Year of the Jackdaw

Snowdon Strategies

Welcome to 2020, the Year of the Jackdaw – in my world of North Wales crime.

That’s the plan and I’m serious – if I can stick to one, health willing.

Anyway, the Jackdaw is Negesydd, the trickster-messenger who adopts Sparkle Anwyl and her lover Kama in my Snowdon Shadows series. He first appears in Book 1, ‘Fevered Fuel’. Yes, my aim/dream is to get at least that novel ready to be published this year.

However, there are numerous hurdles ahead and I’m hesitating over what order I must tackle them.

What comes first? Beta readers, diversity readers, or assessment? It must be some willing soul.

Then do I turn to a development editor or a line editor? Without checking, I think development comes first.

When I think about all the steps, I stress – not helped by having barking dogs and screaming step-great-grandkids invading my head. At least, the kids have gone for the weekend leaving the dogs to bark at cars, squirrels, cats, other dogs, and probably ghosts.

Okay back to the scheduled strategy and some helpful links:

For suggestions on editing and self-publishing, I’m following an invaluable series on Bookbaby:

I’ve also approached a couple of the editors who have done work for me in the past. One suggested it might be worth approaching the Literary Consultancy people. This proved helpful and added to my knowledge:

But maybe, I need to revise the manuscript again – not the MS as that means my health MonSter, Multiple Sclerosis. That alone derails my progress much of the time. So, when anyone says MS, I react confused.

Anyhow, one stage in my editing/revision process has been using Fictionary – an invaluable tool which might save an editor from unnecessary work. Here’s a glimpse of what Fictionary can do to help:

So, where does that leave me? How can my supporters help? Where first?

I’d love to hear from anyone feeling brave enough to be a beta reader. Bear in mind ‘Fevered Fuel’ is a police procedural set in North Wales, and features a MC facing prejudice issues – some of you have even read shorts about her on this blog. Hopefully, it’s clear why I need diversity readers to correct potential errors. Do you fit The Bill?

As for my next step, one editor has asked to see the opening scenes and a synopsis, so she knows how much work is entailed if I want her to edit the document. I’m budgeting on any editor clearing out my writing budget. First, then that synopsis.

But at least, after a professional editor tackles the novel, I’ll be a step nearer the finish line of another marathon – once I’ve absorbed the suggestions.

J for Jeopardy – Azure Spark, Part 10

[Background music at the end. This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]

JEOPARDY – Thursday Evening

Jackdaw jigs keep us entertained as Kama and I relax on our patio, enjoying the evening sun and breeze. Negesydd had adopted us and even assists on cases.

“He’s entitled to time off too – and I’m glad your fraud case is nearing a conclusion.”

“Once Wiley and Ffion think we have enough material for CPS.”

Unless the Criminal Prosecution Service feel a judge and jury would dismiss the case. A chill settles over me. My stomach is heavy.

“I need a witness to the assault on Stefan and Ivan – and identities for their rich assailants if my Aberdaron case is going to progress further.”

“But you’ll find them and the motive.”

An idea sparks in my head and my tattoos. R for Regatta.

“Want to enter the Aberdaron regatta? Late entry.”

Kama leans against me and whisper-kisses my ear. “Sounds like one of your typical ploys. A risk. And a rush. So yes.”

I snigger and kiss her, tasting grape and lemongrass.

“If our rich Swedes want divers who can sail, we can oblige. Ffion should endorse the sting. With Stefan in supposed custody and Ivan on the run –”

“– They might bite. Our lives in jeopardy as usual.” She winks and caresses me. “So, early to bed tonight. Exercise. Tomorrow, and early swim session. Then you devise a plan with Ffion.”

"Coloeus monedula -Ham Common, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, England-8" by Maxwell Hamilton from Greater London, England United Kingdom - Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_London_Borough_of_Richmond_upon_Thames,_England-8.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Coloeus_monedula_-Ham_Common,_London_Borough_of_Richmond_upon_Thames,_England-8.jpg
An adult Jackdaw on Ham Common, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, England ~ Photo by Maxwell Hamilton – Flickr

Friday Morning

Ffion reads my satisfied grin as I bring her a cup of mint tea.

“Hopefully your colleagues don’t interpret joyous rapture for what it is. Remember keep that at home. So, I presume the case has progressed due to our custody visitor’s revelations.”

I’m outmanoeuvred so I hand her the flash drive with my plan. She studies the details, her expressions ranging from a grin and nod to pursed lips with a long frown to close.

“The money guys will balk at this – unless most of it is done off-duty. Your lives will be in jeopardy as usual – but I expect that with you and Kama.”

“We’ve agreed to do the training off-duty – but I fear time is short so –”

“– We might need to fast track your diving licenses. What’s your current status?”

Our wild water swimming is already challenging. Ffion knows that. Lying isn’t necessary.

“More than proficient. We need more deep-water hours.”

“I can arrange that with the North West Police Underwater Search & Marine Unit  – and adjust your off-duty days. Issuing a license won’t be a problem. You want to leak the bait through the press?”

My body thrills at the thought of decisive action. My fingers tap bracer studs.

