WIP Blog Twelve: Ready for Proofreading

WIP Blog Twelve: Ready for Proofreading

This week’s Work In Progress news is that ‘Agents of the Truth’ is (almost) ready to go to be proofread. I say almost because it’s not booked in until the 25th which gives me enough time to leave it alone and wait for last-minute thoughts to pop into my head, and enough time for my PA to give it a read. She’s already picked up a few typos I’ve missed, and the more of those we find, the better.

Am I happy with it? Yes. When will it be available? Hopefully, by the second week in February, before Valentine’s Day if I can, as I don’t want it to get caught up in the slew of releases that day always brings. So, keep watching the blog and my Facebook page for more news. Also, keep watching for the next WIP, as work on Larkspur Four has already begun.

More about that next week, and coming soon… the cover reveal for ‘Agents if the Truth.’

Clearwater: The Cornish Connection.

Clearwater: The Cornish Connection.

The Clearwater Mysteries open in London’s East End in 1888, and for the first three books, the action centres around Clearwater House in the west of the city. We don’t get to Cornwall until the end of book four, ‘Fallen Splendour,’ and even then, it is only a fleeting visit. Clearwater’s country home, Larkspur Hall, begins to come to life in book five, ‘Bitter Bloodline’, and is one of the main settings for book ten, ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’ It is, of course, also the star of the new Larkspur Academy series.

But where and what is Larkspur Hall, and where did it come from?

Larkspur Hall is a fictitious stately home in Cornwall, and a question I am often asked is…

Why Cornwall?

My mother moved from Kent to Cornwall in the 1980s, and I made my first visit there when I was about 20. I looked up where I was going and what I could expect, using books in those days, and asked others who had been there what they thought of the place. I was told to expect impressive cliffs, wild countryside, a dramatic coastline and superb, open vistas dotted with ancient monoliths and settlements.

I arrived at night on the train from Paddington, in itself, a romantic journey, and was taken to a remote farmhouse where my mother was living while she and my step-dad renovated a Wesleyan chapel they were converting into a home. It was dark, of course, but the following morning, I was up early to throw back the curtains and catch my first sight of the promised wild and inspiring countryside… and saw nothing but fog for two days.

 

Crows-an-Wra

Ah well, that was still romantically mysterious enough for me, and when the weather improved, it didn’t take long before I was exploring Penwith by bicycle and falling in love with the county. Penwith is the very last part of the last county in England, home to Land’s End and locations with enigmatic names such as Zennor, Kelynack, and Crows-an-wra where my mother’s chapel was/is. It is also where you find Penzance, of the pirates’ fame, but let’s not bring Gilbert and Sullivan into this.

I have returned to Cornwall many times over the years. My husband and I took the children there one Christmas and stayed in a remote farmhouse on the moors near the Nine Maidens stone circle. On another visit one night, my antique Ford Escort delivered me to a guesthouse somewhere equally as remote just as the radiator blew up, leaving me somewhat stranded. The upside of this was an uninterrupted and unpolluted night sky. I have never seen so many stars. They seemed so close, I could have lit a cigar from them.

These days, living in Greece, I don’t have the chance to visit Cornwall very often, except in my imagination, and that’s a very tenuous link to the next question: Where and what is Larkspur Hall?

Larkspur Hall  

The name came from my imagination while I was writing book two, ‘Twisted Tracks.’ I just checked the original publication and noted, with alarm, that I had written, ‘Larkspur is Lord Clearwater’s country house two miles north of London.’ Cornwall is actually over 200 miles from London by car, and Bodmin, where Larkspur is now situated, is 259 miles from Knightsbridge and Clearwater House. I re-released ‘Twisted Tracks’ in 2020 and made the change. Larkspur is now described as being ‘miles west of the city’, and I left it vague because, then, I wasn’t then sure exactly where I was going to place it.

I can’t remember when I decided to put Larkspur on the edge of Bodmin Moor. I think it was while creating ‘Fallen Splendour’, but I chose the location for several reasons.

  1. It is remote, which is helpful when I want seclusion and a sense of being cut off from the world. Very useful for when we have an assassin stalking the grounds.
  2. The distance is handy for when we have a race against time. In the late 1880s, it would have taken up to 12 hours to reach Larkspur from London by train. When the race to stop a murder is on, changing lines, the weather and conflicting timetables all play a part in delaying the hero and heightening the tension.
  3. Bodmin Moor is wild, subject to rough weather, has an ancient history and is romantic. Moors have always been popular with romantic writers (Egdon Heath for Hardy, the Yorkshire Moors for Emily Brontë), because of their combination of loneliness, mystery and tradition.
  4. I like Cornwall. Simple.

    A beautiful and dramatic sunrise over Bodmin Moor

Is Larkspur Hall based on a real property?

Yes and no. I based it on several. When you read the Clearwater Mysteries, you will find characters mention how the Hall has been added to over the years, how it started life as an abbey, has a square tower, church-like pillars in the grand hall, and what I call a horseshoe staircase, which is actually an imperial staircase. (See photo, for the shape. At Larkspur, the stairs and balustrades are stone.)

An imperial staircase (sometimes erroneously known as a “double staircase”) is the name given to a staircase with divided flights. Usually, the first flight rises to a half-landing and then divides into two symmetrical flights both rising with an equal number of steps and turns to the next floor. [Wikipedia.]

