#IWSG – C is also for Confused

C is for Challenge but also for Creator and Captain. As in…

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. Albeit briefly this month.

Anyway, on to this month’s question.

April 3 question: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)

The opening where readers first encounter Sparkle Anwyl – and so does she as she’s lost her memory. I’ll leave you as C for Confused as us.

The awesome co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the IWSG are

J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken! 

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 – Hero or Villain POV?


Created and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

It’s been another bad month and my plans to develop and focus on Fevered Few, my NaNoWriMo novel were derailed so I am no longer sure about the track to publication. I am wondering if attempting to find a publisher for my second novel is realistic or whether I would be better to merely blog my scenes over an indefinite period.

 I will be posting the opening to another Sparkle Anwyl mystery for the WEP/IWSG Challenge next month as well as a separate Sparkle Anwyl case during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April. Perhaps that is the way forward for my fiction writing rather than attempting to edit a novel – like Fevered Few – for submission to a small press.

What would you suggest that I do? Blog posts or publication?

Much of my writing problems are due to my health. During the last few weeks, it has become harder to type as my left hand is cramping up – like forming a claw. One of my solutions is training a dragon – Dragon Naturally Speaking. This post is my first using the dictation software. Apologies therefore for any errors in this trial run which the dogs are constantly interrupting.

Bark-bark. Woof-woof.

Anyway, on to this month’s question.

March 6 question – Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

Most of my writing is from the hero’s point of view but I have written from the villain’s perspective a few times.

My current WIP is from the POV of Sparkle Anwyl, my Welsh detective protagonist. However, some of the chapters within other draft novels have been written either from the villain’s perspective or from the POV of a shadowy and unclear character. I haven’t yet had to get inside the mind of a darker antagonist as these characters have been more misguided or conned by their own self-belief.

What about your favourite perspective? Hero or villain?


The Welsh Dragon, Mametz Wood Memorial

**

The awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

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. 

Remember, the question is optional! 

The Emotion Thesaurus (Second Edition) book launch

As writers, we all have our favorite writing methods.  For instance, some swear by Scrivener, while others write in Word or Google docs. Some prefer to draft longhand, using colorful gel pens and notebooks.

Most of us have a favorite writing book (or ten), too. These books have helped us understand storytelling better, demystifying certain aspects of writing. Well, today I’m taking part in welcoming a new writing guide into the world: The Emotion Thesaurus (Second Edition).

You may have heard of The Emotion Thesaurus before, or even have a copy as I do – a well thumbed copy. The original’s lists of body language, thoughts, and visceral sensations for 75 unique emotions made brainstorming character expressions and reactions so much easier. It quickly became a bestseller.

Now, there’s a bigger, better second edition. Angela and Becca have added 55 NEW emotions such as Euphoria, Vindicated, and Schadenfreude. (And that’s not all that’s new, either…the book is almost twice the size as the original.)

Anyway, if you’re interested in checking it out, you can read some of the reviews on Goodreads or find information here.

One more thing to tell you about…are you ready for this? 

GIVEAWAY ALERT!

Wish you could attend a free writing retreat, go to a conference, snag a seat at a workshop, or have your professional membership to a writing organization paid for? Of course you do! 

Well, at Writers Helping Writers, one lucky winner will get one of the above, up to a $500 US value.

This is the giveaway of a lifetime, so hurry over to enter!

#WEP/IWSG February 2019 challenge – 28 Days

My #WEP/IWSG post for February is part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG Challenge and the conclusion of the incident from my Halloween/Deja Vu or Voodoo postWhite Lady. and my December Ribbons and Candles post, Rushlight Wreathes.

However, this is not the only incident in the career of Sparkle Anwyl that unfolds in Fevered Few, Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows police procedural series. I m.ay return to Wales for future WEP/IWSG entries but I need o avoid spoilers – at least in relation to the main plot 

Pongal Blood

Dark brown splatters.

Shivers tease me. Blood can signify crime, accident or nature.

The spots on the kitchen counter would have been suspect at a crime scene. A reason for luminol spray and light. But no weapon. Not even a knife. A wooden love spoon bears witness on the wall.

It wasn’t me – even in our bathroom where Kama has heightened my sense of cleanliness.

My time of the month was as cyclical as the moon, but work stress has played games with it. Kama is more constant. Does meditation help her? Is that why she is now in our garden staring at the sun?

Clues are on the counter.

By her head movement, Kama hears me open the garden door onto the small paved area where she has traced the auspicious kolam design in white lime powder in the early morning after bathing.

She continues her ceremony, raising her face to the sun, then bending to our makeshift firepit.

The fragrance of rice and milk wraps around me. Chakkara pongal preparation. The golden jaggery stains were the main clue – and the empty package from India.

I squat beside her. She is dressed in a simple saree and blouse with face and arm markings – more traditional than my black trouser suit kameez.

