Completely Random

Usually, on a Wednesday, I put up a work-in-progress post to let you know how the current writing project is going. Today, I’m doing that and adding a couple of random images I found in one of my files. First…

Follow the Van

The draft is complete. I am working through the MS tidying things up and checking my facts and tie-ups. Neil has read it and didn’t find anything missing or wrong in the mystery, which is good news, and he says he particularly liked the ending which leads into book four. I’ll start writing that soon. All I have of book four is a title, ‘Where There’s a Will.’

Follow the Van is going off to be proofread within the next ten days or so, and Andjela has her brief for the cover. All being well, you will be able to get hold of your copy before the end of the month. I am aiming to release it on my birthday, 26th, but we’ll see.

Random Millbank Prison

As for the random photos, I downloaded them a while ago because they show something that’s not there anymore. The place in question is Millbank Prison which used to stand where the Tate gallery now is, on the north bank of the Thames. The map pre-dates 1888, but I am not sure of its actual date. Sometime around the late 1850s or very early 1860s I’d say because the map shows the route of the proposed Lambeth Bridge, which was opened in 1862. The prison, the flower-shaped building, was closed in 1890, and in its place (along with other things) was built the National Gallery of British Art, now called the Tate.

If you read ‘Agents of the Truth’, you’ll be able to visit Millbank prison with Jimmy Wright and Dalston Blaze, as they visit there looking for clues to the whereabouts of a particularly evil character.

What’s fascinating about the other photo is that it is an aerial shot taken before 1897, because the building was no longer there by then. 1897 happens to be the year Dracula was published, and one year after my grandmother was born. It still fascinates me that until I was in my early 30s, I knew and talked to a woman born during the reign of Queen Vicotria. If only I’d thought to ask questions…

Anyway, that’s enough random rambling. I must get back to my editing, so I have this next book ready for you by the end of the month.

A Free Copy of the first Clearwater Tales

Members of my private Facebook group will be able to take their free copy of my cosy Christmas short story collection, ‘1892’ on Monday and Tuesday of next week,

Here’s how you can claim your free copy of ‘1892, The Clearwater Tales, Volume One.’

Head to my private Facebook group, Jackson’s Deviant Desires and if you haven’t already joined the group.

You must do this by Monday when it will be possible to download a free copy of ‘1892’ from a post within the group.

The copy of the book will be in the Files section, found at the top of the group page.

The files will only be available on Monday and Tuesday, 11th and 12th December. I will take the files down on Wednesday morning, European time (GMT + 2).

1892 will also be on sale from early next week, on Amazon, in paperback, Kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.

Queer Reads

While you are waiting for that, don’t forget that three of my books are included in the Queer Reads book promo on BookFunnel. There are lots of titles there, each with a gay lit theme or story of some sort, and some are on offer.

The titles I have on promo there are Deviant Desire, Guardians of the Poor, and Finding a Way, the series starters for all three of my Victorian mystery series.

Welcome to New Readers

Here’s a quick hello to everyone who has joined our group and discovered my titles thanks to a promo in LGBTQ+ M/M Euro Book Banter that I was involved in last week. The group is running an advent calendar all through the month with a new author every day, and each author giving away a copy of one of their books. Fellow author Barbara Alsborg won my giveaway and claimed a copy of Deviant Desire, and there are still plenty more days to go on the advent calendar, so plenty more books to claim.

1892

If you miss the giveaway on Monday/Tuesday, look out for news of where you can pick up a copy of ‘1892’ from Amazon, or head to my author page and check there. I aim to upload the files and release the book on Monday to coincide with my private giveaway, so it should be available in plenty of time for you to curl up with a cosy and sometimes amusing read, as five favourite characters tell their stories.

I’ll be back with an update on Wednesday.

Looking for a Great Historical Mystery?

If you’ve come here looking for a great historical mystery to read, I’ve again got the perfect thing for you. Not only my own books, which you can find on my Clearwater Mysteries page, and not only The Larkspur Mysteries which continue in the Clearwater world with new characters taking centre stage and established characters supporting, but also Finding a Way, the first in the new Delamere Files series.

Plus, all the books currently available in Kindle Unlimited in this excellent Book Funnel promotion:

K. C. Sivils, A. H. Wang, Y. G. Knight, and authors without initials, such as Rose Donovan and Nadya Frank, all have titles on offer here, along with my series starters, Deviant Desire (Clearwater), Guardians of the Poor (Larkspur), and Finding a Way (Delamere).

