Work In Progress 3.07

Speaking in Silence is now arriving at Exeter.

If you have been following the ‘Speaking in Silence’ journey from London Paddington to Bodmin, you will know that it’s been an interesting train ride so far. In the word count scheme of things, I’d say I was now at Exeter, being at roughly 72,000 words, with the destination being 100,000 or thereabouts. After some shunting around in a yard several miles back, I have had a clear run from Bristol, and am now approaching the final reel. The final ‘act’ as they say in film terms.

I started the ‘Speaking in Silence’ journey knowing that I wanted it to be about two characters who appeared in the last book, but who we don’t yet know; Henry Hope and Edward Hyde. In this story, Edward is the protagonist, and yet, not only does he hardly speak, he also hardly communicates. That poses a few challenges for the author. Unlike Joe Tanner, who is deaf and communicates through sign language, Edward has taken a vow of semi-silence. The only person he speaks to is Henry, and Henry knows why. We, the reader, come to learn why Edward chose to do this, and we come to understand there is only one thing that will enable him to feel able to speak again. Justice. Therein lies the plot of the novel.

That was what I started with 72,000 words ago, and the rest I have, quite literally, made up as I have gone along, including the characters of Henry and Edward and a hell of a lot of backstory, which trickles out over time. I have used the flashback technique, and it was only while writing those scenes that I came to know the characters. They introduced themselves to me while Henry was telling me his and Edward’s story if you like, and that didn’t happen until I was quite a way into the story. That’s why we had the shunting around a few miles back, and I had to backtrack and change the point of view of some of the earlier chapters. If there’s a lesson there, it’s ‘know your characters before you start’. (A note to fellow authors, if you would like to stretch your character’s bio then you can always drop in for a ‘character interview’. Contact my PA for more details jeninesymi@gmail.com).

To give you a flavour of the novel, and without giving anything away, here’s a short excerpt from the first draft – unedited so excuse any errors. The skeleton is a character who will remain nameless for now, and I have changed the name of the second character to ‘John’ so as not to spoil things for you. John, the villain, is going to see the other villain at his new lodgings in Greychurch:  


The skeleton’s previous lodgings above the ‘Princess Alice‘ had, John thought, been about as low as a man could go, but when he took a deep breath and entered the ‘Hops and…’ as the broken sign described it, he realised he had been wrong.

His foot fell on a rat, but it didn’t squeal because it was dead, but the child playing with it gave him a mouth of abuse, which he ignored. Dishevelled heaps, rather than people, sat at the few tables, some sucking on pipes whose fumes hardly disguised the stench of damp clothes, sweat and something else he didn’t like to think about, while across the room, no more than ten feet from the door, two men stood at a trestle table that served as a bar, while three rested against it on the floor, either drunk or dead. The most unnerving thing about the place, however, wasn’t the landlord with wooden teeth, only one eye and one hand, nor even the miasma of fire, pipe and opium smoke, but the silence. No-one even looked at him, no-one jereed at a well-dressed man from the west of the city entering their destitute realm, and nobody, apart from the child, made a sound.

These people, if he could call them that, might still be able to hear, he thought, and so he prepared to whisper to the disfigured landlord. As he leant over one of those asleep at his feet a movement to his right caught his eye. One of the heaps unwound itself from the table it had been slumped across and dragged itself to its feet. It said nothing, but a skeletal hand emerged from the sleeve of its black gown and beckoned to John like death, before gliding towards a door beside the makeshift bar.

Pleased to be with someone he knew, albeit vaguely and nefariously, John followed the skeleton through to a passage, and down a set of steps to a cellar. Ahead, the scurry of clawed feet suggested their path was clear, but still, when they arrived below ground, several pairs of pink eyes glinted in the candlelight, watching from the crevices for the time they could reclaim their dominion.


The Princess Alice pub was one of the pubs frequented by prostitutes in the East End of London at the time of the Ripper crimes

More on my WIP blog next Wednesday, but don’t forget to be here on Saturday for my other weekly post.

Work In Progress 3.06

Speaking in Silence

The WIP news this week is that I am up to 55,000 words and chapter fifteen of the Larkspur Mysteries book five, Speaking in Silence. On our train journey from London to Cornwall, we have reached somewhere around Bath or Bristol, and that’s appropriate because it means I’ve just met the villain of the piece coming the other way. Chapters 14 and 15 are set on a train journey from Cornwall to Devizes, in Wiltshire, and in the story, the train has recently left the city of Bath.

