#IWSG – Writer Success?

Passing on the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post is a decision I face and resist each time, even if it’s tempting to succumb to failure. But not this month.

As for July’s family medical crisis, that was resolved, although I suspect there may be others out there.

So, the monthly question made me answer again, so please bear with more confused thoughts.

Okay, here goes.

Well, first I must thank the Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh for all he does – and thanks for creating the Insecure Writer’s Support Group without whom my writing would be non-existent…and March’s post might have been ‘farewell’.

Second, my thanks to all those whose encouraging comments ensure I scribble onwards. Apologies for failing to reply to every comment recently. I try at least to press ‘like’ when I’ve read them. Maybe I’ll attempt an all-inclusive answer next time.

Anyway, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site, and to read for better answers to this month’s challenging question.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Although the question is optional, I’m again tempted to answer.

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

Writing success – a dream for six decades.

When I was a teenager, I spoke as a teenager, I understood as a teenager, I thought as a teenager, and expected writing success. But when I became a retiree, I put away teenage dreams.

Okay, that’s a simplified statement – and a crib from 1 Corinthians 13 – so, I’ll elaborate.

As a child, I never expected real success, but as a teenager scribbling shorts and novel ideas, I hoped I’d get at least a short story or two accepted by magazines. My first rejection dashed that dream, stopped me submitting, and led to me self-publishing a sci-fi fanzine. Yes, it contained stories by other people and me – but understandably short-lived at 2 issues.

I put away any ambition as a fiction writer for five decades, although I was published as a journalist – purely factual articles. In my early 20s, I had a brief stint as a sub-editor on The Field magazine, then went freelance for a few years, before becoming a photographer – briefly again.

Fast forward to 1994 – via organic produce, green politics, videos and films – and I was back writing as a journalist, focusing on equestrian sports, mainly eventing. My first novel, my first fiction acceptance was taking shape, but it wasn’t finished until I retired. So, Spiral of Hooves was released as an e-book on Monday, December 9th, 2013, by Spectacle Publishing. For a few months, I felt successful as a writer, but I was insecure and dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the slow sales, mediocre reviews……and the lack of a physical book to caress. However, that was released on Monday, August 7th, 2017, the second edition – re-edited, updated, and self-published as Spectacle had been bought out.

Thanks to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group , I got the chance to write and submit shorts to the annual anthology. Eventually, one story – Feathered Fire – was accepted and published in Voyagers: The Third Ghost in 2020. However, to date that is my only published short.

So, is that writing success? My wife says getting my novel published means ‘yes’.

For me, I see others submitting regularly and getting their writing out there. That’s ‘success as a writer, especially if the response is good and there’s more to come. However, there are one hit successes as well-but they’re rare, although amazing.

My writing is dissolving into dreams and screams…marinading forever. My co-writer never emerged so Fevered Fuse will remain unfinished, while Sparkle and Kama may make brief appearances in WEP/IWSG Challenge posts – as long as I can type sense.

Maybe one day things may change.

Apologies, that’s all until my next post – October’s IWSG post and then the WEP/IWSG Challenge a couple of weeks later.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Well, they are – especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available.

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.

For more on the IWSG monthly post and links to other participants visit:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Freedom of Speech

Crime never sleeps.

My apologies for the late appearance of Post IV in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge – the Year of the Art. My first Covid-19 vaccine knocked me sideways and I’m still recovering – and dreading the second one.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them.

So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

DISRUPTED DIRECTIVE

2014

Friday, 9th May

This shadow is ideal. Perfect for surveillance without drawing attention to ourselves.

Jeans, sweatshirts, and suede jackets ensure Kama and I merge into the crowd gathered in the hall.

The debate has been civil, although the candidates have all made it clear where they stand on Europe.

In versus out. Vocal arguments with tinges of indecision.

But no sign of the anticipated public order threats – yet.

A smartly dressed man in a pale suit smiles at the gathering, pleads with weaving gestures. “We’re British, we’re not European. One language ensures we remain the United Kingdom. Do you want to be ruled by other nations? Forced to speak other languages? We must reject their unjust directives.”

The Green candidate appeals for calm as several people shout from the audience, pointing at the outspoken man.

I turn to Kama. “He’s deliberately provoking us – the Welsh.”

