Closing in on the Last Chapters

Just a quick update. I am now at 85,000 words of the first draft of ‘Where There’s a Will,’ and it’s all starting to kick off. We’ve had a long trail of seemingly random clues, and now, they’ve all got to tie up and tie in, so I can tie up the draft and get to the really fun stuff, the editing and rewriting.

The other day, someone said something which warmed me old cockles. It was either in a review or in a group, but they were saying how much they like my transformation scenes, as I call them. I also rather like them because they are good for the passing of time and place, and they are relatively easy to write. I just picture it in my head and out it comes. What am I talking about?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RPCKF4L

One of the times that stands out for me happens in ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’, and it’s more or less the beginning of the climax. Jasper and Fecker are on the Orient Express, and Jasper has something of a crisis, but we leave his scene in their compartment and see them through the window. Then the ‘camera’ takes us along the train, through the steam and smoke, over the snowy fields lit by moonlight, across France, over the Channel, across London and down to Larkspur in one take, as it were. I’ve used the technique in other novels. In ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ I do it on the back of a storm in one place, and another train in another case, and there is often an owl at Larkspur that sees things while moving us around the Hall and grounds.

As Jack Merrit would say, ‘Anyways…’ I’ve just done a similar transition scene in ‘Where There’s a Will.’ Just thought I’d let you know.

Don’t forget to click over and have a browse through the historical novels and academia-based romances in the KU promotions.

Writing a True Story

As well as writing my fiction, I am working on a true story. It is that of my godfather who was born in 1919 and lived well into his 80s. Uncle Bob, as I called him, was gay and wanted everyone to know his story, so when I was in the UK several years ago now, I recorded him telling his lie story, and later, started transcribing it. I am now working on a version for publication (eventually), and today, I thought I would share the opening with you.

I have checked and amended certain facts as best I can (because his memory of all those years ago may not have been accurate), but other than that, the text is written more or less as he spoke it.

Here’s the first page.


Tooting           1919 – 1933

When I was born in 1919, our house was worth 100 pounds. Fourteen years later, I was earning that amount each week as a rent boy in Piccadilly.

Three things happened to me between 1919 and 1933 that had a lasting effect on my life. I look back on them now as defining moments, but at the time they were more than that. I suppose you might call them revelations. I didn’t realise at the time what exactly they meant to me, only that they were important. But now, recalling the 85 years of my life, I can place them in the order of things, and understand their significance.

They were small events at the time but things which shaped the way I approached my life – a life that took me from the house of my birth in Tooting, to the West End of London when I was still only thirteen, and from there to Wormwood Scrubs, the Royal Navy, the Mediterranean and the Pacific, and then back to London where, in the course of my professional duties, I was to meet politicians, religious leaders and royalty. They are the first things that I remember encountering on my path through almost a century of gay life – a century that saw the world change rapidly. Television, telephones, computers and gay rights were not even things of science fiction when I was born.

But what are these three clear-as-a-bell memories from an early twentieth-century childhood? They are more than just recollections of a post-First World War life in south London. They are not just snapshots of a life lit by gaslight, when boys went to school barefoot, and Mr Gilman walked ahead of the horse-drawn funeral carriage, stopping the traffic. I am certain they are not parts of dreams that come back to me in old age, tricks played on the mind by my four score years and five. These moments are as real to me now as they were then. It is as if I can reach out my hand and touch my own history, like Alice putting her hand through the looking glass and reaching into another world. Only, when I do it I am touching another time.

I can still see the group of ex-servicemen, wearing women’s clothes and pushing a barrel organ along our street.

I can still feel the older man’s hand touching mine.

I can still remember the moment another boy kissed me for the first time, and I realised what was different about me.

These are the three most prominent moments in my memory of a childhood in Tooting. But they are not the only ones.

Tooting High Street, 1919. Looking south towards Colliers Wood with what’s now the @themanortooting
on the right, Longley Road on the left. Photo from Tooting Newsie on X

Beginnings

My birth was the result of the Great War, although not the only result, of course. Far more important matters were taking place in the world at that time, but on November 12th, 1919, a year and a day after the fighting had stopped, and London was beginning to return to normality, I was delivered into my parent’s front room. More precisely, I sloshed out into the world in the safe hands of Mrs Allen, the formidable, fat midwife who delivered all the children in the street. Like some matronly earth mother, she was also the one who laid out the dead, often before the doctor arrived; if the doctor arrived at all. She was a central character in Gambole Road, Tooting, whereas I was just another post-war baby.