You know when you get halfway through a draft and suddenly think to yourself, ‘Something’s not right’? Well, I had that twice during the last week, so some of my workload has been fixing a couple of things, or rather, fixing one, and thinking about how to fix the second.

In the first instance, I’d left what they call a plot hole and needed to go back and fill it in. This meant adding an extra chapter so that what a character did next would make sense.

In the second instance, I realised I have started the story from too many points of view. Simply put, it opens with the villain, cuts to Silas’ POV, then to Frank’s, then back to Silas’, and then there’s a backstory section from Henry and Edward’s points of view. The story was originally to be about Frank and his involvement with someone else’s story, but now I am further in, I realise it’s not about Frank at all. So, the earlier scenes that are from his POV need to be from someone else’s, Henry in this case, and so they need rewriting.

Hey ho! That’s how it goes. Now, having told you this, I am going to get on with chapter 16 and move the story into its second half.

Work In Progress 3.05

Speaking In Silence

We are now well on the way to Devizes in Wiltshire. In fact, we will be there at any moment. I am comparing the journey of Speaking In Silence to a train ride from London to Bodmin and looking at my old map of the GWR lines, I’d say Devizes was about a third of the way there or 35,000 words in first draft terms. When we reach Bodmin (estimated time of arrival, 100,000 words), we will have to make the return journey via the second and following drafts, but that’s for much later.

Devizes is also appropriate because that is where my villain lives or lived in real life. At least, he was a member of parliament for the area back in 1891 when the story is set. When I say ‘in real life’, I am basing my character on a newspaper article and on a character from it, but because of what he does in the story, I must point out that the real man didn’t do this in real life. He might have done what he was accused of in the newspapers of the time, but the case was never tried, so who can say?

Research this week has seen me looking up chemical reactions, reading first-hand accounts of London’s East End in the 19th century, and the etiquette of a country house Friday-to-Monday, what we now call a weekend. The word ‘weekend’ only came into use just before 1920, so it’s another of those words I can’t use, like ‘okay’, ‘teenager’ or, to a certain extent, ‘adolescent.’ ‘Homosexual’ is another one I shouldn’t use (common usage after 1900, only specialised medical use a few years before), and when my books are filled with homosexual adolescents recounting their okay teenage years at the weekend… Well, I revert to the thesaurus on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Jenine has been researching letters patent and advancement of titles, the process of lobbying for someone to receive an earldom and how that happens. Poor thing.

It’s been a busy journey so far, and we nearly had a derailment around Newbury when I found myself stuck. I had planned an ending, but as the characters started telling me their story, I realised the ending was wrong. I had to think up another direction, and we almost jumped the tracks. Now, though, we’re back on them, and the destination is the same, only with a slight detour. As usual, I can’t tell you too much, but I can say that what the near derailment has done, is force me to write characters as knowing what is going on in the story while not being able to tell the reader. You see, in this book, it’s all about what’s not being said that’s important, and yet an awful lot is said. Hence, Speaking In Silence.

The journey continues…

Work In Progress 2.7

I have a quick update for you today. I am now up to 75,000 words of Larkspur Four, still with the working title, ‘Chester Cadman’ and it’s going well.

Things are starting to come together in both through lines of the story, the mystery plot and the emotional one. Although there’s no dramatic chase sequence or race to save a life in this one, the story has shape and is gradually building to a climax, which will hopefully be an ‘Ah, now I get it!’ kind of denouement.

I’ve had a bit of a disrupted week since last Wednesday, which is why I have only written 15,000 words in the last seven days, but things are quieter now, so I can knuckle down.

I have also been popping away from the typing to research the various elements needed for this story, but I can’t tell you all of them, otherwise I would give away some surprises. All I will say is, where last week’s research included the ingredients and the invention of stink bombs, this week it was the invention of the bubble bath (as we know it). And with that, I must return to Bodmin Moor and some strange goings-on.

