Some Reference Gems

This week, I have been researching all manner of facts for ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, while writing a few draft chapters. We’ve also had a major storm and a mild earthquake, neither of which are uncommon in Greece at this time of year. However, nothing stops Jackson Marsh when he is in full flow, and apart from the occasional internet outage, nothing stops the research. Actually, when the internet is out, I turn to my books and read, if necessary, by torchlight.

The Larkspur Legacy’ is turning into something of an epic; an end of season double episode, if you like, as it will bring the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries together and to an end. It’s also a book with diverse points of view, because the main characters get flung far and wide as  they struggle to solve the clues and treasure hunt begun in ‘Starting with Secrets.’ So, for that reason, my research has been wide-ranging, and while researching, I came across a few sites that might be of interest to other writers and readers.

Here are some of the subjects I found online while delving into the past this past week. Where I found a decent site, I’ve added the link in case you are interested.

The history of sound recording. (Wiki; always double-check what you read.)

Ships’ bells explained. Did you know eight bells happens six times per day? Once during each of the eight watches, save the first dog watch.

Sea routes and port distances. Ever wondered how long it would take to sail from Alexandria in Egypt to Falmouth in Cornwall? Assuming good weather and a constant speed of 10 knots, this online calculator puts it at 13.7 days.

Here’s a handy list of sailing terms. Not the ‘shiver me timbers’ kind, either.

A short history of the Cutty Sark. For anyone interested in clipper ships.

Irish proverbs. For Silas Hawkins and his mother, of course.

Strong words Vs weak words (for writers) very handy when you come to write the blurb.

A (free) dictionary of Cornish dialect. Me’ansome, me-lover, me-duck, and other colloquialisms to give your character’s authenticity.

Cook’s tourists’ handbook for Egypt, the Nile, and the Desert. [Electronic Edition] Just what I was looking for as it gives routes, timetables, details of sites to visit and much more.

View of the Temple at Luxor, 1880s. Antonio Beato (English, born Italy, about 1835, 1906). Albumen silver print.

500 alternative words for ‘said’ – very handy, but don’t overdo them in your dialogue tags.

Those are but a few of the places I have been this week online. I’ve also looked up the causes of death during pregnancy (1890), names of various piece of Egyptian costume, the distance between Mounts Bay and Bodmin, and Greece and Calais, steamships operating across the English Channel in 1891, how to distil oil from garlic and fish, extinct titles of the nobility, and how to sail a barquentine.

Because ‘Legacy’ sees the culmination of both series, I’ve also had to do a lot of back-checking, because the Clearwater cast are in the book along with the Larkspur Academy Men. In particular, one character’s story begun in 1884, comes to a conclusion in 1891. That character has been in every book through the series, if not on stage then off stage and mentioned, and I thought it high time we rounded him off – as it were.

You will see what I mean in due course.

Catch up with my Work In Progress blog next Wednesday and I’ll let you know how close I am to finishing the first draft.

Work In Progress: 5.07

The Larkspur Legacy

Today is a quick update on where I am with the last in the Larkspur Mystery series, ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’

There’s not much to report, but I have been getting on with things. I am now working on chapter 35, and the various threads of the story are starting to come together. I am at 123,000 words, and still have a way to go, so we are, as I thought, looking at a first draft of roughly 150,000 words, possibly more. This is the same length as ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’, which is what I wanted. The end of a series needs to tie all kinds of things together and produce a satisfying result, and I know exactly how things are going to end. I had the finale planned many months ago, and the road I am on now although maybe not the home straight, it is perhaps the final corner that will lead to the home straight.

I am into my winter routine now, which means getting up early, doing some writing work for other people for a couple of hours because I still have to pay the bills, and then taking a walk to clear that from my head and set the next part of ‘Legacy’, and then getting down to a few hours of typing. My desk is surrounded by notes, I have 101 things to check when I finally get to read through the first draft to make sure the stories tie up, and then, around midday, I take time off. It’s tempting, though, when it’s winter, sometimes cold and wet, to stay in the sitting room for the rest of the day, but I try not to. Usually, by the afternoon, I am brain-dead because I’ve been writing since five in the morning, so I like to do something else. This year, I am working on a model of ‘the Mummy’ when not writing, playing the piano, giving a piano lesson, or watching ‘The Amazing Race’, ‘The Circle’ or other TV series.