Gambole Road was typical of its time; a side street of terraced houses, dimly lit at night by gas burners. Each lamp was hand lit at dusk by the man whose job it was to walk the streets and ensure that we had light. There were three families living in our building, number 30. The house had three floors, one family on each, and like most houses at that time it was rented. It was quite common for one landlord to own several properties in a street, as ours did. He was a local decorator and kept his houses in good repair, investing some of his rental income back into them.


Academic romance novels promo collection – click and rowse

Delamere Book 4 Update

‘Where There’s a Will’ the fourth book in the new Delamere series, is now at 75,000 words of the first draft and we’re entering the final reel. The writing is going smoothly, though will need some editing because of my ‘condition of repeatedness’, as Will might say. My habit of putting in notes to myself as I go to ensure the reader has got the point. Later, I take these out. They are tricky enough not to write in a standard mystery, but this one has so many details, I find myself doing a whole paragraph of reminding the reader of what we already know. So, I’ll have to make sure and look out for those as I go through the MS for draft two.

Still, we’re getting to see the world from Will’s point of view, starting to understand some of his ‘condition of preciseness’ a little more, and he is growing as a person, detective and character generally. It’s also interesting to see his view of his brother as we’ve not had much of that, and to learn some of their history that we may not know already.

Soon, I shall have to start thinking of the blurb and the cover design, but I will save that until I am into the second draft and sure of the story. I usually commission a drawing for the inside, but I have done the three main characters from the Delamere series (Jack, Larkin and Will) and most of the characters in Where There’s a Will are only going to appear in this book, though there is one I may reuse, he’s not a vital player in this story. There might, instead, be a map of Templar Island, where the story is set. I’ll think about it.

Meanwhile, this series, and the others are doing very well thanks to the two promos I am taking part in this month. First there’s:

Academia Romance of all genres as long as academia is involved.

Then, there’s:

Historical fiction, all periods pre-1950 and all available on Kindle Unlimited.

Click the pics to find the offers and titles.

Logogram or Logotype, but Logo is out

You know how I research words as best I can so that I don’t put anachronistic words into the mouths of my 19th-century characters? Well, I’ve been doing it again. If you’ve read this blog over the years you will know I sometimes talk about words I can’t use because they weren’t in general usage in 1888 to 1892 when my series are set, words like okay, paperwork, acerbic, or even acidic. If I’m not sure, I go and look the word up in a dictionary or use the online one which tells me when the word was first found in printed material. That’s usually a reasonably accurate indication of when the word was also spoken, but there are things to bear in mind. A) words are often spoken for a while before they are accepted into a dictionary, so the date shown is probably slightly earlier, and B) this online dictionary has a bent towards when the word was first used in America, and the date might be slightly different for Britain.

Anyway…

I was writing a chapter for ‘Where There’s a Will,’ and one of the clues involved the publisher’s logo on the spine of a book. Logo…? Off I go to look it up, and sure enough, it was hardly used until the 1950s. I can’t use logo, but these things must have had other names, so I turned to a friend of mine who knows about such things and this is how the email exchange went.


‘What was a publisher’s logo called before the word logo came about, any idea?’ I asked, and clarified with, ‘The Penguin symbol on penguin books, for example, is there a better or older word for one of those things, other than logo? I think they were called logograms or logotypes, and logo is an abbreviation – just wondered if you knew of any other word for them.’

My books don’t have a logo

This was his reply.

Interesting question, to which I don’t actually know the answer.

I know the word logotype has a specific history in printing. It was something printers used to save time when making up common words. Typesetting was all about making up text from individual letters cast in metal or made of wood. Some bright spark hit on the idea that for certain common words it would be quicker to cast the whole word as one piece of metal or wood. For example, in newspaper printing, the word that made up the paper’s title on the front page could be cast as one big block of text. And these word blocks were called logotypes.

But the modern concept of the logo symbol really goes back to heraldry and beyond. People had their crests and devices, and shops and inns had their signs.

So my guess would be that in the 19th century, people would refer to signs, devices, crests, symbols, marks, and that kind of thing. Goldsmiths and silversmiths had marks which were stamped on their wares. With the advent of industrial-scale advertising, you get companies like Coco Cola designing their name in a specific font that would have been cast as logotypes for printing purposes. The Coca-Cola logo is a word and therefore originated as an authentic logotype.

