ‘Feathered Fire’, my short which began my Ukraine journey.

Slava Ukrayini

**
The awesome co-hosts for the November 2 posting of the IWSG are Diedre Knight,Douglas Thomas Greening,Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton!

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The Ongoing War in Ukraine

As I wrote the October Challenge post, Putin’s disastrous invasion escalated. So, I ended up writing more background information. So, this is Post II, in which I refer in places to the Challenge post:

https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-thriller/

Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive revealed likely war crimes from a torture incident to mass graves in a forest. Russian troops and separatist forces ran en masse, abandoning valuable equipment and supplies.

This was swiftly followed by Russia’s sham elections and illegal annexation of four regions of Eastern Ukraine.

Echoes of Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland before WWII.

Internationally, almost everyone condemned the annexations, especially given the evidence of coercion by Russian forces, and the ludicrously inflated results. And Ukraine already controlled a percentage of the regions, then liberated more of the occupied territory after the pronouncement.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/10/1129492

As his invasion failed, Putin announced partial mobilization which resulted in thousands of eligible Russians fleeing the country. Meanwhile, those conscripted seemed poorly equipped, barely trained, and sometimes dispatched overhastily to the front-line. There, hundreds are surrendering, rather than fight.

Putin and some in his clique have threatened the use of nuclear weapons. For now, the West has promised a punishing conventional response.

When someone, probably Ukraine, bombed the strategic Kerch Bridge linking Russia to Crimea, annexed illegally in 2014, Putin’s birthday was ruined, and he ‘lost his rag’.

The bloody reprisals were as expected from Putin’s newly appointed commander for the retreating invasion, SERGEI SUROVIKIN. Raining missiles down on Ukraine’s civilians is a typical war crime ordered by General Armageddon – hence that playground attack.

Amidst the ongoing brutality, this had to be my closing scene of my October Challenge post.

Putin was hoping he could frighten Ukrainian civilians into capitulation. But they are more determined to prevail, as the British were during the Blitz in WWII. The bombing of German cities had a similar reverse effect.

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/11/opinions/ukraine-russia-war-playground-parenting-children-stefanova

Looking ahead, my flash for December flash is provisionally titled ‘Swords into Ploughshares’ as that is where my green conscience needs to go.

War fever has engulfed so many of us. Yet, when even Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, is a Green and strong supporter of Ukraine, I feel my response is somewhat vindicated. But there must be a humanitarian solution, not one that strengthens the military-industrial complex I so vehemently opposed when active in green politics.

I must end with this video of Ukrainian women soldiers singing the protest song Bella Ciao in Ukrainian.

This is the flower of the partisan,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao

this is the flower of the partisan

who died for freedom

Slava Ukrayini

#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Thriller

As the war in Ukraine continues, so must my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian aviatrix cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

This October Challenge presented another interesting writing prompt in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. The war continues to throw up horrific images, but the extraordinary Kharkiv Counter-offensive seemed to be more encouraging.

However, I had sown a spectral seed in the last scene of the August Challenge, with aviatrix Ksenia Zelenko frightened for her brother in a Russian prison.

So, I wrote the Ksenia story as the main arc, and tried to fit in two additional events in real life, which felt significant.

But there was too much ongoing destruction and too much escalation that I had to discard one of those real-life incidents – the discovery of a Russian torture building – and so many more tragic events. This seems to be one of those tough choices writing historical fiction entails, especially in historical flash.

Instead, I pruned enough words to add a closing scene echoing ‘Thriller’ and reality.

I am aware how this war has distracted many of us from other pressing crises like climate change. And there are other humanitarian emergencies, so I’m impressed when the Ukrainians are trying to help others in say African countries. And don’t forget their concern, a few months back, for getting their grain out to those starving abroad.

Although most don’t see this terrible war ending soon, I am outlining an upbeat positive piece for the December Challenge. However, I am prepared to keep writing into 2023, even if the pieces don’t fit with Challenge prompts and I must post ‘independently’.

