Starting with Secrets: Cover Reveal

I have sent ‘Starting with Secrets’ to be formatted, I have both covers, and we’re nearly ready to launch the sixth Larkspur Mystery upon you. To reward you for your patience, today we have the blurb and the cover reveal.

It feels as if it’s been a long journey to get this novel ready to add to the series, but in truth, it’s not taken any longer than any of the others. It has taken more research and there is a lot more detail, there are more clues than ever, and a wide cast of main players. ‘Secrets’ has probably taken up more pages in my notebook than any of the others too, and when you get deeper into the story you will realise why.

Now, I must start work proper on the last in the series, and if I thought ‘Secrets’ was a hard beast to tame, I am sure ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ is going to be even more in-depth, detailed, complicated and yet fun to get right. Work on that starts this afternoon. Meanwhile, here’s the blurb for ‘Secrets’ which should be available in a few days.

Starting with Secrets

The Larkspur Mysteries

Book Six

“The greatest reward often lies at the end of the stoniest path.”

Lady Dorothy Marshall, March 1891

When Lord Clearwater inherits a set of enigmatic clues and a compass, it becomes clear he has the means to uncover a momentous secret. He calls upon the men of the Larkspur Academy to help with the hunt, including the latest recruit, the bewildered ex-sailor, Bertie Tucker.

The academy men investigate follies, national monuments and ancient churches, using their diverse skills to unlock a series of random messages. The men must work together to find Clearwater’s secret and ‘treasure’, but relationships threaten the status quo. Edward Hyde has turned his affections from Henry and aimed them at Bertie Tucker, opening a rift which must be mended if the hunt is to succeed.

And when two of Clearwater’s adversaries conspire to beat him to the secret, what begins as an adventure becomes a game of cat and mouse that leads to a fight for survival.

Starting with Secrets is the sixth book in the Larkspur Mysteries series. With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story is the first part of a two-part adventure, and combines historical fact with fiction. As with all of Jackson Marsh’s mysteries, the novel contains humour, love and action, while offering the reader the chance to solve the clues with the cast of disparate, well-drawn characters.

Cover Reveal

Click the image to open the full front cover.

Starting with Secrets: First Look at the Blurb

I have almost finished Starting, by which I mean ‘Starting with Secrets’, the sixth Larkspur Mystery, is nearing completion. Neil is beta reading it as I write, and Andjela is working on the cover. Meanwhile, I am working on the author’s notes and the blurb ahead of sending it all to be proofread on the 28th.

Because I don’t yet have a cover, I’m including some photos that are relevant to the story to give you a taster of what’s coming.

These are not necessarily shots for the cover. We’ll do a cover reveal nearer the publication date, which should be around the middle of November. That gives you plenty of time to catch up on the rest of the series if you haven’t already started it. You can find all Larkspur Novels on the Amazon Larkspur Mystery series page, and the adventures, which follow the Clearwater Mysteries, begin with ‘Guardians of the Poor.’

What is Starting with Secrets about?

I’m not about to give away the plot, but if you want keywords, then this collection will do:

Mystery (of course), Treasure hunt, Misplaced affection, Twists, Revenge, Childhood memories, Drama, Adventure, History, Humour, Compass, Maps, Clues, and, as usual, Bromance.

The story continues a couple of months after Speaking in Silence.’ There is a new man at the Larkspur Academy, Bertie Trucker, and he’s feeling out of place. Up at Larkspur Hall, Archer, now the Earl of Clearwater, receives a message and a gift; a compass. This sets him and his crew off on an adventure — a treasure hunt of sorts, which can only be completed with the help of the friends and men he has gathered around him since the first Clearwater Mystery began in ‘Deviant Desire.’

This means everyone who has read either series can catch up with their favourite characters, because throughout this book and the next, all main characters from both series will have a role to play. Whether you’re a Fecker fan or a James junkie, an Archer admirer or a Dalston devotee, you will find your man (and woman, for those of us nuts about Mrs Norwood or loopy about Lucy) playing an active role in ‘Starting with Secrets’ and the follow-on book, ‘The Larkspur Legacy’—which I’ve not started writing yet, but will begin very soon.

