Finding a Way is on its Way

I was planning to upload and release ‘Finding a Way’ yesterday, but discovered a couple of last-minute typos, so had the guys fix them. I’m going to upload it as soon as I have posted this blog, and the link will be on the Saturday blog, no doubt, and on my Facebook pages.

A Fall from Grace

The second book in the new series, which continues the events two weeks after book one, is now at 65,000 words (out of an estimated 100,000), and after a week of finalising book one and rereading the draft so far of book two to remind myself where I was, I am, today, getting back to the job of typing.

Before I do that, I wanted to draw your attention to another homegrown product.

Symi Dream Calendar 2024

Excuse this step away from my books. Every year, my husband puts together a calendar of shots from Symi, the Greek island where we live. He’s been doing this for years, ever since he had his photography business and shop. Next year’s calendar has just gone live, and I thought I would let you know in case you were interested.

There’s one large image per month, a grid-style layout for each month with boxes large enough for quick notes and reminders, and there are no pre-marked special days cluttering up your pages. If you want a calendar with large images of where we live, then this is for you.

You can only buy this online from this one outlet. We’ve managed to keep the price to under €20.00 (which is what they were available for back in the days of the shop), though postage isn’t included, and prices vary slightly according to your country.

Click this link to get to the Symi Dream Calendar 2024, or click the image.

WIP: At Sixes and Sevens

I’m not, actually. Not at sixes and sevens, that is, but I am working on book two of the new series, which would be work in progress seven since I started the WIP blog, and I am also working on the first in the series, which would be WIP six. The first is almost complete, I am doing my ‘last edit before proofing’ but haven’t set a date for proofing yet, because I need to be further into book two first. So, unusually for me, I have two major works on the go at the same time. We also have family visiting, which means fewer working hours, but I’m still up at 3.00 each morning to get started and make the most of the time I have.

Where did the expression ‘at sixes and sevens’ come from?

Here’s an aside. First of all, this is an idiom, a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. (Deducible: possible to discover based on the information or evidence that is available.)

Grammarist. Usage of the idiom over time.

According to The idiom at sixes and sevens came out of the 14th century from an old dice game where throwing a six or a seven was filled with risk and uncertainty. It appeared in Chaucer’s work “Troilus and Criseyde,” back in 1374, and the excerpt read, “Lat nat this wrechched wo thyn herte gnawe, But manly set the world on sexe and seuene.”

Those last words are six and seven in Old English. (Just in case, like me, you were asleep when they did Chaucer at school.) Good old Wonkipedia agrees that the idiom evolved from a card game, and adds: William Shakespeare uses a similar phrase in Richard II (around 1595), “But time will not permit: all is uneven, And every thing is left at six and seven“.


Currently, my desk is surrounded by pieces of paper stuck to the shelves, and beside my open notebook. This is because book two in the new Delamere (or Clearwater Detective Agency) series involves a lot of detail in its backstory, and I have to keep track. A man is missing, and it falls to the newly appointed detective’s assistants, Jack and Will Merrit to investigate. While they are doing this, Jack is still coming to terms with his feelings for Larkin Chase but is confused by his feelings towards his new boss, James.

The typing corner in my workhouse today.

The story fits into the Clearwater world, after ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ and is set in London. A couple of Clearwater/Larkspur characters have made appearances in the first and now, second, book, but it’s not about the Clearwater crew, as the previous series were. It’s about my new MC, Jack Merrit, a handsome hansom driver with a very ‘precise’ younger brother, and how they find themselves rocketed from Limehouse to Knightsbridge, poor to middle class, through a series of unexpected circumstances. As per my usual, there is a mystery to solve, action and adventure, and in this case, a slow-burn love story that, over the course of several books, will see the MC travel from longing to lust to losing, to…? At least, that’s the plan.

I am currently on 28,000 words of book two, which doesn’t yet have a title, but which is inspired by ‘Men of a Similar Heart’ a story I wanted to tell, but one which didn’t fit into the Clearwater world. Until now.