Things That go Bump in the Research

Hello everyone, and welcome to my regular Saturday update. Today, I want to talk about phantasmagoria, Pepper’s ghost, and various things supernatural. Why? Because the fourth book in the Larkspur Mystery series is built around a ghost story, and when I’ve not been writing it, I have been researching all things ghostly.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s an undeniable fact that belief in ghosts exists in just about all cultures. The ghost story as we know it can be traced back to Sir Walter Scott and his 1824 novel, ‘Wandering Willie’s Tale’, which is not as naughty as it might sound to those, like me, inclined to innuendo. We’re talking ghost rather than horror; you can mark the beginning of the horror genre with ‘The Castle of Otranto’ (1765) by Horace Walpole, but that’s a debate for another day.

Following Willie’s wanderings, we can cite Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ as a classic ghost story, and since the beginnings of the Victorian ghost novel, other writers have leapt on the spectral bandwagon including M.R. James, Violet Hunt, Henry James and the Irish writer, Sheridan Le Fanu.

The Larkspur Ghost: A Curious Development

Ages ago, before even the Clearwater Mysteries was born, I tried my hand at writing a contemporary paranormal MM romance novel, ‘Curious Moonlight.’ This received mixed reviews, and understandably so, because people who read the micro-niche of contemporary paranormal MM romance have specific rules, and I, the upstart, didn’t keep to them.

My novel was more about two men, one gay, one curious, trying to fall in love and being thwarted by, among other things, a hangover spirit from an old Cornish myth. What ‘Moonlight’ did do, though, was make me think of a sequel. In it, my two main characters were invited to a rambling country house to investigate the appearance of a ghost. The house was called Blackwood Abbey, the ghost was said to be that of a serving girl murdered for her romance with a monk in 1500-and-something, and the dead girl was still haunting the manor, which couldn’t be sold until the mystery was solved. And so it rambled on until I ran out of ectoplasm, and shelved the idea.

I am glad I did, because what I was trying to write was beyond me. It did, however, lead to bigger and better things. The idea of a mystery led to The Clearwater Mysteries, Blackwood Abbey led to the creation of Larkspur Hall (and Jasper Blackwood, I guess), and the two-word title led to others, such as Deviant Desire, Twisted Tracks and Unspeakable Acts. Between ‘Moonlight’ and Larkspur Four, I have written about fifteen better novels, and I now know what I am doing.

Except I don’t. Or I didn’t when I sat down to tackle the subject of all things ghostly in Victorian times, and in particular, the story of the Larkspur Ghost.

Chester Cadman

Larkspur Four is currently titled ‘Chester Cadman’ because that’s the name of the lead character, and a better title has not yet fallen into place. Don’t worry. I am not going to give away any spoilers.

The story was inspired by an advertisement in a London paper of 1981 which advertised Mr Maskelyen’s premier magical entertainment at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. The entertainment promised apparitions, bodies floating over the audience, and other ghostly occurrences every day promptly at three and every evening at eight (excepting Mondays). Such entertainments were popular in Victorian society, and the Egyptian Hall quickly became ‘England’s Home of Mystery.’ An advertising poster of the time promises, ‘Labial, Fanfare, Zoe & Psycho’ as part of Maskelyne & Cooke’s entertainment, but I am not sure I want to look into those attraction at this moment.

In my story, Chester (not his real name) fell from grace after paying a visit to Mr Maskelyen’s Entertainment, and afterwards, accepting an invitation to participate in a séance. Chester doesn’t believe in ghosts, you see, and is a debunker of ghost stories, except he can’t be, because the word ‘debunk’ didn’t exist until the next century, but you get the picture.

When the story starts, he is on his way to Larkspur Hall, where Archer (Lord Clearwater) and his steward/best friend, Tom, are waiting for him. Tom is reading a novel by the above mentioned Le Fanu in preparation for a discussion about ghosts.

Chester is invited to join the Larkspur Academy, which he does, and his first task is to ‘debunk’ the mystery of the Larkspur Ghost. Along the way, he encounters various personal problems, love, lust and lingering doubt, and learns much about the darker history of Larkspur Hall and the Clearwater viscounts. I can’t tell you any more than that because I’ve not written it yet, but I am up to 70,000 words. (You can follow its progress on my Work In Progress blogs on Wednesdays.)

Phantasmagoria and Pepper

One of the things I am researching for the background of this novel, to add authenticity and detail, is phantasmagoria. I can’t define it any better than this description I found in a paper by Japanese academic Yurie NAKANE:

Phantasmagoria is an early projection show using an optical instrument called a magic lantern. Brought to Britain from France in 1801, it amused spectators by summoning the spirits of absent people, including both the dead and the living. [Link to the full article free download.]

