Speaking in Silence

The Larkspur Mysteries Book Five

I have the cover and the details uploaded, and should be finalising the internal files over the weekend. This means you should be able to find ‘Speaking in Silence’ any day now. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll no doubt receive a notification from Amazon and know the book is available before I do. Meanwhile, at the bottom of this post is the cover reveal. Click the image to open the full cover.

Who is it?

The problem with discussing any new release is that I don’t want to give away any spoilers or tell you what the story is because I don’t want to ruin the journey for you. However, you will meet the character while you’re reading the book, and all I will tell you is that he is our protagonist. Everything that happens does so because of him. Things also happen because of the antagonist who is after his own reward, but he’s slimy and horrible, so I didn’t want to put him on the front cover.

Speaking in Silence is a slightly unusual story for me in that it’s not exactly a mystery. It is, but the mystery is ‘How will they do that?’ and, later, ‘How did they do that?’ It’s one of only a few novels I have written with a classic drawing room denouement, as I discussed in a post the other week.

The fun thing for me was holding back what I and the characters knew, and not giving things away to you, the reader, too soon. I could have done that, and then there would have been one tension point at a particular place in the story, but that would have been it. This time, I decided to keep you wondering until after the event—the climax—and I hope it works.

‘Starting with Secrets’

With ‘Speaking in Silence’ written, I was able to turn my mind to the next book, ‘Starting with Secrets,’ and the one after that, ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’ What I am embarking on now is a two-part mystery that leads to what could be the end of the series. Having said that, I am sure the Clearwater world will live on after the Larkspur collection. I just haven’t decided how. Yet.

From Wednesday, on my work-in-progress blog, I will set the counter back to week one, though I have been working on ‘Secrets’ for the past several days already. I have been devising clues because the next novel is all about solving obscure clues while chasing down a secret ‘treasure’ that will secure the Clearwater future. (Again, I can’t say too much.) There will be a new character or two, and many of the established Clearwater and Larkspur characters will be involved.

Here’s an opportunity that’s just occurred to me—I’ll discuss it with Jenine when I can, but I’ll drop it in here now, so I don’t forget.

I was thinking I might ask readers and followers on my Facebook page to tell me who is their favourite character from either series. I can then make sure those characters appear in the next two books. There is such a cast now, that my spreadsheet of characters is bulging, and I am running out of names. (I realised the other day that I had an Archer and an Arthur, and when they appear in the same scene, I have to call Arthur a footman or Art, so readers don’t get confused between the two.) Keep an eye on my FB page and I’ll put up a post (if I remember) asking for suggestions.

Which characters would you like to appear in the next two instalments? Who’s your favourite? Perhaps then I’ll draw a random name and send off a signed copy of ‘Starting with Secrets’ when it’s out.

Speaking in Silence Cover Reveal

But I mustn’t get ahead of myself and forget that Speaking in Silence is out next week. Tune in to Wednesday’s WIP to start the adventure of writing the next novel, and before that, look out for the ‘Silence’ release.

Now you can click the image to see the full front cover open in a new window.

Work In Progress: 3.13

Speaking in Silence

I am currently reading through the proofed manuscript, and only have a few chapters left to do. After that, I’ll be contacting the guys at Other Worlds Ink and setting up the formatting process. That usually only takes a couple of days, and after that, I will upload the Kindle versions of the book. I’m waiting for my cover designer to make a tiny alteration on the back cover of the print version, but I think she might be on holiday, so the paperback may not come out at the same time as the Kindle and KU versions.

So, in a nutshell, you should be able to find Speaking in Silence online in the first week of August. Once I have sent it to Amazon, I will return my attention to the next one, which I left five chapters in, to turn my attention to ‘Silence.’ Another WIP will begin, this time #4, because it will be the fourth novel I have taken you through in these blogs. It will actually be the 40th book I have written. Gulp. Then again, I do write full-time for around six hours per day.

Anyway… There will be more news soon, and keep an eye on the blog and my Facebook page for the cover reveal.