Symi Dream Blog

By the way, as soon as I have posted this, I am off to post on my other blog, SymiDream. If you want to see the non-story side of me and where I live, then bookmark that blog which I update around five times per week with all kinds of island chat and other matters. Whatever takes my fancy really. Today, I am talking about this blog a little, so it makes sense on this one to talk a little about that one…

You see what I mean about being at sixes and sevens? Lol.

See you back here on Saturday.

The Delamare Files

Looking Ahead and Thinking Aloud

Today, I think ahead to what you can expect from me next in a post that is something of a therapeutic ramble for me, and hopefully, an interesting read for you.

The New Series

As you will read on Wednesday, I have completed the first draft of the first book in the new series, and have still not settled on a title for the book or a subtitle for the series. I know how the series is to run, and I am looking forward to it unravelling over the coming months, and I also know it is to be a second spinoff from the Clearwater series. It will be set in the Clearwater world in London in 1892, following the adventures of the Larkspur Series, and yet, it won’t be directly related to either of the two series that have gone before. The new series will revolve around Delamere House, home of the Clearwater Detective Agency, and characters from the past stories will make appearances in supporting roles, as and when needed.

The main characters in the new series are to be:

Jack Merrit, a London cabbie from Limehouse, aged 25.
Will Merrit, his brother, a man who is very ‘precise’, aged 21.
Larkin Chase, an investigative journalist, aged 30.

Book One

In book one, the reader will also meet five characters from the previous series playing supporting roles. There are also new villains and a new ‘feel’ to the series. Let’s say, it’s more of a classic detective-story vibe, yet has all the Jackson Marsh elements of coming to terms with being gay at a time when it was illegal, first love (and sex), good Vs evil, men supporting men, class divide, action, adventure, humour and, of course, mystery.

Book one isn’t so much of a mystery, however, and is a fully contained story acting as an introduction to what will come next, which will be a mashup of Victorian mystery, MM Romance, Bromance, adventure, Action and a little bit of bonkerness from some quirky characters.

Book Two

Book two… Well, I am starting that today while book one sits and matures in my head before I address the final writes and edits. Once I am happy book two will run, I will set about releasing book one, with the second instalment coming a month or so later.

Meanwhile, I might already have a title for book two in ‘The Delamere Files’ series (just one idea), and that is ‘The Sinford Scandal’ (just another idea). The background to the story I have in mind came about some time ago while I was writing Clearwater and Larkspur books, but it didn’t fit into their flow. So… After telling you all that, here’s a little about what you can expect in the new series, or at least, the kind of story you can expect once book one is published, and the series is up and running later this year.

These notes are from my original draft of ‘Men of a Similar Heart’, a book I never wrote, but a title I very much like.

I used one of my favourite techniques for my second attempt to start this story, I opened with a newspaper cutting. This device is useful for many reasons: it can set the back story, it can give a deadline (as it does at the start of ‘Unspeakable Acts’), and it can set up the mystery, as it does in this case.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette

Monday, November 26th, 1877

Tragedy At Sinford's
A grim discovery was made on Friday last at Sinford's School for Boys, Moorside. On rousing the men of Drake House, the Housemaster, Rev. D Spencer discovered a student absent from his bed, and soon after when searching for the pupil, was confronted with a scene of great tragedy. 
The body of Luc Verdier was discovered in the attic of the building hanging from a rafter by a rope fashioned into an ill-formed, but fatal noose about his neck. Verdier, we are told, was the son of a diplomat of the French Embassy and had attended Sinford's since coming up from prep school. Rev. Spencer described him as a highly intelligent young man with a proclivity towards physical sportsmanship, vice-captain of the First XI, first seat oarsman and holder of the school trophy for the javelin and other athletic pursuits. A well-liked and admired young man, Rev. Spencer described him as a friend to all and an enemy to no-one. The Housemaster has also said that he can think of no reason why Mr Verdier should wish to end his life, and reported the pupil had shown no signs of anxiety or distress in the days or weeks before the tragedy.
The police have issued a statement. Pupils of the house are all seniors and have been interviewed in the presence of Rev. Spencer and their Headmaster, but no further information concerning Verdier's state of mind has come to light. His study companion stated that Verdier was in his bed and sleeping before the lights were extinguished for the night, and spent an untroubled night despite, he said, of a dream which woke him once. Unable to say exactly what time he awoke, the pupil was able to confirm that Verdier was still abed and asleep at that time.
No other statements have been made about the case save for a message from the Headmaster, made through the Plymouth constabulary. In it, Headmaster McKay, BSc, asks for privacy for the school at this difficult time, a request, The Gazette shall, of course, honour.