 L for Lure. O for Off-Duty. And J.

“Our tame journalist will spread the fake news. She’s reliable – despite her jealousy at our not-so-glamorous jobs.”

We laugh together. The plan will only work if the rich couple are desperate after losing Stefan and possibly Ivan.

Too many variables.

“Why do you think the Swedish couple need divers and a fishing boat?” Ffion raises her eyebrows.

Our wildcard. “The freighter jettisons its illegal cargo off Aberdaron. Divers are needed to recover the goods.”

“Interesting lateral thinking. What inspired that? Wine or passion?”

Her teasing eyes prompt an honest answer. “Both.”

Memories of our evening – after Negesydd hopped away – blood my cheeks and send finger spirals up my spine.

I force them down and let my tattoos feed in.

K for Knowledge and Kama. I for Intrigue. L for Lure and License. J Journalist and Jeopardy. O for Off-Duty and Ops. Y for Yield and Yester-eve.

KILLJOY. Our penny-counters or someone else?

Ffion’s smile turns serious.

“When this case is closed, I have a new mystery for you both. It’s minor – non-CID incidents now. But ones I’m watching. Seemingly unrelated jewel thefts – low value items, trinkets but from tourists.”

“Intriguing. When you want our input, let us know. Meantime, I’ll work on the diving scheme.”

“I’ll monitor the jewel incidents – perhaps let you see something in advance. Unofficially. Get some judicious feedback.”

For further details on this theme visit my Blogging from A to Z Theme Reveal, and on the evolution of Sparkle Anwyl visit Snowdon Shadows.

Other A to Z Bloggers can be found via the Blogging from A to Z website’s Master List –


And now for something completely different.

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve – The Mourning Bride

Black with Secrets, Adorned with Silver



Smoke On The Water ~ Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev /

Smoke On The Water ~ Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev /

They are gathering. I can hear them in the darkness and wonder why they are here so early. At first their cries slipped into my dreams, weaving their way into the gradual awakening. Eyes open, my conscience knows that it’s time. Time to face the day and my obligations.

The heavy drapes pulled wide as my eyes, I see the dawn, soft and orange, streaked with indigo and tendrils of mist from the lake. Shadow trees are reflected in the shimmering water.

My visitors are waiting.

Raiment as black as coal, they glisten in the light like black diamonds. As they stalk around on the grass, their eyes watch me, knowing what I will do. But I am waiting for their cousins. They arrive acrobatically displaying their talent. Hopping across the ground as they land, the sun shines on heads adorned with silver, then they gracefully fold their wings. Their echoing chacks add another contrast to the raucous caws of their larger brethren. All the feathers shine, preened to brilliance by beaks created for a varied diet.

Some would say that I was sick in the head for feeding this elegant corvid family, and some would shoot them as vermin, hanging their carcasses up as scarecrows. But the intelligence of my feathered friends captivates me, the supreme ones for me being the Jackdaws. So every morning they feast on my fruit and berry granola, and I try to understand them.

"Jackdaw - up close and personal (552502080)" by John Haslam from Dornoch, Scotland - Jackdaw - up close and personal. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -"Jackdaw - up close and personal (552502080)" by John Haslam from Dornoch, Scotland - Jackdaw - up close and personal. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Jackdaw – up close and personal by John Haslam from Dornoch, Scotland. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Common.

Is that mischief or secrets in their glances and nods?

They are considered the most intelligent of birds, having demonstrated self-awareness and tool making ability. Their total brain-to-body mass ratio is equal to that of the great apes, and of cetaceans like dolphins. Therefore, there could be more.

Are the black feathers symbolic of death and evil? A Black Knight with wings dreaming of taking centre stage in a world uprising? Ridiculous. Their other cousins are multi-adorned, in black and white, or pinkish-brown with blue flashes. They are precious gems of nature, even when screaming in the woods as the elusive Jays do.  A simple cry to a mate or rival? A warning? Or those secrets? Will we learn what lies in their minds?

Perhaps the answer lies in the soil that nourishes us all, from birds to humans. Soil that can be as black as the jackal that is Anubis, the funerary deity of the Ancient Egyptians, but richer than the rarest gems. Black diamonds set in silver.

"Armadillidium vulgare 001" by Franco Folini - San Francisco.California. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Armadillidium vulgare 001” by Franco Folini – San Francisco, California. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Is the secret in the silver, gleaming on the head or sparkling in the eyes? What are the Corvids seeking in the ground? Insects? Worms? Or the strange silver denizens of our humble gardens? Those silver armoured creatures like woodlice or sow bugs, the crustaceans that crawl in the darkness but do no harm.

But maybe in a world turned upside down, where dreams are nightmares or a chance to rebuild, the talent lies elsewhere. What happens if the silver adorned creatures in black armour and the feathered acrobats demonstrate their prowess? Food for thought and survival, maybe.

Instead I awake from my fantasies, knowing that reality rules. I am back in my wheelchair without the granola, and gazing out the office window at jackdaws hopping on the neighbours’ roof and wheeling in the sky towards Snowdon.