Unfinished Beginnings. Why you Should Never Throw Anything Away.

This morning, while wondering what I might blog about today, I turned my attention to my collection of Clearwater notes, and a folder titled ‘Other ideas and texts.’ In it, I found the first 16 draft chapters of a book that never was. (That, by the way, was 60,000, but I decided I could do better, so I started again.) The story was titled ‘Original Part 6’, meaning I’d not yet found a name for it, but I had been playing with the idea of a novel called ‘Men of a Similar Heart’, a title I may, one day, still use. As this draft was never published, I looked at it to remind myself of the story which would have come after ‘Bitter Bloodline’ and before ‘Artful Deception.’ Sure enough, chapter one begins:

Henry Beddington had been the concierge at the National Gallery since it opened in 1865, and took great pride in the fact that, despite the large number of visitors passing through its doors each day, there had never been any trouble in his foyer. Keeping watch over the entrance from his counter on the morning of July 8th he had no reason to suspect that today would be any different.

That paragraph ended up being the opening of ‘Artful Deception’, but what came later in ‘Original Part 6’ differed wildly from the rest of the final book.

I also found two chapters where Archer and Silas take lunch at a dubious club, meet with an old friend of Archer’s who is in serious decline, and take on a new case. That idea was also shelved (though it’s quite a funny scene, so I may rehash it at another time).

Then, there were a few chapters of another version of ‘Men of a Similar Heart’ that never made it into any of the other books. In one version of the story that never was, James, by then a detective (1889) takes on a mysterious case where one man is searching for another before his missing friend ‘does something stupid.’ I have the outline of that mystery/adventure, and it’s a good plot with a few nice twists, so I might return to that one day too.

Then, I found notes for ‘Part 09’, which ended up becoming ‘Negative Exposure.’ After bringing the Jasper and Billy story to a reasonable conclusion in ‘One of a Pair’, I turned my attention to the backstory of Silas and Andrej and came up with ‘Banyak & Fecks’, so by the time I returned to the Clearwater world, other ideas had come to the fore. Much of what underpins ‘Negative Exposure’ comes from events that happened years before in ‘Banyak & Fecks’, which is why I advise reading the prequel between books eight and nine.

While going through some of these notes, wincing at some of my clunky writing (they are first drafts), and also thinking, ‘Hm, now that would be fun to resurrect’, I found a few other starts and ends of chapters I’d like to share. I am always conscious of ending a chapter in a way that leads to another unless that chapter is the first part of a longer scene. There are a few in the collection of never-used which I may well reuse elsewhere. Here is the original opening for another version of ‘Men of a Similar Heart’ that never was; the end of chapter one.

[Archer, Silas, James, Fecks and Tom are swimming in a pond near Larkspur Hall one summer, when Barnaby Nancarrow, then still a footman, comes charging over the hill. He reports that while Archer has been out, someone has broken into the Hall. Nothing has been taken, but something has been left behind.]

Barnaby had started shaking with shock, and Archer was certain it wasn’t from the exertion of running a mile from the Hall to the edge of the estate. Thomas appeared, immaculately dressed and calm, and seeing the state of his footman, stood directly in his line of sight.

‘Barnaby. You must answer His Lordship,’ he said, employing an authoritative but gentle tone. ‘You have done exactly as I would have wished, and there will be no recriminations if you speak plainly and honestly. If nothing has been taken, what has been left behind?’

Hearing his butler address him so naturally gave Barnaby strength. Being more accustomed to talking to the butler than his master, he was able to break the news to Mr Payne, and he cleared his throat before squaring his shoulders.

‘Very sorry to report, Mr Payne,’ he said, ‘but whoever it was, has left behind a corpse.’

Cue mysterious music…

Another opening chapter: In this one, set in December 1889, a new client visits James at the detective agency at Larkspur House and asks him to take on a case. The first chapter ends with:

‘Mr Wright, only you can take my case for three reasons. Firstly, it is not a matter for the police because a crime has not been committed. Secondly, it is a delicate and personal matter, and as I expect you know, the police are neither delicate nor personal. But, most importantly, it must be you who takes my case because it is one that can only be understood by…’ What had been a confident flow of words dried with apprehension, and Norton swallowed. His Adam’s apple rose and fell like the puck on a fairground hammer blow, and James expected to hear a bell ring.