This is the event that will, years later, lead to an intriguing mystery that will come with a deadline, a race against time and a few unexpected twists. At least, that’s the plan.


You know, writing this blog post at 4.00 in the morning has helped me put the future into focus. The more I witter on here, the more I like the sound of ‘The Delamere Files’, and the keener I am to start mapping book two. It will need to come out pretty soon after book one because some storylines in book one remain unresolved, and I won’t want to keep you hanging around. So, I shall be away now, and do just that; start a new story back-to-back with the last one, leaving book one in a state of second draftness until it is time to return to it.


Talking of blogs, if you are interested to read my personal ‘Living on a Greek island’ blog, I am starting it up again after a two-year lunch break. It will go live tomorrow, Sunday, and I’ll be posting nonsense and images about island life on a more or less regular basis while keeping up my usual Jackson Saturday and Wednesday blog posts here. It will be nice to welcome you to where James and Jackson meet.

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.”)

Imagination is more important than Knowledge: Discuss.

“Imagination is more important than Knowledge.”

So said Albert Einstein, thus inspiring today’s blog, a continuation from last week’s blog, which was about researching the taxi driver’s ‘knowledge.’

In that case, ‘knowledge’ was the thing London cabbies need before they can start transporting passengers around the metropolis. In Einstein’s case,

‘knowledge’ meant learning, what facts we have accumulated and, literally, what we know.

So, what he’s saying is pretty clear:

it’s more important to imagine than it is to know.

Thinking that, reminded me of the old adage, ‘Write about what you know.’ How many times have I heard that? I remember being told it at school when we had to write essays and short stories for English classes. However, I also remember when I was first inspired to write creatively, and here’s a little story that, unless I lose my train of thought, will point up the idea of creativity and imagination being more important than knowledge.

Soon to be Twelve, Never Been to Egypt

Picture it…

I am sitting in the library of an independent school in Folkestone, Kent. The wall opposite is filled with books, my best friend is sharing the table with me, and there’s a man with a beard facing us and the rest of the small class of uniformed pupils. It’s March 1975, and I am a few days away from being twelve years old. A few days ago, the television news carried the appalling story of a tube strain disaster at Moorgate station in London, where 43 people died because the train failed to stop and drove into a wall at speed. Not exactly the subject for a discussion during an English lesson with Mr Whitney, housemaster, historian and all-round inspirer of pupils. After a discussion about the train crash, our homework was to write a short story inspired by the event, which you might think was a little unusual or bad taste, but that’s the British public school system for you.

So, off I went after school, walking up the road to the bus stop with John (the best friend), discussing not English homework, but Hammer Horror films, because he collected the magazines, and we both liked the films, and having said goodbye, I continued to the bus stop and went home to write my short story.

Flashback: 1972, I am nine years old and in a long queue, eventually entering a huge building, walking through echoing halls and into dark chambers to wonder at the gold funeral mask of a pharaoh, Tutankhamun, and other treasures. Flash forward a couple of years, and I am watching one of the Universal ‘Mummy’ films, Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney Jr., it doesn’t matter which, I am fascinated by pyramids, Egyptian tombs and things buried underground.

Flash back to the story, and I am sitting down to write my homework based on the tube disaster. Of course, I didn’t know what it was like to be involved, I’m not even sure I’d been on a tube train by then, so all I had to go on were the images I’d seen on TV and my imagination. Oh, and my interest in Egyptology, such as it was at 11 years old.

My story, presented at the next English lesson, concerned a team of archaeologists investigating a pyramid, when that pyramid collapsed. All I remember of it were limbs sticking out from beneath rocks, dust, darkness, screams and other horror elements, and the ending; a man in a hospital bed where instead of flowers in the vase, there were the same dead arms and legs. I also remember the praise I received after its presentation in class. Mr Whitney singled it out because it had a beginning, a middle and an end, and told the whole class he’d chosen it for singular praise because I ‘Didn’t once mention a blessed train, like the rest of you. Imagination! It is far more useful than knowledge.’ Or something very similar. He then, rather annoyingly for an 11-year-old, told me it needed improvement, and I was to write it out again in my best handwriting, but not to copy it. What he did was tell me to write a second draft, thus teaching me the pain and value of editing.