It didn’t, of course. I mean, it did, but not really. What this theatrical device did was project an image of a person, or an object, a skeleton from the closet or something else better left forgotten, onto a screen, onto mist or a sheet of glass. The effect was to make the ghostly image appear among real people and furniture, thereby giving the appearance of an apparition before our very eyes.

Phantasmagoria began way before Chester Cadman was born at sea. Yurie Nakane tells us, Phantasmagoria in Paris was conducted by Philidor in 1792 for the first time. And later in her paper, In October, 1801, Paul Philidor brought phantasmagoria to Britain and started to give performances there.

The stage trick of phantasmagoria, went through a few developments, one of which was ‘Dircksian phantasmagoria’ in the mid-19th century, but Henry Dircks’ confabulations required a special auditorium be built, and could only be seen by a few spectators in a purpose-built gallery during daylight. (You’d never get funding these days.) However, he worked with a chap called John Henry Pepper, and that led to the creation of a stage trick called Pepper’s Ghost.

This illusion requires two rooms; the stage on which is a visible but camouflaged sheet of glass, and a ‘blue’ room out of sight. The figure in the blue room is simply reflected in the glass, and hey presto! We have a moving, talking apparition. That technique is still used in magic acts, theatre, theme parks and film studios today.

I suppose the moral is, don’t take your Pepper with a pinch of salt.

You can find more on Phantasmagoria in an excellent article by Sandra Gulland on her website, including images. [Link is here.]

Back to the story

In my novel, phantasmagoria and Pepper’s Ghost get only a passing mention, yet I still took the time to check them out, because they are things Chester Cadman would have known about. He also has things to say about hypnotism, or mesmerism, spiritualism and seances, none of which have much impact on the story. Discovering such detail to give your character a little more depth is called research, and has taken up most of my week.

As has writing, and it was while writing the other morning that I had something of a supernatural experience. Before I tell you what it was, you should know that it was daylight, I was at the computer I am at now, totally sober and writing a description of my character, Fleet, comedically blundering about with his eyes closed because he wanted to know what it was like to be blind. I wasn’t writing anything creepy at all. Neil was in the kitchen preparing lunch, I was alone, and my office door was closed (it opens to the outside and it was six degrees, sunny, but cold).

I jolted in shock, my heartbeat shot up, skin went cold and I clutched my pearls, exclaiming, ‘Oh, must you!’ as you do when you’re thinking of something else, and open a door to find your husband unexpectedly on the other side. Except, the dark shape that had crept into the corner of my left eye, covering the height of the bookcase, and moving towards the window, was no longer there. I was left with that aftershock of shock, a little weak kneed, and looking over my shoulder. I politely asked the whatever not to do that again while I was in the room, but finished writing to go and have lunch, knowing the whatever hadn’t meant to take me by surprise.

Strange, but true, and also useful. I now know what it’s like to unexpectedly see a ghostly form, or to think you did, and the experience will inform my writing. Accidental research. Can’t beat it.

Before I go…

Before I go, I want to tell you that I will be doing an ‘author takeover’ on a Facebook group tomorrow from 6 pm Greek time (4 pm GMT). I will be at the MM Fiction Addiction Café chatting about ME and giving away an e-copy of ‘Guardians of the Poor’ (or another of my novels if you already have that one). I will be talking more about the Larkspur Mysteries, and answering questions, so sign up (free, of course) and pop into the cafe if you want to know more.

I’ll be here on Wednesday with my Work In Progress blog to update you more about Chester Cadman, Larkspur Mysteries book four.

Jackson

Work In Progress 2.4

The Larkspur Mysteries book four

So, where am I?… Oh yes, the still untitled Larkspur book four. It’s still called ‘Chester Cadman’ as a working title, because that’s the name of the new main character. All I can tell you about him is that he comes with a few surprises. I could tell you a lot more, as I am getting to know him quite well, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. I am currently at chapter 10 and 37,776 words of a rough, first draft.

I’ve had to double-check the layout of Larkspur Hall and the grounds, look up the history of Larkspur Abbey, and invent a few stories from the past. This has involved delving beyond my newspaper archive right back to 1541 and the dissolution of the monasteries (1536 to 1541).

