Seeing Through Shadows, Background

The Clearwater Companion. Larkspur Mysteries, book four

Have you read ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ the Larkspur Mysteries book four? It actually doesn’t matter if you have or haven’t, as this unpublished excerpt gives nothing away.

Chester Cadman has been duped by unscrupulous men, ridiculed in the newspapers, and disowned by his family. Only twenty-two, he is on the verge of starvation when a Clearwater detective makes him an offer he can’t refuse: Join the Larkspur Academy and investigate a haunting that has plagued Lord Clearwater’s family for nearly four hundred years.

What I have here is the original opening for the book, a section I wrote before the Clearwater Mysteries came about. It was to be the opening of a sequel to my standalone, slightly paranormal romance, ‘Curious Moonlight,’ when I invented an abbey in Cornwall and an ancient scandal that occurred around the time of the Reformation. This section is a very early work for me (another way of saying it’s a bit rough around the edges, a first draft and unedited), but the idea behind it stayed, and eventually became the backstory for ‘Seeing Through Shadows.’

Which is why I never throw anything away. Even if the text didn’t appear in the book in this or edited form, the idea behind it did.

It’s a quick read, but before you set off into the past, make a note that next Saturday, I will be revealing the cover of the first in the new series, ‘Finding a Way.’ More about that on my blog posts next week. Meanwhile, step back in time to 1538 and a moonlit night in the grounds of Larkspur Abbey…

Larkspur Abbey, 27th March 1538

The Abbot stood, cloaked and shadowed by the yew tree, his lantern dark and unnecessary thanks to the full moon. It painted the scudding cloud with outlines of silver and caused the unsettled mist to shimmer as it undulated over the damp grass and wove among the ancient stones. The moor mist played silently at the Abbot’s feet, stroking leather shoes before swirling to investigate his companion. As it drew near the second man, it seemed to realise its error and held back, skirting him before pouring down the hill towards the graveyard. There it pooled in a natural bowl, lapping at the base of the knoll as if waiting for a door to open and admit it to the earth.

‘The time draws near,’ the Abbot whispered, his eyes fixed on the far side of the graves.

‘Shall I go down, Father?’

‘No, Jacob. Wait awhile until we see it.’ He flicked his eyes across the tombstones to the church wall in case the apparition had appeared during the blink of an eye, but the mist was undisturbed, and no figure walked. ‘The monk has not returned, I hope?’

‘No, Father,’ Jacob replied. ‘Nor will he. He rides to Plymouth tonight, and thence Exeter and north. He shan’t be seen again.’

The Abbot crossed himself. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘the King’s commissioners are at Dartmoor.’

‘Aye, Father. We all fear for the Abbey.’

‘They will find no corruption here, Jacob.’ The Abbot’s voice was as firm as his belief that he ran an order beyond reproach.

‘Not now the monk has been sent away.’

‘Exactly.’ The Abbot shuffled his feet. ‘And not after you have done your duty.’

Jacob gripped the wooden handle of a dagger, his fingers itchy for work, his muscles tensed and ready.

In the graveyard, the mist became agitated and gathered at a cut in the hillock. Drawn to one place, it swirled in delight when a patch of grassy hillside opened like a door, and swept inside to the dark, unexplored tunnel. It poured around the skirt of a young girl, cowled and wrapped in a cloak of rough wool. Her boots cut through the vapour which pawed and petted before rushing on, as she trod a slow, deliberate path towards the graves.

‘There!’ the Abbot hissed and pulled his man to the cover of the tree. ‘See how it walks? As if floating above the mist.’

The girl made slow, cautious progress towards the east window, pausing to listen, crouching behind headstones when a breeze played at her hood and a startled night creature darted nearby.

‘Shall I go now?’

The Abbot sighed and closed his eyes in a brief prayer of forgiveness. ‘Yes, Jacob,’ he said. ‘But remember how the monk walked and be sure to do the same. Slowly, carefully go, because you know you are doing wrong, because you know God is watching and yet you act against your vows.’

‘I took no vows, Father.’

‘Which is why you are the only one who can do this. But picture yourself as him, and she will not suspect until you are on her.’

‘Aye,’ was all Jacob said as he hid the dagger.

He set off towards the church keeping to the shadows, but when there were none and the moon caught him in his guilty act, he behaved as the monk had done, crouching and crabbing low to the ground. If the girl saw him coming, she would think it was her assignation and not, as the Abbot had planned, her assassination.

He should have seen this months ago. It had become common knowledge in the Abbey despite the vow of silence, a vow he knew his monks rarely kept. If the King’s Commissioner heard of that, there would be trouble enough, but if they learned of the monk, the abbey would be torn down for sure.

The sinner was on his way to Plymouth now, on a mission to take the word of God into the county of Devon, further if possible. The cause of the Abbot’s fear had left, but only half of it. The girl was now against the church wall and creeping around the east to the south side where the shadows deepened in the recesses of buttresses. This is where they met, he had learned. Nightly when there was no rain, the monk and the serving girl from the Hall. It had first been noticed by a novice and gone unreported for the lad feared he would be accused of betrayal. Later, he confessed to a second novice who had the courage to approach the Abbot.