Mapping Your Novel

Or, Getting From A to D via the B and C of it all

Today I wanted to talk about maps and mapping your novel, and how I use maps while mapping my novels. There are two parts to this.

  • 1) The way I structure the paths through the story
  • 2) How I use maps when creating a novel

Mapping Your Way Through Your Story

When previously talking about structure, I have recommended a couple of screenwriting books to read which were written by experts about story structure. ‘Story’ by Robert McKee, and ‘The 21st Century Screenplay’, by Linda Aronson. I can also add to that ‘Into the Woods’ by John Yorke. (I also recommend the Sondheim/Lapine musical with the same title as an excellent example of how to interweave stories together.) Read those books and you’ll know just about all there is to know about how to structure a story. Add in ‘The Writer’s Journey’ by Vogler, and you’ll know all there is to know about character arcs and development, archetypal characters and plot structure.

Essential reading for the budding writer

There are various ways to structure a story, but let’s think simple for now. By the time your story ends, something should have changed, a character should have learnt something or altered his/her state, and you should leave the reader with a sense of things to come thanks to that change, either good or bad. In other words, the end state is far away from the beginning state.

You can start your tale partway through the overall story as I did with ‘Artful Deception.’ There, chapter one starts a few days into the story, leaving us wondering what was happening and how and why the characters were in that situation. Then, in chapter two, we start at the real beginning with the inciting incident that leads to the scene we read in chapter one, and then we carry on from there. That’s a way of drawing the reader in and is very common in films. The point is, the story still starts somewhere and ends somewhere else, and I don’t just mean physically.

To get your action from A to D, you need to go via the B and C, and that’s where you need to map things out. I make a list of ‘hit points’ or ‘plot points’ or twists if you like…

A, everything’s fine and dandy when something happens.

That leads to B, trying to work out what has happened and what we can do about it, which then leads to a twist or change of direction at halfway, and we’re off into…

C, how do we deal with what’s happened? Working through that, through difficulties and challenges, emotional turmoil and whatever, leads us to the crisis. Just when you think things couldn’t get worse or the hero is doomed, he overcomes his fatal flaw, takes a leap of faith, and pulls up his socks.

That done, we then get on the with D of the story, the climax, and, after that, we’re in a different story state. It’s done, and the reader can relax or sigh with relief. We have gone from the A state of normality, travelled with our characters through the B and C (the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune) to the final battle and the D, the resolve.

Don’t take my words literally. You don’t have to have a physical final battle, it can be an emotional one, but it usually involves a leap of faith or a difficult decision. That’s because the emotional plot (character arcs, development, overcoming fatal flaws etc.) runs parallel to the action, and also needs mapping.

There are loads of online resources to use to understand this better, and while searching for a simple illustration of the above, I found the graphic below. This shows you the points of the story I mentioned (inciting incident to climax, etc.) with a typical character arc set against it in a graph.

How I use maps when creating a novel

If you have read ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ you will have seen a map of the route of the Orient Express circa 1890 to 1914. I had that map drawn because I wanted to include it at the start of the book, and because I love looking at maps. I can sit at my desk for ages reading a map, imagining the locations, revelling in the romantic place names, the terrain, contours and symbols, and I often have a map open when taking my characters on a journey. I have a map of the Great Western Railway routes, again from the late 19th to early 20th century, and I referred to it while writing my recent Work In Progress blog about ‘Speaking in Silence.’

I have a fantastic book about the history of maps and cartography, ‘The Cartographia’ by Vincent Virga, which sits in pride of place on my desk. Vincent also wrote ‘Gaywyck’, the first gay gothic romance novel. Along with the Cartographia, I have a Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World, a large book that talks about topography, geology, and geography, and comes with detailed maps of every part of the planet. I use this to find remote locations, such as the castle in ‘Negative Exposure’, so I can see where my characters are at any one time when on a countrywide chase.

Then, I have the more detailed Ordnance Survey maps, such as the one of Bodmin Moor where the imaginary Larkspur Hall is found. I have drawn on my copy, filling in a rough estate boundary for Larkspur and marking the location of the ring of standing stones Joe discovers in ‘Keepers of the Past.’ The OS  Explorer maps are great for detail, but if you’re not a map reader and want to see what a location looks like, then Google Maps is where you need to go.

