Work In Progress: 5.05

The Larkspur Legacy

Well, folks, I am at 75,000 words. I have characters here there and everywhere trying to track down and solve clues. I have evil villains plotting this and doing that, and I now have the sky full of chickens coming home to roost; not that chickens can fly.

It’s all going rather well, but there is still a long way to go. I am in the thick of it, and have to have papers stuck around my desk to remind me of where everyone is, who is chasing whom, and there’s a pile of notes of things to check or add in when I go back over the first draft. Meanwhile, Jenine has had me taking part in promos and online parties, publicising the other books and these two series, and we’ve been preparing for Christmas.

On which note, I want to tell you I shan’t be posting for a couple of weeks. I may pop up next Wednesday with something, but the next scheduled post here will be January 7th. It’s Christmas this weekend, and the weekend after, we shall all be in Athens for New Year. As Athens is one of the destinations in The Larkspur Legacy, I hope to get some photos of one of the places that will feature in the book.

The winner of the advent quiz will be drawn on Sunday, so watch my Jackson Marsh Facebook page for the result.

So, I will wish you all a Happy Christmas (Happy Holidays for those who don’t celebrate Christmas) and a Happy New Year for everyone whose New Year it soon is. A heartfelt thank you to everyone for your support, your kind reviews and your passing on of recommendations. Without such support, Jackson Marsh wouldn’t exist. Have a great time, and I will see you next year.

Christmas Parties & Celebrations

Hello, everyone

Today’s blog is all about celebrations, parties, freebies and award nominations. There is a lot taking place in the run up to Christmas, all of it exciting, and I’ve set out all the details below. It starts with an online party in a popular Facebook group…

This Sunday there is a massive party over on the MM Fiction Addiction Cafe Facebook page. Over 100 authors will be dropping in throughout the day introducing themselves and holding quizzes and games. It promises to be a riot of freebies and festive frivolity. I will be joining in the celebrations and it would be great to see you there! The party will take place between 9am and 9pm Eastern Time, which is 4pm – 4am in Greece, 2pm – 2am in the UK (I think?!).

Followed by…..

The Small But Mighty MM Romance Group are halfway through their 12 Tropes of Christmas Celebrations. On Tuesday look out for #AgeGap where yours truly will be dropping in to showcase my Mentor Series. Come along and join the fun for a chance to win two books of your choice from the series.

Meanwhile, on my own Facebook page I am still running my advent ‘name the book’ competition.

Every day a new question and all correct answers will be put into my husband’s steampunk hat on Boxing Day and my godson will draw the winner. And now I can reveal that the grand prize will be…wait for it


your choice of a mousemat or mug featuring The Clearwater Book covers. Yes, I thought it was time we try out some merchandising so we have been playing on various websites and trying out some mock-ups. Whoever wins we will personally create your prize and ship it off to you in the New Year.

And if you still have some free time after all those shenanigans please head over to Goodreads where you can vote for your favourite MM Romance authors of 2022. I have been nominated for a number of awards, a huge thank you to those who voted so far! I am listed amongst some of the top names which in itself is a great honour.


First up we have ‘Best Cover Art’…it is fantastic to see Andjela K nominated, without her my books would just not have the same visual impact. Click the link to place your vote…/258430-best-cover-art-you…


Joe and Dalston are nominated in this category. This gives me great joy, I absolutely loved creating these two characters and their relationship really did bring out pure emotion in my writing. I couldn’t have done it without learning British Sign Language, I feel that took my journey with these two young men to a different level. Here’s the link to vote…/258374-best-established…


This nomination is a big WOW, ‘Speaking In Silence’ is up there amongst some big names, a great honour. To place your vote follow the link…/258367-best-book-of-the…


Both The Clearwater and The Larkspur Series have been nominated for The Best Series Category (I suggest we all vote for Clearwater to gain more collective votes)

Click the link to vote…/258336-all-time-favorite-m…


Deviant Desire remains my best-selling book to date, it is so good to see it here as a nominee. Silas and Archer’s relationship started as an ‘insta-love’ but their lives together continue to be exciting and passionate, I have loved telling their story. If you would like to vote for them hit the link…/258377-all-time-favorite-m…


Yes! I have made the nominee list, thank you, thank you! Here’s the link to vote fave author

You need to be a group member of the MM Romance group, if you need the link to sign up, here it is

It takes 24 hours to approve your request and be sure to put your date of birth on the sign-up.

