Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I am back to blogging, and kicking off 2023 with an update on what I have been doing.

In the film, ‘Throw Momma from the Train’, Billy Crystal’s character says,

‘A writer writes. Always.’

Well, I say,

‘A writer not only writes but he also researches’,

and that is what I was doing during my Christmas and New Year break.

Athens – a Location for ‘The Larkspur Legacy’

In the next, and final, Larkspur Mystery, some of the characters find themselves in Athens, Greece, and I found myself there only last week. Neil and I went with our logical family, Jenine, and our youngest godson, Harry. (Our elder godson, at 19, opted to stay at home and spend his free time from college with some friends.)

Living on Symi, any journey must start with a ferry, and after walking down to the harbour in the early morning, we took the one-hour crossing to Rhodes. From there, it was a bus to the airport, a 40-minute flight to Athens, and a pre-booked taxi to the area of Thissio and our rented apartment. The next three-and-a-half days were filled with walking, eating, and seeing the sights/sites. Some of those we visited are pictured on the blog today, and one of them will feature in ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’ Even though it’s only for one or two chapters, Athens plays a part, but it is not Athens as we see it now, but as it was in 1991.

The Acropolis

One day on our trip, we took a guided walk around parts of the city with a knowledgeable guide, and I asked him what he knew about the city in 1891. From this, I gleaned some information I’d not found in my research, and he took us to the outside of the home of Heinrich Schliemann, the archaeologist who discovered the location of the ancient city of Troy*, among other things. I never knew he was in Athens in 1891, but sadly, he won’t feature in the book because it wouldn’t be relevant.

*[Wiki says: Schliemann was a German adventurer and con man who took sole credit for the discovery, even though he was digging at the site, called Hisarlik, at the behest of British archaeologist Frank Calvert.]

The Temple of Hephaestus

Among the places we visited were the Acropolis (of course), The Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Philopappos Hill, and the site of the original home of democracy, Pynx, the hill overlooking the Acropolis, and the first official meeting place of the Athenian democratic assembly (ekklesia). We also saw the car museum, ate food Indian, Chinese, Greek and Mexican, and, on our last day, visited the famous flea market.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Imagine the joy of wandering antique and second-hand book shops again as I used to years ago in London.

While doing so, I found two books that I have already ploughed through in my search for details of Athens in 1891; one about the Plaka area, and one about mapmakers and mapping of the Aegean. I could have spent the whole four days in these bookshops, but half an hour was all I could manage, otherwise, I’d have broken my bank.

The Tower of the Four Winds, Plaka.

And into 2023

Now, back home, I have taken up my morning walks again, and although they only cover two miles, they give me 40 minutes of alone time. This morning while walking, I unlocked the ‘How are they going to do that?’ part of ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ which has so far evaded me, and now have notes on how that climax is to go.

So, it’s, again, a Happy New Year from me, and not being one for resolutions, I am making no promises. However, for the first half of this year I intend to finish and release ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, bringing the saga to a close by, hopefully, the end of March. After that, I want to produce a Clearwater & Larkspur Companion to tie up any loose ends and give my readers something extra to accompany both series. The working title is currently: ‘Barbary Fleet and Other Matters; a Clearwater and Larkspur Companion.’

And a quick reminder if you would still like to vote for the Goodreads Awards the polls are still open for a couple more days. The links to the categories are at the bottom of this blog post, click here.

I’ll leave it there. There will be more about the work in progress, ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, on my Wednesday blog when I will update you on progress as my writing world gets back to ‘normal.’ Remember

Christmas Parties & Celebrations

Hello, everyone

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

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

Followed by…..

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

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

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

ddrrrrrrrrrrrrr……..

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


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

BEST COVER ART

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

BEST ESTABLISHED COUPLE

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

BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

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

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE M/M SERIES

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

Click the link to vote https://www.goodreads.com/…/258336-all-time-favorite-m…

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE MM ROMANCE

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

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE M/M AUTHOR

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

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

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/20149-m-m-romance

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

Thank you everyone!

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

Summer on Symi. August.

Having just released ‘Speaking in Silence’, I thought I would take a day off. Ha! As if. I can’t remember the last time I had a full day off. Because we live on a Greek island, people assume I spend my days sitting under olive trees jotting notes in a leather-bound notebook, watching the lazy world go by and popping down to the beach for a swim in the afternoons.

Not quite.

I’m not saying I’m a workaholic, but I am. If you’ve been following my Saturday blog, you will have read about my typical day. Up at 4.30am or a little later in the winter, cup of tea, and to the desk where I write up to 4,000 words per day for other people, because we have to pay the rent. I usually aim to get that done by around eight or nine, if I haven’t gone for a walk, which I sometimes do in the summer months.

