Work in Progress: 1892

The latest update is a brief one: I am now working through the last draft to check the proofs, and Andjela has sent me the full cover. Except the link to the file transfer site got lost in my spam folder and now I’ve found the email, it comes without the link, so I am waiting for another. It’ll take me a while to check through the MS and then have the pages set out ready for publication, but you’ll definitely be able to get hold of this feel-good Christmas collection well before Christmas Day.

If you are a member of my private Facebook group, Jackson’s Deviant Desires, you will be able to get a free copy, and I will let you know how in the group pages when the time comes.

Meanwhile, I must now get back to ‘Follow the Van,’ the third Delamere Files instalment. I have put it off for a while to work on ‘1892’ and some other (paid!) writing work I had in. In this case, it was a set of stories for two German magazines. They get translated into German but also appear in the magazines in English. These are twink adults-only magazines published in Germany and on sale throughout Europe. I won’t provide links, but if you want to search them out, one is called PornUp and the other is called DreamBoys. Both are top-shelf magazines, so watch how you investigate!

That aside, I aim to be back following the van by the end of this week when 1892 will be ready for laying out, and I can forget those stories and concentrate on where I was.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the Clearwater Calendar will be on sale only until the end of the year, and don’t forget to join my private FB group so you can claim a free copy of 1892 as soon as it is ready.

1892: Cover Reveal

The other day, I dropped off the blurb for the new book, and in the meantime, I had a friend read the MS, because she’s a writer of short stories, whereas, I usually prefer to write novels. ‘1892, The Clearwater Tales, Volume One,’ is my first foray into short stories apart from those I have written for adult sites and magazines. As they tend to be 20% story and 80% nookie, I don’t really count them. I don’t talk about them much, other than to say, I do them as a means to a financial end, and would much rather write my historical mysteries and some romance/adventure novels.

Anyway, my friend used to work as a reader for a large London publishing house. One of those poor souls who have to deal with manuscripts from hopeful authors looking for publication. She has told me about the job, and what it entailed, and it’s not all about reading a few chapters and saying yes or no, she also worked in editing and entertaining potential authors, and she did the job for long enough to know good writing from bad. So, I was cheered to receive her thoughts on ‘1892.’ Her message included this:

Have read the short stories. A nice warm Christmas read, particularly for your loyal readers but you have managed to make it perfectly understandable for anyone new. It’s a lovely picture of that luxurious but cosy first-class carriage puffing down to snowy Cornwall with all mod cons and lashings of food.

That was good to read from a professional reader, and she summed up the overarching story of the book perfectly. Seven characters on a train heading for Cornwall for Christmas Eve. Within that are six stories, five told by the characters you see on the cover, and the other being the wrap-around story from the point of view of the stranger who is travelling with them.

To view the cover, click on the picture below and it should open separately. You will see who the cast is. From left to right you have: Joe Tanner, the antiquarian, Mrs Norwood, the housekeeper (here modelled by my friend, Jenine), Professor Fleet (as depicted by my husband, Neil), Andrej (Fecker), the baron, and Will Merrit, the detective.

I’ll have more news about the release and how you can get a free e-copy in a future post and on my Facebook page and group. The freebie is for group members only, so check out and join Jackson’s Deviant Desires to know when and how you can have a free e-copy. Meanwhile, here’s the full cover. Click the pic.

Work in Progress: 1892

That’s the title of the anthology of short stories I am working on, and getting ready for Christmas – or before. I don’t mean ‘Work in Progress’ is the title, but ‘1892’, because that is the year in which the story takes place. Within it, are five short stories as told by five characters from the Clearwater world.

I have one more tale yet to write and then a lot of editing and correcting, making it better and tidying up. With that done, I can return to ‘Follow the Van’, the third Delamare files story. My aim is to have the last short story of ‘1892’ drafted this morning, or at least half of it. It’s all in my head, it just needs extracting, typing, and making better.

May 1892

‘1892’ will be available to buy before Christmas, but I will also be giving it away in ePub or PDF form to anyone who is in my private Facebook group ‘Jacksons Deviant Desires.’ You can click over to that and join if you’re not already in the group.

And don’t forget, the Clearwater calendar is on sale, but only for another few weeks. Click the pic to get the link.