That depends on my health and the overdue revision of Sparkle Anwyl novel ‘Fevered Fuse’. I’d be remiss if I abandoned my Snowdon Shadows mysteries.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

As people have asked where to find all my Ukraine stories, I’ve started creating ‘Freedom Flight’, which will be a collation/collection of them all.

Chapter/Part 1 will be ‘Feathered Fire’, my historical fantasy which at present is only available in the IWSG Anthology ‘Voyagers: The Third Ghost’.

However, there may be complications using a published piece. Will it be difficult getting permission?

Part II will be all my Challenge pieces on the current conflict in Ukraine, however that may resolve.   

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

Blurb: In Ukraine, Night Witches gamble their lives against Fate.

Part 4

Winged Death

2022

Ukraine

Tuesday, August 30th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast.

Ksenia leant closer to her brother Kyrylo as darkness shrouded them.

“How much longer have we? We’ve so much to share. Evading death takes a miracle.”

“No time to talk about the Azovstal steel mill. Nor enough faith for your miracle. Soon I must go. Tell me about the counter-offensive, please.”

Did he know? Why? Had he chosen to die again?

No. Never let him leave. Sibling persuasion.

“Our squadron received official approval as an active unit… for this offensive. We have fifteen pilots now, all-women. Plus—”

“—six more NATO compatible jets.”

He knows everything. Of course.

“Yes. The Swedes sent more Gripens. With our new command-and-control systems and surface-to-air defenses, we can field an integrated air and missile defense force—”

“—all-women like the original Night Witches, but deadlier. But I must go home now.”

“Not yet, Kyrylo. We need each other. Stay, please.”

“We will be together soon – forever.” His figure wavered in the moonlight.

“How?”

“Sacrifice. Please. Grandma calls.”

Then, he vanished – joining their ancestors.

A harbinger of fate? Whose?

Thursday, September 8th

Cold Lake, Canada (21.00) and Kanatovo, Ukraine (Friday, 06.00)

Leonid Sokol had been in shock since hearing the news at 11.30. Reaching his wife Kalyna in Ukraine had proved disturbing as front-line information was shrouded in secrecy. Rumors of high casualties made him fear the worst as time passed with no contact.

How dangerous were the current air operations? Were the Witches being used for night missions? What was the cost in lives?

The sound of her voice was relief, but tears flowed as he said, “Queen Elizabeth died today… we knew it would happen. We’ll mourn her.”

“We heard when Zelenskiy extended sincere condolences on behalf of the Ukrainian people. What did our prime minister, Justin Trudeau say? He’s known her personally much of his life.”

“He called the Queen ‘a constant presence in our lives’ and said his compatriots would always ‘remember and cherish Her Majesty’s wisdom, compassion, and warmth’—”

“Agreed. A life of dedication well lived. Time now to end the horrors here. Make all this carnage meaningful.”

“I fear what’s ahead. More than weapons are needed.”

Sunday, September 11th – Eastern Ukraine

The twelve Night Witches went silent as their three majors entered the briefing room, along with the commander of their ground units.

Vasy uncovered a map showing Russian positions east of Kharkiv. “Again, we’re tasked with a front-line night mission clearing enemy command & control targets. First, we must clear obstacles facing tomorrow’s thunder run. The lighter faster vehicles our brigades are using will bypass strong units. So, our second selection of targets are those.’

Ksenia continued the briefing assigning targets to the various wings.

“My wing will clear out this detachment of tanks. Remember everyone, we don’t have air supremacy in this sector.”

**

Explosions lit the night as the other wings found their targets. But Russian defenses were now alert and their rockets were incoming.

Ksenia’s Gold Wing had yet to attack their target, although their drone operator had locked in the co-ordinates.

As Ksenia and her wing-sister Lieutenant Ganna Kohut flew a protective pattern above, Lieutenants Anzhela Havrylyuk and Mariyka Shevchuk closed, launching multiple AGM-88 missiles.

