Work In Progress: 4.2

Starting with Secrets

Well, I’m not sure how this happened, but by the end of today, I shall be at 50,000 words of the next book in the Larkspur Mysteries series, ‘Starting with Secrets.’ This is only WIP blog 2! One of the reasons this one is going so smoothly is that I have been planning it since starting book four, and it’s already plotted, I know all but a few of the characters, and I started writing scenes for it while I was writing ‘Speaking in Silence’, which, I am pleased to say, is doing well. Thank you for your reviews!

But 50,000 words? That’s like half a novel already and yet I am only a third of the way through the planned story. This book is either going to be another epic like ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’, or it’s going to end up being two books. It is, in fact, the first part of a two-part finale to the series, and I intend to write on and on until I reach the end and not worry about word length. Then, when it’s done, I will take a look and decide if it’s a) is over-written and needs massive editing, b) it’s a two-parter or c) it’s just a long book with lots of mystery, thrills and spills.

It is a very simple story: Archer is left a treasure hunt which he wants to solve. However, the clues are obscure and, it turns out, they are also many. This means the ‘crew’ has to split into three teams, including the academy men, and among them is a new character, Bertie Tucker. While not being sure of why he is at the academy, Bertie becomes a distraction for Edward and that means he becomes a concern for Henry, and it’s down to James (Jimmy Wright) to play the part of mentor while investigating one line of clues. Meanwhile, Silas takes the lead on a London-based hunt, leaving Tom to consider the last two cryptics back at Larkspur. Behind all of this, there is a villain trying to stay one step ahead and bringing in other characters to his evil team, and there will be moments of danger, excitement and, of course, bromance.

I’m putting a lot of background research into this one, as I usually do, but as the story is so big and diverse, so is my background reading. All will be revealed in time, but for now, I am ploughing on with chapter 14, and wondering what the word count will be this time next week. Be here then to find out.

Work in Progress 4.1

Starting with Secrets

Okay, before we start on our next journey together, let’s just check in with the news.

Speaking in Silence, the Larkspur mysteries book five is now available on Amazon as a paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Follow that link and you’ll be directed to your own country’s Amazon if necessary.

Now, onto the next one which I started while I was finishing the last one. That’s something I often do, but in this case, I did it because I knew that what happens next in the Clearwater/Larkspur saga has to relate back to what the previous novels contain. In the case of ‘Starting with Secrets’, we go right back to before even 1888 and Deviant Desire, the first in the Clearwater series. (Which, I notice, now has 75 ratings and many decent reviews. A few more ratings and we’ll cross the 100 mark, a milestone for me, so keep rating every book you read folks!)

I am already 25,000 words into ‘Secrets’ and am nearing the end of Act One. The thing is, this is the first part of a two-part adventure, and so the first quarter of ‘Secrets’ is actually the first eighth of the overall story. As a four-act story needs a turning point at the end of each act, when I get to 50% through ‘Secrets’, I will be at the end of Act One of the two-parter, if you get me. I have to bear all this in mind as I plough on.

So far, we have met one new character and we’re about to meet a couple of ghosts from the past. James and Silas have been called down to Larkspur because Archer has been set a treasure hunt. It will, ultimately involve the academy men, Fleet and various other charters we know and love (or hate). There will be trysts and triumphs, sadness and success, love and maybe a little lust if it is appropriate (am thinking of you, Charles).

I’ll keep you informed as I write on, so stay tuned to the Wednesday WIP blog, and check back on Saturday for my weekly ramble about all things books, me and creative.

Work In Progress: 3.13

Speaking in Silence

I am currently reading through the proofed manuscript, and only have a few chapters left to do. After that, I’ll be contacting the guys at Other Worlds Ink and setting up the formatting process. That usually only takes a couple of days, and after that, I will upload the Kindle versions of the book. I’m waiting for my cover designer to make a tiny alteration on the back cover of the print version, but I think she might be on holiday, so the paperback may not come out at the same time as the Kindle and KU versions.

So, in a nutshell, you should be able to find Speaking in Silence online in the first week of August. Once I have sent it to Amazon, I will return my attention to the next one, which I left five chapters in, to turn my attention to ‘Silence.’ Another WIP will begin, this time #4, because it will be the fourth novel I have taken you through in these blogs. It will actually be the 40th book I have written. Gulp. Then again, I do write full-time for around six hours per day.

Anyway… There will be more news soon, and keep an eye on the blog and my Facebook page for the cover reveal.

