#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

 

#TheIWSG Ultimate Writing Goals

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Is it really July already? Where did June go? Is it time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post? In fact, this post is a day early due to the US Fourth of July Holiday. Does that mean we all get to celebrate? Oh wait, I’m a Brit living in the US, so I must acknowledge this celebration of when the US got rid of the British Empire. Or did we Brits get rid of the damn tea-dumping, pesky colonists?

On to the IWSG brain-teaser:

July 3 question – What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Those ‘ultimate writing goals’ are still moveable feasts.

First off, my goals are not what they were when I was in my teens, churning out scrappy shorts and dreaming of publishing multiple novels. When I was a working journalist, I had scaled back to one equestrian mystery with possibly two sequels.

Now I’m coping with health issues that make my goals move each day/month/year. OK – July 2018…goals = continue blogging for IWSG once-per-month, my Thursday Review every week – plus the odd blog hop/article/interview. And as for the fiction writing, attempt to write the three short stories linked to my Snowdon Shadows series. Perhaps I can dream of publishing one more novel – even if the first was a damp squid.

Is it wise to retire after one published opus?

Despite the brain fogs and jumbled thoughts, I still have urges to write – just not with any real hope of publishing anything else.

As I asked last month, is it time to just read and dream? (And become a ‘reviewer’.)

**

The awesome co-hosts for this July 3 posting of the IWSG are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

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 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

#IWSG – Spring Inspiration

IWSGBadge

Another month and another IWSG post. Well, not just any month but the Blogging from A to Z Challenge month, so I managed to write 26 posts and got them scheduled on the correct days. But enough of that – I’ll post my reflections on the Challenge next week – this is an IWSG monthly past.

May 2 question – It’s spring!

Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

Of course, Spring inspires me – to get outside and soak up the sunshine. And yes, Spring is here, and the little grey cells are sparking – despite the MS. Okay, I have my struggles with the misfiring nervous system, and my brain loses direction and thoughts. I forget what I am doing, my fingers hit too many wrong keys, and my body must sleep sporadically or suffer the painful body-wrenching attacks.

Officially, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Spring arrived on March 20, 2018. That means that the Spring Equinox must have set all those A-to-Z posts in motion.

I’ve even used the last few days to devise a cunning plan. Did Baldrick help with that?

Baldrick_thumbnail

The cunning plan: to write a review once a week of one of the books I’ve read and failed to review here. Those reviews will be scheduled for every Thursday.

However, I reserve the right to write other posts – if motivated.

What about the deviously cunning Fates Maelstrom plans? Not abandoned or shelved but extended.

I wrote draft one of Book 3 in the Snowdon Shadows series for NaNoWriMo last November. Then I started editing Fates Maelstrom in December, developing all the ideas needed for the final draft prior to beta-reading.

That has led to Goth Patrol, a short story about the main protagonist, policewoman Sparkle Anwyl and how she lost her first love and joined the CID. I’m starting on another short, Face Trash, her first case as a detective, fresh from police college. Call these stories ‘character research’.

Or should I publish those stories first?

That’s what Spring does for my devious brain – seeds seeking fertile soil.

[One problem: I need a friend to sit with and chat, face-to-face over a pint or a meal. I lost that when I moved four years ago.]

**

The awesome co-hosts for the May 2 posting of the IWSG are E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose, C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!

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 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