The Abbot knew the monk in question was otherwise virtuous and he rather the man found his way to a woman, rather than any of the noviciates as many monks did. He also knew the lord of the manor. If he reported the matter to him, he would flog all servant girls and possibly throw them out, bringing poverty to their families. The Abbot held his tongue and let the matter proceed. Young love was a fickle thing, he believed, and the pair would soon tire of each other. There should have come an end to it the moment he confronted the monk and told him to stop, but, as the younger man pointed out, it was hypocrisy on the part of the Abbot to cast stones before removing the plank from his own eye, and the Abbot was shamed into silence.

The girl vanished into the darkness between buttresses as Jacob reached the west end wall. He appeared and disappeared as he made his way towards the girl, entering every recess to stay in darkness, just as the monk had done.

It was the news that the King’s Commissioners were coming to Larkspur that forced the Abbot to act. Within a week of the news, he had cleaned house, threatened every monk, and taken every step to ensure the King received a favourable report and thus, he kept his job, his income and peccadillos. The fly in the ointment had been the one monk, so in love with a serving girl that he defied not only his Father but God.

Left with no choice, the Abbot gave the monk an ultimatum. To leave that day on horseback, or in a coffin. The monk had ridden off within the hour, leaving the girl ignorant of his departure, but still living. A confession from her and the abbey was lost.

Jacob reached her recess and slipped into the void. The Abbot listened but heard nothing. Cloud darkened the moonlight, and the scene descended to monochrome gloom until the high breeze took away the cover. As it did, it revealed Jacob dragging the girl’s body into the moonlight and kneeling beside it. His instructions were to haul it to a prepared grave and there bury it, but the man looked up, towards the trees and then back to the body. In a second he was on his feet and running towards the Abbot.

‘The idiot,’ the Abbot hissed.

The hour was late, and no lights glowed in the arched windows of the dormitory or church, and no-one moved in the cloisters. Nocturns had been said and the monks returned to their beds, there to sleep until the bell for Lauds. The perfect time for illegal assignations, but since the Abbot’s dire warning, none had dared. None but the banished monk, now not only a fornicator but the cause of a young girl’s death.

Jacob puffed his way ungainly to the top of the rise and clambered to his master.

‘Father,’ he said, his face paler than the moonlight, his eyes wider than the night sky. ‘I can’t bury the body here.’

Furious, the Abbot gripped the man’s cloak, dragged him close and glared. ‘You fool,’ he spat. ‘Get about your task.’

‘Father, I can’t,’ Jacob protested. ‘Come and see, and you will understand.’

Curious Moonlight

Escaping bad choices, Luke Grey arrives in the Cornish fishing village of Madenly determined never to fall in love with a straight man again. But then he meets Peran Box.

Peran’s passion for investigating historical mysteries is his only escape from a loveless relationship. But then he meets Luke.

Attracted to each other’s differences, the two embark on an intense friendship which sparks hope for Luke and ignites Peran’s gay-curious feelings.

But then they meet Billy, dead for three-hundred years and determined to keep them apart until the mystery of his murder is solved.

Nearly at the End of the Road: WIP 6:13

Jack Merrit – everyone’s heartthrob but his own.

I am nearly at the end of the editing process for ‘Finding a Way’, the Delamere Files, book one. A few more chapters to re-re-read and re-re-edit, and the whole MS can go off to Anne for proofing. The cover is done, the blurb is almost ready, and there will be a full cover reveal in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve been taking on some extra paid work, so haven’t had much time to continue with book two, ‘A Fall from Grace’, but I will be back to it today as soon as I have sent the first book to be proofed. Book two is at 48,000 words, about halfway through, and book one comes in at just over 100,000, so plenty of new reading will be coming your way soon. Neil is currently reading Finding a Way, and I’m looking forward to his feedback. I think.

Without giving away too much of the cover, here’s the face that inspired the face – a before and after if you like, as created by my wonderful cover designer, Andjela V.

Jack Merrit, a young cab driver. The original photo from pre-1900
Jack Merrit – everyone’s heartthrob but his own.

The Viscounts Clearwater

Archer’s full title is Archer, Lord Clearwater, Viscount of Riverside and Larkspur, and in effect, he has three viscountcies. However, as is custom, he only uses one, unless it is for a formal announcement. The Riverside and Larkspur viscountcies were added long after the original Clearwater title, Clearwater being the (imaginary) area of Cornwall where the first title was created.

While putting together the Clearwater stories, and ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ in particular, I delved into Archer’s family history, but never needed to go back further than his father and grandfather. There is mention of his mother’s ancestry in some of the novels, and Archer also has honorary titles after his name thanks to Lady Clearwater’s family: Lord Baradan of Hapsburg-Bran, and Honourable Boyar Musat-Rasnov, are the two that are dragged out on very formal occasions, or when he has a need to impress, such as his court appearance in ‘Fallen Splendour.’ These titles are completely made up, and I used them only to show he had a far-distant connection to the crowned heads of Prussia and Eastern Europe, for a romantic touch.

