Character Interview: Silas Hawkins

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

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

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

Silas Hawkins

Born:               October 21st, 1868.

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

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

What is your full name? Do you have a nickname?

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

Where and when were you born?

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

Who were your parents?

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

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

Where do you live now?

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

What are your hair colour and eye colour?

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

What do you miss most from your childhood?

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

What did you want to be when you grew up?

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

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

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

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

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

Archer, the love of his life

Do you have any scars?

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

What is your biggest secret? Does anyone else know about this?

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

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

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

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

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

What is your most treasured possession?

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

What three words would others probably use to describe you?

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

Where do you see yourself in five years?

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

What do you have in your pocket?

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

A Discussion with a Butler

An Interview with Charles Tripp

October 1888, The Lamb and Compass, Limedock, London

This is not the most salubrious public house in the world. In fact, it is a haven for grimy sailors coming in from the docks after months at sea, looking for release in alcohol and whores of either sex. I am here, however, to interview Charles Tripp, a butler. We arranged the meeting several weeks past, but, as I will find out, Mr Tripp’s position has changed since our exchange of letters.

The man seems distracted. He is brooding about something, and although he is dressed in the manner of a man’s man, I can’t help but feel he is hiding dark thoughts.

Thank you for meeting with me, Mr Tripp. I would like to ask you a few questions if I may?

(As he acquiesces to my request, his mouth wrinkles into the kind of smile a trusted friend gives as he contemplates slitting your throat.)

Perhaps you could tell me your full name.

Charles Simon Tripp.

And you are the butler for Lord Clearwater of Riverside, correct?

I was.

(I sense this is the cause of the resentment apparent behind his eyes and decide not to probe. Yet.)

Can you tell me what being a butler entails?

The butler is the highest-ranking servant in the household. I am… I was responsible for the running of the house. This would include the organisation of the wine cellar, overseeing the work of the footmen at mealtimes, waiting on the master of the house, accounting for the silver and its cleaning, guarding the plate safe, and generally ensuring the house runs smoothly.

Almost a true likeness??

And how long have you been in service? Where did you start?

I entered service for the seventeenth Viscount Clearwater in eighteen thirty-six. Clearwater House had not long been built, and I was among the original staff, employed as a hall boy to fetch and carry for the older and more senior servants. By the age of seventeen, however, I had risen to the post of second footman to His Lordship, and soon after, received promotion to first footman at Larkspur Hall. On the death of my butler in sixty-five, His Lordship asked me to bypass the usual rank of under-butler and become his man. This I did willingly. On the death of His Lordship in eighteen seventy, I remained as butler for the eighteenth viscount, Mathias Riddington. On his sad passing two months ago, I retained my position.

Buttling for the current Lord Clearwater.

Until recently.

Oh? Have you retired from service?

No. I was retired from service by an ungrateful master.

(The answer is given with such a pointed stare I can feel his eyes prick the back of my own. I feel as though I am face to face with a wolf that has not eaten in days, and the slightest move on my part will give it the excuse to attack.)

I expect you have seen some great events at Larkspur Hall. Do you have a favourite time?

Butlers do not have favourites of anything, Sir. It is our job to uphold the nobleness of the household, to ensure work is carried out in a timely and quiet fashion. To ensure no speck blemishes the silver that adorns the impeccably clean crockery, and that the table is as much a credit to the Mistress as it is to her staff. Yes, there were many balls and dinners, hunting parties and Friday-to-Mondays at Larkspur Hall, and each one, to me, was a joy to serve. The joy, you see, comes from doing the job, being the best, and not letting the Master down on any front.

setting the table with the Butler stick – precision is key

You must have met many important people.

I was once addressed by the Tzar of Russia, Alexander the Third, the Peacemaker, as his country called him. Our current Prime Minister once commented on my choice of wine during a dinner; the Marquis of Salisbury was a great friend of the family, as was Disraeli. It would be crass of me to mention more, Sir, but yes, there have been many great events held at Larkspur Hall and at Clearwater House. Although smaller gatherings during the season, they were no less grand and deserved, and received the same immaculate attention.

Forgive me, Mr Tripp, I failed to ask about your family life. You came to service when young, but from where?

From my family home in North London.

And do you have brothers or sisters? Are you still in touch with them?

My family was a large but tragic one. My father was a naval man, my mother remained at home. My eldest sister died in infancy before I was born, and a second sister was dealt a similar hand. I was the first boy of five, and the only one to survive past infancy. Ours was not a well-off district, and cholera was a regular visitor. My father attempted to move us several times, but his shipman’s pay prevented it, and when he too died, there remained but my mother and myself. She put me into service, and then, through grief, passed away. I was left with no family that I knew of, working in a large house, learning a new way of life, and realising I was on my own.

Was it then that you decided you would aim for a butlership?

You ask such trite questions, Sir. (A flash of annoyance, and I’d swear his eyes glazed red for a second.) I answer them only out of duty. No. It was not then that I set my sights on being a butler. Such a desire creeps upon a man without him realising. It becomes ingrained in a servant that one must always strive to be better, and one accepts without thought that a natural progression is to be expected. Hall boy to footman and up through the ranks either in the same house, but more often, in another. Once a servant, there is nowhere to go but upwards or sideways. One would never step away from the progression to step down. It is beneath a footman, for example, to become a delivery boy, and beneath a hall boy to become a sweeper of the roads. A maid will only leave to become a wife. A housekeeper, like a butler, is married to the position. I no more decided one day to set my sights on a butlership as I set my sights on becoming destitute.

(Dare I ask the question? The man is speaking with passion, but I fear it is not passion for his job, but an angry fervour that has something to do with his earlier statement that he was Lord Clearwater’s butler, and no longer is.)

Your next question, Sir, or I will be about my business.

Apologies, I was wondering… What is your business these days?

(That, dear reader, is how to ask a question without asking it.)

I am, through no fault of my own, currently a man of my own means. On leaving… When I was unfairly dismissed from service, I was presented with a piece of irony. It is the way I describe the centrepiece Clearwater gave me as I left. It is ironic because it was the eighteenth viscount’s most treasured possession, second only to myself. I was his most treasured ornament, and in giving it to me, Clearwater threw the greatest insult. Why? Because, for me to live, I had no choice but to sell it. To sell my only reminder of my former life, my glory, a state to which, I have vowed, I will one day return. The centrepiece shall be the cause of Clearwater’s undoing. His repayment for his treatment of me, for with its sale, I have secured finance enough to see my vow to fruition, no matter what it takes.

(I fear my subject has stepped from one path to another, and I have ceased to exist. The threat of his stare is now aimed at nowhere but inside his mind, and I choose not to think on what he may be imagining. An observer’s job, however, is sometimes to probe, and I dare one last prompt.)

You have something on your mind, Mr Tripp. Is it your future?

It is, and it is a dark one. A lengthy tunnel at the end of which is a light, and only one thing can bring me to that light. As my way ahead ends in illumination, so Clearwater’s will end in a similar atonement. You see, our paths can only run parallel for a certain time. At some point they will merge and cross, and when they do, there will emerge from the embroilment only one path, either his or mine, for we two cannot both exist in this world. There can be life for only one of us.

(At this point, I detected some kind of madness within the man. A paling of the skin, a tightening of the mouth, or perhaps the glint of the eye which came with a twitch of the lips, as though a devious thought had occurred to both excite and concern him. That, and the chill shiver I suffered, told me I had probed far enough and for my own safety, it was time I retired.)

This interview was conducted not long after the events depicted in ‘Deviant Desire’ the first of the Clearwater Mysteries. If you want to begin an ongoing series that develops from the time of Jack the Ripper, through ten books and into the second series, the Larkspur Mysteries, then you can find all the novels in order on the series page: The Clearwater Mysteries.

Character Interview with Tadhg Byrne

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Tadhg Byrne, the main character from Beck Grey’s latest release, Embrace Me. Just like Joe Tanner, my MC from The Larkspur Mysteries, Tadhg is deaf. I am hoping that he will share how he feels about his deafness and how this language barrier may affect his relationships.

Before I put Tadhg in the spotlight I asked Beck for a little background info…


We first meet Tadhg Byrne on the day he leaves his abusive ex. He’s living and working in Los Angeles, where he went to college and studied architecture. He made a name for himself in the field and outwardly everything looked wonderful, but his ex was controlling and tried to cut him off from family and friends. Tadhg finally has the courage to leave and go back home to his family in Seattle.

The story really picks up when Tadhg starts his new job at an architectural firm in Seattle. We meet him again a few months after he’s back in Seattle, on his first day of work at his new job. He stops at a small café to get coffee and pastries for himself and his interpreter, Kaino. But Kaino is allergic to coconut oil, so Tadhg needs to ask about the ingredients in the food. However, he’s deaf, doesn’t have his phone, and no one working in the café knows ASL, American Sign Language.

As he’s struggling to communicate with the workers in the café, Quinn MacDougall interrupts to offer assistance. He knows some ASL and attempts to help facilitate communication. There is a strong attraction between Tadhg and Quinn, but neither attempts to get or give phone numbers for a future meet up. Luckily for them both, they find out that they now work for the same firm.

What is your full name?

Tadhg Donovan Byrne

Where and when were you born?

I was March 8th, 1986 in Seattle, Washington

What three words would others probably use to describe you?

Deaf with a capital D. Tenacious. Driven.

So that our readers can picture you better, what colour are your eyes?

Quinn would say they’re crystal blue, but I just say blue.

Do you have any physical traits that stand out such as scars, birthmarks or tattoos?

