Meanwhile, on my Other Blog…

Hello! For the Saturday blog spot today, I thought I’d give you a quick catch-up on what’s going on over on my other blog. You might already know that I run two blogs. This one is for my Jackson Marsh antics, research discussions, book promotions, and writing, while my other one is about life here on a Greek island.

A lot has been happening here in the weeks since New Year. The weather has been mainly fine and the temperatures are in the mid-teens. It’s not always sunny in Greece, and it’s not always warm. I’ve known my office to take all morning to warm up to nine degrees, and we’ve had icicles on our rosemary bush before. There have been storms that have washed away parts of buildings, we rarely have snow, but we had that a couple of years back, and now and then we’ll get an earthquake.

Our main town and harbour, Yialos, yesterday.

Sometimes, there’s not a lot to talk about but I try and write something five days per week, leaving the weekends free so I can update this Jackson blog and have a day off from blogging. The most popular things on the Symi blog are the photos. I’ve put in a random selection here today. When there’s not much happening, as there isn’t in the winter months, the images tend to be of views, but they are pleasant enough. Right now, the greener parts of the island are in flower, and everything is starting to grow back. In the height of summer, everything will be dry and brown.

Recently, I’ve noticed a fair few travel enquiries on some Facebook pages, so the blog has been about where to stay on your way over to the island, what boats there should be for the summer, and now and then, I try and put up travel news, though I make it clear I’m not a news site. As I was in Rhodes recently, there are also posts about spending time over there (it’s our nearest bigger island), with some photos, and I put that up because travellers often have to spend time there before coming over here; it depends on the boats. I’ve also been blogging about day-to-day life at home, a friend’s birthday party we had here the other night, the models I am building with my godson, his piano lessons, my husband’s antics at the gym, walks and strolls, and anything else I can think of to a) publicise the island and b) publicise my books, as I have four books about moving to Greece and living here as we have done for the last 21 years.

View from the top of the 400 steps that connect Yialos to the village.

If you want to know more about where Jackson Marsh lives and what I see from my window every day, then click over to Symi Dream. There, you will see the list of books in the side column. These were put together a long time ago, so long ago that I’ve lost the original files so I can’t even pop back in and update them or their typos (they were released before I invested in a proofreader).

Now, I am heading into the final chapter of Delamere Three (Follow the Van). I have a long list of ‘things to tie up’ to check and make sure I do indeed tie them up, and then I have a final read-and-fix before sending it to be proofread. There will be more of an update on Wednesday’s blog, so tune in for that.

Click the cover to reach my James Collins author page on Amazon

Meanwhile, over on my other blog… Symi Dream

View from our balcony.

2024 Starts in 1892

Hello everyone. I hope you had a good holiday season and New Year and are back ready to give 2024 all the attention it deserves. I am. We’ve been away, as you probably know, so there’s not been much writing going on, but I am, today, getting back to it. I left ‘Follow the Van’ at 41,000 words, which is only a slight worry because it’s only about a quarter of the way in – but that means there will be lots of juicy bits to cut when I get to draft two. I’m back at the desk now and will be ploughing on and getting back to…

1892

One of the main reasons for us going away was to see the Greek National Opera’s production of Sondheim’s ‘Into The Woods’, my favourite of his musicals. This, we did before I got ill (I had to miss our trip to the National Ballet later in the week), and what a production it was. I have always been mesmerised by the way a simple stage, lights and humans can transform a space into a world and tell a story; like putting together a good book and making something special from nothing. A fabulous New Year’s Eve treat followed by a dinner with our godson and his mum with whom we were travelling, fireworks over the Acropolis viewed from our dinner table, and generally, a great time had by all.

It included trips to the barber, a music store, a model shop, a musical instrument museum, various restaurants, a shopping mall, a proper cinema, a bowling alley, and many other treats and fun times. You can read more about them on my other blog this week; click over to my personal life blog at www.symidream.com and you’ll see many more photos.