The earthenware pot of milk has boiled and overflowed, so Kama has added the rice, even if the harvest that the sun made possible is the one back in the Southern Hemisphere, in Tamil Nadu.

#

“Our colleagues at CID may not recognise Pongal,” says Kama zipping up her leathers, “But they respect our days-off.”

“Until some serious crime intervenes. Let’s escape while we can.”

A fifteen-minute ride out beyond Prenteg, takes us to a well-maintained farm track off the B4410 leading to some modernised farm buildings with a restored farmhouse.

We park the Ducati and Ninja beside a spotless 4×4 Mitsubishi Shogun.

Raimund Virtanen is working on a chassis with an arc-welder but hears us approaching as if he has super-hearing. Weird for a coachbuilder.

He removes the helmet revealing blond hair and blue eyes. Six foot three inches and strongly built. I estimate mid-forties.

“You are the two Heddlu with a carriage mystery – intriguing-like. Come inside and we’ll talk.”

The farmhouse kitchen is a modern and expensive take on a traditional Welsh one. It reminds me of my grandparents’ home except this one looks as spotless as the Shogun. Does this man eat or drive? Our roads aren’t dirt-free, and the salt-laden air can coat things.

“How do you partake of your tea or coffee, ladies?”

“Two black coffees, please.”

I can’t place his accent. Not one that tallies with those foreign visitors I’ve met on the streets of Porthmadog.

“We were wondering if you can identify a vehicle from a local painting – puzzling as it’s the reflection in a mirror.”

He takes the printout and studies it under a magnifying glass for a few minutes.

“This is a phaeton, I’m sure. Drawn by one or two horses, a phaeton features a lightly sprung body atop four extravagantly large wheels. With open seating, it is fast and dangerous, so its name, drawn from the mythical Phaëton, son of Helios, who nearly set the earth on fire while attempting to drive the chariot of the sun.”

“A common carriage?”

“Not around here. There weren’t many made locally. Ten at most – more like half that.”

“Do you know who owned them?” Kama clutches the group painting but holds it back. “Locally, for instance?”

Virtanen goes to a filing cabinet and removes a folder. “This is a list that I compile of vehicles that I trace – not many but a few notable ones like Captain William Yong. He raced other owners and win – for money.”

“And he lived locally? Do you know what he looked like?”

The carriage expert throws up his hands and shrugs. “I only know he lived in Porthmadog and marries into a Tremadog family – make his fortune by investing in his in-law’s business. No more. Why are the police interested?”

“More our personal interest.” The compelling urge to confess is too much for me. “More like ghost-hunting. We encountered a female figure on Halloween that might have been killed in a carriage accident.”

“This phaeton crashed? Unlikely if Captain Yong is driving – he has a reputation as an expert at ‘Hunting the Squirrel’. Side-swiping a rival’s carriage requires certain accuracy.”

Accuracy needed to hit a fleeing lover.

“A pedestrian was hit at night,” Kama says. “No headlights I presume back then. So accidental – perhaps.”

“Agree. The horses won’t have seen someone crossing a dark road – until they crush the poor woman,” His expression is tortured. “Back home…I am knocked over by horses as a child…and savaged bad. Hooves are strong and sharp, especially with shoes. I hate to think of your woman’s injuries.” He hesitates. “If you see a ghost – the horses killed her. Back home that will be blame on the animals – punishment.”

“Back home?” asks Kama who shares my curiosity.

“I grow up in rural community – in Finland. Many years ago. Poor – so I move here as I want to learn to build vehicles like horseboxes – to help them. I call this ‘reparation’ – my making terms with the past and moving on. Do we know the woman’s name?”

There seems to be no harm in telling him. “Dinah Quinlan.”

“Strange matter that I will not forget. Blood is easy shed.”

He escorts us back to our bikes.

Is our cold case closed? Until anything new emerges.

#

The moon is full when we celebrate the last day of Pongal.  My arm around Kama, I’m oblivious to the calendar with the four days in mid-January highlighted.

My mind is on November 1836.

 “That old nineteenth century painting indicts Captain Yong for murder – four weeks before he married his victim’s sister. The artist knew the truth.”

***

Word Count 999: MPA

For more information on the Pongal Festival visit: http://www.pongalfestival.org/

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

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

Please enjoy other participants’ entries in the Challenge via this list for which the links will be updated as the post appear: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/

Tremor Warnings

Two recent events have shaken my routine. One a post and one a game. Nothing earth shattering, more tremors – warnings of what might or will occur.

This post about ‘diversity’, Social Justice Warriors, and the withdrawal of Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir set me thinking about my current WIP, Fevered Few and what I was attempting.

I’m a WASP hetero male trying to write a novel with a female queer protagonist in the North Wales Police. Am I heading for the pillory or worse – even if I am trying to use diversity readers?