I’d say my most obvious physical trait that everyone notices is my deafness. I was born hearing, but when I was five I contracted meningitis and had a fever that was high enough and long enough to damage my auditory nerves. My mom, who is absolutely amazing, immediately enrolled us in a family ASL class at the local community college. She and I went twice a week for a few hours a session, and she hired a private tutor to come two other nights a week. She dove right in.

I do also have a tattoo of a Celtic dragon on my upper right arm. They symbolize wisdom and power.

It’s a reminder that I’m smart and strong enough to do what needs to be done, but it’s also what I should strive for. It’s both a reminder and a manifestation.

Do you mind telling us a little about how it is to be deaf/non speaking. Do you see it as a disability?

It’s my life. I don’t know any other way to be. I don’t remember much about when I could hear. I was born hearing, but when I was five, I contracted meningitis and had a fever that was high enough and long enough to damage my auditory nerves.
And no, it’s not a disability. Hearing is just something I can’t do. Like some people can’t roll their tongue, or other people are colorblind and can’t see certain colors.

A more sensitive question maybe, but have you been bullied because of it?

I think everyone experienced some form of bullying at some point in their lives. But I had friends in kindergarten who stayed my friends after I became deaf. I wanted to stay in my mainstream school with my friends through sixth grade, but the school was smaller and I knew all the teachers and students. It got a lot harder in middle school, and that’s when I convinced my mom to send me to a Deaf School. It was amazing and really helped me learn about what it means to be Deaf and to reach my full potential as a person.

You have already mentioned your mother a couple of times, she sounds like a real rock in your life. Tell us a little more about her.

She is called Mia (nee Dennehy) Byrne. She’s 58 years old and was born in Galway, Ireland. My mom is a force of nature. She’s the strongest person I know and we’re very close. She studied to be a nurse before I was born, and after she married and then divorced my stepfather, Bryan McCarthy, she went back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner. Now she works in a cardiac care unit for a highly prestigious medical group in Seattle and is frequently after Blake, my stepbrother, to stop pushing himself so much. We get together and have movie nights or go to dinner frequently.

And how about the rest of your immediate family?

My father was James Byrne. If he’s still alive, he’s 69 years old. He was born in Limerick, Ireland, but moved to Galway as a young man, which is where he met my mom. My parents were married in Ireland and moved to the USA before I was born. They divorced when I was five after I lost my hearing due to a severe case of meningitis. My mom learned ASL with me, but my father refused. When they divorced, he moved back to Ireland and we haven’t had contact with him since.
Then came my stepfather, Bryan McCarthy. He was born in Tacoma, Washington. He was a very jovial, generous man, but he drank a lot and had a wandering eye. He and my mom met in the hospital when he was admitted for tests for liver issues. They started dating and got married when I was six, had several good years together, and then amicably divorced. She got a huge settlement out of it, kept the house, Bryan remarried, and I got to keep my brother Blake. I got the best part of that deal. While she was married to Bryan, I was lucky enough to have a stellar education, both in and out of the Deaf community, an amazing place to live, vacations and nice clothes and so many other things.
I also have a stepbrother: Blake McCarthy 46 years old, Born July 29, 1974, in Seattle,
Washington.

It sounds like your childhood was a bit up and down…

It was pretty normal until I was five and lost my hearing. Then things were pretty bad for a few years, financially and emotionally. Mom and I had a lot to deal with. But then my mom got remarried and things got a lot better. That’s when I gained a step-brother, who is still one of my very best friends.

So who has had the most influence on you and how did they become your role model?

Besides my mom, who is an incredible woman and the strongest person I know, I’d have to say my step-brother Blake. We’re incredibly close, even though there’s a twelve-year age gap between us. I met him when our parents got married. Blake was 18, and I was 6. We were 20 and 8 when they divorced. Blake stayed in touch with me and my mom, and saw us frequently. He is my biggest supporter, but also the first one to tell me when I’m out of line about something. He always has my back, no matter what. And I’ll always be there for him, too.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

First, I wanted to be a dinosaur, but then Blake told me that wasn’t a viable career path, so I decided that I’d sell ice cream. Oh, the dreams of a six-year-old. When I got older, I wanted to be an artist and quickly realized I loved drawing geometric shapes and things that followed set patterns. When I was at school, one of the dorms was being renovated and I got my first look at blueprints. I was about fourteen. One of the teachers saw my interest and helped facilitate conversations with the workers and the architect on the project. I was hooked ever since.
Now Architecture is my passion.

When did you have your first kiss, and who with?

I was sixteen, and it was with Jake Zemanski. He was in my class and I thought he was sweet and cute. We’d been dancing around each other for months because I wasn’t completely sure he was into me. Probably because he wasn’t sure either. As a gay, Deaf teen at a boarding school, there weren’t many other out guys and Jake was still trying to figure himself out. Was he bi? Was he gay? Did he just like me? I knew pretty early on that I was gay.
Anyway, we were in the rec room playing foosball and everyone else was outside, or watching a movie or something. This was my first crush that wasn’t a celebrity, and I was in knots over him. At some point, we stopped pretending we were interested in foosball. He came over to my side of the table and stuck the ball in my goal and said he won. I asked him what the prize was, and he said a kiss.
Who was I to argue? It was actually really sweet, and soft, and pretty perfect if I’m honest. Not all awkward and too wet, like some ‌stories my friends have told me about their first kisses. I guess I got lucky.

Let’s chat about your relationships with others. Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?

No. I believe there are the right people for the place you are in life right then. And if they care, and if you are truly compatible, then you will grow together as people and in your relationship.
And that will make it last.

What do you look for in a potential lover?

Acceptance. Understanding. Empathy. Kindness. Someone with a loving heart who can express themselves but who can also communicate well.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Integrity.

How important is it to you that your partner is also deaf or at least can communicate in ASL?

Very. I am a Deaf man. It’s who I am, and I am unapologetic about that. People ask me if I’m sad I lost my hearing, or if I wish I could hear. My answer is absolutely no. I don’t want to hear. I don’t need to hear to have a full life. What am I missing because I can’t hear? Music? I love music and play it all the time. The sound of laughter? I don’t need to hear the actual sound to enjoy laughing, or the joy of seeing someone else laugh.
My partner needs to understand and embrace that. They need to want to and be able to be a part of that. My language is ASL, so my partner needs to know my language. I can’t learn to hear, so they have to learn to communicate with me in my language.
In any relationship, there is always compromise. Whose turn it is to do the dishes or whether you paint the living room beige or teal are typical couple compromises and are necessary for a stable, loving relationship. But you can’t compromise who you are, and who I am is a Deaf man.
The person I’m with needs to understand and accept that, just like I’ll have to understand and accept things about them, too.

What is your greatest regret so far, why?

Getting involved with my ex, Aston, and letting him control me, and isolate me from my friends and family for so long. He made me doubt myself, my ability to make decisions for myself. It was such an abusive relationship, and I didn’t see it until way after I should have. I’m still working on trusting my decisions, but every day I grow more confident. Quinn and Blake have a lot to do with that. Their faith in me gives me faith in myself.

What is your biggest secret?

I don’t really have secrets. Not anymore. My abusive relationship with Aston was a secret for years. I was so ashamed that I let it happen that I couldn’t tell anyone or ask for help. My best friend Tyler and my step-brother Blake figured it out on their own and got me out of there.

Who is the most important person in your life, why?

I have four important people in my life, all for different reasons, but none more or less
important than any of the others. My mom, my step-brother Blake, my partner Quinn, and my best friend, Tyler. They’ve all been there for me when things were bleak, and I love them all fiercely.

Quinn, the man of my dreams

Do you like yourself?

I do. I like and love myself. And I’m learning to forgive myself for mistakes I’ve made. I’m a work in progress.

It sounds like you are in a positive place, so where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Married to Quinn, the man of my dreams, working at our own successful architectural firm.
Maybe having a dog and talking about adopting kids. Happy. That’s where I see myself in five years. Very happy.

And now a few fun questions, what is your favorite color?

Gray. I know! People say that’s boring, but I love the contrast against white, and it’s a pretty bold color in its way.

What is your most treasured possession?

My family, and my culture.

Do you like to read?

I love to read. I read a lot of different things, depending on my mood. I’ll read biographies of famous architects, or Deaf pioneers. I’ll read books about architecture. I’ll read classic science fiction.

My brother Blake is a publisher for Hibernian Press, Gary Atkinson’s publishing company. Gary is one of my favorite authors. I get all of his books from Blake. They’re very similar to Tom Clancy’s books, only with more emotion and better sex scenes.

What makes you laugh?

Quinn, because he’s always doing or saying something funny.

What do you have in your pocket?

My phone and my wallet.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Clothing. I love quality clothing. Quinn thinks I’m a clotheshorse, and I suppose I am. I can’t help it. I love the way quality clothing feels on, and how it makes me feel wearing it. Like I can take on anything and succeed.

And the final question I like to ask everyone, who would you like to invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Four people:


Frank Lloyd Wright, a world-famous architect, because his designs inspire me and I’d love to discuss his use of space and place and incorporating nature into his work.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, another famous architect. Along with Frank Lloyd Wright, he’s one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. I’d love to pick his brain.

Kitty O’Neil, “the fastest woman in the world”. She was a stunt woman and a race driver, setting 22 different speed records on land and water in her lifetime. Oh, and she happened to also be deaf.

Vinton Gray Cerf, who is a huge advocate for accessibility, was on the board of trustees for Gallaudet University, is an advocate for net neutrality, and is recognized as one of “the fathers of the Internet”. He’s also hard of hearing.

That sounds like a dynamic guest list!

Thank you so much Tadhg for taking the time to pop in and answer our readers’ questions. Thank you for being so honest and open with your answers, especially sharing how you have turned past challenges into a positive outlook for the future, great inspiration for us all. I wish you all the luck in the world with your new romance, Quinn is very lucky to have found you!

