Hi. Just a short note today as I suddenly have a lot of work on, including editing a short story for a magazine, three hours of article writing, and a website review, plus the continued editing of ‘A Fall from Grace.’
Neil has started the beta read for me and already raised an issue that I had nagging at the back of my mind. It’s about the first four chapters of the book which include a lot of necessary backstory to the case to be investigated. I thought perhaps I’d put all of this is in too much detail, but, actually, I haven’t. The detail is fine, and the backstory makes for an interesting read on its own. What I have done, however, is put it in the wrong order, logically speaking. So, my job yesterday, and today, is to reorder the chapters. Easy? Not exactly.
It’s not a case of swapping chapter two for three etc. The info, dialogue and narration need to be chopped about and altered because of the new order of the story. To do that, I have all four chapters open, I copy a section I want from Chapt 3 and copy it to the clipboard, change the font colour of the original to red, so I know it’s been moved. Then, I paste it, in black, in Chpt 2, say, and take what I want from Chpt 2, highlight it, put it in red, and paste it in Chpt 1 in black. And so on, and so on. When all this alchemy is done, I then take out the red, read through, adjust the text, or simply rewrit the chapter as ‘they’ say it’s best not to fiddle with written text but simply to rewrite it, as you get better results. I do both. If it’s a short edit, i.e. a line or two, I’ll do it within the existing chapter. If it’s a case of telling the story in a different way, I’ll rewrite the whole thing.
So, the work is progressing, and once the beginning is sorted out, I’ll plough on through with the rest. We’re probably looking at October for a release date now, rather than the last few days of September, but tbh, that was probably always going to be the case.
Meanwhile, I found this photo of a young chap online and to me, it looked a little like the character Will Merrit (except his tie would be straighter). What do you think? (Just realised I posted this pic before. Well, I am in rather a hurry this morning…)
Before you settle into read this short excerpt, here’s a reminder about the Book Funnel Promo for LGBTQ+ Romantic Mysteries. Included in this list is ‘Guardians of the Poor’, the first of the Larkspur Series, plus many other titles that offer a mix of LGBTQ romance with a mystery plot or subplot. As you know, all of my Clearwater, Larkspur and now, Delamere novels/series are mysteries with romance, or romantic mysteries. I decided to put the first of each series into this promotion, as each series fits with the theme.
You’ll find many other established authors, and some who may be new to you, and there are great many ideas for new reading. Click the image to take a look at the list.
Finding a Way, unpublished chapter two (first draft)
Sleep, coloured by memories, and broken by Mary knocking up, looked forward to after one hour studying, twelve hours labouring, and five hours driving, was less welcome to Jack than it had been, because the date had been set for his test, and like a runaway horse, it came at him faster than he could control.
On the day, the rain held off, and he hired Charlie to take him to the examination office, expecting to sit at a table and fill out documents. Instead, he met with an official-looking man, who, rather than wish him a good morning, asked him to recite a route before the pair had shaken hands. Jack told him the information he wanted, and recited several others, making no mistakes.
‘How long have you been learning?’
‘A year, Sir.’
‘A year?’ The examiner’s face flushed red around his full beard. ‘Impossible. Come back in twelve months.’
‘I can’t, Sir. I need to start earning.’
‘Impossible, I say.’
‘Let me prove myself, Mr…?’
Mr Whoever—Jack never learnt his name—remonstrated, but Jack held his ground until the examiner gave in.
‘If you can tell me this, I’ll let you pass,’ he said through gritted teeth, and announced the start and finish locations for an imaginary but complicated journey.
Jack visualised his maps, saw the streets in his mind, thought of his brother, and the empty rent jar, and started at the beginning. Along the route, he added asides, contingencies against men working on the road, difficult traffic depending on the time of day, and highlighted his shortcuts, until his fare was safely delivered to the correct destination, where he gave the appropriate price.
The examiner’s face turned from red to pale.