Astute readers might notice that my series titles are the names of three of Lord Clearwater’s homes; Clearwater House, London, Larkspur Hall, Cornwall, and Delamere House, the next-door, sister property to Clearwater House in Knightsbridge. Why? I don’t know, it just seemed like the sensible thing to do. When I first came up with the property names, I never thought I would be creating three series around them, but that’s what happened, and I’m glad it did. When writing the Larkspur Mysteries, and bringing in Lady Marshall’s country home, I thought carefully about the name of the place, having in mind the idea I may set another series there in the future. That’s why I came up with Stoneridge Castle. I was thinking of something spookier, still mysterious, maybe steampunk-ish, and based around Hope & Hyde from the Larkspur Academy. If I ever do, you will be the first to know. Meanwhile, back to this Book Funnel promo and all the delights that go with it: Self-pub mysteries with an historical background, all available in KU, so you can easily add them to your library, also available in other formats if you aren’t in KU and want to buy and all at discounted or very reasonable prices.

There. That should set you up for a few weeks. Meanwhile, I am currently editing and rewriting the final chapters of ‘A Fall from Grace’, the Delamere Files book two, and have it booked in with Anne Atwood, my long-suffering and rather excellent proofreader for the first days of October. This weekend, I must start thinking about the cover so that, in a couple of weeks, I can let you know when this next book will be ready for you.

Have a good weekend, check in on Wednesday for the regular work-in-progress update, and above all, keep reading!

The Echoes Rising series by Anne Barwell

Today, I have the great pleasure of welcoming Anne Barwell to talk about the research for her historical series, Echoes Rising. I asked Anne to tell us about her novels and what goes into creating them and was delighted to discover she is as passionate about research as I am. There are similarities between the time in which Anne writes and my Clearwater Victorian era (illegal and dangerous to be gay). I won’t dilly-dally but will hand you straight over to Anne.


Anne Barwell

Thanks, Jackson, for hosting me today.

My Echoes Rising series is set in WWII so I needed to research not only location, but the time period too.

I’d wanted to write not only an action drama story but one that had at its heart a relationship between two men during a time when the discovery of their relationship risked severe repercussions, even death. I also wanted to explore characters who needed to do some serious soul-searching in order to break free of expectations of themselves and their society.  

I knew in writing a historical I had a lot of research ahead of me, especially as I planned to write a three-book series. Shadowboxing is set in Berlin, Winter Duet is a road trip across wartime Germany, and Comes a Horseman takes place in France leading up to, and including D-Day.

I used a range of resources for my research. I work in a library—shelving in the 940.5 section is not a great idea as I get distracted by shiny things. The library, and its databases, were a fantastic writing resource. Half the fun was finding the resources, which weren’t just in the history section, as I also needed travel books—for locations—and information about clothing and weapons. Early on in the writing process for the story, I found a book called The Bomb by Gerard DeGroot which was about the ‘life story of the Bomb’ and subtitled A History of Hell on Earth. I bought my own copy of it.

The Forgotten Voices series, another invaluable resource, relays personal accounts by both servicemen and women and civilians about what it was like to live through that time. The internet also provided a lot of interesting information although some things were next to impossible to find, the specifics of German telephones being one. The only information I could find was about the US system at the time! Luckily one of my beta readers was German and she proved an invaluable source of information. She also checked facts on websites written in German and provided/suggested the German used in the story.

However, history can also work for a story rather than against it. After all, there’s no need to find a way to blow something up when it’s already documented that the Allied forces dropped bombs in the area at that time.

Many of the other locations in the story are real places. The Michaelskirche—St Michael’s Church—in Berlin where Michel meets the Allied team was still intact in 1943, although it was damaged later in the war. The Klosterkirche, a nunnery on the site of another church, where Michel and Kristopher take refuge, is also a real place, as is St Gertrud’s convent in Alexanderdorf. I was able to draw on photos of those places to describe them as well, which was very helpful. Other landmarks included the Brandenburg Tor and the Spree River.

Some of the other settings were not real but I studied maps in order to place them in actual locations, so I could work out what route the characters had to take to reach them. I also used Google map directions to figure out long it would take to get there, although I had to make some adjustments, given the time period. Cars didn’t travel as fast seventy years ago, and this story is set during a war. Google street view was also useful too although I had to again keep in mind the time difference. I based my fictional locations on real places so they would sound authentic. It’s the details that throw a reader out of a story, although it’s impossible to get everything right, and sometimes a writer has to take some liberties for the sake of a good story.

