#IWSG – Favorite Aspect of Being a Writer

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I’m still struggling with my health so normal posts are postponed until…whenever.

For now, it’s time for my monthly post for Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day:

November 2 Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

If I had more than one novel published my answer might be different. I would have books to promote and readers to link with. However, I’m still at the early stages so I need to focus on those stages of writing.

For now, my favorite aspect must be able to take the germ of an idea and create an outline where that initial inspiration comes alive. Yes, the actual first draft is meant to bring that alive, but I find that my characters and their actions emerge on stage in the outlining stage.

Or is that because as I work on this post, I’m outlining an idea for NaNoWriMo? Maybe when I get into the draft, that will be my favorite aspect of being a writer. Or have I misunderstood the question? Am I meant to say being my able to work wherever?

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/

Our revved up IWSG Day question 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.

The awesome co-hosts for this November 2 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jen Chandler, Mary Aalgaard, Lisa Buie Collard, Tamara Narayan, Tyrean Martinson, and Christine Rains!

 

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How long was that novel?

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Which novel you ask? That bestseller? My novel? Well, in some ways that’s a general question, but today it’s personal, and my monthly post for Insecure Writer’s Support Group day – and my weekly post combined.

As November approached, I was wondering if reaching the NaNoWriMo winning tape was possible, and how I would managed to keep blogging. But now, 70,186 words later and a ‘Winner’, my worry/insecurity is different.

I haven’t finished this re-write of the first draft [Draft 1 Mark 2] of “Fates Maelstrom”, and, looking at where I am in relation to Draft 1 Mark I, there are another 32,000 words to write. Maybe more if I play out my new crazed idea and kill another character.

A crime novel with over 100,000 words, in a highly competitive market, felt wrong. Surely, Agatha Christie had been able to tackle far cleverer mysteries in less words.

It didn’t take me long to find truth in that fear. Agatha Christie’s novels range from 54,000 to 70,000. And looking at two more recent authors that I admire, Ellis Peters and Dick Francis, their books are shorter than some of the current writers that I read, like Linwood Barclay.

But then I looked at Famous Novels and saw the huge range, well-illustrated in word count order, from small gems to mammoth tomes, in this article, and in alphabetical order here.

However, my novel has to fit in with the norm, and current publishing requirements – even if I self-publish, somehow. I began to feel better when I found out that in the genre of ‘Mysteries and Crime Fiction’, the suggested figures are: Cozies 60,000-70,000; all others 80,000-100,000.

For those of you that want more detail, I found the following figures in posts by various people, including Jacqui Murray – Word Count by Genre. The posts also tackle all the key genres. For crime, the figures are:

  • cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k
  • mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.

That gives me some leeway, at this stage, as I sense my mystery is veering away from a ‘cozy’, although it isn’t going to be an action-driven thriller.

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Last stop on the research bus was Writers Workshop, and a post by Harry Bingham, a crime novelist and founder of the WW. (I’m slightly apprehensive now, as Harry has written a successful crime series, featuring a strange young female Welsh detective, Fiona Griffiths. And my series features a strange young female Welsh detective, Sparkle Anwyl. Uffern gwaedlyd – the bar has been raised.)

Anyway, Harry Bingham says, “Crime novels usually run a bit longer than women’s fiction, so although 75,000 words is fine as a lower limit, anything up to 130,000 words is pretty standard. Don’t go below 75,000 though.”

His post, not only looks at other genres, but also has links on what to do if your novel is too long. I will be using those suggestions come revision time – even just to remove the weasel words and the padding.

By any of the above measures, my debut novel “Spiral of Hooves” fell just inside the lower limit, coming in at 75,400 words. “Fates Maelstrom” may be nearer the upper end, around 90,000.

Insecurity postponed.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with other writers – aim for a dozen new people each time.

Purpose: 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!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group –https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Sandra Hoover,Mark Koopmans, Doreen McGettigan, Megan Morgan, and Melodie Campbell! 

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Mal Sumnor: Bloodhound or Genius?

 

After learning something about Twyla Locke, Brogan Keyes, and about Sparkle Anwyl, one of the detectives, it’s time to meet the other key detective in “Fates Maelstrom”, my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel.

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Tom Hiddleston would make a good Mal Sumnor.