You see, ‘Starting with Secrets’ is the start of a two-parter, and it starts with a secret, as you might have guessed. I suppose it’s a little Dan Brown-esque in its mixing of fact and fiction, and like one of his great adventure/fact/fiction novels, there is an evil villain keeping pace with and sometimes overtaking the heroes. There is more than one villain, actually, because where Archer has built a solid crew of loyal friends and experts, so the villain needs others to help him realise his evil aims.

Starting with Secrets Blurb

That’s more than enough advanced warning about the story. Here is the first draft of the blurb, the text that will go on the back of the book, and on its Amazon page and other publicity. Bear in mind this is only a draft, and the wording may change, although the story outline won’t.

Starting with Secrets

The Larkspur Mysteries

Book six

“The greatest reward lies at the end of the stoniest path.”

Lady Dorothy Marshall, March 1891

When Lord Clearwater inherits a set of enigmatic clues and a compass, it becomes clear he has the means to uncover a momentous secret. He calls upon the men of the Larkspur Academy to help with the hunt, including the latest recruit, the bewildered ex-sailor, Bertie Tucker.

The academy men investigate follies, national monuments and ancient churches, using their diverse skills to unlock a series of random messages. The men must work together to find Clearwater’s secret and ‘treasure’, but relationships threaten the status quo. Edward Hyde has turned his affections from Henry and aimed them at Bertie Tucker, opening a rift which must be mended if the hunt is to succeed.

And when two of Clearwater’s adversaries conspire to beat him to the secret, what begins as an adventure becomes a game of cat and mouse that leads to a fight for survival.

What Next?

Next come the beta reading, cover design, author’s notes, final blurb, proofreading, proof accepting, internal layout and finally, in about a month, publication.

So, that is where ‘Starting with Secrets’ is starting. The question is, where will it all end?

The Clearwater and Larkspur Character Illustrations

This week, I took delivery of the illustration that will go at the beginning of ‘Starting with Secrets.’ Since beginning the Larkspur Mysteries series, I have added an illustration at the start of each book because… Well, I’m not sure. When I published ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ I had someone draw me a map of Europe showing the route of the Orient Express, because I thought it would be fun for readers to follow the journey. Previously, I’d engaged an artist to draw some of my characters from photos and add some Victoriana, such as the correct costume. I was doing this for a book I am still considering, ‘The Clearwater Companion, and I’ll tell you about that another time.

What I thought I would do today is put up the collection so far: the collection of illustrations which have been drawn by an artist who lives in India and has a company called DazzlingDezigns. If you click on that link, you will see her page on Fiverr, which is where I was lucky enough to find her. I’ve not been able to commission every main character (and let’s face it, there are a lot of them!), but here, in no particular order, are those who have so far made it into the gallery. There are also a couple of other illustrations which have been used in the Larkspur books and for the cover of ‘Banyak & Fecks.’

You can find all my books on my Amazon page

The Clearwater Mysteries start here

The Larkspur Mysteries start here

I’ll be back on Wednesday with an exciting update about ‘Starting with Secrets.’

Work In Progress: 4.5

Starting With Secrets

This week’s update: I am at Chapter 28 and at 99,000 words with, I imagine, four major scenes left to go as we fall into the finale. A scene might be one chapter, or it might be two or three, so I reckon I am looking at around 130,000 words by the time draft one is finished. Remember, this is the first part of a much longer story, which will conclude in the following book. How I am going to make the second one as intriguing, complex and rewarding as this one remains to be seen, but I know I have a fair amount of research to do. How to sail a 19th-century sailing ship for one thing.

Work was briefly interrupted on Monday, and here’s why. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a rat living in the lean-to roof. I saw the evidence before I heard it, and wondered how we were going to get rid of it. They come in from the ruins and pieces of wasteland around our hillside village, and we’ve had one before that used to leave its droppings in the spare toilet, though it never learnt to flush. As the lean-to roof is inaccessible without pulling the whole thing apart, we bought some humane poison from the pet shop. I put down three tablets and left the other five in the bag on the counter. The next day, not only had all three gone but so had the bag.

