Sparkle or Skaði

My mind is already churning around the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges. There are 3 options:

  1. Standalone Stories inspired by the individual themes. Six separate spontaneous seasonal stories.
  2. Sparkle Anwyl case. Six episodes of a new Snowdon Shadows case for my Welsh detective and her partner-lover, Kama. The threads for this are scribbles with substance.
  3. Skaði, Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. More Norse mythology with a twist – and a few more kennings. Not sure why Skaði is at a cafe with my favourite artist or his sunflowers.
Skadi by Michael Jorvik
Eve Myles as Sparkle Anwyl

I could try doing a poll but comments seem better – if I get any. Tell me what you would like to read, please.

Nano Notches

After I recorded the final word count for my 2019 NaNoWriMo attempt, I began wondering, ‘Am I a cheat? What is a NaNoWriMo win? How did I get here?’

If a win means writing 50k words of a new work in November, then I’m a cheat. How many times?

The rules have been flexible for many years, and over the years, I’ve adapted those rules to fit my situation.

I’m no longer a ‘purist’ after a few NaNo successes. Nowadays, my draft outlines written in October are always part of the attempt. I always copy my outline and write over it. Even notes and comments to myself now become part of my ‘splurge’ draft novel.

My declining ability to write/type long and fast enough to tackle a fresh 50k has put paid to new creations. Anyway, with a few drafts clamouring for completion, adding to the heap seems foolhardy. So, I reuse drafts already written.

2019 was my ninth year of doing NaNoWriMo, but I’ve only worked on seven different novels. This year was a revision of last year’s success so a perversion of the rules.

My first attempt was in 2011, when my outlines were rough notes—a scrappy road map with room for detours. However, I’d already resorted to planning after my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves, was taking 13 years to publish as my plotlines kept changing.

Here’s a run-down of my NaNoWriMo journey:

2011:   The Last Leaf. I wrote 50k but didn’t know how to validate. Preparation—minimal research and a scrappy road map. A fantasy novella and part of my ‘Gossamer Flames’ saga.

2012:   Wyrm Blood. 54,817 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Sequel to a draft mystery, called ‘Wyrm Bait’.

2013:   Tortuous Terrain. 56,169 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’ awaiting reader demand.

2014:   Fates Maelstrom. FAIL with zero words after poor preparation. Intention was to relocate a Dartmoor draft novel to North Wales.

2015:   Fates Maelstrom. 70,274 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Dartmoor novel was heavily re-written to introduce my Welsh police detective Sparkle Anwyl. Originally, Book 1 of Snowdon Shadows series.

2016:   Eagle Passage. 55,612 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline using a Heroine’s Journey plotline. An alternative history set in a 21st century Viking Age with airships.

2017:   Ruined Retreat. 60,264 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Last true fresh draft-win. Originally, Book 3 of Snowdon Shadows series.

2018:   Fevered Few. 54,599 words—a validated win. Preparation: this started life as a collection of short stories about Sparkle Anwyl prior to Fates Maelstrom. So, I devised an outline plot to bookcase the stories and provide the framework for new material. Cheating?

2019:   Fevered Fuse. 68,535 words. A revised version of ‘Fevered Few’, with a revamped title, an amended plot and new scenes. I worked on a new outline/order in October—and even made notes. But was it a real win? Is it even Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows series? ‘Azure Spark’–my A to Z story–is a prequel of sorts.

What is on the cards for NaNoWriMo 2020? Perhaps, it will be a chance to revise a draft from the archives. Another cheat?

Seeking A Knife’? Part of the Snowdon Shadows series—originally the sequel to ‘Fates Maelstrom’. Although, half-written–before Sparkle’s sexuality evolved–I need to rewrite earlier Books first. 

Wyrm Bait’? An old mystery I regret filing away after detailed comments from a reputable British editor, who was positive while suggesting a logical approach to the rewrite.

I will have to plan further ahead if I intend to write anything. October will leave things too late. With MS an MS gets tougher every year—even an MS MS.

However, I’m amazed at one genuine win—my short story selection for the forthcoming IWSG Anthology. I never expected ‘Feather Fire’, my attempt at a MG story, to make it past discerning judges. I was wrong and stand alongside some great fellow writers. So, I congratulate those other writers and thank the judges.