I used books of street maps of the area—because sometimes you want something in hardcopy, rather than flipping back and forth on browser tabs—and firsthand accounts of people who had been in Berlin at that time. Databases were very helpful, especially the Times Digital Archive, as they gave more of an insight into what it was like living there at the time. Travel books like The Lonely Planet Guides were useful too, but again had to be adjusted because they focused on what Berlin is like now, rather than describing the city in 1943.

Music plays a big part in Winter Duet, book 2 of my WII Echoes Rising series.  Two of the characters—Kristopher and Michel—are musicians. Kristopher plays the violin, and Michel the flute, and they’ve promised each other a duet if they survive the war.  Although the title reflects that promise, it also refers to a duet of another sort as the team is split into two for a good portion of the story.

I’d attended a lecture on music code as part of one of my music papers at uni, and had always wanted to use it in a story. I also studied Schubert’s Winterreise as part of the same paper, and given the setting of Winter Duet, it worked perfectly for it. The lyrics for the music come from a collection of poems by Müller so I used lines from one of the poems—’Frühlingstraum’—as code phrases used by the Resistance.  Kristopher takes the conversation about music a step further and devises a code which he and Michel can use to leave each other a note that will not be easily deciphered if found by the enemy.

Music code was not only used in WWII but long before that. Bach used musical notation to spell out his name in his compositions using the fact that modern music notation had developed from modes—in German ‘B flat’ is ‘B’ and ‘B natural’ is H—and phonetics. Later Schumann used several musical cryptograms in his music, spelling out not just his own name, but that of Clara Wieck, who would later become his wife. Other codes were based on pitch, motifs (repeated music phrases) and note lengths. There are many more examples and variations out there across a range of different composers.

And yes, Clara Lehrer, Kristopher’s sister, is named after Clara Schumann.  I’ve learnt a lot more about WWII while writing this series than I ever thought I would, and despite the work involved, I’ve really enjoyed it. I still have a notebook, a folder, and bookcases full of information about the period, and although this team’s story is told, I wouldn’t be surprised if that information proves useful in another story sometime.


Shadowboxing, Book 1 of Echoes Rising, is on sale this month.


Complete their mission or lose everything.

Berlin, 1943

An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined. Author’s note: This is the third edition of Shadowboxing. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house.  This story has been re-edited and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.


Shadowboxing Links

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3miLlib

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/3G5GXhX

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/ShadowboxingAB

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/047354816X

Series Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C4225LDC


Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with kitty siblings Byron and Marigold who are convinced her office chair is theirs. 

Anne works in a library, is an avid reader and watcher of a wide range of genres, and is constantly on the lookout for more hours in her day. She likes to write in series and even so-called one-shots seem to breed more plot bunnies. Her writing is like her reading – across a range of genres, although her favourites are paranormal, fantasy, SF, and historical. Music often plays a part in her stories and/or her characters are musicians.

She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers, and a member of RWNZ.   Her books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner-up in the Rainbow Awards.  

Website & Blog—Drops of Ink: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/annesbooksandbrews/

Newsletter: https://lacedragonpublishing.eo.page/hg3wk

Work In Progress: 6.07

Hi, and welcome to WIP Wednesday. Today’s news is that I am having a crisis. Well, not me, but my new main character, Jack Merrit, a London cabbie in 1892. I’m not going to tell you why, because that would give away spoilers and reveal the plot and twists in this, the first book of a new series, but I can tell you that Jack’s crisis happens at around 75,000 words in. That’s where I left the first draft yesterday, and I’ll be getting back to it after I have posted this.

I’m still without a title, and currently, I have a choice of two directions in which the story can go. They both lead to the same finale, which will lead to the second book, which I will start on as soon as I’ve finished this one, but before I’ve published it.

Yes, sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but my plan is to be at least halfway through part two before I release part one. By doing that, I can ensure I have a viable series and not a standalone, so don’t expect ‘Untitled 1892’ anytime soon.

Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Southwark Bridge, London, 1892.

What you can expect before too long, though, is a re-release of ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge.’ I’m just about to send the MS off to be professionally laid out, and, as that never takes very long, I should be able to do a re-release in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, back in 1892, I have a crisis to deal with…

Pop back on Saturday for more of The Clearwater Companion.

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

Untitled

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.

[Wikipeadia.]

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.

Work In Progress: 5.16

The end of the line.