This is a central point for a few action scenes in the Clearwater and Larkspur Mysteries, and appeals to my sense of the theatrical. As does the tower, the ruined church in the grounds, and the maze of servants’ passages. Larkspur is said to have 16 bedrooms, but they are actually suites, so include a sitting room, dressing room and bathroom. Thanks to Archer, the Hall is now powered by electricity and the servants’ rooms all have gas heaters and hot and cold running water.

The inspiration for the outside of the Hall came from several places. Lanhydrock House is one. Although Larkspur is taller and doesn’t have the protruding wings of Lanhydrock, the gatehouse is similar. (See photo.) You could also look at Highclare Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed, but if you do, only look at the front, and move its main tower from behind the building and stick it on the end of the west wing.

By the way, Lanhydrock is just south of Bodmin, and about six miles away from Larkspur.

There is an interpretation of Larkspur Hall on the cover of ‘Bitter Bloodline.’

 

 

 

I have an Ordnance Survey map of Bodmin Moor, and on it, I have marked the Larkspur estate. If you wanted to look up the estate boundary (on OS Explorer map 109), you would find it like this: The northern boundary abuts the village of Waterloo, and runs east to Medland, drops south from there to Fore Downs, west from there to Trago and beyond, and runs northwards back to Waterloo via Trewardale and Trewint. It takes in all of what is now the military land marked ‘danger area’, the A30 doesn’t exist, and I have wiped out several villages and hamlets. Sorry about that. The Hall would be situated at Pounds Conce, and Larkspur Village would be roughly where Millpool is, but it’s all made up. Having said that, some places mentioned in the Clearwater and Larkspur Mysteries are real. Colvannick and the standing stones, Pengelly Farm, Blisland and many of the ancient sites mentioned in the books.

Which is another segue into…

Standing Stones. Fact or Fiction?

Featuring The Colvannick Stone Row

Fact: There are hundreds of ancient sites to visit in Cornwall, including the Colvannick Stone Row, the centre of the first two Larkspur Mysteries. Stone circles, monoliths, ancient settlements, barrows, cairns and fogous can be found almost anywhere in the county, and Bodmin Moor has its fair share. These were the inspiration for the mystery, ‘Keepers of the Past’, where most of what you read is based on existing monuments, history and fact. Most of, note, not all. To find out more, you can read the author’s notes at the back of the book. In the new series, the Larkspur Mysteries, I am putting these notes to give the reader some insight into how I mix fact and fiction. That is something I have been doing since Silas first appeared in ‘Deviant Desire’ looking through the gutters of Greychurch (Whitechapel), while Archer was at home in North Riverside (Knightsbridge), and Fecker was working at the docks in Limedock (Limehouse).

In the up-coming book three, ‘Agents of the Truth’, the characters visit the British Museum Reading Room, the Inns of Court, Newgate and Wormwood Scrubbs prisons, all real and described as they were in 1890. They also visit the Cheap Street Mission (fictional), and meet real one-day famous archaeologists, including Howard Carter, then aged 16. They also get to explore Larkspur Hall and other parts of Cornwall, as will you when you read ‘Agents of the Truth’, due out in February.

The Clearwater Mysteries

The Larkspur Mysteries

WIP Blog Eleven: Nearly There

WIP Blog Eleven: Nearly There

Welcome to the Work In Progress blog. It has been 11 weeks since I started on ‘Agents of the Truth,’ and I have just finished line-editing the manuscript. I have just under two weeks before it goes to proofing, so there is still time to make adjustments should I need to.

This week, I thought I would give you an extract to whet your appetite and leave it at that.

This is from chapter two. To set the scene: Archer, Lord Clearwater, is to hold a masked ball at Larkspur Hall. The newspapers have already covered the story and prematurely announced that the Queen’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor (Prince Eddy, as he was also known) is to attend. Invitations have been sent out, and Archer and Tom have been dealing with the acceptance letters.


There was no letterhead, no date, and not even a letter. Just a piece of plain paper on which were glued a series of words in different fonts. At first, he assumed it was James replying to his invitation in a way designed to be a joke. The unconnected words, however, suggested something far more sinister.

Prick, Bleed, Poison, Die, Wrong…?

They brought a memory of his youth, and although it was partly pleasurable, it was mainly unnerving.
‘What is it?’ Tom was at the door with a collection of envelopes. ‘Are you unwell?’
Archer slipped the note beneath a book and looked up, feigning ease. ‘Hm? Oh, no. All is well, thank you. Just, er… Just pondering Shakespeare.’
‘What on earth for?’ Tom took three long strides into the room and placed the letters on the desk. ‘Never mind. Here are today’s acceptances. The genuine ones. Where are you going?’
Archer had collected his jacket and was making for the door with his pace and pulse quickening. ‘To the library,’ he said. ‘I have an urgent meeting.’
‘With whom?’
‘The Merchant of Venice.’


And so, the mystery begins… and deepens… and becomes more mysterious… and then another mystery starts… and things really get interesting!

Line Edits and How I Go About Them

Line Edits and How I Go About Them

Here’s a note on editing.

I am working on chapter 23 of ‘Agents of the Truth’, line-checking for grammar, typos, consistency, through-line and style and finding the occasional ‘ouch!’ I just found one right at the beginning of the chapter. The previous chapter ended with a fight, and in my first draft, chapter 23 started with:

Dalston was disorientated. Everything had happened so fast. His throat burned, his lungs tore as he gasped for breath, and the room was a blur through watering eyes. His ears, however, heard the next words without hindrance.