Nearer the release date, I’ll share some nuggets from the research behind the adventure set in 1944.

For now, I’ll share the announcement of the winners of the IWSG Anthology Contest!


Coming May 5, 2020 –

Voyagers: The Third Ghost


Middle grade historical/adventure
Featuring these stories and authors:


The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
Winter Days – Katharina Kolata
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
Dare Double Dare – Louise MacBeath Barbour
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
The Orchard – Beth Anderson Schuck
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Simon Grey and the Yamamba – Charles Kowalski

We’d like to thank our amazing judges:
Elizabeth S. Craig, author and honorary judge
Dianne K. Salerni, author
Lynda Dietz, editor
S.A. Larsen, author
Rachna Chhabria, author
Lindsay Davis Auld, agent – Writers House
Tonja Drecker, author
David Powers King, author

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane–what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski  Louise MacBeath Barbour , Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

#IWSG – Role-play Reverie

Why am I getting repetitive? Because it’s that time again.

Yes, that one.

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here and so am I, insecure, although a chunk less since I’ve finished another WIP draft for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

I finished the revision before Thanksgiving so had a few days grace. And time to worry about this post and my WEP-IWSG flash on the theme of Footprints. But for the latter, don’t expect another Sparkle tale as she’s off-duty after a tough month. Instead, I’m revisiting another character’s world.

More insecurity/stress inducing -great for the MS, not- is the editing.

I’m trying to get my head round modern grammar rules: en-dashes, em-dashes, ellipses, etcetera. Whatever I learnt at school in the last century seems wrong—or old-fashioned. Was that last em-dash correct? Just when my fuddled brain sees the light, I get hit for six. [In cricket terminology. In baseball lingo, a homerun?]

Do editors differ in terms of style? AP or Oxford? Brits or Yanks?

Plus, this post comes with a warning: I’ve still got old IWSG posts to visit from months back – buried in the daily avalanche of emails. A never-ending avalanche. So, expect a visit in 2020. You’re filed.

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question which will result in more fascinating posts elsewhere.

December 4 question – Let’s play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

My fingers fly furiously over my keyboard. Finished correcting my latest novel—Book 8 in the Snowdon Shadows series. Yet more challenging cases for DI Sparkle Anwyl. Yet more animating accolades for Roland Clarke. Grin inanely, autograph another book, drink another toast with my agent. Life is great and comfortable for me, my wife and our furry family. Exotic escapades entice. Relaxed, warmth spreads from my chest to my body—to everyone.

Screech of brain-brakes.

Book 1 isn’t even ready. Is it Book 1 or just backstory? My fingers and brain are cramped. Sparkle is only a DC—Detective Constable. The ending feels flat. No agent. No publisher.

The only MS is my chronic illness.

So, hold the Role-play Reverie.

I fear I’m writing to leave a legacy of words to a family who doesn’t care. Most of our money goes to them—not to even an editor who can tackle my mixed-up words/grammar. Why bother to write?

To sleep, perchance to dream.

Because I dream of someone having a use for my scribblings—once I’ve found the best way to end the current WIP.

Is publication ambitious or justified? Necessity or luxury? Reality or Role-play?

*

The awesome co-hosts for the December 4 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson!

(You must agree these guys all have commitments too—but they are the best. Ticker-tape applause for all of them—plus toasts too.)

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. 

#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Horrible Harvest

Today’s offering for the WEP+IWSG Challenge is the climax of the piece I wrote for August’s Red Wheelbarrow prompt – HERE. However, I’ve changed the POV, and as some people requested, we are back with Detective Sparkle Anwyl, who is a guest at the wedding. Enjoy – if I do not scare you with the gory finale of my vampire tale.

Another Horrible Harvest

Saturday 8th August 2015

The glass goblet of crimson wine looks tasty. Maybe not summery but tempting.

Yet Mina is hesitant. Scared. Unlike the Mina Westenra of the Goth Patrol, ready to tackle a bully or a ghoul.

A for Atypical.

Kama bites my ear, then notices my stud-tapping. “What did the elderly guy say to her. Or is it hard to lip read from here?”