‘Can only be understood?’ he prompted when Norton had hesitated long enough.

Norton cleared his throat and regained his composure. ‘By men like us,’ he said, and when James shook his head in bewilderment, clarified. ‘It is a case that concerns men of a similar heart.’

And that’s where the idea for the title came from.

Another file in my folder is titled ‘Another opening idea’ (I am not very original when naming files), and this time, it’s the start of a chapter and book which I set aside for later use:

[Larkspur Hall, December 11th, 1889. A letter from Mrs Baker to Thomas Payne in London.]

Dear Mr Payne,

I write for your advice because I fear for the safety of Lady Clearwater and do not wish to unduly alarm His Lordship.

Where was that leading?

(It eventually became the sub-plot of ‘Negative Exposure’ and led to the story of ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’)

Here’s the end of chapter one of another story that never was. It’s the one I mentioned where Archer and Silas take lunch at a club and are there to meet an old friend of Archer’s, Freddie Falconbridge, who Archer has described as fit and strong, an athlete and a statue of manliness.

Silas followed, picturing Lord Falconbridge as a tall, wide wall of muscles, someone he might see smashing a hammer onto a fairground’s high striker to ring an impossibly high bell, or lifting weights in a show of physical strength before singing bawdy ballads with his manly teammates after a hellish game of football.

When he entered the room, however, the man who struggled from his chair to greet them, could not have been more different.

‘Good Lord, Freddie,’ Archer exclaimed. ‘Will you live through lunch?’

I never used the scene or the chapter ending, though Falconbridge turns up in another guise in ‘Negative Exposure’ because I liked the name.

Finally, another opening that never found an ending, though I have the plot of this story and several draft chapters. I rather liked this one because it gives us the crime to be solved as reported in a newspaper, and we all know how much I like to employ newspaper articles, letters, telegrams and such devices.

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…

And so it goes on, as could I, but I will leave you with the point of today’s blog, and that is to say to all aspiring authors, never throw anything away. If you have an idea, write it down and keep it. You can always reuse, as I have done, and even if you don’t, it’s fun to reflect on what you were thinking and where stories might have taken you. It’s also a useful exercise to look back and see how your writing has improved over time, and it will.

So, my thought for the day:

Work In Progress: 5.03 The Larkspur Legacy


I am up and running on ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, the seventh and last Larkspur Mystery, due out in spring 2023.

I’ve been working on this for some time, making notes and plotting plots while writing ‘Starting with Secrets’, so I am already up to 40,000 words. The title of ‘Starting with Secrets’ refers to the start of a great adventure, Lord Clearwater’s hunt for his mother and godmother’s great ‘treasure’ and ‘secret’, and although the story starts in book six, it is left unfinished and continues in book seven.

As usual, I’ll give away no spoilers, but I can tell you I am currently in a Falmouth shipyard inspecting a schooner barque. For my research, I have been reading books about merchant schooners, studying rigging plans, and looking up all kinds of interesting facts about sailing ships of the late 19th century. It’s a whole new world, and, more exciting for me, a whole new language. I’m also looking up what I call ‘sailor speak’ to get the terminology the sailors in my story would have used, while also looking into mysteries of the past, European travel of the time, Thomas Cook escorted tours, and other related matters.

Falmouth Harbour

Talking of spoilers, I used to outline my plots to Neil, as it is always useful to have someone to bounce ideas off. However, there is such a big twist at the end of ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, I must throw around my ideas in code, so I don’t spoil his reading for the first draft. He won’t get to see it until next year, but if I can continue at the pace I am, I should have it ready for him to beta read around February. Having said that, comparing the current word count to the basic plot outline, I am only about one-fifth of the way through. Either I will end up with a novel at 200,000 words, or I will have to cut some ideas and slash the draft when completed. ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ came in at 150,000 words, and I am aiming for the same for ‘the Larkspur Legacy.’

You will note, perhaps, a similarity in the titles (Inheritance and Legacy). Both end a series, and both involve something left behind for another. There is always a double meaning in my titles.

I will say no more, except to remind you to take part in with my Advent quiz via my Facebook page. 26 books, 25 days, 25 chances to win a special prize soon to be announced (and it won’t be a book, but a one-off… something that only the winner will receive).