Blurb

Tadhg: After a nasty breakup with my manipulative ex, I returned home to Seattle to lick my wounds. I’m done with relationships. From now on I’m focusing on my career.There are just a few issues with that.

1. It’s not that easy for a Deaf man to succeed in a Hearing world, even with the right degree and experience.

2. Quinn MacDougall. He’s my co-worker. He’s also incredibly talented, driven, and distractingly handsome.

3. He’s hearing. And that’s the biggest problem of all. How can someone who isn’t Deaf ever truly understand and accept me?

Embrace Me is a 95,000-word contemporary MM romance about language barriers, loving but demanding families, crappy bosses, and sexy guys in speedos. It contains no cheating, and a guaranteed Happily Ever After.

You can connect with Author Beck Grey here.

Guest Post with Ally Lester

Hi everyone! I’m Ally Lester and I write queer romance across the rainbow spectrum as A. L. Lester. Firstly, thank you so much for having me visit your blog today Jackson! I’m really delighted to be here and to get to chat with your readers.

I’ve come to talk about Warning! Deep Water my release that is coming out on Saturday 7th May. It’s part of a project with Holly Day, Nell Iris, K. L. Noone and Amy Spector. As regular readers of my blog will know, Ofelia Grand (who also writes as Holly), Nell Iris and I write together in the early mornings. This involves a fair amount of chat and discussion about what we’re working on. As Holly, Ofelia writes stories to mark all the different holidays throughout the year and one day in December we were teasing her about what she should write next. We joked that World Naked Gardening Day would be an excellent idea…and lo and behold, here are five of us writing on a similar theme.

Warning! Deep Water! is a 16,300 word novella set in England in 1948. When given half a chance I slip back in time, obviously. It’s set on a horticultural nursery in Somerset. Did I grow up on a horticultural nursery in Somerset? Yes, yes I did. Was this weird? Yeah, a bit—half way through I realised I was having trouble writing any scenes with sexing because the MC reminded me of my dad. Did I change that fairly rapidly? YES, DEAR READER. YES I DID.

Once I’d got over that little hiccup however, it was extremely fun to write. For my historical background I rang my mum. She and my dad met in the 1950s whilst they were working on a nursery that grew mostly chrysanthemums. During the second world war, the place had had to stop growing flowers and focus on growing food. They grew lettuce and tomatoes, mostly to supply the local army camp, and were only allowed to grow a small amount of flowers every year to keep the stock fresh. After the war, once food supplies weren’t such an issue, they expanded back in to flowers and by the time the nursery shut and was sold for building at the end of the 20th century, they were known all over the country for their different varieties—they were the people that other nurseries bought cuttings and rootstock from.

This was the place on which I based Roseland, as a sort of mash-up with my own memories. My family’s place was more diverse—they grew flowers and tomatoes, lettuce, beans and cucumbers; and had pick-your-own fruit as time went on. In later years, my Mama grew plants and sold them at local country markets. We had three big stoke-holes that I remember being converted from coal to oil as a child in the 1970s. Before that we had regular deliveries of coal to keep it going.

The big water tank where George finds Peter swimming is directly modelled on the irrigation tank in #1 greenhouse. It always fascinated me…the mossy sides and the stillness of the water. It’s pumped up from a bore-hole and is fresh and crystal clear. We weren’t allowed to go in the greenhouse by ourselves in case we fell in and drowned, and I can remember getting the bollocking of my life one day when there wasn’t much water in there and my sister and I slid a ladder over and climbed down inside to paddle.

It was an idyllic childhood—of course there were dangers, from water tanks, to piles of broken glass from the greenhouses, to sharp tools, machinery and weedkillers. But we pretty much ran wild when we wanted to. Roseland is an affectionate look back at that and I hope that comes across behind Peter and George’s story.

If you want to find out some more about me and my books, my website is allester.co.uk, where you can sign up to my newsletter for a free paranormal-historical novella; or you can find me on social media, mostly as @CogentHippo. For now though, here’s a bit more about the story, and an excerpt.

Warning! Deep Water

It’s 1947. George is going through the motions, sowing seeds and tending plants and harvesting crops. The nursery went on without him perfectly well during the war and he spends a lot of time during the working day hiding from people and working on his own. In the evening he prowls round the place looking for odd jobs to do.

It’s been a long, cold winter and Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever get properly warm or clean again. Finding a place with heated greenhouses and plenty of nooks and crannies to kip in while he’s recovering from nasty flu was an enormous stroke of luck. He’s been here a few days now. The weather is beginning to warm up and he’s just realised there’s a huge reservoir of water in one of the greenhouses they use to water the plants. He’s become obsessed with getting in and having an all-over wash.

What will George do when he finds a scraggy ex-soldier bathing in his reservoir? What will Peter do? Is it time for them to both stop running from the past and settle down?

A Naked Gardening Day short story of 16,300 words.

BUY JMS BOOKS $2.99 : WIDE BUY LINKS TBA

Excerpt

“You didn’t say you liked music,” Peter said, as they were sitting across the table from each other over a cup of tea, once he’d finally pulled himself away from the instrument and reverentially closed the keyboard.

“Well,” said Peter. “It didn’t come up, did it?” He paused. “Mother used to play a bit,” he said, eventually. “Not like that, though. Hymns, mostly. She was big on chapel.”

There was clearly a story there.

“It’s nice to hear it played,” George went on. “Instruments should be used, not just sat there as part of the furniture. And…,” he paused again and blushed, “And you play very well.”

“Well,” said Peter shuffling with embarrassment. “I learned as a nipper and just carried on with it. Dad wanted me to go and study somewhere, but I wanted to get out and earn. It would have taken the joy out of it if I’d had to pass exams and such.”

George nodded. “I can see that. And you’re good with your hands.” He blushed again and became very absorbed with mashing the tiny amount of butter left from the ration into his baked potato.

Peter coughed. “Well yes,” he said. He couldn’t help smiling a little at George, although he didn’t let him see. He forged on. He really didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. “I think mathematics and music sort of go together, you know? And I was always good with numbers as well…it’s a good trait in a joiner.”

George nodded, clearly feeling they were on less dangerous territory. “Yes,” he said. “There’s all sorts of things you can use maths for; but music is pretty rarefied, isn’t it?”

Peter nodded. “This way I get to keep the music and earn a living. There’s always work for a carpenter, like you said the other day.”

He gradually became less self-conscious about playing when George and Mrs Leland were in the house over the next few weeks. It made him feel like another piece of what made him a person was coming back to life.

****

What it didn’t do was make him any less confused about what was happening between him and George. Half the time he thought George was completely uninterested. But then something would happen that would make him reconsider. The comment about being good with his hands was a case in point. It was a perfectly commonplace thing to say and George shouldn’t have been embarrassed. But he had been. Which meant he’d thought of it in a context that might cause embarrassment.

Peter spent several very enjoyable hours spread over several evenings working through different variations of what the other man might have been thinking.

George was nobody’s Bogart. But he was decent-looking. Nice face, especially when he smiled. A bit soft round the middle, but otherwise hard muscled from the physical work he did day in, day out. Clever…did his own accounts. Liked music. Made Peter laugh with his dry commentary on things in the paper or local gossip and the social pickles the girls reported on in the break room.

Peter liked him a lot. And fancied him. After the third night of considering at length how he could demonstrate how good with his hands he actually was, he gave up pretending. He fancied George a lot.

About A. L. Lester

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Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some hens and the duckettes. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

Facebook Group : Twitter : Newsletter (free story) : Website : Link-tree for everywhere else

Guest Post from M. A. Church

Today’s blog is going to take us far away from Larkspur Hall and my Victorian mystery writing. Please let me introduce M.A. Church who spends most of her author life amongst aliens on far away planets. Her current romance series are extremely popular and are described as “Awesome SciFi”. She is here to tell us a little more about how the series began and to share a couple of excerpts to tempt you into trying something new. Welcome!


Hey y’all! I’m M.A. Church. I’ve been doing this writing stuff now since 2010. I write mostly paranormal and scifi. I guess the books I’m best known for are The Harvest series, which qualified me for SFWA. This series of books is mpreg, but the actual birthing happens in book two, The Harvest: Journey’s End.

So, do aliens interest you?

What about spaceships?

How about a breeding program?

The Harvest: Taken is the first book in the Tah’Narian universe. It covers Dale’s journey through one of the scariest times in human history. It’s a story of forgiveness, righting wrongs, learning to trust, and finally, falling in love. Sounds interesting? Then I hope you’ll join Dale and the gang on a journey which will lead to the love of a lifetime.

The spin-off series, The Next Generation, follows the young from The Harvest series. I’m working on the last book in that series now. It’s finally Laken’s turn to find the love of his life.

These books will take you on a nonstop adventure through several worlds. Four couples are bound together by the cosmos, and each has a different path they must tread.

This is where it all began:

My name is Dale Michaels. A simple name, right? Nothing very memorable about it, that’s for sure. Or about me, either. I’m just a regular guy with average looks, a loving family who didn’t care I was gay, and good friends.

Just a guy.

Little did I know just how special I was to one Tah’Narian spaceship captain named Keyno Shou, or how he would change my life. *shakes head* Don’t think he swept me off my feet. He didn’t. What he did do was harvested under the agreed age limit, take me from my family, mutate my DNA so I could have kids, tell me I have a deadly disease, claim me as his mate, and destroy the life I knew.

I was not happy, to say the least. Pissed didn’t even cover what I felt. But what’s a guy to do on a spaceship orbiting Earth surrounded by a bunch of aliens with technology far more advanced than ours?