Okay, you say, what is wrong with that? For me, reading it again after some time, it is this:

Dalston was disorientated. First of all, it’s a passive sentence, so not brilliant as a chapter opening and, in the context of a fight scene, passive sentences are not immediate or ‘action’ enough. Secondly, it’s a classic ‘tell’ sentence, and we all know the rule of ‘show don’t tell.’ Dalston was disorientated gives the reader no opportunity to feel disorientation, and therefore, no chance to connect with the character.

Then we have:

Everything had happened so fast. What’s wrong with that? It’s true, isn’t it?
Answer: Yes, it’s true, but it should be what we, the reader, just experienced at the end of chapter 22. In fact, we did experience it because the fight scene was a short, sharp shock, as W.S. Gilbert would have it. Therefore, the reader doesn’t need to be reminded, rather, shouldn’t need reminding. The previous scene should have shown us Everything had happened so fast.
Secondly, it’s a cliché and an opt-out for the writer. Again, if what we’ve just read left us feeling breathless and bashed about, there is no need for the writer to remind us.

His throat burned, his lungs tore as he gasped for breath, and the room was a blur through watering eyes. Isn’t this also telling? Well, yes, but then all storytelling telling, but how do you avoid that?

Sometimes you can’t, and you just want to set the scene and move on, but when editing line by line, you have the opportunity to stop, take stock and start again. How can I make that line better?

His throat was aflame. Better, because we imagine what that felt like and, if we’ve ever had a sore throat, we can associate ‘aflame’ with the feeling.

His lungs tore as he gasped for breath. I’m letting that one go, because it tells us he was gasping for air, and the word ‘tore’ is vague enough to make us think of pain.

… and the room was a blur through watering eyes. Yes, well, that’s rubbish, if you ask me. It’s too clumsy. He saw the room through watery eyes, is more precise, but how about, his vision was blurred? Isn’t that, again, telling, not showing?

The room came into view as a series of shifting shadows and wavy outlines, unsettled in his watery vision until he wiped his eyes. Getting there, but too long. Needs breaking up, or editing down, and I might change wavy to distorted, and unsettled to swimming.

His ears, however, heard the next words without hindrance. Eek! I know what I meant to say, but surely, there’s a better way? Do your ears hear? Or is it your brain? Why mention ears at all? It’s Dalston who is hearing, isn’t it?

He heard the next words without hindrance. Simple, to the point, but not good. I don’t like starting sentences with ‘He’ or ‘She’ because it’s too easy. I have read so many books where we have He did this. He did that. He saw this… Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I try to avoid such sentence starts (though I admit they are sometimes unavoidable). Without hindrance… Clumsy! The voice, however, was clear. Simple, and leads into the next line, which is a short speech from another character and the inciting incident for the chapter to come. ‘Mr Blaze. — is hurt. Can you stand?’
(I omitted the character name so as not to spoil anything for you.)

Now then. I am not saying I am the master of this kind of self-appraisal and editing, and you may not agree with what I am saying. That’s fine. In fact, that’s good, because we should all have our own style. What I am saying is that we owe it to our readers and ourselves to be critical of our own work, and should strive to make it the best it can be. While line editing, we have the chance to self-analyse and be as critical as we can or want to be. It’s not easy, and you can tie yourself in knots over it to the point where you mess up your rewrite. That’s why I always keep a copy of the first draft chapters; I can always start again. It also takes time to pick apart every sentence, and if you’re as impatient to publish and move on as I am, impatience is something you must learn to control.

There are times when you become so involved in reading or get caught up with the story, that you let dodgy lines go, and I am as guilty of this as any writer. Again, self-control is called for (or a third-party editor you trust and can pay to do the job for you), and thus, you need to ensure you have set aside enough time for the work.

Currently, I am ‘between jobs’ or ‘resting’ as they say in the theatre, and looking for freelance work, so my own writing is my full-time job, and I have plenty of time for it. If you don’t, then you will have to make time.

The opening paragraph of chapter 23 took me roughly five minutes to rewrite. A year ago, it would have taken me ten, and a year before that, I probably wouldn’t have changed it at all. Experience comes with time and training, and in a year’s time, maybe I won’t need to rewrite as many first-draft paragraphs as I do now. I am already rewriting fewer than I used to because I am writing better first drafts. The message, is to be self-critical, take your time, and always think, ‘Is that the best I can do?

Here’s the paragraph again as I have left it for now. There will be another read/draft once I have finished the line edits on the entire 31 chapters, and who knows, by then I might come up with something even better.

His throat was aflame, and his lungs tore as he gasped for breath. The room came into view as a series of shifting shadows and distorted outlines that swam in his watery vision. The voice, however, was clear.
‘Mr Blaze. — is hurt. Can you stand?’
Dalston wiped his eyes…

‘Agents of the Truth’, the Larkspur Mysteries Book Three, is due for publication in February 2022.

WIP Blog Ten: ‘Agents of the Truth’ Draft Three

 

WIP Blog Ten: ‘Agents of the Truth’ Draft Three

I am in week ten of writing the next Larkspur Mystery, ‘Agents of the Truth.’

Today, I will set about chapter 15, giving it a line edit. I’ve spent the last few days editing every line in the book from the start to the end of chapter 31, going through them for grammar, ease of reading, and picking up as many typos as I can.

My writing process so far:

Draft One: Write the story for me and keep each chapter as a separate file, titled by Number, Day of story, Point of Chapter. I just sit down and write it and don’t care how well I write the sentences but keep in mind the plot, character arcs and consistency.