Can I Have a Word?

In today’s blog, I am looking at words. Well, it’s what I do every day. Write them, look at them, go over them, misspell them, then go over them again and rearrange them. Some days, I write so much I get a kind of word blindness, and what I think I am looking at isn’t what I am seeing; I see what I meant to write, when in fact it’s gobbledegook.

Gobbledegook is a word that didn’t come into common English usage until around 1936 (there had been some printed instances of it in the 1920s), after that, it shot right up the usage charts to reach a peak in 1955. So, if you are writing historical fiction set before 1936, don’t write gobbledegook. I’ve talked about this subject before, but today, for lack of anything else to talk about, I wanted to present an old favourite of mine: words from the past.

For this, I am using two resources. ‘Passing English of the Victorian Era, a Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang & Phrase’, compiled by J. Redding Ware, originally published in 1909, and ‘Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’, published in 1811 and compiled by ‘Captain Grosse et al.’ Both books are available from ForgottenBooks.com. I’m going to give you some random words from each book, starting with ‘Passing English’ which includes American as well as British words.

To find my first word, I ran a search/find in my PDF version and looked for the word Toby. I found one instance.

Five words/phrases in use before 1909

Cross-life men (Thieves) Men who get their living by felony. Used amongst themselves rather plaintively it would seem, and in remarkable contrast with the 18th century term, ‘gentlemen of the road’, ‘high toby men’, and others.

According to Green’s Dictionary, ‘High Toby’ meant highway robbery; as low toby, on foot, and high toby, mounted robbery.  “[They] were but ‘low toby-men,’ from their frequenting the by-ways.”

Duffer-fare (London. Cabmens’ slang). In the neighbourhood of the theatres, as closing time approaches, the police will not allow cabmen to drive empty cabs through the Strand highway. In order to get past the police, and so obtain a chance of a fare when the theatres vomit their thousands, cabmen will ask a pedestrian to be chummy enough to jump in, and be driven into the Strand. Here arrived the ‘duffing-fare.’

So, a duffer-fae was cabbies’ slang for giving someone a free ride so you could access the Strand when theatres were ‘vomiting their thousands.’ (Love that image.) And talking of theatres…

Ten bob squats (Theatrical) Stalls in a theatre. About 1880 going to the theatre had become so fashionable, owing possibly to the steady patronage of the Prince of Wales, that the price of stalls in most of the best houses was raised. (To ten bob, I suppose.)

In old British money, a ‘bob’ was a shilling. The Bank of England 10-shilling note (notation: 10/–), colloquially known as the 10 bob note was a sterling banknote. Ten shillings in £sd (written 10s or 10/–) was half of one pound. The ten-shilling note was the smallest denomination note ever issued by the Bank of England. [Wiki]

And still talking of theatres, here’s an expression we still use. Barnstorming is ‘to make a rapid tour of an area as part of a political campaign’, and/or to ‘travel around giving exhibitions of flying, and performing aeronautical stunts’, but did you know its origin and original meaning? (From the USA, I reckon.)

Barn-stormers (Theatrical, 18 cent.) Inferior actors who play in barns. Used, of course, in scorn by those comedians who have reached permanent footlights. The term has now almost passed away in consequence of the enormous increase in the number of theatres which now exist, even in the smallest towns. The ‘barn stormers’ hire a barn near a village, and there give their performance – frequently of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in a barn? Whatever next? Next, is another random word, I found hanging about.

Marwooded (Hanged) This term prevailed while Executioner Marwood held office. He died in 1883.

Some words/phrases in use before 1811

Randomly selected from The Vulgar Tongue are these five, picking up where we left off.

COCKLES. To cry cockles is to be hanged: perhaps from the noise made whilst strangling. (This is street slang also known as cant.) Related to this, we have COLQUARRON. A man’s neck. His colquarron is just about to be twisted; he is just going to be hanged.

Not to be too fixated, but related to both of those is CROP. To be knocked down for a crop; to be condemned to be hanged. Cropped, hanged. So now we can see where the expression, ‘to come a cropper’ comes from. Also on the same subject, if you danced upon nothing, you’d been hanged. There are several other words associated with this subject, but let’s move on to something more pastoral and talk about the fruitful vine.