The point of that story was simply to highlight the title of this piece, that you don’t always need knowledge to write creatively, and to be truly creative, imagination is more important than knowledge.

Now hang on a minute We can take the opposite view with no hassle whatsoever and be perfectly pedantic by saying: You need to know how to write. Ah ha! See, that’s knowledge. Yes, and quite right. Except, as far as we know, Homer never wrote a word, he spoke his stories, as that was the only way to pass them down back then. He didn’t need to know how to write, he needed to know how to tell a story, but storytelling is in all of us, whether it comes out in the written word or spoken, in art, journalism, comic books or gossip; we all have the ability to tell a story.

Yes, but… I know what you’re going to say. How can you write about something you know nothing about? How can you write a story set somewhere you have never been, or about something you have never experienced, or have no knowledge of?

Yeah, yeah, blah-di-blah… Tell me, dear sceptic, how many times did Shakespeare visit Italy to research his Merchant of Venice or any of the other 13 plays he set in the country? Did Bernard Cornwell OBE fight against Napoleon, or live among the Anglo Saxons of the Dark Ages? I think not. Yes, writers research, and some who write historical novels are learned historians, but they’ve still never been back in time, and let’s not mention Azimov or Arthur C Clarke, and others who write science fiction, fantasy or steampunk. Come to that, Bram Stoker never went to Transylvania or, as far as anyone knows, got bitten by a vampire or had his head chopped off.

Write about what you know, and if you don’t know about it, research. That would be a better maxim, in my book.

Ideas are the Seed of all Achievement

I found that delicious quote, from journalist, Anastasia Haralabidou, in an article titled ‘Great Ideas: Is imagination more important than knowledge?’ (2015, you can find it here.)  In her article, she points out how imagination has inspired knowledge. Example: an apple falling from a tree and narrowly missing Isaac Newton… Why did it do that? How come it fell and didn’t float away? And there we have gravity.

It’s a case of saying ‘What if?’ and then following the what if to a conclusion, and to do that, you need to use imagination, not knowledge. If you don’t have the knowledge, you can gain it, if you don’t have the imagination, well, frankly, you’re scuppered. As Haralabidou also says in her article,

“Imagination is the highest freedom of all and the one that no one can deprive us of.”

How good is that? We all have an imagination, it is as inherent as storytelling, and you don’t need knowledge to release it, you only need to know that you can, and we all can. Some with more success than others, I grant you, but it is within us all to tell stories, and if those stories are set in a time or place about which we know nothing, then, like a soon to be 12-year-old transposing what he’d seen on the news to the pyramids of Giza, we research what we must, and imagine the rest.

This all reminds me of another saying I heard once many years ago which has always stuck with me. Prevention is better than knowing who did it. That, I fancy, might be the title of a future blog.

Learning the Knowledge for a New Series

If you read my Wednesday work-in-progress blog, you will know I have embarked on a new series, currently titled ‘New Series’ in one folder, and ‘Victorian Series’ in another. So far, I have written four chapters in draft one, a rough outline, some character notes, and some research notes.

Part of my research has been around cab drivers because one of the two main characters is a young cabman, and that led me to a couple of books, a few websites, and a coincidence.

The Knowledge

When London cabbies train for the job, they spend on average two years learning ‘the knowledge.’ That’s the layout of all 25,000 or more London streets in a six-mile radius from central London, roughly.

If you’ve ever taken a black cab, as we call them nowadays (though they are not always black), you’ll feel assured that once you step in and say, ‘471 Kingsland Road,’ the driver will say, ‘Righty-o, Guv,’ and off you go. You can give as obscure an address as you fancy and, the chances are, your driver will know where it is because he’s got ‘the knowledge.’

When this term came into use, I am not sure, but then, I’ve not completed my research yet.