A morning walk here on Symi is pretty inspirational

At some point during the morning, I can start on my own writing, and on days when I don’t have paid work in, I can get to my next chapter earlier. That’s on days when I don’t have to prepare a blog for my site like I am doing now.

My morning usually finishes around 11.00, certainly before midday, because by then I might have written 6,000 words or more, and my brain needs a rest. There then follows a two-hour lunch break, sometimes a doze, and I tend to go back to the desk to read through what I wrote in the morning. I’ll either finish at three and have a siesta, or carry on until around four when I might pop out for a drink and to rest my brain. Bedtime is often at nine, though the other day it was eight.

That’s my day and while it’s going on, other people are having a holiday because Symi is a holiday island during the summer. This year, we’re experiencing a milder August than we had last year when the temperature got up to 45 degrees or slightly over, and the days were humid. Currently, we’re averaging around 36 degrees in the shade in our courtyard, which is slightly lower than it was in July when we hit 42. That’s a far cry from the winter months when I spend the morning heating my office, typing with my gloves on and still don’t get the temperature past nine degrees.

Symi’s a popular place for sailboats in the summer, small yachts and massive gin palaces alike, and this summer is no exception. The last two years were quieter due to the pandemic, but this season has been busy from day one.

My PA, Jenine, housekeeps for a luxury villa in the harbour. This is a typical morning view from that terrace.

We have up to five day-trip boats per day come over from Rhodes bringing visitors for a few hours, and many regular visitors come to stay for two weeks or more; some come several times per year, and who can blame them?

We’re into festival season now and have already had the famous ‘Symi shrimp festival’ where the municipality gives out the island’s local delicacy (small shrimps that you eat shell and all) and where the band plays music, and people dress in traditional costume and dance. I try to avoid this festival because I once had a bad allergic reaction to these shrimps, and now can’t even stand the smell of them, but that’s me.

One of Neil’s photos of the Symi Shrimp Festival a few years back

There will be other festival events such as bands in the town and village squares, musicians in the church courtyards, possibly plays, art exhibitions and other cultural events too. The festival used to run for three months, but now it’s more like one month, and will take us to September.

This September, Neil and I will be celebrating living on the island for 20 years. We arrived on his birthday, and that is also celebrated on the same day, as is our marriage, which happened on his birthday too. We will also celebrate meeting 25 years ago around the same time, so early September is our own kind of festival season.

Before that, however, I must get back to the business of writing, and it is a business. Someone commented the other day, ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ referring to my output. My reply when people say this is, ‘It’s my full-time job’ and it is. Even when I am writing for other people, my mind is on the real work; mine. It’s there when I am walking in the morning, having a shower, meeting people for drinks—I’m terrible because I’m often not there—and when I am watching TV of an evening. That is the life of a writer. It’s a good job I’m not keen on swimming anymore, otherwise, I might be tempted to sit beneath a tree on the beach, contemplating life and taking the occasional dip. Too many stories, not enough time!

On which note, if you want to follow the progress of the next novel, check into the Wednesday Work in Progress blog, where I will update you about ‘Starting with Secrets’, the Larkspur Mysteries book six. I am already 30,000 words in…

Work In Progress 3.04

Speaking In Silence

On this train journey from London to Cornwall, which is how I am measuring my progress on Speaking In Silence, we have now reached Reading. That, in my writing world, represents chapter six, and about 20,000 words. The journey was running smoothly until we had engine trouble early last week at Slough.

For the previous few days, I’d been having trouble with my left eye; seeing things floating around in it that I couldn’t wash out. Thinking I should do something about this, I popped down to see our local doctor, who, after an examination, recommended I saw an ophthalmologist. We don’t have one of them here on the island, so, I called my health insurance people, and they agreed to arrange a consultation with one on Rhodes. The agent rang back me late on Tuesday evening to say I had an appointment for 10.15 the next day. Luckily, at this time of year, there is a daily boat leaving at 7.45, so I caught that on Wednesday and was in the ophthalmologist’s chair at the appointed time. After nearly two hours of all kinds of tests, and with my pupils fully dilated for the next six hours, she rang the optical centre down the road, and they told me to come straight on over.

During the time the drops were expanding my pupils to the size of a bushbaby’s eyes, I’d popped out to buy sunglasses to wear over my usual specs, and boy, did I need them as I fumbled my way up the road, across the crossing and down another road, blundering into the medical centre a few minutes later. Another quick consultation with a second specialist and I was in his operating chair within ten minutes of arriving. (You have to love Greece for its abundance of specialists who charge very reasonable rates.) The diagnosis was a tear on my retina, and that’s a tear as in rip, not a tear as in drip. Ten minutes and 150 laser shots later, I was done. Yes, it was painful; like someone sticking a needle in your eye followed by a punch inside your head, though not on every shot, so when you thought it was over and the shots weren’t hurting, you’d get another stab. Afterwards, the doc told me, ‘You can’t jog,’ to which I replied, ‘You’re right, I can’t,’ and I am not to lift weights or bend over or violently shake my head for a month, but I am, at least, repaired.

