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.

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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.

News From Home

News From Home

For this week’s blog, I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to at home. Writing, of course, and the second Larkspur mystery is coming along nicely, though slowly. That’s because of the amount of research going into it, but I am about two-thirds of the way through the first draft. Other than writing, what have I been up to…?

Thanking the Inspiration

I’m not sure if I have previously mentioned the inspiration for the character Joe Tanner in ‘Guardians of the Poor’ and the Larkspur mysteries. Neil and I have been watching ‘The Amazing Race’, a reality TV show where contestants travel the world doing challenges and trying to avoid elimination. I think we’ve now seen just about all the USA ones, the Canadian and Australian versions, and we’re starting to watch them again. Well, one of the teams in three of the USA series included a profoundly deaf guy called Luke Adams.

The research desk

His resolve and determination – being on such a demanding show without hearing – inspired me to start learning British Sign Language, and also, to include a profoundly deaf character in the new Larkspur series. I wanted to thank Luke for his inspiration, so joined a Facebook TAR fan group, and there, I was able to put my thanks as a post. I also wanted to send a personal thank you to an outstanding guy, and managed, this week, to connect on Twitter and send my personal message. He’s seen it now, and that, for me, was an ambition fulfilled.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Two bunches of red roses

We’re just coming out of what I call ‘the Anniversary Season,’ and boy, do I need a night off. Neil and I married on his birthday four years ago, so his birthday, which was last week, coincided with our wedding anniversary. It also coincided with the anniversary of the day we arrived to live on this Greek island 19 years ago, and it comes two weeks after the anniversary of our first meeting 24 years ago.

We’ve had drinks at the bar with visiting holidaymakers we know, dinners out with friends, roses, cards and gifts. Neil bought me the rose painted on a stone you can see in the picture. Tbh, it’s all been wonderfully exhausting.

Going Further Afield.

We haven’t travelled since we managed a holiday in Canada at the start of 2020 (just before C19 landed on the world), and the furthest I have been is our neighbouring island of Rhodes.

Visiting Rhodes involves a ferry crossing

I was there again recently to see a doctor about a throat issue which turned out to be to do with too much stomach acid. During the consultation, I had a look at my larynx via a tube up the nose (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, strangely), and that was fascinating. One of the good things about living in Greece is that you’re able to see a specialist almost at a moment’s notice. I emailed on a Thursday and saw him the next Monday, had the full consultation and inspection, and it only cost me €50.00. I could have done it under the national health service and paid nothing, but maybe waited longer, but that was up to me.

While I was there, I read this short novel by Anthony Burgess. It’s not about the pop group, it’s about the last days of the poet John Keats who died in Rome in 1821, at the young age of 25. It’s a fascinating book with some lovely use of the English language. Recommended.

What Else?

Not much, really. Our washing machine has started to make a horrible noise when spinning, so we’re saving for a new one. The weather has cooled from the 40 + degrees of July and August, so that’s a relief. Both of us are working hard on our sign language as we’re nearing the end of course number one, and we’re using it with each other as much as we can.

And, of course, I am working away on the next book. It currently has two working titles, ‘A Vow of Silence’ and/or ‘Standing Stones’, but I’m not sure either is 100% on point. There is a lot in there about standing stones, ancient symbols, pagan rites and so on, and it’s mainly written from Joe’s point of view. That makes it a challenge for me, because I have to research and then imagine scenes from a deaf person’s point of view, but that’s exactly the kind of challenge I like.

That’s enough rambling for this week. I’ll be off now to post this, and then get back to chapter 20. If you’ve not started the Larkspur Mysteries yet, then number one is waiting for you. Guardians of the Poor – the adventures start here.

See you next week.

An Author in August

An Author in August

Today, I wanted to catch you up on general news, where I am with the new book, and what life is like in the Southern Aegean in August. Let’s start with that one…

Fires and Silence

It’s hot. We’re seeing temperatures in the 40s most days, we’ve not had any rain since May and then it was only a smattering, and we’re currently under a cloud of ash that is still hanging about following serious forest fires in Turkey. Turkey is just over the water from us, about three miles away at its closest point, and we can see villages and roads from our island. Last week, we could also see flames and masses of smoke as wildfires broke out along the coastline. There have been some on the island of Rhodes too, but I think they are all now under control. Wildfires are raging around Athens at the moment too. Fires are common at this time of year but have been made worse because of a heatwave.

The smoke that’s hanging around in the atmosphere covered the sun, which made for a strange, almost eclipse-like, light. Thursday was an unusual day because there were no sparrows chirping, and no cicadas grating, as if the wildlife thought it was dusk. They stayed eerily silent.

Luckily, our island remains safe, though hot, and we have a forest here, so the authorities are on guard, and everyone is being careful. Meanwhile, I am at my desk with two fans on me and towels where I rest my sweaty arms (otherwise they slide off). All the windows are open, everything is covered in a layer of ash, even where I hoovered and dusted the day before, and we’re getting on with summer life.

Sign Language

We’re also getting on with learning BSL (British Sign Language) as best we can online. I am on part four of a nine-part course, and about to start part five. So far, it’s been mainly learning nouns, alphabet, numbers and a few questions. Neil and I sit opposite each other when I go to visit him at work at the bar, and we practice our signs on each other. They’re not so hard to remember and do, but harder to recognise when someone signs back at you. It’s all about practice, and it’s proving useful research for my writing.

Guardians of the Poor

As I write, the final draft is with my proofreader, and I should get the MS back next week. Then, I will read through it for the last time and send it to have the interior laid out. That usually only takes a couple of days. I then check it again, and after that, it will be ready to publish. I imagine we’re looking at publication around the 20th of August if not slightly before.