A Winner is Announced

Not, as Agatha Christie wrote, ‘A Murder is Announced,’ but a winner of the short competition to suggest characters for the Christmas anthology, currently titled ‘Christmas Shorts.’ (I’ll give you the name of the winner in a moment when I also put it on my FB page.) The book won’t be called ‘Christmas Shorts’, that’s just the name of my folder, and in it so far, I have:

  • 01 In the train before departure
  • 02 Will tale 01
  • Author’s notes
  • Barbary Fleet 01, 02 and 03
  • Index
  • Limehouse crime story
  • Premise and rough outline
  • Suggested characters
  • The Stranger’s Tale

The file that interests us today is ‘Suggested characters’ because that was what I asked readers for; to suggest characters who would each tell a story making up a collection of five, which has now become six.

I can now reveal some more information.

The stories are tied together by a journey, and it’s from London to Larkspur on Christmas Eve, 1892. Because of the date, I can’t use some suggestions, because those characters are dead. However, I can use them because the stories take place in the past. I’m not going to tell you who else appears in the tales told by the five, but I can tell you who is telling the stories as they journey westwards for Clearwater’s Christmas Ball.

Here’s the list of who was suggested: Professor Fleet (the most popular vote), Andrej (Fecker, the second most popular), Silas, Jake O’Hara, Mrs Norwood, Joe Tanner, Dalston Blaze, Will Merrit, James Wright, Jasper Blackwood, Barnaby Nancarrow, Frank Andino, Bertie Tucker, Thomas Payne, Lord Clearwater, Tripp.

It’s great to see who your favourite and memorable characters are, and even better that they include characters from the Clearwater prequel right up to the current Delamere mystery, so, they come from all three series set in the Clearwater world. Maybe I will write another of these collections for next year and ask for more suggestions, but I had to have a limit of five for this, my first venture into short stories.

They are/will be shorts but contained in one overarching story of the journey, not that much happens on it until the end. There is a sixth character in the train, but the person’s identity is a guarded secret, and you won’t know who it is until you either get your free copy (by being signed up to the newsletter or being part of Jackson’s Deviant Desires) or until you buy the book, which will be on sale after Christmas.

As for who the five are who meet in the carriage and pass the time telling stories in the manner of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (but without the Anglo-Saxon poetry), you can expect to read tales from:

Will Merrit

Andrej (Fecker)

Mrs Norwood

Joe Tanner

Barbary Fleet

The Stranger

And the Winner is…

As for the competition, the winner of the Clearwater calendar 2024 is Tony Barone Pisacano. If you’re reading this, I’ll tag you on FB, or you can send me a private message or an email and I’ll arrange delivery.

Bravo Mr Random Draw, and thank you to everyone else who left a comment, sent an email or dropped a private message with suggestions.

Everyone in the know will be a winner as the eBook will be free (in PDF format). To be eligible for a copy, you need to be on the newsletter mailing list or a member of our private group on FB, Jackson’s Deviant Desires.

See you there!

Win a Clearwater Calendar 2024

I’ve had this mad idea and I need your input, and I need it ASAP. Like any good story, it begins with a What if?

What if I asked you to list up to five of your favourite Clearwater/Larkspur/Delamere characters? Who would you list?

What if I then chose the five most popular and wrote a novella?

What if that novella was a collection of five short stories as told by the characters who have gathered together? (It might be they are stuck in a railway carriage, or by the fireplace on Christmas Eve… I’ll work that out later; it’s not important.)

And what if I put together the novella together in time for Christmas and you got a PDF/Kindle of it for free?

WANT TO HAVE AN INPUT?

List your five favourite characters via my Facebook page (the thread is there, or just leave a random comment), via email or private message, and I will send out a Clearwater calendar to one contributor chosen at random at the end of next week (27th October).

FAST. I’d like to get started soon, so can I have your suggestions like… now? At least a couple to get me started.

WHO? Any characters. It doesn’t have to be the ‘canonical’ five (Archer, Silas, Tom, James, Fecks), and it doesn’t have to be a main player. It can be anyone from Mrs Killhaddock from ‘Agents of the Truth’ to Professor Fleet (Larkspur) or Jack Merrit (Delamere). It could even be one of the real names of history who have appeared; Bram Stoker, Henry Irving, Tennyson… Or someone that stands out in your memory for another reason… one of the villains, servants, East End renters…

HOW MUCH? Free!