‘The Larkspur Legacy’, then, is coming together, and I definitely have a deadline for its completion. I’ve been in touch with Andjela about the cover and she’s on standby for when I am ready, and we’re still looking at the end of March for its release.

More on my blog on Saturday.

Work In Progress: 5.06

The Larkspur Legacy

The title of this catch-up post is misleading, because I have been working on ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ for more than six weeks, and it’s not my 5th book. It is the 5th book since I started the work-in-progress blog, though, and it is my 6th post about it. So, here’s where I am with the last in the Larkspur series, ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’

Word Count

After finishing yesterday’s draft chapter, I found myself at 105,000 words. I also found myself standing on my balcony with Neil, telling him that, in my estimation, I had at least another ten chapters to write before the first draft story was out of my head. With an average chapter count of 3,000 to 4,000 words, that will take the total word count to around 150,000 words. That is the same length as ‘The Clearwater Inheritance,’ so I am happy with that. I like to give my readers a good, long and rewarding read for the last book of a series. However, my estimate doesn’t include a story that has an effect on the main story, and I’m not sure if I will be able to get that one in. If I don’t, then it will appear in ‘The Clearwater Companion’, the companion to the Clearwater and Larkspur series I am planning to compile once ‘Legacy’ is published.

Notes and books, notes and books…

What’s the Story?

If you have read ‘Starting with Secrets’, you will know that the Clearwater crew are on a mission to solve four clues in a treasure hunt that will, ultimately, unlock a great secret and offer Clearwater and his men a great reward. ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ is all about completing that hunt, but it is also about other things. There are personal stories to settle, there are villains to defeat (or not), there’s a new love story running through one of the four threads of the book, and there will be a twist that I hope no-one will see coming. Eek!

As there are four clues, so there are four stories within the book, although all are related by the overall aim of discovering the secret. This is why you will find several characters travelling to the Mediterranean, a couple travelling to Greece, a couple to another part of Europe, and some staying at Larkspur to deal with the annoyingly persistent villains set up in ‘Starting with Secrets.’ One of those threads is the one I may have to miss out on because of story length, but what happens during that small adventure isn’t as important as what’s found at the end of it, and the action can happen off-stage; as long as the answer comes back to Larkspur, where some of your favourite characters are gathering information while seeking the perfect way to be rid of the various villains. (There are four from previous books, plus a couple of new ones working for them.) Honestly, trying to keep all the pieces together is a feat in itself, but I am having great fun.

A map of the Plaka in Athens from my new, old book.

Research and a Derailment

Clearly, I was not in the Med in 1891 when the story is set, so I have had to research. The books you see today are those I picked up when in Athens recently, so that might give you a clue to one of the destinations in ‘Legacy.’ I also have to research… (No, I won’t name the place, yet) another country. This, I was doing on Monday when I got derailed.

I had set up a throughline where the characters say:

‘We will go to X, then, from there to Y we can go by train. The journey will take us two weeks…’

Having done that, I then plotted and wrote the stories happening elsewhere around that timeline. On Monday, I discovered that there were no trains between X and Y in 1891, and rather than take artistic licence, I said, ‘Bugger!’ and replotted. The journey will now take up to one month, which means that part of the overall story shifts the timeline for all other parts of the story. Always do your research, and do it thoroughly.

(Not the offending book in question)

In my defence, I was using a book advertised as published in 1890 which said the line opened two years ago, only to find out, on Monday, it was actually the 1897 edition and not the one I thought it was. This meant the railway line wasn’t opened until four years after my characters would have been on it, and you know I like to be as accurate as possible with my details.

Anyway… This isn’t getting the writing done, so that’s exactly what I am going to do now. Battle on with the next chapter while keeping copious notes about what I need to change, add, and subtract from what’s already written while taking away the number I first thought of.