My ordered book has arrived, ‘The History of the London Horse Cab’, and I’ve read the introduction, but there’s a long way to go yet, so my knowledge of cab work and ‘the knowledge’ currently equates to knowing only about five streets out of the 25,000 or more.

I’ve also been looking at various collections of writings from Victorian times that I’ve found on websites, including my favourite, The Dictionary of Victorian London, compiled by Lee Jackson.

A Coincidence

While looking around for various resources, I came across a Facebook page dedicated to a book, ‘Carter the Cabman.’ After a little investigation, I discovered that this book was available on Kindle, so I downloaded a copy and set to reading, out of interest.

It turns out to be a novel, presenting in a nicely clever way, a collection of papers discovered in an antique shop in 1988, and those papers were written by a cabman called Carter in 1888, at the time of Jack the Ripper. That’s as far as I have got with my reading as I only bought it yesterday, but already, I feel a weird sense of coincidence. My Clearwater Mysteries series begins in 1888 at the time of the Ripper (though it’s not Jack), and my new series is not only about a cab driver, but is also set in 1888, though the Ripper murders are not part of the plot this time. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of ‘Carter’ and perhaps asking the author if he’d like to appear here in a guest post. (Though I’m not sure how to tell him that the word ‘weekend’ didn’t come into usage until after 1912, so his cabman author of 1888 would not have used it… but that’s me being pedantic.)

More About ‘New Victorian Series’

My notes are vague in places, and detailed in others. I have in mind a set of investigations that my two main characters will undertake, but unlike the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries, these will involve a different investigative style. Clearwater and Larkspur use a lot of unlikely but not impossible scenarios, and inventions of the time or just before the time, such as vanishing and reappearing ink, telegraph printers, and glow-in-the-dark paint. The new series will, if all goes according to plan, focus on real issues of the time and how my two MCs put things right. A little like ‘Guardians of the Poor’, where our heroes uncover corruption at the Hackney workhouse. I have in my list of ideas notes such as:

  • Slum landlords Vs paupers,
  • The Thames Murders (cold case),
  • Mediums,
  • Quacks,
  • Lunatic asylum, and
  • ‘gay’ cases.

The latter one is also a hark back to Larkspur, where the initial idea was to base characters and stories on actual events, which I did all the way through: Dalston Blaze and the workhouse scandal, for example, or Edward Hyde’s incident on the train and the court case with that nasty Tory MP. But don’t think this new series is going to be all special investigation and doing the right thing, and don’t think it will be a repeat of issues and events from the other two series.

So far, I know that it is going to involve the following:

  • Clues
  • villains
  • adventure
  • A slow-burn romance over a couple of books
  • A character with an undefined ‘problem’ who will turn out to be a genius (at something)
  • Brotherly love
  • Bromance and MM romance (of course)
  • Falling in love, falling out of love, blah-di-blah
  • Humour
  • Real places and events

That’s where I am with ‘New Victorian Series’ right now, researching and learning more knowledge about life in Victorian Britain, especially London, around the end of the 19th century. It all starts with a journalist discovering a handsome young cabman in tears late at night on August 17th 1888. Why is he crying? That’s what you will one day find out.

Work In Progress: 6.01


These past few days, I have started on a new novel which I intend to be the start of a new series. So far, the folder is titled: Victorian Series, and I have in it chapters one, two and three, plus a file called ‘New story ideas,’ and one called ‘The cabmen from James Greenwood.’ Let me explain…

Who was James Greenwood?

James Greenwood (1832–1927) was an English social explorer, journalist and writer, who published a series of articles which drew attention to the plight of London’s working poor. He was one of the first journalists to cover stories incognito, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of investigative journalism.


What’s he got to do with anything?

When I was writing ‘Banyak & Fecks’ and investigating what it was like to spend a night in a casual ward of a London workhouse, I came across an article Greenwood had written following his experiences of spending a night in such a place. I returned to him for background reading for this new series, and in particular, the book, ‘Tales from Victorian London’ by James Greenwood and Henry Mayhew. There is a chapter in it where Greenwood recounts an interview with a hansom cab driver who tells him a tale of catching burglars, and that was the inspiration for my ‘New Victorian Series.’