Maps, maps and more maps

I use the Google map service a great deal. I find a place on the map, then switch to the image results to get an overview, and then switch to the Maps option and use the satellite view. With that, you can zoom in, and even place yourself on a street or in the countryside and really get into detail. I used this in ‘Speaking in Silence’ as you will read in the author’s notes at the end. That story is based on a real event, and the newspaper reports I found gave the address of one of the characters in 1891. I went to the satellite service and dropped myself onto the same road, found the actual house and had a look at it, as it is still standing.

Ah yes, you say, but that’s a good point. What we see now on these maps may not be what was there in 1891 when my current novels are set. You are right, I reply, and that’s why I often go to the National Library of Scotland. They have a brilliant online resource for old maps. If, for example, you head to this link: London map 1888 to 1913 you should see a black and white map of London that you can zoom into. In the bottom left corner of the screen is a ‘transparency of overlay’ feature, a slider that, when slid, reveals today’s Google map of the area, so you can compare then and now. The site has hundreds of maps of different scales and from different times and is a great online resource. Here is a link to their list of online digital resources. https://www.nls.uk/digital-resources/

Why am I Even Talking About Maps?

You might wonder why I am talking about maps at all. The reason is that the next novel in the Larkspur series involves journeys, as will the one after it. I am about to release ‘Speaking in Silence’, and have started working on the sixth book in the series, ‘Staring at Secrets.’ After that, we will have ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ and both books will involve characters from Larkspur and Clearwater heading off to various places, trying to put together a massive puzzle and find a ‘secret treasure’, as I’m calling it for now. Because I like to be as accurate as possible, I’m using maps of the time and other resources to work out distances, the time it would have taken to travel, and the means the characters would have had at their disposal. That’s why I also have a copy of Baedeker’s Egypt from 1892, and Cook’s Tourist Handbook for Egypt, the Nile and the Desert, 1897.

While the fun part is happening—the plotting, mapping and planning—I am also mapping the character’s arcs and developments, working out who will be the main character(s), what the emotional and love story will be, and those throughlines will be mapped against the physical action storyline. If you look at the photo of my larger notebook, you’ll see the beginnings of a rough chart that spans both books, as ‘Staring at Secrets’ is part one of the story. That’s good fun to do, but it’s also vital if you are to produce a well-structured action and emotional story through which your characters grow, and through which you take your reader from the ordinary world of A to the new world of D via the B and C of it all.

Work In Progress 3.12

Speaking in Silence’ and ‘Starting with Secrets

Yes, sorry about this, but I now have two WIPs on the go. Speaking in Silence is with the proofreader, so there is nothing more I can do about that for now. Having said that, I have just asked Anjela to amend the cover because I got something wrong in the blurb. Well, in the story, actually, where I gave Clearwater a title he could never have held. I’ve sorted that now, and it was only a case of changing one word three times. So, Speaking in Silence has gone for its check-up, leaving me little to do except prepare its Amazon page for when it comes back. Then, I will read it again, have it laid out, and upload the files. I am still aiming for the first week of August for its release.


Starting with Secrets has started. This story will be the sixth in the Larkspur Mysteries series and begins with something that happened way back before the first of the Clearwater series began. A secret known only to two characters sets off an adventure that will involve the academy men and characters from the Clearwater series. It’s going to be a two-parter, with the second book having its own title, and I have begun work on the plotting and early chapters.

The Larkspur / Clearwater Bible

I need to invent a fair few clues for ‘Secrets’, and my notebook has come in very handy, as has my Clearwater and Larkspur bible, where I record info about characters and places, events and so forth in case I need them later. Right now, I am about to sit at my writing desk and dream up another set of unlikely clues before returning to chapter four, which I wrote yesterday, and reading that through before moving on to chapter five.

I’ll be back next Wednesday with another WIP update, and who knows what I’ll be writing by then.