Anyhow, that kept me from working and caused another hiatus in my journey, but I re-joined the train last Thursday, and have been chugging along ever since.

If you’re wondering why the train references, it’s because the pivotal story point of Speaking In Silence happened on a train journey from Brighton to Croydon in 1891. I am basing my character’s story on a true event from that year, though setting the backstory in 1887 for convenience. The story isn’t all about trains, though they will come into it, it’s about friendship. For those readers hankering for another love story, you might have to hanker a little longer, as this next book will be about friend-love, rather than erotic love.

And on that note, I should sway my way up-carriage and find Edward, the character who is currently telling his friends what happened to him when he was 16, and why a visit to the Larkspur Academy by a group of prominent MPs should have given him cause to run away. I’ll check in with you at the next stop next Wednesday, when, eyes, lasers and bushbabies willing, I will have progressed the story further.

A newly commissioned drawing of one of my favourite characters, get to know him better here

An Author’s Desk

Having your own workspace with your author tools to hand is the best way to focus your mind on writing your book.

The other day, my research into Larkspur Four grew so much I needed to bring in the music stand.

What? I hear you ask.

My typing table/computer desk isn’t very wide, and I have no room to put my notebooks beside me, especially as the one I am using is rather large. Therefore, I used my music stand as a bookstand, and had my newly invented Clearwater family history directly to my left, so I could more easily refer to it. This made me think that a blog post about what is on an author’s desk might be fun and interesting.

I have uploaded some photos to illustrate the phenomenon of my author’s desk, and apologise for the slightly blurred quality. They were taken on my phone with no natural light because my shutters are closed against the strong winds, which have brought the temperature back down to six degrees. And this is in Greece.

I work at two desks. Firstly, there’s the one where I have my laptop on its stand and where I sit on a kneel-up stool.

This is an Ikea computer station, and I bought it because of the shelves. They mean I can have books and other bits and piece to hand. If you take a closer look at the photo above, you’ll see, across the top: a photo of my husband and I when we were (much) younger, an old brass vase, an old school handbell, and a silver candelabra. These oddments I keep there because they go with the old-fashioned feel I like in my study. On the walls in the photo are an old print of the county of Kent, where I am from, and a print of a painting by my mum. As I sit, directly to my right, I have…

A couple of shelves that house a print copy of The Vulgar Tongue, a dictionary of old English cant and slang, and it’s resting against a few notebooks. Along with a handy pack of tissues, I have a tin containing flash drives, and beneath, my address books and a place for random pencils, pieces of notepaper and so on. I don’t like a crowded workspace, and I like to see free space on shelves, because it means there’s room for more notebooks.

If I look up from the laptop, which is on a lean-to stand, I can see the magnetic boards where I sometimes pin notes, and where right now, I have a note of when my mother arrives for a holiday, a note about how to shortcut to an em dash, an en dash, and a hyphen (— and – and – respectively). On the other board, I have a certificate to remind me I’ve adopted a Galapagos penguin, but that’s another story. While, directly to my left, I have…

…an altogether more interesting couple of shelves and a ‘secret’ drop-down drawer full of things I’d forgotten I’d put there. The top shelf houses a set of cassette tapes (remember them?) from my youth, including one of me playing the piano at the age of 16/17 in 1979/1980. Sadly, on it I am even singing some of my own dreary songs. The tapes are beyond playable really, but I have put that one into digital format for prosperity. There are also recordings of my early cabaret acts and musicals that I wrote. They sit with a dope pipe (needed to listen to me singing at the age of 17, but never used, I just liked the colour), a glass I bought in Prague in 1991, and a little bear. That’s one of those random gifts from the husband, like the penguin. Beneath this I’ve got a handy grammar reference book, my glasses and a small bottle of complimentary good-knows-what from a posh hotel I kept because I liked the colour.

That’s my rather prosaic computer station. Meanwhile, over at my writing desk…

This used to be my father’s back in the 1970s. It’s a dark wood and inlaid with leather, has three deep drawers and brass fittings. I bought a captain’s chair to go with it, also in dark wood and leather, and these sit beneath an oil portrait of my uncle (off shot), and a tapestry my mother made of a house we used to live in. To the right is my hideous Ikea bookshelf (I’d rather it was oak, but… well, you know, money), where one whole shelf is now filled with my published novels, and there are so many books elsewhere, they are stacked in piles. On the desk, however, from left to right, I have…

A line of notebooks supported by a ‘book collection’ CD cabinet which holds some very old computer CDs, but would also be the perfect size for a secretive bottle of port. Each of the notebooks has a history as being either a present or something I liked, and they are either hardback or leather bound. They are my ‘special’ notebooks, like the two currently in use on the desk; my Clearwater bible and my larger Larkspur bible. I also have a pewter tankard engraved with one of my names, Tobias, an early 20th C reading lamp, half a coconut shell with a glittering, turquoise interior I bought on honeymoon in Croatia (because I liked the colour), an old-style table magnifying lamp, and, of course, more books.

