On a Deadline for a Title

The work-in-progress news this week is that ‘A Fall from Grace’ is finally out of my system and complete. Almost. I will be sending it away to be proofread at the end of the week, the author’s notes are done, and so is the draft blurb. The cover is in process with Andjela, and all I am doing now is popping back to the full MS to correct anything that pops into my mind at three in the morning. As the days pass, these alterations become less frequent.

One thing remains outstanding, however, and that is the very last line, after where it says, The story continues in book three…’

The title? I have lots of ideas and yet no idea, and I want it there before I publish. I know in what part of Victorian London the story will be set, what the start of the mystery is, the emotional complications that will ensue, and roughly where we will end up, but what I don’t have is a title I can put at the end of book two to draw readers towards book three.

Something to do with Musical Halls, and work in the theatres, missing links of a family history chain, temptations, drama, love…

Hey ho! I have a few titles that might inspire future Delamere stories, titles including Where There’s a Will, and I have a preliminary title for book three, You Can’t Trust These Specials because it’s a quote from a music hall song (Don’t Dilly Dally on the Way), but the story I have I mind doesn’t concern policemen or the ‘old time specials’ of the lyrics.

Leave it with me, set your alarm clocks for mid-October and prepare to look out for the Delamere Files book two, ‘A Fall from Grace’ in a few weeks’ time.

Background inspiration for ‘A Fall from Grace.’

Editing Continues

Hi. Just a short note today as I suddenly have a lot of work on, including editing a short story for a magazine, three hours of article writing, and a website review, plus the continued editing of ‘A Fall from Grace.’

Neil has started the beta read for me and already raised an issue that I had nagging at the back of my mind. It’s about the first four chapters of the book which include a lot of necessary backstory to the case to be investigated. I thought perhaps I’d put all of this is in too much detail, but, actually, I haven’t. The detail is fine, and the backstory makes for an interesting read on its own. What I have done, however, is put it in the wrong order, logically speaking. So, my job yesterday, and today, is to reorder the chapters. Easy? Not exactly.

It’s not a case of swapping chapter two for three etc. The info, dialogue and narration need to be chopped about and altered because of the new order of the story. To do that, I have all four chapters open, I copy a section I want from Chapt 3 and copy it to the clipboard, change the font colour of the original to red, so I know it’s been moved. Then, I paste it, in black, in Chpt 2, say, and take what I want from Chpt 2, highlight it, put it in red, and paste it in Chpt 1 in black. And so on, and so on. When all this alchemy is done, I then take out the red, read through, adjust the text, or simply rewrit the chapter as ‘they’ say it’s best not to fiddle with written text but simply to rewrite it, as you get better results. I do both. If it’s a short edit, i.e. a line or two, I’ll do it within the existing chapter. If it’s a case of telling the story in a different way, I’ll rewrite the whole thing.

So, the work is progressing, and once the beginning is sorted out, I’ll plough on through with the rest. We’re probably looking at October for a release date now, rather than the last few days of September, but tbh, that was probably always going to be the case.

Meanwhile, I found this photo of a young chap online and to me, it looked a little like the character Will Merrit (except his tie would be straighter). What do you think? (Just realised I posted this pic before. Well, I am in rather a hurry this morning…)

Finding a Way: Background Chapters

For the next four weeks, I’m going to post the first two chapters of ‘Finding a Way’, the first of the Delamere Files series. These are not the first two chapters you will read in the published book, they are chapters I cut from the final book.

This was how I started writing the story. However, I soon realised that this was all backstory and didn’t make for a very punchy opening, and I was writing it to secure Jack Merrit’s history in my mind. This is why I cut them from the final draft.

Rather than post each 3,000-word chapter in one go, I have cut them in half to make it easier to read online. Remember, this is first draft material, so it’s not been honed or proofed or even worked on very much. It might, though, give you some background to how Jack became a cabbie, and it will tell you a little more about him and his brother Will. These first two chapters don’t give anything away, so reading them won’t spoil the book for you, though some of what’s in them, I later put into the final draft of ‘Finding a Way’ because it was necessary to do so.

Here is the first half of the original Chapter One of ‘Finding a Way.’

Limehouse, London


Jack Merrit’s grandfather began work as a cabman on the day that Brunell launched the SS Great Eastern at Millwall in eighteen fifty-eight. Some said it was an unlucky ship, because a previous launch attempt had caused two fatalities, and the great steamship, the largest ever built at that time, had become wedged on the ramp. This, however, did not deter the civil engineer, and nor did it discourage the then forty-year-old Reggie Merrit from attending the second launch, having arrived there with his first fare-paying passengers in his hired hansom. The birth of the massive ship marked the beginning of his thirty-year career on the London streets, sitting high above his cab, transporting the good, the wealthy and the misbehaved from one location to another.