Victorian rat catcher and his dog (Wikicommons)

The rat continued to occupy the roof and our minds, and the ‘treatment’ appeared not to be working (though it can take up to 10 days, they say). However, on Monday, I heard a yell/scream, and called from across the courtyard, ‘Rat?’ to which Neil replied, ‘Yes.’ Attending the scene, I found he had the thing pinned to the spokes of our godson’s bike, which we keep in the laundry room lean-to, and he was using his crutch to keep it in place. (Neil recently had a bout of transient osteoporosis, so he was using his crutch, not his crotch.) We devised a cunning plan. Wearing an oven glove, I lifted the intruder by the tail and dropped it into an old ice cream tub. Holding the lid down but not sealed, I took the thing up to our dustbin station and left it in a paladin with a bag of rubbish on top. The bin men empty these stations at least twice per day and a visit was due. Ratty would have made his escape when the trash was tipped into the back of the truck, if not there, then when it reached the landfill way up the mountain.

And now, with that story told, I can resume work on the next work in progress. Thinking about it, I might have to write in a rat catcher because that was a busy job back in Victorian times, and now I know what it feels like to be one.

Work In Progress: 4.4

Starting with Secrets

Here we are at 80,000 words of the next Larkspur Mystery, and I have characters all over the place. I have some in London chasing one clue, others on their way to Shropshire chasing another, and a third team about to set off to Kent. ‘Starting with Secrets’ is a treasure hunt at the end of which lies ‘A great treasure and a great secret’ according to the two women who set Archer, Lord Clearwater, the quest. From one clue grew four, hence we have three teams. The fourth clue has not yet been addressed.

I am nearing the beginning of the staggered climax of the story. I say staggered because there are three storylines to resolve, and the first has reached a dead end, leaving two more set pieces to write before the final climax and the resolve. Except, in this case, the resolution will have to wait for the book that comes next, ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’ You see, ‘Starting with Secrets’ is the first half of a longer story, and thus, its ending is the halfway point of the overall tale.

It will all make sense when you read both books, but when that will be is anyone’s guess. ‘Secrets’ is coming on well and is turning out to be one of those first drafts that writes itself. In the second and subsequent drafts, I will address and expand the emotional side of the story, because, at the moment, we are action-driven. I don’t mind that, but I don’t want it to be one of those Clive Cussler-style books where we leap from one action scene to the next with very little human relationship thread and emotional throughline that will engage the reader.

If you like solving clues, you’ll love ‘Secrets’ and, as usual, they are all based on facts. Obscure facts at times, but still…

And so, to chapter 23 in which I return to clue two and a journey from Hertfordshire to Shropshire to hunt down a clue that reads like this:

By now, I think, you should have found,
Numbers lead beneath the ground.
52.62
-2.31

Starting With Secrets

Speaking in Silence

The Larkspur Mysteries Book Five

I have the cover and the details uploaded, and should be finalising the internal files over the weekend. This means you should be able to find ‘Speaking in Silence’ any day now. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll no doubt receive a notification from Amazon and know the book is available before I do. Meanwhile, at the bottom of this post is the cover reveal. Click the image to open the full cover.

Who is it?

The problem with discussing any new release is that I don’t want to give away any spoilers or tell you what the story is because I don’t want to ruin the journey for you. However, you will meet the character while you’re reading the book, and all I will tell you is that he is our protagonist. Everything that happens does so because of him. Things also happen because of the antagonist who is after his own reward, but he’s slimy and horrible, so I didn’t want to put him on the front cover.

Speaking in Silence is a slightly unusual story for me in that it’s not exactly a mystery. It is, but the mystery is ‘How will they do that?’ and, later, ‘How did they do that?’ It’s one of only a few novels I have written with a classic drawing room denouement, as I discussed in a post the other week.

The fun thing for me was holding back what I and the characters knew, and not giving things away to you, the reader, too soon. I could have done that, and then there would have been one tension point at a particular place in the story, but that would have been it. This time, I decided to keep you wondering until after the event—the climax—and I hope it works.

‘Starting with Secrets’

With ‘Speaking in Silence’ written, I was able to turn my mind to the next book, ‘Starting with Secrets,’ and the one after that, ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’ What I am embarking on now is a two-part mystery that leads to what could be the end of the series. Having said that, I am sure the Clearwater world will live on after the Larkspur collection. I just haven’t decided how. Yet.