From my shelves

But I don’t think the word logotype would have been in common use outside of printing circles in the 19th century, and ordinary people would have referred to anything that was a symbolic representation of a trade, product, organisation, person, as a crest, or a device, or a sign, or a mark, as appropriate. Possibly symbol. You don’t really get the catch-all word “logo” until major advertising takes off in the early 20th century. And as you say, it was probably the abbreviated form of logotype getting into popular use, because these symbols would have been cast as a single block for printing.

I think these days they differentiate between logotype, still basically a word block, and logogram, which is a symbol. The Penguin would be a logogram. Since the company was founded in the 1930s the word used for the symbol would have been logo or logogram.


Well, I found it interesting. I also had to find another way to describe what my character was seeing, because even the self-educated genius, Will Merrit, would not have used the word logogram.

More books in the study – I need more shelves!

Where There’s an Update

The news today is that I am now 61,000 words into Delamere four, ‘Where There’s a Will.’

We have just had Easter here in Greece, so my writing regime was interrupted, what with family dinners, returning visitors wanting to see us, and all those festivities, but I am back to normal now and beavering on with the first draft of this more classic mystery.

What I mean by ‘more classic’ is that this is a simple mystery set in an isolated location where the reading of a will calls for the presence of at least one independent investigator. When I first outlined the idea to a writer friend of mine, her first question was the same as mine; why an investigator? Exactly! Why would anyone stipulate they wanted/needed a detective at the reading of a will? I wasn’t sure myself when I started, and I am still not too sure, but that’s the joy of writing mysteries. I often leave it up to the story and characters to work out what’s going on, because I don’t have a clear idea when I start. (I can also go back and change/clarify or exclude things later.)

My artist’s drawing of Will Merrit.

In this case, I had a rough idea, and so far, it is working. I have been dropping clues like breadcrumbs, so I might need to highlight or discard some of them, otherwise when it’s all worked out at the end, the list of pointers and clues will be too long.

That’s all technical. What is more fun with this one is that Will Merrit is the main POV character, so I am writing from his point of view. There is a secondary character whose point of view we also get, and he is the love story (gay love story of course). This isn’t just because my readers like a gay love connection and sometimes nookie in the books, his storyline is vital to the solution of the riddle at the heart of the story—why call a detective to the reading of a will.

When I started, I envisioned the classic ‘Cat and the Canary’ scenario, and apart from the murders, I have it, so far. I have my cast cut off during a storm on a private island in the Bristol Chanel, with one of them going mad, one already mad, a love story unfolding, and only 48 hours to solve the puzzle, or else everything, including the island, goes to the Church. Fun stuff, and I’m well on my way to the final act.

More news soon.

Jack and Will (behind)

History and Academia

Historical Fiction in Kindle Unlimited

Click the pic to find the offers

This month, I am promoting Deviant Desire and Guardians of the Poor, and I am doing it through two promo outlets which might interest you. The first is for Deviant Desire (and Guardians as that’s in both promos), and that book is up there with 38 other titles by some great authors.

If you like 20th Century historical fiction then KC Savilis is the writer for you, with his ‘The Devil’s Spies’ being set during the Cold War, and his ‘Operation Teardrop’ set in 1944. If you like historical fantasy, then ‘Legacy of Hunger’, by Christy Nichols might suit you, and if you want to go right back, then ‘The Frowning Madona’ is set in 412 A.D.

There is a wide range of historical fiction on offer, though not necessarily gay historical fiction as in Deviant Desire. The first in my Clearwater series of Victorian mysteries, ‘DD’ starts the ball rolling with the East End Ripper – my take on Jack – with some references within the novel being factual and inspiring the ongoing series. For example, my Ripper is never caught, the same as Jack was never caught, but in my world, you, the reader, will find out not only who he is, but why he was never exposed.

You can find all the books through this link.

Academia Romance

Guardians of the Poor has a place in an Academia Romance collection of 19 books on offer through the Academia Romance promo on Book Funnel. Going by the titles and covers, these are mainly straight, academy-themed stories, and Guardians does rather stand out as being something different. Perhaps that will attract some new readers, perhaps it won’t. What I do know is, if you are looking for more KU books to add to your TBR list, and you like the idea of teachers and students, or students and students, or teachers and… you get the idea… then this promo is for you.

Click the image to take a look.