Archer, Lord Clearwater, Viscount of Riverside and Larkspur

As for the Clearwater title, when I came to write ‘Seeing through Shadows’, I needed to be sure of the history of the viscountcy, and that meant I had to draw up a line of men who had held the title. British titles only carry through the male line, so, in ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, Archer’s nephew could not have inherited his title because the nephew is descended from Archer’s sister.

When I first introduced Archer as the nineteenth viscount, to me, it sounded like it was a very old title, and that is what I wanted. However, later, when writing ‘Shadows’, I realised that for someone to be a nineteenth generation would have meant the title was created around 1240, and the first viscountcy in England didn’t come about until John Beaumont was created Viscount Beaumont by King Henry VI in 1440. My calculation, that the nineteenth generation, Archer, would have come about 646 after the first, is based on the average interval per generation of descendants being 34 years, according to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

In other words, it was improbable that a man born in 1859 was the nineteenth generation of the title. Luckily for me, there was a civil war in England during which families fought against families, and it wasn’t impossible the title of Viscount Clearwater could have passed between several sons, brothers and cousins at that time.

This is explained in ‘Seeing through Shadows’ as Chester carries out his research, but what follows is the list of viscounts I created as background research for Chester’s research, and I’ve included it out of interest. Not all viscounts are named, because I didn’t need to name them, but you might like to know:

  • First Clearwater Viscount was created by King Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
  • The fifth to the tenth viscounts were usurpers and feuding brothers, cousins, and uncles during the Civil War from 1642 to 1652.
  • The fourteenth and fifteenth viscounts were smugglers and crooks.
  • The sixteenth, Archer’s great-grandfather, was the Renaissance man and made the money.
  • The ‘should-have-been’ nineteenth viscount was Crispin, Archer’s demented brother, deemed unfit, thus, disinherited of the title by Royal Decree.

The Viscounts Clearwater

From William Riddington, 1541 to Archer Riddington, 1888.

Position          Name                          Born   Died                Title    To

1st                    William                      1511    1571                1541    1571

2nd                                                       1548    1611                1571    1611

3rd                                                        1578    1631                1611    1631

4th                                                        1600    1642                1631    1642

5th        Brother of 4th                                      1645                1642    1645

6th        Killed by cousin                                 1647                1645    1647

7th        Usurped title                                       1649                1647    1649

8th        Brother of 7th                                      1650                1649    1650

9th        Cousin of 8th killed in battle               1651                1650    1651

10th      Brother of 9th                          1600    1652                1651    1652

11th      Legitimate son of 4th               1630    1685                1652    1685

12th                                                      1665    1720                1685    1720

13th                  Charles                        1694    1759                1720    1795

14th                  Banlock                       1727    1800                1759    1800

15th                  William                      1747    1805                1800    1805

16th                  Delamere                    1765    1822                1805    1822

17th                  Matthew Delamere     1800    1870                1822    1871

18th                  Mathias                       1860    1888                1870    1888

19th                  Archer Camoys           1859    –                       1888    –

Two at Once. WIP 6:12

Finding a Way

The two-at-once scenario persists. I am giving ‘Finding a Way’ my almost final read-through before sending it to be proofed. After that, I will do another read before setting a release date. Andjela has provided me with several cover ideas, and I have chosen one. By the look of the cover, I have invented a new TV detective series set in the late 1800s, which is (almost) what I intended. Dazzling, who does my illustrations, is working on a character drawing of one of the MCs, because I like dropping them at the front of the books these days, and I am still fussing about whether the book is any good or not, but that’s par for the course. (It is good, but because it gives us new characters, I always worry about what’s going to happen to them.)

Fall From Grace

Meanwhile, book two in the new series has a title and 45,000 words of a slowly evolving mystery, during which my main character starts to find his feet as a Clearwater detective and as a recently able-to-be-out gay man in 1892.

Where book one is more of an introduction/prequel than a mystery, book two starts off with a case. A client charges my new detective with finding a missing man. My newbie, Jack Merrit, is being tutored by old hand, Jimmy Wright, and is finding the transition… Well, I’m not saying too much right now as I’m not even halfway through, but I know where I am going – though the characters don’t yet know what’s in store (insert an evil laugh), and I know how things are going to work out in the end.

The end will, of course, lead to book three… But that’s a way down the line right now.

The Series

I was going to keep details of the new series quiet for as long as possible, but I’m getting to the stage where I have to start dropping teasers and hints. So, I can now give you the title, font and subtitle that will accompany the new books, and the first one will look like this:

The Delamere Files, eh? Uh huh. Each one (after book one) will be a case for my trainee detective. I intend to keep my three main characters and build them and their relationships as they find their way through this new world of being investigators of one sort or another, and around them, I’ll build more traditional mysteries than the sometimes-outlandish ones we have in Clearwater and Larkspur. (All of which were perfectly feasible, and some of which actually happened.) While all that is going on, favourites from Clearwater and Larkspur will give us guest appearances, and the main characters of Jack Merrit, Will Merrit, and Larkin Chase will develop, fall in and fall out, and… who knows what else.

