Will it Work?

This week’s update: I am now at 55,000 words of ‘Where There’s a Will’ and the story is progressing. For the last three days I have been rereading what I have written so far, and today, I’ll be moving forward again, having checked up on myself. This is one of those mysteries with lots of detail, some of which isn’t relevant (to the mystery) but which act as red herrings, and I need to be sure that a) there aren’t too many, and b) those that are genuine clues are pointed enough to remain in the memory without overpowering it.

What I mean: When laying down a clue for the detective to pick up on later, like when laying down the foundations of what will become the smoking gun, it’s important to ensure the evidence has been presented in a plausible but not over-obvious way.

There is an old thriller writing saying which goes something like: Don’t mention a revolver unless you intend to use it. In other words, if you introduce something big, make sure there’s a reason for it. So, in ‘Where There’s a Will’, I have several incidents from the characters’ pasts which either have to be relevant to the plot generally or important to the mystery specifically. Some of these ideas pop into my head as I am writing, and thus, get added into the story. Later, I might discover that they didn’t run, or they led nowhere, and interesting as they are, and relevant though they seemed at the time, they are now just clutter and have to go.

Which is what I have been doing these past few days. Now, I am about to leap back into chapter 18, which is a little over halfway, when the mystery has just kicked up a gear. I need to devise my next cryptic clue, put in some more backstory to deepen suspicion and have my cast prepare for a storm, both meteorological and metaphoric.

Red Herring. According to Study.com, The term ”red herring” comes from an article written by a journalist in 1807. He described a likely fictional story in which he used a red herring (a smoked herring) to distract a dog from a hare. The term caught on from there.

The smoking gun. The phrase originally came from the idea that finding a very recently fired (hence smoking) gun on the person of a suspect wanted for shooting someone would in that situation be nearly unshakable proof of having committed the crime. (Wiki.)

Or, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it in ‘The Adventure of the Gloria Scott’: We rushed on into the captain’s cabin, but as we pushed open the door there was an explosion from within, and there he lay wit’ his brains smeared over the chart of the Atlantic which was pinned upon the table, while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand at his elbow.

A selection of Historical Fiction on Kindle Unlimited – the promo runs all month

The Blake Inheritance

I am currently writing ‘Where There’s a Will’, the Delamere Series book four, and have just written a chapter involving a lighthouse. This reminded me of another of my older, stand-alone novels which also features a lighthouse.

The Blake Inheritance has the following blurb:

Let us go then you and I, to the place where the wild thyme grows.”

An inheritance, a ring and a church organ; three clues to the Blake family mystery. Twenty-five and fleeing a stale relationship, Ryan Blake returns home to find some answers. What he discovers is the impish twenty-two-year-old, Charlie Hatch, a homeless scamp who has a way with words, a love of mysteries, and a very cute arse. As the two set about unlocking the Blake family secrets, Ryan finds himself falling for the younger guy. But is he ready to commit again? And can Charlie learn to accept that someone loves him?

The lighthouse is where the climax of the story happens, the unlocking of the mystery and where the two main characters get a little closer – as far as I remember. It’s been a while since I read it. It’s a mystery set in the present day and concerns two guys from the same town and school. One of them, Charlie, is fond of mixing his quotes, hence the line:

“Let us go then you and I, to the place where the wild thyme grows.”

This one is a mix of TS Eliot (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock):

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

And Shakespeare, (A Midsummer Night’s Dream):

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Charlie comes out with others throughout the book, but not relentlessly, because I couldn’t think of that many good ones. I think there’s something like ‘Come into my parlour said the owl to the pussycat,’ or similar in there somewhere. I wanted to make Charlie quirky (maybe even a bit creepy at times), and Ryan, far more sensible and grown up for his age.