Draft Two: I read-through for plotting, pacing and repetition. I eradicate what has become unnecessary; add in what I forgot last time. If I notice a typo, I run a search/find in Word for that typo, to check I’ve not done it elsewhere. I often do this with names. I might write Jams instead of James, so I search/find ‘James’ just to be sure it wasn’t a one-off. At this stage, the MS is in one large document. *Tip* Add oft-mistyped words to your autocorrect list.

Draft Three: I pull the draft two MS into separate chapters again, and run ProWritingAid (PWA) for grammar and style, overused words, sentence length, clichés and then, once again, style. This process picks up on the repetition of words and verbs (too many have/had/has in one block of text, for example). It identifies long sentences where I’ve joined separate thoughts/threads together with and, but, while… I also avidly check for adverbs. (Words like ‘avidly’.) These can be signs of lazy writing, and influence the ‘show don’t tell’ rule. Better than writing, ‘he said angrily’ is to show the character being angry. The PWA check also helps with typos and punctuation.

That’s where I am right now. Draft four will be another read-through before the MS goes to be proofread. I should point out that, if I feel it’s warranted, I will completely rewrite a chapter or section from scratch. I did this more when I was starting out than I now have a handle on construction and flow. These days, I know when to stop writing in draft one, tear that page out and start again, rather than leave in a substantial chunk or chapter to be dealt with later. So, drafts two onwards tend to be editing rather than rewriting.

And, while that’s going on, I have made a date with my proof-reader, so I have until January 24th to complete my edits, and I have sent a cover idea to Andjela and asked her to think about the image. The images today are some of the ‘idea shots’ I sent her.

The cover won’t be of a cute young man this time, because ‘Agents of the Truth’ is more of a classic detective story than it is about a dreamy young thing falling in love. It’s an adventure that changes a character’s life (two characters, actually), and it follows on from book two ‘Keepers of the Past.’

I am aiming for mid-February as a release date (while avoiding the Valentine’s Day deluge of romantic shorts that flood Amazon and KU every year.)

If you’ve not started the Larkspur series yet, you have time to begin at ‘Guardians of the Poor’ and enjoy the ride.

See you on Saturday for my regular, weekly author’s blog.

Jack

 

2021 Review

Hello and Happy New Year!

To start 2022, I thought it would be fun to invite some of my author friends over to highlight some of our achievements and memories in 2021, and say what we are looking forward to in 2022.

Today, we have brief chats with Matt Converse, Fearne Hill, Glenn Quigly, Ally Lester and… who was the other? Oh yes. Me. Let me get the ball rolling by answering the same questions as I asked my friends.

An author, thinking on his birthday while in Croatia.

My 2021 highlight as a writer

For me, it was publishing ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’
This, the 11th book in the Clearwater Mystery series, not only ties up loose ends, and takes the reader on an epic journey, it rounds off the story of Andrej (Fecker), one of my favourite characters. If you start with the prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’, and read all 11 books in order, you’ll see Fecker’s journey in full. This is also the longest book at 150,000 words, is partly written in diary (letter) form, which is a form I love, contains a map, and takes us to places I have visited in Europe.

Did I reach an important milestone in my author career in 2021?

I finished the Clearwater Mysteries series…. Except I didn’t. I carried the world and characters, backstories on into the Larkspur Mysteries. I also wrote from the perspective of a deaf character for the first time. A challenge to write and sometimes to read, but, for me, a first.

My favourite memory of the year (non-author related)

Christmas Day with my logical family, watching my husband open a present that looked like a bookmark, but turned out to be a token for a PADI diving course he wants to take. Oh, and my godson passed his grade one piano.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

Plenty. My readers, everyone who leaves positive feedback and reviews, those who nominated me in 10 Goodreads Awards categories, my husband for looking after me and making me laugh every day, Jenine for her PA work and feeding us, my proofreaders, Anne and Maryann, the guys at Other Worlds Ink for their layout services, and my characters for their inspiration.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Only to continue to entertain by writing the best stories I can, and presenting them professionally, making each one better, and exploring new ideas.

And now, I’ll hand you over to my author friends…

Matt ConverseHi Matt, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer.

  It was the release of my first m/m sci-fi thriller 99 Days. Previously my releases were all m/m romance, horror or thriller, so I was stepping outside of my box. The reviews and reception have been better than I even hoped. I am currently writing the sequel, 99 Days Later.

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

 Yes, I think crossing over into a different genre was a big achievement for me.

What is your favourite memory from this year?

Being able to see a few of my friends in person for the first time in a long time. It was great to just hang out and relax.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

Definitely, my Mom is my biggest supporter, but I give thanks to every single person who has read any of my books. I appreciate it.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Just to keep writing and doing what I love. I will reach further out of my comfort box with my first non-LGBTQ release on February 5th with The Four Corners of Horror, an anthology of short stories.

Leather Head Unmasked

Published October 28, 2021

#mm #horror #thriller #suspense

Gable needs a getaway with best friend Shawn, while Andrés and Tyler take a trip to the West Coast. Granger and his younger boyfriend Liam head to Palm Springs and stay at a gay resort known to be the wildest in town. Fate draws all of them together for a climactic weekend in Palm Springs. For some, it is the wild weekend they needed. For others, things turn so dark they wonder if they will get out alive.


Find Matt here:

Amazon profile: https://www.amazon.com/Matt-Converse/e/B00TKCCVWY/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MattConverse1 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matt.converse.39  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13495845.Matt_Converse 

Leather Head Unmasked universal link https://smarturl.it/Leatherhead-Unmasked 

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Fearne Hill

Welcome Fearne, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer.