The present day is January 1891, as the country suffers a very cold winter, and the location for book four is Cornwall. So far, it looks like it’s all going to take place on the Larkspur Estate and at Academy House as well as inside the main Hall, out in the grounds and further afield to one of the farms on Bodmin Moor. There is an old mystery to solve, so in a way, this book is going to be like a cold case solved by a new character. For a change, Tom Payne has more of the protagonist role than Lord Clearwater, Frank Andino plays a major part, and I am setting up other characters, threads and mysteries for the future.

Here’s a brief extract from a book found in the Larkspur library:

An Account of Strange Events Witnessed and Reported at Larkspur Hall

Compiled from Documents, Diaries and Other Sources

by Hedrek Nancarrow, Librarian, 1878

There are many tales of the nocturnal visitant to the Larkspur Estate, some handed down through generations by word of mouth, others documented by Hall staff and the family, and some from testimony given, in later years, to the police. Earlier, there are others given to the village bailiff, the incumbent vicar or rector, and previous notable men of Larkspur village. Below, I present a selection of such reports in the order of their date, and from this, several things will be noted…  

Thus, I conclude the origins of the story. Suffice to say, in 1540, a tryst between the monk, Madroc, and an unnamed serving girl gave rise to the dismissal of both, and that, in turn led to the formation of a ghost believed to be the spirit of the murdered girl, which was, in fact, an invention to keep out the unwanted. During the civil war and estate troubles of the mid-1600s, the tale passed into lore, and did not rear its spectral head again until much later.

Work in Progress 2.3

Chester Cadman: A New Character at Larkspur

In this week’s update, I can tell you that Larkspur Four is currently at 28,000 words of its first draft, or chapter eight of a novel which is building in a file I’ve called ‘Chester Cadman.’ That’s not the title of the book, it’s the name of the main character. He’s a newbie to the Clearwater world and the Larkspur Academy, and comes with an interesting history that’s already led me to plenty of research.

That research has, so far, included mesmerism, seances and other related mysteries, The Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, and mapmaking and cartography in 1890s. Also on my list for background reading is the political situation in Egypt at that time.

All I can tell you about Larkspur Four right now is that it revolves around sightings of a medieval serving girl wandering through the grounds and ruined church. An apparition from the past which has been reported over the centuries, and a mystery that needs investigating.

While that’s going on, we’re introduced to a few new characters, while the main Clearwater men are elsewhere, apart from Thomas Payne who has been left to run the hall. Some of the newer Larkspur characters are still about, with Fleet, Frank and Clem at Academy House (along with Dalston and Joe for the time being), while at the Hall, Nancarrow and the newer footmen and others play supporting roles.

But Chester Cadman is my main man on this one, and being handsome, enigmatic and in need of friendship, attracts Frank’s attention – of course. Frank is going to be there right by his side, loyal, desperate to be loving and, maybe, destined to be disappointed. We shall have to wait and see.

I will be back on Saturday with a regular blogpost. In the meantime, on Thursday I will be the guest at fellow MM author, Elle Keaton’s facebook group. Join us at Highway to Elle for chatter and a giveaway, hope to see you there!

Agents of The Truth and ‘How I upload to Amazon’

The exciting news today is that the third Larkspur mystery, ‘Agents of the Truth’ is now available on Amazon. As I write, the Kindle version can be found here, and in Kindle Unlimited, and the paperback should be live any moment now.

Uploading to Amazon

I am often asked about the process, not just of how I write my novels, but how I publish them. So, today, I thought I would let you in on my system. As usual, this is how I do it, and other authors have their own ways of going about things. My version isn’t necessarily right for you, but it works for me. Here it is in stages.

One. Write the Book.

That’s the part that takes the time. ‘Agents’ took me just over three months from start to finish, but I am able to write full time; sometimes for other people, mostly, though, for myself. There are other blog posts such as this one which you can find with a search which tell you about my writing process, but in a nutshell it’s: draft one, draft two for consistency and repetition, style and ‘saying it better’, draft three for grammatical accuracy, draft four for finality. My husband reads draft one for consistency, knowing I will improve the writing, and I take on board what he says. Meanwhile, I contact Andjela, my cover designer, and she works up a cover for the Kindle version. After draft four, I send the manuscript to be proofread, and while that is going on, I begin work on the Amazon process. While that’s happening, I advise Andjela of the final page count so she can make the full cover. I don’t have the finished PDF print file by then, but I can make an educated guess of the final page count from the word length of the final MS and comparing it with previously published books.