Thank you everyone!

After all this excitement, I could do with a lie down, but the truth is, I have left my Larkspur Academy men in something of a predicament, so I had better go and write another chapter of ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ before they get tired of waiting. A proper update will be on Wednesday’s blog.

Work In Progress: 5.04 The Larkspur Legacy

At the last count, The Larkspur Legacy had reached 55,000 words in draft one, and there are still several weeks of the story still to tell. The chase is definitely on, the Clearwater crew is organised, they know what they have to do and have started getting on with solving the mystery and locating the great secret. Unfortunately, the evil, anti-crew are also organised, well-financed and just as determined to achieve their own goals. It looks like everyone is evenly matched for what is going to be a monster of an end-of-series climax.

With many of my novels, I have an opening scene in mind when I start to write, and a closing one, and what happens in between is often only sketched out before I start. With this one, things are different. I know what the epilogue is to be, and I have all threads tied up in my mind and notes. What I don’t have so much are those threads before being tied up. However, knowing how things will end allows me to be creative during the parts in between while keeping myself restricted to only what is plausible to make the ending work. In other words, I have a structure, but it has taken a lot of planning, and currently, my writing/planning desk looks like this…

The atlas is there because the story sees several of the crew travelling to various places, while others remain in England to plot a downfall, keep track of where everyone is, and work on solving the mystery without actually being in the field. From left to right: the Scrabble is there to assist with anagrams, the large notebook is a plot outline of the middle of the story, keeping track of where everyone is and how long it would have taken them to get there, and the piece of paper is my ‘master sheet’ now up on the board beside my writing desk. The atlas is also there so I can visualise routes. Among the notebooks and other bits and pieces, is a compass (as mentioned in the story and in ‘Starting with Secrets’), and a small sextant.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, my typing table looks like this…

Scrap paper for notes, the master plan, a cypher grid, a mosquito spray and a heater I’ve not had to use so far this winter as it’s still 16 degrees at 5.30 in the morning.

It is upwards and onwards now, as the story moves from land to sea (while also staying on land, and in several countries), and where a new love story is about to begin. It might be 55,000 words in already (about a third of the way through), but there’s always time for love.

While all this is going on, don’t forget my Advent calendar quiz and your chance to win an exclusive prize. All the details are on my Facebook Page. I am going to be busy with Christmas promotions and online parties over the next couple of weeks, and I will give you all the details of where you can find me on my next Saturday blog.

You have to be in it to win it!

Unfinished Beginnings. Why you Should Never Throw Anything Away.

This morning, while wondering what I might blog about today, I turned my attention to my collection of Clearwater notes, and a folder titled ‘Other ideas and texts.’ In it, I found the first 16 draft chapters of a book that never was. (That, by the way, was 60,000, but I decided I could do better, so I started again.) The story was titled ‘Original Part 6’, meaning I’d not yet found a name for it, but I had been playing with the idea of a novel called ‘Men of a Similar Heart’, a title I may, one day, still use. As this draft was never published, I looked at it to remind myself of the story which would have come after ‘Bitter Bloodline’ and before ‘Artful Deception.’ Sure enough, chapter one begins:

Henry Beddington had been the concierge at the National Gallery since it opened in 1865, and took great pride in the fact that, despite the large number of visitors passing through its doors each day, there had never been any trouble in his foyer. Keeping watch over the entrance from his counter on the morning of July 8th he had no reason to suspect that today would be any different.

That paragraph ended up being the opening of ‘Artful Deception’, but what came later in ‘Original Part 6’ differed wildly from the rest of the final book.

I also found two chapters where Archer and Silas take lunch at a dubious club, meet with an old friend of Archer’s who is in serious decline, and take on a new case. That idea was also shelved (though it’s quite a funny scene, so I may rehash it at another time).

Then, there were a few chapters of another version of ‘Men of a Similar Heart’ that never made it into any of the other books. In one version of the story that never was, James, by then a detective (1889) takes on a mysterious case where one man is searching for another before his missing friend ‘does something stupid.’ I have the outline of that mystery/adventure, and it’s a good plot with a few nice twists, so I might return to that one day too.