“He’s the intended target – supposedly. Watch for trouble. He’s setting himself up for attacks.”

Two young women leap up, dressed in our norm of black leathers, and shout – in Welsh. “You’re the invader forcing us to accept your rule – talk your language.”

“Speak English, please, not your foreign gibberish. Nobody can understand you. We don’t have translators here like the European Parliament.”

Another candidate, the woman from Plaid Cymru stands and asks first in Welsh. “Stand if you understood these sisters.” Then as almost everyone stands, she adds in English. “Our Brexit colleague has the right of free speech…” She pauses, then continues, “But not the right to claim his language should dominate us. Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon.”

“My apologies. However, isn’t the law upheld in English. What do my seated friends say?”

Before Kama or I can correct his legal presumption as officers who caution bi-lingually, some seated guys leap to their feet.

They mask their faces as they throw projectiles at the dais and into the crowd.

Flour bombs explode.

“Not just flour.” I choke as Kama shoves a scarf on my mouth.

“Tear gas. We need to protect the bigot.”

“Unless he planned this evening.” Blinded by flour and tears,we stumble towards the platform.

No sign of the candidate. Abducted or scarpered?

We keep searching amidst the confusion. No sign of him or the masked bombers.

Image: Bert Kaufmann/Adam Walker

Monday, 12th May

A bolt hole for a scared politician? Or for a devious one?

But the campaign office echoes others I’ve seen. Diligent drones. Harassed helpers. Flyers and posters everywhere. Clicking keyboards.

“Morning officer. Have you arrested those protesters? The ones trying to challenge my freedom of speech?” The instigator ignores my initial attempt to reply and ploughs on. “Flour bombs and tear gas are offensive weapons—”

“We have a couple of protestors in custody.”

He smiles, continuing to ignore the plain clothes officer beside me – Kama. Did he see us at the meeting – together? And standing with the other Welsh speakers? Obviously not.

“Is this one of them? Come to apologise?”

Kama produces her warrant card. “I was hoping you could answer a few questions as I’m leading the investigation. Provoking unlawful violence is a serious offence under the 1986 Public Order Act. A person guilty of such an offence could face imprisonment for six months or a hefty fine. Shall we talk here or have you a separate office, please?”

His demeanour and voice waver. “Well, um… You’d better follow me…officers. Anything to help…resolve any misunderstanding.”

His office is spacious and uncluttered, except for the electoral material promoting his attempt at election in ten days.

He sits behind his desk, waving us to the seats on the other side.

The desk is meant to be formidable and intimidating. But Kama has dented his defences already.

“Those hooligans misunderstood. I have the right to say what I believe – as do they. But throwing an offensive missile must be a crime—”

“As is orchestrating this event. The statements from your supporters make it clear what you intended—”

“My supporters? You must be mistaken. Those were Welsh Nationalists – they deliberately attacked me. My human rights were violated, as they have been throughout this campaign. Abuse, slander, and lies.”

Kama smiles, then turns to me. “Did the flour bombers speak any Welsh, PC Anwyl?”

“Only a few badly constructed and pronounced curses. But they declared their allegiance to a British nationalist cause – like yours, sir.” Then, I give him the statutory caution and warning against further incitement to violence and electoral fraud, adding, “Or we will be obliged to report you to the relevant European authorities.”

He leans forward, but his threatening gesture is empty. “I don’t recognise that authority, but I will prove the people are on my side at the polls. Trust me. Thank you, ladies.”

Dismissed, we stand, satisfied the press coverage of the incident will undermine his chances.

As we leave his bolt hole, I notice a framed print on his wall. Norman Rockwell’s famous “Freedom of Speech” painting. I point at the print, then turn back towards our English fanatic.

“Free Speech – a right none of us should abuse. And to close the debate, I’ll add, Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon – meaning, ‘A nation without language is a nation without heart’. Remember that.”

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Speech,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” February 20, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

878 words FCA

The ‘Freedom of Speech’ prompt triggered thoughts about political hustings in England and Wales as I was involved on the fringes of politics for decades.

As I said in my last WEP/IWSG Challenge post, conservation and environmental threats have concerned me for decades – peace issues included. I was a member of the Green Party for years, involved in various elections – once as a candidate – and worked with Green politicians in other countries, including some elected members of parliaments (Mps and MEPs).

