Starting Again

This week’s Work In Progress blog update.

Bobby, a Life Worth Living, is doing well, and I have had some great feedback already. It’s wonderful to hear that his story resonates with so many people, and they have volunteered their own snippets of older relations’ stories. I am waiting for some leads so I can try and copy some of our interviews onto the PC and from there, to this website, so readers can hear Bobby talking about his past. That’s a project for the future, and I’ll let you know if I am successful.

Where There’s a Will is doing brilliantly in the charts, and has already gained some four- and five-star ratings. Good old Will!

A Case of Make Believe

Well now, this is the working title of Delamere book five, and Make Believe is written that way for a reason. The idea is to have someone be made to believe something and it’s all to do with magic acts and the Victorian passion for macabre shows, the famous decapitation tricks of the Egyptian Hall, and the weird and wonderful of Maskelyne and Cooke’s entertainments.

But not everything is going to plan, so the title may change, although the subject of this mystery won’t. I have already changed the first 14,000 words. Let me explain…

I began on the story, setting it in January 1893. On James Wright’s 30th birthday, actually, January 10th. By then, Delamere House has a housekeeper and a new detective. I started the story from Will’s point of view, and immediately had Jack and Jimmy setting off for Paris to solve an urgent case at the Paris Opera House.

This was to set things up for book six, which may well have something to do with a phantom at the Opera House (left), and thus, become the inspiration for the novel by Gaston Leroux, which he will publish in serial form, starting in 1909… but that’s another story.

Back at Delamere, we were introduced to the new housekeeper, and the new detective, and then a new case arrived at the end of chapter one, and in chapters two and three, Will said goodbye to Jack, and was left in charge of the agency and… It didn’t work. As soon as Jack and Will were separated, the thing fell flat. Add to that, too many new faces and too much domestic detail, and I knew I was off to a false start. So, I have set those first 14,000 words aside. (There’s a good idea in there for a short story, and I might well do another ‘1892’ for Christmas, maybe ‘1891’, I’ll see.)

Now, I have started again with the same villain in mind, and the same background, but I’m coming at it from a different angle. The story now opens with a piece by Larkin Chase, and he’s describing a theatrical event that, later in 1897, would become Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, specialising in naturalistic horror shows. My version, in 1893, is a forerunner, if you like, and it’s a bit of make-believe itself because I am sure the mystery shows of the time didn’t go as far as Grand Guignol, but like the Phantom of the Opera, the Delamere case might well be the inspiration for creatives of the future.

So, that’s where we are.

This week’s promo to click on and check out for more reading, is all about MM Romance novels. This is running all month, the books are all available through Amazon, and there are plenty of your favourite niches and tropes included. Have a click and enjoy your reading!

Where There’s a Wait

Today, I was hoping to tell you that ‘Where There’s a Will’ was available on Kindle, but for some reason, it’s taking a long time to show up. Its official status is ‘Publishing’, which means it’s passed all the stages and is simply waiting to go live. This usually happens within three hours, but so far, it’s taken two days. They say in the small print that it can take up to ten days, which seems incredibly slow for a computerised, automated process.

Meanwhile, the print version is available for those who, like me, prefer to buy paperbacks, and here’s the link:

Where there’s a Will

Will and Jack Merrit are set a simple task: Journey to an island in the Bristol Channel to attend the reading of a will. Why? No-one knows.

Charles Marisco can guess what’s in his father’s will. Everything will go to his twin brother, Simon, because he was born first. However, Charles has other things on his mind, namely, his best friend, Barrett Newton, a man he would like to know more intimately.

A storm-lashed castle, a remote island, and a cast of eccentric characters set the stage for Will and Jack Merrit’s most baffling case yet—one that grows deadlier as the body count rises.

This is the fourth book in the Delamere Files series.

The books should be read in order.

I have family visiting right now, so I shan’t be starting on the next story until next weekend, when I will get straight back to it. I have several ideas, some situations I’d like to explore, some historical occasions from 1893 I’d like to look at further, and I have several ideas. So, I need to decide which one I am going to run with and focus on that. While I’m doing that, I will also be finishing ‘Bobby – a Life Worth Living’, the story of my late godfather which is also a kind of walk through 20th century gay Britain, or one gay man’s life from 1919 to 2007, and I can tell you it is a remarkable true story. I did most of the work on this book several years ago and then I set it aside as I wasn’t happy with my style. Now, after I’ve matured a little as a writer, I am able to do the story justice. I’ve added some deeper research I was unable to do 20 years ago, and have knocked the MS into a reasonable shape. As soon as I can afford it, I will commission Andjela to do me a cover, get the OWI guys to do the layout, and it’ll be ready to go. Or will be ready to sit in the Amazon ‘publishing’ queue for a few days…

For now, though, it’s back to my enforced holiday; a trip out for lunch, my piano student this afternoon, and a friend’s terrace for the evening. It’s 36° outside most of the time, so we’re going slowly and drinking loads of water. Here are some views to see you through the weekend.

Closing in on the Last Chapters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…)