‘One year?’ he muttered. ‘Never seen it before.’
‘But have you seen it now, Sir?’
‘I have, I’ll be damned. You made not one error, and you gave an accurate price. How old are you?’
‘Recently turned twenty-five. Is that important?’
‘It means you’ve at least another fifty years ahead, if you live that long, and it means you’ll do better than older men in the cold weather. Do you drink?’
‘Why not? No money?’
‘That is one reason, I admit, but even when I am in pocket, I use my earnings to pay for my brother’s care.’
‘What’s wrong with him?’
‘No-one knows. As my grandfather Reggie Merrit said, my brother is special.’
‘Reggie Merrit? Of Limehouse?’
‘Yes, Sir. My grandfather. Died last year.’
The examiner’s mouth dropped, and for a second, Jack thought he saw sadness cross the colourful face.
‘We started on the same day,’ the examiner said, reaching for a sheet of paper. ‘Didn’t know he’d died. Bob Hart still living?’
‘Yes, Sir, and working. He and the others who work from Limehouse have been teaching me.’
‘Tell him he owes me three shillings from ten years ago.’
‘I shall, Sir. May I know your name?’
‘Old Reggie had a son, didn’t he?’
‘Samson Merrit. Died last year…’
‘Right before me eyes. Best thing about the turn, if you ask me. Never like that Marie Lloyd woman.’
‘You were at the music hall?’
‘Aye. Seems our paths are intertwined, Mr Merrit. I can see you got your knowledge and tenacity from Reggie, and your looks from your father. You’ll be popular on the ranks.’
Jack’s heart picked up its pace as the man began to write, but not wishing to pre-empt what he hoped would be good news, he said nothing.
‘I’ll put you out a green card. Present it whenever a policeman asks for it, be careful who you hire your rig from, never take a grey horse, and stay sober. That’s me advice to the grandson of the fairest cabman I knew. Sorry to hear about Reggie, but remember to tell Hart about the three shillings.’ The examiner thrust a piece of paper, and Jack took it before he changed his mind. ‘Present that at the desk, and come back to pick up your card and number when they say. After that, you’re on your own, Mr Merrit. Except you’re obviously not. One year? Out of Limehouse? Who’d-a-thought it? Go.’
Jack had entered the office as nervous as a bag of kittens being held over a river and left it a confident cabman with a new career. All that remained to be done was to save for his initial rig hire, which, Will had calculated, would take him only a couple of weeks. After that, to rent Reggie’s old rig from Mr Harris at the yard, and give up the dock work. Then, he could follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and start earning decent money.
He had accomplished the first part of his plan, the next would take more time; to keep his promise to Will, and find the family decent lodgings further west, away from the soot, and the stink of the sugar refinery. That done, he would find someone willing to offer Will employment, and Ida a decent retirement.
Some of what he hoped for would come true before the year was out, but it would not come without heartache and a whole heap of trouble.
You can discover what that trouble turned out to be in ‘Finding a Way’, and while you are doing that, I continue to work on part two, ‘A Fall from Grace.’ There will be more news in my Wednesday blog.
Today, as promised, you have the second part of the first chapter of ‘Finding a Way’ that was cut and replaced with the first chapter as you have it now… Confused? Don’t be.
Last Saturday we had part one, and today part two, so you can always go back to last week’s post to start from the beginning. This chapter (and the one I will post next week), constituted the original opening for the book. I later decided they were more about me telling myself the backstory, and I ditched them, using only the salient parts in the final draft.
Just to remind you, this is 1st draft material and has not been properly proofread.
Will was more than Jack’s best friend and brother; he was also his responsibility and had been since he was born. On the outside, his younger brother was as fit and able as any twenty-year-old, as bonny as any other young man who lived on a diet of whatever Grandma Ida could find for the few shillings remaining after Reggie’s cab week, and although narrow of body, he was not underfed and never looked starved. It was inside that his problem lay, a problem no doctor had yet been able to name or treat.
