The Larkspur Legacy: A New Work in Progress

As it always is with me, once one book is out, it’s a case of ‘on with the next’, and today is no exception. Actually, I started work on ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ a few weeks ago, because what happens in ‘Starting with Secrets’ has a bearing on what comes next.

While writing the last book, I made notes about the next one, and that led me to a basic plot outline. Since early this year, I have had scenes in my head, moments from the novel I want to get in, twists, ideas and scenarios, and I am still thinking them up. I have, though, started writing, and have four draft chapters already, plus the more detailed outline, though that still has some holes in it. The characters will fill those in later when they start taking over the story.

I’ve also started on my research, and am currently reading this…

‘The Larkspur Legacy’ is going to involve a group of characters aboard a schooner, a clipper or barquentine, something like this…

As you can see, these pages are from The Merchant Schooners by Basil Greenhill, a two-volume look at the history, building, launching and sailing of these vessels. I have already picked up some words and expressions and read several excellent descriptions of boatyards, shipbuilding villages and ships.

So, it’s back to 1891 and chapter five. Before I go, I must thank everyone who supported the launch of ‘Starting with Secrets.’ It went straight to #2 in the Amazon charts of new releases/historical.

Starting with Secrets: Cover Reveal

I have sent ‘Starting with Secrets’ to be formatted, I have both covers, and we’re nearly ready to launch the sixth Larkspur Mystery upon you. To reward you for your patience, today we have the blurb and the cover reveal.

It feels as if it’s been a long journey to get this novel ready to add to the series, but in truth, it’s not taken any longer than any of the others. It has taken more research and there is a lot more detail, there are more clues than ever, and a wide cast of main players. ‘Secrets’ has probably taken up more pages in my notebook than any of the others too, and when you get deeper into the story you will realise why.

Now, I must start work proper on the last in the series, and if I thought ‘Secrets’ was a hard beast to tame, I am sure ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ is going to be even more in-depth, detailed, complicated and yet fun to get right. Work on that starts this afternoon. Meanwhile, here’s the blurb for ‘Secrets’ which should be available in a few days.

Starting with Secrets

The Larkspur Mysteries

Book Six

“The greatest reward often lies at the end of the stoniest path.”

Lady Dorothy Marshall, March 1891

When Lord Clearwater inherits a set of enigmatic clues and a compass, it becomes clear he has the means to uncover a momentous secret. He calls upon the men of the Larkspur Academy to help with the hunt, including the latest recruit, the bewildered ex-sailor, Bertie Tucker.

The academy men investigate follies, national monuments and ancient churches, using their diverse skills to unlock a series of random messages. The men must work together to find Clearwater’s secret and ‘treasure’, but relationships threaten the status quo. Edward Hyde has turned his affections from Henry and aimed them at Bertie Tucker, opening a rift which must be mended if the hunt is to succeed.

And when two of Clearwater’s adversaries conspire to beat him to the secret, what begins as an adventure becomes a game of cat and mouse that leads to a fight for survival.

Starting with Secrets is the sixth book in the Larkspur Mysteries series. With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story is the first part of a two-part adventure, and combines historical fact with fiction. As with all of Jackson Marsh’s mysteries, the novel contains humour, love and action, while offering the reader the chance to solve the clues with the cast of disparate, well-drawn characters.

Cover Reveal

Click the image to open the full front cover.

Work In Progress: 4.13

Starting with Secrets and an Upcoming Journey

Lucky for some, this is the thirteenth post about my work in progress, ‘Starting with Secrets’, the sixth Larkspur Mystery. And the news is…

I am currently doing the last read before sending the MS off to be proofed on Friday. Andjela has designed the cover and there will be a reveal in due course. Also on Friday, Neil and I are off to Scotland for our son’s wedding, and I shan’t be at my desk again until November 9th, so expect no more updates to my blog until that week.

The journey to Scotland and back has already taken on epic proportions, in the style of a Clearwater novel actually, or any decent adventure story. All good dramas need conflict because you can’t have one without the other, and although I’m pleased to say we have no villains on our backs, we have already met a few challenges. To start with, KLM managed to charge me three times for one flight, and when we finally sorted it out and I got two refunds, the flight was from the wrong airport. However, we could live with that because although it meant a four-hour train journey on 5th November, the route takes us through the Scottish Highlands. If only it were on a steam train!