So, I am back to work, and the work-in-progress blog will be here every Wednesday while the other general chat and research blog will be here every Saturday. Normal service can now be resumed as we steam ahead into 1892 during 2024.

I know what I mean.

1892, Follow the Van, and an Update

Hi folks.

I usually do a work-in-progress update on a Wednesday, but today, I thought I would update you on the current WIPS and other matters. Let’s start but going back to the future, and 1892.

1892

This will be my next release. A set of short stories that currently has this draft blurb:

Five characters from the Clearwater, Larkspur and Delamere Mysteries find themselves taking the train to Cornwall for the 1892 Larkspur Hall Christmas Eve ball. To pass the time, they each tell a story from their past.

Sitting in their carriage is a stranger who listens to their stories of detection, mystery and prophesy, and recognises some of the people involved. As they near their destination, the stranger realises he is more involved with his fellow passengers than they know, but who is he? Where is he going, and why?

Here’s a snippet of the excellent cover as designed, as always, but the marvellous Andjela V.

You can just see the top of the head of the five characters, so you may be able to guess who appears in this collection if you don’t already know. There are two characters from Clearwater, two from Larkspur and one from Delamere, plus two other characters. One is the railway steward who caters for his passengers in the private-hire saloon, and the other is the mystery man who appears in one book attached to the Clearwater series and is mentioned a couple of times in others, but he’s from a long way back, so hopefully, you’ve forgotten about him and will get a nice surprise at the end of the book when his story becomes the sixth. Actually, his story is the whole journey, but… Well, you’ll see in time.

Follow the Van

Meanwhile, I am beavering away in the same year but on a different book, the Delamere Files Book Three, ‘Follow the Van.’ I’ve been doing some research into Victorian music halls and theatre for this one, and one day, I’ll do a blog post about that research. I’ve almost finished reading about the Gaiety Theatre (now gone), and am about to start on another which, although a novel, is written by a historian, and it’s about the music hall artist, Dan Leno (1860 to 1904), real name George Wild Galvin. That’ll be interesting background.

Symi, Greece

Meanwhile, here in the real world, we’re approaching the winter months, but so far, have been very lucky with the weather and temperature. The island is quieter now there are very few tourists about, and many businesses have closed for the winter, but enough remain open for us locals to carry on regardless. We’re now discussing bringing the duvet out of summer hibernation, and dusting off the heaters, though I’d rather keep them unplugged for as long as possible. Fuel costs and all that. (We don’t have central heating or gas, so everything is electric.)

View from the balcony on Thursday.

In a week or so, Neil’s off to visit his brother in Vienna, leaving me home alone with two books to work on plus my daily freelance work, and we’re both off to Athens for New Year with our best friend and our godsons. There will no doubt be more about that adventure when we get back, and in the meantime, if you’re interested to read more about where we are, and what we do here all year round, you can check out my five-day-a-week blog, Symi Dream. Just click that link and you’ll be in my madcap, sometimes lively, sometimes rather mundane, life here on a small Greek island.

And now… Back to the future (publications) and more work on Follow the Van. Everyone sing along: My old man said follow the van, and don’t dilly dally on the way…

And Back to the Desk

Hello, and Happy Easter from here in Greece, which is celebrating Orthodox Easter a week after Western Easter. I have had both. Last weekend I was in Prague, where it was Easter, and now, I am back at the desk and ready to pick up where I left off.

Prague and New Experiences

I’ve put up a few photos of my recent trip, not the best, but my old camera/phone is getting on a bit. I went, via Rhodes and Athens, to Prague with my godson, Harry, the perfect travelling companion and my music student.