This morning, I received the final layout files from Other Worlds Ink, so The Larkspur Legacy is ready to go. Only three more days and I will upload it to Amazon, and the Kindle version should then go live on Saturday night/Sunday morning (GMT + 2).

Before that, you can find out more about OtherWorldsInk and their services, because we’re arranging a chat with them for Saturday’s blog. They arrange blog tours and publicity, do book formatting and cover design and are a great help to me. I’ve used them since ‘Negative Exposure’, and now no longer have to spend hours setting out my pages and doing the best I can, because they do it for me. More about that on Saturday.

As for the next work in progress,

I have already begun on The Clearwater Companion by gathering my notes, cuts, excerpts, images, and other ideas. Right now, I am typing up the notes from my bible (series notebook). We may not use all of them, but as long as I have them all in one digital place, I’ll be able to work with them much more easily. It’s a pretty thankless task, but a couple of hours a day and I should have both large notebooks transcribed in a month, and I can then set about seeing what’s what.

Meanwhile, look out for The Larkspur Legacy, the series finale to the Larkspur and Clearwater books. You should be able to get it from Kindle on Sunday (the print version may take a day or two longer to appear).

Proof Reader. Proof-reader. Proofreader?

Proofing a book and making it ready for publication.

The Larkspur Legacy, the last in the Larkspur Mystery series, is now being layed out and when that’s done, it will be ready for publication next weekend. Meanwhile, I thought I’d have a look at the blurb and talk a little about the proofreading stage. As you can see from the title, I’m never sure whether I should write proofreader or proof-reader, or even proof reader. And that’s why I have one. More about that in a moment, first the blurb.

The Larkspur Legacy full blurb reads like this:

The Larkspur Legacy

The Larkspur Mysteries

Book Seven

Jackson Marsh

‘Lord Clearwater, the Larkspur Academy has forged a bond among its men that will last long after they have left us and made their own way in the world. You are to be commended for the enterprise, but you should not be surprised by it.’

Barbary Fleet, December 1891

Henry Hope lies in a coma, and Lord Clearwater’s hunt for his mother’s secret treasure is on hold. But when a new clue comes to light, Clearwater and the academy men resume their greatest adventure. It is also to be their most dangerous.

With murderous enemies behind, the unknown ahead, and a warrant out for Clearwater’s arrest, no-one is safe. Loyalties and friendships are tested as the men face harrowing confrontations, a war of attrition in the national newspapers, storms, gunfights and death.

Will love and friendship be enough to secure the lives and futures of Lord Clearwater and his crew? Can they solve the riddles in time, and will anyone ever know the meaning of the seemingly unlockable riddle? Behind four points ’neath gifted crook, the light awaits for those who look…

The Larkspur Legacy follows on directly from ‘Starting with Secrets’ and is the culmination of both the Clearwater and Larkspur mystery series. It is not necessary to have read the Clearwater Mysteries, but to get the best from this ‘end of season finale,’ you’re advised to read both, the Larkspur Mysteries in particular, and to read them in order.

With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story 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.

“This is a book that could have been written by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dan Brown.”

That is what you will see on Amazon when the book is published.

For me, the important things to remember when writing a blurb are:

  1. It is not a synopsis
  2. It is selling the book
  3. Use power words
  4. Keep it brief
  5. Entice the reader

Other authors and advisors have other advice, but those are my rules to myself.

I start by writing what I want the browsing reader to know, and I don’t care how I write that draft. Then, I go through it knocking out as much as I can that’s not necessary to convey the backbone of the story, and then I go through it again using power words.

I try to keep blurbs down to 150 words or less, and only three paragraphs.

1) The premise of the story: Henry Hope lies in a coma, and Lord Clearwater’s hunt for his mother’s secret treasure is on hold, when…

2) The ‘thing to draw the reader in’: But when a new clue comes to light….

3) The great question or hook: Will love and friendship be enough…?

As for power words, I mean words and phrases like:

Greatest adventure, most dangerous, murderous enemies, the unknown, harrowing confrontations, war of attrition, storms, gunfights, death…

I also prepare the blurb before I send my MS to my proof-reader, because it makes sense for a third party to check it as much as they check the MS.

I’m lucky to have found Ann Attwood, and she has been my proof reader on every Jackson Marsh book and a couple of my later James Collins titles. It’s important to have a good working relationship with your proofer (who is not necessarily also your editor, in fact, I believe they should be two different people, but that’s up to you).