I had already realised I needed to tread carefully after a somewhat different controversy arose over the sexuality choices in the game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m making my protagonist Welsh with a deaf sister, since I’m English and I’ve never even committed a crime – other than parking illegally or speeding. Okay, I’m disabled, with Quaker abolitionist ancestors and splashes of Latin and Scottish blood. But none of those are qualifications.

Okay, SF writers write about aliens but aren’t from another planet. However, we don’t see the aliens protesting; or is that why there are abductions and experiments?

Is the solution to stop writing my Welsh police procedural series and tackle a topic that I know about? Horses?

Dang, I’ve done that and got criticised for my lack of knowledge.

Falling? My life-story could be fictionalised, but who is inspired by that? Not me.

Insecurity 1. Meltdown imminent.

Later the same day, I went into Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and got thrown into a quest that required me to press/punch/mash keys in quick succession.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

The fingers on my left hand locked up, and my hand became a useless claw while my head thumped.

Insecurity 2. Meltdown imminent.

That was not the first time that my hand and my reactions failed.  I had the same problem in Shadow of the Tomb Raider last week. Plus, it occurs when I type so when I’m working on a novel or a post – like now.

Meltdown

The harsh reality is that my multiple sclerosis is threatening to disrupt my life again – if I let it. I need to amend the rules…move the goalposts. Or change rackets.

Well, keyboards.

But not the typing element as half the keys are missing.

  • Step Two – Dictation software. I’ve ordered Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 13 – arriving on Saturday. However, training my Dragon will take time, especially as my speech is slurred – MS side-effect. It will mean that in a few weeks, I might get to write as fast as I talk.

Even after spending this money, I still need to decide if I’m writing the right novel – the one that will cover all these extravagances.

MS is a frustrating MonSter, and I must learn to roll with its punches and fight back. There will be other rounds, but I’ve got this one.

Yes, I need to consider Audible as my eyes are at risk – not just from reading. Double vision was my initial symptom back in 1999, so the warning is there.

More rabbit holes beckon.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – a review

As intended, my reading in 2019 is leaning towards mysteries and crime – although there will be a few other genres to break the pattern a little. This mystery read is one of the stranger entries, but still highly enjoyable.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

by

Stuart Turton (Goodreads Author)

The Rules of Blackheath

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m. 

There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit. 

We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer. 

Understood? Then let’s begin…


Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…

The most inventive debut of the year twists together a mystery of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.

            Review 4.7 stars

This was a ‘must buy’ from the blurb and from reviewers I follow – and I was not disappointed to bump this ahead of other books.

Lost in a forest and unsure who he is, not recognising his body or exactly what’s going on, is where the protagonist and the reader find themselves. An opening that enticed me in as I discovered where ‘I’ was and why – well, not exactly. At first, we meet the first host body for the first-person protagonist that needs to identify the killer of Evelyn Hardcastle to break a cycle that he has become trapped in.

This is Groundhog Day meets Cluedo with Agatha Christie pulling the strings of a cast that echoes the Golden Age of Mystery. Except this world feels darker with death not limited to one-time only. Although the mystery elements are classic and the basic plot may seem easily solved by some readers, it is not the mystery that makes this novel, but the intricacies caused by a repeating day with the hosts and other players evolving with the unravelling of the secrets.  

This is the mysterious world that is Blackheath, a crumbling country house with characters hiding as many secrets as the plot. Everyone seems to be guilty of something or hiding their past. The faded grandeur was evocatively described in a language smeared with decay and dread. A mystery convention twisted by the theme. This was a house of layers that Aiden had to uncover with his host bodies.

Host bodies that added their own idiosyncrasies to the investigation. He must work with their limitations such as ageing bodies or their own agendas. This is no simple body-hopping as he must pull their minds to his task – or in some cases use their own intelligence. And as he hops there are dangers from shadowy antagonists to losing his mind to his host’s.

Each character is distinct especially the hosts, whom the reader gets to experience from their perspective and Aiden’s – in a clever way…without spoiling the gameplay. Full marks to the author for painting such amazing portraits and evolving their behaviour as the day repeats. Some seem to be tortured by their own actions – their consciences perhaps.

I’m trying to avoid spoilers so I’m sounding as devious as the author. There are clever twists to catch out everyone – even readers, even if some are ahead of the game. But I was surprised although I had my suspects. With a sprinkling of clues – and red herrings – to mystify hosts and readers, I enjoyed the ingenious plotting that must have taken a wall of sticky notes. The author’s notes clarify the process and added to my admiration.

My only minor quibbles were ‘shooting’ described as ‘hunting’ – I come from a shooting-hunting country house background – and a few unnecessary dialogue tags where the speaker was obvious.

The ending was unexpectedly artful with even ‘the puppet master’ stunned. After reading this novel, I’d recommend this to mystery readers looking for something different from the norm and open to other genre elements sneaking in. Or are you afraid of getting trapped re-reading this tome?

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – five stars