The first book in my Rossingley series, To Hold A Hidden Pearl, was nominated in 5 categories of the Goodreads M/M Romance group awards and also received an Honourable Mention in the contemporary gay romance section of the Rainbow Awards

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

 Yes! I had four full-length romance novels published by an indie publishing company, with great feedback. And I’ve learnt an enormous amount about the whole writing process.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

My wonderful editor, Elizabetta, at NineStar Press for her patience, support and kindness.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Yes. I have two self -pub books coming out in March and June, and another later in the year.

 

To Melt A Frozen Heart (Rossingley #3.5)

Published 14th December 2021

#contemporary #holidaynovella #mmromance #olderMC’s #british

Our only regrets are the chances we didn’t take.
Bah, humbug.
Freddie Duchamps-Avery has only one desire this Christmas: to ask his beloved Reuben to
marry him. However, with his needy father moping around, finding the perfect, romantic
moment to propose is proving tricky.
The Rt Hon. Charles Duchamps-Avery is a successful politician, a hopeless father, and a miserable divorcé. Facing the prospect of Christmas alone in London, he accepts his son Freddie’s generous invitation to join the gang at Rossingley. Yet, being surrounded by happy
couples only serves to remind of his past mistakes and a looming, lonely old age.
If only a handsome, enigmatic stranger would appear and distract him….

Social media links:
https://www.facebook.com/fearne.hill.50/

Facebook Group: Fearne Hill’s House

https://www.instagram.com/fearnehill_author

https://twitter.com/FearneHill

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Glenn Quigley

Hello Glenn, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer

In March I released WE CRY THE SEA, the third book in my Moth and Moon series. I never thought I’d see the day when I had a trilogy on the shelves, so that really meant a lot to me.

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

I was a Rainbow Award runner-up in the category of Best Gay Book this year which was a huge surprise. It showed me that I must be doing something right!

What is your favourite memory from this year?

I got to walk around a lighthouse on Rathlin Island, which was great.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year

My partner Mark, as always, for his love and support. Also, my brilliant beta readers ­- Tony, Christian, and Alan.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

I have a new book and short story coming out next year. I would love to publish a collection of short stories so fingers crossed for that!

 

WE CRY THE SEA

Published 15 March 2021

#historicalfantasy #pirates #gay #bear #establishedcouple

After the explosive events of The Lion Lies Waiting, life has returned to normal for burly fisherman Robin Shipp. That is until the innkeeper of the ancient Moth & Moon approaches him with a surprising proposal, and an unexpected arrival brings some shocking news that sends Robin on a perilous journey alone.

While he’s away, his lover, Edwin, anxiously prepares for the birth of his first child with his friend, Iris. Her wife, Lady Eva, must travel to Blackrabbit Island for a showdown over the future of the family business. Meanwhile, Duncan nurses an injured man back to health but as the two grow close, the island’s new schoolmaster makes his amorous intentions clear.

Robin’s search for answers to the questions that have haunted his entire life will take him away from everyone he knows, across a dangerous ocean, and into the very heart of a floating pirate stronghold. Pushed to his limits, Robin’s one last chance at finding the truth will cost him more than he ever imagined.

Social media links
WEB            https://www.glennquigley.com

TWITTER    https://twitter.com/glennquigley

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/glennquigleyauthor

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Ally Lester

 

Nice to welcome you back Ally, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer

At the beginning of the year, I decided I’d write a trilogy with three months between each fifty thousand word book. I am nearly there! I’ve had to extend the deadline for the final one because of various #LifeThings that tripped me up, but I’m so pleased to be on track to achieving this!

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

Yes, I do. I’ve released four short stories, a novella and two books. That’s pretty good going! I feel like I have a bit more of a grip on what I’m doing these days…back when I began in 2017 I felt like I was flailing around only just keeping my head above water.

What is your favourite memory from this year? Non-author related

Oh! We took the kids to the Swannery at Abbotsbury on the South Coast of England in the summer. Littlest, who is a twelve-year-old wheelchair user with pretty complex issues, got to feed the swans. It was extremely cool. We also took my Mama, another wheelchair user. We sat in the sun and had a picnic and it was so simple and so lovely to spend time together as a family in the midst of all the pandemic stress.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year

A HUGE list! Mr AL, who is Team Amazon Ads, Nell Iris and Ofelia Grand who I often write with first thing in the morning, and Jude Lucens, Elin Gregory and Lillian Francis, the mods from Quiltbag Historicals, who all put up with me moaning about writing and life, and offer support!

Do you have an author goal for 2022? Or maybe an event planned that you are working towards?

I want to write more Celtic Myth short stories this year. And I’ve got a couple of stand-alone books in the works. I’m finding the trilogy thing quite stressful, so I’m giving myself a break from them this year.

 The Quid Pro Quo

Publish date: 20th November 2021

#Historical #Transgender #Gay #Mystery #Paranormal

Village nurse Walter Kennett is content with his makeshift found-family in tiny Bradfield. However one midsummer morning a body is found floating in the village duck pond, dead by magical means.

Detective Simon Frost arrives in Bradfield to investigate an inexplicable murder. The evidence seems to point to Lucille Hall-Bridges, who lives with doctor Sylvia Marks and nurse Walter Kennett at Courtfield House. Simon isn’t happy—he doesn’t believe Lucy is a murderer but he’s sure the three of them are hiding something. In the meantime, the draw he feels toward Walter takes him by surprise.