So, that’s where I am right now. I am heading back to book two, chapter 11, somewhere in West Kent in July 1892, and a graveyard…

The Echoes Rising series by Anne Barwell

Today, I have the great pleasure of welcoming Anne Barwell to talk about the research for her historical series, Echoes Rising. I asked Anne to tell us about her novels and what goes into creating them and was delighted to discover she is as passionate about research as I am. There are similarities between the time in which Anne writes and my Clearwater Victorian era (illegal and dangerous to be gay). I won’t dilly-dally but will hand you straight over to Anne.

Anne Barwell

Thanks, Jackson, for hosting me today.

My Echoes Rising series is set in WWII so I needed to research not only location, but the time period too.

I’d wanted to write not only an action drama story but one that had at its heart a relationship between two men during a time when the discovery of their relationship risked severe repercussions, even death. I also wanted to explore characters who needed to do some serious soul-searching in order to break free of expectations of themselves and their society.  

I knew in writing a historical I had a lot of research ahead of me, especially as I planned to write a three-book series. Shadowboxing is set in Berlin, Winter Duet is a road trip across wartime Germany, and Comes a Horseman takes place in France leading up to, and including D-Day.

I used a range of resources for my research. I work in a library—shelving in the 940.5 section is not a great idea as I get distracted by shiny things. The library, and its databases, were a fantastic writing resource. Half the fun was finding the resources, which weren’t just in the history section, as I also needed travel books—for locations—and information about clothing and weapons. Early on in the writing process for the story, I found a book called The Bomb by Gerard DeGroot which was about the ‘life story of the Bomb’ and subtitled A History of Hell on Earth. I bought my own copy of it.

The Forgotten Voices series, another invaluable resource, relays personal accounts by both servicemen and women and civilians about what it was like to live through that time. The internet also provided a lot of interesting information although some things were next to impossible to find, the specifics of German telephones being one. The only information I could find was about the US system at the time! Luckily one of my beta readers was German and she proved an invaluable source of information. She also checked facts on websites written in German and provided/suggested the German used in the story.

However, history can also work for a story rather than against it. After all, there’s no need to find a way to blow something up when it’s already documented that the Allied forces dropped bombs in the area at that time.

Many of the other locations in the story are real places. The Michaelskirche—St Michael’s Church—in Berlin where Michel meets the Allied team was still intact in 1943, although it was damaged later in the war. The Klosterkirche, a nunnery on the site of another church, where Michel and Kristopher take refuge, is also a real place, as is St Gertrud’s convent in Alexanderdorf. I was able to draw on photos of those places to describe them as well, which was very helpful. Other landmarks included the Brandenburg Tor and the Spree River.

Some of the other settings were not real but I studied maps in order to place them in actual locations, so I could work out what route the characters had to take to reach them. I also used Google map directions to figure out long it would take to get there, although I had to make some adjustments, given the time period. Cars didn’t travel as fast seventy years ago, and this story is set during a war. Google street view was also useful too although I had to again keep in mind the time difference. I based my fictional locations on real places so they would sound authentic. It’s the details that throw a reader out of a story, although it’s impossible to get everything right, and sometimes a writer has to take some liberties for the sake of a good story.

I used books of street maps of the area—because sometimes you want something in hardcopy, rather than flipping back and forth on browser tabs—and firsthand accounts of people who had been in Berlin at that time. Databases were very helpful, especially the Times Digital Archive, as they gave more of an insight into what it was like living there at the time. Travel books like The Lonely Planet Guides were useful too, but again had to be adjusted because they focused on what Berlin is like now, rather than describing the city in 1943.

Music plays a big part in Winter Duet, book 2 of my WII Echoes Rising series.  Two of the characters—Kristopher and Michel—are musicians. Kristopher plays the violin, and Michel the flute, and they’ve promised each other a duet if they survive the war.  Although the title reflects that promise, it also refers to a duet of another sort as the team is split into two for a good portion of the story.

I’d attended a lecture on music code as part of one of my music papers at uni, and had always wanted to use it in a story. I also studied Schubert’s Winterreise as part of the same paper, and given the setting of Winter Duet, it worked perfectly for it. The lyrics for the music come from a collection of poems by Müller so I used lines from one of the poems—’Frühlingstraum’—as code phrases used by the Resistance.  Kristopher takes the conversation about music a step further and devises a code which he and Michel can use to leave each other a note that will not be easily deciphered if found by the enemy.

Music code was not only used in WWII but long before that. Bach used musical notation to spell out his name in his compositions using the fact that modern music notation had developed from modes—in German ‘B flat’ is ‘B’ and ‘B natural’ is H—and phonetics. Later Schumann used several musical cryptograms in his music, spelling out not just his own name, but that of Clara Wieck, who would later become his wife. Other codes were based on pitch, motifs (repeated music phrases) and note lengths. There are many more examples and variations out there across a range of different composers.

And yes, Clara Lehrer, Kristopher’s sister, is named after Clara Schumann.  I’ve learnt a lot more about WWII while writing this series than I ever thought I would, and despite the work involved, I’ve really enjoyed it. I still have a notebook, a folder, and bookcases full of information about the period, and although this team’s story is told, I wouldn’t be surprised if that information proves useful in another story sometime.