FRUITFUL VINE. A woman’s private parts, i.e. that has FLOWERS every month, and bears fruit in nine months.

Or maybe not. How about returning to my roots on the Romney Marshes and the image of sheep safely grazing in the fields?

WOOLBIRD is another name for a sheep, or you could refer to one as a BLEATING CHEAT (don’t ask me why), just as you would refer to a sheep rustler as a CHEATING RIG.

By the way, we have to thank sheep for giving us condoms. Have a read of this:

CUNDUM. The dried gut of a sheep, worn by men in the act of coition, to prevent venereal infection; said to have been invented by one colonel Cundum. These machines were long prepared and sold by a matron of the name of Philips, at the Green Canister, in Half−moon−street, in the Strand. That good lady having acquired a fortune, retired from business; but learning that the town was not well served by her successors, she, out of a patriotic zeal for the public welfare, returned to her occupation; of which she gave notice by divers hand−bills, in circulation in the year 1776.

Not sure about the use of the word ‘machines’ when describing a cundum, however.

I could go on all day, but I won’t. The point to be made from all this, if there is a point at all, is that when writing historical fiction, you need to be aware of the words your characters and narrator would have known and not known. However, my advice is to also consider your reader. Too many colloquialisms, slang, cant and obscure words, and your writing will be Hubble de Shuff, your readers will be Both-Eared, and your sentences will be Nonsense, which, you might like to know, was the word used to describe the act of melting butter in a wig.

In a wig? Well, there we are.

Work in Progress 5.02 and an Advent Quiz

Work in Progress and an Advent Quiz

Good morning. Today’s blog is in two parts: a quick catchup on where I am with ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, and news about a quiz which starts on my Facebook page on Thursday, December 1st.

The Larkspur Legacy

My current work in progress is progressing well. I am over 20,000 words in, and I am in the middle of act one, the ‘normal world’, the setting up of the story to come, and I am arranging all the pieces as we approach the point where the action really gets going. There is going to be a lot of it, and somewhere in there will also be what my friend Charles recently described as the ‘heart’ of the story. (Thanks for the review and the message, Charles!)

Without giving anything away, so far in the story we’ve had a chase on horseback, someone creating an invention that’s ahead of its time, Clearwater is not happy, men are plotting, someone has been attacked, and the skies are darkening with the wings of chickens coming home to roost. I’m only on chapter eight! Lol.

The Jackson Marsh Advent Quiz

Every day from the 1st to the 25th of December, we are going to pose a question about one of my 26 books. The answer will be the title of a different book every day, so no book will be an answer more than once. Some of the answers can easily be found by looking at my author page on Amazon because some questions refer to the blurb, the cover, or the first page of a book. For others, you will have to delve deeper and darker into your memory, but even if you’ve not read all 26 books, you can still have a guess.

There will also be a bonus question; which of the 26 books in my collection has not been used as an answer? So, keep a list as you go.

Anyone who comments with an answer will have their name put into a hat as many times as you answer. Then, on Boxing Day (26th December), we’ll ask my godson to pull a name from one of my husband’s steampunk top hats (don’t ask!), and that person will win the star prize. We’ll announce what that will be when the quiz starts on Thursday. I’m saying ‘we’ because Jenine will be running the admin side of the quiz for me to ensure impartiality.

Visit, follow and keep an eye on my Jackson Marsh Facebook page to enter the quiz.

Character Interview: Silas Hawkins

Silas Hawkins is one of two main characters in the prequel to the Clearwater Mysteries, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ This novel, written after book seven in that series, but coming in date order before the first, tells the story of how Silas met the first real love of his life, Andrej Kolisnychenko (Fecker or Fecks to his friends). Their love was destined to be platonic but has remained strong through both the Clearwater and Larkspur series, and Silas features in the latest Larkspur instalment, ‘Starting with Secrets’ and will be a main player in the last of the Larkspur books, ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’

Silas appears on five of the Clearwater Mysteries book covers. Banyak & Fecks, Deviant Desire, Twisted Tracks (running for a train in silhouette), Unspeakable Acts, and is represented on the cover of Negative Exposure.

It struck me that we had never had an in-depth interview with the trickster, mimic, petty criminal and love of Lord Clearwater’s life, so I called him into the interview room for a debrief, and here is what transpired.