Work In Progress 3.12

Speaking in Silence’ and ‘Starting with Secrets

Yes, sorry about this, but I now have two WIPs on the go. Speaking in Silence is with the proofreader, so there is nothing more I can do about that for now. Having said that, I have just asked Anjela to amend the cover because I got something wrong in the blurb. Well, in the story, actually, where I gave Clearwater a title he could never have held. I’ve sorted that now, and it was only a case of changing one word three times. So, Speaking in Silence has gone for its check-up, leaving me little to do except prepare its Amazon page for when it comes back. Then, I will read it again, have it laid out, and upload the files. I am still aiming for the first week of August for its release.

Meanwhile…

Starting with Secrets has started. This story will be the sixth in the Larkspur Mysteries series and begins with something that happened way back before the first of the Clearwater series began. A secret known only to two characters sets off an adventure that will involve the academy men and characters from the Clearwater series. It’s going to be a two-parter, with the second book having its own title, and I have begun work on the plotting and early chapters.

The Larkspur / Clearwater Bible

I need to invent a fair few clues for ‘Secrets’, and my notebook has come in very handy, as has my Clearwater and Larkspur bible, where I record info about characters and places, events and so forth in case I need them later. Right now, I am about to sit at my writing desk and dream up another set of unlikely clues before returning to chapter four, which I wrote yesterday, and reading that through before moving on to chapter five.

I’ll be back next Wednesday with another WIP update, and who knows what I’ll be writing by then.

Work In Progress 3.11

Speaking in Silence

You may remember my to-do list last week looked like this:

  •     Finish the fine editing
  •     Reread for a final check
  •     Create the blurb
  •     Find images suitable to make a cover and open negotiations with Andjela
  •     Proofreading
  •     Layout
  •     Check everything and reread
  •     Upload to Amazon
  •     Hope for the best

I’m happy to tell you, I have completed the first four things on the list ✔✔✔✔, though I haven’t finalised the blurb yet. Neil has read my edited draft, and I have a little editing to do on the last chapter, which I will do in a moment. Andjela and I have the licence for a photo to be adapted for the front cover, and there will be a reveal of that nearer the release date, which is still estimated at the first week of August.

Check in next week for an update. Meanwhile, here’s the draft blurb.

Speaking in Silence

The Larkspur Mysteries Book Five

Jackson Marsh

“The quiet ones have the loudest voice. Them as say most by speaking in silence.”

Fiona Hawkins, 1881

March 1891. A parliamentary committee arrives at Larkspur Hall to assess Lord Clearwater’s suitability to become the Earl of Cornwall. Prince Albert Victor will announce their decision at a society dinner on Archer’s thirty-second birthday.

However, the MP with the authority to advance Archer to the title is the same man who caused Edward Hyde never to speak again. When the parliamentarians arrive to inspect the Larkspur Academy, Edward comes face to face with the man he had arrested for making unnatural advances. A man who was never tried for his crime.

Silas Hawkins and the academy men band together to ensure Edward sees justice done while protecting Lord Clearwater’s reputation and each other. Using their skills in chemistry, physics and deception, they embark on a game of secrets and subterfuge where the unspoken causes the loudest outcry.


Speaking in Silence is the fifth book in the Larkspur Mysteries series, and touches on themes of victimisation and suicide. Like all books in the series, it is inspired by actual events from the late 1800s. With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story is more of a ‘how dunnit?’ than a ‘who dunnit?’ and like all of Jackson’s mysteries, contains humour, while mixing fact with fiction.

Work In Progress 3.10

Speaking in Silence

We’re into week ten of the writing of this new Larkspur Mystery and I am pleased to tell you, I have only eight chapters left to edit before I can say I have a draft for my beta readers, Neil and Jenine. The MS is booked in for proofreading on the 20th of July, and I am still aiming for the end of July/start of August to have the finished novel ready for you.

My to-do list now looks like this:

  • Finish the fine editing
  • Reread for a final check
  • Create the blurb
  • Find images suitable to make a cover and open negotiations with Andjela
  • Proofreading
  • Layout
  • Check everything and reread
  • Upload to Amazon
  • Hope for the best

While all that is going on, you won’t be surprised to learn that I have started thinking about the next book. The next two books, actually, because I am planning a two-book finale to this series along the lines of ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’ I am teeming with ideas, and have already outlined various scenes in my head, but I must find a way to connect them. All I can tell you right now is that I am planning to incorporate many of the characters from both Clearwater and Larkspur, have three or four storylines running at once all leading to the same end, so all will be connected, take my characters to some wild and exciting places, and tie up many threads. Some of these threads were started in Deviant Desire, and before that, Banyak & Fecks, so I have lots of rereading and remembering to do (thankfully, I keep my ‘bible’ and notebooks). There is also a special ending to consider, and all being well, you’ll be able to read the second book of the two at or by Christmas.

