Free for Pride

Happy Pride Month everyone. I know Pride Day is celebrated on 28th June, but I’m getting in an early celebration and announcing The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge is free today, 24th. That’s given me an excuse to write a little about how the Mentor books came about and to tell you a little about each one, in the order they were written. (Click the covers or links to go directly to each book’s Amazon page.)

Free today

The Mentor of Wildhill Farm

Apart from ‘Other People’s Dreams’ which I wrote years ago, The Mentor of Wildhill Farm was my first foray into writing novels as Jackson Marsh. I had previously written several novels as James Collins, and all but one has a gay character or characters, but none of them were specifically ‘gay novels.’ You can check them out on my other Amazon page here. I had been writing gay erotica for a few websites and magazines and thought, ‘Why not make a novel out of it?’ Being me, there had to be more of a story, so I invented a situation which will appeal to anyone who likes a bit of older/younger, age-gap romance and heat, and made it something of a fantasy. A sexual one rather than one with mythical creatures.

An older man has carte blanche to mentor four (18+) younger guys in their creative and sexual skills. That’s the story, and there’s a little romance in there too. It’s the hottest of the four Mentor books for sure, and a crossover from my writing of erotica to more mainstream gay lit.

The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge

This came next, and for inspiration, I drew on a place and activity I knew well in my younger days. A remote Yorkshire Fell, and mountaineering. This book is more romance mixed with adventure, which is something I do a lot, and although there is a slow build to the heat, the heat is not a major part of the book. It’s about dealing with loss, accepting someone new, and there’s a fair amount of mountain rescue, enforced isolation, and a little bit of a villain Vs hero thrill line.

For a reason I’ve never discovered, Barrenmoor Ridge really took off when first published. Its success boosted me to carry on as Jackson and write more, and from that initial publicity came my proofreader, with whom I still work today. Barrenmoor is on my list of top-ten best-selling books, only surpassed by the first four Clearwater books and the first Larkspur novel.

The Mentor of Lonemarsh House

Again, using a location known to me, I set the third book down in Kent, near where I used to live. I was back in the village a couple of years ago, catching up with an old school friend (and illicit teen affair way back when), and not much had changed. The pub, the local church, the farming community, it was all still there and reminded me of my lonely days on the marsh wandering the lanes hoping Mr Right would appear around the next corner. Lonemarsh explores the idea of the younger person being trapped in a small world and needing an escape. When the love interest arrives, though, Jason, the younger of the pair, finds it hard to accept that love with another man is possible.

You might have noticed the similarity in titles. I’ll break them down to make it obvious: Wild Hill Farm. Barren Moor Ridge. Lone Marsh House. Lost Wood Hall.

Adjective suggesting isolation; remote landscape; a setting. All the Mentor books are set in such surroundings.

The Mentor of Lostwood Hall

By now, I was running out of ideas for titles and situations and thought that a fourth book would be the last. You can have too much of a good thing after all. Lostwood is set in Wales, there’s a storm, a lonely man, an isolated old hall, a younger lad on the run from villains, an accident… It has all the classic hallmarks of a Mentor novel, including other characters of dubious sexuality, some humour, and a slow burn to the heat sections, of which, if I remember correctly, there are a couple. I like to think my writing skills and experience had developed, though I am sure there are still many edits I could make if I returned to this novel for a re-edit, as I have recently done with Barrenmoor.

It’s interesting to note that here we have: a rich man and a down and out, villains, a remote castle, a mystery… All aspects which would later form the basis of the Clearwater Mysteries, undoubtedly my best-selling series. Perhaps this is where it all began?

The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge

Two years after The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge, when I was halfway through writing the Clearwater series, I suddenly had this idea to do a follow-on from Barrenmoor; to return and see how Gary and John were doing a few years later. Along came the Students… Two 18-year-old best friends are away to celebrate a birthday with a camping trip, and one intends to come out to his friend. Disaster ensues, and who should rescue them but John Hamilton and Gary from the earlier book? Back at Barrenmoor Ridge, Gary and John then end up mentoring the younger couple as they deal with their coming out and change in friendship.

This book has one of my favourite lines made comedic by the situation. It’s something like: ‘We’re hanging eighty feet off the edge of a cliff, and you ask me this now?’

You’ll have to read it to understand why.

Free for Pride – The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge

So, just a reminder that the Kindle is free for today only. I have recently re-edited it to make minor improvements, so if you’ve already bought a copy, you can have this updated version for free, on me. So, follow the link, and look out for the giveaway. If you feel like it, please also share this page, the book’s page, and this news in any social media group you might belong to. Thanks!

Back on Wednesday with an update on the next novel.

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Return to Barrenmoor Ridge

Today, I want to say that it’s fine to improve your own work no matter when it was written or published.