Among our experiences were:

Harry’s first time out of the country and his longest flight to date, using a different currency, the museum at Athens Airport (yes, they have one, it shows you what was there before the airport was built), the usual Prague tourist sights like the astronomical clock and the Old Town square, the castle, St Vitus cathedral, the Lobkowicz Palace for a lunchtime concert, lots of eating, seeing two Canaletto paintings and other treasures such as Beethoven’s original parts for two of his symphonies, a piano that one belonged to Franz Liszt, and a wild Nutria (coypu) that we thought was a beaver (and boy did we laugh about that; sorry, but boys will be boys, and so will some middle-aged men). Also, some underground cellars from medieval Prague and a tour with alchemy and a torture chamber thrown in, another cathedral, a funicular railway, the top of the Petrin Tower at 64 meters — and I don’t do heights anymore, but I managed — the observatory, the Museum of Music, the Lego Museum, and a night at the opera to see ‘The Magic Flute,’ Harry’s first opera and theatre experience.

On the next day… sightseeing and shopping around the Old Town, the Agricultural Museum and the Technology Museum for the science, cars and, for me, locomotives, more walking and shopping (averaging around 7 miles per day on foot, 10 on one day), rode trams, sat on a police motorbike (H might want to be a policeman one day), visited various street markets, ate lots, and in the evening, went on a river cruise with a dinner and live jazz music included. Then, on the way home, stopping for a night in Athens/Piraeus, we visited the warship, the Averoff, before catching our overnight ferry home.

The Next Book

Before we set off, I’d written the first chapter of a new book, which I hope will spark a new series. On my first day back, having had virtually no sleep because I don’t sleep well on moving objects, even with a cabin, I returned to the chapter, read it, edited it and continued. Yesterday, I laid down the start of the story proper and began writing some backstories which may or may not stay in, but which will be useful in some form. What is this book?

Good question. I have recently read a true account of a journalist meeting a London cabman, and the story the cabman told him sparked an idea. All I can tell you right now is that it is set in London in 1888, starting on the night of the (possibly) first Ripper murder, Martha Tabram, but has nothing to do with the Ripper. If the story gathers momentum and it turns out as I want it to, it will be taking place at the same time as the Clearwater Mysteries books one to four, and onwards. Who knows, some of the Clearwater and Larkspur characters may even turn up in this… whatever it is to be. It will involve mystery, a slow-burn romance, bromance, friendship, hardship and fun, like my other historical novels, but it’s going to take some time to put together.

On which note, now I am back into typing, I may go and take a look at what I wrote for chapter two. I’ll give you more info on Wednesday’s Work in Progress blog, so, see you there.

What Does Your P.A. Do For You?

What does a PA do for an author?

That’s something of an unanswerable question because each PA will undertake different jobs for an author, depending on what the author needs. The most common tasks are administrative ones such as book marketing, social media updates, and communicating with other interested parties on an author’s behalf. Other tasks might include the graphic design and layout of a book, entering competitions, writing and sending letters to agents and publishers, and keeping track of the entire process. It depends on whether the author is self-published, trying to find a publisher, or is already published.

I took on a PA in June 2021, and as you will see from the sales graph, she immediately started making a huge difference.

Marketing and social media aside, I am lucky enough to have a PA who goes the extra mile. It was her birthday yesterday, and on the same day eight years ago, she was helping Neil and I move into a new house. In fact, she cleaned the place as we went along behind painting it. Yesterday, she spent her birthday helping out at our local supermarket because the owner had to be away for the day. She also helps run the cat welfare programme on our island, and has raised money for that and her children’s schools over the years. All this while running her own business and bringing up our two godsons, probably the greatest gift she has given us.

So, rather than witter on about how Jenine edits and uploads my blog posts, beta reads my drafts, keeps my Jackson Marsh Facebook page running, helps publicise my books, takes my place at launch parties and other social media events, cooks me six types of potato for my 50th birthday (and buys me a limited edition reprint of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), cleans new houses, cooks for us, finds us plumbers when needed, translates, orders things for us from Skrouts, bids for us on eBay, and makes us laugh… Apart from all of that, what else has my PA ever done for me.

This post is simply to say thank you for everything. We hope you had a great birthday working in the maddest supermarket on earth, and we’ll see you later for your favourite roast (with Yorkshire puddings), which Neil is already preparing. Mwah!

Wonder Woman…
Basket case…
And family.

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