A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – Azure Spark

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – #AtoZChallenge #ThemeReveal

This year, I am better prepared for today’s A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal day than I have been in recent years.

Initially, my thoughts had been drifting around the thoughts I scribbled down after 2017’s Challenge and kept adding to after last year’s Challenge. One ongoing possibility was to work with the list of places in North Wales that were linked to my Welsh detective series.

As many of you must know, I’ve been working on various aspects of Sparkle Anwyl’s career from the revision of her case, Fates Maelstrom, to short flash posts for WEP/IWSG. I have also been deliberating over what to do with my writing. Do I just blog more Sparkle posts? Do I focus on my Sparkle novel, Fevered Few?

Well, for the 2019 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I will be releasing a new Sparkle Anwyl short story, called Azure Spark.


Aberdaron Beach, Gwynedd, looking towards Porth Meudwy – author: Skinsmoke https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Skinsmoke

Each day’s post will move the story forwards with the appropriate letter playing a prominent role. For instance, the letter A is for Assault as in the incident that triggers the story. This plays well with Sparkle’s idiosyncrasy of using mnemonics to help her tackle crime. You’ll have to wait to see how that ‘spells’ out.

I may add a little extra with a daily musical offering. After last year’s A to Z challenge, I began collating a musical list for this year, so at least it might survive in some form. For a taster, here – if this works – is the soundtrack for one of the games that I play. Also, an echo of my 2018 gaming theme. This is one of the pieces of music playing as I work.

That’s all for this reveal. I’m off to work on Sparkle’s current case. There are quite a few alphabetical threads left – blame it on my health not my devious mind.

#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/

#IWSG – Questions, Questions and more Questions 

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.

Apologies for the two weeks of silence, but it was those midwinter distractions, and even now I feel inundated with emails that subtly hint at what I should be doing.

But I hesitate to reflect on 2018 or make resolutions for 2019. Okay, I may review my reading tomorrow and I have resolved decided to develop and focus on Fevered Few, my NaNoWriMo novel. But more about that another day/week/month.

First, the IWSG post which got me scribbling in my little black notepad over midwinter-fest.

January 2 question – What are your favourite and least favourite questions people ask you about your writing?

“What are you writing now?” is my favourite question and lets me ramble about my WIP – or attempt to explain it as briefly as possible. Answer: Fevered Few

“Why haven’t you published anything since 2013?” is THE question that I dread so my least favourite. Answer: Because I take years to finish anything and change novels mid-edit.

“So, you never submit anything?” annoys me because I dislike the Answer: Nothing of value it seems.

“Why are you being rejected?” is another least favourite, and enough to make me feel dejected. Answer: What do you think?

“But you’ve been a winner?” is a question/comment that hovers midway between favourite and not. Answer: This is a chance to crow about a writing prize as a kid and the giveaways that make up my TBR pile. Or the point when I confess that my writing has yet to win a prize this century – so, that’s why I’m an Insecure Writer in an Ace group called IWSG.

And now the real question: “What are the questions to ask – or not ask – about your writing?”

***

The awesome co-hosts for the January 2 posting of the IWSG are Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue!

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

#WEP/IWSG December 2019 challenge – RIBBONS AND CANDLES.

Ribbonsndles

My #WEP/IWSG post for December is a continuation of my Halloween/Deja Vu or Voodoo post, White Lady. I continued to explore the incident during NaNoWriMo so this is derived from what I wrote in November.

However, the incident is too long to conclude her, but the conclusion will be in 28 writing days – more or less. This incident in the career of Sparkle Anwyl plays a key part in Fevered Few, Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows police procedural series.  

Rushlight Wreathes

Ghost hunting doesn’t fall into my remit as a police officer, but my inquisitive nature wanted to identify our ‘White Lady’ during off-duty hours at home. Why had the ghost appeared on the old track between Porthmadog and Tremadog on Halloween?

My tingling tattoos and the mnemonic CALENDS had stirred up this cold case investigation. C for Coach, A for Accident, L for Lady, E for Eerie N for Night, D for Dreams, S for Spirits.

With no local police records before 1857, I trawl the old North Wales papers for coach-related incidents after 1811 and the founding of the ‘new town’ of Tremadog.

Fist pump as details match.