Jackson’s Academy

I was going to leave things there, but then I started thinking about how many of my novels feature an academy, or a mentor. Guardians of the Poor starts off the Larkspur Series, and these are set at the Larkspur Academy, so there are seven right there. Then, I have the Mentor series where an older guy mentors a younger guy through coming out and accepting he’s gay. You can add to that, the Students of Barrenmoor Ridge which is about two school leavers.

I was only allowed to put one title in the academy promo, hence Guardians is there because it’s a series starter, and the story introduces us to the Larkspur Academy, Professor Fleet, and a string of new lead characters.

As usual, you can find all my books through my Amazon page, and they are all available in KU.

[KU = Kindle Unlimited. TBR = To Be Read.]

Will it Work?

This week’s update: I am now at 55,000 words of ‘Where There’s a Will’ and the story is progressing. For the last three days I have been rereading what I have written so far, and today, I’ll be moving forward again, having checked up on myself. This is one of those mysteries with lots of detail, some of which isn’t relevant (to the mystery) but which act as red herrings, and I need to be sure that a) there aren’t too many, and b) those that are genuine clues are pointed enough to remain in the memory without overpowering it.

What I mean: When laying down a clue for the detective to pick up on later, like when laying down the foundations of what will become the smoking gun, it’s important to ensure the evidence has been presented in a plausible but not over-obvious way.

There is an old thriller writing saying which goes something like: Don’t mention a revolver unless you intend to use it. In other words, if you introduce something big, make sure there’s a reason for it. So, in ‘Where There’s a Will’, I have several incidents from the characters’ pasts which either have to be relevant to the plot generally or important to the mystery specifically. Some of these ideas pop into my head as I am writing, and thus, get added into the story. Later, I might discover that they didn’t run, or they led nowhere, and interesting as they are, and relevant though they seemed at the time, they are now just clutter and have to go.

Which is what I have been doing these past few days. Now, I am about to leap back into chapter 18, which is a little over halfway, when the mystery has just kicked up a gear. I need to devise my next cryptic clue, put in some more backstory to deepen suspicion and have my cast prepare for a storm, both meteorological and metaphoric.

Red Herring. According to Study.com, The term ”red herring” comes from an article written by a journalist in 1807. He described a likely fictional story in which he used a red herring (a smoked herring) to distract a dog from a hare. The term caught on from there.

The smoking gun. The phrase originally came from the idea that finding a very recently fired (hence smoking) gun on the person of a suspect wanted for shooting someone would in that situation be nearly unshakable proof of having committed the crime. (Wiki.)

Or, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it in ‘The Adventure of the Gloria Scott’: We rushed on into the captain’s cabin, but as we pushed open the door there was an explosion from within, and there he lay wit’ his brains smeared over the chart of the Atlantic which was pinned upon the table, while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand at his elbow.

A selection of Historical Fiction on Kindle Unlimited – the promo runs all month

The Blake Inheritance

I am currently writing ‘Where There’s a Will’, the Delamere Series book four, and have just written a chapter involving a lighthouse. This reminded me of another of my older, stand-alone novels which also features a lighthouse.

The Blake Inheritance has the following blurb:

Let us go then you and I, to the place where the wild thyme grows.”

An inheritance, a ring and a church organ; three clues to the Blake family mystery. Twenty-five and fleeing a stale relationship, Ryan Blake returns home to find some answers. What he discovers is the impish twenty-two-year-old, Charlie Hatch, a homeless scamp who has a way with words, a love of mysteries, and a very cute arse. As the two set about unlocking the Blake family secrets, Ryan finds himself falling for the younger guy. But is he ready to commit again? And can Charlie learn to accept that someone loves him?

The lighthouse is where the climax of the story happens, the unlocking of the mystery and where the two main characters get a little closer – as far as I remember. It’s been a while since I read it. It’s a mystery set in the present day and concerns two guys from the same town and school. One of them, Charlie, is fond of mixing his quotes, hence the line:

“Let us go then you and I, to the place where the wild thyme grows.”

This one is a mix of TS Eliot (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock):

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

And Shakespeare, (A Midsummer Night’s Dream):

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Charlie comes out with others throughout the book, but not relentlessly, because I couldn’t think of that many good ones. I think there’s something like ‘Come into my parlour said the owl to the pussycat,’ or similar in there somewhere. I wanted to make Charlie quirky (maybe even a bit creepy at times), and Ryan, far more sensible and grown up for his age.