Pleasingly, I received good feedback about this standalone, with some people asking if I was going to create a series with these two characters investigating other mysteries. I started writing a book two, but didn’t feel it had legs. (Not long after, I started on Deviant Desire, and that world and those characters certainly had/have legs. Three series, a total of 21 books with another one on the way.) ‘Blake’ has received some negative stars – there’s someone who invariably gives my books only one star, usually only half an hour after I post the new title, which makes me suspect, they didn’t buy it. But there have also been some good reviews, including:

This is an amazing piece of writing which has everything in it.”

“I just finished reading this book. I just wouldn’t put it down until I finished it.”

The more I read, the more I was gripped.”

Maybe those words were about one of my others, as this is very much an ‘early work,’ and tbh, I write much better prose these days. Still, it sells copies now and then, it’s a sweet little romance with an intriguing mystery, and it’s all yours for as little as $3.99 -= or ‘free’ on Kindle Unlimited.

Guardians of the Promo

Today’s news is that Guardians of the Poor is one of my books in a promo at Book Funnel. If you like historical adventure, action, mystery and/or military novels, then there is a select number of titles being promoted by a small group of authors, me being one of them. All the titles are available on Kindle Unlimited.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/kuhistoricalfictonfebruary2024/fgz0x9yhbo

As you’ll see, I have ‘Deviant Desire’ in there as well as ‘Guardians of the Poor.’

Guardians is set around workhouse life in 1890s London. It starts with a newspaper article from July 1890 which was inspired by a real article from March of that year which concerned a workhouse master (the superintendent) and one of his younger charges. Also feeding my inspiration was an article from around the same time concerning fraudulent activity at the Chelsea workhouse. I combined several real-life incidents to create my story, which is set in the Hackney workhouse. That’s a place I visited in the 1980s and 90s when some of its buildings were being used as parts of Homerton Hospital.

Anyway… I started the Larkspur series there, and in case you’ve not read it, I’ve reproduced the opening couple of pages here to get you started. Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner go on to become students at the Larkspur Academy where they meet a cast of other young men all of whom have special talents, but all of whom have fallen foul of prejudice or the law. Joe Tanner more so because he is completely deaf, and can only communicate with Dalston through their invented and partially taught sign language. (That was fun to write!)

The series runs for seven books and climaxes with ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ which draws together both this series and the Clearwater Mysteries, before leading into The Delamere Files.

Here is the opening of Guardians of the Poor, and the link to the Kindle Unlimited promotion for 25 exclusive historical action, adventure, military and mystery novels.

Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper
July 20, 1890

The Shocking Charge Against Two Men. On Friday last, Dalston Blaze and Joseph Tanner, both 18, were indicted for inciting each other to the commission of unnatural offences. The prisoner, Blaze, had been for his life an inmate of the Union Workhouse, Hackney, and Tanner much the same time, but were working as porter-inmates in accordance with the New Poor Law of 1834.

Sometime in July of this year, another officer of this workhouse, a man named Skaggot, reported to the police an offence alleged to have been committed in the workhouse. Inquiries were immediately made, with the result that proceedings were begun against Tanner and Blaze.

Evidence against the accused was presented in the form of pictographs, making this case unique, and somewhat open to interpretation. According to the prosecution, these symbols, when interpreted, prove the men were inciting each other to perform an unnatural act.

Edward Capps, the workhouse master, was called, and said he knew of no such unnatural conduct between Blaze and Tanner, and gave evidence of good character. He said, ‘I am keen the men are returned to the Workhouse to continue their good work there.’

However, there is another complication to this case. The prisoner, Tanner, was not in court and is missing.

Mr Willis, defending, was addressing the jury on the character of the Master, when the jury foreman interposed. He said the jury did not desire to hear counsel for the defence, because the conduct of the workhouse official had nothing to do with the case. Thus, the defence was told to stand down.

The Common Sergeant then pronounced Blaze guilty of the commission of unnatural offences, and pronounced the same verdict against the missing defendant, Tanner, and called the proceedings to a halt. He remanded Blaze back into custody until sentencing. The magistrate imposed on Scotland Yard to find and bring to court the accomplice, Tanner, before the sentencing, the date being set for two weeks hence.