So, I welcomed a chance to involve Sparkle and Kama in an election incident, one that slotted into their storyline – preferably an election I voted in. After some rabbit-hole research into Welsh elections, I chose the 2014 European Elections: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_European_Parliament_election_in_the_United_Kingdom.

In this fictional scenario, I envisaged the provocative right-wing candidate losing – and in reality, the most extreme candidates did lose. But sadly, in my opinion, Britain later left the European Union. Although green in my beliefs, I voted in 2014 for the Plaid candidate, Jill Evans as she was an effective MEP and an active  member of the Green / European Free Alliance (EFA) Group.

#WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Great Wave

Crime never sleeps.

Post III in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge and on the theme, the Year of the Art. Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them.

So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: 

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

STORM STEALTH

2014

Thursday, January 2nd

Kama and I shine torches across the runway invaded by the turbulent waters of Cardigan Bay. Three figures wave from the top of a stranded Land Rover, so the flood rescue coxswain steers towards them.

“Thank God, you found us before this flood rose higher. Our vehicle died on us—”

“Where were you going this late?”’

“Back to Llanbedr. We’d just repaired our plane in a hanger when the storm hit.”

The team makes room in the inflatable for the three men, but then, despite the storm, I hear distressed animal noises from a nearby barn.

“We need to investigate.”

One of the men shakes his head. “It’s just a stray dog. We tried helping it earlier, but it just growled at us, then slunk off.”

“We’re shivering,” says another rescued man. “We need to get home, please.”

The men don’t want our interference but I ignore their protests. Who are they? Were they repairing a plane? Access to the Snowdonia Flight School is not difficult.

But to them we’re their rescuers – not off-duty police.

Glancing at my partner, I swing my legs over the side. “We can do this. If we have to swim, we can. We’ve handled worst conditions.”

Kama whispers to the coxswain, before lowering herself into the flood waters.

She shouts back to the team as thunder echoes around us. “Sparkle’s correct. It’s our job to save any life. We’ll catch up later.”

We wade through the rising water towards the barn. The sounds are not just a dog.

“Was that a growl?” asks Kama. “Sounded more like a macaque.”

As we approach the barn door, the alarm calls increase.

“But here? You know—”

“—because my relatives in Tamil Nadu live near a troop. But they’re endangered macaques.”

We ease the door ajar and slip inside. Our torches shine on four piercing golden eyes in black faces surrounded by silver-grey manes – large canines bared

Caged.

A male lion-tailed macaque, showing its canines as a threat display. – Photo: Kalyanvarma

And other cages with exotic creatures.

The floor ripples. Rising water. And writhing snakes trying to escape drowning.

Plastic water bottles float. I shiver. Bottles with captive birds.

“We have to call this in. Those guys were smuggling illegal wildlife – by plane if they even had one. The National Wildlife Crime Unit won’t be open until the morning. RSPCA has a 24 hour hotline.”

My colleague reports our find to control, who reassure us that the RSPCA will be alerted.

“Can we at least get the creatures above the water?” I pick up two bottles and put them on a nearby shelf.

“ Are you leaving the snakes for the Indian charmer?” Kama nudges me.

I point to handles at the end of the plastic containers with the struggling serpents. “The scumbags took some precautions even if it wasn’t through concern for these poor guys.”

When we have moved every creature above the flood, we head outside into the storm.

“If our smugglers are in Llanbedr, we need to arrest them now—”

“I asked the coxswain to call uniform and ensure they watch their home, until we relieve them.”

Wading to firm ground is harder now. In places we have to swim – no challenge, even clothed.

However, the rain and sea water has made the fields boggy between access roads.

It’s only when we reach the road from Shell Island to Llanbedr that we can walk, then jog. Kama contacts uniform and updates them.

“A squad car will meet you at the rail crossing in five.”

The smugglers haven’t bolted, guessing the extensive flooding will divert attention – wrongly.

When the door opens, the leader looks beyond us at the uniform support.

“Shouldn’t they be fighting crime?”

“Smuggling wildlife is a crime.” Kama produces her warrant card. “We’re arresting you for offences under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Please read them their rights PC Anwyl.”