Silas Hawkins

Born:               October 21st, 1868.

Place:              Canter Wharf, Westerpool (The Wirral), England

Nationality:    Conceived in Ireland, born in England, but staunchly Irish.

What is your full name? Do you have a nickname?

Silas Hawkins. That’s it. I was named after the priest who slapped me arse when I was born without breath and got me life started. Father Patrick was called Silas before he took holy orders. And aye, I do have a nickname. Me best man, Andrej, calls me Banyak. It’s a word from his village in Ukraine where it means ‘cooking pot.’ He says I got so much boiling in me, I’m like a peasant stew. He’s a one to talk. I call him Fecker, on account of him being a handsome fecker who’s hung like one of them horses he’s mad about.

Where and when were you born?

I were slapped into life in a doorless slum in what they now call the Wirral, on the wrong side of the river to Liverpool, in a place called Westerpool. Our row of tenements was called Canter Wharf, but I forget the number now. Me mam was doing well just then, so we only had a few of us sharing the room, and we had glass in the window. Some of the time, at least.

Who were your parents?

Me mam’s me mam, least she were until she died in 1884, leaving me to the mercy of Cousin Rose, the drunken whore, and leaving me to mind me two half-sisters. Me da’, I never knew, as he put me in me mam back in Ballymum and fecked off before she came to England.

Me mam’s old boyfriend, Billy O’Hara, was more of a da’ to me than anyone though. He’d come by, sing me to sleep when I was little, and ended up being me half-sisters’ father. Strange thing was, he also ended up being my mate Jake’s da’, so Jake and the twins are halves, and me and the twins are halves, and that makes me and Jake like brothers, even though we’re not. Anyway, when I took up renting, I also took up Billy O’Hara’s name for a while. He’d not have liked that, but it was the first name to come to mind.

Where do you live now?

Ach, well ain’t you a nosey cur? I live some a the time in London with Archer at Clearwater House in what’s now known as Knightsbridge. Other times, I’m down at Larkspur, his estate near Bodmin in Cornwall. Most of the time I’m in town, because I work with Jimmy Wright more than Archer these days, and we have an investigation business to run.

What are your hair colour and eye colour?

I’m what they call ‘black Irish’ on account I have black hair and blue eyes. Can you not see? You’re sitting right in front of me you culchie eejit.

What do you miss most from your childhood?

Aye, well that’d be me mam. She was a strong woman, leaving Ireland because she fell pregnant and refused to name me father, walked to the coast, got herself on a ship, started a life on her own, carrying me, worked her fingers down, birthed me, and still attended mass. Then, from when I was five, she had to put up with me thieving and me ways, then bore the twins, and all the time putting up with Cousin Rose and the other drunken culchies of Canter Wharf. Got carried off with the sweating sickness when I was sixteen. When she died, I promised her I’d get her a good, stone headstone and sure enough, five years later, I did. That was the last time I went back to her, but she’s with her God and keeping an eye.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

You didn’t have aspirations in Canter Wharf. If you were a little’un, you went up the chimneys. If you were a bigg’un, you worked in the docks, if you could get any work at all. Me? I didn’t want to be anything. All I wanted was to have money in me pocket, and I didn’t care if it came from someone else’s. Came to London in 1884, and soon saw there were more ways of earning a coin than dipping a pocket, and more exciting ways too. Now, at 23, I’m happy where I am. Living with Archer, working with Jimmy, and using me old Westerpool skills of mimicry and trickery when I need them.

What do you consider the most important event of your life so far?

Ach, there’s many: Leaving Westerpool, meeting Mickey the Nick in London and learning his ways, the adventures with Archer and the crew, being shot… But the two that stand out the most?

In date order, first would be meeting Fecks. I was down on me luck and very near out of me life when all I had was water from the borough pump and what I could find in the trough. I stumbled into this court in the Greychurch back alleys to take a leak and let it go over a man chewing on Fecks’ massive… Well, you don’t need to know the details, but I remember finding this massive, blonde statue of a man with his pants down, and I ran away. Then, next thing I remember, he’d taken me in and brought me back from the edge of death. So, that was important.