Learning While I Write

While ‘Speaking in Silence’ is awaiting its proof reading, and while I am mapping the next book, ‘Starting with Secrets’, I thought it high time I did some more learning.

You may remember that when I started on the Larkspur Mysteries, I introduced a deaf character, Joe Tanner. To better understand him and his language, I signed up for an introduction to British Sign Language (BSL), and passed the basic course. This was useful not only for forming the character, but also for my own learning, and I learnt a little about the history of BSL, particularly that it was outlawed in Victorian times. This meant that Joe would have invented his own version of it, which he and Dalston did as they grew up in the workhouse. That was typical of what happened back then, and is the reason BSL has so many regional variations in its signs.

Introduction to the Victorian Age

That was then, this is now, and I have now signed up for a course called, ‘Introduction to the Victorian Age.’ It’s a diploma course run by the Centre of Excellence. Recently, my husband passed a Sociology diploma course with them and has now embarked on a philosophy diploma. The Centre of Excellence prices its courses at reasonable amounts, has won five worldwide business awards, and all their courses are certified or accredited. Now and then, they have promotional offers, and last week, we bought three courses for €58.00, where the original price should have been €450.00. So, not a bad deal at all. If you want to know more, head to the Centre of Excellence and have a look around. It costs nothing to investigate, and you will find all kinds of courses from Earth Sciences to Animal Care.

They have 25 different writing course that might interest you.

What am I about to learn?

My course is titled an ‘Introduction to the Victorian Age’, and you might wonder why I am doing this. Having already written 16 books in my Victorian mystery series, don’t I already know about the age? Well, yes, I know some, and I do my research, but usually on specific novel-appropriate topics. For example, I read a great deal about Jack the Ripper when writing ‘Deviant Desire’, and a lot about workhouses when writing ‘Guardians of the Poor.’ I have books on my shelf that range from The Cleaveland Street Scandal to Victorian architecture, and from the Victorian country house to slumming, but I haven’t yet read much on the early part of the era, the industrial revolution and what took place before the 1880s when my books are set. The Victorian era began when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and lasted until her death in 1901. The course I am about to embark on begins with her ascendancy to the throne, Prince Albert and his death, and moves on to look at gender, society and class.

Then there is a module about the industrial revolution and the ‘rise of the factory’, followed by one that covers the labour movement, slums, urbanisation and city improvements. I will then look at crime in Victorian times (can’t wait for that!), punishment, the Whitechapel murders gets its own section (can’t wait for that either), and there is a module about science, religion and fear. Health and medicine, the Empire, the Irish famine in the 1840s are all covered too, as are the arts and culture.

As you can see, there’s a lot in it, but I don’t have to rush. Once you’re signed up for a course, you can take as long as you want to complete it, and that means months or even years, so there’s no pressure. There are marked assessments along the way (marked by qualified tutors), but no need to sit an exam. My aim is to do the modules as and when I can, and use what I learn to further improve my historical accuracy. As I also have copywriting work and two novels in the pipeline, my time is restricted, but I will do my best and I’ll keep you informed on progress as I go.

Here’s the link again in case you want to know more about the courses. Centre of Excellence.

And what of Larkspur? I mentioned I am planning the next in the Larkspur series, and I am. Speaking in Silence should be with you early in August, but I have already drafted chapter one of the next book, ‘Starting with Secrets.’ Actually, I have been making notes on the one after that too, and I’ll be updating you every Wednesday on my Work In Progress blog. My current plan is to write a two-part story to bring the Larkspur series to an end. There will, therefore, eventually be seven books in the series, though who knows? I may write more. The next one, ‘Secrets’ starts off the two-parter, and should be followed by ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, which will be similar in design to ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’ I’ll say no more just now, and will leave it for my Wednesday WIP blog, and turn my attention to Queen Victoria.

P.S Cover reveal for Speaking in Silence is on its way later this week!