Detective Sergeant Mal Sumnor is with Bangor CID, part of the North Wales Police or Heddlu Gogledd Cymru, and he’s the senior officer investigating the suspected murder of Aubrey Locke.

Bangor is not exactly round the corner from Craig-o-Niwl. Weren’t there any closer officers?

Not ones that had the expertise to handle a murder investigation, and as you must be aware, the force is stretched at this time of austerity. Of course, the local uniform boys were first on the scene, but the case was passed to my team, as soon as the victim was identified. Aubrey Locke was a member of a wealthy and influential landed family.

So you must be concerned about the case. There must be a great deal riding on this, not least your reputation? What do you think is going to happen next?

The correct resolution is paramount, but I’m confident that I can attain that speedily. Restoring calm in the community, and demonstrating the abilities of the Heddlu Gogledd Cymru is essential.

I am pleased to say that the forensic team have gathered considerable evidence, and a key suspect was arrested. We have some reliable witnesses, so the case is straightforward, and I anticipate an early conclusion.

Straightforward? Why have you brought in an officer from another area?

A formality. My Detective Inspector suggested that we talk to the suspect, Twyla Locke, in her native language, although she speaks Welsh and English – as I do.

However, Detective Constable Meinwen Anwyl has been assigned as she is a Romani speaker, and as she knows the village. But I will show her how to run a flawless investigation. She has to realise that I’m the one with the Criminal Justice BA – with Honours – from Bangor University.

Don’t get me wrong. I like having a female partner, and I don’t mind that she’s a Goth, or even Welsh. But there has to be an understanding – a rapport.

So a University Education is essential to the police force? Not grassroots experience. Doesn’t policing start on the streets?

Both are needed, but, and I quote the College of Policing, the body responsible for setting the standards for police training – ‘all officers should have degrees’ as the job is now of ‘degree-level complexity.’ Times have changed, this is the 21st century and the world is now very hi-tech. We need a police force that can deal with anything – from tackling cyber-crime one day, dealing with child sexual exploitation the next. That demands something that only a degree can bring.

Won’t the cuts to services make that even harder?

At the moment, the situation might well get worse. Lesser crimes, like burglaries, will not be investigated, unless they are high-profile. Therefore, long-term the cuts will make the ability to detect crime more demanding. That is why we need more multi-skilled officers – trained to degree level. That might require more surveillance, but that might be preferable to more crime.

Is there something that makes you a good detective?

The ability to speedily separate evidence into obscure, circumstantial, misleading, and suspicious – and then knowing what to discard, starting with the obscure. It takes intelligence – and yes, that university degree. That education gives me access to invaluable techniques and experts. Despite what the media panics us into believing, the serious crimes don’t happen on the streets, but in that cyber world that we so readily accept. If a criminal runs from me, I can find him using those hi-tech tools – wherever he or she hides.

That is scary, and a reason to stay the right side of you. But why should we care about you?

Apologies, I’m coming over as the tough-no nonsense guy. I probably take my job too seriously, but then I aim to protect and serve the people. But off-duty, down the pub, or over a delicious meal, I can relax, smile, and tell a few jokes. Should I lie and say I have a dog? That’s not me. Give me a chance to prove that I am just a humble man with dreams.

Does that mean people misunderstand you? If so, what do they get wrong?

They see me as a humourless obsessive, who behaves like an authoritarian bully – even if I rarely wear a uniform. But fighting crime is serious work, and there is very little to laugh about. Once the crime is solved, the other side can come out to play – if you let me. Then I can drink with the best of you, and take off the suit and tie.

What about your parents? Do they support you in this dangerous line of work?

Very much so, since they are in the force. My mother is a Chief Constable in another Constabulary, and my father is a Detective Superintendent. Therefore, I was born to the force – yes, I realise that sounds like Star Wars, but isn’t that a plus point. Anyway, they have supported my career at every stage – and they have provided me with some invaluable contacts, as required.

Are you going to die in this story? Should you?

Is there a reason you ask? My intelligence has kept me alive this far. It helps to be able to detect things in advance of the criminals. Staying ahead of them is a challenge, and I don’t intend to be caught out in such a way that I get killed. Don’t forget, in Great Britain, the police rarely carry firearms, so gun crimes are far less than in other countries. And I wear a stab-proof vest.

What is your worst fear?