While I was still trying to figure out how to handle the attraction I had for Keyno, a bunch of men who were harvested revolted and tried to take over Keyno’s ship… and I got to see how deeply Keyno cared for me. I also met the person who staged the rebellion, the infamous gang leader, Colt 45.

This is the beginning of my story; a story that’s action-packed, emotionally tough, and truly is the love of a lifetime.

~Michael

The Harvest: Taken

Blurb

We are not alone.

In the year 2050 mankind’s never-ending quest for proof life exists in the universe is answered—in the form of massive space ships that appear without warning above the capitals of all major nations. The name of their planet is Tah’Nar—and is dying. The United States sets up a lottery system, and each young man between the ages of twenty-three and twenty-eight is assigned a number.

Once a year, for the next five years, numbers will be drawn and a new set of one thousand males will be collected. The media coined the expression ‘The Harvest’ for when the Tah’Narian’s collect these young men.

Captain Keyno Landium Shou is a Tah’Narian starship captain who has been granted the right to take a mate, any mate, he wants during the last harvest on Earth. Dale was seventeen when the aliens first appeared. His parents assumed he’d be safe since the final collection would be done before he turned twenty-three. He didn’t fall within the guidelines established, so they took for granted he had nothing to fear.

They were wrong.

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00O4E6Y7Q

Excerpt from The Harvest: Taken

It was in the year 2050 when humanity found out that it was, indeed, not alone in the universe.

They appeared without warning above the capitals of all major nations. The huge, menacing, and completely unresponsive space ships dominated the skies, sending the media into a complete tailspin. The governments of our world argued back and forth on what to do. But, in the end, they did nothing.

First contact came within hours of the sightings. The question of what these aliens wanted prompted emergency closed-door meetings by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Union of South American Nations, the African Union, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, and NATO. The media speculated endlessly. The talks with the aliens lasted for two days, while the world waited and watched. Early on the morning of the third day, news agencies released the details.

The name of their planet was Tah’Nar—and it was dying. Originally, the Tah’Narians were an intersexed warrior race. Chemical warfare had essentially rendered them sterile. Many scientists, from all over the world, eagerly volunteered their assistance to aid the alien race.

After about a week of this, a press release from our government stated that the two strands of DNA were too fragile to be frozen and transported through space. The release claimed that the nucleobases—the four molecules that form the genetic building blocks of DNA—would be damaged and might even disintegrate once the alien starships jumped to star drive, the method used to travel through time and space so quickly. Simply put, it was easier to protect people than extracted DNA.

Each government reached agreements—and boy, didn’t that take a while—that these men would return to Earth once the program was completed. Here in the United States a lottery system was set up. Our government assigned a number to young men between the ages of twenty-three and twenty-eight. Then once a year, for the next five years, the lotto took place.

The benefits to our own world hovered foremost in the mind of every government official present at the meeting. The Tah’Narians required DNA for their harvesting program. Participating males were required to transport to their world since Earthlings couldn’t duplicate their technology. This, of course, triggered all sorts of questions. Why couldn’t this technically advanced race build what they needed to extract the DNA? The story had more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

Those unfortunate men were collected and escorted to holding centers where a battery of medical and psychological tests was run on the subjects. Once they passed the tests, transportation to waiting spaceships occurred. Other industrialized nations followed our example and set up their own lottery systems. Word soon leaked that our government targeted gay men, but officials vehemently denied the rumors.

The media coined the expression ‘The Harvest’ for the times when the Tah’Narians would return to collect these young men.

Added bonus! Excerpt from the last book in The Next Gen series, Bound by War (coming soon):

THE SCENT of food woke Torin. His mouth watered, and his stomach growled.

Opening his eyes, he surveyed the room. Curtains now enclosed the medibed giving him some privacy. Machines beeped, reading his vitals. Nevertheless, none of that indicated how much time had passed. His muscles warmed as blood flow increased, and his stomach rumbled again, more loudly this time.

He heard a low chime of bells and the scent of the ocean washed over him.

“Well, I’d say you’re hungry. I can hear that all the way over here. Just a moment, and I’ll be right there.”

So the male hadn’t broken his word. Ridiculous how reassuring that was. Laken’s voice soothed him, and the sweet melody from the bells Laken wore in his hair had infiltrated Torin’s sleep.

Blishue didn’t depend on anyone, much less let their guard down, and that included around his own kind. But he’d slept soundly with a stranger next to him. That was troublesome. As were the annoying IVs. That he hadn’t ripped out them out was its own minor miracle. Being drugged left him vulnerable.

How many hits to the head had he taken?

He stretched, his joints popping. His mind was heavy and sluggish, but there was no pain. He eyed the IV. This was ludicrous. He couldn’t think straight. Maybe he should yank it out and—

“Ah, yeah, I wouldn’t do that if I was you.” Laken nudged the curtain open and ducked inside.

The sight of Laken hit Torin like a space shuttle. How had he not noticed the ice-blue gemstones that sparkled in the overhead lights? They winked from his ears, wrists, ankles, and nipples. The male had his nipples pierced.

His.

Nipples.

Pierced.

Here’s my deets:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/M.A.-Church/e/B007A8JA4C

Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/y5n3y2

M.A. Church’s Author Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/421945898329522

Blog: http://machurch00.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nomoretears00

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/machurch00

Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@machurch00?lang=en

The Harvest FB fan page: https://www.facebook.com/theharvest00

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/nomoretears00

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5141393.M_A_Church

Email: nomoretears00@hotmail.com

If you join my newsletter, you get the bonus short story from the The Harvest world–Chad’s story! https://storyoriginapp.com/giveaways/d6c37b98-9af1-11eb-826f-f774e9edc2fc

Guest Post from Merry Farmer

Today I am excited to welcome, fellow MM Author, Merry Farmer to the blog. Merry has just celebrated the latest release in her Slippery Slope Series set amongst the gay club scene of 1890’s New York.

So, whilst my Clearwater Crew were solving mysteries in London and Cornwall let’s sit back and learn a little about what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic. Welcome Merry!

The Gay Club Scene of New York…in the 1890s

I have to giggle a little. Before I had even published the first book in my new series, The Slippery Slope—A Touch of Romance—I had people raising an eyebrow at me, scoffing, and saying “The gay club scene of the 1890s????” Saying that as though there couldn’t possibly be any way that gay men were able to live their lives openly, let alone had a thriving club scene back then.

This makes me giddy, because it means I get to share some of that lost knowledge that historians of the mid-20th century so effectively (and regrettably) swept under the carpet. Because the fact of the matter is that there was a concerted effort on the part of historians in “the golden years” of the 20th century to brainwash everyone into thinking that gay men have always been in the closet, ashamed of themselves, and terrified of coming out, lest they be killed.

Guess what? The truth couldn’t be further from that. While it’s true that there were laws against sodomy (in England) and gay marriage was a century off, the acceptance of alternative lifestyles has waxed and waned throughout history. It’s hard for some people to believe, but prior to the 20th century, there were actually times when the LGBTQ community was left alone or, even, yes, allowed to thrive without too much interference.

For most people prior to the 20th century, a big part of this was because ALL stories of intimacy and anything that so much as hinted at sexual relationships—even heterosexual intimacy and relationships—was something people just didn’t talk about openly. Period. And when there isn’t a microscope or social media coverage focused on you twenty-four/seven, people are able to get away with so much more than we in the era of instant communication can comprehend.

But when it came to the gay club scene of New York City—specifically The Bowery—in the 1890s, things were as open and publicized as could be.

The Bowery 1905

The Bowery was well known for being a center of “sin” within New York City. The clubs and brothels that filled downtown became so popular that new slang terms were invented by young people from uptown, from outside of the city, and even tourists coming from overseas, to describe it. “Going slumming” was so popular that guide books to the seedier clubs were produced so that visitors could get their fill. Clubs in The Bowery that featured drag queens (also a historically accurate term of the era) and male prostitutes were some of the favorite “dives” for people to visit.

The Bowery Queen. A drag performer circa 1890s
“The Bowery Queen.” Drag performer images circa 1890s
(https://www.boweryalliance.org/did-you-know-this-about-the-bowery/)

For the men who made the clubs of The Bowery their home—or their home away from home—however, these places provided a much-needed safe haven where they could be themselves, if only in the evenings and on the weekends. In his seminal work Gay New York, historian George Chauncey writes at length, using first-hand accounts collected and recorded from the 1920s through the 1960s by men who lived in this scene, about the lives gay men lived there.

The club scene of the 1890s and early part of the 20th century was a place where the rules weren’t just relaxed, they were thrown out the window. Though it was illegal to cross-dress in public in New York during this era, presentation of all sorts was accepted and encouraged in clubs like The Slide (the actual club I’ve modeled the club in my series on). Even though The Slide was raided by police and closed down in 1891, its patrons simply moved their activities to other clubs in The Bowery and resumed the wild good times that they had enjoyed there.

The clubs were more than just scenes of debauchery and excitement, though. They were places where men could be themselves, if only for a while. The very term “coming out” was coined as a result of the “debutante balls” that were held in clubs in New York—ones in The Bowery, but also clubs that catered specifically to men of color in locations like Harlem—where gay men presented themselves as their more feminine persona for the first time. These coming out balls were so popular that they were reported on in newspapers of the time, and they were considered highlight events for people of all levels and types of societies.

My hope in writing The Slippery Slope series is to capture some of this exciting time in LGBTQ History, and to shed light on the things that have been deliberately buried by biased historians. George Chauncey is just one of many historians working in this “new” area of study, and I’m certain that even more, fascinating information will come out in years to come that will further change our view of what life was like for gay men back then.