If only there wasn’t now the possibility of a train strike on the 5th of November either. We’re not sure yet if that will affect us, but in case it does, we have tickets booked on a coach as well. To add insult to KLM’s injury, they ended up cancelling our flight and moving it to some ridiculous time the following day. This would have meant another night in a costly hotel, plus missing a night already paid for in another, and travelling from two in the morning until about seven that night. I took the refund option and booked better and direct flights with Aegean, my favourite airline. Better times, better service, flexible and fair, though a little more expensive, the difference was less than the cost of the extra hotel.

Living on an island is wonderful; getting off it sometimes isn’t. We were due to leave on Friday evening on a ferry departing at 20.30 or something sensible. Thanks to a strike by some ferry workers yesterday, our boat will fall behind schedule, and now, instead of departing on Friday evening, we’re leaving at 02.50 on Saturday morning. That’ll be a bit of a bleary-eyed experience, but worth it as we will see much of the 18-hour journey in daylight, whereas usually, we sleep through the more interesting destinations.

So, with boats, taxis, trains and possibly coaches, we’ll be getting into Victorian mystery mode as we spend one night here before heading there, and from there, to somewhere else the next day, with only two days where we have a whole day without travelling. During those days, I intend to visit Edinburgh Castle, meet the latest grandchildren, and Neil will be fitted for a kilt. Och aye, it’ll be a fair fun twelve days. Assuming there are no more strikes or cancellations.

Whatever happens, I’ll be back online after 9th November and will give you a full update on Starting with Secrets.

Work In Progress: 4.12

Starting with Secrets

Three months in and we are nearly there. Neil has been acting as my beta reader, and has read my current draft of ‘Starting with Secrets.’ A beta reader is someone who reads a text before publication to check for errors, and he found only two. I don’t mean typo errors; there will no doubt be several of those when the book gets to the proofreading stage. I mean errors or oddments within the story.

At one point, a character is told that due to a storm it is not possible to send telegrams. A couple of chapters later, on the same night, he tells someone he’s going to send a telegram. How? Was Neil’s question. Ah ha! I’d missed that. I went back to the chapter, and now the character is told he can only send messages up the line, so, when he needs to message London later, he can. Sorted.

The other thing he wasn’t sure about was the ending and how it seemed too sudden. I agreed. I’d written a short section for the end, and although it was a sweet little scene, I wasn’t sure if it should be there or come later in book two of this two-part adventure. After listening to Neil’s reaction, I was right to wonder if this short scene needed to be there, so I took it out. However, that left the ending at even more of a full stop, so I had a think about what I needed… And it came to me. A final scene with someone and someone plotting something which will set them up for the next part of the story when it comes out next year. It reads better now, and I am happy with the ending.

The ending is really the halfway point in a longer adventure, but the book does feel resolved (in part) because a major storyline is resolved. So, although you’ll be left wondering and hanging, you shouldn’t feel hard done by, because something has concluded while something else has not.

All will be revealed next month when I hope to publish ‘Starting with Secrets’, the Larkspur Mysteries book six. Meanwhile, I have time for another read and think before proofing, and before we head off to Scotland for a wedding.

Meanwhile, I have started the detailed plotting of ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, the conclusion to the series, and boy, is it going to be fun!

Work In Progress: 4.11

Starting with Secrets, the Larkspur Mysteries, book six

Today, I will edit the last chapter of ‘Starting with Secrets’, the Larkspur Mysteries book six. I began this book in July, and the first Work in Progress update came at the start of August when I had already written 25,000 words. I was writing it as I was finishing ‘Speaking in Silence’, which has already had some great reviews from readers. As with other recent novels, the book has taken me roughly three months to write, and it is the longest of the Larkspur mysteries so far at around 115,000 words.