Whatever the name for his strangeness, Will was not an imbecile. Jack had taught him to read and write, their grandmother had taught him to sew and wash clothes, but no employer would entertain him on account of his mannerisms; the way chairs had to be square-on to the table, the cutlery perpendicular, the plates washed twice, and the bedding turned down just so. There were never complaints or tantrums if these things were not done to Will’s satisfaction, he would merely move the furniture he thought out of place, or brush the dust from the blanket, turn the pot on the stove to the correct angle, or untie Jack’s boot laces when left by the door, and set them straight. To the family, this was just how Will was, but to anyone else, they were signs of inherent madness, and to strangers, that made him untrustworthy.
When his brother was twelve, Jack persuaded his foreman to give Will a day ticket to work. He wanted to prove to himself and the family that his brother could do more than read books, or stare at the embroidery hanging over the mantelpiece until, driven by frustration, he took it down, unpicked every strand, and sewed it back together because one stitch had been incorrect. Jack had faith in him, and Will was keen to show he could be useful.
The foreman was not impressed. Charged with stacking the sacks Jack was unloading from a clipper, Will was set to work in a warehouse where older, gruffer men swore and whistled as they hauled and handled. Having delivered his first load, and shown Will what to do, Jack returned to the ship to take on a second wagon-full and drove the cart back to the stores. There, to his dismay, he found Will had set the sacks in a line, opened them, and was transferring grain from one to the other so that each was exactly the same level. They were discovered before Jack could put things right, and Will was dismissed on the spot. Had Jack not spent years in the docks lifting and carrying, tending horses, and making himself invaluable, he too would have been out of work, but he was strong, reliable and never complained. The foreman docked him two day’s pay, and told him to ‘Get that idiot out of my stores,’ and he never tried the experiment again.
Will was not an idiot, and neither was Jack. It was clear to see that without two incomes, the family would soon be homeless. The rooms were not big enough to take in lodgers, although apartments with ten in two rooms was not uncommon in their street, but Ida had standards, and they were to be kept no matter the pain in the stomach or the chill in the air. It was bad enough for four of them to sleep in one room, live and eat in the other, and share the privy with four families, so renting out space was not an option. Nor was increasing his hours at the docks, because the company didn’t allow that, and neither would it have been possible for him to find night work and labour twenty-four hours a day.
There was only one way Jack could think of to earn enough to support everyone, and it involved a walk, a lot of thinking and a risk. If the first stage of his barely thought-out plan was a success, several months of hard work would follow, and that would have to be done while he continued to work his docker’s ticket. At some point, there would be a test, and he would need a license, but he was a fast learner, and already knew the layout of the East End. Learning the rest would take time, but it was not an impossible task and, thanks to Reggie’s years on the rank, he had contacts.
One of them was exactly where Jack knew he would be, smoking his pipe outside Limehouse railway station, chatting to another cabman, and complaining about the weather. On seeing Jack, the old man removed his cap and waved it towards his hansom while throwing up his arms.
‘Reggie can’t work,’ Jack called ahead. ‘Had a fit.’
‘Had a fit,’ he repeated when he arrived, hot but not out of breath after the long walk. ‘Can’t work no more.’
‘Why, you be pulling a me leg, ain’t you, Skip?’
Mr Hart had called Jack that name since he could remember. Skip Jacks were the boys of nag dealers, employed to ride them during sales, and Jack was good with horses.
‘Ain’t, Mr Hart. Grandad got a shock and fell down. Doctor says there’s no getting him right.’
Jack told him what had happened, and Hart passed on the news to his fellow cabmen, all of whom offered their sympathies and promised to visit when they could.
‘Yeah, well, he don’t need sympathy and hellos,’ Jack said, filling his pipe as the men returned to their groups and fares. ‘He needs a favour, Mr Hart. Rather, I do, and I was hoping you’d help me out with it.’
