Where There’s a Will

Hi everyone, and welcome to my Wednesday roundup of news. Today, I am very pleased to tell you I have made a good start on the next Delamere File mystery, and it’s titled, ‘Where There’s a Will.’

If you have been following the series, you will know that my two main characters are Jack and Will Merrit. Jack has featured as the lead of the first three books as he goes from being a hard-working London cabman to being a hard-working private investigator. He’s been trying to come to terms with his change in position, his sexuality, and his feelings towards the writer, Larkin Chase.

Book three will see his brother Will as the main character, although Jack is involved. Will has his own issues, though not around sexuality. He has a ‘condition of preciseness’ as he calls it, a kind of OCD, but not quite. It’s a fine line between madness and genius and Will is approaching that line, although he’s not mad.

Anyway… Where There’s a Will obviously relates to Will Merrit, but it also relates to the reading of a Will on a remote island in the Bristol Channel. The island is modelled on Lundy, though in the story it is Templar Island, and the brothers are charged to go there to be present at the reading of a will.

Why?

You will find out, but first I must find out, lol. I have written my synopsis on a small piece of paper, and here it is, the bottom one. Don’t look too closely as there’s an outside chance you might be able to read my scrawl and I don’t want to give you any spoilers.

(The top piece is the railway timetable from London to Bideford in October 1892)

So, I am already at chapter five, which is around 14,000 words into the story and so far, we have a quest, an unrequited love story theme, and a few laughs. We will soon be at the mystery stage before the threat and peril kick in.

In the meantime, I am pleased to say Follow the Van has been going well, and I have had a few private messages telling me how much readers have enjoyed it. Remember, if you can, reviews on Amazon really help because the more there are, the more coverage the books get.

I’ll be back on Saturday with news of another promo and some other information that might be of interest. Until then, have a good week!

Appledore, Devon, where chapter five is set. The yellow line is where the now defunct railway used to run.

Completely Random

Usually, on a Wednesday, I put up a work-in-progress post to let you know how the current writing project is going. Today, I’m doing that and adding a couple of random images I found in one of my files. First…

Follow the Van

The draft is complete. I am working through the MS tidying things up and checking my facts and tie-ups. Neil has read it and didn’t find anything missing or wrong in the mystery, which is good news, and he says he particularly liked the ending which leads into book four. I’ll start writing that soon. All I have of book four is a title, ‘Where There’s a Will.’

Follow the Van is going off to be proofread within the next ten days or so, and Andjela has her brief for the cover. All being well, you will be able to get hold of your copy before the end of the month. I am aiming to release it on my birthday, 26th, but we’ll see.

Random Millbank Prison

As for the random photos, I downloaded them a while ago because they show something that’s not there anymore. The place in question is Millbank Prison which used to stand where the Tate gallery now is, on the north bank of the Thames. The map pre-dates 1888, but I am not sure of its actual date. Sometime around the late 1850s or very early 1860s I’d say because the map shows the route of the proposed Lambeth Bridge, which was opened in 1862. The prison, the flower-shaped building, was closed in 1890, and in its place (along with other things) was built the National Gallery of British Art, now called the Tate.

If you read ‘Agents of the Truth’, you’ll be able to visit Millbank prison with Jimmy Wright and Dalston Blaze, as they visit there looking for clues to the whereabouts of a particularly evil character.

What’s fascinating about the other photo is that it is an aerial shot taken before 1897, because the building was no longer there by then. 1897 happens to be the year Dracula was published, and one year after my grandmother was born. It still fascinates me that until I was in my early 30s, I knew and talked to a woman born during the reign of Queen Vicotria. If only I’d thought to ask questions…

Anyway, that’s enough random rambling. I must get back to my editing, so I have this next book ready for you by the end of the month.

Work In Progress: Marie Lloyd.

I have something slightly different for you today. Yes, this is a work-in-progress update, but I also want to share a piece of research with you: Marie Lloyd’s baptism record.

If you’re not sure who I am talking about, the music hall artiste and actress known as Marie Lloyd was probably one of the most famous such entertainers of the late 19th and early 20th century, in Britain, at least. She did tours of other countries, including America, and was known as the people’s favourite. She came from Hoxton in East London and started on the stage when she was about 14. Click to Wiki to find a biography of Marie Lloyd.

She was also known for singing the popular song, ‘My Old Man (Said Follow the Van)’ from which I took the title of my current work in progress, ‘Follow the Van.’ The song came after the time the book is set, but as the story is also about Jack Merrit discovering things about his late father, it all seemed very appropriate.