Friday, January 3rd

Emergency services continue to be stretched in the morning, and Porthmadog Heddlu are in demand. Our colleagues are exhausted, but the phones keep ringing. From serious crimes to breached seawalls and flooded front-rooms, people feel we should be resolving their problems. The situation is exacerbated with the main coastal railway line closed, and many key A roads impassable.

Perfect conditions for crime.

Someone is pinning a poster to the wall – a reminder of the flood of assignments we face.

And for Kama and me, our task has escalated. Crimes involving wildlife are generally not seen as “serious”, or are not thought of as “real crimes”.

But these smugglers have been identified. We want to see them prosecuted – not fined a few pounds and slapped on the wrists..

“We need stronger sentencing guidelines in Wales,” says DCI Ffion Baines. “That would result in more appropriate punishments for such horrible crimes. And more likely deter potential offenders. If you present your case, then I’ll back you with the CPS.”

But with no sentencing guidelines, the Crown Prosecution Service may find this case impossible to deal with effectively.

“Smuggling might be the stronger avenue. Evading customs. Contravening flying regulations, maybe. Lateral approach might throw up other crimes – crimes carrying a real sentence.”

“Time to send a clear message to the rest of the world that this part of the UK is doing its bit to address the devastating impact of the illegal wildlife trade.”

I point at The Great Wave poster. “Time to unleash our own tidal wave.”

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, by Katsushika Hokusai

908 words FCA

Although the initial inspiration for this flash was The Great Wave prompt, my mind was swept up with images of the storm surges that hit North Wales in December 2013 and January 2014. We were due to move into our new home there on March 1st (St David’s Day), so we were concerned as Harlech is on the coast,

When we arrived, there were still signs of the storms, although nothing akin to the damage done in the Great Storm of 1987, which scarred the landscape in the SE, around my family home. However, the Welsh storms left their mark – here’s how the BBC reported the storm on January 3rd 2014:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-25583295

Conservation and environmental threats have concerned me for decades, so a chance to involve Sparkle and Kama was inevitable.

A policeman holds a water bottle containing a yellow-crested cockatoo (REUTERS/Antara Foto/Risyal Hidayat)

For more on the despicable trade in illegal wildlife, visit:

https://www.traffic.org/

Finally, if you want to learn more about Lion-tailed Macaques, here’s a documentary made around Kama Pillai’s ancestral home:

#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – The Kiss

Crime never sleeps.

This year’s WEP/IWSG challenge theme, the Year of the Art, ties in to my novella for last year’s challenges, the six-part story called Custody Chain’.

I was wary of attempting another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, but I sensed many of you would expect something else involving them.

However, another Snowdon Shadows novella was too daunting – and a commitment too far. Although I managed to get there, I had to eke out the end of ‘Custody Chain’ sentence by sentence – sometimes one each day.

So, I’m going down the stand-alone path, although there will be a few links – beyond my dynamic duo.

Apologies, the word count is over the limit – but let’s move on.

If you wish, please comment, or suggest what links are ongoing.

Many thanks for reading.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: 

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

LIP SERVICE

2015

Friday, January 9th

Surf crashes onto the beach, churning the sand and tossing seashells aside. Rollers rush the rocks bordering the bay.

Perfect for thrill-seeking surfers, but treacherous for casual swimmers. Deceptive currents.

Another challenge for Kama and me. Nothing deflects us from our dawn swim.

We race into the roiling sea, limbs driving us out until Morfa Bychan disappears.

Then we turn for shore and breakfast.

A familiar figure waits for us. A brunette in uniform, with sparkling eyes – and a worried expression.

PCSO Lleilu Dace, the police community support officer, who proved so invaluable on an art theft case the previous year.

She waves as we walk ashore.

“I knew you’d both be here, so wanted to catch you off-duty. Sorry for the intrusion—”

“—anytime. What’s the problem?” Kama’s tone is calm and encouraging.

I find myself reading Lleilu’s lips. The case had involved Tesni Szarka, a deaf painter.

“Don’t take this wrong. I’m not proper uniform and certainly not a detective—”

“But you’re part of the team with vital input. What’s happened? Sexism?”

“Too often – some of your colleagues expect me to make their tea, even when they are capable. No, it’s the paperwork. It has to stop.”

I share her frustration. Time sheets, surveys, assessments, as well as our regular case reports.