In front of the notebook line is a brass compass in a small wooden case to remind me of Clearwater times, and that I am on charting my way towards writing my 40th novel, and a painted stone. Another gift from my husband. He commissioned this from a local artist when it was our stone anniversary, which was also noted as being our rose anniversary.

There. That may have filled a few moments of your coffee break. I put this up so you might have an insight into what I, as an author, have around me. Also in my writing space… My reference books are cluttering the bookcase, and I have a cabinet behind me full of more notebooks and covered in my current hobby; building horror figure models. Above this is an original map of the Great Western Railway from about 100 years ago, and a rough plan of Larkspur Hall. Like I said, keep your tools close to hand.

As you can see, I take my workspace seriously, yet try to make it a comfortable and meaningful place to work. Having your own workspace, peace, quiet and your tools to hand is the best way to focus your mind on writing your book. Not only do I have a routine of at least six hours of writing every day, I do it in the same place, with the same silence and atmosphere. That’s how I’ve managed to write and sell so many novels. It works for me, but everyone has their own way of doing things.

Check in on Wednesday’s work in progress blog to see how the new novel is coming and have a great weekend. J x

A Day Off. A Day Out.

I have some photos for you today.

Yesterday, Neil, Jenine, Harry and I went for a day out in Rhodes. For us here on Symi to go for a day out on Rhodes involves catching an early morning boat, a 70-minute ferry journey, and lots of walking. (Seven miles, 11,000 steps.) Between us, we took a few shots of the adventure, which included things unusual for us, like going into a supermarket and pushing a trolley as we don’t have them here, visiting the Asian food shop for Neil’s cooking supplies, and visiting the Palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights of Saint John of Rhodes. A bit of a mouthful. As it’s out of season right now, we had the palace to ourselves and spent a good hour admiring the mosaic floors and architecture, learning interesting info, and viewing original drawings of the mosaics which were from 2nd and 3rd centuries, and restored and moved from Kos by the Italians in the 1930s.

Jenine’s going to add a few images as well, but mine and Neil’s are first.

Symi, Greece, in Winter

Hello, and welcome to Saturday’s blog. This week, I thought I’d bring you up to date with what I am doing and what’s happening where I live.

Current work in progress.

If you saw Wednesday’s blog, you’ll know that ‘Agents of the Truth’ (Larkspur Mysteries book three) is just about ready to be proofed. The cover is done, and there will be a cover reveal next Saturday, so make sure you bookmark this site and be among the first to see it.

Writing on Symi in the Winter

Regular readers will know that I live and work on a small Greek island called Symi. When people think of living in such a place, they immediately assume we have sunshine and warm weather all year round. Well, let me put you straight on that! On Thursday morning, I crossed the porch from the side of the house we live in to the side we work in (I call it the workhouse), and entered my study. This is where I have my computer station in the corner, my writing desk against the wall, my research books and other bits and piece I collect, like my horror model figures. I have a carpet on the floor, and at this time of year, the shutters are closed, and I pull a heavy velvet curtain over the window. All the same, the temperature in the room was four degrees, and all I have to heat it with is a two-bar electric fire. After ten minutes at the computer, my fingers hurt, and I had to dig out the fingerless gloves to try and keep them warm.

The view from the house during good weather.

Yesterday, we had clouds and rain first thing in the morning, so it was slightly warmer in the houses, but still only around 10 degrees. There are times between December and March when you can stand in the sun to get warm, and possibly sunbathe, but as soon as you get into the shade, it feels freezing. We don’t have snow here (not often, I think the last decent fall of snow was in the 1980s), but if the wind is from the north, and the runoff from the overflow has been dripping, you can find icicles. I had them on the rosemary bush one winter. Our house faces north and is exposed to the north and west, so winter tends to be a chilly time for us.

The same view in bad weather.

Village Life

Life in a Greek village, in the winter, is a quiet affair. The other night, we invited a friend to go for a drink at the bar where Neil works in the summer (I will be doing it this year for one reason or another), and we made the proviso that if it was closed, we’d go next door. There are two bars in our village square, and one taverna, and they are usually open all year round. On Wednesday afternoon, when we arranged to meet our friend, our usual bar was closed, so was the one next door, and so was the third we tried which is usually open all day. The village was a ghost town. It was cold and rather desolate, so in the end, we decided to buy a bottle of wine and have a drink at home instead. At least it was marginally warmer because our usual place is a large room that’s pretty basic and not usually heated. But it is a change of scenery.