(For a while.) My intention is to publish the collection/novella free to all my newsletter subscribers around Christmastime, and to put it in the ‘Jackson’s Deviant Desires’ private group for members. Sometime after Christmas, I may release it via the usual Amazon channels and put it for sale.

I’m going to put this post on my blog tomorrow for all those who follow my website but don’t use Facebook, so the details will be there if you lose this post/thread.

Get thinking, and put your suggestions in the comments, via my jack@ email, or my private message, and let’s have some fun!

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.

Heading into Christmas on Symi

Heading into Christmas on Symi

This time next week it will be Christmas Day, so today, I thought I would bring you up to date on what’s been happening in my world, and what will be happening over the next couple of weeks. I doubt I shall be posting next Saturday, but I will bring you a Wednesday WIP next week, when, hopefully, I will announce I have completed the first draft of ‘Agents of the Truth’. It’s currently at 80,000 words, and I am about to launch into the crisis/climax and release all kinds of mayhem in the Clearwater world.

Meanwhile…

One of Neil’s stunning photos of Symi harbour taken the other day.

Christmas on Symi tends to be a quiet affair. Greek custom is to celebrate St Vasilis Day on January 1st, rather than Christmas Day, although the churches will be holding services. It’s on January 1st where families traditionally exchange gifts and gather together for a feast, but these days, more and more are also adopting the Westernised traditions of Christmas Day. For the last eighteen years, we have gone to our friend’s house for Christmas Day. If you follow me on Facebook, you might have already met Jenine who works now as my PA, well, she’s the friend in question, and she lives just up the lane from us. ‘Up the lane’ in Symi terms means she lives on the other side of the castle hill, up about 200 steps, and at the end of a winding path that leads through 19th-century ruins in the oldest part of the village. It’s a pleasant walk, but not when you’re carrying loads of presents, wine, games and other accoutrements, nor when it is raining, as it was last Christmas.

The main ‘road’ through our village.

On Christmas Eve, it’s become customary for Neil and I to call at her house and help prepare the next day’s lunch. (Gathering around the kitchen table, cooking, gossiping and laughing while preparing a feast is also traditionally Greek.) This usually involves me peeling vegetables, Neil and our oldest godson, Sam, making stuffing, Harry, our younger godson making pigs in blankets, and Jenine being the foreman, Mother Christmas. Wine is also involved. We spend the whole of Christmas Day with the god family, and they come to us on Boxing Day for leftovers, chill-out and films.

Before then, Neil has organised a charity Christmas concert at our local kafeneion (café/bar). This is to raise money for the orphanage on Rhodes. Someone else makes all the arrangements for this but is unable to do it this year, so Neil stepped in. I’m playing the piano (22 Christmas carols and songs) and there will be guitars, a flautist, a solo singer, and everyone else who wants to sing along.

Neil putting up our ancient tree.

We have put up our tree at last, and the village is decorated with strings of fairy lights and trees, while down in the harbour, there are other glamorous decorations. On Christmas Day, one of the local churches will plug in its outdoor speakers and blast out its old cassette tape of Greek family-favourite Christmas songs. The music hovers over the village like a celebratory fog for most of the morning, and woe betides anyone who thinks they will have a lie-in. Actually, the church bells usually start ringing at 4.00 am, which doesn’t bother us as Neil is always up by then and bounding around in his pyjamas, desperate to open presents.

Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Before any of that, however, I still have much work to do, not only wrapping the few gifts I was able to afford this year, but finishing the first draft of Larkspur 3, ‘Agents of the Truth’, and I’ve set myself Friday morning as the deadline for that. Check in on Wednesday to see how I’m doing, but if you can’t, I’ll wish you a merry Christmastime now, and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Jackson Marsh on Facebook

(Follow me as James on Facebook)

Winter Solstice and Christmasses Past, Present and Fictional

Winter Solstice and Christmasses Past, Present and Fictional

It occurred to me, as we approach Christmas that I’ve never written a Christmas story. I have come close with the final scene of ‘Fallen Splendour’ where we join the Christmas staff ball at Larkspur Hall in 1888, and I have also come close as James Collins, in my novel, ‘The Saddling.’ I say ‘close’, because, in Saddling, there is no Christmas because there is no Christian religion, not since the Blacklocks family took over the village in… I forget the year but before the witch trials of ‘The Witchling’ and sometime after the first return of ‘The Eastling’ in the 13th century.