With the MS back from proofing, I then have another read to agree the proofs, and make any minor changes that might have been niggling me between times. I have usually started on the next book by then but put that aside while I deal with the Amazon things.

Preparing to Upload to Amazon

The first thing I do, after logging into my KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) dashboard, is ‘create a new eBook.’ All I can do at this stage is enter the title, the series information, the author’s name and the blurb (which I can change when it comes back from proofing if necessary). I also put in keywords and select the two categories, in the case of Clearwater and Larkspur, that’s Gay and Historical.
On the next page, I can’t do anything about uploading the internal file or the cover as I don’t have them by then, though sometimes, I can upload the Kindle cover. With Kindle, I then press ‘save as draft’and turn to the print version. The info I’ve added is already there, but not the cover. However, I opt for an Amazon ISBN because I only sell my novels through Amazon and KU, and I need that ISBN for the front matter.

Front and Backmatter

The frontmatter of a book is made up of the first few pages. The publishing disclaimer and copyright claim etc., and in there, I need to put the ISBN number I’ve just had created. I also list those who have contributed to the book; the proof-reader, cover designer, illustrator and layout company. More about that in a moment. I basically take the front matter from the previous book, make sure I change the title, date and ISBN, and add to the list of ‘also by Jackson Marsh.’

The backmatter consists of author’s notes and a list of my titles with a little more info, and, for the Kindle version, direct links to where the books can be found.

Front and backmatter are two sperate Word doc files.

Formatting a Book for Amazon

I used to do the internal layout myself, using Adobe InDesign. Not being a graphic designer, this was something of a learning curve, and not a process I enjoyed. Since Clearwater nine, ‘Negative Exposure’, however, I have used Mongoose Author Servies at Other Worlds Ink.

This process costs me an extra $60.00, but it’s more that worth it. I contact the guys in advance and warn them I have a layout job coming up, and when I am happy with the proofs of all printed matter, gather them into one ‘final files’ folder. Other Worlds Ink have a list of requirements, and I go through them for each book, to make sure I communicate to them what I want them to know and how I want the internals to look. They now have a template for me, so it’s an easy task both ways. Within a couple of days, I have the PDF of the print version sent back to me, and I can go through it to pick up anything that we want to change. I.e., if there’s a stray line at the top of an otherwise blank page. Mind you, they use Velum to create the internals, and that programme automatically sorts out most oddities.

Once I’m happy with the print version, I agree it, and they send me seven other files including the Kindle, ePub and Kobo – not that I use any of the others, but sometimes, I’ll give a book away for free and some readers prefer those other formats.

And Back to the Amazon Upload

So, now I have all files, including the full, wrap-around cover from Andjela, so the task ahead is easy. I simply upload the interna Kindle file via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and when that’s done, I set the price. Then comes the nerve-wracking bit where you have to press ‘I am ready to publish my book,’ but because OWI have done the layout, I know I’ve got nothing to worry about.

You may, once you’ve uploaded your internal file, get a message saying Amazon have found spelling mistakes, and you’re able to check these and the layout before you publish. My ‘spelling errors’ are usually unusual names or slang/dialect I have used along the way, but I still check them and ensure the book looks good in the Kindle, phone and table viewer.

Then, with the Kindle under review, I turn to the print version and do the same thing: upload the full cover and the internal file, both in PDF format. Again, you can check the layout and look before you proceed to pricing and publishing.

That’s it, really. Amazon say it can take 72 hours before the book goes live, but the ‘Agents’ Kindle version went live within two hours of me hitting ‘publish.’ The print version usually takes longer, but for me, no more than two days. Then, you can see all the links to the various Amazon stores where it’s available, and simply copy them to wherever you want them.

And After Amazon?

My next task, which I must see to today, is to list my latest book with my usual services. I use Queer Romance Ink as a listings place, because they do all kinds of wonderful things like interviews, giveaways, newsletters and features.

All Author is another where I have a dedicated Jackson Marsh page and listings.

I also have to update my Amazon Author Page and make sure the new book is listed there. I do this once both versions are available to make sure they both get listed.

I don’t know how it works with Goodreads, but somehow, my books find their way to an author page there too. I tend not to use Goodreads much.

Then? Well, then I hand things over to my PA Jenine and she organises me to put up posts of Facebook and in various groups to get the publicity machine rolling.