Reynold’s Newspaper
Sunday, July 27, 1890

The Hackney Workhouse Scandal. The case for sentencing will be heard this Thursday in the Central Criminal Court before the Common Sergeant, Sir William Charley. Dalston Blaze and Joseph Tanner, both 18 of the Hackney Workhouse, have been indicted for inciting each other to the commission of unnatural offences. Mr Avery will represent the prosecution; Sir Easterby Creswell has replaced Willis as the defence; Sir Malcolm Ashton will be watching the case on behalf of the workhouse officials. Reynolds Newspaper will be reporting.

The case has attracted attention due to the unusual evidence of the pictograms used in the planning of the crime, and because of the absence of the second criminal, Joseph Tanner who has not yet been recovered after effecting his escape from custody following the initial arraignment. We are also interested to learn why Sir Easterby Creswell has taken the case as it appears to be a mundane matter, and sentencing a foregone conclusion. Sentencing for this crime is usually five years imprisonment, and there is no reason to suspect this case will be any different.


Click the banner to see the books on offer:

https://books.bookfunnel.com/kuhistoricalfictonfebruary2024/fgz0x9yhbo

‘A Fall from Grace’ is About to Land

The second in the new Delamere Files series of Victorian mysteries with gay characters, MM romance, and adventure is almost ready to go live. It only remains for me to finish reading the final proof of ‘A Fall from Grace’ (another five days, perhaps), for the layout guys to work their magic (a further couple of days, depending on their availability), and for me to upload the files and hit the release button—another day as it doesn’t take long.

I will reveal the full cover to you on Saturday, and also give you the blurb, so that, I hope, is something to look forward to, with a release date within the next two weeks, fingers crossed.

Coming soon…

Without giving anything away, I can tell you that part of the story harks back to a British public school in the 1870s through to the 1880s, and a section of the book is written by someone else. I mean, a character has written his story for our detectives to read (and there are some other diaries, but not too many). To give you an idea of how this character writes, here is a short section from his memoirs. They only form about three chapters of a 28-chapter novel, the rest is (more or less) from Jack Merrit’s point of view.

Here, the character tells us his dark thoughts on the public school system (1880)

The seniors above us left Grace Tower to make their way into the world as men forged by the callous pounding of the Sinford’s hammer on the anvil of tradition that flattened any crease of individuality or creativity. Men were smelted from base material in the crucible of the public school system, and once tempered, poured into moulds vacated by their fathers and theirs before them. Those who opposed were caught in the clamps and chiselled, worked, and drawn out until, free of all impurities, they became Old Sinfordians, free to set foot upon the green and pleasant land of Blake’s imagination. There, they forged their own progeny in their own image among the dark satanic mills of adulthood.

I have created a few new characters for this story, and some may reappear later in the series. Among them are the protagonist and antagonist, two old boys, now men, from Sinford’s School for Boys. You’ll also meet some eccentrics. There’s a new stable lad at Delamare House, Mrs Norwood makes a brief appearance, as does our old favourite, Doctor Markland who first appeared in ‘Deviant Desire’ back at the start of the Clearwater Mysteries. If you’ve read that series’ prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’, you might have noticed he appears in that too, though Fecker, who meets him, can’t remember his name.

Anyway… That’s where I am today. After work, I shall continue to read the proofs, hopefully making the final tweaks to ensure the rather complicated story is easy enough to follow, and I’ll be back on Saturday to show you the full cover, another stunner from Andjela V.

If you’ve not started on the Delamere Files yet, then you can find book one here: Finding a Way.

On sale now. Click the image.

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!

Return to Barrenmoor Ridge

Today, I want to say that it’s fine to improve your own work no matter when it was written or published.

The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’ is my age-gap, MM romance-thriller set on the side of a Derbyshire fell in bad weather and was released in January 2018.

In terms of Kindle sales, this is my 4th best-selling title. In terms of page reads through Kindle Unlimited, it’s the 7th, and in terms of income, it’s the 6th. Above it are the first four Clearwater novels and ‘Guardians of the Poor.’