“A welcome. Something about his addiction to blood. He freaked Mina out. Not the Goth reaction I remember. Acting has changed my friend.”

Has policing changed me? Enriched if meeting Kama is included.

“If that’s human blood, this could be a crime scene.”

“Or a vampire case. That ghost was a cold case, not outside our remit as detectives. Anyway, we’re off duty. Let’s watch and listen, cariad.”

My school friend’s behaviour jangles every nerve and tattoo. Why?

The old man? A for Ancestry. V for Victim. P for Plasma.

He can’t be Owain Glyndwr, even if I’m proud to be Welsh and await the return of our national hero.

Another actor?

The best man finishes reading email greetings to the married couple, then nods to the elderly man.

“I’m cutting my speech short in favour of the wisdom of our host and hero.”

Owain springs to his feet, belying his reputed years.

“Over the centuries, I’ve watched and waited. History says I’ll return to set Wales free from the conquerors’ yoke. But blood is the charm today, and we’re all here to celebrate this blessed union instead. I could regale you with tales of battles and feuds, with horrors wrought and deeds undertaken. But my life was nothing compared to the future ahead for Mina and Dafydd.”

With a wink towards Mina, he raises his glass of crimson wine. “Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. This is your century. May you and my Great Nephew have many decades of fun ahead.” Facing the gathering, he continues, “Ladies, lords, friends, join me for a bridal toast. May you thrive and spawn many generations, Mina and Dafydd.”

He drains his glass.

No excuse needed to drink – in moderation. Even if us guests are served champagne – and there might be a crime lurking.

Mina smiles but doesn’t touch her glass.

“Your actress friend is scared to drink hers. A poisoned chalice, perhaps.”

My tattoos tingle at the scene. P for Poison. M for Murder. R for Revenge.

“I never knew her to refuse alcohol as a teenager.”

Mina reaches for a glass – of fruit juice.

Her stand-in father, Victor Frankel leans over to Dafydd, who mouths back, ‘Your moment.’

Victor rises.

“In the sad absence of Mina’s late father, I’ve been proud to give her away to another special person and talented actor. As their director, I see a fruitful partnership ahead – even under another’s direction.”

We all laugh or clap. He pauses, then removes a sheaf of paper from his jacket.

“I’d like to thank our host, the irrepressible Owain Glyndwr, for making today possible. As a descendent of the last true Prince of Wales, it’s fitting this ancestral home is where I’m announcing the next film from Oriole Productions – Horrible Harvest.”

Suitable cheers and foot stamps. My tattoos tingle – a pleasing sensation for once. E for Excitement and Error.

“Our new tale of bloody murders, duplicitous intrigue and evil disguised as good will star our talented couple – and chill our audience. Perhaps, our usual smoke and mirrors will garner its own harvest of honours. This will be our version of that classic, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But transposed to the mist shrouded but beautiful mountains of North Wales.”

The evidence is in the speeches. Case resolved. Everyone plunges back into festivities.

Congratulations are due the glowing couple.

Mina and I embrace. I tease her.

“Not the Goth you threatened to run away with. But he’s a catch.”

“Even as a teen, I wanted attention. Just as you wanted to fight injustice. And I guess your partner is—”

“Another injustice warrior. Kama – the best woman and detective in my life.”

The untouched glass is behind her. Tempting me to smell and taste its contents.

Kama distracts Mina. “So, when we get married, you must both attend the celebrations. No date yet, but we’re making plans. Not straightforward…”

Letting my distraction distract, I step behind and take the cup.

Musty but not sulphurous. I dip my finger in, then lick it.

R for Robust and E for Energising.

Time to REVAMP our fears.

I hand Mina the goblet. “An unusual concoction that suggests blood. But it’s not a case for our forensic guys. Maybe special effects are responsible. Enjoy it without fear.”

She sips, then smiles, and laughs.

“Better than blood. Also, revitalising. I will get addicted.”

“The power of suggestion. Blend fruit juice, red wine, herbs and spices. Call it blood. And throw in vampires.”

***

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Word Count 830: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

#IWSG – Word View

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, insecure, although a notch less.