It’s not as hard as your think to publish on Amazon. I’ve been doing it for several years now it gets easier each time. I still have a checklist though, and read the terms, conditions and instructions in case they have changed. Go slowly, but if you do get into trouble, their author services help department are responsive and quick, very helpful and there to assist.

And now… Now I must return to chapter seven of Larkspur Four. Check Wednesday’s Work In Progress blog for my next update.

Work In Progress 2.2

While ‘Agents of the Truth’ is being formatted ahead of its release this weekend, I have started on book four of The Larkspur Mysteries series.

Larkspur Notes

So far, I have an outline, and have reached chapter five.

As usual with my first drafts, I am ploughing through, telling myself a story, and making lots of things up as I go along. While doing this, I am making notes to remind myself to come back to particular points later, so I don’t forget something vital, inventing a couple of new main characters, wondering where I am going, and reinventing history.

I have an idea that a ghost story will be involved; or rather, a myth about a ghost at Larkspur Hall. The ancient abbey, the church ruins, mesmerists and seances will all come into it, because mesmerists and the supernatural were popular pastimes in Victorian times, and I am researching that area as much as I can for authenticity.

You are getting sleeepppyyyy

Book four starts a couple of months after ‘Agents of the Truth’ ends, and where ‘Agents’ completes a trilogy within the series, book four (untitled) may end up being a standalone mystery with a new character who will become very important later in the series finale – whenever that might be.

So, that’s where I am. Sitting at my writing station with my notes open on my writing desk, flicking between the National Newspaper Archives for articles on mesmerists from the early 1890s, and with a copy of Gilda O’Neill’s ‘The Good Old Days’ by my side. (There is a chapter on tricksters that includes mesmerists which is proving very handy.) I shall get on with it now, and be back with you on Saturday when I hope to have the links for where you can buy and download ‘Agents of the Truth.’

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09CNXGHV3?binding=kindle_edition&ref=dbs_dp_rwt_sb_pc_tukn

Agents of The Truth: Cover Reveal

‘Agents of the Truth’ is nearly ready for publication. I am aiming for next weekend, 5th or 6th February for it to be live on Amazon. You will find the cover reveal at the bottom of this post along with the blurb and a section of the author’s notes to whet your appetite.

When I started on the Larkspur Series, I intended each book to concentrate on an individual new character and an independent mystery. Well, that went the way of the dodo, and books one to three turned out to be a trilogy. This happened for a couple of reasons. One, I fell in love with Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner. Two, the mystery Dalston was brought to the academy to solve turned out to be too big for just one book. Actually, one mystery is dealt with in book one, but in doing so, a second mystery arises, and that’s what sees us through book two. By the time that finishes, there’s still an unanswered question, and that’s what drives book three.
So, before ‘Agents of the Truth’ comes out, I thought you might like an outline of books one and two, just to remind you of the story so far, or tempt you to start the series if you’ve not yet read it.

Guardians of the Poor (The Larkspur Mysteries Book One)

Starting in the cells of Newgate prison and a courtroom at the Old Bailey, Guardians introduces the reader to the Larkspur Academy through the eyes of Dalston Blaze. Dalston (named after where he was born) travels to Larkspur Hall, where he meets Lord Clearwater who asks him to investigate mysterious symbols carved into ancient standing stones on the Larkspur estate.
As well as meeting other characters at the academy, including the eccentric genius, Barbary Fleet, Dalston and the reader experience the house and grounds and learn some of the history of the Hall and the area. However, he has a mystery of his own, and as he gradually reveals his past to Clearwater, so he exposes himself to self-examination in what is essentially a coming-of-age story.
Dalston’s personal mystery takes us back to where he was brought up, the infamous Hackney Workhouse, where we meet Joe Tanner and learn of a dark secret Dalston and Joe need to expose.
With two mysteries running concurrently, and only one solved by the end of the book, the way is paved for a continuation, and that is book two.