The peace and quiet of village life is an upside for me. In fact, I can think of few downsides. We have three or four ‘super markets’, as they advertise themselves, but don’t think aisles and shopping trollies. These are what most would call mini-markets, but they have everything we could need. More or less. The one we use most is not far from us, and you can often find eggs fresh from the owner’s farm along with the salted fish, barrels of olives and the usual imports. It’s the kind of shop you go to catch up on village news, learn some new and often naughty Greek words, have a laugh and a joke with the owner. In the winter as much as the summer, it’s a social place as well as a necessary one, though it does come with its quirks. In the Greek tradition, they keep their caged songbirds inside, hanging the cages above the deli counter. If it’s busy, you pop behind the counter to take your own halloumi from the fridge, and for some reason, the bottles of bubble bath are tucked in among the wines. That anomaly is made stranger by the fact that very few houses on the island have baths.

Village steps.

Years ago, we used to use another, smaller ‘super market’ because it was closer to our house. I went in one day to look for sage because I was roasting a chicken and wanted to make stuffing. There was none on the shelf, so I asked if there was any somewhere else. There wasn’t, but hold on a moment… The owner phoned her husband at the other end of the island, told him I wanted sage, and the call over, told me he was going to pick me some on his way home and would deliver it to the house later. Now, you don’t get that service at Tesco.

Village life can bring downsides which you have to treat with a smile or a laugh. If it’s raining hard, like it was the other week, it’s simply not safe to go out. We’re on a hillside, and there are no roads in most of the village, it’s all steps. The rainwater runs off the mountain above us and teams down through the narrow alleyways and turns the steps into rapids and small waterfalls. When it’s raining hard, it’s dangerous. End of story. There are certain facilities we don’t have up here. To go to an ATM, pharmacy, council office and other necessary evil, is a walk down 400 steps and, if you don’t drive, take a taxi or bus, 400 back up again. Gossip spreads like cholera, but on the upside, you’re never far from anyone. Some friends needed paracetamol the other day, but couldn’t go out, so I was able to pop some around to their place, drop off the rubbish at the collection point, feed the stray cats and be home within 10 minutes.

Some of my built models (it’s a nostalgia thing)

Most of all, for me, winter life is only a challenge because I know I should be out and about doing some walking and dropping several lockdown pounds, but it’s currently either too cold or too wet. With the shutters closed, there’s no view and no light, so you end up with no sense of time. In the spring and summer, I can see when it’s getting light, down tools and force myself out onto the hillside for a walk. At this time of year, I daren’t open the shutters because that would let in the rain and cold, and I live and work in a twilight world which consists of sitting at the desk or PC, and later, after my six to eight hours a day, sitting on the sofa. There are occasional breaks from this. Last week we went to play cards with Jenine, my PA, though the exercise gained in the 300-step climb to her house was negated by the snacks. One day a week, my godson comes to me for his piano and music lessons, which is always something to look forward to, and now and then, we pop out for a drink at the bar just for a change of view. Only, of course, if they’re open…

So, the winter on Symi continues, and for me, that means staying at home a lot, writing, watching TV, building models now and then, playing or teaching the piano, and on rare occasions, putting on the thermals and taking a walk up and down a hill. That’s how it’s going to be for another couple of months, and then, when spring kicks in, things will change. We’ll open the shutters, put away the heaters, and before we know it, everyone will be saying, ‘Isn’t it hot?’

Symi winter-scape

Meanwhile… I am about to start on the Larkspur Mysteries book four (untitled). I’m not sure of the story yet, but I have a main character in mind, and it might have something to do with the mysteries of maps. I’ll leave you with that thought, but don’t forget…

Agents of the Truth, cover reveal coming next Saturday. Be here, or be in the dark (like I am).

A Year as an Indie Author: 2021

A Year as an Indie Author: 2021

Happy New Year’s Eve! Tomorrow, I have another blog post for you, one where some of my author friends call in to give us their perspectives of 2021, so watch out for that. Today, I want to give you a roundup of what 2021 was like for me, and here it is…

This time last year, I started the New Year with a blog post: New Year, New Story. The opening paragraph read: Hello and welcome to 2021. It is January 1st as I write this. I have been up since 5.30, we had a power cut at 6.00, and just after the lights went off, the thunder started. It’s now 7.30, the power is on, the rain is hammering on the roof, and I couldn’t be happier.

Well, as I write this post, it’s December 31st 2021, I have again been up since 5.30 (ish), there has been no power cut, but we did have thunder overnight, and it’s been raining for four days. It’s currently 7.00, and I am still happy despite a tough year. Why? Read on to find out.

Winter to Spring
Negative Exposure. Released 25th February 2021

The cover that Facebook banned, lol!