Reggie had been married for twenty tears by then, and working as a labourer on the very ship he watched clank and grate into the river that January morning. With the ticket to labour concluded, however, and with no other prospect of dock work, he’d used his savings to learn the trade of a cabman and secure a vehicle rental from a dispatch office.

‘It’ll be far better money,’ he told his wife, Ida, as he left to collect his hansom on his first day. ‘We’ll have something to give the young’un for his marrying, and soon be out of Limehouse and somewhere further west. You’ll see.’

When their only son, Samson, married the following year, they were still living in the rented tenement by the Isle of Dogs, where the stink of the river choked, and the walls ran black with factory soot. Four years later, their first grandson, John Anthony Merrit, screamed into life on the parlour floor, delivered by Ida and a midwife who offered nothing more than rebuke for not pushing harder and a mug of gin for the pain.

The smell of the river and a new sugar factory were still tainting the washing two years later, when Samson’s wife gave birth to a stillborn, and two years after that, when the second grandson, William, came. His arrival was quieter than his brother’s, and he was slower to arrive, but at least he was breathing.

The factory whistles continued to slice into the family’s life even when Samson found good work in the theatres and became a popular artiste in the music halls. Although well paid and highly thought of, much written about in the newspapers and lauded for his ability to entertain, Samson Merrit did not entertain the idea of being a father. With Reggie and Ida bringing up two children he hadn’t wanted, and with his wife vanished as soon as she’d dumped the second boy on him, he moved himself to digs in Clapton, and ultimately, to a finer part of Hackney. There, the only way his parents or children heard of him 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 ninety-one. 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 the cause of death 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.

Thirty-three years after promising his wife he would better their lives, and despite his son’s success, Reggie had continued to work his cab, and Ida never reminded him of his promise, but kept their rooms as best she could, while caring for two grandsons she had nurtured into men. Working at the docks like his grandfather had, Jack’s income helped the four survive, but there was never a chance William would work and contribute. When Samson died, there was no will, and even if there had been, and even if he had mentioned in it his children, it would have amounted to nothing, because all he owned were debts.

Thus, on the day his grandfather became immobile, while the doctor advised Reggie to take plenty of enemas and drink dark ale, Jack stood thinking and knew something had to be done. His wages as a carter and shifter at the Millwall docks barely covered his contributions for food and left nothing for the care of his brother. With Grandfather Reggie unable to work, his grandmother now nearing seventy, and Will being unemployable, he had, in the stroke of Reggie’s apoplexy, become the breadwinner, and he needed a better job.

His mind worked as fast as his eyes as he scanned the cramped parlour, the shared bedroom through the torn curtain, the stone sink and pot-bellied stove until they came to rest on his brother, sitting vacant in the corner, staring, as he always did, at the pages of a book. The only indication young Will understood their predicament came in the flow of a solitary tear, possibly for a father he’d never known, but more likely for his grandfather. It trickled over his pale cheek, and dropped onto his once-white shirt, while he blinked as though trying to understand what was happening around him, and failing.

Jack’s gaze next fell on the pantry shelf and the half loaf of bread and two wrinkled potatoes, and thence beyond the curtain to the bed, where his once cheerful and lively grandfather, the man who had cared for him, educated him, and paid for Will’s doctors, now lay incapable of doing anything but wait for death.

‘I’m going out,’ Jack told his grandmother. ‘I won’t be long.’
‘Where to? Your father’s to be buried, your grandad’s not far from it, and you’re off down the Waterman’s Arms?’
‘No, to see Bob Hart.’
‘What for? The Cabmen’s Mission won’t give us no charity. They only give out God, and what use is that?’
‘I’m not looking for either, Grandma. I’ll be back before dark.’

Turning to Will, and taking his hands as he crouched, Jack made the same promise to his brother as Reggie had once made to Ida.

‘I’m going to find good work, Will. One day I’ll get us both out of this place. You stay and look after Grandma. You’ll behave, won’t you?’