Shadowboxing, Book 1 of Echoes Rising, is on sale this month.

Complete their mission or lose everything.

Berlin, 1943

An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined. Author’s note: This is the third edition of Shadowboxing. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house.  This story has been re-edited and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.

Shadowboxing Links

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Universal Link:


Series Link:

Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with kitty siblings Byron and Marigold who are convinced her office chair is theirs. 

Anne works in a library, is an avid reader and watcher of a wide range of genres, and is constantly on the lookout for more hours in her day. She likes to write in series and even so-called one-shots seem to breed more plot bunnies. Her writing is like her reading – across a range of genres, although her favourites are paranormal, fantasy, SF, and historical. Music often plays a part in her stories and/or her characters are musicians.

She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers, and a member of RWNZ.   Her books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner-up in the Rainbow Awards.  

Website & Blog—Drops of Ink:


Facebook group:


WIP: At Sixes and Sevens

I’m not, actually. Not at sixes and sevens, that is, but I am working on book two of the new series, which would be work in progress seven since I started the WIP blog, and I am also working on the first in the series, which would be WIP six. The first is almost complete, I am doing my ‘last edit before proofing’ but haven’t set a date for proofing yet, because I need to be further into book two first. So, unusually for me, I have two major works on the go at the same time. We also have family visiting, which means fewer working hours, but I’m still up at 3.00 each morning to get started and make the most of the time I have.

Where did the expression ‘at sixes and sevens’ come from?

Here’s an aside. First of all, this is an idiom, a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. (Deducible: possible to discover based on the information or evidence that is available.)

Grammarist. Usage of the idiom over time.

According to The idiom at sixes and sevens came out of the 14th century from an old dice game where throwing a six or a seven was filled with risk and uncertainty. It appeared in Chaucer’s work “Troilus and Criseyde,” back in 1374, and the excerpt read, “Lat nat this wrechched wo thyn herte gnawe, But manly set the world on sexe and seuene.”

Those last words are six and seven in Old English. (Just in case, like me, you were asleep when they did Chaucer at school.) Good old Wonkipedia agrees that the idiom evolved from a card game, and adds: William Shakespeare uses a similar phrase in Richard II (around 1595), “But time will not permit: all is uneven, And every thing is left at six and seven“.


Currently, my desk is surrounded by pieces of paper stuck to the shelves, and beside my open notebook. This is because book two in the new Delamere (or Clearwater Detective Agency) series involves a lot of detail in its backstory, and I have to keep track. A man is missing, and it falls to the newly appointed detective’s assistants, Jack and Will Merrit to investigate. While they are doing this, Jack is still coming to terms with his feelings for Larkin Chase but is confused by his feelings towards his new boss, James.

The typing corner in my workhouse today.

The story fits into the Clearwater world, after ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ and is set in London. A couple of Clearwater/Larkspur characters have made appearances in the first and now, second, book, but it’s not about the Clearwater crew, as the previous series were. It’s about my new MC, Jack Merrit, a handsome hansom driver with a very ‘precise’ younger brother, and how they find themselves rocketed from Limehouse to Knightsbridge, poor to middle class, through a series of unexpected circumstances. As per my usual, there is a mystery to solve, action and adventure, and in this case, a slow-burn love story that, over the course of several books, will see the MC travel from longing to lust to losing, to…? At least, that’s the plan.

I am currently on 28,000 words of book two, which doesn’t yet have a title, but which is inspired by ‘Men of a Similar Heart’ a story I wanted to tell, but one which didn’t fit into the Clearwater world. Until now.

Symi Dream Blog

By the way, as soon as I have posted this, I am off to post on my other blog, SymiDream. If you want to see the non-story side of me and where I live, then bookmark that blog which I update around five times per week with all kinds of island chat and other matters. Whatever takes my fancy really. Today, I am talking about this blog a little, so it makes sense on this one to talk a little about that one…

You see what I mean about being at sixes and sevens? Lol.

See you back here on Saturday.

Silas Hawkins.

As part of The Clearwater Companion, today’s blog takes a look at the character who kicks it all off in ‘Deviant Desire’, Silas Hawkins.

Silas Hawkins is one of two main characters in the prequel to the Clearwater Mysteries, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ This novel, written after book seven in that series, but coming in date order before the first, tells the story of how Silas met the first real love of his life, Andrej Kolisnychenko (Fecker, or Fecks to his friends). Their love was destined to be platonic, but has remained strong through both the Clearwater and Larkspur series.

It struck me that we had never had an in-depth interview with the trickster, mimic, petty criminal and love of Lord Clearwater’s life, so I called him into the interview room for a debrief, and here is what transpired.

Silas Hawkins is one of two main characters in the prequel to the Clearwater Mysteries, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ This novel, written after book seven in that series, but coming in date order before the first, tells the story of how Silas met the first real love of his life, Andrej Kolisnychenko (Fecker, or Fecks to his friends). Their love was destined to be platonic, but has remained strong through both the Clearwater and Larkspur series.

Silas Hawkins

Born:               October 21st, 1868.