“We do depend on non-police staff to type up our Smartphone notes.” Kama shakes her head. “But only if we’re stretched and we shouldn’t expect PCSOs to do that. You have key support roles – and you’ve proved invaluable. You should talk to DCI Baines – she’d understand.”

Lleilu shakes her head. “It’s just my observation, not an official complaint. That would require triplicate form-filling. Paperwork will be the kiss of death for real policing. Anyway, I’m going for a swim.”

She slips out of her uniform, down to a swimsuit and a lithe body. Warmth spreads up to my face and I glance at Kama. Resist, her face says.

Lleilu plunges into the sea and begins to carve her way through the turbulent water.

Pounding. My chest. She’s disappeared. Undertow.

Kama and I dash in, diving underwater. Searching.

I find Lleilu fighting to surface. Fighting to breathe. Choking.

As I reach her, she collapses. Remain calm. Slow my racing heart.

I slip hands under her armpits, then kick to the surface, swimming parallel to the shore – out of the undertow.

Kama is beside us, guiding us back to the beach once we’re out of the undertow.

We lay Lleilu on the sand. Her pulse is weak. Not breathing. Kama presses her lips to another. I shiver. No. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Kiss of life. 

Kama continues the methodical airway-breathing-circulation then chest compressions. Lleilu’s eyes flutter. No gasp for air.

My partner motions for me to take over. I press my mouth to Lleilu’s, pinching her nose – and praying.

She chokes up seawater, then forces a smile.

***

Sunday 25th January

Kama and I kiss, lips soft as tongues tease. Then we zip up our leathers over evening glad rags.

The front-door bell rings.

Lleilu – with a large package.

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus. I have a gift for you both – for saving me.”

She kisses us on both cheeks, then hands us the wrapped gift.

We undo the protective cloth, revealing a painting we will cherish.

“Tesni Szarka painted this replica. Dropped everything to finish it for—”

“St Dwynwen’s Day. Our own version of St Valentine’s Day – which we’re about to celebrate—”

“Join us – unless there’s someone—”

“Not yet, but he’s out there.”

I place the replica of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss on our mantelpiece.

1077 words FCA

For more on the theme of art, check out the amazing WEP/IWSG Challenges Calendar for 2021 with designs by Olga Godim:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/12/announcing-wep-2021-calendar.html

For more on Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss see:

For details on St Dwynwen’s Day:

https://www.visitwales.com/info/history-heritage-and-traditions/st-dwynwens-day

And for other February entries visit:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Unmasked

Crime never sleeps.

Winter must be here as we have settled snow here in Idaho, although later than a few places in the UK – well, they’ve had the first snow in Snowdonia days. Anyway, time to conclude my WEP/IWSG challenge novella, even though this challenge is not ‘official’.

Well, I had to conclude the case.

When Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai began investigating the ‘Café Terrace’ theft, we didn’t know where their six-part story called Custody Chain’would lead. However, Snowdon Shadows always throws up rabbit holes to test me. So, unsurprising, the villain of the case was shrouded in mystery.

But we have reached a conclusion, although it’s taken weeks of writing. NaNoWriMo 2020 was a related tale meant to rekindle the fire – or sparkle in the gloom. But that failed and since last month, I’ve had to eek out the end of ‘Custody Chain’ sentence by sentence – sometimes one each day.

But, as an inspirational postcard on my desk – from Writing.com –  says:

A little progress each day

adds up to big results.

Despite everything, I finished, although the word count is over the limit – so, apologies. Anyway, let’s move on.

If you missed the first five parts of the story, or would like to refresh your memory, here are the links:

Chapter One – Café Terrace:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/02/19/wep-iwsg-february-challenge-cafe-terrace/

Chapter Two – Masterpiece:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/15/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-antique-vase/

Chapter Three – Cryptograph:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/06/17/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-urban-nightmare/

Chapter Four – Umbrage:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/08/22/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-long-shadow/

Chapter Five – Cypresses:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/10/21/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-grave-mistake/

Please note there may be minor oversights/errors/omissions which editing of the final story into a novella will address. Writing new chapters has thrown up new clues to fathom.

Anyway, enjoy this final chapter, and if you wish, please comment, or suggest what happens next. Many thanks for reading.

Apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: 

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

CHAPTER SIX – SEASCAPES

2014

Tuesday, April 8th

We’re apprehensive.