I will leave you with a tiny teaser and see you on Saturday!

Work In Progress: 5.05

The Larkspur Legacy

Well, folks, I am at 75,000 words. I have characters here there and everywhere trying to track down and solve clues. I have evil villains plotting this and doing that, and I now have the sky full of chickens coming home to roost; not that chickens can fly.

It’s all going rather well, but there is still a long way to go. I am in the thick of it, and have to have papers stuck around my desk to remind me of where everyone is, who is chasing whom, and there’s a pile of notes of things to check or add in when I go back over the first draft. Meanwhile, Jenine has had me taking part in promos and online parties, publicising the other books and these two series, and we’ve been preparing for Christmas.

On which note, I want to tell you I shan’t be posting for a couple of weeks. I may pop up next Wednesday with something, but the next scheduled post here will be January 7th. It’s Christmas this weekend, and the weekend after, we shall all be in Athens for New Year. As Athens is one of the destinations in The Larkspur Legacy, I hope to get some photos of one of the places that will feature in the book.

The winner of the advent quiz will be drawn on Sunday, so watch my Jackson Marsh Facebook page for the result.

So, I will wish you all a Happy Christmas (Happy Holidays for those who don’t celebrate Christmas) and a Happy New Year for everyone whose New Year it soon is. A heartfelt thank you to everyone for your support, your kind reviews and your passing on of recommendations. Without such support, Jackson Marsh wouldn’t exist. Have a great time, and I will see you next year.

Christmas Parties & Celebrations

Hello, everyone

Today’s blog is all about celebrations, parties, freebies and award nominations. There is a lot taking place in the run up to Christmas, all of it exciting, and I’ve set out all the details below. It starts with an online party in a popular Facebook group…

This Sunday there is a massive party over on the MM Fiction Addiction Cafe Facebook page. Over 100 authors will be dropping in throughout the day introducing themselves and holding quizzes and games. It promises to be a riot of freebies and festive frivolity. I will be joining in the celebrations and it would be great to see you there! The party will take place between 9am and 9pm Eastern Time, which is 4pm – 4am in Greece, 2pm – 2am in the UK (I think?!).

Followed by…..

The Small But Mighty MM Romance Group are halfway through their 12 Tropes of Christmas Celebrations. On Tuesday look out for #AgeGap where yours truly will be dropping in to showcase my Mentor Series. Come along and join the fun for a chance to win two books of your choice from the series.

Meanwhile, on my own Facebook page I am still running my advent ‘name the book’ competition.

Every day a new question and all correct answers will be put into my husband’s steampunk hat on Boxing Day and my godson will draw the winner. And now I can reveal that the grand prize will be…wait for it

ddrrrrrrrrrrrrr……..

your choice of a mousemat or mug featuring The Clearwater Book covers. Yes, I thought it was time we try out some merchandising so we have been playing on various websites and trying out some mock-ups. Whoever wins we will personally create your prize and ship it off to you in the New Year.


And if you still have some free time after all those shenanigans please head over to Goodreads where you can vote for your favourite MM Romance authors of 2022. I have been nominated for a number of awards, a huge thank you to those who voted so far! I am listed amongst some of the top names which in itself is a great honour.

BEST COVER ART

First up we have ‘Best Cover Art’…it is fantastic to see Andjela K nominated, without her my books would just not have the same visual impact. Click the link to place your vote https://www.goodreads.com/…/258430-best-cover-art-you…

BEST ESTABLISHED COUPLE

Joe and Dalston are nominated in this category. This gives me great joy, I absolutely loved creating these two characters and their relationship really did bring out pure emotion in my writing. I couldn’t have done it without learning British Sign Language, I feel that took my journey with these two young men to a different level. Here’s the link to vote https://www.goodreads.com/…/258374-best-established…

BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

This nomination is a big WOW, ‘Speaking In Silence’ is up there amongst some big names, a great honour. To place your vote follow the link https://www.goodreads.com/…/258367-best-book-of-the…