The draft is now at 70,000 words, and I guess I am looking at the first couple of weeks of March for a release. That is if I can pull my finger out and figure out the ending, write it, rewrite everything and do the usual checks and proofs before all that, while thinking up a cover and having it designed. So much to do! So, I’ll leave you with this image of Miss Marie Lloyd’s baptism. She was born Matilda Alice Victoria Wood (second row down) in 1870, and her father was an artificial florist. There will be more about her on a future blog, possibly on Saturday, with some more images from the past.

Follow the Van Research

In the absence of any bright ideas for today’s blog, I decided to check out my current work-in-progress folder and see what was lurking there. As you know, the current WIP is called ‘Follow the Van’ and the story has something to do with the music halls of Victorian London. Therefore, what’s in my folder, apart from the text files, are research images that I’ve pulled from here and there.

Here’s what I have and a short explanation of why. This might give you an insight into how I put research together, although these images are the tip of a larger iceberg of reading, books, maps and online pages. Apologies if I’ve already shown you some in other posts.

First of all, this shot of the Gaiety Theatre in Strand, London. Clearly, the photo was taken later than 1892, because of the engine of the omnibus, but the building is how my characters would have seen it. The theatre lasted from 1864 (as the Strand Musick Hall) until it closed in 1938.

The Gaiety Theatre, Strand, London

A map of the Boundary Estate in Shoreditch from 1892. The estate was also known as The Old Nichol and was considered the worst slum area of London. At the time my novel is set, the estate was being changed, people were being moved out and a new estate was being built. My story concerns a theft from a dwelling in Mount Street on the eastern edge of the estate.

A cutting from a newspaper (I think it was The Times) from 1892. Yesterday, I was writing about the Charing Cross Music Hall, which is still operating today as a theatre beneath Charing Cross Station. As you can see, Marie Lloyd was on the bill at the time my story was set, and after I’ve posted this. I am heading into chapter 19, where Jack Merrit will come face to face with the woman who was on stage with his father when he died.

Cutting from The Times, September 1892

This is a shot of the inside of the Roman Road music hall, another venue that is still in use today. I’m not using this particular one in the story, but the image gives me inspiration, as does the history of the building. Now called Wilton’s Music Hall, you can find out more at its website.

Wilton’s Music Hall

This is the London Music Hall in Shoreditch. This one has had a few names, thanks to having several owners over the years. The theatre was at 95-99, Shoreditch High Street, formerly Holywell Street. Originally built in the year 1856, and called the Griffin Music Hall and Pub, it was rebuilt in 1894 as the London Theatre of Varieties. In 1896 it became known as The London Music Hall. In 1924 it became the Shoreditch Empire Theatre and was demolished in 1935.

Finally, this image of Tower Bridge that I mentioned on my Facebook page the other day. I was writing a chapter where Jack sits outside a pub overlooking the building of the ‘new’ Tower Bridge. It’s 1892, and it’s September 28th, so I looked online to see if I could find out what stage the construction was at. Lo and behold, there was a photo of the bridge taken on that exact day! Here it is, with Jack just out of shot along the bank sipping a pint and waiting for his client to arrive.

That’s it. The rest of my ‘Follow the Van’ folder is filled with the various chapters, outlines and research notes which I’ll save for another day.

1892, Follow the Van, and an Update

Hi folks.

I usually do a work-in-progress update on a Wednesday, but today, I thought I would update you on the current WIPS and other matters. Let’s start but going back to the future, and 1892.

1892

This will be my next release. A set of short stories that currently has this draft blurb:

Five characters from the Clearwater, Larkspur and Delamere Mysteries find themselves taking the train to Cornwall for the 1892 Larkspur Hall Christmas Eve ball. To pass the time, they each tell a story from their past.

Sitting in their carriage is a stranger who listens to their stories of detection, mystery and prophesy, and recognises some of the people involved. As they near their destination, the stranger realises he is more involved with his fellow passengers than they know, but who is he? Where is he going, and why?

Here’s a snippet of the excellent cover as designed, as always, but the marvellous Andjela V.

You can just see the top of the head of the five characters, so you may be able to guess who appears in this collection if you don’t already know. There are two characters from Clearwater, two from Larkspur and one from Delamere, plus two other characters. One is the railway steward who caters for his passengers in the private-hire saloon, and the other is the mystery man who appears in one book attached to the Clearwater series and is mentioned a couple of times in others, but he’s from a long way back, so hopefully, you’ve forgotten about him and will get a nice surprise at the end of the book when his story becomes the sixth. Actually, his story is the whole journey, but… Well, you’ll see in time.