‘I’ll do what I can, son, but I’m guessing you’re heading for the lend of money, and I can’t ask the Mission to help you with that.’
‘That’s not it. I got my six days a week at West India. It won’t keep us for long, and I ain’t got none put by, none of has, but I got a plan, and I need your help with it.’
‘Not following you, Skip,’ Mr Hart said, holding a match to the bowl of Jack’s pipe.
‘Knowledge, Mr Hart, that’s what I want. Can you help me with it?’
‘Now you’re thinking I’m some schoolteacher? You sure it ain’t you what’s had a fit?’
‘No. I need to learn the streets.’
One of the first things Jack remembered about his grandfather’s oldest friend was the way his eyebrows met in the middle when he pulled a face. He was sure he’d done it to him as a baby, because behind him in the distant vision, were Reggie and Ida, laughing, and Jack could recall stretching out a hand and touching the strange man’s side whiskers. They had been black then, but now they were as white as a new sheet, as were his eyebrows which met, not to cause laughter, but in confusion.
‘How long will it take me? I know most of Whitechapel and Limehouse, Millwall of course, and far up as Mile End, but…’
‘Now hang on, Skip. What you saying? You want to take over Reggie’s cab?’
‘That’s the measure of it.’
‘You can’t just do that. ’Ere!’ Hart called to another on the rank. ‘Skip thinks he can get up there and nick our job quick as you like. Wants to learn the knowledge.’
‘Let him,’ one of the others called down from his seat before snapping his whip and clattering into traffic.
‘Yer, get started now, Skip, and you might be driving come Christmas,’ another encouraged. ‘You understand the nags, you only got a learn the rest.’
‘Christmas next year at least,’ Mr Hart said. ‘You can’t just get in a cab and off you go, Son. You got a learn…’
‘The streets. I know, and you know them, and you know what’s the easiest way for me to remember them. Will you learn me?’
‘What, just like that?’ Hart flicked away the match and laughed. ‘Getting the test’ll take you two years, and you never stop learning. They keep putting in new roads, new buildings going up, even new bloody bridges, which, I admit, are easier to find. You got a know not only your patch, but anywhere from Enfield to Epsom, what theatres chuck out what time, what master’s yard offers decent rates, and none of them do, not no more. Then there’s your charges. How you going to start if you ain’t got nothing put by? No, Son, you want to step into Reggie’s shoes, then get yourself better docking. You’re built for that, so stick to it. You’ve always been good at lifting and carting, you don’t want a be sitting up there in all weathers freezing your Tommy’s off, and getting the rheumatism from the wind. You’ll turn to drink when you’re bored, and there’s never a guarantee you’re going to make any more than the East India pays you.’
Jack had expected this and, on his way, had made his calculations.
‘I see it this way, Mr Hart. I get twenty-four shillings a week from the docks. If Grandma Ida can get some poor relief on the rent for a couple of months, my pay’ll cover all else, with some put aside. Hold on…’ Pointing his pipe prevented the old man from interrupting. ‘I know what you’re going to say. Reggie was putting out over a hundred and fifty pounds a year to rent the hansom and horse, right? It’s twelve shillings a week for winter, up to nineteen ’round Derby and Ascot weeks, but at that time, I can make three quid on each ride to the races, and it’s back to eleven a week come August. To pay the hire, yard and boy, I got to make ten shillings a day, six days a week to keep even, but there’s more than five million potential fares a day out there, so I reckon there’s room for me. I got the costs in me head, and I know what I’ll need to pay for the house and Will on top. You know Will can’t work much on account of his strangeness, but he’s been taking in some sewing, and now we’re going to need medicines for Reggie, and Ida’s getting along towards seventy, though she takes in a bit of washing. I thought it through, Mr Hart. I just need to know how to learn the streets, and how to get me licence. I’ll rent from Harris on me own badge same as you and Reggie. Now then, you’ve been Reggie’s best man since before me dad was born—Oh, he died last night, by the way, but none of us is bothered. So, I reckon, if you want to help your oldest mate, right now dribbling down his chin cos one half of him’s not working, the least you can do is point me in the right direction.’