Tesni and Urien have left the Llanystumdwy barn’s safety, although PCSO Lleilu Dace is still with them and in touch with backup. We’ve ensured Tűzvirág had minimal contact with her brother, Barangó Fekete, and all attempts by her lawyers to have her sent back to Hungary failed.

Kama and I park our motorbikes in the dunes overlooking the shingle beach west of Criccieth. We’re far enough from the town for the area to seem deserted, bar a solitary woman with a dog.

Out in Cardigan Bay, a boat bobs on a sea anchor. A figure clutches a fishing rod at the stern.

I scan the boat with my binoculars. Suspicious?

“Shark fishing is dangerous, Sparkle. We knew the risk.”

“We were warned about Barangó Fekete’s long reach. It’s what we counted on – and on his greed.”

In a sheltered spot among the dunes, Urien and Lleilu are sitting on a rug with a picnic hamper – like holiday makers. Tesni has an easel with a canvas on it and is applying oil paint with a palette knife.

The distinctive bold Van Gogh strokes flow fast, although the image is Welsh – the boat in the bay. The blue and white waves have streaks of green and yellow, brightening the scene.

“The sea and fishermen. A tribute to his passion.” Tesni turns to explain, then signs. “In Vincent style. Not replica but Mediterranean colours. Changing as we are.”

“My daughter seems to be moving on. She insisted on coming here – and painting for herself. Is it safe? Are you the backup Lleilu mentioned?”

I need to reassure her, even if I’m uneasy. “We’ve someone watching this area – the backup is hidden. So, why this spot? It’s secluded and beautiful–”

“—Tesni received a postcard from her aunt Aranka.”

Urien produces a card of a Van Gogh seascape, with writing on the back in what must be Hungarian.

‘Most ugrik a majom a vízbe.’

“It says, ‘The monkey will now jump in the water’, meaning now we will see what happens.”

Tesni turns from her artwork and gestures at the card. “Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Painted by Vincent in June 1888 – from the beach, as sand grains found in the paint layers. Done at a fishing village in the south of France.” She points with her palette knife at the boat. “Real fisherman. Not our watcher. Here as expected. Vincent say, ‘There is safety in the very heart of danger’.”

Kama nods towards the boat. “That fisherman appears unwelcome.  I suspect Aranka knew what would happen. We’ll investigate.”

Another morning swim is welcome, so I peel off my leathers. Forewarned we’re both wearing our neoprene costumes, so tumble like tourists into the surf.

The plunge invigorates. Cool and inviting.

When the bottom drops away, I dive, arms streamlined like an arrow. Slice underwater in a smooth breaststroke with a strong dolphin kick. Surfacing, I switch to a crawl away from the beach. Kama keeps pace beside me.

My head dips under the surface after each breath and we carve through the waves. A normal swim except we are on duty.

As we draw parallel to the boat, the fisherman watches intently. Although dressed the part, his gear is freshwater not sea angling. He jerks his rod up, tugging his line, then drops all the tackle and grabs a gaff, which he brandishes.

“Stay away. This here catch is mine.” His Black Country accent has a foreign edge – and menace. “Leave us now, or else.”

We tread water as he prowls. A splash behind the boat alerts me. I duck dive – deep and towards the sound.

A figure in scuba gear is working their way around the boat, spear-gun in their hands. As the weapon is levelled at Kama, I grab the diver and wrench it free. The figure whirls as another one surfaces by Kama.

But she back flips and lashes at him with her right foot. Then she grabs him in a neck lock, as I fend off the first with the butt of the spear-gun. Resist the blood pounding urge to use the spear. An arm-hold works – until a gaff forces me to duck.

Outnumbered – even in our element.

A blue and yellow shape powers up. Backup. POLICE HEDDLU on the air-tube sides.

An officer leaps  from the rigid inflatable boat at the gaff-wielding fisherman and disarms him.

Our colleagues from the North West Police Underwater Search & Marine Unit haul the divers on board.

“Your DCI Baines told Inspector Varley you might have company.” As Kama and I board, the senior officer unmasks the two divers, then smiles. “Well, these guys are known to us – for evading smuggling charges.”

Once we have read the trio of attackers their rights and charged them, Kama confronts the fake fisherman. “Who arranged for you to be here? And don’t claim you were just fishing.”