Instead, Saddling, the village of the series, follows its own Lore based on nature and the turning of the seasons. The first in the series, ‘The Saddling’ opens on winter solstice night, 1292 when a great storm threatens the Romney Marshes with flooding. That is based on a real event, the great storm of 1287 where villages were washed away, and lives and livestock were lost.

Part of our harbour in flood this week.

As the winter solstice is only a couple of days away, I thought this was an appropriate time to talk about it and the Christmases of my youth on the Marsh, and now, here on the Greek island, Symi. Where, by the way, the approach of the solstice combining with an upcoming full moon, has resulted in our harbour already being slightly flooded.

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice, hiemal solstice or hibernal solstice, also known as midwinter, occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere. This year, it occurs at 10.02 UTC on Monday and marks the northern hemisphere’s shortest day, the first day of winter.

This year, according to The National Geographic, “… just head of Christmas, two of the solar system’s brightest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, [will] engage in a celestial dance that will bring them within planetary kissing distance in the evening sky.”

A bit flowery perhaps, but true. “The moment of closest approach arrives on 21st December—the winter solstice for those in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of summer for those in the Southern Hemisphere. The two planets will appear closer together than at any time in almost 400 years in an event known as a great conjunction.”

According to Astronomy.com, On 21st December, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer in Earth’s night sky than they have since 1226 A.D. This event is being described as causing a ‘Christmas star’, which all seems nicely appropriate, and the date, 1226, gives me a very tenuous link back to ‘The Saddling.’

After the initial storm scene of ‘The Saddling’ which sets up the Lore that is to follow and the superstitions and rites of the village, the story cuts to 18th December 2012. It is 720 years after the great storm, and the central character, Tom Carey is struggling to keep his life together, obsessed with tracing his family tree in order to inherit a fortune from his last family member. By chapter eight, he has arrived in the village of Saddling and, as his car has broken down miles away, seeks a room at the inn, The Crow and Whiteback. It’s charmingly old-fashioned but shows no signs of Christmas, and when the landlady, Susan Vye appears through the floor from the cellar below, and he takes her by surprise, Tom comments, ‘Nice place, but not very Christmassy, Only four more shopping days to go.’ He laughed, she didn’t.

The story unfolds as Tom searches for clues to his family mystery, the storm clouds gather, he befriends two local lads who are preparing for their saddling, and he learns that the ceremony is to be held on the evening of the winter solstice. In our present world, this Monday.

The Saddling series plays on such natural events as this year’s ‘Christmas star’, the solstices and equinoxes, the natural birth, harvesting, dying and rebirth of the land, the relationships between man and nature, farming and festivals. Apart from finding it interesting to research, I used this natural flow of the earth as a background because I wanted to set the stories against the naturalness of change and difference. By which I mean, as Tom makes his way through book one, he comes to realise that like it or not, he is attracted to another man. As the series progresses, the villagers gradually come to accept that Tom and Barry’s ‘friendship’ is as natural as the changing seasons, the tide, the earth’s cycle, and that, underneath it all, is the message of the books.

Winters on Romney Marsh

Fairfiled, Romney Marsh and St Thomas Becket church – the inspiration for The Saddling. (The church features on the cover of all three Saddling books.)

I wasn’t aware of the solstice when I was growing up on the Marsh, but I was aware of Christmas. I didn’t have any particular interest in the fields and deeks (irrigation ditches/dykes that prevent the land from flooding) or the farming way of life, but I must have absorbed it. My best friend from nine to 12 years was the son of a farmer. I’d cycle over to his house about a mile away into the wide, flat landscape of the fields to play in the hay barn, make rafts on the wider deeks, help his dad deliver lambs at lambing (though more likely get in the way), and sit down to huge suppers of ‘lookers pie’ prepared by his classic farmer’s-wife mum.

[On the Marsh, a looker is a shepherd and lookers’ pie is shepherds’ pie made with chops not mince.]