Will gave one of his common smiles; a sideways twist of the mouth that suggested acquiescence, but usually meant mischief. It was not what anyone would expect of a twenty-year-old, but then, Will was only that age in body; he was much older in mind.
‘Promise me, Will?’
‘Yeah, alright. Where you going?’
‘You’ll see soon enough.’
‘Can I come?’
‘Not today.’
‘But where you going?’
‘Just out.’
‘Will granddad die?’
‘Not today.’
‘Samson was our dad, yeah?’
‘Yes, Will. Now, look after grandma.’
‘What’s an enema?’
Jack took his brother’s cheeks in his hands and turned his face away from the bed.
‘You’re my best mate, remember?’
‘Yes, Jack. I always remember.’

You can find ‘Finding a Way’ on Amazon, paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

Chapter one, part two will be posted next Saturday.

Finding a Way has Almost Found its Way

‘Finding a Way’, the first in my new series of Victorian mysteries, has nearly found its way to your Kindle and bookshelf. Meanwhile, the sequel to it, ‘A Fall from Grace’ is also doing well. Here is the news on both:

Finding a Way

The first book in the series sets up the three main characters and the underlying villains who will continue through a series of investigations. The baddies won’t appear in every book, but they will make appearances as and when least expected.

I have the cover, another triumph for Andjela V, and it has received excellent feedback from members of my private Facebook group, Jackson’s Deviant Desires, which you are welcome to join. The blurb is ready, and here it is:

It began with a man sobbing in the night.

Twenty-five-year-old Jack Merrit struggles to make a living as a London cabbie, and when he is robbed by a fare, he can see no future for himself and his beloved younger brother, Will.

Enter Larkin Chase. A dashing writer of social observations and a man in search of love. After learning Jack’s story, Larkin sees the chance for him to earn a twenty-pound reward. All he has to do is identify the pair of crooks that robbed him.

The crooks, however, are part of a notorious East End gang who know no boundaries when silencing a witness. With Jack’s world crumbling around him, an unnatural desire draws him to Larkin which he must either fight or allow if he is to see justice done and win his reward. When an equally dashing young detective arrives on the scene, Jack’s life becomes even more complicated, and when the criminal gang exacts their revenge, they set him on a life-or-death quest that will forever change his life. Or end it.

Finding a Way is the first of a new series of Victorian mysteries. Following on from the highly successful Clearwater Mysteries and Larkspur Mysteries, the series starts in London in 1892, and involves some of the original Clearwater characters in supporting roles. There is no need to have read the preceding two series, though it would be a shame to miss them.

Still to do

I still have a few pieces of the process to complete before I can announce the book as released, but you can expect it in around 10 days (roughly). I have still to:

  • Finish checking the proofs now it’s back from the proofreader.
  • Receive the full cover from Andjela V.
  • Have the guys at Other World Ink see to the layout, which will include a drawing of one of the main characters, as that’s something I am keen to continue in this series. (I have the illustration already.)
  • Sort the Amazon stuff like ISBN, and upload the files.

A Fall From Grace

Meanwhile, ‘A Fall from Grace’, the second book in the series, is now at 65,000 words and is doing well. This story continues the one begun in book one, because ‘Finding a Way’ resolves only one of the two plots; the action plot, while the emotional, love interest story is ongoing. I envision the series will include a slow-burn romance which will develop over time, and yes, there will be some sexy parts in it, though they won’t be overly graphic in nature.

‘A Fall From Grace’ is a detective story, as the series is a detective series, with a new mystery each time, and one to be solved by my three main characters, a new band of investigators. However, they come to their new jobs thanks to existing characters from the Clearwater world, and, I hope, you will have some nice ‘Ah ah!’ moments as you read both books. I’ll say no more on that and will leave it for you to discover what lies ahead when you start on the series, hopefully in a couple of weeks.

And now, it’s back to the typowriter and my proofing of book one, while book two waits in the wings to be taken up again once I have ‘Finding a Way’ ready to go. Not long now.

Cover Reveal: Finding a Way

Finding a Way is the first book in the new Delamere Files series, and today, you can see the full cover for the first time.

This series begins in June 1892, six months after the Larkspur Mysteries ended. It is set in the Clearwater world of late Victorian England, and some characters from the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries appear or are mentioned, but they are not the main cast.

If you have read the Clearwater collection, you will know that Delamere House is the property next door to Clearwater House in London. It is where Lady Marshall used to live, and the building is owned by Lord Clearwater. In the early 1890s, it became the headquarters for the Clearwater Detective Agency under James Wright and is also the house where Joe Tanner and Dalston Blaze live. The house appears later in ‘Finding a Way’, and will feature more as the series continues.

However, ‘Finding a Way’ is not about Delamere House, it is about Jack Merrit, a young London cabbie with a heap of challenges who finds himself unwittingly involved in the solving of a crime. Around this central story is a story of self-acceptance, coming out (as we’d call it these days), and a very slow-burn love story that will develop through several of the books to come.