On November 1st, 1836, Dinah Adelaide Quinlan, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a retired soldier, Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan living in Tremadog was run down and crushed under the hooves of a sporty Phaeton carriage, driven by an unknown but uniformed person that was seen leaving the battered body at Major Quinlan’s house off Isgraig. The reporter was unclear why Dinah was on foot as her family owned a Berlin carriage, but she never requested the vehicle from their coachman.

Delving further, I discover that Major Quinlan served with the British East India Company’s Madras Army in Southern India between 1790-1805. On his retirement, he acquired a substantial property in the new town, and invested in the area. A photo shows a middle-aged Major Quinlan in his uniform decorated with medals on ribbons.

If Dinah was the ghost and died in 1836, there must be a grave or family tomb. Where if the family were Church of England? Her funeral details state the church of St Cynhaearn, known as Ynyscynhaearn.

Familiarity warms my spine – my tad’s parents are buried there. A visit to the place where they rest in peace, alone, yet surrounded by the sleeping graves of more than three centuries worth of parishioners.

A click as the door of the flat opens. I look at the mantel clock – midnight. As Kama walks into the kitchen I embrace her.

“More cold research? Found anything, cariad?”

“After three evenings of digging, chellam.” I stroke her face. “Are you up for visiting a graveyard? One where our ghost might be buried?”

Kama blinks and hangs up her biker jacket, then peels off her leather pants. “I’m free on Friday – isn’t that your day off as well?”

“If crime takes a slow day – yes. Date then.”

##

The stone walls seem part of the white-dotted green fields beyond that were once filled with water centuries earlier. There is an atmosphere of serenity, as few other than sheep wander down the narrow track.

Slate gravestones, orphaned from their corpses, are lined up along the side benches. Tears start to trickle as we read the names and imagine past lives. Welsh and English at peace in this corner of our troubled land.

My ancestors lie in a simple family plot awaiting the next member. I shudder, fearing who is most at risk. At least, my tad is now a desk sergeant and no longer front-line like me. I shake off the fear and focus on searching.

“Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan.” Kama points at a family grave comprising a more ostentatious mounted urn surrounded by a yew and an ornate railing. “There’s not just one person in here.”

“Died in 1840 aged 73. Buried alongside his wife – and his daughter Dinah Adelaide Quinlan.” My heart tightens, and my throat constricts. “She was the first to be buried here – a tragedy. I wish we knew more. Burial records before 1837 are less organised and vary between churches.”

“Does that mean more cold research?”

“That carriage killed her – accident or murder? Cold case so I’m hooked as ever.”

Gravestones are never cold names. Gateways to memories beckon.

##

Kama has the addiction too – but she’s the real detective.

“This ancestry site has descendants of Major Quinlan.” She points to our desktop screen. “A direct descendant of his son posted this – Edwin Quinlan.”

“Who has a daughter called Dinah. But the family is from the West Country – Truro.” The mother lode or a red herring. “This Edwin is named after the Major’s oldest son, the dead Dinah’s brother. And Dinah occurs down the generations. Do the family know more?”

Kama opens another link. A black and white photo of a family group taken in 1840, the year Major Quinlan died. The group is in what must have been a lavish sitting room in the family home. Soft lighting comes from strategic candles and rushlights. The photo shows Major Quinlan, his son Edwin Owen Quinlan and his wife, another daughter with her Royal Navy uniformed husband.

Kama points to the son-in-law. “It’s only a photo but that man is hiding something – or am I being too suspicious?”

Rushlight – Public Domain

Not CALENDS but CANDLES.

The tingling of my tattoos agrees with her, and I tap out a new mnemonic on my studded bracer. S-I-N.

S for Suspect. I for Inheritance. N for Naval. In Celtic folklore, there is a tale of bringing candles to the church to count sins. Was this the unknown figure that retrieved the body?

I zoom in to a mirror – reflecting a carriage and two horses outside.

“If that’s a phaeton then you may be right. Unfortunately, our suspect is dead, and the crime is more than cold. But we can resolve something.”

“What make of carriage that is and did the family own that type – although the latter will be problematic.”

Finding a photo of a 19th century phaeton that matches proves difficult as the reflection is indistinct. However, our search for records on period vehicles in Snowdonia yields a name – Raimund Virtanen, a horsebox builder who knows about 19th century vehicles.

A recent group photo of him presenting rosettes with long ribbons at a horse show suggests that he is respected – or has influential contacts.

A lead or a dead end?

***

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

Word Count 999: MPA

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

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish AUGUST Challenge

a wep change of heart final
This month, I am taking part in the #WEP August Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges which the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined.