As I entered 2021, I was 50,000 words into Clearwater Nine, ‘Something Exposure’. I had released ‘Banyak & Fecks’ on 1st December 2020, and that was selling a few copies. ‘Banyak & Fecks’ remains my personal favourite, the one I am most proud of, because I set out to show myself I could write a compelling story that had nothing to do with mystery, clues, chases, train crashes and all that thriller jazz, and I believe, I achieved that.

Negative Exposure (as it finally became) was a return to the classic Clearwater style and grew out of things that happened in the non-mystery prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ I felt that I was coming to the end of the Clearwater run, but didn’t want the series to end, and was looking for a way to extend it, modify it, but still keep my core characters who are so popular with readers. ‘The Larkspur Mysteries’ was forming in my imagination, but before that, the Clearwater series needed an end piece.

At home, in a lockdown, 2021 began quietly with online quiz groups, plenty of films on Netflix, wine, and my usual six hours a day writing schedule. Our Greek island, Symi, is a quiet place in the darker winter months, and always has been. There is not a lot open, and we stay home, with our outings being countryside and hill walks now and then, and dinners with our bestie and godchildren once or twice a week. This was not possible in lockdown (the walks were), but I continued to teach Harry the piano via video twice per week. How on earth teachers manage whole days of teaching via video is beyond me; half an hour at a time was enough for me.

As restrictions lifted, so the winter turned to spring, and then to summer and the return of tourists. During all this time, I was writing the next and final Clearwater, and that was to turn out to be the longest novel in the series. (And the most fascinating the most epic and the one that brought several strains from Banyak & Fecks, and previous stories, back into one thread.)

Summer
The Clearwater Inheritance. Released 10th June 2021

My characters’ journey on the Orient Express in ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’

Summer, for me, consisted of freelance writing work, which, then, was still coming in, seeing friends at the bar where Neil works in the afternoon, and plotting the next series. With temperatures reaching the mid to high 40s for some time, it wasn’t always easy to concentrate on plots and characters, but I sweated onwards. In winter, the temperature in my office, my ‘workhouse’ as I call it, gets down to four or five degrees, and I work in fingerless gloves, three jumpers and a hat. In summer, I am virtually naked (eek!), the windows are open, and the fans are blasting. We jump between weather extremes in Greece.

The Clearwater Inheritance’, the only book in the series not to feature a person on the cover, came out in June. This publication included a map, and masses of research, a longer proofing and preparation time, and while all that was happening, I had already started on the first in the follow-on series, Guardians of the Poor.

Guardians of the Poor. Released 22nd August 2021

Joe Tanner as drawn by Dalston Blaze and inspired by Luke Adams

I have a folder in my system where I keep the ‘bottom drawer.’ This is a dumping ground for ideas, chapters and even halves of novels that started well but didn’t fly. One of these old files was a chapter, or rather, a study that’s the length of a chapter, and it concerned a quirky character being tricked into being rescued in Leather Lane market, London, in the late 1880s. While I was writing it, a name popped into my head, and I could not remove either the name or the character from my mind. Barbary Fleet was born.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I was sure the series shouldn’t start with the founding of the Larkspur Academy and the finding of Barbary Fleet to run it, it should start with the place already up and running. I would introduce a new character or two and the reader would follow his adventure into and through the academy, so we could discover it along with the character. This was handy because, at this point, I had little idea what this academy was. I knew it wasn’t a school or a college, but a place where (gay) young men could be rescued to. Therefore, the characters needed to be in a dire situation and needed to be saved from it by existing Clearwater characters, and then… Well, then I would see what the characters did, and we’d take it from there.

This is actually my husband, Neil, but the image inspired me to write Barbary Fleet.

And so, Guardians of the Poor starts with a man in the dock accused of a crime he didn’t commit, but telling everyone he did commit it because he wants to go to prison. Intriguing. Why? I thought, and the answer was because it was the only way to save his life. That, I reckoned, was an excellent start to a new series, and away I went…

Then I watched ‘The Amazing Race’ and was knocked sideways by deaf contestant Luke Adams, and my character of Joe Tanner was born.

Larkspur Academy came to life. I learnt some basic British Sign Language, tourists came and went, summer came and went, and as we settled into autumn, I was at work on Larkspur Two.

Autumn and the start of another winter.
Keepers of the Past. Released 4th November 2021

Standing stones, ritual murders and the pain of a new relationship seen through the eyes of Joe Tanner

Temperatures cooled, we have a wonderfully mild end of summer and start of autumn. The new series had started well with good sales of ‘Guardians’, and Neil and I still had some freelance writing work to provide us with spending money. Then…

Sadly, a job I’d had for 16 years, and one he’d had for two, ended because of the company changing management and deciding to do their writing work in-house. I had/have a couple of other clients who I continue to work with, but that’s never been ‘core cash,’ and even they are slowing down their workloads because of Covid.