Second would be when Tommy Payne brought me to Clearwater House because his boss wanted to interview a genuine renter from the streets. There was cash and food in it, and I was waiting in “His Lordship’s” servants’ hall, getting Tommy wound up, when the most gorgeous man I’d never imagined came down the stairs and looked at me. I tell ya, I nearly emptied me happy sacks there and then. Something shifted, you know? Like me mam’s voice in me head said, ‘This is what you have been looking for, Silas Hawkins. This was meant to be.’ She was right.

Archer, the love of his life

Do you have any scars?

I’ve a fair few. I got one on me chin in the exact same place Archer has one. He got his from a swordfight with his brother, I got mine from the Ripper’s knife. Then there’s the bullet wound in me shoulder, and a few scars on me shins from burgling that went wrong, and a couple on me heart for friends and me mam who’ve died.

What is your biggest secret? Does anyone else know about this?

I’m a private investigator, man, of course I’ve got secrets. I was a renter, so there’s a fair few there, I can tell you, and I’ve not exactly stayed on the right side of the law since I was five, but I’m not going to give you details. Aye, I’ve got a few secrets, but in my line of work, it’s best to keep them where they are. But… I do have one big secret that no-one knows, not even Fecks, not even Archer.

Oh, no… Wait. One man does now because I had to ask his advice on it. Professor Fleet at the Larkspur Academy is the only man who knows what I’m planning, but he’s not going to say anything, and besides, everyone will know it soon enough.

If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?

I’d have me mam back, she’d be living in a decent house, and the twins with her, and none of them would be servants. Mind you, Iona and Karan like where they are, they’ve got friends, they’re well paid, and Mrs Kevern treats them good.

Other than that, I’d like Archer not to be so worried all the time, but that’s temporary. Kingsclere is trying to discredit him in the newspapers at the moment, but I’ve a plan to put a stop to that one way or the other.

What is your most treasured possession?

Well, that’s a long story. It’s a small black and white pebble that came from a river in Ukraine. It is a piece of Fecker’s homeland, and he brought it with him when he fled the Russians. That and his grandfather’s dagger was all he owned when we met in London, and once the Ripper started on his rounds, and we was fearing for our lives, he gave it to me to prove he loved me – as a friend, but that’s enough.

What three words would others probably use to describe you?

Sexy little fucker. Thieving little bastard. Loyal best friend. Dirty whore-pipe scum… Take your pick, I’ve been called them all.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Right where I am now. Loving Archer, working with Jimmy, making the most of life, dodging the law, and still never having got on a horse. They’re beasts and should be banned. Who knows where we’ll be in five months, let alone five fecking years? I should have been dead years ago, and would have been if it weren’t for Fecks. I can say the same about Jimmy who caught me when I nearly fell eighty feet into an opera. So, I’d like to be where I am with all me mates around me, waking up in Archer’s bed and happy. That’s only me and Archer waking up in his bed, not me and all me mates… Ach, you know what I mean.

What do you have in your pocket?

Er… Me black and white pebble, a set of lockpicks, fifty pounds and a receipt from a jeweller in Bond Street, which reminds me… I’ve an appointment, so if you’re done with your nosing, I’ll be about me business. Oh, and you’d best not print any of this.

The Larkspur Legacy: A New Work in Progress 5.01

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: What is it?

Starting with Secrets’ is the title of the sixth Larkspur Academy mystery, and is the first part of a two-part adventure set in the Clearwater world. This, as you may know, is my invention of late 19th-century England. Both the Clearwater and Larkspur mystery series is set among real places, and feature people who lived at the time, but the main cast is invented characters. Many of the background events are true, and the Clearwater world sticks to actual dates and times as much as possible. I am even able to have characters take train journeys according to extant timetables of the time, down to the day of the week, route and times of the trains. I love adding that kind of detail.

Starting with Secrets has such a train journey, and it also uses real locations, described as best I can according to reports and documents of the time. In this case, we have the invented estate of Larkspur Hall, another one in Hertfordshire, Clearwater House (somewhere on the edge of Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, London), and Greychurch, which is my name for Whitechapel. The characters find themselves in some well-known locations, such as inside the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Round Reading Room at the British Museum, both in London. They also visit villages that still exist today, although I have changed the names of two of the main locations to not upset anyone who might still be living there or who might own the property I have adapted.