From Wednesday, on my work-in-progress blog, I will set the counter back to week one, though I have been working on ‘Secrets’ for the past several days already. I have been devising clues because the next novel is all about solving obscure clues while chasing down a secret ‘treasure’ that will secure the Clearwater future. (Again, I can’t say too much.) There will be a new character or two, and many of the established Clearwater and Larkspur characters will be involved.

Here’s an opportunity that’s just occurred to me—I’ll discuss it with Jenine when I can, but I’ll drop it in here now, so I don’t forget.

I was thinking I might ask readers and followers on my Facebook page to tell me who is their favourite character from either series. I can then make sure those characters appear in the next two books. There is such a cast now, that my spreadsheet of characters is bulging, and I am running out of names. (I realised the other day that I had an Archer and an Arthur, and when they appear in the same scene, I have to call Arthur a footman or Art, so readers don’t get confused between the two.) Keep an eye on my FB page and I’ll put up a post (if I remember) asking for suggestions.

Which characters would you like to appear in the next two instalments? Who’s your favourite? Perhaps then I’ll draw a random name and send off a signed copy of ‘Starting with Secrets’ when it’s out.

Speaking in Silence Cover Reveal

But I mustn’t get ahead of myself and forget that Speaking in Silence is out next week. Tune in to Wednesday’s WIP to start the adventure of writing the next novel, and before that, look out for the ‘Silence’ release.

Now you can click the image to see the full front cover open in a new window.

Work In Progress 3.11

Speaking in Silence

You may remember my to-do list last week looked like this:

  •     Finish the fine editing
  •     Reread for a final check
  •     Create the blurb
  •     Find images suitable to make a cover and open negotiations with Andjela
  •     Proofreading
  •     Layout
  •     Check everything and reread
  •     Upload to Amazon
  •     Hope for the best

I’m happy to tell you, I have completed the first four things on the list ✔✔✔✔, though I haven’t finalised the blurb yet. Neil has read my edited draft, and I have a little editing to do on the last chapter, which I will do in a moment. Andjela and I have the licence for a photo to be adapted for the front cover, and there will be a reveal of that nearer the release date, which is still estimated at the first week of August.

Check in next week for an update. Meanwhile, here’s the draft blurb.

Speaking in Silence

The Larkspur Mysteries Book Five

Jackson Marsh

“The quiet ones have the loudest voice. Them as say most by speaking in silence.”

Fiona Hawkins, 1881

March 1891. A parliamentary committee arrives at Larkspur Hall to assess Lord Clearwater’s suitability to become the Earl of Cornwall. Prince Albert Victor will announce their decision at a society dinner on Archer’s thirty-second birthday.

However, the MP with the authority to advance Archer to the title is the same man who caused Edward Hyde never to speak again. When the parliamentarians arrive to inspect the Larkspur Academy, Edward comes face to face with the man he had arrested for making unnatural advances. A man who was never tried for his crime.

Silas Hawkins and the academy men band together to ensure Edward sees justice done while protecting Lord Clearwater’s reputation and each other. Using their skills in chemistry, physics and deception, they embark on a game of secrets and subterfuge where the unspoken causes the loudest outcry.


Speaking in Silence is the fifth book in the Larkspur Mysteries series, and touches on themes of victimisation and suicide. Like all books in the series, it is inspired by actual events from the late 1800s. With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story is more of a ‘how dunnit?’ than a ‘who dunnit?’ and like all of Jackson’s mysteries, contains humour, while mixing fact with fiction.

Disability Pride Month: Joe Tanner

Disability Pride Month occurs in July “to listen to what the voices of disabled people have to say about their rights and what they need“.

The month was chosen to recognise that, the then President of the United States, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law on July 26, 1990. (Wiki)

As this month is Disability Pride Month, I thought I’d write a short piece about my “disabled” character, Joe Tanner. I put the disabled in “ ” because Joe wouldn’t have seen himself as disabled. He’s deaf and has been since birth, and yes, that’s a disability, but all the same, he wouldn’t (or doesn’t) consider himself disabled.