Since reading the article and others, I have ordered a book about the history of the hansom cab, and have read other articles and stories from the time (mid-1800s, though my story is set slightly later). I have also been trying to find a street map of London from 1887 with street names, though that’s proving a little more difficult. What I need is an original A to Z, although that invaluable street atlas was not printed until the 1930s, so I am left with online maps, many of which don’t name the streets.

Why the need for street names and maps?

The simple answer is because, my main character is a cabman, a driver of a hansom cab, or a cabbie, as they were and are also known. So far in the story, the MC has decided he needs to earn more money, and so, steps in to take his grandfather’s old job driving a hansom cab.

Not an easy task. It takes the average London cabbie two years to learn ‘the knowledge’, the layout of every street, the names, places, locations, short cuts etc., of the city. There are, and were in 1887, thousands of streets, and new ones being built all the time. Having a map will make it easier for me to be accurate, because unlike the Greychurch and Limedock of ‘The Clearwater Mysteries’, the new series is to be set in Whitechapel, Limehouse and other places where I will use the real place names, events and possibly, people.

Who is our new main character?

There are to be two.

Meet Jack Merrit…

a 24-year-old carter and labourer at the East India Docks who has an estranged father working in the music hall, an absent mother, a younger brother who has ‘an undiagnosed problem’, and who lives with his grandparents, Reggie and Ida Merritt in a two-roomed dwelling in Limehouse.

My visual inspiration for Jack came from a photo of a prisoner taken sometimes during the late 1800s. This chap had such a bewildered look of ‘I’m innocent’ about him, it stirred my heart and made me think, ‘Poor young man, his only crime was to fall in love—with another man.’

My second main character, the one who, after a first-person introduction tells the story in the third person, is

Larkin Chase,

a well-to-do ‘journalist’, investigative reporter as we’d call him now, a solver of mysteries and a champion for the rights of the put-upon. Larkin is 30, and meets Jack in August 1888 much in the way James Greenwood met his cabbie, late at night in South London.

And there I shall leave this update so I can get on with chapter three. Before I do, I will let you see a snippet of chapter two, which only gives away two plot points, that Samson Merrit, Jack’s father has died, and his grandfather, Reggie, has suffered a stroke.

The only way his parents or children heard of [Samson Merrit] was from the variety newspapers and bill posters, and, when Jack was twenty-four, via a messenger from Shoreditch who brought news of a tragedy.
Samson Merrit suffered an untimely but entertaining death on the stage of the Shoreditch Music Hall early in eighty-seven. He left behind his two sons, a shocked audience, and an even more shocked Marie Lloyd, with whom he had been performing a duet version of ‘The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery.’ The coroner said it was heart failure and had nothing to do with his fellow performer. Ida Merrit said he’d had it coming and good riddance, but on hearing the news, Reggie suffered apoplexy that brought an end to his cabbing career the moment he staggered backwards into his chair and collapsed.

More updates to come next week, and on my Saturday blog.

Taking a Break and Why

This week, I wanted to let you know that I will be taking a break until 15th April. Why? Well, there are two reasons.

It’s important for writers to take breaks

I don’t think I’ve had a break from writing for the past four years. Even when I have been away, I have had a book in my head, a notebook with me, and I’ve been planning and plotting while travelling. Then, on my return, I’ve dived straight back into the story. However, next week, I am going away for a week, and I have no story in my head. I’ve just finished the Clearwater and Larkspur series of 18 novels, and am about to move on to something new.


That’s the question and the reason for the break. I know I want to write something set in the same time period, late 19th century England, but if I launch straight in, there’s a danger I will write the same characters as I wrote for the previous series but under different names. There’s also the possibility I will repeat my story themes, and I want to come up with new mysteries, characters, and a new series. Some things will be the same (a mix of fact/fiction, bromance/romance, fun, adventure and nasty villains), while others will change, and if I start now, the chances are what I write will be too similar.

Similar is good, because people obviously like the characters, time, plots and mysteries I have been writing (I had five of my books in Amazon’s top 100 list for LGBT Historical Mystery this week), so something similar is what’s called for. However, too similar and everyone will say, ‘It’s just the same thing.’ Hence, a two-week break.