Place:              Canter Wharf, Westerpool (The Wirral), England

Nationality:    Conceived in Ireland, born in England, but staunchly Irish

1.         What is your full name? Do you have a nickname (if so, who calls you this)?

Silas Hawkins. That’s it. I was named after the priest who slapped me arse when I was born without breath and got me life started. Father Patrick was called Silas before he took holy orders. And aye, I do have a nickname. Me best man, Andrej, calls me Banyak. It’s a word from his village in Ukraine where it means ‘cooking pot.’ He says I got so much boiling in me, I’m like a peasant stew. He’s a one to talk. I call him Fecker, on account of him being a handsome fecker who’s hung like one of them horses he’s mad about.

2.         Where and when were you born?

I were slapped into life in a doorless slum in what they now call the Wirral, on the wrong side of the river to Liverpool, in a place called Westerpool. Our row of tenements was called Canter Wharf, but I forget the number now. Me mam was doing well just then, so we only had a few of us sharing the room, and we had glass in the window. Some of the time, at least.

3.         Who are/were your parents?

Me mam’s me mam, least she were until she died in 1884, leaving me to the mercy of Cousin Rose, the drunken whore, and leaving me to mind me two half-sisters. Me da’, I never knew, as he put me in me mam back in Ballymum and fecked off before she came to England.

Me mam’s old boyfriend, Billy O’Hara, was more of a da’ to me than anyone though. He’d come by, sing me to sleep when I was little, and ended up being me half-sisters’ father. Strange thing was, he also ended up be my mate Jake’s da’, so Jake and the twins are halves, and me and the twins are halves, and that makes me and Jake like brothers, even though we’re not. Anyway, when I took up renting, I also took up Billy O’Hara’s name for a while. He’d not have liked that, but it was the first name to come to mind.

4.         Where do you live now?

Ach, well ain’t you a nosey cur? I live some a the time in London with Archer at Clearwater House in what’s now known as Knightsbridge. Other times, I’m down at Larkspur, his estate near Bodmin in Cornwall. Most of the time I’m in town, because I work with Jimmy Wright more than Archer these days, and we have an investigation business to run.

5.         What is your hair colour and eye colour?

I’m what they call ‘black Irish’ on account I have black hair and blue eyes. Can you not see? You’re sitting right in front of me you culchie eejit.

6.         What do you miss most from your childhood?

Aye, well that’d be me mam. She was a strong woman, leaving Ireland because she fell pregnant and refused to name me father, walked to the coast, got herself on a ship, started a life on her own, carrying me, worked her fingers down, birthed me, and still attended mass. Then, from when I was five, she had to put up with me thieving and me ways, then bore the twins, and all the time putting up with Cousin Rose and the other drunken culchies of Canter Wharf. Got carried off with the sweating sickness when I was sixteen. When she died, I promised her I’d get her a good, stone headstone and sure enough, five years later, I did. That was the last time I went back to her, but she’s with her God, and keeping an eye.

7.         What did you want to be when you grew up?

You didn’t have aspirations in Canter Wharf. If you were a little’un, you went up the chimneys. If you were a bigg’un, you worked in the docks, if you could get any work at all. Me? I didn’t want to be anything. All I wanted was to have money in me pocket, and I didn’t care if it came from someone else’s. Came to London in 1884, soon saw there were more ways of earning a coin than dipping a pocket, and more exciting ways too. Now, at 23, I’m happy where I am. Living with Archer, working with Jimmy, and using me old Westerpool skills of mimicry and trickery when I need them.

8.         What do you consider the most important event of your life so far?

Ach, there’s many: Leaving Westerpool, meeting Mickey the Nick in London and learning his ways, the adventures with Archer and the crew, being shot… But the two that stand out the most?

In date order, first would be meeting Fecks. I was down on me luck and very near out of me life when all I had was water from the borough pump and what I could find in the trough. I stumbled into this court in the Greychurch back alleys to take a leak and let it go over a man chewing on Fecks’ massive… Well, you don’t need to know the details, but I remember finding this massive, blonde statue of a man with his pants down, and I ran away. Then, next thing I remember, he’d taken me in and brought me back from the edge of death. So, that was important.

Second would be when Tommy Payne brought me to Clearwater House because his boss wanted to interview a genuine renter from the streets. There was cash and food in it, and I was waiting in “His Lordship’s” servants’ hall, getting Tommy wound up, when the most gorgeous man I’d never imagined came down the stairs and looked at me. I tell ya, I nearly emptied me happy sacks there and then. Something shifted, you know? Like me mam’s voice in me head said, ‘This is what you have been looking for, Silas Hawkins. This was meant to be.’ She was right.

9.         Do you have any scars?

I’ve a fair few. I got one on me chin in the exact same place Archer has one. He got his from a swordfight with his brother, I got mine from the Ripper’s knife. Then there’s the bullet wound in me shoulder, and a few scars on me shins from burgling that went wrong, and a couple on me heart for friends and me mam who’ve died.

10.       What is you biggest secret? Does anyone else know about this? Which person do you least want to know about this secret, why?