Keepers of the Past (The Larkspur Mysteries Book Two)

The mystery of the standing stones is not yet fully understood, but now we have Joe Tanner in the picture. Joe is deaf and incredibly intelligent, and, since coming to live at Larkspur, allowed to be himself and his talents encouraged, he begins to investigate a mystery of his own. The coming-of-age element continues as Joe and Dalston’s relationship is able to develop, freed from the strictures of the workhouse. But, the course of true love never runs smoothly. With the pressures inherent in deafness, a secret relationship and adapting to a new life, Joe retreats into himself to solve his mystery.
While doing so, it becomes apparent that a series of murders over the past eight years not only have a connection to various ancient sites on Bodmin Moor but also to Larkspur Hall. Joe is convinced there is to be another, and with Fleet’s mentoring, and empowered by the academy to believe in himself, he sets about solving a very complicated riddle.
By the end of this story, Dalston’s original mystery might be solved, but another question arises: Who has committed the murders? That’s the mystery that leads us into book three.

Agents of the Truth (The Larkspur Mysteries Book Three)

In book one, we got to know Dalston Blaze. In book two, we learn much about Joe Tanner. In book three, we see them working together, although it is Dalston who, through no fault of his own, is left to put the puzzle pieces together.
Again, I have gone for a double mystery, and the story centres around Larkspur Hall and Clearwater House as Dalston and Joe head to London to solve clues. While there, they meet well-known archaeologists and painters, while, at Larkspur, Lord Clearwater prepares for a royal visit. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure from Clearwater’s past prepares to return…

The Blurb for ‘Agents of the Truth’:

“Despite your adversities, Mr Blaze, you remain unbroken because of who you are, not what you can or cannot do.”

Mrs Norwood, October 1890

Shakespeare, the Bible, Edgar Allan Poe… What could a series of random quotes have to do with a masked ball and eight unsolved murders?

Archer, Lord Clearwater, is hosting a masquerade at Larkspur Hall, and Prince Albert Victor is the guest of honour. The vitally important event is miles away from London, where Jimmy Wright has enlisted the help of Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner in solving two mysteries: Who has been sending Archer cryptic notes, and who has murdered eight men on Bodmin Moor?

Dalston finds himself the only one who can solve both riddles, but self-doubt, his concerns for Joe, and his newly found admiration for Jimmy Wright are obstacles he must overcome if he is to prevent Lord Clearwater’s downfall.

But, what if the killer isn’t after His Lordship? What if the plan is to assassinate the prince? Or worse, someone much closer to Dalston’s heart?

Notes from the author

For this series, I am adding author’s notes to the end of the book. In the past, readers have asked me for information about some of the historical facts in the Clearwater Mysteries, so I decided to put these notes in purely out of interest. The other day, my author friend, Elle Keaton said she is immediately drawn to a book that has ‘archaeologist’ in its blurb, and as ‘Agents’ introduces us to three from the past, I thought this extract from the notes might be of interest.

From the author’s notes:
[While in the British Museum Reading Room in October 1890…] Dalston meets Samuel John Carter, father of the famed archaeologist, Howard Carter who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1822. Samuel Carter was an artist and illustrator, and in 1890, Howard would have been sixteen, and was already showing a talent for sketching antiquities. That pursuit was encouraged by Lady Amhurst of Norfolk (as Stoker tells us in his letter), and, in 1891, she prompted the Egypt Exploration Fund to send him to the excavation of Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt. In 1892, when he was eighteen, Howard Carter worked with Flinders Petrie.
Joe and Dalston not only meet the Carters, but also two renowned archaeologists and Egyptologists, Flinders Petrie (1853 to 1942) and Margaret Murray (1863 to 1963). Petrie was already established in the field by that date, but Murray didn't begin her Egyptian studies until 1894 when she attended University College London, so I took a slight liberty there. However, her department head at UCL was Flanders Petrie, so again, it’s not impossible they used the Reading Room at the same time.

The cover reveal

And now, the cover reveal. Again, Andjela has come up with a masterpiece that evokes the atmosphere of the story while highlighting two elements from the plot.
Click the image to open the cover in a new window.


The Larkspur Mysteries Book Four

As yet untitled, I can tell you that Book Four starts with Dalston Blaze bringing a new character to the Academy. The first sequence is a bridge between books three and four, but from then on, we have a whole new mystery, a new lead character, a love story and, of course, plenty of complications, facts and fiction combined, some humour and an adventure. There are also to be plenty of surprises… But that’s another story…


Agents of the Truth is the third novel in The Larkspur Mysteries, and the stories are best read in order.

The Larkspur Mysteries follow on from The Clearwater Mysteries series, and both feature gay main characters, and are set at a time when homosexuality is illegal. They are a combination of MM/romance, mystery, and bromance, and are inspired by historical fact.

The Complete Clearwater Mysteries