“Anonymous request to be here.”

“In English? What for?” His twitching face glancing at the beach answers. “So, a passenger – and in Hungarian. Correct?”

He nods and I turn to Kama and speak in Tamil. “The long shadow – Barangó Fekete’s reach. Guess the painting wasn’t enough on its own. Time to close the trap.”

**

As night enfolds the barn at Llanystumdwy, we wait with Tesni, Urien, and Lleilu for news on the ‘art theft’.  

The kidnappers are in custody – keeping Tűzvirág company.

The phone rings and Kama answers. As expected, it’s her friend in Interpol, Krystian Skala who heads the unit handling ‘the theft’.

“Arrested…attempting to sell the replica as genuine. To whom?”

She allows Krystian to explain, then updates us – facing Tesni so she can read her lips.

“Seems Fekete sold Tesni’s painting as the real one. He approached a collector of stolen art with a convincing explanation of how he acquired it—”

“Mentioning Tesni or the theft?”

“He described the theft in detail – the fabricated details the Dutch police ‘leaked’ on Interpol’s suggestion.  Fortunately he was too greedy to realise the collector was co-operating with our continental colleagues.”

I laugh. “”Guess Fekete believed he’d get more for the stolen painting,so he had to create a fake custody chain. Foolish. Even if he secures a reduced sentence, his credibility as a criminal mastermind is unmasked. But he will be watched so you are always safe..”

Tesni smiles, then signs, “One must work and dare if one really wants to live – as Vincent said.”

**

1093 words FCA

*

One of my commentators gave me this link, which is brilliant: Doctor Who and Van Gogh:

As for other rabbit holes encountered while researching this chapter, I found several fascinating and invaluable articles, which helped me write this piece. I often say, when reality and fiction meet, sparks ignite the little grey cells.

https://marine-cafe.com/a-legacy-of-love-fishermen-in-vincent-van-goghs-art/

http://www.vangoghreproductions.com/art-techniques/van-gogh-art-techniques.html

On the theme of art, check out the amazing WEP/IWSG Challenges Calendar for 2021, which will yield some great pieces from colleagues:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/12/announcing-wep-2021-calendar.html

#IWSG – Productivity

Apologies for my minimal presence in the writing community recently. This is an attempt at my monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post – with the usual raft of flimsy excuses.

The encouragement of the Ninja Captain avoids me missing a month as he’s such a stalwart follower. Without IWSG, my writing would be post-it notes. Thanks Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where you can find better answers to this month’s challenging question.

I need to remind myself the question is optional, but why not attempt an answer. 

December 2 question – Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

In a normal year, November has led my output as NaNoWriMo has motivated me. Otherwise, the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly Challenges have kept me writing throughout the year. And I should thank all the fans of my Welsh police detectives, Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai, for keeping me ploughing on with my Snowdon Shadows tales. Book 1, Fevered Fuse, will appear one day.

However, this year has seen me struggle to be the writer I was.

NaNoWriMo: although I outlined a rough plot, I was unable to write more than a thousand words of my 2020 NaNoWriMo entry called ‘Lost Sheep’ – even with a premise linked to Sparkle Anwyl. But the plot is there as a Scrivener project, so perhaps that will be my 2021 NaNoWriMo entry.

WEP/IWSG: I started a novella with the February challenge, and ‘Custody Chain’ nears the conclusion after five chapters. Although this month’s challenge is now no longer a formal challenge, I’ve started writing the conclusion – despite my state of mind/health etc….

Distractions – Dungeons and Dogs and Depression.

How can I write when everything is falling apart? From the world to this country to my body.

In fact, I failed to read the other WEP/IWSG posts last month or finish answering comments. Well, I did hit ‘Like’ – and wrote one reply/apology for each recent post.

Okay, excuses over as I’m climbing out of the slough of despond, and writing again – well, a bit. However, January 31st looms and I must do my dreaded UK tax return – not writing in that month…except ‘writing it off’ as I do every year.

Somewhere, I must fit in getting ‘Fevered Fuse’ ready for professional editing….and I owe a beta read that’s overdue.

**

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia,Sylvia Ney,Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available. They are truly the best.

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.

For more on the IWSG monthly post and links to other participants visit:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html