I try not to focus on fear as it impinges on my effectiveness. Nothing in my profession scares me to that degree. Yes, my adrenalin pumps when I have to deal with dangerous criminals – and some of my colleagues’ driving.

Perhaps, I have a fear of flying – or handing control to a pilot. But then, I know he’s trained so I ignore the sensation. Anyway, I never go abroad as there are so many great places in Great Britain, especially in North Wales. Next time you want to go somewhere special, come to Snowdonia.

Many thanks for your time, detective. I wish you success with the case and your career.

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#NaNoWinner2015

Yesterday was a momentous writing day for me. I passed the 50,000 work mark in NaNoWriMo 2015. which means that I am supposedly a winner. This meant that I got to tweet:

I reached 50,675 words to become a with my draft of Fates Maelstrom – and more words remain out there.

f443498f9932d9f1360c2f9945b0e896Of course, this is just a stepping stone to the next phase of a long but exciting process with “Fates Maelstrom. First, I have to finish this draft, and I estimate that it will come out at around 105,000. [(That’s the amount written so far + the amount in draft 1.a)

Before anyone accuses me of cheating, I haven’t  copied and pasted my first attempt into this one. That first draft was set on Dartmoor not in Snowdonia, had a different main protagonist, and the plotline was… different.

I used that old draft to create an outline, and then rewrote the scenes, or new scenes, as if that original was destroyed. Think Robert Louis Stevenson burning “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” to avoid salvaging it after his wife’s comments. Except in my case, my wife liked the first draft, most of the research – such as family trees – got used, and the original hasn’t been burnt – yet.

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Now comes the interesting part. I made a few changes as I went along. The original antagonist was one of three POVs, but I’ve dropped his maniacal thoughts. Result – more suspicions abound surrounding the other characters. Plus one of the characters has now seduced the wrong woman – in fact, the main detective. And a chase scene appeared that was never there, but it worked – as I was writing it. Where did that escape vehicle come from?

So today, I’m having to re-think where the plot is going… especially as I’ve decided to kill someone else. Supposedly, that can help if the book is sagging – or the writer. The daily word count will dip, but I have some great ideas brewing.

See you all in December.

P.S. It also gives me time to write next week’s interview with Detective Sergeant Mal Sumnor of the North Wales Police. He keeps thinking that he’s solved the case, but I believe in keeping him employed. Poor love.

Brogan Keyes: Journalist or Grifter?

After learning something about the ‘murder suspect’ Twyla Locke, and about Sparkle Anwyl, one of the detectives, it’s time to meet another character in “Fates Maelstrom”, my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel.

Not all the characters in this opener to the North Wales-based series, “Snowdon Shadows”, are native to the area. So meet the mysterious Brogan Keyes, an American photo-journalist that finds himself in Craig-o-Niwl, for some reason.

Do you know this man? Or the photographer?

Do you know this man? Or the photographer?

Why are you here in this small Welsh village? It isn’t a normal tourist destination.

Photographing the follies built on the moors by Geffron Locke in the early 19th century. That’s for pleasure. My job is writing articles on Welsh Cheese for the Green Bay Press Gazette. But I’ve covered things from fashion to world hunger to riots.

Why should we care about you?

There is no reason not to like me. I’m great company, with great stories, not to mention looks. As anyone in the village.

Some of them say that you are, “too charming to be trusted”.

Can’t think who. I haven’t been here long enough to attract any unwelcome attention. The patrons at the Hare and Cave have been welcoming, even though I find Welsh very difficult. No way can I give the pub its proper name – something like Yr Ysgyfarnog a’r Ogof.

Sounds good to me, but then I know almost no Welsh. Anyway, how would you describe your looks?

Tall with a black curly hair, short close-trimmed beard and a smile. Usually got this camera somewhere. And if I’m maintaining eye contact, that because I like to note everything about people. You never know when they might let on something in their gestures.

Is that why you move slowly and take your time?

Why hurry – unless I’ve got a deadline? When something is done well, then it takes time – like the best cheese. And before you say the best is Welsh, or English, I have to disagree. The best cheese come from Wisconsin, U S of A.

So you’re a ‘cheesehead’?

Not just because of my home state but I’m also as a Green Bay Packers fan that wears a ‘cheesehead’ hat with pride.

You don’t say much. How would you describe your personality?

