Work In Progress 3.03

Speaking in Silence

I started back on Larkspur Five, Speaking in Silence, on Monday. I’d done some work on it previously, but I wasn’t that happy with what I’d written.

The first chapter is fine (for now), and it’s rather Dickensian as we follow a mystery character into the depths of Greychurch (Whitechapel) for a clandestine meeting which sets up the rest of the story. Then, however, I’d cut to a couple of men at the Larkspur Academy and had written a very prosaic ‘waking up’ scene. This was followed by breakfast where Fleet asked all the characters what they were doing, and filled us in on what’s happened at the academy since we finished reading Seeing Through Shadows.

What I’d actually done, I realised, was tell myself what had been happening and where everyone was. Cadman was mapping the estate, Clem was about to start his business, Frank had been doing XYZ and Hyde and Hope were blah-di-blah. The reader didn’t need to know all that in the second chapter, and it was a bit ‘in yer face.’ So, I scrapped it. Rather, I put it in the ‘cuts’ folder because there are parts of it I will need later. I just didn’t need to bung it all in right at the start in the manner of a ‘Previously on Larkspur…’ announcement at the start of a TV show.

So, with chapter two out of the window, I moved chapter three, which I’d started, to second place, and carried on, and now things are flowing much more smoothly.

The story proper starts in chapter two (one being something of a prologue), and it starts with a dinner party at the Hall. Bigwigs and important MPs have come to inspect the academy, and among them are the men who will decide if Archer should be raised to the rank of Earl.

I need to do some research there, because things might have been different in 1891 to how they are now, and I know it’s not as simple as the monarch awarding the title like the good old medieval days. At least, I don’t think it was like that… I’ll let you know.

Anyway, the news is that the train has left the station and I am driving it, albeit slowly to start with. If you’ll excuse the analogy, I reckon I’ve just left Paddington and am still building up a head of steam. I’ve only reached the western suburbs so far, and my destination, Larkspur Hall in Cornwall, is still a long, long way away.

On my way!

Work In Progress 3.02

Work In Progress 3.02

Week two of the creation of ‘Speaking in Silence’ and I’m afraid I will have to be rather silent on the subject. I said in my last WIP blog that I intended ‘beginning on the book proper in a couple of weeks.’ I still do, and the couple of weeks has now become one week. I intend to start on it on Sunday. Meanwhile, I have been reading about railways, investigating a few other matters I need to know, and inventing scenes in my head.

So, the WIP news this week is that there isn’t any WIP news this week, but I’m looking forward to knuckling down again in a few days. Summer is fast approaching, and that means I’ll be up at my usual summer morning time of 4.30-ish, at the desk by five if not sooner, and will have all morning and, when it’s not too hot, all afternoon to dedicate to the next Larkspur adventure. I’ll be keeping you informed as I progress through it.

Work In Progress 2.14

Seeing Through Shadows – Release

I’m pleased to tell you that the Larkspur Mysteries book four, Seeing Through Shadows, is now uploaded on Amazon. It should be available for you in Kindle, KU and in paperback in the next couple of days. (edit, it is now live!)

As you can see from the title of this brief post, this is week 14 in this book’s life. (The 2 refers to the fact this is my second book since starting the WIP blog, the 14 refers to the week.) Some books, they say, write themselves, and Seeing Through Shadows was one of them. I started with an idea, made some notes and did some research, as I always do, and drew a simple outline. After that, the characters took over, I kept them in line with the structure I wanted, and I was strict with myself when first-drafting, which meant less time had to be taken on the following drafts and edits. I think I’m finally getting this process down now, and once an idea has formed, it’s taking me less time to write a novel.

What’s interesting about ‘Shadows’ is that the idea came about back in 2018, before I’d even thought about the Clearwater Mysteries, let alone the Larkspur mysteries. I’d just finished writing ‘Curious Moonlight’, a kind of ghost story and first love mashup, and considered writing a sequel.

Curious Moonlight is about two guys meeting, and having their relationship hampered by a troubled and troublesome ghost called Billy. I thought it might be fun to have the three team up as spectral investigators, with Billy being ever present and always naughty. I invented a location (Blackwood Abbey), and a history of a ghostly sighting, drew a plan of the estate and mapped out the story, but never sat down to write it.

In a way, I am glad I didn’t, because Blackwood Abbey eventually became Larkspur Hall, and what I was doing back then was only planting the seed of an idea. When you read Shadows and learn the history of the Larkspur ghost, it is actually the same history of that created for the Curious Moonlight sequel that never was. The twist at the end of Shadows was to be the explanation for the Curious ghost (kind of), and the Larkspur estate is more of less what I’d made up for Curious. Confused? Never mind, it’ll become clear when you read Seeing Through Shadows.

Meanwhile, you can find Curious Moonlight here.

“He’s back. He’s angry, and I am fleeing for my life.”

Escaping bad choices, Luke Grey arrives in the Cornish fishing village of Madenly determined never to fall in love with a straight man again. But then he meets Peran Box.