Follow the Van

Meanwhile, I am beavering away in the same year but on a different book, the Delamere Files Book Three, ‘Follow the Van.’ I’ve been doing some research into Victorian music halls and theatre for this one, and one day, I’ll do a blog post about that research. I’ve almost finished reading about the Gaiety Theatre (now gone), and am about to start on another which, although a novel, is written by a historian, and it’s about the music hall artist, Dan Leno (1860 to 1904), real name George Wild Galvin. That’ll be interesting background.

Symi, Greece

Meanwhile, here in the real world, we’re approaching the winter months, but so far, have been very lucky with the weather and temperature. The island is quieter now there are very few tourists about, and many businesses have closed for the winter, but enough remain open for us locals to carry on regardless. We’re now discussing bringing the duvet out of summer hibernation, and dusting off the heaters, though I’d rather keep them unplugged for as long as possible. Fuel costs and all that. (We don’t have central heating or gas, so everything is electric.)

View from the balcony on Thursday.

In a week or so, Neil’s off to visit his brother in Vienna, leaving me home alone with two books to work on plus my daily freelance work, and we’re both off to Athens for New Year with our best friend and our godsons. There will no doubt be more about that adventure when we get back, and in the meantime, if you’re interested to read more about where we are, and what we do here all year round, you can check out my five-day-a-week blog, Symi Dream. Just click that link and you’ll be in my madcap, sometimes lively, sometimes rather mundane, life here on a small Greek island.

And now… Back to the future (publications) and more work on Follow the Van. Everyone sing along: My old man said follow the van, and don’t dilly dally on the way…

Editing Continues

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…)

Finding a Way: Background Chapters

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.’


Limehouse, London

1891

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.’


You can find ‘Finding a Way’ on Amazon, paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

Chapter one, part two will be posted next Saturday.

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…

WIP: 6.08. Nearing the End.

First: The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge will be free all day on Saturday 24th June to celebrate Pride Weekend (somewhere in the world) and Pride month. Also, to celebrate its new, tidier edition, with enhanced readability.

I have learnt so much over the last few years, I have a new mission. When I can, to go back and tidy up earlier novels, and Barrenmoor is the first to receive the treatment. Here’s its Amazon.com page, but it will be FREE everywhere for 24 hours on Saturday (Amazon time.) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078TFPQ89


Merrit & Chase

I am nearing the end of the first draft of ‘As Yet Untitled. A new Mystery Series, Book One.’ This may end up being titled, ‘Merrit & Chase’ as that’s one of the ideas I am playing with. Others include a play on words around ‘Knowledge’ because Jack Merrit is a London hansom cab driver in 1892. Other ideas include something to do with the word Two, or Streets, a street address (not very punchy), or a phase that lurks somewhere in the draft that’s not yet leapt out at me but might do when I start on draft two.

I am nearing the end of the first draft now and am at 90,000 words (with two chapters of backstory already cut), and have about another 10,000 words to go. Then, I will edit, cut, rewrite, check and dither, before repeating the process and moving on to book two. I can’t say when this one will be ready for publication, but I can tell you I have a title for the series.

Yes, I have made up my mind. On hearing my decision, my husband said, ‘You just can’t leave them alone, can you?’ which made me laugh. No. And why should I? Astute readers of mine will understand what he meant when I give you the series title, and tell you it is to be…

The Delamere Mysteries

At least, that’s the plan for now. More to follow in due course.

A hansom cab

Work In Progress: 6.04

The news this week is that work in progress isn’t progressing. Instead, I have moved on to go back, and am re-editing ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’, as I mentioned on Saturday. Although I’m not in a very creative place, I thought I should be doing something, so, I have returned to Barrenmoor to give it a rewrite. Not substantially; the story remains the same, as do the characters, it’s the language I am tidying up.

It’s odd to do this, because I rarely reread what I have already published, but it’s part of the learning process to do so. I’m amazed, and a little embarrassed at how many sentences start with ‘He’, or worse, ‘He saw’ or ‘He heard…’ This, to me now, is lazy writing. Often, there’s no need to say He and no need to say ‘He saw/heard,’ and certainly not, ‘He felt…’ When you change such things, you force yourself into the character’s shoes. We know whose point of view the scene is from, so we can assume everything is coming from within, and overusing ‘He’ leads to me, the writer, telling the reader what’s going on, and not showing them what’s going on, which is the better way of telling a story because it brings the reader closer to the character.

That’s just one example of how I am reworking Barrenmoor, one of my more popular books, and there are others I’ll return to at another time. For now, I’ll continue to edit, rework, improve, and tidy up, using the X number of years’ worth of experience since I wrote it to guide me. After that, I should be in a place where I can return to the creation of a new series and ‘471 Kingsland Road’, which is currently waiting for me at around the 35,000-word mark.