Why should I? As long as you get your interview, and I get my story. I’m someone who gets what he wants as I never give up… until I have the scoop.

What’s your greatest ability?

Finding the best picture for a story that gets to the truth. The perfect photo tells a story and makes people think.

What’s the story around the Geffron Follies?

I’m still looking for one. The Locke family history is complex, but fascinating. I suspect that a lot of the facts have been buried.

Sounds like a murder mystery. Do you solve those as well? Do you see yourself as heroic?

I’ve rescued women in distress, if that’s what you mean. Of course, if I can help, then I will. I’ll even give someone an alibi, if they need one – and if they’re pretty.

A genuine alibi or concocted? Are you more likely to play a prank or commit a crime?

If the alibi has the right effect, and resolves the situation, I’d supply one. I’ve played plenty of pranks, but my only crimes are two speeding tickets. And the rumour that I’m a grifter, have no basis. Just don’t believe the FBI records. They originated with people harassing my family.

Do people understand you? If not, what do they get wrong?

Most people know why I behave the way I do. It’s a retarded minority that thinks I’m a nuisance. Crazy thing is that some of them still behave as if they want me on their side. Maybe that’s why they say ‘too charming’.

What sort of people like you?

Women of course. They seem to recognise all my best qualities. But that includes my mother and my sister – they know what I’m trying to do. So don’t make me the heartless seducer in this story. I want to be the hero, please.

That presumes that there is a hero. Maybe that role goes to a heroine.

Sounds cool. Just as long as I can help her. Is she the one needing the alibi? I get to see a lot of things through this camera lens – not just Follies. People can make interesting subjects as well. And sometimes that’s the perfect way to meet them too.

You mean the perfect pick-up technique?

That’s happened – like the awesome English girl that I photographed water skiing in Jamaica. She got distracted by the camera and fell – but I was there to rescue her. Definitely time to rekindle that relationship, while I’m over here. As long as it doesn’t distract from my real work.

Don’t want that. It might have the wrong consequences. What are your worst fears?

Forgetting about a deadline of course. As I said, work comes first. And getting slapped because I underestimated a woman. But in both cases, I ensure that never happens.

What were you doing before this story started?

Besides my Welsh cheese research and photographing Follies? Working out what I really need to be writing about to win the Pulitzer Prize. And that’s a serious ambition. In fact, that’s the main reason I was in Jamaica – researching an article about the effects of Hurricane Sandy across the Greater Antilles in October 2012. Somehow the article was dismissed in the wake of other stories. But my scoop will come.

Before the novel began, what were your hopes for the future?

Well, other than the Pulitzer Prize, I was planning on meeting the woman of my dreams. Or maybe I’ve already done that. Some days, I wonder about my ancestors. How did they get to Wisconsin? Why did they go there?

What do you think is going to happen next?

Well from what you’ve hinted at, I’m going to produce the alibi that stops someone getting convicted. From the talk in the pub that would have to be Twyla Locke – the girl that murdered her grandfather. Is she’s as cute as they say, then I will get to seduce her – but then I might have some explaining to do to my friend from Jamaica, when we meet up.

Are you going to die in this story?

I will if Yazzi Locke catches me seducing her cousin Twyla.

The lover as the killer. Great plot twist. Thank you.

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Sparkle Anwyl: Sleuth or Sidekick?

After learning something about the ‘murder suspect’ Twyla Locke, it’s now time to meet the second character in “Fates Maelstrom”, my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel.

As this is the opening mystery in the North Wales-based series, “Snowdon Shadows”, the interviewee has to be a reoccurring character.

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Noomi Rapace – Photo by Emma Hardy for British Vogue ~ Sparkle look-alike

So meet Meinwen Sparkle Anwyl, a twenty-four year-old Welsh detective constable with Pwllheli CID, part of the North Wales Police or Heddlu Gogledd Cymru.

If you are with Pwllheli CID, aren’t you outside your patch here in Craig-o-Niwl?

Technically yes, but I got assigned to help Detective Sergeant Mal Sumnor. He’s the officer investigating the suspected murder of Aubrey Locke.

I know the area well as I have family here – my mother’s parents have a sheep farm that borders with Hawktrewen Estate. This is my chance to help the community by solving an unresolved case. D.S Sumnor also needs my language skills.