Walter is in a dilemma, concealing Sylvia and Lucy’s relationship and not knowing how much to tell Frost about the paranormal possibilities of the murder. He isn’t interested in going to bed with anyone—he’s got a complicated life and has to know someone really well before he falls between the sheets. He’s taken aback by his own attraction to Detective Frost and angry when Frost appears to twist the spark between them to something transactional in nature.

Will Walter be satisfied to stay on the periphery of Lucy and Sylvia’s love affair, a welcome friend but never quite included? Or is it time for him to strike out and embark on a relationship of his own?

Social media links:

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Facebook group (monthly giveaways, irregular moaning about deadlines and life, a drop-in for other authors to pimp their books once a week): https://facebook.com/groups/LesterTowers

Website: https://allester.co.uk

Twitter (chatter): https://twitter.com/CogentHippo

Instagram: https://instagram.com/CogentHippo


Thank you, everyone, for your contributions and thank you for reading.
If you missed yesterday’s post, my 2021 in more detail, you can find it here. http://jacksonmarsh.com/a-year-as-an-indie-author-2021/

A Year as an Indie Author: 2021

A Year as an Indie Author: 2021

Happy New Year’s Eve! Tomorrow, I have another blog post for you, one where some of my author friends call in to give us their perspectives of 2021, so watch out for that. Today, I want to give you a roundup of what 2021 was like for me, and here it is…

This time last year, I started the New Year with a blog post: New Year, New Story. The opening paragraph read: Hello and welcome to 2021. It is January 1st as I write this. I have been up since 5.30, we had a power cut at 6.00, and just after the lights went off, the thunder started. It’s now 7.30, the power is on, the rain is hammering on the roof, and I couldn’t be happier.

Well, as I write this post, it’s December 31st 2021, I have again been up since 5.30 (ish), there has been no power cut, but we did have thunder overnight, and it’s been raining for four days. It’s currently 7.00, and I am still happy despite a tough year. Why? Read on to find out.

Winter to Spring
Negative Exposure. Released 25th February 2021

The cover that Facebook banned, lol!

As I entered 2021, I was 50,000 words into Clearwater Nine, ‘Something Exposure’. I had released ‘Banyak & Fecks’ on 1st December 2020, and that was selling a few copies. ‘Banyak & Fecks’ remains my personal favourite, the one I am most proud of, because I set out to show myself I could write a compelling story that had nothing to do with mystery, clues, chases, train crashes and all that thriller jazz, and I believe, I achieved that.

Negative Exposure (as it finally became) was a return to the classic Clearwater style and grew out of things that happened in the non-mystery prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ I felt that I was coming to the end of the Clearwater run, but didn’t want the series to end, and was looking for a way to extend it, modify it, but still keep my core characters who are so popular with readers. ‘The Larkspur Mysteries’ was forming in my imagination, but before that, the Clearwater series needed an end piece.

At home, in a lockdown, 2021 began quietly with online quiz groups, plenty of films on Netflix, wine, and my usual six hours a day writing schedule. Our Greek island, Symi, is a quiet place in the darker winter months, and always has been. There is not a lot open, and we stay home, with our outings being countryside and hill walks now and then, and dinners with our bestie and godchildren once or twice a week. This was not possible in lockdown (the walks were), but I continued to teach Harry the piano via video twice per week. How on earth teachers manage whole days of teaching via video is beyond me; half an hour at a time was enough for me.

As restrictions lifted, so the winter turned to spring, and then to summer and the return of tourists. During all this time, I was writing the next and final Clearwater, and that was to turn out to be the longest novel in the series. (And the most fascinating the most epic and the one that brought several strains from Banyak & Fecks, and previous stories, back into one thread.)

Summer
The Clearwater Inheritance. Released 10th June 2021

My characters’ journey on the Orient Express in ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’

Summer, for me, consisted of freelance writing work, which, then, was still coming in, seeing friends at the bar where Neil works in the afternoon, and plotting the next series. With temperatures reaching the mid to high 40s for some time, it wasn’t always easy to concentrate on plots and characters, but I sweated onwards. In winter, the temperature in my office, my ‘workhouse’ as I call it, gets down to four or five degrees, and I work in fingerless gloves, three jumpers and a hat. In summer, I am virtually naked (eek!), the windows are open, and the fans are blasting. We jump between weather extremes in Greece.

The Clearwater Inheritance’, the only book in the series not to feature a person on the cover, came out in June. This publication included a map, and masses of research, a longer proofing and preparation time, and while all that was happening, I had already started on the first in the follow-on series, Guardians of the Poor.

Guardians of the Poor. Released 22nd August 2021

Joe Tanner as drawn by Dalston Blaze and inspired by Luke Adams

I have a folder in my system where I keep the ‘bottom drawer.’ This is a dumping ground for ideas, chapters and even halves of novels that started well but didn’t fly. One of these old files was a chapter, or rather, a study that’s the length of a chapter, and it concerned a quirky character being tricked into being rescued in Leather Lane market, London, in the late 1880s. While I was writing it, a name popped into my head, and I could not remove either the name or the character from my mind. Barbary Fleet was born.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I was sure the series shouldn’t start with the founding of the Larkspur Academy and the finding of Barbary Fleet to run it, it should start with the place already up and running. I would introduce a new character or two and the reader would follow his adventure into and through the academy, so we could discover it along with the character. This was handy because, at this point, I had little idea what this academy was. I knew it wasn’t a school or a college, but a place where (gay) young men could be rescued to. Therefore, the characters needed to be in a dire situation and needed to be saved from it by existing Clearwater characters, and then… Well, then I would see what the characters did, and we’d take it from there.