Then, I found notes for ‘Part 09’, which ended up becoming ‘Negative Exposure.’ After bringing the Jasper and Billy story to a reasonable conclusion in ‘One of a Pair’, I turned my attention to the backstory of Silas and Andrej and came up with ‘Banyak & Fecks’, so by the time I returned to the Clearwater world, other ideas had come to the fore. Much of what underpins ‘Negative Exposure’ comes from events that happened years before in ‘Banyak & Fecks’, which is why I advise reading the prequel between books eight and nine.

While going through some of these notes, wincing at some of my clunky writing (they are first drafts), and also thinking, ‘Hm, now that would be fun to resurrect’, I found a few other starts and ends of chapters I’d like to share. I am always conscious of ending a chapter in a way that leads to another unless that chapter is the first part of a longer scene. There are a few in the collection of never-used which I may well reuse elsewhere. Here is the original opening for another version of ‘Men of a Similar Heart’ that never was; the end of chapter one.

[Archer, Silas, James, Fecks and Tom are swimming in a pond near Larkspur Hall one summer, when Barnaby Nancarrow, then still a footman, comes charging over the hill. He reports that while Archer has been out, someone has broken into the Hall. Nothing has been taken, but something has been left behind.]

Barnaby had started shaking with shock, and Archer was certain it wasn’t from the exertion of running a mile from the Hall to the edge of the estate. Thomas appeared, immaculately dressed and calm, and seeing the state of his footman, stood directly in his line of sight.

‘Barnaby. You must answer His Lordship,’ he said, employing an authoritative but gentle tone. ‘You have done exactly as I would have wished, and there will be no recriminations if you speak plainly and honestly. If nothing has been taken, what has been left behind?’

Hearing his butler address him so naturally gave Barnaby strength. Being more accustomed to talking to the butler than his master, he was able to break the news to Mr Payne, and he cleared his throat before squaring his shoulders.

‘Very sorry to report, Mr Payne,’ he said, ‘but whoever it was, has left behind a corpse.’

Cue mysterious music…

Another opening chapter: In this one, set in December 1889, a new client visits James at the detective agency at Larkspur House and asks him to take on a case. The first chapter ends with:

‘Mr Wright, only you can take my case for three reasons. Firstly, it is not a matter for the police because a crime has not been committed. Secondly, it is a delicate and personal matter, and as I expect you know, the police are neither delicate nor personal. But, most importantly, it must be you who takes my case because it is one that can only be understood by…’ What had been a confident flow of words dried with apprehension, and Norton swallowed. His Adam’s apple rose and fell like the puck on a fairground hammer blow, and James expected to hear a bell ring.

‘Can only be understood?’ he prompted when Norton had hesitated long enough.

Norton cleared his throat and regained his composure. ‘By men like us,’ he said, and when James shook his head in bewilderment, clarified. ‘It is a case that concerns men of a similar heart.’

And that’s where the idea for the title came from.

Another file in my folder is titled ‘Another opening idea’ (I am not very original when naming files), and this time, it’s the start of a chapter and book which I set aside for later use:

[Larkspur Hall, December 11th, 1889. A letter from Mrs Baker to Thomas Payne in London.]

Dear Mr Payne,

I write for your advice because I fear for the safety of Lady Clearwater and do not wish to unduly alarm His Lordship.

Where was that leading?

(It eventually became the sub-plot of ‘Negative Exposure’ and led to the story of ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’)

Here’s the end of chapter one of another story that never was. It’s the one I mentioned where Archer and Silas take lunch at a club and are there to meet an old friend of Archer’s, Freddie Falconbridge, who Archer has described as fit and strong, an athlete and a statue of manliness.

Silas followed, picturing Lord Falconbridge as a tall, wide wall of muscles, someone he might see smashing a hammer onto a fairground’s high striker to ring an impossibly high bell, or lifting weights in a show of physical strength before singing bawdy ballads with his manly teammates after a hellish game of football.

When he entered the room, however, the man who struggled from his chair to greet them, could not have been more different.

‘Good Lord, Freddie,’ Archer exclaimed. ‘Will you live through lunch?’

I never used the scene or the chapter ending, though Falconbridge turns up in another guise in ‘Negative Exposure’ because I liked the name.