Work In Progress 3.11

Speaking in Silence

You may remember my to-do list last week looked like this:

  •     Finish the fine editing
  •     Reread for a final check
  •     Create the blurb
  •     Find images suitable to make a cover and open negotiations with Andjela
  •     Proofreading
  •     Layout
  •     Check everything and reread
  •     Upload to Amazon
  •     Hope for the best

I’m happy to tell you, I have completed the first four things on the list ✔✔✔✔, though I haven’t finalised the blurb yet. Neil has read my edited draft, and I have a little editing to do on the last chapter, which I will do in a moment. Andjela and I have the licence for a photo to be adapted for the front cover, and there will be a reveal of that nearer the release date, which is still estimated at the first week of August.

Check in next week for an update. Meanwhile, here’s the draft blurb.

Speaking in Silence

The Larkspur Mysteries Book Five

Jackson Marsh

“The quiet ones have the loudest voice. Them as say most by speaking in silence.”

Fiona Hawkins, 1881

March 1891. A parliamentary committee arrives at Larkspur Hall to assess Lord Clearwater’s suitability to become the Earl of Cornwall. Prince Albert Victor will announce their decision at a society dinner on Archer’s thirty-second birthday.

However, the MP with the authority to advance Archer to the title is the same man who caused Edward Hyde never to speak again. When the parliamentarians arrive to inspect the Larkspur Academy, Edward comes face to face with the man he had arrested for making unnatural advances. A man who was never tried for his crime.

Silas Hawkins and the academy men band together to ensure Edward sees justice done while protecting Lord Clearwater’s reputation and each other. Using their skills in chemistry, physics and deception, they embark on a game of secrets and subterfuge where the unspoken causes the loudest outcry.

Speaking in Silence is the fifth book in the Larkspur Mysteries series, and touches on themes of victimisation and suicide. Like all books in the series, it is inspired by actual events from the late 1800s. With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story is more of a ‘how dunnit?’ than a ‘who dunnit?’ and like all of Jackson’s mysteries, contains humour, while mixing fact with fiction.

Disability Pride Month: Joe Tanner

Disability Pride Month occurs in July “to listen to what the voices of disabled people have to say about their rights and what they need“.

The month was chosen to recognise that, the then President of the United States, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law on July 26, 1990. (Wiki)

As this month is Disability Pride Month, I thought I’d write a short piece about my “disabled” character, Joe Tanner. I put the disabled in “ ” because Joe wouldn’t have seen himself as disabled. He’s deaf and has been since birth, and yes, that’s a disability, but all the same, he wouldn’t (or doesn’t) consider himself disabled.

These days, it’s difficult to write about how Joe was treated because the language of that time is now considered offensive, but we shouldn’t take offence at history, because there’s nothing we can do to change it; it is how it was. Being deaf in the late 19th century wasn’t easy, and although there had been schools for the deaf since the 18th century, they were small, private and expensive. Also, sign language was outlawed in 1880 and was discouraged as taught communication for 100 years. When Joe Tanner was born in 1871, his parents didn’t know what to make of him. Although his father was a vicar, he had a very short fuse, and Joe’s early life wasn’t pleasant. Frustrated that their son couldn’t communicate, Joe’s parents left him at the Hackney Workhouse and buggered off to America. Joe was about seven at this time, and was immediately put on the ‘idiots ward.’

This is where you mustn’t take offence to the language.

According to the glossary on Peter Higginbotham’s marvellous site www.workhouses.org:

Idiots and Imbeciles were two commonly used categories of mental subnormality.

Definitions varied over the years, but in broad terms:

Idiots, the most deficient, were unable to protect themselves against basic physical dangers.

Imbeciles, a less severely deficient group, were unable to protect themselves against moral and mental dangers.

It’s also likely that many deaf people entering a workhouse would have ended up in the hospital wards or sent to an asylum. In Joe’s case, he should have been sent to a school, which probably would have done him no good anyway, but he was lucky. Not only did he have an understanding workhouse matron, but he also met Dalston Blaze.

Here are some extracts from the chapter in ‘Guardians of the Poor’ where Dalston meets Joe for the first time. Joe was seven, Dalston six, and Mrs Lee was the workhouse matron.