Several explosions were confirmed as hits by her instruments. Ground defences tried to bring down the attackers as they climbed out of range.

Before Ksenia and Ganna could attack, four Russian Sukhoi Su-30s flew towards them.

“Don’t engage. Evade. Jink home.”

As the enemy launched heat seeking missiles, Gold Wing all fired off flares and chaff. Then began a combination of tight maneuvers, knowing missiles couldn’t maneuver as nimbly as their jets. And their Gripens’ electronic counter measures sent strong electronic signals, jamming radars.

More projectiles closed from below as the wing turned and barrel rolled in different directions.

Unable to track the jets anymore, most missiles flew past, losing their locks.

But the Russian Su-30s kept following, despite the danger of Ukrainian anti-aircraft defences nearby.

Russian Su-30

Ksenia prayed at least one enemy would be downed.

But they too were dodging attacks, and the Russians seemed intent on one target now – Anzhela.

Ksenia had to protect her friend. She turned towards the pursuers and when in range opened fire with her Gripen’s Mauser BK-27 cannon. Then rolled away, diving groundward.

All four Russians followed, firing missiles and cannon.

Despite the darkness, she flew as close to the treetops as possible, and under every powerline she remembered.

Approaching Kharkiv, she climbed, hoping her pursuers would flee from Ukraine’s air umbrella.

Hopefully her sisters had followed orders and returned to base.  But two jets remained on her radar – one a Su-30.

Higher she climbed, twisting to lose her pursuer, who before running, launched a final missile.

It exploded by Ksenia’s wingtip.

Blood blurred her vision as her Gripen spun down.

She had to eject.

No. Her plane would hit the city.

Fight to regain control.

Another explosion – the Russian.

Steer to open spaces.

A field of harvested wheat. Food saved.

Too much blood.

“I’m dying. Kyrylo was right. Together forever.”

**

Thursday, September 15th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast

Anzhela planted the sunflower seedling on Ksenia’s grave. “She saved my life. Why?”

Her partner Larisa and their son hugged her. “For freedom.”

“You avenged her,” said Vasy. “By shooting down that Su-30… not over the city. You saved lives.”

The surviving squadron personnel bowed their heads, then added seedlings to the other graves of their fallen friends.

“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”

Above the spirits of all departed Night Witches keened, yearning for a peaceful resolution.

**

Monday, October 10th – Kyiv, Ukraine

The Russian S-300 missile dropped with precise intent toward its military target – Ukrainian children in a playground.

Putin’s genocide mushroomed as deadly explosives fell, and blood was spilt all over Ukraine.

More innocent corpses. Bodies pulled from devastated buildings.

A special military operation with a spiraling cost in lives.

1,000 Words: FCA

KYIV, UKRAINE – OCTOBER 10: A view of the scene after several explosions rocked the Shevchenkivskyi district of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv on October 10, 2022. Vitali Klitschko said that multiple explosions were heard in the center of Kyiv today morning. There is no further detail on the incident yet. (Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Although that’s my October Challenge piece, I have more on the War in Ukraine. So. I’m splitting this post in two. For more on the War, including a link or two and a video, plus plans for the December Challenge, and two female Ukrainian soldiers, watch out for Post II in a minute or two… or go here: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/the-ongoing-war-in-ukraine/

Slava Ukrayini

#IWSG – Sick Joke

I’m struggling to write this monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post as my bed-ridden position is getting beyond a sick joke.

Single key tapping is hard amidst intermittent pain… and morphine doesn’t aid concentration.

The book still depends on my desktop appearing… and an upturn in my health.

I have sketched out my October WEP-IWSG Challenge – Thriller theme – but there are massive holes.

Anyway IWSG. Remember, the question is optional!

September 7 question – What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

I’ve tackled/attempted quite a few genres and judging by a few failures…

Well, my written humour doesn’t stand up… to anything. Flat jokes are not red herrings. I laugh at comedy, whether Monty Python or Robin Williams or Terry Pratchett, but I never slap a key in jest.