These days, it’s difficult to write about how Joe was treated because the language of that time is now considered offensive, but we shouldn’t take offence at history, because there’s nothing we can do to change it; it is how it was. Being deaf in the late 19th century wasn’t easy, and although there had been schools for the deaf since the 18th century, they were small, private and expensive. Also, sign language was outlawed in 1880 and was discouraged as taught communication for 100 years. When Joe Tanner was born in 1871, his parents didn’t know what to make of him. Although his father was a vicar, he had a very short fuse, and Joe’s early life wasn’t pleasant. Frustrated that their son couldn’t communicate, Joe’s parents left him at the Hackney Workhouse and buggered off to America. Joe was about seven at this time, and was immediately put on the ‘idiots ward.’

This is where you mustn’t take offence to the language.

According to the glossary on Peter Higginbotham’s marvellous site www.workhouses.org:

Idiots and Imbeciles were two commonly used categories of mental subnormality.

Definitions varied over the years, but in broad terms:

Idiots, the most deficient, were unable to protect themselves against basic physical dangers.

Imbeciles, a less severely deficient group, were unable to protect themselves against moral and mental dangers.

It’s also likely that many deaf people entering a workhouse would have ended up in the hospital wards or sent to an asylum. In Joe’s case, he should have been sent to a school, which probably would have done him no good anyway, but he was lucky. Not only did he have an understanding workhouse matron, but he also met Dalston Blaze.

Here are some extracts from the chapter in ‘Guardians of the Poor’ where Dalston meets Joe for the first time. Joe was seven, Dalston six, and Mrs Lee was the workhouse matron.

The matron demanded to know what was happening, and a grubber said the boy had refused to stay on the idiots’ ward, and they were trying to get him back there. Dalston knew of the idiots’ ward, and of the one on the floor above, which was for the imbeciles, but he wasn’t allowed up there. Even if he was, he wouldn’t have gone, the noises and screaming were too frightening.

As the matron tore the grubbers down a peg, Dalston crept closer and stood facing the boy. Without knowing why, he knew that what was happening was wrong. If a boy misbehaved, he missed a meal, everyone knew that, and perhaps, he thought, this lad has been naughty. It wasn’t uncommon for the schoolteacher to whack a boy’s arse for misbehaving, but if this lad had just suffered that, he wouldn’t have been able to sit.

Mrs Lee tried to talk to him, but he balled himself tighter, and in the end, she told the grubbers to go about their business, and leave the lad alone.

Dalston, intrigued by the boy, stays with him when the staff give up, and the two start to communicate. Their language begins with drawings and moves on to finger and hand signs. In the story, Dalston (who is hearing) and Joe do what many deaf people did; they invented their own language. Although British Sign Language (BSL), as we now call it, was abandoned in schools in 1880, many deaf people continued to use it in their own groups, homes and meeting places. That’s why there are now so many regional variations in BSL.

Dalston and Joe go on to appear in all of the Larkspur Mysteries either as main characters or supporting cast, so I have been able to explore Joe’s character more as the series goes on. I thought it was important that Joe didn’t end up as a ‘feel sorry for’ character; I didn’t want him to be the one being looked after or treated in any way differently to the other characters. He’s a gay, young man in Victorian times like all the others around him, except he can’t hear. He can communicate, but not everyone can return the communication, not with sign language at any rate. However, other characters are learning some of it, they can always write things down, and none of them treats Joe as inferior. He is, after all, an excellent and natural horseman, he drives the carriages, and he studies archaeology while solving old murder cases.

With Joe, I wanted to show a disabled character in the same way as I show my others. Therefore, he’s not always fun and happiness, he has flaws, he gets frustrated, and he has a temper. He and Dalston’s first year together out of the workhouse (aged 19 and 18 by then) was not always an easy one, and like any young couple, they had relationship problems – none of which were due to Joe’s deafness. Joe’s also got a naughty sense of humour, and uses his sign language to his advantage, talking about people without them knowing what he is saying.