The ruins of All Saints church, Hope

I have never been very good at sleeping, and in my teens, I would sometimes walk out onto the marsh at night. It has an atmosphere of its own, with nothing to hear but the cry of an owl, the breeze in the hawthorn bushes and the occasional plop of a frog leaping into a dyke. I walked to a place called Hope*, just outside New Romney, one of the villages that were washed away in the great storm and now nothing more than a ruined church wall, just to enjoy the peace and the smell of damp coarse-grass and sheep treddles.

[That’s a Kentish word for sheep poo, a smell that, when you’ve grown up with it, is more comforting than you might think!]

Later in my teens, one of my best friends was also the son of a farmer, and I’d visit his house too. As is the way of the Marsh, he lived next door (half a mile) from his cousin, my earlier bestie, the families farmed together, but in this case, I visited to play on his dad’s snooker table, and play music as we were in a swing band by then. His dad, by the way, is now in his 90s and still actively farming his land.

Christmases

The Romney Marshes before they were ‘inned’ (irrigated)

And then there were the Christmases. These, for me, were traditional family affairs. We were expected to attend Midnight Mass at the parish church where I ‘sang’ in the choir and learnt to play the organ. As my two brothers and I got older, we went under the bribe of being able to open a present when we returned home. Older still, this tradition ended up with my dad being the only one who attended church, me staying at home to watch concerts on TV and wait for my older brothers to return from the pub when we opened presents, often not going to bed until well after three in the morning.

If you were wondering where Romney Marsh is; it’s on the south coast of England.

Another big part of my teen years was music, as you might have gathered from my Jackson books like ‘The Blake Inheritance‘ and ‘Home From Nowhere.’ I started playing the piano aged six or seven and carried on throughout primary, prep and secondary school to finally rise to the complicated heights of grade eight in my early 20s. I was inspired in music by teachers at both prep school (where the music teacher took me to play the organ in Hythe church when I was 11, and from when I was transfixed by the musical ‘machines’). At secondary school, our music teacher arranged for us to attend concerts in Canterbury Cathedral and elsewhere at his own expense, encouraged me to stage musical revues and write songs for the junior years. He also saw a friend and me through our A-Level, arranging for Dominic (the only other A-Level music student) to be in a masterclass with Julian Lloyd Webber which I attended, and had a great knack of staging the Christmas concerts at the parish churches of New Romney and Lydd. Being a piano player, I wasn’t needed for the orchestra, but was dragged in to play the percussion (not as easy as it sounds) and sometimes ‘sing’ in the choir. I put ‘sing’ like that because I mouthed along more than sounded notes.

From Past to Present

Our tree this year.

All of these random reminiscences have a bearing on what I write now. The loneliness of the Marshes at night, the earthy, natural way of life, lambing, harvests, hay bales, hawthorn-lined, narrow roads and the deeks, the wide, flat landscape of the drained marshland and its rich history, the memories of cold legs in damp-smelling churches, the vibration of the organ in the last bars of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, and the present-giving by the fire… The older you get, the more you reminisce, but in my case, the more I put such reminiscences into my books, although often, from a different character’s perspective.

And now, the past not only influences what I write, but what we do at Christmas. This year may be slightly different, but we will still be able to be with our ‘logical’ family, our two godsons on the island and their mum as we have been for the last 17 out of 18 Christmases. It will be a day of fun, feasting and falling about laughing against an underscore of Annie Lennox and carols from Kings, godson #1 on his piano and, if we can drag him screaming from his Xbox, godson #2 on his guitar (he hasn’t got it yet, and I hope it arrives in time).

But before all that, we have Monday and the Winter Solstice, and it strikes me that if you’ve not already read it, you could get hold of a copy of The Saddling today, 19th, and start reading it, following the story day by day on the exact dates the story is set. You will reach the climax on Monday night, and if you are lucky enough to have a thunderstorm that night, you’ll get the full dramatic effect.

Whether you do that or not, have a peaceful solstice and seasonal feast or holy day, and I will be back with you on 2nd January with my next rambling blog post.

The Saddling is available to download now on Kindle and is available in Kindle Unlimited, and in paperback.

‘A Place Called Hope’ by Emma Batten

* A Place Called Hope is a novel by the daughter of my childhood piano teacher, and is very much worth reading, as are all of Emma Batten’s Romney Marsh, historical novels.