The matron demanded to know what was happening, and a grubber said the boy had refused to stay on the idiots’ ward, and they were trying to get him back there. Dalston knew of the idiots’ ward, and of the one on the floor above, which was for the imbeciles, but he wasn’t allowed up there. Even if he was, he wouldn’t have gone, the noises and screaming were too frightening.

As the matron tore the grubbers down a peg, Dalston crept closer and stood facing the boy. Without knowing why, he knew that what was happening was wrong. If a boy misbehaved, he missed a meal, everyone knew that, and perhaps, he thought, this lad has been naughty. It wasn’t uncommon for the schoolteacher to whack a boy’s arse for misbehaving, but if this lad had just suffered that, he wouldn’t have been able to sit.

Mrs Lee tried to talk to him, but he balled himself tighter, and in the end, she told the grubbers to go about their business, and leave the lad alone.

Dalston, intrigued by the boy, stays with him when the staff give up, and the two start to communicate. Their language begins with drawings and moves on to finger and hand signs. In the story, Dalston (who is hearing) and Joe do what many deaf people did; they invented their own language. Although British Sign Language (BSL), as we now call it, was abandoned in schools in 1880, many deaf people continued to use it in their own groups, homes and meeting places. That’s why there are now so many regional variations in BSL.

Dalston and Joe go on to appear in all of the Larkspur Mysteries either as main characters or supporting cast, so I have been able to explore Joe’s character more as the series goes on. I thought it was important that Joe didn’t end up as a ‘feel sorry for’ character; I didn’t want him to be the one being looked after or treated in any way differently to the other characters. He’s a gay, young man in Victorian times like all the others around him, except he can’t hear. He can communicate, but not everyone can return the communication, not with sign language at any rate. However, other characters are learning some of it, they can always write things down, and none of them treats Joe as inferior. He is, after all, an excellent and natural horseman, he drives the carriages, and he studies archaeology while solving old murder cases.

With Joe, I wanted to show a disabled character in the same way as I show my others. Therefore, he’s not always fun and happiness, he has flaws, he gets frustrated, and he has a temper. He and Dalston’s first year together out of the workhouse (aged 19 and 18 by then) was not always an easy one, and like any young couple, they had relationship problems – none of which were due to Joe’s deafness. Joe’s also got a naughty sense of humour, and uses his sign language to his advantage, talking about people without them knowing what he is saying.

Book five of the Larkspur series, ‘Speaking in Silence’ also concerns a young man with a disability, though it’s not a physical one. Because of something that happened in his past, Edward Hyde has chosen not to speak more than one or two words to anyone (apart from his one friend). It’s his way of withdrawing from the world because of an incident that left him contemplating suicide. So, his disability is, you might say, an emotional one, but it is one he can be ‘cured’ of. That’s what the book is about, getting Edward’s voice back – although emotional recovery from his trauma will continue long after the story has finished.

For both these characters, Joe Tanner and Edward Hyde, I wanted to present my differently-abled characters as positive, non-victims (although Edward was) and to make them as good/bad, nice/nasty, grateful/churlish as all the others. Hopefully, they both present positive images of deaf or emotionally scarred people, and we see them do heroic things that we all wish we had the courage to do.

However readers take them, what they do in the books makes me proud, and that’s my way of wrapping up this post about my ‘disabled’ characters for Disability Pride Month.

Speaking in Silence is due out at the beginning of August

The Larkspur Series begins with Guardians of the Poor’ and it’s Joe you see on the cover signing the word ‘deaf.’

Work In Progress 3.10

Speaking in Silence

We’re into week ten of the writing of this new Larkspur Mystery and I am pleased to tell you, I have only eight chapters left to edit before I can say I have a draft for my beta readers, Neil and Jenine. The MS is booked in for proofreading on the 20th of July, and I am still aiming for the end of July/start of August to have the finished novel ready for you.