So, as we entered winter, and now as we steam on into the new year, I am beavering at the keyboard to write my novels while also beavering to find more freelance writing work. I have set up a service on PeoplePerHour where I offer writing and editing services should anyone want help or mentoring with their writing.

Meanwhile, suddenly poor as church mice (thank heavens I organised myself a semi-decent private pension when I was young; it now covers most of our bills), I began work on the next Larkspur. I’ve been charting this in a Work In Progress blog which you can catch here every Wednesday, and we’re currently up to week nine, so, ‘Agents of the Truth’ has, so far, taken me nine weeks to write 110,000 of a first draft, and I am currently 60% through my first story edit. After that, I shall go through each chapter with my checklist:

What is the point of this chapter (and have I made it)?
Grammar
Spelling (as best as my word blindness allows)
Style improvement
Make it better or cut it out… And so on

While all this has been going on, I was thrilled to receive 10 nominations in the Goodreads MM Romance awards, pick up new followers to my Jackson Marsh Facebook page and to this blog, to sell more books, and, thanks to my PA, Jenine, have my best sales year ever. Let’s hope that continues into 2022, which, for me, will start like this:

New Year’s Eve 2021. Neil is cooking roast dinner for the logical family (Jenine and our two godsons), and we’re in for an evening of food, films and fun.

2022 will start with us all going to a large house overlooking the sea, cooking together and continuing the feasting rituals before wadding back up to 400 steps to home.

χρόνια πολλά!

And onwards… Into ‘Agents of the Truth’ and beyond. This, the third Larkspur, brings the development of my two main characters to a logical conclusion and sets me free to invent new plots and people for book four. What that will be is anyone’s guess, but that’s the best part about a new year’s beginnings. As I wrote this time last year, “there is a whole year ahead in which to achieve some wonderful things.”

May you achieve wonderful things of your own. I certainly intend to.

Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you for reading and your support, and here’s a χρόνια πολλά! to everyone.

Heading into Christmas on Symi

Heading into Christmas on Symi

This time next week it will be Christmas Day, so today, I thought I would bring you up to date on what’s been happening in my world, and what will be happening over the next couple of weeks. I doubt I shall be posting next Saturday, but I will bring you a Wednesday WIP next week, when, hopefully, I will announce I have completed the first draft of ‘Agents of the Truth’. It’s currently at 80,000 words, and I am about to launch into the crisis/climax and release all kinds of mayhem in the Clearwater world.

Meanwhile…

One of Neil’s stunning photos of Symi harbour taken the other day.

Christmas on Symi tends to be a quiet affair. Greek custom is to celebrate St Vasilis Day on January 1st, rather than Christmas Day, although the churches will be holding services. It’s on January 1st where families traditionally exchange gifts and gather together for a feast, but these days, more and more are also adopting the Westernised traditions of Christmas Day. For the last eighteen years, we have gone to our friend’s house for Christmas Day. If you follow me on Facebook, you might have already met Jenine who works now as my PA, well, she’s the friend in question, and she lives just up the lane from us. ‘Up the lane’ in Symi terms means she lives on the other side of the castle hill, up about 200 steps, and at the end of a winding path that leads through 19th-century ruins in the oldest part of the village. It’s a pleasant walk, but not when you’re carrying loads of presents, wine, games and other accoutrements, nor when it is raining, as it was last Christmas.

The main ‘road’ through our village.

On Christmas Eve, it’s become customary for Neil and I to call at her house and help prepare the next day’s lunch. (Gathering around the kitchen table, cooking, gossiping and laughing while preparing a feast is also traditionally Greek.) This usually involves me peeling vegetables, Neil and our oldest godson, Sam, making stuffing, Harry, our younger godson making pigs in blankets, and Jenine being the foreman, Mother Christmas. Wine is also involved. We spend the whole of Christmas Day with the god family, and they come to us on Boxing Day for leftovers, chill-out and films.

Before then, Neil has organised a charity Christmas concert at our local kafeneion (café/bar). This is to raise money for the orphanage on Rhodes. Someone else makes all the arrangements for this but is unable to do it this year, so Neil stepped in. I’m playing the piano (22 Christmas carols and songs) and there will be guitars, a flautist, a solo singer, and everyone else who wants to sing along.

Neil putting up our ancient tree.

We have put up our tree at last, and the village is decorated with strings of fairy lights and trees, while down in the harbour, there are other glamorous decorations. On Christmas Day, one of the local churches will plug in its outdoor speakers and blast out its old cassette tape of Greek family-favourite Christmas songs. The music hovers over the village like a celebratory fog for most of the morning, and woe betides anyone who thinks they will have a lie-in. Actually, the church bells usually start ringing at 4.00 am, which doesn’t bother us as Neil is always up by then and bounding around in his pyjamas, desperate to open presents.

Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Before any of that, however, I still have much work to do, not only wrapping the few gifts I was able to afford this year, but finishing the first draft of Larkspur 3, ‘Agents of the Truth’, and I’ve set myself Friday morning as the deadline for that. Check in on Wednesday to see how I’m doing, but if you can’t, I’ll wish you a merry Christmastime now, and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Jackson Marsh on Facebook

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A New Release

A New Release, a New Blog Day, a New Enterprise and a New Season. It’s all go in the house of Jackson Marsh.

Keepers of the Past: The Larkspur Mysteries Book Two

Yesterday, I uploaded the files for ‘Keepers of the Past’ to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. About two hours later, I received an email saying the Kindle version was live. I’ve never known it to be so fast. I also sent the files for the paperback version, but they always take longer to go through the process.

‘Keepers of the Past’ is available in several countries and here are the links for the main three.

USA
UK
Canada

Amazon also publishes them in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and India. I’ve never known why they aren’t available in other countries like Denmark, but it seems there’s nothing I can do about that.

Click the link, or go to your Amazon outlet and run a search, and you will find it. Alternatively, it will be on my Amazon author page any moment now.

A New Wednesday blog

Meanwhile, back at the desk… I have started a WIP blog. That’s a Work In Progress update and you’ll receive one here every Wednesday unless there’s some unforeseen circumstance. You can read the first of these posts here, or look at the recent posts list on the right of this page. That first post gives you all the details.

Fiverr

I’ve just signed up with Fiverr.com to try to raise some extra cash. I’m starting with MM romance outline appraisals and story development for new authors, in case you know anyone who might want advice. You can find my first gig here:

I have used both Fiverr and PeoplePerHour to find artists. Andjela, who designs my covers, came from PPH, and ‘Dazzling’, who creates the pencil sketches and drawings, came via Fiverr. Although I’ve experienced both sites as a buyer, this is the first time I am trying the service as a seller, and all I really have to sell is my expertise in creating stories. If anything comes from it, the money will be very useful because my copywriting work has taken something of a slump of late, through no fault of my own, I should add. One of my major clients, a large company in the USA, has restructured and put the work in-house, so I must hunt around for more, hence the Fiverr thing and maybe next week, I’ll apply to PPH as well. Tha doume, as they say in Greece, we will see.

On Symi

View from the balcony yesterday.

And talking of Greece… The summer season has come to an end here on Symi, but no-one’s told the weather. We’re still enjoying 20 degrees and clear skies, save for a blip the other day when we had some much-needed rain. It doesn’t rain much here between May and November, but we can expect storms, high winds, cold temperatures and everything else that comes with the winter season. Those days are tempered by good-weather days when you can sunbathe one minute, and put on your winter coat the next. So far, we’ve not had to use our heaters, though the duvet is back on the bed, and we’ve still got the windows open during the day.

Neil is still working at the bar in the afternoons and will be there until after the island’s famous Panormitis Festival, which is happening at the other end of the island this weekend. Pilgrims from around the world, but mainly Greece, come to visit. There are religious services, a market, feasting and dining. We’ve been several times over the 19 years we’ve lived here, and one year, we walked there (it’s 14 km, they say, but up and down zigzagging roads and hills), and boy were we glad of the bus home afterwards.

Also, with winter comes time to do those niggling odd jobs. Neil is currently working through his cornucopia of herbs and spices, Indian cookery books and equipment, giving the kitchen a makeover. When he finishes work, we intend to redecorate the inside of the house, and while all that’s going on, I have a list of things to work through. I’ve already painted the flat roof to weatherproof it, so we don’t get rain in the bathroom. That done, my next task is to fix the porch roof, change the waste pipes on the laundry sink, clear out the spare wardrobe, and maybe, one day… just maybe, we will sort out the mousandra. A mousandra is a sleeping area, traditionally above a kitchen for warmth. Our is like a spare room with a low, sloping ceiling above the bedroom, and it’s full of things that ‘might be useful one day’, and things we don’t know where else to put, plus items we don’t use, but you never know…

While all that is going on, I need to get into a new routine. I’ve been lazy of late, and I must get out early in the morning and do my three-mile walk. It’s not only for the exercise, but it’s also thinking time, plotting and planning as I slug one and a half miles uphill. The walk down is always a relief. So, my routine from next week, weather permitting, will be roughly: wake at 4.00 as I do, knock off the little copywriting work I have at the moment, go up the hill, come back and set to the next chapter of the next book. Lunch break always involves an episode of MasterChef or similar, and then, rather than a summer siesta, I’ll be back at the desk in the afternoon until it’s time for Netflix.

Now, it’s time for me to go and plough on with Larkspur Three. Don’t forget to check in on Wednesdays and Saturdays from now on, and remember to share Facebook posts, reviews and all that jazz, because every little helps.

Keepers of the Past, the Larkspur Mysteries, book three.