Having said that, I do have an idea or two and will no doubt think about them while I am away, but the pressure will be to work on newness, and not simply come up with a plot. I must start with a character or two, the MC and the IC, and get them firmly fixed in my mind before I start on detail. I have already started researching and gathering some notes and ideas, because there’s no point not writing down ideas, but I’ve not yet started on Chapter One. These images represent today’s musings…

By the way, MC stands for Main Character, and IC for Impact Character. As we had Lord Clearwater as the MC in the Clearwater series, so we had Silas Hawkins as the IC, the one who makes an impact on the MC’s life, aims and actions. As the series progressed, we had other MCs and ICs, such as James Wright in ‘Twisted Tracks’ and Thomas (as the IC). In the Larkspur series, we had Dalston Blaze as the MC of ‘Guardians of the Poor’, and Clearwater as the IC (who was also the protagonist, because your MC doesn’t have to be the protagonist). Later, we had Chester Cadman as the MC in ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ and Frank Andino as the IC, and so it goes on.

Where to?

No doubt you are wondering what his new series idea is and where it is going to. Well, you’re not alone, because so am I. You may also be wondering where I am travelling to, and the answer is simple and exciting. I am taking one of my godsons to Prague for a few days. He’s been learning piano and music with me (as it’s not taught in our island school), and I can’t think of a better place than Prague for music and culture – not on my budget, at least.

So, we have a classical lunchtime concert lined up for one day (at the Lobkowicz Palace), a performance of ‘The Magic Flute’ at one of the opera houses, and a boat cruise/dinner with varied live music another evening. Those are the highlights, but along the way, I am aiming to view various other cultural sights he won’t see on our island, and probably not in Greece. I’m thinking of cathedrals, the museum of music, the astronomical clock, the Klementinum, other museums, and simply just the lifestyle and architecture. So, an exciting, if exhausting, time is planned. We’ll only be there for four nights/three days, but there’s a two-day journey to get there from here, and a three-night journey to get back. All part of the experience.

We arrive back during ‘Great Week’, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, so as soon as we step off the boat, we will be into dynamite, celebrations and festivities that come with a Greek Easter on Symi. I’ll blog about all this and the new series idea as soon as I get back.

So, that’s why I’m not going to be around for two weeks, and who knows what story ideas I will come back with. Keep reading!

Work In Progress: A Couple of Weeks Off.

I have nothing much to report this week, as I have taken some time off between releasing the last in the Larkspur series, and starting in earnest on the next series, while also working up ideas for The Clearwater Companion. It was my birthday last weekend, and I released ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ on the same day to mark my birthday and that of Archer, Lord Clearwater, though he was born way before me, in 1859. I chose that as his birthday so I would remember it.

I share my birthday with Lord Clearwater

Thank you so much to my readers who jumped in and purchased Legacy over the weekend, it shot up to #9 on the new release chart for LGBTQ Historical fiction and shared a screen with KJ Charles and her fabulous latest releases. It makes all the hard work pay off, for sure. Thank you.

This week, I am doodling notes for a possible new series. More mysteries, the same time period, the same mix of fact and fiction, but with entirely different characters. Exactly what this is to be, though, I am not yet sure. I am in a state of ‘getting over’ the last 18 connected books in Clearwater and Larkspur, and moving on. There’s a danger I will simply reinvent the same characters, so a break is needed. This week, I am catching up on some other writing jobs while making my notes, and next week, I shall be abroad for a week, so that should clear my head too. It’s a good idea to take a break now and then. I’m known for leaping straight from one thing to another, and when you’re writing a connected series, that’s easier to do.

In fact, after writing Deviant Desire and knowing I wanted to carry on, and after getting through ‘Twisted Tracks’, I found the rest came more easily. One reason for that was because I had, by then, created my five main characters, and didn’t need to think too much about them. They develop through the rest of the series, of course, but I only had to think about the new additions, developing the villains, moving time and character arcs forward, and so, found both series easy to write. Now, I am nearly at the end of one journey and at the start of another. I am changing trains, you might say, and, like Clem Carter in the Larkspur series, heading for an unknown destination.