‘That was quite a speech,’ someone said after a moment’s silence. ‘The lad’s thought about it.’
Other cabbies had come to listen, because there was never much to do at that time of day in Limehouse, and the next train wasn’t due in for ten minutes.
‘Yeah. Thought about it for the half hour it took him to walk over,’ Mr Hart said, studying Jack with his yellowing eyes and sympathetic frown. ‘Your dad died?’
‘Yeah. Fell down at the feet of Marie Lloyd halfway through the gallery song. Dead as a donkey. Probably got the biggest applause of his career, but I ain’t bothered about him. Now, what d’you say?’
‘I say it’s a pretty rubbish song in any case, Skip.’
Mr Hart stared at him and shook his head in resignation. ‘Two year at least,’ he warned. ‘That’s what it’ll take you. You got over two hundred miles of streets, more than twenty thousand street names, the routes, cut-throughs, tolls, the way the police watch you, and how things work. That’s without trying to make ten bob a day. Think you can do it?’
‘I don’t need you to put me off, Uncle Bob, I need you to help me out, and help out Reggie and Ida, but mainly, I need you to help me help Will. What d’you say?’
Maybe it was because he’d called him Uncle Bob, and been familiar rather than polite, but the old man’s eyes narrowed as he sucked on his dead pipe, and he glanced at his colleagues gathered to the side, his white eyebrows asking the question on his behalf.
‘If he’s got the stamina and the brains,’ a cabman said.
‘He’s got them alright,’ Hart muttered as if jealous. ‘But the time?’
‘I can put in five or six hours a night, and all day Sundays,’ Jack said. ‘That’d still give me time to sleep.’
‘The nipper’s got it all planned, Bob. No changing his mind.’
‘But I got to sleep an’all, Skip.’
‘Ah, you’re getting old,’ another cabman laughed. ‘The way I see it, young Jack, is this. Us men what wait and drive, drive and wait, we look after our own, and Reggie’s one of us, so that makes you family an’all. I’d be happy to take you out a couple of hours one night a week.’
‘Yeah, and me on Sundays,’ said another. ‘Least, a few times.’
‘Scottie’s the best for the cut-throughs,’ another said. ‘He’ll do it, won’t you?’
‘Who’ll pay me?’
‘Keep your bible out of it, Stan,’ someone laughed. ‘The lad’s keen, he’s quick, and most of all, he’s Reggie’s boy. I’ll learn him the West End.’
Charlie, a younger cabbie, volunteered to teach Jack south of the river and the bridges, while others offered their time here and there, but only because he was Reggie Merrit’s grandson, and cabmen were a fraternity, and before Jack had a chance to thank them, or take in the enormity of what he’d started, even Mr Hart agreed to teach him one night each week, although they all decided Jack would have to pay part of the cab hire because they would be working longer hours.
‘Study hard, Jack, and you’ll get your badge,’ Hart said. ‘I’ll have a word with Harris, he’s slippery, but the easiest to hire from, and he’s got a lad at the stables who’ll teach you the tack and traces.’
‘I’m ahead of you there, Uncle Bob. Been carting nearly ten years, ain’t I?’
‘True enough, but it’s different.’
‘When can I start?’
‘You can start right now,’ the younger driver said. ‘You can ride with me. Me nag ain’t called Blister for nothing, she’ll pull the extra weight.’
Mr Hart gave a final sigh of defeat. ‘Alright, Skip. There’s more than seven thousand of us on the stands, another won’t make a difference.’
I released the first in the new series of The Delamere Files last week, and the story is up and running. Finding a Way introduces us to new characters in the Clearwater world of London in 1892, and sets the scene for things to come with a case involving a London cabbie, a criminal gang and a couple of characters from the previous two series. It is too early to say how the series will run in terms of popularity, but it’s off to a reasonable start after its release.