I am aiming to have the book out in the middle of November, but before then, here’s my checklist of what needs to happen next:

Neil and Jenine beta-read the manuscript (MS)

I write the blurb and the author’s notes

I have a final read and check for repetitive typos

Andjela has agreed to start on the cover

The MS goes to be proofread on or before 28th October

28th Oct to 9th Nov, nothing happens. I am away.

9th November onwards, MS back from proofing

My final read

Get the ISBN and begin the Amazon setup process

Cover finalised

Files off to be formatted

Final book layout to be checked

Upload to Amazon

And somewhere in there, I will start on ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, the last book in the series. While I am doing that, I will no doubt be tinkering with ideas for ‘Barbary Fleet and Other Matters’ or ‘The Clearwater Companion’, because I have a book in mind that will be a supplement to both series. More about that another time.

For now, it’s time to get some freelance work done before I set about the last chapter’s edits.

Remember, if you’ve not started the Larkspur Mysteries yet, you can find them all on Amazon: The Larkspur Mysteries

Work In Progress: 4.10

Starting with Secrets

We’re in week ten of the writing of ‘Starting with Secrets’ and I am well into the editing phase. So far, I have trawled through 15 out of 35 chapters looking for repetitions, typos and inconsistencies, while all the time asking myself particular questions. Here’s what I am thinking as I edit:

1          Can I improve that?

2          Is there a better way to write that?

3          Is that how {character} speaks?

4          Do we already know this?

5          Is that character description/behaviour consistent

6          Do I mean discrete or discreet? (And several others)

7          Who on earth wrote this?

The plan now is to have the final draft sent off for proofreading by the 19th of October, the day Neil and I leave to go to Scotland for a wedding. All being well, it will be ready for me when I get back on 9th November. I hope to have the cover ready by then too, and if so, the book should then be ready for release around the week beginning 21st November. Then, it will be onto the next and final Larkspur Mystery, bringing the series to seven, and the combined Clearwater/Larkspur ongoing series to 18 novels. There is still a way to go before then, however, and I still have 20 chapters to edit and check. I’ll have another update for you next Wednesday, and I’ll be here with a weekend blog on Saturday.

Work In Progress 4.9

Starting with Secrets

120,000 words and I am about to start the last chapter. When that’s done, I will start on the second draft, although I have already done some editing. I was knocked sideways by a combination of allergies, a head cold and my 4th Covid vax all arriving on the same day, and haven’t been up to much these past three weeks. I’ve improved in the past couple of days, apart from a couple of hours of constant sneezing first thing in the morning, so I am able to get back to the typewriter. I did some writing during this time, but wasn’t happy with the results, so instead, I returned to chapter one and read through what I had so far, and made improvements. This also helped me see what needed to be explained and answered at the end of the book.

All being well, the first draft of Starting with Secrets will be done in the next couple of days. As this is part one of a two-parter, I need to devise a last chapter which is both an ending and a beginning. If the two books were a film, I would now be at the halfway point and the big twist, or something which pushes the story in another direction. That other direction will be the follow-on book, The Larkspur Legacy, and I already know how that is going to end, and what will happen along the way.

Before then, though, there is this one to finish and polish, a cover to devise, a blurb to write, the proofreading to do and an illustration to commission. All that will happen after I’ve finished the second or third drafts, so don’t hold your breath just yet.

Instead, if you haven’t embarked on the action-adventure, male bonding, bromance, and historical mysteries based on the truth series which ire the Larkspur Mysteries, you should start at book one, Guardians of the Poor.

Work In Progress 4.8

Starting with Secrets, The Larkspur Mysteries Book Six

This week’s update sees me still at 118,000 words, but for a good reason. Sometimes, when writing a longer novel, it’s important to do as Thomas Payne used to do when a butler: stop, take stock and start again. In the case of Starting with Secretes, I have gone back to the beginning to start reading again, rather than rewriting; that will come later. I wanted to be sure that the ending I originally envisioned will still work with what I have created so far.

This week has been about rereading from chapter one, changing the odd typo here and there, and omitting some repetition. I am gaining a clearer understanding of where every character is at, emotionally as well as within the action, and where I need them to end up in a few chapters’ time when I reach the end. The end, by the way, is also the beginning of the next novel, because Starting with Secrets is the first part of a longer story. Having said that, it is also a complete story in itself in that character conflicts resolve, and certain characters grow. There will be a sense of something ending, and yet something left unfinished, and that’s why I have to get the ending just right.