A Touch of Romance, released 15th April

Blurb

He crossed the ocean to escape from love…

Journalist Marcus Albright did not run away from his London home when he accepted an assignment in New York City. His interest in writing a series of articles about the popular club scene of The Bowery has nothing to do with the disastrous end of a long-term relationship, or his desire to stay as far away from love and commitment that he possibly can. His only concern is enjoying the vibrancy and color that The Slippery Slope is famous for.

…but love has other plans…

Jasper Werther loves his wild, flamboyant life, but the moment Marcus steps into The Slippery Slope, he knows he wants more. Particularly after spending a romantic night out on the town with Marcus as his drag persona, Blaise Rose. After waiting a lifetime for acceptance of everything he is, Jasper believes it’s finally within his grasp.

…until heartbreak strikes.

When a policeman with ambitions threatens to shut down The Slippery Slope, Jasper has a bigger problem than trying to woo a man who has sworn never to fall in love again. Everything within Marcus tells him not to get involved, but he is drawn back to Jasper, no matter how hard he fights it. Will Jasper and Marcus get a second chance at love, or will the pain of the past keep them apart?

Fall in love with romance, a high society ball, a wild, downtown party, a trip to Coney Island, a colorful cast of characters, and a last-minute confession that will keep you turning pages!

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Steam level – very spicy! And yes, this is an m/m romance involving friends to lovers, second chances, and fabulous drag queens, so if that’s not your thing, feel free to pass on this one.

You can keep up to date with Merry’s news at http://merryfarmer.net and she invites you to sign up for her quarterly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/RQ-KX

Coming Soon!


Character Interview with Frank Andino from The Larkspur Academy

Frank Andino was one of the first men to join the Larkspur Academy. In July 1890, when we first enter Academy House in ‘Guardians of the Poor’, Frank is already there. The narrator introduces him thus: the dark man who had sworn had a more familiar East End accent and was known for using swearwords in every other sentence.

Frank certainly uses colourful language, as you will see.

Frank Andino plays a major part in the 4th Larkspur Mystery (due out in April 2022), so I thought it was time we knew a little more about him. Just after New Year 1891, when he was twenty years old, I met him in the comfortable drawing room of Academy House and asked him a few probing questions.

Hello, Frank. Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell me your full name and if you have any nicknames?

Yeah, alright, if you must. Me name…? If you want the full whack, try putting your lips around Ozias Philimonas Andinopoulos.

I s’pose Frank’s me nickname, and I’ll tell you why. There ain’t too many Greeks in London, see, and we had the tailoring business. You put up a shop sign saying Tailoring by Athanasios Andinopoulos and Son, and not only won’t you get much trade, you’d run out of flippin’ paint. Athanasios is me dad, see. Calls himself Tony. Calls me Frank ’cos it’s more English. Easier to fit in when you’re an immigrant.

So, you weren’t born in London?

No, mate. Fucking Greek, ain’t I? Mind you, I was only born in Greece. Came to London when I was a moro—a baby—so that’s all I’ve ever known.

I can see you quite clearly, of course, but for our readers, can you describe your features so they can picture you?

Yeah, alright. About five feet seven, strong build, see. Stocky, they call it. But furry, dark skin, handsome as fuck. [He winks at me in a suggestive manner.] Black hair, bit curly. Dark brown eyes, a smile that melts a man’s heart… Usual kind of Greek looks. Classic Greek grower down there, too, if you know what I mean.

I didn’t, so I asked, and he treated me to a description of his private parts.

Want to see?

No, thank you. Let’s move on.

Tell me about your childhood.

Bloody marvellous, mate. Except it weren’t, of course. Me mum and dad, see, they came over in 1870. They was living in a small village on a small island, and there weren’t nothing going on apart from fishing and farming, and me dad had bigger aspirations than looking after goats and fucking sheep. I mean… just goats and sheep. So, he borrowed some money from the family, and just after I were born, got us a passage on a steamer. Came to London, found work easy enough ’cos he’s a talented tailor, and after a few years of that, set himself up with his own shop, Tony Andino, Tailors. Don’t need such a big shop sign, see.

Anyway, they had a decent income. I got the basic schooling but didn’t pay much attention to it, ’cos it were all words and shit, but I was really good with numbers. Most days, I’d help me dad behind the shop, picking up scraps, sweeping, he taught me how to stitch then line-out, use patterns, cut and stuff, so I ended up working in the shop with him instead of going to school. This were in Greychurch, not far from Shoreditch where there was a good tailoring trade, see? Me mum had fucked off by them. Some grimy French sailor, me dad said, but whatever. Me and dad worked the shop from when I were about ten up to last year.So, me childhood… Well, it were alright, I suppose. Work, mainly. Work and counting numbers, ’cos I’ve always been fascinated by numbers. Sewing. Did a lot of that. Didn’t have much mates ’cos the Greeks in London, see, well, there ain’t so many of us, but me dad did make me learn the fucking language, so at least I speak both now. Probably speak Greek better than I do bloody English.

Next?

Next, I’d like to get personal.

Bet you would, malaka. Nah, go on. What?

You are twenty now, and you are living in a house with other men… of a similar heart, we might say. Have you become friends with any of them? Or more than friends?

I’m everyone’s mate. Joe, the deaf bloke, he’s me mate. Then there’s Clem. I’m helping him set up a business ’cos that’s his talent, but he ain’t so good with accounts and shit, and that’s what I do. Dalston’s a good mate too, but as for more than friends? You mean sex and that, yeah? Being honest, no, not got anyone like that.

But you’d like to have someone?

Wouldn’t we all, malaka? Yeah, ’course I would. I mean, I won’t lie to you. When I first saw Dalston, I thought, ‘Fuck, he’s a handsome lad, wouldn’t mind having a go around that lanky body and see what he’s hiding in his slant pockets. You know, what’s he got behind his fly piece? I’d love to measure the inseam from the lower ankle to the crotch bottom and above, if you get me. But Dalston was already stitched up with Joe, so that was out. Since then… No, not got anyone special, but all me mates are special, and I’d do anything for them.

You’ve not had a first kiss yet then?

Fuck off, ’course I have. But I ain’t telling you about it.

Oh, alright then. I was sixteen, and he was a tar off the ships down Limehouse, and it only lasted, like, three seconds ’cos he was drunk and thought I was a Ratcliffe whore. Long story. Too much beer, not enough gas light.

And an accidental kiss is as far as you’ve gone?

Oh no, mate. I gone further than that. I had to when me dad got put inside. Had to make a living somehow. That’s how I ended up down the alleys of Greychurch with the other lads, putting it about for a sixpence so’s we could eat. Not saying it’s the best way of making a shilling ’cos it ain’t. It’s dirty, dangerous and a bit more than dodgy, what with the rozzers on one side and the creeps and crazies on the other. Still, when you’re young, got a fit frame, no shame and a fucking Greek grower… Well, Lord Sir Ponsonby Ponce will pay a good guinea for a good grinding. Only thing is, as the lads said, you got a be ready to be ground if you want to make a pound.

I see. And does that mean you don’t believe in true love, or finding a soul mate?

Why should it? It were a job, that renting lark, but it’s in me past now. I would say it were behind me, but that’s where it was a lot of the time, and having your face pressed against a slimy Greychurch wall ain’t the way to find true love. But I still believe in it.

One day, someone’s going to come along, and soon as I see him, I’ll know. It’ll feel right, like two halves of the same pattern coming together in one seam.

Here, look at this… [He takes out his pocket watch.] Don’t know how he knows what to write, but every man at the academy gets one of these from Fleet, see? We’re here for a couple of days, and one of these pops up, and everyone’s’ is different. He gets the backs engraved with something, and mine says, ‘Love is one soul in two bodies.’ Fleet said it were his version of something said by this bloke called Aristotle, but it’s what I believe, so there you go.

Who or what would you die for, or otherwise go to extremes for?

Me mates. Next?

Who do you look up to?

Dalston ’cos he’s six feet tall. Mr Andrej at the stables ’cos he’s six feet four. Nah, only joking. I’d say me dad, ’cos he took the rap for me and went to gaol when it were me what fiddled the tax, but apart from him, I have to say Fleet.

He’s the man who runs the Larkspur Academy, yes?’

He’s a fucking nutter, is what Fleet is, but yeah, he somehow runs this place. He ain’t a teacher, but he is a professor, or was. He ain’t a dad figure, though he’s always there with some bit of advice when you need it. He knows just about everything about anything, and he’s right smart.  Dresses like a clown, and has some weird habits, but he always knows the right thing to say at the right time, though he never tells you what to do.

And what is the greatest thing Fleet has taught you since you have been living at the academy?

Bloody hell… That’s a hard one. You don’t actually know Fleet is teaching you anything, see? Not at the time. But later, you realise he’s said something you took in, and he were dead right about it. Er… He teaches us words, how to get along… The main thing, though, I s’pose, is that he’s taught me it ain’t wrong to be loyal to your mates, ’cos in this world, if you ain’t got mates, what have you got?

I understand the academy is only a temporary arrangement. With that in mind, where do you see yourself in five years?

How the fuck do I know, malaka?

Yeah, you’re right, though. Some men have only stayed a couple of months here before Lord Clearwater’s organisation found them a decent job and place to live. Others, like me and Clem, we’ve been here eight months already, but there’s no pressure for you to move on or nothing. Right now, I’m helping Clem organise his business what he’s doing with His Lordship, and Fleet says I should put me mind to bookkeeping, but we’ll see. Me dad’s getting out of debtor’s prison soon-ish, and I’d like to bring him down here to Cornwall and set him up somewhere, so I might go back to tailoring, accounting, but probably not renting, though I don’t mind a bit of anonymous tickle-tail now and then.