Because you’re Welsh? Don’t all Heddlu have to be bilingual?

Yes, he needed that qualification to join the force, just like me. He speaks good Welsh for an Englishman, but he needed someone that spoke Romani. His Detective Inspector insisted that we talk to the suspect Twyla Locke in her own language, although she speaks Welsh and English.

Growing up, I visited my grandparents often. So I came into contact with Twyla’s people, and picked up Romani. Maybe that could become my third language, if I used it enough.

But they’re proud people that don’t suffer outsider fools well. DS Sumnor needs to tread carefully, if he wants to solve this case.

Are you concerned about the case? What do you think is going to happen next?

People will take sides, I fear. It won’t be easy remaining objective in my dealings with people I know. But that is a key part of the job. Hopefully, I can ensure that the victim gets justice, and the guilty are found. But I might have my hands tied by a senior officer that judges me by my appearance.

Do fellow officers judge you? What’s so strange about your looks?

My D.I, Fay Baines, doesn’t judge. She’s always been supportive. But there are others that have an attitude. I try to play down my image, especially when on duty. Off-duty, I’m probably more relaxed and unwilling to mention my job – and that can be useful if I’m undercover. What do you expect from a Goth policewoman?

Goth might explain your appearance. How would you describe your looks?

Dark and elusive. My looks are deceptive as I have dyed my dark brown hair to black. Before I changed my looks, some would say I was a typical Welsh girl. I’ve still got the heart-shaped face and pale white skin, but I’ve added strong black eyeliner, green eye-shadow and deep red lipstick.

The look seems subdued at the moment. Is that because you are on duty?

I sometimes wear this black trouser suit when I’m visiting families or for some interviews, like today’s. But, even on-duty, the norm is my black leather biker jacket, black T-shirt, black jeans, and my black Doctor Marten Dalton boots. Usually I add a studded black choker, black belt with studs and silver buckles, and black leather studded wrist.

Is there something that makes you a good detective?

Thinking outside the box? I never like to jump to the first conclusion, and try to find that hidden truth. A weird sort of deduction, some might say, especially when I use the studs on my bracers to work through the key points. If there’s no notepad to hand, then I can remember the points by letters that become a mnemonic. I also get what I call “a tingle in my tattoos” when something is wrong.

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2013 Kawasaki Ninja 250r

You have tattoos? They aren’t obvious.

Well the Police rules are specific, and say things like, “You should not have tattoos which could cause offence”

I was aware of the rules when I first thought about joining the force. Then I remembered that when I got my first tattoo at sixteen. I chose angel wings joined by a white rose on my shoulders. My second tattoo was stylized rose with thorns, on my lower back. The final tattoo is a small one on my hip of a thorny rose.

Hopefully the thorns are symbolic. What is your worst fear?

Swimming pools send shivers up my spine. All because I was nearly drowned at school by a bully trying to repeatedly duck me underwater. I now find that chlorinated water triggers the memory of swallowing foul-tasting water. But in the line of duty, I can handle pools. However, I’m still an avid swimmer, but that has to be wild swimming, in the sea off the Llyn Peninsula, or in suitable lakes or rivers in the area.

That would keep you fit and healthy, crucial for overpowering some criminals. Do you see yourself as heroic?

Well I’m a kookie crime buster that helps her community, but doesn’t conform, and doesn’t have a cape – just a super bike. But heroic is too emotive. I do my job, and although I suspect that some see me as an intense weirdo that is incapable of doing a normal policing job, I get results, even if the approach can seem offbeat.

Do you actually have a super bike?

It’s more of a sport bike, although it’s powerful enough for me. It’s a black Kawasaki Ninja 250r. When I bought it, second-hand for £3,500, with my mechanic brother Owen’s help, some of the family said I should have bought a second-hand car. Why? I get to drive enough squad cars at work, and leaning a bike into bends is much more fun. It was neon green, but, because that wasn’t my colour, my brother re-sprayed it for me, I dream of a black 2015 Indian Scout – but that would be outside my means.

Are you going to die in this story? Should you?

I don’t intend to give up that easily. I always say, “Failure is not an option,” so that has to be the same for ‘death’. I don’t even think my most negative colleagues would want that. However, if my death helped in some way then it might be acceptable. But then I can’t be in a sequel.

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