My to-do list now looks like this:

  • Finish the fine editing
  • Reread for a final check
  • Create the blurb
  • Find images suitable to make a cover and open negotiations with Andjela
  • Proofreading
  • Layout
  • Check everything and reread
  • Upload to Amazon
  • Hope for the best

While all that is going on, you won’t be surprised to learn that I have started thinking about the next book. The next two books, actually, because I am planning a two-book finale to this series along the lines of ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’ I am teeming with ideas, and have already outlined various scenes in my head, but I must find a way to connect them. All I can tell you right now is that I am planning to incorporate many of the characters from both Clearwater and Larkspur, have three or four storylines running at once all leading to the same end, so all will be connected, take my characters to some wild and exciting places, and tie up many threads. Some of these threads were started in Deviant Desire, and before that, Banyak & Fecks, so I have lots of rereading and remembering to do (thankfully, I keep my ‘bible’ and notebooks). There is also a special ending to consider, and all being well, you’ll be able to read the second book of the two at or by Christmas.

Watch this space.

Thank goodness for my author notebooks and ‘bible’!

This Author’s Summer

Summer is well underway on our little island. Temperatures are in the low 30s but don’t stop me from working. I’m used to the temperature outside being up to 45 degrees in the middle of summer, and I spend a lot of time avoiding the great outdoors. When I do, I stay in the shade. While inside, I work at my desk with my shirt off, a towel between my arm and my mouse, and a large, noisy fan blasting at me from the side. I also do most of my work in the morning, getting up at 4.00 and working through until 11.00, then taking a break, and returning around 13.30 for another couple of hours before taking a siesta.

A summer’s view from our balcony

While all that’s going on inside, there’s a lot going on outside. As you might know, I live on Symi, an island in the Aegean not far from the larger island of Rhodes. We have day-trip boats coming in every day during the summer, sometimes up to five of them. They come from Rhodes bringing interested visitors on a day out who meander around the harbour or are herded in groups by tour guides with little flags. The backstreets can become busy down there between certain hours, and I don’t very often get down unless it’s for bank, post office or ferry business. We have a bus and taxis, but as I don’t own a car, I prefer to walk even though it’s about 400 steps down and 400 back up again. Needless to say, I don’t do that when it’s 45 degrees.

Living on a Greek island isn’t always as idyllic as you might think. Recently, our water pump was playing up, and we had to get another one installed. I should explain that we are not on a constant mains water supply. We can fill up our tank three times a week, and if it runs dry, then that’s it until the next filling-up day. Because the main water cistern beneath the house was invaded by tree roots and is unusable, we have a large plastic one on our flat roof. This holds 500 litres, and that’s usually enough for two of us, but without a pump to pump the water from the tank to where it’s needed, we’re ‘dry.’ Anyway, we had to replace the water pump this week because the old one sounded like it was about to blow, and I’d rather pre-empt a ‘dry’ spell, particularly as we had Neil’s brother visiting.

One of our local restaurants that we visited when Neil’s brother was here. The ‘Kali Strata’ offers a new, modern twist on traditional Greek dishes…and a great view!

Another thing about living here is that it’s not always convenient to travel. We were aware of this when we decided to settle here, so I’m not complaining, just pointing out what it takes to get from A to B. We and Neil’s brother have been invited to a wedding in Inverness later this year. James (the bother-in-law) lives in Vienna, so for him, it’s a train to the airport, a flight, a wedding, a couple of nights in a hotel and a flight home. For us… Well, that’s a different matter. I’ve done my research and made a spreadsheet, and the cheapest way for us to do this trip in November involves this: An overnight boat from Symi to Athens. Night at the airport hotel (very costly but the flight is an early one). Flight to Edinburgh, couple of nights there, train to Inverness, hotel, wedding, hotel, train to Edinburgh, hotel, flight to Amsterdam, flight to Athens, hotel for two nights, overnight boat home. James will be away from his home for three days, but we will be away for 12, and that’s without taking a holiday (although we are seeing grandchildren and visiting family).

This will be us in November lol

But enough rambling from me. I must get back to my fine editing of ‘Speaking in Silence’ and racking my brains for a cover idea. You can discover how the next Larkspur Novel is coming along by looking at my regular Wednesday WIP blogs.