This is actually my husband, Neil, but the image inspired me to write Barbary Fleet.

And so, Guardians of the Poor starts with a man in the dock accused of a crime he didn’t commit, but telling everyone he did commit it because he wants to go to prison. Intriguing. Why? I thought, and the answer was because it was the only way to save his life. That, I reckoned, was an excellent start to a new series, and away I went…

Then I watched ‘The Amazing Race’ and was knocked sideways by deaf contestant Luke Adams, and my character of Joe Tanner was born.

Larkspur Academy came to life. I learnt some basic British Sign Language, tourists came and went, summer came and went, and as we settled into autumn, I was at work on Larkspur Two.

Autumn and the start of another winter.
Keepers of the Past. Released 4th November 2021

Standing stones, ritual murders and the pain of a new relationship seen through the eyes of Joe Tanner

Temperatures cooled, we have a wonderfully mild end of summer and start of autumn. The new series had started well with good sales of ‘Guardians’, and Neil and I still had some freelance writing work to provide us with spending money. Then…

Sadly, a job I’d had for 16 years, and one he’d had for two, ended because of the company changing management and deciding to do their writing work in-house. I had/have a couple of other clients who I continue to work with, but that’s never been ‘core cash,’ and even they are slowing down their workloads because of Covid.

So, as we entered winter, and now as we steam on into the new year, I am beavering at the keyboard to write my novels while also beavering to find more freelance writing work. I have set up a service on PeoplePerHour where I offer writing and editing services should anyone want help or mentoring with their writing.

Meanwhile, suddenly poor as church mice (thank heavens I organised myself a semi-decent private pension when I was young; it now covers most of our bills), I began work on the next Larkspur. I’ve been charting this in a Work In Progress blog which you can catch here every Wednesday, and we’re currently up to week nine, so, ‘Agents of the Truth’ has, so far, taken me nine weeks to write 110,000 of a first draft, and I am currently 60% through my first story edit. After that, I shall go through each chapter with my checklist:

What is the point of this chapter (and have I made it)?
Grammar
Spelling (as best as my word blindness allows)
Style improvement
Make it better or cut it out… And so on

While all this has been going on, I was thrilled to receive 10 nominations in the Goodreads MM Romance awards, pick up new followers to my Jackson Marsh Facebook page and to this blog, to sell more books, and, thanks to my PA, Jenine, have my best sales year ever. Let’s hope that continues into 2022, which, for me, will start like this:

New Year’s Eve 2021. Neil is cooking roast dinner for the logical family (Jenine and our two godsons), and we’re in for an evening of food, films and fun.

2022 will start with us all going to a large house overlooking the sea, cooking together and continuing the feasting rituals before wadding back up to 400 steps to home.

χρόνια πολλά!

And onwards… Into ‘Agents of the Truth’ and beyond. This, the third Larkspur, brings the development of my two main characters to a logical conclusion and sets me free to invent new plots and people for book four. What that will be is anyone’s guess, but that’s the best part about a new year’s beginnings. As I wrote this time last year, “there is a whole year ahead in which to achieve some wonderful things.”

May you achieve wonderful things of your own. I certainly intend to.

Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you for reading and your support, and here’s a χρόνια πολλά! to everyone.

WIP Blog Nine: Draft One Complete.

WIP Blog Nine: Draft One Complete.

Hi, just a quick update as promised. My Work In Progress, ‘Agents of the Truth’ has reached the end of draft one at 111,000 words. Yippee!

I am about to start a read-through for a story edit, to make sure all points of the mystery add up, and to check my timeline. I feel it is going to come across as ‘bitty’, because it feels like I have had to work on it in fits and starts. Christmas caused a two-day hiatus, but only between the end of the climax and the epilogue, but organising and playing the piano for a carol concert and other pre-Christmas activities also caused hiccups. While they were going on, I was also looking around for freelance writing work, assisting newbies with stories, editing and restructuring website reports and things, so having to pay the bills also rather gets in the way of the creative flow.

However, I have brought to an end a three-part adventure starring Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner (and others), and feel that now, Dalston and Joe can settle into a stable new life, while I bring new characters into the Larkspur Academy. That will start once ‘Agents’ is finished, and there is a way to go yet. I am still aiming for the end of February as a release date, and will soon fix up a time for proofreading and organising the cover.

Meanwhile, it’s back to draft two, and a mound of Christmas leftovers we still need to get through before I can extract myself from the sofa, get out and do some walking, and settle back into my more usual routine.

I will be here on Saturday for an end-of-year round-up. See you then!

WIP blog Eight: Nearly There

WIP blog Eight: Nearly There

Hi all, and welcome to Wednesday and my work in progress update. When people ask me how long it takes to write a novel, I usually have no idea how to answer because by the time I get to release it, I’ve forgotten when I started it. This WIP blog has helped change that, and I can say that it has, so far, taken me eight weeks, and there is still a long way to go. Not so much in the first draft storytelling because I am now about to climax, if you’ll excuse the expression, but once that is done, and I have epilogued (excuse the made-up word), there is still a way to go.

A random photos of the model kits I like to build in my downtime.

Yesterday, I finished chapter 27 yesterday and made inroads into chapter 28. Last night, I was running through ideas for the climax with hubby Neil, because he makes a great sounding board, and I worked out I still had, probably, about, maybe… five scenes to go before the story will be concluded. That would put me at roughly 110,000 words, which is a nice ‘get your money’s worth’ length. After that, however, and after Christmas, comes the draft two-stage and the editing down, ‘bettering up’ and putting all things as right as I can before I can be happy with the finished product. After that comes the cover design, the proofreading, the layout and all that jazz, so we are still looking at February as a release month, all being well.