Pleasingly, I received good feedback about this standalone, with some people asking if I was going to create a series with these two characters investigating other mysteries. I started writing a book two, but didn’t feel it had legs. (Not long after, I started on Deviant Desire, and that world and those characters certainly had/have legs. Three series, a total of 21 books with another one on the way.) ‘Blake’ has received some negative stars – there’s someone who invariably gives my books only one star, usually only half an hour after I post the new title, which makes me suspect, they didn’t buy it. But there have also been some good reviews, including:

This is an amazing piece of writing which has everything in it.”

“I just finished reading this book. I just wouldn’t put it down until I finished it.”

The more I read, the more I was gripped.”

Maybe those words were about one of my others, as this is very much an ‘early work,’ and tbh, I write much better prose these days. Still, it sells copies now and then, it’s a sweet little romance with an intriguing mystery, and it’s all yours for as little as $3.99 -= or ‘free’ on Kindle Unlimited.

Nearly Halfway

This week’s work-in-progress blog is about Where There’s a Will, the 4th book in the new Delamere Files series of detective novels. I’m very pleased that the series is going so well so far. The current promo…

… has given the series a boost, and the first three books are currently top of my sales chart, with Deviant Desire not far behind. It’s always good to have popular series starters because they can lead to more sales. Numbers do drop off though, so out of every 100 Deviants I sell, I probably only sell 80 Twisteds, and then 70 Unspeakables, and so on. What I also find, though, is that people will read the first one or two books and either not bother because it wasn’t what they were after, or, will carry on all the way through and buy who whole rest of the series in one go.

But, anyway, where was I… oh yes, I was meant to be telling you about Where There’s a Will. Someone wrote in a review that they hoped Will got his own book as the main character because we’ve had three of his brother Jack. Well, good news. Where There’s a Will is about Will (Merrit) being sent to attend the opening of a will (legal document), with his brother, Jack (now finally settled with his sexuality and his new job).

Lundy, in the Bristol Channel. Inspiration for my Templar Isle.

The reading takes place at a castle on a private island, in the presence of twin brothers (the heirs), the dead father’s ancient nanny and her brother, the mute boatman, a couple of the servants, and a friend of the youngest twin. Charles de Marisco (the youngest twin) fancies his friend, Barrett Newton, but Barrett takes a shine to Jack. That’s the human underscore for the investigation which is a mystery in itself. Why have private detectives to the reading of a will? The reason becomes apparent when the solicitor reads the legally binding will and presents the character with a race against time.

I’ll say no more for now, except that I am 45,000 words into the first draft, so just about halfway, and things are looking good. Will is the main character, but we also have Charles de Marisco’s point of view. More news in future blogs.

Willing

Just a quick hello today, as I have got behind on jobs and chapters this week. I did manage to get some research done, though, and did a lot of reading which, in the end, wasn’t that helpful. I was trying to find out about wills and bequeathments, so I turned to a friend who is a genealogist for advice. My imaginary will was written in about 1862, and I was trying to find an example of a will from that time so I could copy the wording. I have seen some from my family of the past, but they were 18th-century ones, and I thought there would be a difference. Turned out, I was right. Here’s what my friend wrote back:

The key thing is that in 1858 everything changed. Up until then, wills were written for and proved in the various church courts, so they were both kind of religious documents (the testament) and a disposal of worldly goods (the will). So they were a mix of the religious and the legal, and proved in the court of the Archbishop, or bishop, Dean and chapter, or archdeacon, as appropriate.

In 1858, all that changed and the wills were written for, and proved in, the High Court of Justice, in the newly established probate division. So they ceased to be religious documents and became purely legal ones. You no longer get all that stuff about believing in the merits of Christ as Saviour and believing in the Resurrection. And usually, out goes all the stuff about being decently buried in a good Christian manner. Although you still often get some instructions to executors about the burial where the will-maker had some definite preferences. Extravagant brick-lined graves, for example.

I don’t think I have any from around the 1880s, though I will have a look. The only way to get wills from the post-1858 period is to apply to the High Court Probate Division with the index details and pay a fee. They are not available on Ancestry unless an Ancestry member has gone through the application process then scanned the document and kindly made it available, although there are copyright issues when people do that, and it’s not really allowed.

Later, he sent me a link to a PDF file online. It’s a collection of Wills from the 19th century. Although I only found one dated after 1858, it was enough. I have now written my late character’s will-reading scene, and it will make for fun reading, I assure you. I’ll be back on Wednesday with another update on ‘Where There’s a Will.’

Meanwhile, don’t forget this promo is still running until the end of the month.