Finally, another opening that never found an ending, though I have the plot of this story and several draft chapters. I rather liked this one because it gives us the crime to be solved as reported in a newspaper, and we all know how much I like to employ newspaper articles, letters, telegrams and such devices.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette

Monday, November 26th, 1877

Tragedy At Sinford’s

A grim discovery was made on Friday last at Sinford’s School for Boys, Moorside. On rousing the men of Drake House, the Housemaster, Rev. D Spencer discovered a student absent from his bed, and soon after, when searching for the pupil, was confronted with a scene of great tragedy.

The body of Luc Verdier was discovered in the attic of the building hanging from a rafter by a rope fashioned into an ill-formed, but fatal noose about his neck. Verdier, we are told, was the son of a diplomat of the French Embassy and had attended Sinford’s since coming up from prep school…

And so it goes on, as could I, but I will leave you with the point of today’s blog, and that is to say to all aspiring authors, never throw anything away. If you have an idea, write it down and keep it. You can always reuse, as I have done, and even if you don’t, it’s fun to reflect on what you were thinking and where stories might have taken you. It’s also a useful exercise to look back and see how your writing has improved over time, and it will.

So, my thought for the day:

Work In Progress: 5.03 The Larkspur Legacy

I am up and running on ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, the seventh and last Larkspur Mystery, due out in spring 2023.

I’ve been working on this for some time, making notes and plotting plots while writing ‘Starting with Secrets’, so I am already up to 40,000 words. The title of ‘Starting with Secrets’ refers to the start of a great adventure, Lord Clearwater’s hunt for his mother and godmother’s great ‘treasure’ and ‘secret’, and although the story starts in book six, it is left unfinished and continues in book seven.

As usual, I’ll give away no spoilers, but I can tell you I am currently in a Falmouth shipyard inspecting a schooner barque. For my research, I have been reading books about merchant schooners, studying rigging plans, and looking up all kinds of interesting facts about sailing ships of the late 19th century. It’s a whole new world, and, more exciting for me, a whole new language. I’m also looking up what I call ‘sailor speak’ to get the terminology the sailors in my story would have used, while also looking into mysteries of the past, European travel of the time, Thomas Cook escorted tours, and other related matters.

Falmouth Harbour

Talking of spoilers, I used to outline my plots to Neil, as it is always useful to have someone to bounce ideas off. However, there is such a big twist at the end of ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, I must throw around my ideas in code, so I don’t spoil his reading for the first draft. He won’t get to see it until next year, but if I can continue at the pace I am, I should have it ready for him to beta read around February. Having said that, comparing the current word count to the basic plot outline, I am only about one-fifth of the way through. Either I will end up with a novel at 200,000 words, or I will have to cut some ideas and slash the draft when completed. ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ came in at 150,000 words, and I am aiming for the same for ‘the Larkspur Legacy.’

You will note, perhaps, a similarity in the titles (Inheritance and Legacy). Both end a series, and both involve something left behind for another. There is always a double meaning in my titles.

I will say no more, except to remind you to take part in with my Advent quiz via my Facebook page. 26 books, 25 days, 25 chances to win a special prize soon to be announced (and it won’t be a book, but a one-off… something that only the winner will receive).

Can I Have a Word?

In today’s blog, I am looking at words. Well, it’s what I do every day. Write them, look at them, go over them, misspell them, then go over them again and rearrange them. Some days, I write so much I get a kind of word blindness, and what I think I am looking at isn’t what I am seeing; I see what I meant to write, when in fact it’s gobbledegook.

Gobbledegook is a word that didn’t come into common English usage until around 1936 (there had been some printed instances of it in the 1920s), after that, it shot right up the usage charts to reach a peak in 1955. So, if you are writing historical fiction set before 1936, don’t write gobbledegook. I’ve talked about this subject before, but today, for lack of anything else to talk about, I wanted to present an old favourite of mine: words from the past.

For this, I am using two resources. ‘Passing English of the Victorian Era, a Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang & Phrase’, compiled by J. Redding Ware, originally published in 1909, and ‘Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’, published in 1811 and compiled by ‘Captain Grosse et al.’ Both books are available from I’m going to give you some random words from each book, starting with ‘Passing English’ which includes American as well as British words.

To find my first word, I ran a search/find in my PDF version and looked for the word Toby. I found one instance.

Five words/phrases in use before 1909

Cross-life men (Thieves) Men who get their living by felony. Used amongst themselves rather plaintively it would seem, and in remarkable contrast with the 18th century term, ‘gentlemen of the road’, ‘high toby men’, and others.