What I’d like though, would be to have a safe place to be with me man, whoever that turns out to be. Don’t mind where, nor what I’m doing, being honest, as long as I got good mates to look after and a beau to be with. We’ll see, though. Like I always say, you take each day as it slaps you round the head, and fucking get on with it.

We are running out of time, so just two more questions. Tell me, Frank, just for fun, what do you have in your pocket right now?

You’re a nosey fucker, ain’t ya? Right now, I got me pocket watch in me waistcoat, an handkerchief in me jacket along with… Ten shillings and sixpence ha’penny, and a note to remind me to… Oh, shit. I forgot to do that. Never mind. And in me trousers, I got me classic Greek grower hanging at five but ready to go to seven. Next?

Finally, I understand there have been sightings of a ghost on the Larkspur estate. What is your take on that?

Bloody hell, malaka, why didn’t you ask me this before? This kind of thing’s right up me back jacksie ’cos me dad saw a ghost once. Yeah, I don’t know what’s been going on out there, but people are talking of seeing this weird thing late at night, and they’ve been hearing strange noises inside the Hall as well. Arthur… he’s one of the lads what works in the kitchens, but comes over here to deliver messages and shit… He says some of the maids are thinking of leaving ’cos they’re scared. You don’t need to be scared of ghosts, I say, you just got to believe in them. Arthur said, His Lordship and Mr Payne, his steward what runs the estate, they’s thinking of bringing in someone to hunt it, you know, like they do. Don’t know who, mind you, but if they don’t sort it out soon, he’s not going to have any staff left.

You’ve not seen it yet?

No, mate. But I hope to.

You think ghosts are real?

’Course I fucking do, and I tell you what, given half a chance, I’ll prove it.


The fourth book in The Larkspur Mystery series is due for release in April this year.

Ghostly sightings among the ruined abbey, things that are not what they seem, and perhaps love for Frank Andino. We shall have to wait and see.

The Larkspur Mysteries

2021 Review

Hello and Happy New Year!

To start 2022, I thought it would be fun to invite some of my author friends over to highlight some of our achievements and memories in 2021, and say what we are looking forward to in 2022.

Today, we have brief chats with Matt Converse, Fearne Hill, Glenn Quigly, Ally Lester and… who was the other? Oh yes. Me. Let me get the ball rolling by answering the same questions as I asked my friends.

An author, thinking on his birthday while in Croatia.

My 2021 highlight as a writer

For me, it was publishing ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’
This, the 11th book in the Clearwater Mystery series, not only ties up loose ends, and takes the reader on an epic journey, it rounds off the story of Andrej (Fecker), one of my favourite characters. If you start with the prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’, and read all 11 books in order, you’ll see Fecker’s journey in full. This is also the longest book at 150,000 words, is partly written in diary (letter) form, which is a form I love, contains a map, and takes us to places I have visited in Europe.

Did I reach an important milestone in my author career in 2021?

I finished the Clearwater Mysteries series…. Except I didn’t. I carried the world and characters, backstories on into the Larkspur Mysteries. I also wrote from the perspective of a deaf character for the first time. A challenge to write and sometimes to read, but, for me, a first.

My favourite memory of the year (non-author related)

Christmas Day with my logical family, watching my husband open a present that looked like a bookmark, but turned out to be a token for a PADI diving course he wants to take. Oh, and my godson passed his grade one piano.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

Plenty. My readers, everyone who leaves positive feedback and reviews, those who nominated me in 10 Goodreads Awards categories, my husband for looking after me and making me laugh every day, Jenine for her PA work and feeding us, my proofreaders, Anne and Maryann, the guys at Other Worlds Ink for their layout services, and my characters for their inspiration.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Only to continue to entertain by writing the best stories I can, and presenting them professionally, making each one better, and exploring new ideas.

And now, I’ll hand you over to my author friends…

Matt ConverseHi Matt, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer.

  It was the release of my first m/m sci-fi thriller 99 Days. Previously my releases were all m/m romance, horror or thriller, so I was stepping outside of my box. The reviews and reception have been better than I even hoped. I am currently writing the sequel, 99 Days Later.

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

 Yes, I think crossing over into a different genre was a big achievement for me.

What is your favourite memory from this year?

Being able to see a few of my friends in person for the first time in a long time. It was great to just hang out and relax.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

Definitely, my Mom is my biggest supporter, but I give thanks to every single person who has read any of my books. I appreciate it.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Just to keep writing and doing what I love. I will reach further out of my comfort box with my first non-LGBTQ release on February 5th with The Four Corners of Horror, an anthology of short stories.

Leather Head Unmasked

Published October 28, 2021

#mm #horror #thriller #suspense

Gable needs a getaway with best friend Shawn, while Andrés and Tyler take a trip to the West Coast. Granger and his younger boyfriend Liam head to Palm Springs and stay at a gay resort known to be the wildest in town. Fate draws all of them together for a climactic weekend in Palm Springs. For some, it is the wild weekend they needed. For others, things turn so dark they wonder if they will get out alive.


Find Matt here:

Amazon profile: https://www.amazon.com/Matt-Converse/e/B00TKCCVWY/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MattConverse1 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matt.converse.39  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13495845.Matt_Converse 

Leather Head Unmasked universal link https://smarturl.it/Leatherhead-Unmasked 

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Fearne Hill

Welcome Fearne, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer.

The first book in my Rossingley series, To Hold A Hidden Pearl, was nominated in 5 categories of the Goodreads M/M Romance group awards and also received an Honourable Mention in the contemporary gay romance section of the Rainbow Awards

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

 Yes! I had four full-length romance novels published by an indie publishing company, with great feedback. And I’ve learnt an enormous amount about the whole writing process.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

My wonderful editor, Elizabetta, at NineStar Press for her patience, support and kindness.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Yes. I have two self -pub books coming out in March and June, and another later in the year.

 

To Melt A Frozen Heart (Rossingley #3.5)

Published 14th December 2021

#contemporary #holidaynovella #mmromance #olderMC’s #british

Our only regrets are the chances we didn’t take.
Bah, humbug.
Freddie Duchamps-Avery has only one desire this Christmas: to ask his beloved Reuben to
marry him. However, with his needy father moping around, finding the perfect, romantic
moment to propose is proving tricky.
The Rt Hon. Charles Duchamps-Avery is a successful politician, a hopeless father, and a miserable divorcé. Facing the prospect of Christmas alone in London, he accepts his son Freddie’s generous invitation to join the gang at Rossingley. Yet, being surrounded by happy
couples only serves to remind of his past mistakes and a looming, lonely old age.
If only a handsome, enigmatic stranger would appear and distract him….

Social media links:
https://www.facebook.com/fearne.hill.50/

Facebook Group: Fearne Hill’s House

https://www.instagram.com/fearnehill_author

https://twitter.com/FearneHill

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Glenn Quigley

Hello Glenn, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer

In March I released WE CRY THE SEA, the third book in my Moth and Moon series. I never thought I’d see the day when I had a trilogy on the shelves, so that really meant a lot to me.

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

I was a Rainbow Award runner-up in the category of Best Gay Book this year which was a huge surprise. It showed me that I must be doing something right!

What is your favourite memory from this year?

I got to walk around a lighthouse on Rathlin Island, which was great.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year

My partner Mark, as always, for his love and support. Also, my brilliant beta readers ­- Tony, Christian, and Alan.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

I have a new book and short story coming out next year. I would love to publish a collection of short stories so fingers crossed for that!

 

WE CRY THE SEA

Published 15 March 2021

#historicalfantasy #pirates #gay #bear #establishedcouple

After the explosive events of The Lion Lies Waiting, life has returned to normal for burly fisherman Robin Shipp. That is until the innkeeper of the ancient Moth & Moon approaches him with a surprising proposal, and an unexpected arrival brings some shocking news that sends Robin on a perilous journey alone.

While he’s away, his lover, Edwin, anxiously prepares for the birth of his first child with his friend, Iris. Her wife, Lady Eva, must travel to Blackrabbit Island for a showdown over the future of the family business. Meanwhile, Duncan nurses an injured man back to health but as the two grow close, the island’s new schoolmaster makes his amorous intentions clear.

Robin’s search for answers to the questions that have haunted his entire life will take him away from everyone he knows, across a dangerous ocean, and into the very heart of a floating pirate stronghold. Pushed to his limits, Robin’s one last chance at finding the truth will cost him more than he ever imagined.

Social media links
WEB            https://www.glennquigley.com

TWITTER    https://twitter.com/glennquigley

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/glennquigleyauthor

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Ally Lester

 

Nice to welcome you back Ally, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer

At the beginning of the year, I decided I’d write a trilogy with three months between each fifty thousand word book. I am nearly there! I’ve had to extend the deadline for the final one because of various #LifeThings that tripped me up, but I’m so pleased to be on track to achieving this!

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

Yes, I do. I’ve released four short stories, a novella and two books. That’s pretty good going! I feel like I have a bit more of a grip on what I’m doing these days…back when I began in 2017 I felt like I was flailing around only just keeping my head above water.

What is your favourite memory from this year? Non-author related

Oh! We took the kids to the Swannery at Abbotsbury on the South Coast of England in the summer. Littlest, who is a twelve-year-old wheelchair user with pretty complex issues, got to feed the swans. It was extremely cool. We also took my Mama, another wheelchair user. We sat in the sun and had a picnic and it was so simple and so lovely to spend time together as a family in the midst of all the pandemic stress.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year

A HUGE list! Mr AL, who is Team Amazon Ads, Nell Iris and Ofelia Grand who I often write with first thing in the morning, and Jude Lucens, Elin Gregory and Lillian Francis, the mods from Quiltbag Historicals, who all put up with me moaning about writing and life, and offer support!

Do you have an author goal for 2022? Or maybe an event planned that you are working towards?