The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’ is my age-gap, MM romance-thriller set on the side of a Derbyshire fell in bad weather and was released in January 2018.

In terms of Kindle sales, this is my 4th best-selling title. In terms of page reads through Kindle Unlimited, it’s the 7th, and in terms of income, it’s the 6th. Above it are the first four Clearwater novels and ‘Guardians of the Poor.’

The ‘Barrenmoor Ridge’ blurb begins thus:

Following the death of his lover, mountaineer John Hamilton lives an isolated existence high on wild Fellborough peak. When he rescues 19-year-old Gary Taylor from the mountain, John can't accept that the boy may be the answer to his heartache. Gary is seventeen years his junior, confused, and being pursued by criminals.   

A while ago, my PA suggested I did some tidying up on ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge,’ particularly the first few chapters. This was one of my first novels, and I was then, as I am now, still learning the craft.

The other day, I thought I’d drop into it, improve what I can, and eventually, have a second edition which is the same, but more polished.

I had actually started this task some time ago but got no further than the first half a page, because the Larkspur Mysteries series came along.

This morning, I took a look at what I’d done to ‘Barrenmoor’ then, and compared it to the original. Yes, well, ah-hem… there’s certainly some confusion in the opening scene; confusion around whose point of view we are experiencing the story from. It was meant to be John, the main character, but some of the time, it’s as if his friend, Sally, is the lead so that needed addressing. I think, when I was writing it, I wrote one version from her point of view and one from his and ended up mixing the two. It’s fine to use more than one point of view as long as you write in blocks (i.e. don’t change POV every other line) or put in a line break, or use some other technique that makes the switching obvious. I hadn’t done this; I’d bounced back and forth.

Here’s an example; the first 141 words of the original, which starts from John’s point of view, but swiftly changes to someone else (in italics):

John Hamilton was refusing a job at Everest base camp when he caught sight of the youth who was about to change his life. He was also ripping a piece of toast in half with his teeth while reaching for his pint mug of tea. The woman sitting opposite him in the Pot Hole, the climbers' café in Inglestone, was none too impressed that he had left their conversation hanging but assumed that John was considering her offer. After she had watched his confused expression for long enough, she leant across and pushed the piece of toast into his open mouth. 'It's an easy answer, John,' she said, smiling at his reaction. 'And you've got baked beans in your moustache.' John finally returned his gaze to her. 'What?' he said, his body at the table, his mind still across the room. 

Looking closer, I also have a problem with the second sentence, because

  1. it starts with ‘He’, and I now try and avoid doing that as it sounds weak, and
  2. because it’s weak, it’s vague, and we might be talking about the younger man across the room. Who is eating toast and drinking tea? Both of them?

My changes come next, and although they are not yet perfect, they are an improvement. Here are what are now the first 144 words.

John Hamilton was refusing a job at Everest base camp when he caught sight of the younger man who would change his life. Their eyes met, and although John was ripping apart a piece of toast and reaching for his pint mug of tea, both actions stopped in a heartbeat. The clatter and chatter around him in the climbers’ café faded, and he would have remained staring in silent awe had his companion not kicked him under the table. Sally appeared none too pleased he’d left their conversation hanging, because she leant across, pushed the piece of toast into his mouth, and said, ‘It’s an easy answer, and you’ve got baked beans in your moustache.’ John stared through her for a second before blinking. ‘What?’ His body was at the table, but his mind remained with who he had just seen.

That, to me, is better because, a) it stays as John’s point of view, therefore, b) it flows better, and c) it’s a little more intriguing. Does John know this younger man? (His mind remained with who he had just seen.) There is also the added attraction of naming his companion, Sally, rather than calling her ‘the woman’ as if he didn’t know who she was. I’ve also cut the detail about the café name and location, because that’s not vital and we’ll come to learn that information later. You’ll note I have left the opening line more or less intact. I rather like the way it mixes Everest Base Camp, refusing a job there, a younger man, a moment between two main characters, and ‘who would change his life,’ setting up what’s to come. I changed ‘youth’ to ‘younger man’ because it sounds less patronising.

The point of this is to highlight that it’s fine to return to an older work and improve it. We learn as we go, and because you can change your Amazon-uploaded files at any time, yet still keep the ISBN number and details, you can improve your work whenever you want. (As long as you don’t substantially change the story or title; in that case, you would need a new ISBN and would have to publish it as if it were a new book.) Revising those 141 words took me about half an hour, and I’m still not 100% happy, but I’ll continue when I can, and improve my ‘number five’ best seller bit by bit when I have time.

(Note from PA, “I love this opening, far more readable and the intrigue seed is planted leaving me wanting more. Bravo.”)