The ‘Barrenmoor Ridge’ blurb begins thus:

Following the death of his lover, mountaineer John Hamilton lives an isolated existence high on wild Fellborough peak. When he rescues 19-year-old Gary Taylor from the mountain, John can't accept that the boy may be the answer to his heartache. Gary is seventeen years his junior, confused, and being pursued by criminals.   

A while ago, my PA suggested I did some tidying up on ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge,’ particularly the first few chapters. This was one of my first novels, and I was then, as I am now, still learning the craft.

The other day, I thought I’d drop into it, improve what I can, and eventually, have a second edition which is the same, but more polished.

I had actually started this task some time ago but got no further than the first half a page, because the Larkspur Mysteries series came along.

This morning, I took a look at what I’d done to ‘Barrenmoor’ then, and compared it to the original. Yes, well, ah-hem… there’s certainly some confusion in the opening scene; confusion around whose point of view we are experiencing the story from. It was meant to be John, the main character, but some of the time, it’s as if his friend, Sally, is the lead so that needed addressing. I think, when I was writing it, I wrote one version from her point of view and one from his and ended up mixing the two. It’s fine to use more than one point of view as long as you write in blocks (i.e. don’t change POV every other line) or put in a line break, or use some other technique that makes the switching obvious. I hadn’t done this; I’d bounced back and forth.

Here’s an example; the first 141 words of the original, which starts from John’s point of view, but swiftly changes to someone else (in italics):

John Hamilton was refusing a job at Everest base camp when he caught sight of the youth who was about to change his life. He was also ripping a piece of toast in half with his teeth while reaching for his pint mug of tea. The woman sitting opposite him in the Pot Hole, the climbers' café in Inglestone, was none too impressed that he had left their conversation hanging but assumed that John was considering her offer. After she had watched his confused expression for long enough, she leant across and pushed the piece of toast into his open mouth. 'It's an easy answer, John,' she said, smiling at his reaction. 'And you've got baked beans in your moustache.' John finally returned his gaze to her. 'What?' he said, his body at the table, his mind still across the room. 

Looking closer, I also have a problem with the second sentence, because

  1. it starts with ‘He’, and I now try and avoid doing that as it sounds weak, and
  2. because it’s weak, it’s vague, and we might be talking about the younger man across the room. Who is eating toast and drinking tea? Both of them?

My changes come next, and although they are not yet perfect, they are an improvement. Here are what are now the first 144 words.

John Hamilton was refusing a job at Everest base camp when he caught sight of the younger man who would change his life. Their eyes met, and although John was ripping apart a piece of toast and reaching for his pint mug of tea, both actions stopped in a heartbeat. The clatter and chatter around him in the climbers’ café faded, and he would have remained staring in silent awe had his companion not kicked him under the table. Sally appeared none too pleased he’d left their conversation hanging, because she leant across, pushed the piece of toast into his mouth, and said, ‘It’s an easy answer, and you’ve got baked beans in your moustache.’ John stared through her for a second before blinking. ‘What?’ His body was at the table, but his mind remained with who he had just seen.

That, to me, is better because, a) it stays as John’s point of view, therefore, b) it flows better, and c) it’s a little more intriguing. Does John know this younger man? (His mind remained with who he had just seen.) There is also the added attraction of naming his companion, Sally, rather than calling her ‘the woman’ as if he didn’t know who she was. I’ve also cut the detail about the café name and location, because that’s not vital and we’ll come to learn that information later. You’ll note I have left the opening line more or less intact. I rather like the way it mixes Everest Base Camp, refusing a job there, a younger man, a moment between two main characters, and ‘who would change his life,’ setting up what’s to come. I changed ‘youth’ to ‘younger man’ because it sounds less patronising.