According to Green’s Dictionary, ‘High Toby’ meant highway robbery; as low toby, on foot, and high toby, mounted robbery.  “[They] were but ‘low toby-men,’ from their frequenting the by-ways.”

Duffer-fare (London. Cabmens’ slang). In the neighbourhood of the theatres, as closing time approaches, the police will not allow cabmen to drive empty cabs through the Strand highway. In order to get past the police, and so obtain a chance of a fare when the theatres vomit their thousands, cabmen will ask a pedestrian to be chummy enough to jump in, and be driven into the Strand. Here arrived the ‘duffing-fare.’

So, a duffer-fae was cabbies’ slang for giving someone a free ride so you could access the Strand when theatres were ‘vomiting their thousands.’ (Love that image.) And talking of theatres…

Ten bob squats (Theatrical) Stalls in a theatre. About 1880 going to the theatre had become so fashionable, owing possibly to the steady patronage of the Prince of Wales, that the price of stalls in most of the best houses was raised. (To ten bob, I suppose.)

In old British money, a ‘bob’ was a shilling. The Bank of England 10-shilling note (notation: 10/–), colloquially known as the 10 bob note was a sterling banknote. Ten shillings in £sd (written 10s or 10/–) was half of one pound. The ten-shilling note was the smallest denomination note ever issued by the Bank of England. [Wiki]

And still talking of theatres, here’s an expression we still use. Barnstorming is ‘to make a rapid tour of an area as part of a political campaign’, and/or to ‘travel around giving exhibitions of flying, and performing aeronautical stunts’, but did you know its origin and original meaning? (From the USA, I reckon.)

Barn-stormers (Theatrical, 18 cent.) Inferior actors who play in barns. Used, of course, in scorn by those comedians who have reached permanent footlights. The term has now almost passed away in consequence of the enormous increase in the number of theatres which now exist, even in the smallest towns. The ‘barn stormers’ hire a barn near a village, and there give their performance – frequently of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in a barn? Whatever next? Next, is another random word, I found hanging about.

Marwooded (Hanged) This term prevailed while Executioner Marwood held office. He died in 1883.

Some words/phrases in use before 1811

Randomly selected from The Vulgar Tongue are these five, picking up where we left off.

COCKLES. To cry cockles is to be hanged: perhaps from the noise made whilst strangling. (This is street slang also known as cant.) Related to this, we have COLQUARRON. A man’s neck. His colquarron is just about to be twisted; he is just going to be hanged.

Not to be too fixated, but related to both of those is CROP. To be knocked down for a crop; to be condemned to be hanged. Cropped, hanged. So now we can see where the expression, ‘to come a cropper’ comes from. Also on the same subject, if you danced upon nothing, you’d been hanged. There are several other words associated with this subject, but let’s move on to something more pastoral and talk about the fruitful vine.

FRUITFUL VINE. A woman’s private parts, i.e. that has FLOWERS every month, and bears fruit in nine months.

Or maybe not. How about returning to my roots on the Romney Marshes and the image of sheep safely grazing in the fields?

WOOLBIRD is another name for a sheep, or you could refer to one as a BLEATING CHEAT (don’t ask me why), just as you would refer to a sheep rustler as a CHEATING RIG.

By the way, we have to thank sheep for giving us condoms. Have a read of this:

CUNDUM. The dried gut of a sheep, worn by men in the act of coition, to prevent venereal infection; said to have been invented by one colonel Cundum. These machines were long prepared and sold by a matron of the name of Philips, at the Green Canister, in Half−moon−street, in the Strand. That good lady having acquired a fortune, retired from business; but learning that the town was not well served by her successors, she, out of a patriotic zeal for the public welfare, returned to her occupation; of which she gave notice by divers hand−bills, in circulation in the year 1776.

Not sure about the use of the word ‘machines’ when describing a cundum, however.

I could go on all day, but I won’t. The point to be made from all this, if there is a point at all, is that when writing historical fiction, you need to be aware of the words your characters and narrator would have known and not known. However, my advice is to also consider your reader. Too many colloquialisms, slang, cant and obscure words, and your writing will be Hubble de Shuff, your readers will be Both-Eared, and your sentences will be Nonsense, which, you might like to know, was the word used to describe the act of melting butter in a wig.

In a wig? Well, there we are.