I won’t give away the plot of ‘Starting with Secrets’, but if you like a good Dan Brown mystery/adventure, and if you like historically based riddles and conspiracy theories, then you’ll like this novel. I’ve tried to write it so you can solve the clues as the story progresses. At least, you can with some of them. What I am also trying to do with this two-part adventure is bring in as many of the Clearwater and Larkspur main characters as I can without losing focus. There is a relationship story, a background emotional reason for two characters to sort themselves out, and there is at least one ‘Ahh’ moment when I, for one, experienced a shiver and the prick of tears. You will find villains, heroes and a couple of new characters that we’ll learn more about in part two, and there’s a lot going on in the background where existing characters’ lives are developed.

It’s been three years since the saga started with ‘Deviant Desire’, the first Clearwater mystery, and even longer since Silas and Andrej met in ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ Actually, the more I write these series, the more I realise the whole lot tells the story of Andrej, a Ukrainian immigrant who fled his homeland to escape the Russians. (Nothing changes.)

Although Andrej, ‘Fecks’, is not the main-view character in ‘Starting with Secrets’, he is there, along with others we met in book one of the Clearwater series, Lucy Roberts the maid-then-cook, for example. Archer, Silas, James, Tom and Andrej, the ‘canonical five’ as I call them, form the centre of the cast for this one, and they are aided by the Larkspur Academy men, Dalston Blaze, Joe Tanner, Chester, Frank, Edward and Henry, and the new man, Bertie Tucker. Bertie’s a sailor, or was until he got caught doing something that was, in those days, illegal, and he’s the unwitting catalyst in both action and emotional storylines.

But that’s enough of a teaser for now. As I write (Friday), I am waiting for the final files to come back from being laid out, and then, as I now have both covers, I shall be able to upload the book to Amazon and you’ll be able to download it, order it in paperback or read it in Kindle Unlimited, as you can with all my novels. So, not long now, and you will have a 380-page adventure, bromance, mystery, treasure hunt story to get your teeth into, while I carry on biting away at the last in the Larkspur series, ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’

Keep an eye on my Facebook page for news of the publication day, and why not join my group, Jackson’s Deviant Desires where I post more personal news from time to time and where you and others can discuss any or all of my books.

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.

The Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh, Grave Robbers and Dracula

Hello! I’m not long back from our trip to Scotland, and it’s high time I gave you an update of what’s going on in the world of Jackson Marsh. There’s more about the next Larkspur book in a moment, but first…

On the way to our son’s wedding, I found myself alone in Edinburgh for a day, and there, wandered the old streets and the new, admired the buildings and visited the castle grounds. While on my walkabout, I stopped off at The White Hart, reputed to be the oldest inn in the city and a place where the grave-robbers Burke and Hare used to hang out.

Later, I was just thinking about heading back to my hotel when I stumbled upon the Writers’ Museum. This is a collection of artefacts and information pertaining to three Scottish writers; Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. It’s housed in Lady Stair’s House in the Lawnmarket area of the city, and the building is as interesting as the exhibits. I took a few (bad photos) which you can see below.

A few days later, I was in Inverness with my brother-in-law while waiting for Neil and his son to collect us and take us to the wedding. This was held in a castle by the river and was a splendid affair, and yes, I wore a kilt. The architecture of old Inverness along its riverbank was somewhat inspirational, so I’ve included a couple of shots I took there.

Now back at home, where the weather is glorious, I am back at work. I have a backlog of freelance typing to catch up on while I am also going through the final read of ‘Starting with Secrets’, the next Larkspur mystery. I am still aiming to have this ready for you in a week or so—probably more like two—and will send it off for its laying out next week. Andjela has done herself proud with another stunning cover and there will be a cover reveal soon. So, stay tuned to this channel for more information on my Wednesday work-in-progress blog, and prepare yourself for the first half of an epic Clearwater/Larkspur adventure that will conclude in the final book of the series. I am hoping to start on that as soon as ‘Starting with Secrets’ is published.

Meanwhile, here are a few of my dodgy shots of the Writer’s Museum, Edinburgh, and the riverside in Inverness.

The grand hall, now a gift shop.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood rocking horse. Looks rather painful.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s pipe.
The three great men in art form.
It was Halloween, so I bought another copy of Dracula and read some of it back at the hotel.
Inverness
Inverness Castle.

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.