I finally got my entry for the 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest in with a day to spare. Finally, I suppressed my fears, switched off my urge to edit, edit, edit, and edit forever. I managed to integrate almost all the comments from my wonderful beta readers. However, my step kids were no shows as readers. But I had an awesome MG kid-reader from the UK – thanks Rebecca, for some awesome suggestions.

Insecurity postponed until the results appear next year.

Now, I’m stressing about my Pitch Wars 2019 submission – Fevered Few. The required query letter, one-page synopsis, and the first chapter of my completed manuscript are achievable by the September 25th-27th deadline. But I’m unsure if I have a “completed and polished full-length, fiction manuscript”. Complete perhaps, but ‘dusted’ might fit better than ‘polished’.

So, another insecure month. Or maybe, I’ll work on my short stories and the drug cartel in Bolivia.

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question.

September 4 question – If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

 I’m writing this in an office shared with my wife, that overlooks a suburban US street – not my dream location.

Requirements for change:

  1. Water view: by a river would be good or overlooking a beach or ocean.
  2. Mountain view: looking out onto green alpine meadows or something with a snow cap.
  3. Log cabin: a feel of being in the woods, surrounded by trees.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA, Phantom Ship – Photo by Brian W. Schaller
Published under the Creative Commons license – CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

In my mind, I see a cabin on Crater Lake in Oregon, USA. We once looked at murals to create some of that on the wall behind/beside our desks. Sound effects? We were planning to move to a mobile home park with houses overlooking a lake – but that’s not happening.

Of course, our house and office in North Wales was on the edge of woodland, overlooked Ceredigion Bay, and had a view of Snowdon. Plus, we had jackdaws in our garden. Just try ignoring our neighbours-from-Hell.

My wife’s photo may not show the estuary or the tip of Harlech Castle, but we could see them, especially from our landscaped garden. But the memories are there – and inspire my writing about Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police/Heddlu Gogledd Cymru in my Snowdon Shadows series.

And that photo has been enlarged, so it hangs above my desk with a red Welsh Dragon in front. Outside the window, beside our new rose garden, is a fountain of running water. Good enough for the next story, especially as we are spending the last weekend of September in a cabin in the mountains surrounded by pine trees.

*

The awesome co-hosts for the September 4 posting of the IWSG are Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantiner!

(I so admire these guys as I know they have commitments too. Ticker-tape applause.)

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 – Sneaky Surprises

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, insecure or maybe just guilty.

Guilty as my writing in July continued to be minimal: a few book reviews and the first draft for my August #WEP/IWSG CHALLENGE – due a fortnight (two weeks) today. Meanwhile, Sparkle Anwyl has taken a holiday in my head. And I’m still wading through a backlog of emails that fills up like sand.  Or is it my gaming distractions or my health?   

Rabbit holes – like researching hashtags that describe me: #IWSG #WEP/IWSG #crimefiction #ubisoftgames #assassinscreed #gamer #bookworm #goodreads #MS. Those were for #PWPoePrompts.

My biggest concern is my entry for the 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest. I’ve done most of the research, but some key bits are missing. I’ve outlined my story but I’ve yet to finish the first draft. Finally, I fear I need more than beta readers that know MG. The deadline looms – September 4th. Panic is setting in.

Beta readers. I keep losing them. I even need some to help get ‘Azure Spark’ ready for pro-editing. Are my own critiques frightening writers/readers away?

The brutal truth. Can anyone help me, please?

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question.

August 7 question – Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

I can’t claim any ‘industry’ surprises. But that’s not surprising given my lack of productivity. A few expected rejections, a few years ago. One hoped for acceptance – my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves. But unsurprising low sales and mixed reviews.

However, there was one surprise while writing Spiral of Hooves – the identity of the antagonist. S/he changed as I edited the early drafts and focused the story – as did her/his motive.

In one of my current WIPs, part of the Snowdon Shadows series, one of my favourite characters became an unexpected victim – but with a twist. Where did that come from?

There must be a devious person at work in my mind. Who is it? Why did I create a link back to my unrelated debut? A character in the WIP series appeared after playing a minor role in Spiral of Hooves. Who was more surprised? Me or Sparkle?

*

The awesome co-hosts for the August 7 posting of the IWSG are Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

(I so admire these guys as I know they have commitments too. Ticker-tape applause.)

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.