Book five of the Larkspur series, ‘Speaking in Silence’ also concerns a young man with a disability, though it’s not a physical one. Because of something that happened in his past, Edward Hyde has chosen not to speak more than one or two words to anyone (apart from his one friend). It’s his way of withdrawing from the world because of an incident that left him contemplating suicide. So, his disability is, you might say, an emotional one, but it is one he can be ‘cured’ of. That’s what the book is about, getting Edward’s voice back – although emotional recovery from his trauma will continue long after the story has finished.

For both these characters, Joe Tanner and Edward Hyde, I wanted to present my differently-abled characters as positive, non-victims (although Edward was) and to make them as good/bad, nice/nasty, grateful/churlish as all the others. Hopefully, they both present positive images of deaf or emotionally scarred people, and we see them do heroic things that we all wish we had the courage to do.

However readers take them, what they do in the books makes me proud, and that’s my way of wrapping up this post about my ‘disabled’ characters for Disability Pride Month.

Speaking in Silence is due out at the beginning of August

The Larkspur Series begins with Guardians of the Poor’ and it’s Joe you see on the cover signing the word ‘deaf.’

Work In Progress 3.10

Speaking in Silence

We’re into week ten of the writing of this new Larkspur Mystery and I am pleased to tell you, I have only eight chapters left to edit before I can say I have a draft for my beta readers, Neil and Jenine. The MS is booked in for proofreading on the 20th of July, and I am still aiming for the end of July/start of August to have the finished novel ready for you.

My to-do list now looks like this:

  • Finish the fine editing
  • Reread for a final check
  • Create the blurb
  • Find images suitable to make a cover and open negotiations with Andjela
  • Proofreading
  • Layout
  • Check everything and reread
  • Upload to Amazon
  • Hope for the best

While all that is going on, you won’t be surprised to learn that I have started thinking about the next book. The next two books, actually, because I am planning a two-book finale to this series along the lines of ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’ I am teeming with ideas, and have already outlined various scenes in my head, but I must find a way to connect them. All I can tell you right now is that I am planning to incorporate many of the characters from both Clearwater and Larkspur, have three or four storylines running at once all leading to the same end, so all will be connected, take my characters to some wild and exciting places, and tie up many threads. Some of these threads were started in Deviant Desire, and before that, Banyak & Fecks, so I have lots of rereading and remembering to do (thankfully, I keep my ‘bible’ and notebooks). There is also a special ending to consider, and all being well, you’ll be able to read the second book of the two at or by Christmas.

Watch this space.

Thank goodness for my author notebooks and ‘bible’!

Doing Your Denouement

I have just written the denouement for ‘Speaking In Silence’, and it’s prompted me to talk about the subject and what I learnt from the process of writing the novel.

All my novels tie up at the end, but they don’t always come with a classic denouement. The closest I came was in ‘Unspeakable Acts’, the third Clearwater novel, where James Wright explains the villain’s motivation and method. ‘Speaking In Silence’ is slightly different to other mysteries I’ve written because it’s more of a ‘What are they doing?’ mystery for the reader, who won’t know what until the climax, and won’t know how until the last scene, the denouement.

What is a Denouement?

The word is borrowed from the French and originates in Latin, as this snippet from Etymonline tells us:

1752, from French dénouement “an untying” (of plot), from dénouer “untie” (Old French desnouer) from des- “un-, out” + nouer “to tie, knot,” from Latin nodus “a knot,” from PIE root *ned- “to bind, tie.”

[PIE = The roots of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language are basic parts of words that carry a lexical meaning, so-called morphemes.]

In other words, denouement means to untie a knot. In literary terms, it means the final part of a play, film, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved. Or, as the dictionary also states: the outcome of a situation, when something is decided or made clear.

In other-other words, it’s that bit at the end of an Agatha Christie when Poirot stands in the drawing room and tells the assembled characters who did it and how. Of course, the technique is used in all forms of literature and creative writing, and doesn’t have to pertain to a crime story. The denouement of Romeo and Juliet happens after the two main characters are dead, for example, even though we all saw how they died.

What to Consider When Writing a Denouement

The following is based on my experience. There are plenty of free writing-advice websites that will give their own views, but having just looked at a few, they are very similar to what I worked out for myself.