I invited Ann over to tell us a little bit more about herself and how she got into proofreading.

I started proofreading in my twenties (a long time ago!), mainly doing technical documents, but I have always read a lot.

I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind when I was around 16. My mum had the hardback edition, which was really heavy to carry around, and, of course, I read all Jane Austen’s books, and Georgette Heyer’s. As you can see, I am a big romantic fiction fan.

I worked in banking (sorry) until I had my family, but reading kept me sane. After they all started at school I was working in a preschool, but had to give up when I damaged my back. I needed something to do.

It wasn’t a big leap to get into reading ARC editions, but many had so many mistakes from lack of editing, I think, so I began sending corrections to the authors.

It wasn’t long before I was asked if I would proofread or edit professionally, so I set up a Facebook page (now Meta), and it snowballed from there.

To be honest, it’s so long since I started working with James and his Jackson persona, I can’t remember how we met. Probably a recommendation, which is how I’ve gained most of my authors (there are about 40 or 50 on my books. Some send regularly a book a month, others may send one or two a year)

James is easy to work with, and his books are extremely good. I enjoy following the plots and untangling the mysteries to see if I reach the same conclusion. The stories are extremely well thought out, and he has obviously done a lot of research. All that is left for me to do is fix his typos and enjoy myself immersed in a brilliant adventure, ensuring there are no continuity issues (which there usually aren’t).

This last book, the finale in the series, is his longest and best yet (IMHO). All the loose ends are tied up, but no spoilers here.

As well as editing and proofreading for my indie authors (genres include romantic, historical, paranormal, sci-fi, crime, and murder mysteries), I proofread for the online edition of a financial magazine, and edit for the marketing arm of a PSP software provider.

Ann Attwood

Thank you Ann, you sound like a very busy person and I very much appreciate being one of your clients.

So back to checking through the manuscript, your proofer should be able to identify everything from obvious typos to the subtle differences between words, and that’s what Ann does. Although I use a spell check, and a couple of plug-in grammar and spelling checkers in Word, there’s nothing to beat a 3rd party pair of eyes, and an experienced grammarian proof reader. We’re not just talking spelling and typos, but punctuation and consistency of story.There are so many words in the English language that are important to get right, and some of the ones I need a third eye on are these:

Discrete           Discreet

Blonde            Blond

Practise            Practice

And some of my most common typos are character’s names, believe it or not. Often your eye and brain see what they expect to see, not what’s actually written, so I am always missing mix-ups like:

Dalson             Dalston

Joseph             Joshep

Marshall          Marhsall

I’ve also put in some accidental typos that have been quite funny (as long as they get taken out). Mind you, nothing is as funny as some of the typos you see left in published classics.

In the Larkspur Legacy, there is one section where one of the characters is reading from an actual copy of Baedeker’s travel guide from 1890, and I couldn’t help quoting it verbatim. Reading from the book, the character says:

 ‘The façade, towards the boulevard… They must mean this road… Roman circular style… Three stories…” Spelt wrong. “Cottage of the pensioner who keeps the key…”’

The Baedeker travel companions, were very popular in the later 19th century and well respected, but not always so well proofed, it seems. Mind you, I can’t say anything, I am always coming up with new and creative typos: ‘Joe’s not stupid, Sir, he’s dead.’ Instead of deaf, for example. Mostly, I’m able to take them out before they go to Ann, but I also have a checklist of my most common. Form/From, Filed/filled, griped/gripped etc. I have trouble with double-letter words, as you can see, and that’s why you should always hire a professional proofreader, or a proof reader, or, assuming he/she is a compound adjective, a proof-reader.

Proof-reader might not be a compound adjective, actually. I don’t know. Which is why I call in the professionals.

The Larkspur Legacy is due for release next Saturday, 26th March. In the meantime, to celebrate the completion of The Clearwater and Larkspur Mysteries, I am offering Deviant Desire as a FREE download on Amazon until 22nd March. Maybe you had it on KindleUnlimited before but now you can download for keeps, or maybe send to a friend to get them hooked too!

I am also part of a BookFunnel promo running for the week, over 50 fellow MM author are showcasing their first in series, so if you are looking for a new binge read have a browse. I need clicks on this link to build my BookFunnel reputation so please CLICK HERE

And finally, on Monday, at 7pm Athens time, I will be available for a live 30 minutes Q and A session at the M/M Fiction Addiction Cafe. Feel free to drop by and ask me anything you like (well, within reason lol).