Do I need to spell it out?

C-O-M-E-D-Y

H-U-M-O-U-R


The awesome co-hosts for the September 7 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

TALE TELLING #IWSG

Time for the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post and an update on my situation.

My health issues are no better, perhaps worse in that I’m struggling to stay comfortable in my powered wheelchair… no longer relaxed enough to sleep without spasms. And I can’t sit at my desk long enough to get much writing done.

However, a new wheelchair is in transit from Malaysia, which will support me far better, allow me to be upright and work at a standing desk, and to lie flat, all while strapped in safely.

Life is also becoming more chaotic and stressful as we are down-sizing in a planned move to a busy trailer park… sadly, not the dream rural retreat. Frustratingly, the new trailer has yet to arrive, but we’ve sold our house. Completion on July 1st, so time is getting tight.

Although the June IWSG post looks feasible, July’s might be scrubbed.

But I should manage to do the June WEP/IWSG Challenge.

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/p/challenges-2022.html

That should be the next episode of my Ukrainian saga, a follow-up to Rainbow Firebreak.

So again, I won’t be telling the Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh ‘ffarwel’.

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

As the question is optional, I’m tempted to answer… albeit briefly.


May 4 question – It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was 
the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …”

(A Tale of Two Cities, Para.1, Line, 1)

Best of times: when I retired as a journalist and was able to concentrate on my fiction writing, having Spiral of Hooves published, and producing a ‘legacy’ of new draft novels, short stories, and flash pieces. The era of wisdom, belief, Light, and hope…although, there were low points like poor reviews and sales.

Worst of times: as my health deteriorates and my productivity declines, but not my thoughts and ideas. The spiral into foolishness – false dreams; incredulity – empty promises; Darkness, and despair… but there’s Light as in comments from followers, and listening to good audio books.

The awesome co-hosts for the May 4 posting of the IWSG are Kim Elliott, Melissa Maygrove, Chemist Ken, Lee Lowery, and Nancy Gideon!

I must be repetitive and ask you to agree these guys are the best. Why not? Well, they are – especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available.

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something.

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

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

Afraid of What? Not #IWSG?

I’m afraid. Afraid of what?

Afraid of the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post?

Afraid of worsening health issues? Afraid of what that means?

As I write the fifth draft on April 5th, I’m afraid of what my blood test for CLL (leukemia) on April 13th shows.

Am I afraid it’s worse?

Afraid of being more of a burden? Afraid my wife is suffering as well?

Afraid of being moved to a nursing home? Afraid of the alternative in a crowded trailer park?

Afraid of losing my dog? Afraid she’s not qualified to be a companion dog?

Afraid of the suffering as I live?

Afraid of death?

Maybe this recent post from Writers Helping Writers is a comfort… or a red herring:

Afraid of a legacy lost?

Afraid of minimal writing? Afraid of failing the April WEP/IWSG Challenge?

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/p/challenges-2022.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Hard_Rain%27s_a-Gonna_Fall

Afraid for Ukraine? Yes, and I feel unable to help… beyond donating to…

Medecins Sans Frontieres: https://www.msf.org/

 Burned buildings marked with bullets holes and shrapnel fragments show the evidence of a brutal battle that occurred in Borodyanka. Photograph: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

What would my fictional Ukrainians do – Kalyna  and Vasy Chayka, the heroines of Feathered Fire?

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/p/voyagers-author-page.html

They fought the Nazis and fled from Stalin’s persecution.

So, their Canadian-Ukrainian granddaughters will fight Putin’s terror.

Rainbow Firebreak is in the pipeline.

I was afraid to tell the Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh ‘ffarwel’. But not yet.

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

As the question is optional, I’m not tempted to answer… beyond saying, “none so I listen to others”.


April 6 question – Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

The awesome co-hosts for the April 6 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise – Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi!

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Well, they are – especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available.

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something.

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

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