Watch this space.

Thank goodness for my author notebooks and ‘bible’!

Work In Progress 3.08

Speaking in Silence is now at Plymouth

On our imaginary train journey from London to Larkspur, Speaking in Silence is now on platform one at Plymouth station. We have two legs to go, from Plymouth to Liskeard, and from there to Bodmin. Or, in writing terms, we have the remainder of the climax to write followed by the denouement, the ‘how it was done’ section.

https://www.historichotels.org/hotels-resorts/the-savoy-london/media-gallery.php

I am at 85,000 words with approximately another 10,000 to go (plus all the rewriting and editing), and last night, I left my characters at the Savoy Hotel’s French dining room, in London, on March 26th 1891. They were among good company, being in the presence of Prince Albert Victor, Sir Arthur Sullivan, WS Gilbert, Gladstone and other notables of the time. The Clearwater crew are represented by Archer, Silas, Jasper, Mrs Norwood and some of the Larkspur Academy men, and on the journey, we have met several others from the large cast of both Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries.

There’s a reason for the cast being so large, and that will become clear in the next novel, as yet untitled, and the one after that which will finish the series, The Larkspur Legacy. But those are other journeys for other days.

Right now, I am dealing with an unusual mystery novel, because the mystery is for the reader (I hope), who should be asking, ‘What are they up to?’ It’s one of those where the characters and I know more than the reader does until the reveal at the climax. When I rewrite, I will need to check I haven’t given too much away while also making sure what clues I do drop are sufficient to hold the reader’s intrigue. I am sure I will find out when husband Neil reads the second draft for me, but that will be on the return journey to London.

Ah, we are now pulling out of Plymouth, and I must get back to the Savoy Hotel and the great reveal…

Work In Progress 3.07

Speaking in Silence is now arriving at Exeter.

If you have been following the ‘Speaking in Silence’ journey from London Paddington to Bodmin, you will know that it’s been an interesting train ride so far. In the word count scheme of things, I’d say I was now at Exeter, being at roughly 72,000 words, with the destination being 100,000 or thereabouts. After some shunting around in a yard several miles back, I have had a clear run from Bristol, and am now approaching the final reel. The final ‘act’ as they say in film terms.

I started the ‘Speaking in Silence’ journey knowing that I wanted it to be about two characters who appeared in the last book, but who we don’t yet know; Henry Hope and Edward Hyde. In this story, Edward is the protagonist, and yet, not only does he hardly speak, he also hardly communicates. That poses a few challenges for the author. Unlike Joe Tanner, who is deaf and communicates through sign language, Edward has taken a vow of semi-silence. The only person he speaks to is Henry, and Henry knows why. We, the reader, come to learn why Edward chose to do this, and we come to understand there is only one thing that will enable him to feel able to speak again. Justice. Therein lies the plot of the novel.

That was what I started with 72,000 words ago, and the rest I have, quite literally, made up as I have gone along, including the characters of Henry and Edward and a hell of a lot of backstory, which trickles out over time. I have used the flashback technique, and it was only while writing those scenes that I came to know the characters. They introduced themselves to me while Henry was telling me his and Edward’s story if you like, and that didn’t happen until I was quite a way into the story. That’s why we had the shunting around a few miles back, and I had to backtrack and change the point of view of some of the earlier chapters. If there’s a lesson there, it’s ‘know your characters before you start’. (A note to fellow authors, if you would like to stretch your character’s bio then you can always drop in for a ‘character interview’. Contact my PA for more details jeninesymi@gmail.com).

To give you a flavour of the novel, and without giving anything away, here’s a short excerpt from the first draft – unedited so excuse any errors. The skeleton is a character who will remain nameless for now, and I have changed the name of the second character to ‘John’ so as not to spoil things for you. John, the villain, is going to see the other villain at his new lodgings in Greychurch:  


The skeleton’s previous lodgings above the ‘Princess Alice‘ had, John thought, been about as low as a man could go, but when he took a deep breath and entered the ‘Hops and…’ as the broken sign described it, he realised he had been wrong.

His foot fell on a rat, but it didn’t squeal because it was dead, but the child playing with it gave him a mouth of abuse, which he ignored. Dishevelled heaps, rather than people, sat at the few tables, some sucking on pipes whose fumes hardly disguised the stench of damp clothes, sweat and something else he didn’t like to think about, while across the room, no more than ten feet from the door, two men stood at a trestle table that served as a bar, while three rested against it on the floor, either drunk or dead. The most unnerving thing about the place, however, wasn’t the landlord with wooden teeth, only one eye and one hand, nor even the miasma of fire, pipe and opium smoke, but the silence. No-one even looked at him, no-one jereed at a well-dressed man from the west of the city entering their destitute realm, and nobody, apart from the child, made a sound.