The WEP team had a GUEST POST on the IWSG website on August 6. Here is the link http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/2018/08/writing-together-with-wep-and-iswg.html

WEP_IWSG
So, it’s now the correct day for the AUGUST challenge, CHANGE OF HEART. I confess that I posted nine days early – https://rolandclarke.com/2018/08/06/wep-change-of-heart/ – but I have since made a few minor edits so I’m re-posting.

I was also reminded to add some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is an incident in the backstory of a central character in my WIP – SPOILER ahead. This is when my MC in the Snowdon Shadows series of police procedurals was a teenager. I am currently using this as a flashback within a framing story (‘Fevered’) set a year before the WIP entitled ‘Fates Maelstrom’.

Change of Heart

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Shadows in the moonlight flicker like my mind churning with every bleating sheep. What does Taid want? Does he know our secret?

My morning swim in our lake was invigorating, but after breakfast, he triggered the thoughts.

“We need to talk, Meinwen – this evening when your chores are done.”

I daren’t ask Mam what he wants – even if he’s her tad. Patience would be her answer. My siblings don’t act suspicious, but Taid has rules.

Where have I strayed?

My love is forbidden in his chapel eyes. But we kept it secret. Six weeks of passion on the beach had to end. But not with punishment.

He doesn’t know. We were careful – once the school buried the incident. Tad never dug – believed we were bullied for being different – two Goths.

It’s my parents – Tad and Mam. Their time apart, after the arguments about his work, has been hard. I chose to be with him. No, by the sea in Porthmadog – to be near Esyllt. My brothers came with mam and our sister, up here to the farm.

Is there a distance in their eyes? Am I the betrayer who stood with Tad? Am I being sent away?

I love them all. I can’t choose. But my family comes before Esyllt – it must. Or can our affair become more? Or are we doomed?

What does Taid want? A grandchild that lives by the rules. I don’t.

Are my tad and mam following his advice? Have they changed their minds? Are they getting back together – as we all want?

Cregennen-Lakes-5

Cregennen Lakes © Ian King – http://snowdonia.info/

The porch door opens and Nain Gwyneth and Taid Hywel walk out, smiling as they hand me a cup of hot chocolate.

“Another beautiful evening,” says Nain as she sits on the couch and gestures for Taid to join her. “It’s good to have you home, cariad. How was your stay with your tad?”

“Awesome – well good.” I mustn’t be too happy as I want to be at their farm now. Well, I want everyone together. “I enjoy being here at Tyn-y-llyn – in the mountains…swimming in the lake—”

Taid takes my hands in his gnarled ones. “Your mam, our Glenys wants this to be your home. You want that?”

Leave my tad. Leave the sea…my friends – Esyllt. For a new life?

“If you want me here. But school? I was changing, though—”

Taid nods at Nain and smiles. “Your mam says that you’re going to sixth-form college – in Pwllheli. Why? We’d hoped you’d do agriculture at Glynllifon – then help your Ewythr Ivor here on the farm.”

I stare across the yard at the farmhouse where my mam’s brother is sleeping with his family. Do I want that life? I love it up here – but something is missing.

Esyllt? No, she is not my future – even if I feel the passion and the excitement…and the guilt.

“I need to keep my options open. I’m sixteen and I want to do AS and A levels in different subjects. I’m not ready to commit.”

They watch me…study me. What do they see? The guilt or vague potential?

“You’ve no idea what you want to do? You can’t be like your tad – look what he’s put our Glenys through?”

The cop-option. The one that tackling the bullies triggered – Esyllt’s suggestion. My tad’s secret desire. Or did he say it was too dangerous? I must evade this.

“I like swimming—” I stare into their eyes then glance towards the land. “And running across the fields. Okay, I can do that as a farmer. But I’d like to learn about the sport and leisure industries, whilst learning more skills – like more Welsh. It’s our language.”

They smile, and Nain reaches over and pats my knee. She takes my hands.

“If you go to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor how will you get there – you can’t live there?”

I let the conversation move on – hoping that we are past the tough grilling.

“I’ve passed my moped test and it will only take an hour – better than cycling and quicker. That means I can stay here – please.”

They embrace me, and I think they are leaving as Nain goes inside. But Taid sits back down.

“There’s something else. We’ve heard disturbing rumours from your school…” He looks up, and I shiver. “About an incident, you were involved in. What is the truth?”