I’m a private investigator, man, of course I’ve got secrets. I was a renter, so there’s a fair few there, I can tell you, and I’ve not exactly stayed on the right side of the law since I was five, but I’m not going to give you details. Aye, I’ve got a few secrets, but in my line of work, it’s best to keep them where they are. But… I do have one big secret that no-one knows, not even Fecks, not even Archer.

Oh, no… Wait. One man does now because I had to ask his advice on it. Professor Fleet at the Larkspur Academy is the only man who knows what I’m planning, but he’s not going to say anything, and besides, everyone will know it soon enough.

11.       If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?

I’d have me mam back, she’d be living in a decent house, and the twins with her, and none of them would be servants. Mind you, Iona and Karan like where they are, they’ve got friends, they’re well paid, and Mrs Kevern treats them good.

Other than that, I’d like Archer not to be so worried all the time, but that’s temporary. Kingsclere is trying to discredit him in the newspapers at the moment, but I’ve a plan to put a stop to that one way or the other.

12.       What is your most treasured possession?

Well, that’s a long story. It’s a small black and white pebble that came from a river in Ukraine. It is a piece of Fecker’s homeland, and he brought it with him when he fled the Russians. That and his grandfather’s dagger was all he owned when we met in London, and once the Ripper started on his rounds, and we was fearing for our lives, he gave it to me to prove he loved me – as a friend, but that’s enough.

13.       What three words would others probably use to describe you?

Sexy little fucker. Thieving little bastard. Loyal best friend. Dirty whore-pipe scum… Take your pick, I’ve been called them all.

14.       Where do you see yourself in five years?

Right where I am now. Loving Archer, working with Jimmy, making the most of life, dodging the law, and still never having got on a horse. They’re beasts and should be banned. Who knows where we’ll be in five months, let alone five fecking years? I should have been dead years ago, and would have been if it weren’t for Fecks. I can say the same about Jimmy who caught me when I nearly fell eighty feet into an opera. So, I’d like to be where I am with all me mates around me, waking up in Archer’s bed and happy. That’s only me and Archer waking up in his bed, not me and all me mates… Ach, you know what I mean.

15.       What do you have in your pocket?

Er… Me black and white pebble, a set of lockpicks, fifty pounds and a receipt from a jeweller in Bond Street, which reminds me… I’ve an appointment, so if you’re done with your nosing, I’ll be about me business. Oh, and you’d best not print any of this.

Silas appears on five of the Clearwater Mysteries book covers. Banyak & Fecks, Deviant Desire, Twisted Tracks (running for a train in silhouette), Unspeakable Acts, and is represented on the cover of Negative Exposure.

You can find all the Clearwater and Larkspur books here.

WIP: 6.10. Finding the Way

Today’s news is that I have finished the first draft and first story read-through of the first book in the Delamare Files series. The draft comes in at 103,000 words, and the ending makes it clear there is to be a sequel. I have started on that already, and know the mystery plot, the feel of the story and its message/theme.

Meanwhile, as I aim to get halfway through book two before finishing book one, there is still a way to go before book one will be ready for you. A few months without a new release means a drop in sales, sadly, so I am having to juggle publicity work with creative work, and as I am not very good at the former, it’s quite a challenge.

Finding the Way

However, the first in the series does now have a title, Finding the Way. You know me and my titles. I like to fit in a double meaning if possible and make the title have relevance to two sides of the story. Finding the Way refers to the MC, Jack Merrit, being a cabbie in 1892 and thus, being able to find his way from A to B thanks to his knowledge of the streets. It also refers to him finding his way towards accepting himself and his affection for another man. There’s a third play on words which happens in the very last line, but I’m not giving that away right now.

Sinford’s Scandal

That’s the working title of book two, and this story is drawn from an idea I had for a Clearwater mystery. I’ve mentioned it before in passing, as it was a story that didn’t fit anywhere, but it is perfect for the Delamare Files series. You see, this new series is to be much more detective and case-based. Rather than our main characters constantly hounded by personal enemies, they are working on behalf of other people through the Clearwater Detective Agency. Though, having said that, they have enemies of their own; disgruntled crooks, mobs whose members they have put away, fed-up villains who want to get their own back. With the cast being predominantly gay, and with the series set in 1892, there is also an overarching danger of living as gay men when being gay was punishable by up to two years in prison with hard labour. Not that ‘gay’ was ‘gay’ back then, nor was it even ‘homosexual,’ not yet. (The word had been coined, but only in obscure medical journals and only used among a few medical professionals).

So, that is where we are right now. I’m about to start on chapter four of Sinford’s, while Finding the Way waits in the background. Now and then I pop back to it to rewrite something or focus an idea, so it is still maturing. Stray thoughts come to me, and I have to rush to a notebook and jot down a better line, and later, make the change. I’m always doing this. Mind you, I still do it with lyrics I wrote over 20 years ago—change a word here and there even though the song will never be performed again—and I’ve just done it to the complete MS for ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’ which is now rereleased for the better.

I’ll be back on Saturday with something more substantial. In the meantime, I’ll keep on at my full-time job: writing.