These people, if he could call them that, might still be able to hear, he thought, and so he prepared to whisper to the disfigured landlord. As he leant over one of those asleep at his feet a movement to his right caught his eye. One of the heaps unwound itself from the table it had been slumped across and dragged itself to its feet. It said nothing, but a skeletal hand emerged from the sleeve of its black gown and beckoned to John like death, before gliding towards a door beside the makeshift bar.

Pleased to be with someone he knew, albeit vaguely and nefariously, John followed the skeleton through to a passage, and down a set of steps to a cellar. Ahead, the scurry of clawed feet suggested their path was clear, but still, when they arrived below ground, several pairs of pink eyes glinted in the candlelight, watching from the crevices for the time they could reclaim their dominion.


The Princess Alice pub was one of the pubs frequented by prostitutes in the East End of London at the time of the Ripper crimes

More on my WIP blog next Wednesday, but don’t forget to be here on Saturday for my other weekly post.

Work In Progress 3.06

Speaking in Silence

The WIP news this week is that I am up to 55,000 words and chapter fifteen of the Larkspur Mysteries book five, Speaking in Silence. On our train journey from London to Cornwall, we have reached somewhere around Bath or Bristol, and that’s appropriate because it means I’ve just met the villain of the piece coming the other way. Chapters 14 and 15 are set on a train journey from Cornwall to Devizes, in Wiltshire, and in the story, the train has recently left the city of Bath.

You know when you get halfway through a draft and suddenly think to yourself, ‘Something’s not right’? Well, I had that twice during the last week, so some of my workload has been fixing a couple of things, or rather, fixing one, and thinking about how to fix the second.

In the first instance, I’d left what they call a plot hole and needed to go back and fill it in. This meant adding an extra chapter so that what a character did next would make sense.

In the second instance, I realised I have started the story from too many points of view. Simply put, it opens with the villain, cuts to Silas’ POV, then to Frank’s, then back to Silas’, and then there’s a backstory section from Henry and Edward’s points of view. The story was originally to be about Frank and his involvement with someone else’s story, but now I am further in, I realise it’s not about Frank at all. So, the earlier scenes that are from his POV need to be from someone else’s, Henry in this case, and so they need rewriting.

Hey ho! That’s how it goes. Now, having told you this, I am going to get on with chapter 16 and move the story into its second half.

Work In Progress 3.05

Speaking In Silence

We are now well on the way to Devizes in Wiltshire. In fact, we will be there at any moment. I am comparing the journey of Speaking In Silence to a train ride from London to Bodmin and looking at my old map of the GWR lines, I’d say Devizes was about a third of the way there or 35,000 words in first draft terms. When we reach Bodmin (estimated time of arrival, 100,000 words), we will have to make the return journey via the second and following drafts, but that’s for much later.

Devizes is also appropriate because that is where my villain lives or lived in real life. At least, he was a member of parliament for the area back in 1891 when the story is set. When I say ‘in real life’, I am basing my character on a newspaper article and on a character from it, but because of what he does in the story, I must point out that the real man didn’t do this in real life. He might have done what he was accused of in the newspapers of the time, but the case was never tried, so who can say?

Research this week has seen me looking up chemical reactions, reading first-hand accounts of London’s East End in the 19th century, and the etiquette of a country house Friday-to-Monday, what we now call a weekend. The word ‘weekend’ only came into use just before 1920, so it’s another of those words I can’t use, like ‘okay’, ‘teenager’ or, to a certain extent, ‘adolescent.’ ‘Homosexual’ is another one I shouldn’t use (common usage after 1900, only specialised medical use a few years before), and when my books are filled with homosexual adolescents recounting their okay teenage years at the weekend… Well, I revert to the thesaurus on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Jenine has been researching letters patent and advancement of titles, the process of lobbying for someone to receive an earldom and how that happens. Poor thing.

It’s been a busy journey so far, and we nearly had a derailment around Newbury when I found myself stuck. I had planned an ending, but as the characters started telling me their story, I realised the ending was wrong. I had to think up another direction, and we almost jumped the tracks. Now, though, we’re back on them, and the destination is the same, only with a slight detour. As usual, I can’t tell you too much, but I can say that what the near derailment has done, is force me to write characters as knowing what is going on in the story while not being able to tell the reader. You see, in this book, it’s all about what’s not being said that’s important, and yet an awful lot is said. Hence, Speaking In Silence.

The journey continues…