A Fall from Grace
The second book continues the main relationships between the principal characters with a change in circumstances and a new investigation. I am still working through the first draft, and my desk is still covered with notes and charts as I keep an eye on all the details developing through the story.
I am now at 77,000 words and approaching the crisis, climax, ‘smoking gun’ reveal, and the aftermath sections, which should take me nicely to the target 100,000 words, before I set about the rewrites and tidying up. Last night, I had something of a ‘that’s too obvious’ moment, which I have noted and will address as I progress to the crisis, which I aim to do later today.
As for a release date… I am aiming to have this book finished and ready to go by the end of September, so if you are reading book one, you won’t have to wait too long for book two.
The Clearwater Calendar
Also this week, I have been putting together a wall calendar for 2024. We have just released Neil’s Symi Dream calendar, a thing he has done every year since he had his photo business on the island. We use a company that produces good-quality products that showcase Neil’s photography, and the calendars have proved very popular. We were talking about it the other day when one of us suggested I make one based on the Clearwater front covers. Lo and behold, when I returned to the computer, I’d had exactly the same suggestion from one of my supporters (thanks, Loz, great minds and all that). I have spent the last few days putting something together and have ordered a trial one to see how it looks. All being well, you will be able to order a Clearwater calendar in plenty of time for the end of the year. More news to come in time. For now, it’s back to the keyboard, my new mystery, and my approaching crisis which will, after a twist, lead to a climax, and the Delamere Files will move forward.
For the next four weeks, I’m going to post the first two chapters of ‘Finding a Way’, the first of the Delamere Files series. These are not the first two chapters you will read in the published book, they are chapters I cut from the final book.
This was how I started writing the story. However, I soon realised that this was all backstory and didn’t make for a very punchy opening, and I was writing it to secure Jack Merrit’s history in my mind. This is why I cut them from the final draft.
Rather than post each 3,000-word chapter in one go, I have cut them in half to make it easier to read online. Remember, this is first draft material, so it’s not been honed or proofed or even worked on very much. It might, though, give you some background to how Jack became a cabbie, and it will tell you a little more about him and his brother Will. These first two chapters don’t give anything away, so reading them won’t spoil the book for you, though some of what’s in them, I later put into the final draft of ‘Finding a Way’ because it was necessary to do so.
Here is the first half of the original Chapter One of ‘Finding a Way.’
Jack Merrit’s grandfather began work as a cabman on the day that Brunell launched the SS Great Eastern at Millwall in eighteen fifty-eight. Some said it was an unlucky ship, because a previous launch attempt had caused two fatalities, and the great steamship, the largest ever built at that time, had become wedged on the ramp. This, however, did not deter the civil engineer, and nor did it discourage the then forty-year-old Reggie Merrit from attending the second launch, having arrived there with his first fare-paying passengers in his hired hansom. The birth of the massive ship marked the beginning of his thirty-year career on the London streets, sitting high above his cab, transporting the good, the wealthy and the misbehaved from one location to another.
Reggie had been married for twenty tears by then, and working as a labourer on the very ship he watched clank and grate into the river that January morning. With the ticket to labour concluded, however, and with no other prospect of dock work, he’d used his savings to learn the trade of a cabman and secure a vehicle rental from a dispatch office.
‘It’ll be far better money,’ he told his wife, Ida, as he left to collect his hansom on his first day. ‘We’ll have something to give the young’un for his marrying, and soon be out of Limehouse and somewhere further west. You’ll see.’
When their only son, Samson, married the following year, they were still living in the rented tenement by the Isle of Dogs, where the stink of the river choked, and the walls ran black with factory soot. Four years later, their first grandson, John Anthony Merrit, screamed into life on the parlour floor, delivered by Ida and a midwife who offered nothing more than rebuke for not pushing harder and a mug of gin for the pain.