The point of this is to highlight that it’s fine to return to an older work and improve it. We learn as we go, and because you can change your Amazon-uploaded files at any time, yet still keep the ISBN number and details, you can improve your work whenever you want. (As long as you don’t substantially change the story or title; in that case, you would need a new ISBN and would have to publish it as if it were a new book.) Revising those 141 words took me about half an hour, and I’m still not 100% happy, but I’ll continue when I can, and improve my ‘number five’ best seller bit by bit when I have time.

(Note from PA, “I love this opening, far more readable and the intrigue seed is planted leaving me wanting more. Bravo.”)

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.

Taking a Break and Why

This week, I wanted to let you know that I will be taking a break until 15th April. Why? Well, there are two reasons.

It’s important for writers to take breaks

I don’t think I’ve had a break from writing for the past four years. Even when I have been away, I have had a book in my head, a notebook with me, and I’ve been planning and plotting while travelling. Then, on my return, I’ve dived straight back into the story. However, next week, I am going away for a week, and I have no story in my head. I’ve just finished the Clearwater and Larkspur series of 18 novels, and am about to move on to something new.

What?

That’s the question and the reason for the break. I know I want to write something set in the same time period, late 19th century England, but if I launch straight in, there’s a danger I will write the same characters as I wrote for the previous series but under different names. There’s also the possibility I will repeat my story themes, and I want to come up with new mysteries, characters, and a new series. Some things will be the same (a mix of fact/fiction, bromance/romance, fun, adventure and nasty villains), while others will change, and if I start now, the chances are what I write will be too similar.

Similar is good, because people obviously like the characters, time, plots and mysteries I have been writing (I had five of my books in Amazon’s top 100 list for LGBT Historical Mystery this week), so something similar is what’s called for. However, too similar and everyone will say, ‘It’s just the same thing.’ Hence, a two-week break.

But…

Having said that, I do have an idea or two and will no doubt think about them while I am away, but the pressure will be to work on newness, and not simply come up with a plot. I must start with a character or two, the MC and the IC, and get them firmly fixed in my mind before I start on detail. I have already started researching and gathering some notes and ideas, because there’s no point not writing down ideas, but I’ve not yet started on Chapter One. These images represent today’s musings…

By the way, MC stands for Main Character, and IC for Impact Character. As we had Lord Clearwater as the MC in the Clearwater series, so we had Silas Hawkins as the IC, the one who makes an impact on the MC’s life, aims and actions. As the series progressed, we had other MCs and ICs, such as James Wright in ‘Twisted Tracks’ and Thomas (as the IC). In the Larkspur series, we had Dalston Blaze as the MC of ‘Guardians of the Poor’, and Clearwater as the IC (who was also the protagonist, because your MC doesn’t have to be the protagonist). Later, we had Chester Cadman as the MC in ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ and Frank Andino as the IC, and so it goes on.

Where to?

No doubt you are wondering what his new series idea is and where it is going to. Well, you’re not alone, because so am I. You may also be wondering where I am travelling to, and the answer is simple and exciting. I am taking one of my godsons to Prague for a few days. He’s been learning piano and music with me (as it’s not taught in our island school), and I can’t think of a better place than Prague for music and culture – not on my budget, at least.

So, we have a classical lunchtime concert lined up for one day (at the Lobkowicz Palace), a performance of ‘The Magic Flute’ at one of the opera houses, and a boat cruise/dinner with varied live music another evening. Those are the highlights, but along the way, I am aiming to view various other cultural sights he won’t see on our island, and probably not in Greece. I’m thinking of cathedrals, the museum of music, the astronomical clock, the Klementinum, other museums, and simply just the lifestyle and architecture. So, an exciting, if exhausting, time is planned. We’ll only be there for four nights/three days, but there’s a two-day journey to get there from here, and a three-night journey to get back. All part of the experience.

We arrive back during ‘Great Week’, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, so as soon as we step off the boat, we will be into dynamite, celebrations and festivities that come with a Greek Easter on Symi. I’ll blog about all this and the new series idea as soon as I get back.

So, that’s why I’m not going to be around for two weeks, and who knows what story ideas I will come back with. Keep reading!

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).