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE M/M SERIES

Both The Clearwater and The Larkspur Series have been nominated for The Best Series Category (I suggest we all vote for Clearwater to gain more collective votes)

Click the link to vote https://www.goodreads.com/…/258336-all-time-favorite-m…

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE MM ROMANCE

Deviant Desire remains my best-selling book to date, it is so good to see it here as a nominee. Silas and Archer’s relationship started as an ‘insta-love’ but their lives together continue to be exciting and passionate, I have loved telling their story. If you would like to vote for them hit the link https://www.goodreads.com/…/258377-all-time-favorite-m…

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE M/M AUTHOR

Yes! I have made the nominee list, thank you, thank you! Here’s the link to vote fave author

You need to be a group member of the MM Romance group, if you need the link to sign up, here it is

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/20149-m-m-romance

It takes 24 hours to approve your request and be sure to put your date of birth on the sign-up.

Thank you everyone!

After all this excitement, I could do with a lie down, but the truth is, I have left my Larkspur Academy men in something of a predicament, so I had better go and write another chapter of ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ before they get tired of waiting. A proper update will be on Wednesday’s blog.

Work In Progress: 5.04 The Larkspur Legacy

At the last count, The Larkspur Legacy had reached 55,000 words in draft one, and there are still several weeks of the story still to tell. The chase is definitely on, the Clearwater crew is organised, they know what they have to do and have started getting on with solving the mystery and locating the great secret. Unfortunately, the evil, anti-crew are also organised, well-financed and just as determined to achieve their own goals. It looks like everyone is evenly matched for what is going to be a monster of an end-of-series climax.

With many of my novels, I have an opening scene in mind when I start to write, and a closing one, and what happens in between is often only sketched out before I start. With this one, things are different. I know what the epilogue is to be, and I have all threads tied up in my mind and notes. What I don’t have so much are those threads before being tied up. However, knowing how things will end allows me to be creative during the parts in between while keeping myself restricted to only what is plausible to make the ending work. In other words, I have a structure, but it has taken a lot of planning, and currently, my writing/planning desk looks like this…

The atlas is there because the story sees several of the crew travelling to various places, while others remain in England to plot a downfall, keep track of where everyone is, and work on solving the mystery without actually being in the field. From left to right: the Scrabble is there to assist with anagrams, the large notebook is a plot outline of the middle of the story, keeping track of where everyone is and how long it would have taken them to get there, and the piece of paper is my ‘master sheet’ now up on the board beside my writing desk. The atlas is also there so I can visualise routes. Among the notebooks and other bits and pieces, is a compass (as mentioned in the story and in ‘Starting with Secrets’), and a small sextant.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, my typing table looks like this…

Scrap paper for notes, the master plan, a cypher grid, a mosquito spray and a heater I’ve not had to use so far this winter as it’s still 16 degrees at 5.30 in the morning.

It is upwards and onwards now, as the story moves from land to sea (while also staying on land, and in several countries), and where a new love story is about to begin. It might be 55,000 words in already (about a third of the way through), but there’s always time for love.

While all this is going on, don’t forget my Advent calendar quiz and your chance to win an exclusive prize. All the details are on my Facebook Page. I am going to be busy with Christmas promotions and online parties over the next couple of weeks, and I will give you all the details of where you can find me on my next Saturday blog.

You have to be in it to win it!

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).

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.

Work In Progress: 4.12

Starting with Secrets

Three months in and we are nearly there. Neil has been acting as my beta reader, and has read my current draft of ‘Starting with Secrets.’ A beta reader is someone who reads a text before publication to check for errors, and he found only two. I don’t mean typo errors; there will no doubt be several of those when the book gets to the proofreading stage. I mean errors or oddments within the story.

At one point, a character is told that due to a storm it is not possible to send telegrams. A couple of chapters later, on the same night, he tells someone he’s going to send a telegram. How? Was Neil’s question. Ah ha! I’d missed that. I went back to the chapter, and now the character is told he can only send messages up the line, so, when he needs to message London later, he can. Sorted.