I want to write more Celtic Myth short stories this year. And I’ve got a couple of stand-alone books in the works. I’m finding the trilogy thing quite stressful, so I’m giving myself a break from them this year.

 The Quid Pro Quo

Publish date: 20th November 2021

#Historical #Transgender #Gay #Mystery #Paranormal

Village nurse Walter Kennett is content with his makeshift found-family in tiny Bradfield. However one midsummer morning a body is found floating in the village duck pond, dead by magical means.

Detective Simon Frost arrives in Bradfield to investigate an inexplicable murder. The evidence seems to point to Lucille Hall-Bridges, who lives with doctor Sylvia Marks and nurse Walter Kennett at Courtfield House. Simon isn’t happy—he doesn’t believe Lucy is a murderer but he’s sure the three of them are hiding something. In the meantime, the draw he feels toward Walter takes him by surprise.

Walter is in a dilemma, concealing Sylvia and Lucy’s relationship and not knowing how much to tell Frost about the paranormal possibilities of the murder. He isn’t interested in going to bed with anyone—he’s got a complicated life and has to know someone really well before he falls between the sheets. He’s taken aback by his own attraction to Detective Frost and angry when Frost appears to twist the spark between them to something transactional in nature.

Will Walter be satisfied to stay on the periphery of Lucy and Sylvia’s love affair, a welcome friend but never quite included? Or is it time for him to strike out and embark on a relationship of his own?

Social media links:

Free story with my newsletter: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/v6xhdi5d19

Facebook group (monthly giveaways, irregular moaning about deadlines and life, a drop-in for other authors to pimp their books once a week): https://facebook.com/groups/LesterTowers

Website: https://allester.co.uk

Twitter (chatter): https://twitter.com/CogentHippo

Instagram: https://instagram.com/CogentHippo


Thank you, everyone, for your contributions and thank you for reading.
If you missed yesterday’s post, my 2021 in more detail, you can find it here. http://jacksonmarsh.com/a-year-as-an-indie-author-2021/

An Interview With Dalston Blaze

An Interview With Dalston Blaze

On this Saturday’s blog, I am interviewing Dalston Blaze, one of the characters from the new Larkspur Mystery series. Dalston appears in ‘Guardians of the Poor’, ‘Keepers of the Past’, and will be playing a major role in the third instalment, ‘Agents of the Truth.’


The year is 1890, the place, Larkspur Academy, Cornwall.

 Hello, Mr Blaze. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Maybe I can start with some basic questions. Could you tell me your full name and if you have a nickname?

Morning. Yeah, me full name’s Dalston Blaze, and that’s it.

That’s unusual.

It is. But it ain’t my real name. According to His Lordship, my real name is John Andrew Harmer. Least, that’s what I was registered as when I was born. When I was nine months old, me parents died in a fire. I was the only one rescued, but no-one knew who I was, ‘cos I was taken straight to the Hackney spike and left there as an unknown. They put me in the book as ‘The baby from the Dalston blaze’, and that stuck as my name. Dalston’s a place in Hackney, see? As for a nickname… I don’t really have one. Jimmy Wright sometimes calls me Blazey, ‘cos we went through a place with that name on a train once. Joe calls me [here, Dalston makes a sign] but that’s my sign name, so you don’t say it aloud.

What does it mean?

It’s rude.

I think we can handle a little rudeness. I assume it’s not meant in a bad way.

No, it ain’t. And if you must know, [the sign again] means a good f**k.

I see. Moving on… Maybe you can tell me more about your parents.

I never met them. Well, I suppose I did, but I don’t remember them, ‘cos I was only a few months old. Mr Wright and Mr Fairbairn are looking into my case, ‘cos my dad owned a business in Dalston. He brought things into the country from Greece and Italy, they told me. Stored it at the store under the house, and did his business from there, but I don’t know much about it. When it went up in smoke, it were all insured, and Mr Fairbairn’s trying to get me the insurance money, but it was nineteen years ago. That’s the only connection I have with my parents.

No other family?

Only Joe, and maybe some of the men I’ve met at the academy, but they ain’t real family. Just feel like it, if you know what I mean.

I do. Now, you said you were taken to the workhouse — the spike. I understand you grew up there. Did you ever feel like running away?

The Hackney Workhouse

Most days, yeah. Thing is, though, where d’you go, and how d’you live? People think the workhouse is a bad place, and it is. Least, it can be. I was lucky, ‘cos the matron, Mrs Lee, she couldn’t have kids see, so she treated me like her own until I was five or six, then I had to go and live in the general population on the infants’ ward. She still kept an eye on me from then on, until I was eighteen, really. She wouldn’t let me be homed out, or sent to the ships, ‘cos I reckon she still thought of me as her own. So, I didn’t try and run away, ‘cos she’d have got in trouble, and so would I. Boys got whipped for going over [the wall] and I didn’t need to. I had it easier than most.

So, what smells do you associate with your childhood?

Piss mainly. They have tubs in the wards, see. Wards are big bedrooms for twenty or more. Well, they’re rooms with beds in, and at my spike, we slept two in a bed, with one tub to piss in during the night. The rooms stank of that and farts, then when I went to the older infants’ ward, up to sixteen, it stank of tobacco smoke, piss and farts. The men’s ward, from sixteen, was the same but with sweat too. The rock shed smelt of dust, the oakum shed of tar and old, wet rope. I don’t remember no smells from the food, ‘cos it didn’t smell of nothing, but there was a funny smell in the chapel on Sundays.

Let’s move on to now. Where are you now, and who do you live with?

Merevale Hall. The inspiration for Academy House

Right now, I share a room with Joe at Academy House. That’s on Lord Clearwater’s estate in Cornwall and it’s dead posh. ‘Cos of that, and ‘cos of his kindness, we look after the place; all of us. We’re there with Clem, who’s a local lad with a genius for business, so Fleet says, and there’s Frank. He’s a Greek-born nutter from the East End what got done for fiddling tax when he was fifteen or something. He’s twenty now, mad about sex, loyal as fuck and fancies me. But he ain’t having me. Then there’s Fleet, the nutter-genius who… Well, no-one really knows what Fleet does. He knows everything, lets us be ourselves, and eats scrambled eggs and porridge in the same bowl.

The academy ain’t a school, you understand. It’s a place where men who are… different and have something to offer but don’t have the chance… they get to come there if Lord Clearwater finds them and thinks they’ll do well. It’s not an easy place to describe, except we’re very lucky, and we appreciate the chance we’ve been given.

Did you always love to draw? Do you think there is a deeper reason that you have communicated through pictures?

Dalston’s drawing of Joe Tanner.

I don’t know where the drawing comes from, to be honest. I got in trouble for drawing on walls when I were little, so I suppose I always had it in me. Mrs Lee encouraged it, and I were grateful for that, ‘cos there’s nothing else to do in the spike except school, work and get bored. Me and Joe, when we met… We was eleven… twelve… We used pictures to talk to each other ‘cos he’s deaf. And ‘cos of that, I got better, and he ain’t bad, and we also had signs, which is how we talk now, mainly, ‘cos the drawings got us into trouble. I don’t know what you mean about a deeper reason, though. I just like it, I’m good at it, and Lord Clearwater says I can make money from it, so that’s alright by me.

Let’s get personal. When did you have your first kiss, and who was it with?

I was seventeen. It was Joe. Ain’t kissed no-one else.

What have been the most important events of your life?

Not dying in a fire. Meeting Joe. Getting pulled from prison by Mr Hawkins and His Lordship. Coming to the academy.

I think I know the answer to this, but who is the most important person in your life?

Joe Tanner

This annoying deaf bloke called Joe Tanner. [He gives me a cheeky wink; Joe is clearly more to him than just a ‘deaf bloke.’] You know, Joe can be difficult. He gets frustrated ‘cos people can’t communicate with him much, and he goes off in huffs and stuff, folds his arms when he refuses to talk, ‘cos without his hands, he can’t speak, but you have to understand what it’s like for him. He ain’t heard nothing since he was born, so he doesn’t even know what words sound like. He says a few, and Fleet’s been training him, but he talks with his hands and his face, and it’s a face that melts me heart each time I see it. He’s what Frank calls a handsome fucker, and he’s right. Dead sexy, kind, funny, he’s got a naughty sense of humour, and talks about people right in front of their faces, ‘cos they don’t know the sign language. We have to watch that a bit now, ‘cos Fleet and the lads have learnt some, and Mr Wright. So, Joe’s my man and he always will be. Some get all fancy and call it love; I just call it Joe.

Do you trust anyone to protect you? Who and why?

Joe, ‘cos he’s a hero. Jimmy Wright ‘cos he’s clever and strong. Lord Clearwater, ‘cos he’s like that. Fleet too, and Clem and Frank. We’ve become mates, see, and good ones. Already got into a couple of scrapes together, and all come out if it like… well, like brothers a bit, I suppose. Whatever. I feel safe and protected at the academy, but I always felt safe with Mrs Lee at the spike when she was there. So, her as well.

What makes you laugh?

Joe when he’s being naughty. Fleet and his different coloured suits and strange hats. Er… Jimmy, ‘cos he’s so dry at times. And Frank, because he’s such a malaka. That’s his word for wanker. He gets his signs wrong when he’s trying to talk to Joe, bless, and that can be funny. We laugh a lot at the House, but we also fight a bit sometimes, ‘cos you do when you’re in a family, don’t you? Least, that’s what they tell me, ‘cos I’ve never had one ’til now.

I should let you go. I know Fleet has a rule about not being late for meals.

Yeah. It’s the only thing he insists on, ‘cos it’s a time we’re all together and can talk about stuff.

But before you go. One thing I like to ask everyone is what do you have in your pockets right now?