Joe Tanner

‘Guardians’ is the first of the Larkspur series of mystery/bromance/adventure novels in the vein of the Clearwater Mysteries, but focusing on new characters who pass through the Larkspur Academy. That’s the institution Archer sets up at the end of the Clearwater series, a place where young men can come and, as he puts it, ‘better themselves.’ It’s an odd concept, but so far, it’s working. Through his London contacts like Jimmy Wright and Silas, Archer finds young men (18 years old and upwards, mainly), and gives them a place at the academy under the mentorship of the man he’s found to run it, Barbary Fleet. It’s not a school, it’s not compulsory and there are only four or five men there at any time. They all have special talents and deserve a chance in life, and mainly, they are gay. Of course, ‘gay’ wasn’t gay in 1890, but Archer knows when a man needs support and needs to come out, as we’d call it. The fact that they all get involved in some kind of mystery is, of course, what the stories are about; that and young men struggling with their sexuality, each other, falling in love, out of love, friendship and fighting hard to make a go of it.

As ‘Guardians’ is almost ready, I have turned my attention to the second in the series…

A Vow of Silence

‘Guardians’ features a character called Joe Tanner, who is profoundly deaf and has been since birth. I am keeping him and Dalston Blaze as the central pair of book two, ‘A Vow of Silence.’ Dalston is the main character in Guardians (along with Archer, the story is mainly from their point of view), but I want Joe to be the MC in ‘Vow’ because I want to write from a deaf man’s point of view, although there will be other characters’ viewpoints too.

‘Vow’ follows on from ‘Guardians’, and, like the first book, it is inspired by a real newspaper report and an actual event. I’ll say no more just now because I’ve only got as far as jotting down a basic plot, and anything can change.

And Finally

Make sure you keep an eye on this blog and on my Facebook page for the cover reveal of ‘Guardians of the Poor.’ It’s another corker from Andjela J, and the drawing (above) of Joe Tanner will give you a clue. Check back next week when more will be revealed…

A Week of Work and Walking

A Week of Work and Walking

It’s been a busy week for me, and I thought I’d use today’s blog to let you know what I have been up to. First, news about the new series.

Guardians of the Poor

I’m staying with that title for the first book in the new Larkspur Mystery series because it works on so many levels. The news is, I finished the rough first draft yesterday, and as soon as I have posted this, I am going straight back to chapter one to start again. The story opens with a news report of a court case, and this is an actual report from the year in which the story is set, 1890. It is what inspired the novel, and concerns two men from a workhouse who were up in court on a charge of conspiring to perform an unnatural act. In other words, they were suspected of planning got have gay sex. Look at that again, ‘suspected’ and ‘planning to’, not ‘had done.’ That, I thought, although common at the time, was simply unjust.

I am thinking of using this model on the cover, but in Victorian costume and signing.

‘Guardians of the Poor’ concerns a deaf character, and I think we will see more of him and his partner in book two, which I haven’t even thought about yet. We also have a villain, the new Larkspur Academy and the new characters who live there, and we also get to catch up on what’s happening with others from the Clearwater Series. Archer features a great deal in this new novel, James and Silas have parts to play, and we also touch base with Jasper, Billy Barnett, Fecker and others.

 

Walking

And back to the ‘real’ world. Last Sunday, Neil and I were invited for breakfast by a friend who lives two bays away. As usual, we walked there (it’s only two miles), down the long flight of steps to the harbour, up and over the next hill, across country and finally down an ancient calderimi (donkey path) to the bay. Our friend lives at the far end of the bay, right on the seafront. We were going to walk back later in the morning but were offered a lift by a neighbour. We were grateful for that as the temperature was 40 degrees.

Neil’s latest steampunk topper, made for him by a regular visitor to the island.

I have also been out for a couple of exercise walks early in the morning where I mingle with the goats and sheep who live on the mountainside. During these walks, which are usually an hour long, I plan my next chapter, so I am happily wandering up the hillside telling myself a story which I then try to remember when I get home. What I end up with is the first draft of a chapter which is actually a second draft.

Godsons

We have two godsons on the island and one of them turns 18 next week. As part of his birthday, Neil took him scuba diving the other day, a first for both of them, and tonight (Saturday) we are taking him out for dinner. We have a signet ring for him to mark his 18th, as it should be a special occasion. His brother, who is younger, is learning to play the piano… Well, I am teaching him, and he is doing very well, and he has his first grade exam coming up later this month.

 

Legal

An early morning boat trip.

And, on a more formal note, I am now a legal alien. Thanks to the disaster that is Brexit, we UK nationals had to reapply for residency, having previously been covered as an EU citizen. Neil didn’t need to because he is Irish, but I did. The process started on April 26th, for me, and after two trips to Rhodes, the next and larger island to us, I went back last Wednesday to collect my card. This involved being up at 3.30 to catch a boat at 5.00 that didn’t arrive until 6.00, a two-mile walk to the aliens’ office, a 90-minute wait, but only five minutes at the counter, and because I was there so early, I was first in and first out and was able to get an early boat home and be back in time for lunch.

And Back to the Books

There, that’s a quick catch up on what I have been doing, which has been mainly writing, socialising and… I nearly forgot to tell you, learning BSL I have started a course in British Sign Language, partly as research for the language my deaf character uses, and partly because I’ve always wanted to know a bit more. It’s a beginner’s course and I am only on the third part, but I’m enjoying it and already know the alphabet, numbers and a few basic greetings. I’ve started to put sentences together now, and I am passing on what I learn to Neil so we can practise on each other, as I don’t know any other BSL signers on our island.

There, that really is it now. I am heading off to look at draft two of ‘Guardians of the Poor’, and I must contact Andjela about cover ideas. See you next week.

Jackson