As I dread. The whispers have spread into Snowdonia. It’s over. First Tad – but he didn’t tan my ass, just lectured me about vigilantes. Seems my school didn’t like the Goth Patrol standing up against bullies.

“It was a buddy system to protect kids needing friends.”

I listen to the hunting owls and Taid’s breathing. Did the family hear more? Or just about the assault in the swimming pool? I could have been drowned, but my friends rescued me – with Esyllt.

“In the eyes of the Lord,” he says, staring up into the night sky. “We can’t be the judges. But our friends talk – about our reputation in the community, and yours. Is there someone else?”

Here it is – the sin is exposed. Unless I lie.

“Not that I know – just friends.”

Lies are hard, but so is facing the truth. It won’t just be Taid and Nain. What will the family do next?

“Who is Esyllt Jernigan?”

I close my eyes and pray for guidance.

“One of my friends – another Goth like me.”

He frowns, and I realise my mistake – my other rebellion.

“Goth is darkness, isn’t it? A sin, in some eyes. You…like this other girl?”

Do I confess my sin – that I’ve slept with another woman? Or do I deny our love and perjure myself in the eyes of God? Three denials like Saint Peter is a sin.

But I want a future. Esyllt was the future but so are my family. Are the chapel rules just? Are Taid and Nain correct?

Must I change what my heart feels?

“There’s this guy – Bran. He likes me.”

Scooter

***

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

Word Count 991: MPA

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

critique badge1

 

READ MORE ENTRIES BY FOLLOWING THE WEP – Write…Edit…Publish URL:

http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/

 

 

Exploration or taster?

Scooter

As my regular followers might know, I’m exploring my Fates Maelstrom main protagonist’s backstory by writing short stories that are also a means to try a different POV.

After writing the first story about Sparkle Anwyl, Goth Patrol, in first-person present POV, I’ve stayed with that for three more shorts – two set some years earlier, when Sparkle was sixteen, and one set a year later when she is 23. (She’s 25 in the novel.)

I like the first-person present POV and I’ve even attempted a version of her first POV scene written in the first-person present – it seems to read okay. As for the backstory developed in these stories, the key incidents are already referenced in the main novel, Fates Maelstrom.

Now, I have two questions:

(1) Can I have other POVs in third for some scenes and Sparkle’s in the first-person present?

(2) The crucial question is – What do I do with the short stories?

I have been working on a framing story, ever since I read Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Last Wish – http://witcher.wikia.com/wiki/The_Last_Wish – in which the Polish writer cleverly uses one for his first shorts collection. However, the norm seems to be to release shorts totally independently, or as free rewards for followers/subscribers.

I decided to research this, and on the internet, I found this interesting article at Writer’s Digest – http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/writing-short-stories-novel-writing – that included this interesting point:

“Short fiction can be a toy box for your novel’s secondary characters, “offstage” action and locations. Outside the realm of your larger manuscript, you can do things like mine the protagonist’s past to find the source of her inner struggle, then use what you’ve learned to add a richness to your novel. (As a side benefit, these stories, if you’re pleased with the results, can later become great marketing tools: Sell them first, to prove the related novel has a receptive audience, or use them as a “bonus” read for novel fans who join your mailing list.)”

I seem to be trying to see if there is a side benefit or whether I remain in the toy box.

For ongoing research, I asked the Insecure Writer’s Support Group on Facebook, “I’ve taken a diversion to explore the backstory of my WIP’s main protagonist. I’ve ended up with some draft short stories that are all pre-WIP and I have a linking/book-ending story. Should they stay as backstory experiments, or should I release them first singly or as an anthology, OR release as a bonus/taster when WIP published …IF published.”

I got some great answers, most notably: Heather M. Gardner. “It really depends on how short and/or how interesting the stories are. I would recommend leaving them just for you, but you could always include them as a free story at the end of your book WHEN its published.”

Nick Wilford “I think you could offer them separately for either free or a low price – it might help build interest in the “main event”. Either as individual stories or a collection.”

Now, I like the idea of a low-price collection to build interest in the ‘main event’, as Nick Wilford calls it, but then the WHEN of Heather M Gardner’s answer troubles me.

Will the novel get published?

Is that important or only the writing experience?

Am I wasting time on social media if I never release anything more into the world? (My tweets get ignored most days.)

Should I just share one short? (In fact, another as I used one in my premature ‘Change of Heart’ post.)

Have you ever written shorts linked to your novels? What did you do with them?

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on Flickr