Peran’s passion for investigating historical mysteries is his only escape from a loveless relationship. But then he meets Luke.

Attracted to each other’s differences, the two embark on an intense friendship which sparks hope for Luke and ignites Peran’s gay-curious feelings.

But then they meet Billy, dead for three-hundred years and determined to keep them apart until the mystery of his murder is solved.

Work in progress 2.12, with the proof reader

Seeing Through Shadows

There’s not much to tell you this week. Seeing Through Shadows is currently with the proof-reader. I should be able to send it to be formatted next week, which means we may have a release date around 22nd April.

While this is happening, I have been thinking about the next in the series and the one after, possibly the last in the series. I am toying with the idea of having a big finish to the Larkspur Mysteries and moving onto something else. That might be a series of mysteries set back in London but in the Clearwater world. James, Silas, Dalston, Joe and the London team might get into all kinds of scrapes… But first, I must continue with Larkspur.

Seeing Through Shadows introduces another new character, and I feel when it comes, book five should continue his story a little before we reach the finale. That, by the way, promises to be on par with the Clearwater Inheritance and may be a two-parter. I have an idea that brings everything together from Deviant Desire to whatever Larkspur Five will be, and makes sense of everything Lord Clearwater has been doing since we met him in 1888. But that’s all for the future. Right now, I am catching up on some other work, making notes for Larkspur six/seven, and thinking of what I can have my crew get up to in Larkspur five. So, as usual, it’s back to the desk…

Work In Progress 2:11

Seeing Through Shadows

Last weekend I finished my running draft of ‘Seeing Through Shadows’, the Larkspur Mysteries book four. The manuscript will go to the proofreader at the end of this week, and I should have it ready for publication by the end of the week after. So, not long to wait now.

Meanwhile, we have finalised the front cover, and I now need to work on the text for the back and its Amazon page, and I need to write the author’s notes. That’s the section I add at the end of the Larkspur Books, where I talk about some facts behind the story.

The fact that this is WIP 2.11 means I have been working on ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ for 11 weeks. That means, by the time it is published, it would have taken me roughly three months from start to finish. The manuscript is 108,000 words long, and the story delves into the history of the Clearwater title, the line of previous viscounts, and some historical events that happened on the estate.

Neil has read the story and called it, ‘A love story within a love story,’ which I thought was a nice way to put it. There’s also a ghost story, some humour, new characters, established ones developing further, and a little eroticism.

And, with that, I shall leave you and get back to redecorating the house (I’ve taken the week off to get the job done). There will be a blog on Saturday as usual, and then I’ll be sending ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ off to the proofer, and will probably start on the next story.

Work In Progress 2.10

‘Seeing Through Shadows’

Second draft is progressing nicely.

I had a great birthday weekend, everyone. Thank you to all of you who sent best wishes and nice messages, and to those who downloaded a copy of Banyak & Fecks and/or Deviant Desire. They’re back from free-land now, but still there for sale along with all my others if you haven’t read the Clearwater Series yet. The excellent news is that Deviant Desire went to #2 in the charts over the weekend, which means Lord Clearwater and his crew might gather a few new supporters.

Deviant Desire at the top of the charts at the weekend!

Meanwhile, at the desk… This week I’m pleased to tell you that the second draft of ‘Seeing Through Shadows’, the next Larkspur novel, is progressing well. Neil is beta reading the MS for story, plot etc., and I am working my way through a grammar & style check, editing, cutting and improving as I go. The aim is to release the book in April, so there’s not long to wait now. Anjela has come up with a cover, which I will let you see nearer the time, and I am working on the blurb which should also be ready shortly. So, next week, you may well see a short blurb/synopsis of ‘Seeing Through Shadows’, and I should have the MS ready to send off to be proofread.

Work in Progress 2.9

First draft and a title

It all came together over the weekend. Not only did I finish the first draft of Larkspur 4, I came up with a title. Now, I have a 108,000-word first draft that I am happy with, and a title which has got me thinking about the cover image.

The title is ‘Seeing Through Shadows’, and the timescale if all goes well is:

Finished final draft to be proofread by the last week in March (subject to availability)

Cover designed and ready by the end of April

Launched either very end of April or early May

All a bit vague right now, but then it has to be. I am already working through draft two, but because I took so much trouble with draft one, and have 30 + books experience of writing a first draft, I think my first drafts these days are pretty tight, though I say so myself. There’s still a way to go, but I’m getting there.

Back on Saturday with my regular, weekly, more in-depth blog.

Work In Progress 2.7

I have a quick update for you today. I am now up to 75,000 words of Larkspur Four, still with the working title, ‘Chester Cadman’ and it’s going well.

Things are starting to come together in both through lines of the story, the mystery plot and the emotional one. Although there’s no dramatic chase sequence or race to save a life in this one, the story has shape and is gradually building to a climax, which will hopefully be an ‘Ah, now I get it!’ kind of denouement.

I’ve had a bit of a disrupted week since last Wednesday, which is why I have only written 15,000 words in the last seven days, but things are quieter now, so I can knuckle down.