Blimey. Er… Handkerchief, couple of pencil stubs… What’s that? Fuck, I thought I’d lost that. In me jacket I got this sketch of Joe. I always carry that. Me wallet, ‘cos I got some money now… Three quid, six shillings and thruppence ha’penny. A watch Fleet gave me. Think that’s it.

Excellent. Well, thank you Mr Blaze. I’ll let you get on with whatever you are doing these days.

Right now, I’m working on a case with Jimmy Wright, and me and Joe and him, we’re off to London soon. I can’t tell you nothing about that, except, we got to be back by the end of the month ‘cos Lord Clearwater’s giving a massive costume party. The Queen’s grandson’s going to be there, so we got to be posh, and they’re going to show everyone the drawings I did of Larkspur Hall. I could make a lot of money from it, so it’s got to go without a hitch.


You can find out whether the masked ball goes according to plan when ‘Agents of the Truth’ is released in early 2022. Follow its progress through my Work In Progress blog every Wednesday. There will be no spoilers.

If you’ve not met Dalson Blaze, Joe and the others, then the place to start is Guardians of the Poor, the first Larkspur Mystery.

An interview with Mrs Norwood

Mrs Frances Sarah Norwood first appears in The Clearwater Mysteries in chapter four of book four, Fallen Splendour. She and her husband, Isaac, are Clearwater’s retainers and have come to take care of the house while Archer and his men go to Larkspur for Christmas.

The second stranger swept into the room, and for a reason he couldn’t place, James was relieved. Mrs Norwood, only slightly younger than her husband, bustled in the manner of Mrs Baker, and, like her husband, exuded confidence, not only with how she greeted James but how she took to her surroundings.

‘We have met before,’ she announced with a smile, studying his face as she gave a curtsy.

James’ confusion deepened, but he half-bowed to her before saying, ‘We have?’

‘I thought it must be you when His Lordship said you were South Riverside,’ she continued, passing by and heading towards the kitchen. ‘I’ll pop on a pan and warm a pot.’

Later in the series, Mrs Norwood divorces her husband because he has been unfaithful, and she gains the position of permanent housekeeper at Clearwater House. She is one of the few major female characters in the series and is still with us when we reach the first of The Larkspur Mysteries in 1890. By then, things have changed at both houses. James and Silas are working as private investigators based in London, while Thomas and Archer spend more time at Larkspur. Mrs Norwood lives at the London house with ‘her boys’, as she calls them and their new assistant, Duncan Fairbairn.

Dalston Blaze’s portrait of Mrs Norwood

Dalston Blaze, the talented young artist we meet in Guardians of the Poor drew Mrs Norwood as a gift for looking after him.


Today, sitting in the servants’ hall at Clearwater House with a pot of tea, I am asking the housekeeper a few questions.

Mrs Norwood, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. May I start by asking what exactly is expected of a housekeeper?

You may, and the answer is quite simple. I keep house. This involves looking after the day-to-day work of the female servants, balancing the household account books, meeting with the mistress to discuss meals, and ordering all supplies.

And is that what you do at Clearwater House?

No, not entirely. For a start, there is no mistress, so I deal directly with His Lordship when he is in town, otherwise, I run the house for the boys. I do the ordering and the cooking, except on Sunday mornings when they fend for themselves. When Lord Clearwater is here, he usually brings Mrs Roberts, his cook, and Mr Blackwood, my assistant. Together, Jasper and I clean the house and keep it tidy, while either Mr Nancarrow or Mr Holt act as the butler. It depends on who His Lordship has with him. He has a large and diverse staff, and we are all happy to do whatever is needed. But, most of the time these days, it is just me and the boys, and the house runs very much as a normal house would, except it is bigger.

How did you come to be Lord Clearwater’s housekeeper?

It came about thanks to Mr Payne, who was then His Lordship’s young butler. My ex-husband and I had been retainers under the previous viscount, and I have known His current Lordship since he was quite young. When the family was away, we would live downstairs at the house, partly to guard it, mainly to ensure it was kept running and clean. At this time, we lived in rented rooms not far away in South Riverside. My husband worked in publishing as an editor. I had a part-time position as a schoolmistress, and I also helped with Sunday school, which I still do.

After the business with Mr Norwood, when the divorce proceedings had begun, Mr Payne suggested it wouldn’t be proper for me to return to our lodgings, and thus, let me stay on at Clearwater House until things settled down. A little while later, he offered me the position of housekeeper, and His Lordship agreed because Mrs Baker was required at Larkspur, leaving the London House unkept. I have been running it ever since.

You and James Wright had met before you came to the house, is that correct?

Ah yes, little Jimmy Wright, the brightest boy in his class. I taught him when he was young, and he was a good student. A little dreamy at times, often suffered from bullying, I discovered later, poor thing, but good at his reading and writing. He used to be a chubby boy, a cherub with golden hair and near-invisible eyelashes. (She smiles fondly.) And now look at him. Gallivanting about the countryside, chasing down assassins and poisoners, rescuing young men from all manner of trouble… And now he wears a moustache. How they grow up.

A more traditional Victorian housekeeper

You assist with the detective agency, I understand?

I look after ‘those boys,’ certainly. If I didn’t run around after them, I hate to think what a mess they would be in. I know Jimmy… Mr Wright is now nearing thirty years, and Mr Hawkins is over twenty-one, but honestly… Newspapers left lying around, the dishes poorly washed, towels on the bathroom floor… I even found Mr Wright’s revolver left casually on the servants’ hall table one morning and was forced to tell him off. But, I love the work, of course, as I have grown to love them, for all their faults. As for the detecting work, I have been known to solve a clue or a riddle now and then. Sometimes, you see, only a women’s brain will do.

Yes, you have something of a reputation for being a New Woman, as the newspapers would have it. May I remind you of the time Silas first saw you driving His Lordship’s trap?

‘Mrs Norwood?’ He greeted her, unsure whether to shake her hand or hand over his luggage. ‘What are you doing driving the trap?’

‘Hello, Mr Hawkins,’ the retainer replied, reaching for his portmanteau. ‘We got your telegram late yesterday evening, but Mr Norwood has to be at the publishing house today, so I thought I would come to collect you.’

‘But, you’re a…’

She had taken his bag and swung it into the back of the trap before he finished stating the obvious.

‘Yes, I know,’ she said. ‘And a woman who sees no reason why a lady can’t drive. Why, if I wasn’t teaching most other days, I might even take up being a cabbie. It’s quite thrilling.

Ah yes, the driving. Well, I am not the first woman to drive, and I shan’t be the last. Thanks to changes in archaic laws, women can be more emancipated these days, and so they should be. Last year, I taught myself to type on a new typewriting machine, and I am currently studying Pitman’s shorthand. It’s not such a far leap from there to Morse code, and I am nearly fluent in that too. These are small things. I intend to see what I can do about getting women the vote, but I do have to be careful not to upset His Lordship. Having said that, he, too, is in favour of women being given the vote, and I mean all women, not just a chosen few.

The servants’ hall

Does that mean you find the housework less of a challenge, or perhaps, dare I ask it, too much like ‘women’s work’?

Good Lord, no! Running the house, cooking and cleaning for the boys is a joy. As you know, Mr Norwood awarded me no children, so I can’t but help see the young gentlemen as, well, nephews at least. Lord Clearwater insists on a family-like atmosphere at his properties, even among the staff, and I suppose someone has to be the mother to the man now his own has passed away. I mean, he sees Jimmy Wright like a brother, Mr Andrej too, and we know how he is with Mr Hawkins, so it’s only right that I care for the gentlemen, but that doesn’t prevent me from bettering myself with what you might call more unusual pursuits. Morse code, Pitman, driving, and so on.

You alluded there to Mr Hawkins and His Lordship, and I think you will know what I mean when I ask how you feel about their relationship.

And what exactly do you ask about it?

Oh, well, how you feel knowing… knowing what it is.

Sir, of course, I know what it is, how it is, and why it is. A housekeeper should know everything that happens in her house, and I do. However, I am discreet, and His Lordship’s personal business is none of yours. Would you like more tea?

[Mrs Norwood is very protective about all of her ‘boys’, Lord Clearwater included.]

Joseph Tanner of the Larkspur Academy

One last thing, Mrs Norwood. What do you think about Lord Clearwater’s new endeavour, the Larkspur Academy?

I am thrilled, of course. His Lordship is a philanthropist, and this latest venture is a wonderful idea. I don’t have much to do with it, being in London for most of the time, but some of the young men the academy seeks to help have visited here. In fact, most of them, including Professor Fleet, came from London and have spent a night or two here before travelling to Cornwall. Recently, Mr Blaze was a guest after being rescued, and it is he who made this wonderful portrait which now hangs on the wall there. His deaf friend, Mr Tanner, also stayed for a couple of nights. So, I do at least get to meet some of the talented and unusual men before they move down to Larkspur to better their lives and chances.

Understanding that he cannot help everyone, Lord Clearwater strives to better the lives of the underprivileged and those who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. To offer them—even if only a few—the chance to discover themselves, develop their hidden talents and make a life for themselves is a wonderful thing to do, and I look forward to visiting Larkspur and seeing the house for myself. I have been to the Hall, of course, I was there last Christmas, but I would like to see the academy in full swing. I have heard it is quite a unique place, a little like Clearwater House, and I look forward to the day it takes young women under its roof as well as young men.

Thank you for taking the time, Mrs Norwood. Would you have a quote for our readers? Something that sums up how you feel about the world under Queen Victoria and your part in it?

I do, actually, although it is by no great author or person of learning, but my own thought.

If a woman follows the crowd, she will see only what the crowd sees. A woman who walks alone, however, will find places no one has seen before.