Midnight on the Great Western – ‘The journeying boy’

Thomas Hardy

In the third-class seat sat

The journeying boy.

And the roof-lamp’s oily flame

Played down on his listless form and face,

Bewrapt past knowing to what he was going,

Or whence he came.

[Read the rest here:]

Exciting times.

The Final Stage. The Layout

A few days ago, I received the internal file for my next novel, ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, and as usual, it looks great. This is thanks to the work done by Scott and Mark at Other World’s Ink, a Mongoose Author Services company I started using a few years ago.

I think I came across them via their other site, Queer Romance Ink, where I list all my books. In fact, QRI is one of only two places online I pay to publicise my books, because they are the only ones that are worth it, if you ask me. (The other one is All Author, a separate enterprise.)

Before OWI offered the layout and cover-building services they now have, I used to do the internal layout of my books myself. This involved using a thing called Adobe InDesign, which I managed to get to grips with in a very basic way, and it was a long and nerve-wracking process, for me. Each chapter was a separate document, then turned into NotePad format, then set out in individual ID files, and there were things about headers and footers, and getting the page numbering right was a nightmare, and I was always worried I’d forget to insert a chapter when combining all files… Now, I send the guys the Word docs for the MS, the front matter, back matter, any illustrations or maps, and a couple of days later, it comes back looking perfect. Their service also allows for unlimited changes, so when we find the occasional typo I’ve left in a book months after it’s published, I can send them the amendment, and back comes the improved version at no extra charge.

Anyway, I’m very pleased to say that OWI now takes all the strain and stress out of the book layout for me. (They also organise blog tours and may other author services.) And I’m pleased to say they’ve come along today to tell us more about themselves. Earlier this week we took a moment to ask Scott a few questions about his work….

Have you always worked in graphic design and book layout?

I’ve been using Photoshop since the late 90’s. We took a trip to Kauai and fell in love with the island, and decided we wanted to live there. And if we were going to do that, we would need a job there. So we decided to get into web design. We jumped in feet first, bought Photoshop, and with the help of a graphically-inclined friend, just started using it. For most of the first fifteen years, I mostly used it for photo manipulation – resizing, touch-up, color enhancement and the like.

Then I started working with layers, and composing new things, and eventually began to create book covers. My first attempts were a bit amateurish, but over time I got better. I mostly do my own covers and cover wraps, which are a lot of fun, finding the perfect art to make a cohesive print cover.

My formatting work started similarly. I bought Vellum, a Mac formatting app, when I first started publishing my own work. It wasn’t cheap – about $300 – and I figured I could defray the costs by doing some book formatting to other authors. I’ve done more than a hundred books for scores of authors.

Do you work for specific genres?

No, although I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy the most. They’ve always been my go-to genres. But I’ve done formatting and cover wraps for those genres, horror, romance, erotica, historical, mystery, YA, plays, poetry, non-fiction, and more.

Can you remember how you first met James/Jackson?

On Facebook, I think. He was one of our QueeRomance Ink authors, and was having trouble with formatting. He asked me to tackle his latest book. And now, nine books later…

Is he easy to work with?

LOL yes he is. He’s very specific about what he wants in his books, and that’s a good thing. I have a whole word file on his specifications. 😛

He also gets back to me quickly, although the Atlantic Ocean slows things down a bit…

Do you enjoy working on his books?

It’s fun to put his books together, and to see what kind of artwork he includes each time. I only get glimpses of his actual writing, but that’s enjoyable too. I always smile when a new Jackson Marsh project arrives in my inbox.

You can find the full gallery of the covers that Scott has done from scratch here and here is the link to his own website:

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy week to chat to us. As you can see they are a pair of very talented guys, I would now be lost without them.

Looking forward to the rest of the weekend, I have a walk planned this afternoon with my husband, Neil. We are going to visit an old friend who lives on the beach in a nearby bay. The sun is out and I am looking forward to stretching my legs. Tomorrow I will hit the button on Amazon for the release of The Larkspur Legacy at the same time as celebrating my 60th birthday with a glass of bubbly. Mrs Norwood is in charge of lunch and festivities, photos are sure to follow on my facebook page. Have a great weekend!