‘Finding a Way’ will be available in August, and I will let you know when it is published. Meanwhile, here is the blurb as it stands now, and below that, the title. Click on the title to see the cover and meet two of the cast.

Finding a Way

The Delamere Files book one

It began with a man sobbing in the night.

Twenty-five-year-old Jack Merrit struggles to make a living as a London cabbie, and when he is robbed by a fare, he can see no future for himself and his beloved younger brother, Will.

Enter Larkin Chase. A dashing writer of social observations and a man in search of love. After learning Jack’s story, Larkin sees the chance for him to earn a twenty-pound reward. All he has to do is identify the pair of crooks that robbed him.

The crooks, however, are at the top of the heap of a notorious East End gang who know no boundaries when it comes to silencing a witness. With Jack’s world crumbling around him, he is drawn to Larkin by an unnatural desire which he must either fight or allow if he is to see justice done and win his reward. When an equally dashing young detective arrives on the scene, Jack’s life becomes even more complicated, and when the criminal gang exact their revenge, he is set on a life-or-death quest that will forever change his life. Or end it.

Cover Reveal

Click the image to open the full front cover.

Two at Once. WIP 6:12

Finding a Way

The two-at-once scenario persists. I am giving ‘Finding a Way’ my almost final read-through before sending it to be proofed. After that, I will do another read before setting a release date. Andjela has provided me with several cover ideas, and I have chosen one. By the look of the cover, I have invented a new TV detective series set in the late 1800s, which is (almost) what I intended. Dazzling, who does my illustrations, is working on a character drawing of one of the MCs, because I like dropping them at the front of the books these days, and I am still fussing about whether the book is any good or not, but that’s par for the course. (It is good, but because it gives us new characters, I always worry about what’s going to happen to them.)

Fall From Grace

Meanwhile, book two in the new series has a title and 45,000 words of a slowly evolving mystery, during which my main character starts to find his feet as a Clearwater detective and as a recently able-to-be-out gay man in 1892.

Where book one is more of an introduction/prequel than a mystery, book two starts off with a case. A client charges my new detective with finding a missing man. My newbie, Jack Merrit, is being tutored by old hand, Jimmy Wright, and is finding the transition… Well, I’m not saying too much right now as I’m not even halfway through, but I know where I am going – though the characters don’t yet know what’s in store (insert an evil laugh), and I know how things are going to work out in the end.

The end will, of course, lead to book three… But that’s a way down the line right now.

The Series

I was going to keep details of the new series quiet for as long as possible, but I’m getting to the stage where I have to start dropping teasers and hints. So, I can now give you the title, font and subtitle that will accompany the new books, and the first one will look like this:

The Delamere Files, eh? Uh huh. Each one (after book one) will be a case for my trainee detective. I intend to keep my three main characters and build them and their relationships as they find their way through this new world of being investigators of one sort or another, and around them, I’ll build more traditional mysteries than the sometimes-outlandish ones we have in Clearwater and Larkspur. (All of which were perfectly feasible, and some of which actually happened.) While all that is going on, favourites from Clearwater and Larkspur will give us guest appearances, and the main characters of Jack Merrit, Will Merrit, and Larkin Chase will develop, fall in and fall out, and… who knows what else.

So, that’s where I am right now. I am heading back to book two, chapter 11, somewhere in West Kent in July 1892, and a graveyard…

Work In Progress: 6.07

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pop back on Saturday for more of The Clearwater Companion.

Work In Progress: 6.06

The new novel progresses…

Bit by bit, chapter by chapter, the start of a new series is making its way from imagination to keyboard. The characters are developing to the extent that I now don’t like one of them, and the story has just taken an unexpected twist. This twist was of my devising, not one of those where, at the end of a chapter, a character says something out of the blue and I think, ‘Oh! Okay, let’s see where that leads.’ That’s happened to me in the past, but I am more in control these days.

I also know where we are going to be at the end of the book, and that this story needs to lead into the second in the series, and so on. My three main characters, including the one I’m not sure about, know themselves, and I know them, but soon, we’re to have a fourth enter the stage, and he’s going to throw the proverbial cat among the pigeons as we race towards the crisis point.

So, the work-in-progress news this week is that it’s all back to work and going well, and I am aiming to finish a first draft in a couple of weeks.