The smell of the river and a new sugar factory were still tainting the washing two years later, when Samson’s wife gave birth to a stillborn, and two years after that, when the second grandson, William, came. His arrival was quieter than his brother’s, and he was slower to arrive, but at least he was breathing.
The factory whistles continued to slice into the family’s life even when Samson found good work in the theatres and became a popular artiste in the music halls. Although well paid and highly thought of, much written about in the newspapers and lauded for his ability to entertain, Samson Merrit did not entertain the idea of being a father. With Reggie and Ida bringing up two children he hadn’t wanted, and with his wife vanished as soon as she’d dumped the second boy on him, he moved himself to digs in Clapton, and ultimately, to a finer part of Hackney. There, the only way his parents or children heard of him was from the variety newspapers and bill posters, and, when Jack was twenty-four, via a messenger from Shoreditch who brought news of a tragedy.
Samson Merrit suffered an untimely but entertaining death on the stage of the Shoreditch Music Hall early in ninety-one. He left behind his two sons, a shocked audience, and an even more shocked Marie Lloyd, with whom he had been performing a duet version of ‘The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery.’ The coroner said the cause of death was heart failure and had nothing to do with his fellow performer. Ida Merrit said he’d had it coming and good riddance, but on hearing the news, Reggie suffered apoplexy that brought an end to his cabbing career the moment he staggered backwards into his chair and collapsed.
Thirty-three years after promising his wife he would better their lives, and despite his son’s success, Reggie had continued to work his cab, and Ida never reminded him of his promise, but kept their rooms as best she could, while caring for two grandsons she had nurtured into men. Working at the docks like his grandfather had, Jack’s income helped the four survive, but there was never a chance William would work and contribute. When Samson died, there was no will, and even if there had been, and even if he had mentioned in it his children, it would have amounted to nothing, because all he owned were debts.
Thus, on the day his grandfather became immobile, while the doctor advised Reggie to take plenty of enemas and drink dark ale, Jack stood thinking and knew something had to be done. His wages as a carter and shifter at the Millwall docks barely covered his contributions for food and left nothing for the care of his brother. With Grandfather Reggie unable to work, his grandmother now nearing seventy, and Will being unemployable, he had, in the stroke of Reggie’s apoplexy, become the breadwinner, and he needed a better job.
His mind worked as fast as his eyes as he scanned the cramped parlour, the shared bedroom through the torn curtain, the stone sink and pot-bellied stove until they came to rest on his brother, sitting vacant in the corner, staring, as he always did, at the pages of a book. The only indication young Will understood their predicament came in the flow of a solitary tear, possibly for a father he’d never known, but more likely for his grandfather. It trickled over his pale cheek, and dropped onto his once-white shirt, while he blinked as though trying to understand what was happening around him, and failing.
Jack’s gaze next fell on the pantry shelf and the half loaf of bread and two wrinkled potatoes, and thence beyond the curtain to the bed, where his once cheerful and lively grandfather, the man who had cared for him, educated him, and paid for Will’s doctors, now lay incapable of doing anything but wait for death.
‘I’m going out,’ Jack told his grandmother. ‘I won’t be long.’ ‘Where to? Your father’s to be buried, your grandad’s not far from it, and you’re off down the Waterman’s Arms?’ ‘No, to see Bob Hart.’ ‘What for? The Cabmen’s Mission won’t give us no charity. They only give out God, and what use is that?’ ‘I’m not looking for either, Grandma. I’ll be back before dark.’
Turning to Will, and taking his hands as he crouched, Jack made the same promise to his brother as Reggie had once made to Ida.
‘I’m going to find good work, Will. One day I’ll get us both out of this place. You stay and look after Grandma. You’ll behave, won’t you?’