The other thing he wasn’t sure about was the ending and how it seemed too sudden. I agreed. I’d written a short section for the end, and although it was a sweet little scene, I wasn’t sure if it should be there or come later in book two of this two-part adventure. After listening to Neil’s reaction, I was right to wonder if this short scene needed to be there, so I took it out. However, that left the ending at even more of a full stop, so I had a think about what I needed… And it came to me. A final scene with someone and someone plotting something which will set them up for the next part of the story when it comes out next year. It reads better now, and I am happy with the ending.

The ending is really the halfway point in a longer adventure, but the book does feel resolved (in part) because a major storyline is resolved. So, although you’ll be left wondering and hanging, you shouldn’t feel hard done by, because something has concluded while something else has not.

All will be revealed next month when I hope to publish ‘Starting with Secrets’, the Larkspur Mysteries book six. Meanwhile, I have time for another read and think before proofing, and before we head off to Scotland for a wedding.

Meanwhile, I have started the detailed plotting of ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, the conclusion to the series, and boy, is it going to be fun!

Starting with Secrets: First Look at the Blurb

I have almost finished Starting, by which I mean ‘Starting with Secrets’, the sixth Larkspur Mystery, is nearing completion. Neil is beta reading it as I write, and Andjela is working on the cover. Meanwhile, I am working on the author’s notes and the blurb ahead of sending it all to be proofread on the 28th.

Because I don’t yet have a cover, I’m including some photos that are relevant to the story to give you a taster of what’s coming.

These are not necessarily shots for the cover. We’ll do a cover reveal nearer the publication date, which should be around the middle of November. That gives you plenty of time to catch up on the rest of the series if you haven’t already started it. You can find all Larkspur Novels on the Amazon Larkspur Mystery series page, and the adventures, which follow the Clearwater Mysteries, begin with ‘Guardians of the Poor.’

What is Starting with Secrets about?

I’m not about to give away the plot, but if you want keywords, then this collection will do:

Mystery (of course), Treasure hunt, Misplaced affection, Twists, Revenge, Childhood memories, Drama, Adventure, History, Humour, Compass, Maps, Clues, and, as usual, Bromance.

The story continues a couple of months after Speaking in Silence.’ There is a new man at the Larkspur Academy, Bertie Trucker, and he’s feeling out of place. Up at Larkspur Hall, Archer, now the Earl of Clearwater, receives a message and a gift; a compass. This sets him and his crew off on an adventure — a treasure hunt of sorts, which can only be completed with the help of the friends and men he has gathered around him since the first Clearwater Mystery began in ‘Deviant Desire.’

This means everyone who has read either series can catch up with their favourite characters, because throughout this book and the next, all main characters from both series will have a role to play. Whether you’re a Fecker fan or a James junkie, an Archer admirer or a Dalston devotee, you will find your man (and woman, for those of us nuts about Mrs Norwood or loopy about Lucy) playing an active role in ‘Starting with Secrets’ and the follow-on book, ‘The Larkspur Legacy’—which I’ve not started writing yet, but will begin very soon.

You see, ‘Starting with Secrets’ is the start of a two-parter, and it starts with a secret, as you might have guessed. I suppose it’s a little Dan Brown-esque in its mixing of fact and fiction, and like one of his great adventure/fact/fiction novels, there is an evil villain keeping pace with and sometimes overtaking the heroes. There is more than one villain, actually, because where Archer has built a solid crew of loyal friends and experts, so the villain needs others to help him realise his evil aims.

Starting with Secrets Blurb

That’s more than enough advanced warning about the story. Here is the first draft of the blurb, the text that will go on the back of the book, and on its Amazon page and other publicity. Bear in mind this is only a draft, and the wording may change, although the story outline won’t.

Starting with Secrets

The Larkspur Mysteries

Book six

“The greatest reward 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.

What Next?

Next come the beta reading, cover design, author’s notes, final blurb, proofreading, proof accepting, internal layout and finally, in about a month, publication.

So, that is where ‘Starting with Secrets’ is starting. The question is, where will it all end?