I have also been popping away from the typing to research the various elements needed for this story, but I can’t tell you all of them, otherwise I would give away some surprises. All I will say is, where last week’s research included the ingredients and the invention of stink bombs, this week it was the invention of the bubble bath (as we know it). And with that, I must return to Bodmin Moor and some strange goings-on.

Work in Progress 2.6

Over 60,000 words

The WIP news this week is that I am now over 60,000 words into the first draft of ‘Chester Cadman’, the working title for the fourth Larkspur mystery. I notice this is my sixth post about this work in progress, which means I am six weeks into its writing. That means I am averaging 10,000 words a week. It’s winter here in Greece, and with rainy and cold weather, I’ve not had much chance to get out and about. Therefore, I am at the desk by six in the morning, and once I’ve done any paid work that’s come in and sorted out my admin, I can usually put in a good five hours per day on the novel. It will be less in the summer when we have visitors, I have bar work in the afternoon, and more distractions.

This week, I have been learning all kinds of interesting facts as my research has taken me in many directions. Take yesterday, for example. I needed to write a simple piece of dialogue which first read:

‘I have provided you two pairs of binoculars.’

What’s wrong with that? Nothing, but…

Remember, the story is set in January 1891; that’s one thing. Another is my desire to pay attention to detail, and to make the stories happen in a believable world. That’s why I rushed to the net to have a look at the history of binoculars, to see what was in use at the time. Then, I wondered how I might add some reality and detail to the piece of dialogue that wasn’t just for the sake of word count. Slipping into the mind of the person speaking (Tom Payne, the Larkspur steward), I altered the dialogue to read thus:

‘To be sure, I called on Mr Danylo. Before he came to us, he served in the Ukrainian army, and surveillance was one of his skills. He lent me two pairs of Zeiss binoculars. He says they are better than the Porro make, and infinitely less clumsy than telescopes, because they are smaller. They use a Z-shaped prism and have objective lenses. I hope that means something to you, because it baffled me.’

I may change the end of that to one of Tom’s Kentish colloquialisms, or something to inject a little humour.

Also on my look-up list this week have been: Ancient Egyptian and Arabic proverbs, reigning British monarchs from 1716 to 1815, and the ingredients of a stink bomb (don’t ask), all pertinent to the plot or groundwork for future stories.

My pile of scrap paper and notes is growing, as is my enthusiasm for the story as I head towards the part where I join ‘action plot’ with the ’emotional plot’; though there’s no great action sequence planned for this one, not in the style of the previous Larkspur books at any rate.

But who knows? That’s the joy of writing. I know where I am going to end up, but how I get there is up to the people I am creating.

And so, on to chapter seventeen…

P.S. if you missed it at the weekend check out my guest post over on Ofelia Grand’s website, it includes an exclusive excerpt from Larkspur Four 😲

Work In Progress 2.5

Dusk in the woods

Here’s an update on Larkspur Four (still untitled). I am now up to just over 42,000 words and approaching the halfway mark. It’s clear this isn’t going to be a nail-biter like ‘Agents’ or some of the other Clearwater books. It’s more of a slowly evolving mystery of things and people that go bump in the night. ‘Things’, because our new character is investigating the sighting of a ghost from the past which is threatening Larkspur Hall, and ‘people’, because he has met someone at Academy House who has started to stir his heartstrings. Therefore, book four will be a gradually unfolding mystery with plenty of history (real and imagined), a budding love story, and a twist that I hope no-one sees coming.

If ‘book four’ has a background theme, it is one of perceptions. Among it all, I have expanded an idea I used in ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’ People have commented on my use of an owl in that book; there’s a scene where an owl flies over the estate at night and we get to see into the Hall and what’s going on without being inside or in a character’s point of view. I have used the same device twice so far in book four, but not just with the owl.

Fox and Owl (credit to Anand Varma)

I’ll leave you with a short extract from draft one — and remember, this is only a rough draft. (A fox is looking down on the ruined abbey at night.)

Head down, ears up, whiskers out, it stalked and scrutinised, climbing higher to the edge of its realm, until it reached the last of the day and sat in the sanctity of night, listening to the empty moor behind, surveying all below and fearing none above. Not even the up-lit white of the circling owl, its competitor and nightly companion, vigilant, silent and deadly.

Beneath, its equal, the fox crouched low and watched a spectral shape of lighter against darker appear from lower down. It spread around a figure hastening towards its hunting ground, the marred masonry of man, and the fox’s hackles rose in defiance of the intrusion. Forehead furrowed, a growl in its throat, it readied its voice, but no sound came.

As deftly as it had darted, the light died among the shifts and shapes of flint and granite, until the last speck of trespass had melted into the earth, and there was nothing left of the night but the owl high above, and the fox contemplating the business of its nightly hunt.

On Friday you can catch another preview on fellow author, Ofelia Grand’s website. I will be her guest blogger, hope to see you there!

For now it’s time for another cup of tea and back to my boys, have a good day, Jack