Will gave one of his common smiles; a sideways twist of the mouth that suggested acquiescence, but usually meant mischief. It was not what anyone would expect of a twenty-year-old, but then, Will was only that age in body; he was much older in mind. ‘Promise me, Will?’ ‘Yeah, alright. Where you going?’ ‘You’ll see soon enough.’ ‘Can I come?’ ‘Not today.’ ‘But where you going?’ ‘Just out.’ ‘Will granddad die?’ ‘Not today.’ ‘Samson was our dad, yeah?’ ‘Yes, Will. Now, look after grandma.’ ‘What’s an enema?’ Jack took his brother’s cheeks in his hands and turned his face away from the bed. ‘You’re my best mate, remember?’ ‘Yes, Jack. I always remember.’
I was planning to upload and release ‘Finding a Way’ yesterday, but discovered a couple of last-minute typos, so had the guys fix them. I’m going to upload it as soon as I have posted this blog, and the link will be on the Saturday blog, no doubt, and on my Facebook pages.
A Fall from Grace
The second book in the new series, which continues the events two weeks after book one, is now at 65,000 words (out of an estimated 100,000), and after a week of finalising book one and rereading the draft so far of book two to remind myself where I was, I am, today, getting back to the job of typing.
Before I do that, I wanted to draw your attention to another homegrown product.
Symi Dream Calendar 2024
Excuse this step away from my books. Every year, my husband puts together a calendar of shots from Symi, the Greek island where we live. He’s been doing this for years, ever since he had his photography business and shop. Next year’s calendar has just gone live, and I thought I would let you know in case you were interested.
There’s one large image per month, a grid-style layout for each month with boxes large enough for quick notes and reminders, and there are no pre-marked special days cluttering up your pages. If you want a calendar with large images of where we live, then this is for you.
You can only buy this online from this one outlet. We’ve managed to keep the price to under €20.00 (which is what they were available for back in the days of the shop), though postage isn’t included, and prices vary slightly according to your country.
Later this week, I will be releasing ‘Finding a Way’, the first in my new Victorian mystery series. I don’t have an actual date for this because I don’t do pre-orders. Instead, I upload the files to Amazon when they are ready, and Amazon then releases the book. Sometimes, this takes a couple of hours, and at other times, it can take a day or two. Recently, publication has been happening within a short time, and often, my loyal readers receive notifications from Amazon before I do. Also, I am in Europe and Amazon is based in the USA, and I never know which day is which.
I will, of course, announce the release on my Facebook pages when the book is published.
I have revamped the blurb for the book and the series, so here they are with the cover.
When he is robbed by a fare, London cabman, Jack Merrit, thinks his life is over, but then he meets the dashing writer of social observations, Larkin Chase, a man in search of love.
Larkin sees the chance for Jack to earn a twenty-pound reward. All Jack has to do is identify the pair of crooks that robbed him, but the crooks are part of a notorious East End gang who know no boundaries when silencing a witness. Despite the possibilities Larkin offers, Jack’s world begins to crumble. He must either deny or allow his unnatural desire, and decide if he is to see justice done and win his reward. But when an equally dashing young detective arrives on the scene, Jack’s life becomes even more complicated.
Finding a Way is the first of a new series of thrilling Victorian mysteries.
If you enjoyed the Clearwater Mysteries and Larkspur Mysteries, you’ll love this book. There is no need to read them before you buy now before the price changes!
The series blurb looks like this:
The Delamere Files
The secrets of London’s Victorian underworld are revealed in The Delamere Files, the latest instalment in the highly successful Clearwater Mysteries and Larkspur Mysteries series.
It is 1892, and the Clearwater Detective Agency is tasked with the difficult job of solving crimes involving men who love men while maintaining complete discretion in a society where homosexuality is punishable by up to two years in prison with hard labour.
Follow the lives of Jack Merrit, Jimmy Wright and their fellow private investigators as they uncover the mysteries of a world in which they themselves are considered criminals.
In true Jackson Marsh style, you can expect a mix of historical mystery, MM romance, bromance and adventure, and you’ll be kept on the edge of your seat throughout.
If you enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes series, you’ll love The Delamere Files. Buy now before the price changes!
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.
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…
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