Keep notes as you write towards the end

First of all, as I wrote my way through the first draft of Speaking In Silence, I made a note every time a character was seen to do something with no explanation; every time I dropped in a question mark for the reader if you like. This was to make sure I didn’t leave any knots still tied at the end. I do this with every novel, and it’s a good way to avoid the trap of ‘I’ll remember that for sure’, only to say later, ‘What was it I had to remember?’

The notes also help me see if I have given too much away to the reader, and if I need to take out anything too obvious. Thinking about ‘Silence’, I’m worried the reader will catch on to what’s happening well before the end, and so the climax won’t be a surprise. (It doesn’t have to be. I’ve found readers are as happy to say, ‘I didn’t see that coming’ as they are to have proved themselves right.)

Don’t Witter on for too Long

Says he… My denouement happens in dialogue, and I’m not sure if that’s the done thing or not, but it’s what I have done. The chapter is currently 4,000 words long, but it’s not all explanation. Some of it is character thoughts, reactions and other story matters, and the explanation of how they did it comes from four characters, not one, so there is more than one voice, and more than one point of view. They are explaining themselves to Lord Clearwater, so we are in his head, and when I felt the others were being too detailed, I had him slow them down because I imagined that’s what the reader would also be thinking.

Beware Repeats

I was conscious of not repeating what the reader already knew. They would have seen X do this and that, and the idea of the denouement isn’t to go back and relive the action, it’s to explain the reason for the action. Yes, you have to place the explanation in context, but that can be done in a few words. Also, once something has been explained, there’s no need to repeat the explanation from another character’s point of view. In my scene, with four people untying the knots, I made sure they all contributed, but they only contributed something new or added a detail that cleared up another question mark.

Show Not Tell

That old chestnut again. Think about that Agatha Christie scene when Poirot has everyone in the drawing room, the dining car or wherever, and you’ll see he does a lot of talking. Now think film, and you’ll notice there are flashbacks showing the action. That’s one way of giving the explanation, but it’s a filmic one. The way to present a ‘show’ denouement is to write a scene where the action unknots the rope, rather than dialogue doing it for you. It’s not easy, and in my opinion, some stories require a dialogue explanation. If I had written the ‘how they did it’ into the action during the book, there would be no deepening mystery. If I had written the ‘how they did it’ into the climax, it would have cluttered up the pace. The only way I could make it work in ‘Silence’ was to have the four characters tell Clearwater — who knows what they have done — exactly how they did it.

Keep to the Rules

Although it’s right at the end of the book, my denouement still keeps to the rules of character arc and development, scene structure, location, description and pace. It’s not just one long dialogue of this-then-that. There is some character-created humour, we come away with the sense that a particular character has changed, and we know where we are (Clearwater’s drawing room with the footman coming and going). As well as all that, the scene ends with a great big question mark which will lead us into the next instalment. Not exactly a cliff-hanger because the reader knows the answer to the question, but the characters don’t.

Other Advice Answered

I pulled a few random tips of denouement writing off the internet. I’ve justified my ending against them.

Keep it short. Each part of my explanation is short, but there are a lot of things to explain, and that, I did on purpose.

The denouement validates the story. I always aim for this (see the end of ‘Fallen Splendour’ for my favourite story validation). The denouement validates what has changed for a character or a situation.

Convey a new normal. I have left the reader knowing a particular character will now be better off, and one will be worse off. That is their new normal.

Characters’ futures. Similar to the new normal; the conflicts have been resolved, and normalcy returns to the characters, although that normalcy might/should be changed. I’ve also put in a question mark, and the denouement is followed by a short epilogue which takes us towards the next story.

Epilogue Vs Denouement This is summarised very nicely at this page from masterclass.com:

Denouement is an essential conclusion to plotted conflict, while the epilogue is an optional afterward in which the author shows readers how characters have fared after the events chronicled in the work.

In ‘Speaking In Silence’, the epilogue concerns the villain and leads us into the next story. I now have a completed first draft and can set about rewriting the whole thing and improving it, all the while, aiming towards that all important denouement.

‘Speaking in Silence’ should be ready by July, and you can keep up to date with its progress on my weekly Wednesday WIP blog.