The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge

Meanwhile, The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge re-working is also coming along at the rate of a couple of chapters per day. I have been through the MS once to improve it, and am now doing a line edit and making more improvements to the writing, not to the story, as that’s staying the same. I only hope that by editing I am not adding in the kind of typos I seek to remove. All being well, Barrenmoor Ridge (the improved recipe) will be re-released in June.

 Queer Romance Ink

Queer Romance Ink

Recently, I was featured on QRI, a place where I list all my books; it’s a kind of ‘gay Goodreads’ you might say, though I never bother with Goodreads, I do bother with QRI, so it was good to get a feature. If you’ve not found this resource yet, you should take a look. Thousands of titles to check out, and loads of new romance authors to meet. They also have a Facebook page to follow. You can see my profile here.

Work in Progress: 6.05

The First of a New Series

After three weeks away from the new book with the working title of ‘471 Kingsland Road’, I am now back to putting down words. Progress is slow but I have managed a couple of chapters this week, and have all day today to press on with another. It’s coming together slowly, though I am still aware that what I am writing now might actually be a prequel to the start of the series, in the way ‘Banyak & Fecks’ was a prequel to the Clearwater Mysteries. What ‘471’ is turning out to be is character creation, an exploration of ideas, and the putting together of possibilities. It is still telling a story and a good one, and it is a valuable exercise.

It’s proving interesting to start something new, and difficult to leave behind the characters and themes that I’ve lived with since starting Clearwater late in 2018. Five years in the same world is hard to leave behind, so I have an inkling that I won’t actually be leaving it behind entirely.

‘471’ started off as an idea to write something that took place at the same time as Deviant Desire, but now I am thinking it might take place just after the last of the Larkspur series, starting in 1892 (instead of 1888). There’s a reason for this, and, if all goes according to the latest plan, there will be a twist just over halfway through the story which, I hope, will delight readers of Clearwater and Larkspur. That’s the current thinking, and the idea is taking shape and appealing more than my original idea, which was to have a completely separate series set around the same time.

I’ll say no more about that, but will leave it vague because I am still developing ‘471’ and what it might lead to. You’ll hear my thoughts on it as it progresses, so keep calling back to the Wednesday WIP to follow progress. Meanwhile, the Saturday blogs from now on will be a development of The Clearwater Companion, with interviews, images, unpublished sections, chapters and other background things to accompany Clearwater and Larkspur. This, I hope, will see me through the Saturday blogs of summer, and in the winter, when we have more time, we’ll return to interviews with other authors and blogs about research.

The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge

While all this is going on, I am continuing to revise The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge for its second edition and I have to say, I’m enjoying the process immensely. I am on the final edit of all 21 chapters and saving up to have the book professionally laid out ahead of a re-release in a few weeks’ time.

I’ll be back on Saturday with another page of The Clearwater Companion.

Photo: A hackney carriage waits at the end of a long row of horse-drawn hansom cabs facing the striking round portico and spire of All Soul’s Anglican Church on Langham Place at the north end of Regent Street. https://www.presbyterian.org.nz/

Work in Progress: 6.03

471 Kingsland Road.

That may not end up being the title, but it’s an idea. It’s also a place where I once lived, but that’s by the by.

There’s not much to report today because we currently have guests, so I am not writing as much as usual. What I am doing, though, is rereading what I have already written, improving it, and saying to myself, ‘Where is this going, and is it any good?’

Yesterday, I was looking around for some advice, and putting in search strings such as, ‘How to start on a new series,’ and ‘Ending one series and starting another.’ I was doing this because I can’t help feeling I am writing another Clearwater or Larkspur, only with different characters. I’m not. What’s coming out now has a completely different feel, yet I can’t help feeling I am doing the same as I did before. So, I was hoping to find some advice from experienced writers of series that said, ‘Take a month off,’ or, ‘Write in a different time or genre,’ or, ‘If you can’t let the last series go, then maybe you should go back to it.’

I didn’t find anything of use, only lots of very similar articles on how to start and finish a chapter. What was nice about that was that they were all saying you should try to do this, this and that, and I already do this, this and that. But it wasn’t what I was looking for.

What I decided, in the end, was that I’d carry on writing ‘471’ when I could, see what I have at the end of it, and go from there. If nothing else, I would have created a character or two, hopefully more, and put them into a story I could then improve. As I won’t be able to do much concentrated work for a couple of weeks, it will take some time, but during those weeks, I will be able to distance myself from what I have written, and then, who knows how ‘471’ will progress? Meanwhile, I am still learning a lot about hansom cabs and the way of Victorian cabmen.

More chat on Saturday…