The Delamare Files

Looking Ahead and Thinking Aloud

Today, I think ahead to what you can expect from me next in a post that is something of a therapeutic ramble for me, and hopefully, an interesting read for you.

The New Series

As you will read on Wednesday, I have completed the first draft of the first book in the new series, and have still not settled on a title for the book or a subtitle for the series. I know how the series is to run, and I am looking forward to it unravelling over the coming months, and I also know it is to be a second spinoff from the Clearwater series. It will be set in the Clearwater world in London in 1892, following the adventures of the Larkspur Series, and yet, it won’t be directly related to either of the two series that have gone before. The new series will revolve around Delamere House, home of the Clearwater Detective Agency, and characters from the past stories will make appearances in supporting roles, as and when needed.

The main characters in the new series are to be:

Jack Merrit, a London cabbie from Limehouse, aged 25.
Will Merrit, his brother, a man who is very ‘precise’, aged 21.
Larkin Chase, an investigative journalist, aged 30.

Book One

In book one, the reader will also meet five characters from the previous series playing supporting roles. There are also new villains and a new ‘feel’ to the series. Let’s say, it’s more of a classic detective-story vibe, yet has all the Jackson Marsh elements of coming to terms with being gay at a time when it was illegal, first love (and sex), good Vs evil, men supporting men, class divide, action, adventure, humour and, of course, mystery.

Book one isn’t so much of a mystery, however, and is a fully contained story acting as an introduction to what will come next, which will be a mashup of Victorian mystery, MM Romance, Bromance, adventure, Action and a little bit of bonkerness from some quirky characters.

Book Two

Book two… Well, I am starting that today while book one sits and matures in my head before I address the final writes and edits. Once I am happy book two will run, I will set about releasing book one, with the second instalment coming a month or so later.

Meanwhile, I might already have a title for book two in ‘The Delamere Files’ series (just one idea), and that is ‘The Sinford Scandal’ (just another idea). The background to the story I have in mind came about some time ago while I was writing Clearwater and Larkspur books, but it didn’t fit into their flow. So… After telling you all that, here’s a little about what you can expect in the new series, or at least, the kind of story you can expect once book one is published, and the series is up and running later this year.

These notes are from my original draft of ‘Men of a Similar Heart’, a book I never wrote, but a title I very much like.

I used one of my favourite techniques for my second attempt to start this story, I opened with a newspaper cutting. This device is useful for many reasons: it can set the back story, it can give a deadline (as it does at the start of ‘Unspeakable Acts’), and it can set up the mystery, as it does in this case.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette

Monday, November 26th, 1877

Tragedy At Sinford's
A grim discovery was made on Friday last at Sinford's School for Boys, Moorside. On rousing the men of Drake House, the Housemaster, Rev. D Spencer discovered a student absent from his bed, and soon after when searching for the pupil, was confronted with a scene of great tragedy. 
The body of Luc Verdier was discovered in the attic of the building hanging from a rafter by a rope fashioned into an ill-formed, but fatal noose about his neck. Verdier, we are told, was the son of a diplomat of the French Embassy and had attended Sinford's since coming up from prep school. Rev. Spencer described him as a highly intelligent young man with a proclivity towards physical sportsmanship, vice-captain of the First XI, first seat oarsman and holder of the school trophy for the javelin and other athletic pursuits. A well-liked and admired young man, Rev. Spencer described him as a friend to all and an enemy to no-one. The Housemaster has also said that he can think of no reason why Mr Verdier should wish to end his life, and reported the pupil had shown no signs of anxiety or distress in the days or weeks before the tragedy.
The police have issued a statement. Pupils of the house are all seniors and have been interviewed in the presence of Rev. Spencer and their Headmaster, but no further information concerning Verdier's state of mind has come to light. His study companion stated that Verdier was in his bed and sleeping before the lights were extinguished for the night, and spent an untroubled night despite, he said, of a dream which woke him once. Unable to say exactly what time he awoke, the pupil was able to confirm that Verdier was still abed and asleep at that time.
No other statements have been made about the case save for a message from the Headmaster, made through the Plymouth constabulary. In it, Headmaster McKay, BSc, asks for privacy for the school at this difficult time, a request, The Gazette shall, of course, honour.

This is the event that will, years later, lead to an intriguing mystery that will come with a deadline, a race against time and a few unexpected twists. At least, that’s the plan.


You know, writing this blog post at 4.00 in the morning has helped me put the future into focus. The more I witter on here, the more I like the sound of ‘The Delamere Files’, and the keener I am to start mapping book two. It will need to come out pretty soon after book one because some storylines in book one remain unresolved, and I won’t want to keep you hanging around. So, I shall be away now, and do just that; start a new story back-to-back with the last one, leaving book one in a state of second draftness until it is time to return to it.


Talking of blogs, if you are interested to read my personal ‘Living on a Greek island’ blog, I am starting it up again after a two-year lunch break. It will go live tomorrow, Sunday, and I’ll be posting nonsense and images about island life on a more or less regular basis while keeping up my usual Jackson Saturday and Wednesday blog posts here. It will be nice to welcome you to where James and Jackson meet.