I will get there, probably in a week or so. I am aiming to have the book finished by the end of October at the latest, so it can either be in proofreading or publication when I am away at my Stepson’s wedding in early November. Stay tuned.

Some of the Clearwater family who also appear in the Larkspur Mysteries. Left to right Andrej (Fecker), Mrs Norwood, James Wright, Thomas Payne when a butler and Jasper Blackwood.

Work In Progress 4.7

Last week I wrote, ‘I am fast approaching the end of draft one’ (of Starting with Secrets). I also said I was just about to head into the finale, I was at 113,000 words, and on chapter 31.

This week, I have to report I have made little progress. I am at 118,000 words and about to start chapter 33, the aftermath chapter. It has taken me a week to write what I could usually write in two days because of a variety of excuses, and not all of them fun ones.

Last week was our 5th wedding anniversary, 20 years since we came to live on Symi and Neil’s birthday all on the same day. I’d only just got over the visit from our friends we met in Canada, and I was able to get some writing done on Wednesday. However, Thursday came along and with it came a surprise visit from my nephew, and a late-night dinner party for 24 people at the taverna. On the previous Monday, I had woken up with bad hay fever but had to have my 4th Covid jab, so just got on with it. By Wednesday evening, I was feeling pretty done in, but kept going through the dinner party and celebrations the next night. Friday, however, and over the weekend, I was able to do little more than bang out some paid typing (because I had to), sit on the sofa playing SimCity and blow my nose, sneeze and groan. I’m still feeling knackered, and I think the hay fever was actually a cold which, on top of a few late nights and a C4 jab, flattened me.

So, there’s my excuse for only writing 4,000 words in a week. Today, cold or no cold, I am battling on and changing my routine. I intend to pause my typing work when the sun comes up, walk around the block for half an hour, get back to work, and then dedicate the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon to Starting with Secrets.

Check back in next Wednesday for the WIP and I hope to be able to tell you I am about to start the last chapter. We shall see.

Work In Progress: 4.6

Starting with Secrets

So, where am I now…? I am up at 113,000 words, and the climax is about to get underway. I have two characters trying to reach three others before they are in mortal danger. A storm has just broken, the land is flooding, and there’s something to do with a crumbling building that holds a vital clue…

It’s all go.

I haven’t been able to write as much as I wanted these last couple of days, mainly because of taking on some necessary freelance work and having my 4th Covid jab, which, on top of a cold, knocked me out for a day. We also had friends visiting yesterday, a couple we met on our trip across Canada in 2020 when we had to race home two days early because Covid broke out. The two days we missed were a stay in Athens we’d planned, but as the city was, by then, closed, it didn’t matter. That’s a story for another day. Today, I am sitting down to write at least half a chapter of Starting with Secrets, and I imagine I have four more chapters to go before I can leave you wanting more. This book is half of a longer story, which will probably bring the Larkspur Series to a close. Kind of.

I have an idea for a book after ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ which will be a companion book on the side. There are things that need explaining which wouldn’t make an entire 100k novel. What I am mulling over is the idea of having some short stories, character outlines, background information, illustrations, cuts and outtakes from the Clearwater and Larkspur series, and putting them together in one volume that fans of the two series will enjoy. At the moment, I am playing with the title, ‘Barbary Fleet and Other Matters’, because one of the things we’ve yet to discover is how Fleet came to be at the academy. What’s his history, and why does he call Clem Mr Yeobright? Then, we might want to know about Frank Andino and his past tribulations. There’s a big gap in the story of Edward and Henry’s four years of survival in the Old Nichol Slum, and what happened to the men who entrapped Chester Cadman? Come to that, what happened to Skaggot from ‘Guardians of the Poor’? I may also write some vignettes for the other minor but fun characters like Doc Markland, the barrister, Cresswell, and Mrs Norwood…

That’s all for the future. For now, I’m heading off into the finale of ‘Starting with Secrets’ and I am fast approaching the end of draft one.