Sensible storage is important.

And a random photo of our main town.

As I write each chapter, I save it in a file that is automatically linked to me OneDrive just in case, and I give each one a number, of course. What I also do, however, is name the file with a piece of action; the more critical the action the better. This is so I can remember where certain things occurred, and can easily find them if I need to go back and change or check something. I just looked down my list of saved, individual chapters and thought you might like a small insight into what’s to come with ‘Agents of the truth.’ Some examples:

01 Newspaper announces ball

02 14th October threat one

08 18th Friday The Killhaddocks

16 Archer letter to James and 26th Sunday

20 After Newgate

27 D leaves London 3.15 at Larkspur

That should mean absolutely nothing to you, and that’s how I like it. All will be revealed in time.

Double-Check for accuracy

A vague attempt at a Christmas scene, our-house style.

Something that was revealed to me the other day has put a bit of a groan in my step. This novel runs to a timeline, as I like to do, with some chapters starting with the location and date. I checked the legitimacy of these dates with what I thought was a reliable online calendar. I.e ‘What day of the week was October 30th 1890?’ and from that, I drew my own calendar of days/dates. All well and good until I got to chapter 24 ’30th Wednesday Larkspur preparations’ and checked the news for that day in history with the British Newspaper Archives. There, in print from 131 years ago, I found the Morning Post, Telegraph and others were published on Thursday 30th October. So, when I go through draft two, I’m going to have to change all dates/days and double-check references to ‘three days to go’ kind of stuff and make sure things remain accurate. I guess I don’t need to add this authentic detail, but I like to do things properly. That is why, for example, in ‘Agents’ you’ll find the climax happens under a moon that was full two days previously, and the newspaper articles the characters read were actually published in those papers on those days. Background detail is fun!

Happy Christmas

Anyway, I must continue with chapter 28 and hopefully get into chapter 29. I don’t think I’ll be finished with draft one by midday on Christmas Eve as I hoped, but I’ll be close, and after taking the weekend off, I’ll be right back at it. Meanwhile, have yourself a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it, or holiday if you don’t, or weekend if you don’t take a holiday, and I will be back with you next Wednesday for WIP Nine.

Heading into Christmas on Symi

Heading into Christmas on Symi

This time next week it will be Christmas Day, so today, I thought I would bring you up to date on what’s been happening in my world, and what will be happening over the next couple of weeks. I doubt I shall be posting next Saturday, but I will bring you a Wednesday WIP next week, when, hopefully, I will announce I have completed the first draft of ‘Agents of the Truth’. It’s currently at 80,000 words, and I am about to launch into the crisis/climax and release all kinds of mayhem in the Clearwater world.

Meanwhile…

One of Neil’s stunning photos of Symi harbour taken the other day.

Christmas on Symi tends to be a quiet affair. Greek custom is to celebrate St Vasilis Day on January 1st, rather than Christmas Day, although the churches will be holding services. It’s on January 1st where families traditionally exchange gifts and gather together for a feast, but these days, more and more are also adopting the Westernised traditions of Christmas Day. For the last eighteen years, we have gone to our friend’s house for Christmas Day. If you follow me on Facebook, you might have already met Jenine who works now as my PA, well, she’s the friend in question, and she lives just up the lane from us. ‘Up the lane’ in Symi terms means she lives on the other side of the castle hill, up about 200 steps, and at the end of a winding path that leads through 19th-century ruins in the oldest part of the village. It’s a pleasant walk, but not when you’re carrying loads of presents, wine, games and other accoutrements, nor when it is raining, as it was last Christmas.

The main ‘road’ through our village.

On Christmas Eve, it’s become customary for Neil and I to call at her house and help prepare the next day’s lunch. (Gathering around the kitchen table, cooking, gossiping and laughing while preparing a feast is also traditionally Greek.) This usually involves me peeling vegetables, Neil and our oldest godson, Sam, making stuffing, Harry, our younger godson making pigs in blankets, and Jenine being the foreman, Mother Christmas. Wine is also involved. We spend the whole of Christmas Day with the god family, and they come to us on Boxing Day for leftovers, chill-out and films.

Before then, Neil has organised a charity Christmas concert at our local kafeneion (café/bar). This is to raise money for the orphanage on Rhodes. Someone else makes all the arrangements for this but is unable to do it this year, so Neil stepped in. I’m playing the piano (22 Christmas carols and songs) and there will be guitars, a flautist, a solo singer, and everyone else who wants to sing along.

Neil putting up our ancient tree.

We have put up our tree at last, and the village is decorated with strings of fairy lights and trees, while down in the harbour, there are other glamorous decorations. On Christmas Day, one of the local churches will plug in its outdoor speakers and blast out its old cassette tape of Greek family-favourite Christmas songs. The music hovers over the village like a celebratory fog for most of the morning, and woe betides anyone who thinks they will have a lie-in. Actually, the church bells usually start ringing at 4.00 am, which doesn’t bother us as Neil is always up by then and bounding around in his pyjamas, desperate to open presents.

Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Before any of that, however, I still have much work to do, not only wrapping the few gifts I was able to afford this year, but finishing the first draft of Larkspur 3, ‘Agents of the Truth’, and I’ve set myself Friday morning as the deadline for that. Check in on Wednesday to see how I’m doing, but if you can’t, I’ll wish you a merry Christmastime now, and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

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