Halloween Special: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

Halloween Special: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

As it’s Halloween this weekend, I wanted to share some of my James novels with you. Before I started on the Jackson Marsh affair, I wrote 14 books under my real name. They are a mix of biography (moving to and living on a Greek island), comedies, thrillers and horror stories, and it’s the creepy and horror ones I wanted to mention today. Later in this post there is news on the next Larkspur mystery, ‘Keepers of the Past’, and you will be the first to see the cover. I know you want to skip straight to it now to see what wonderful work Andjela has done, but you might want to pick up something dark and creepy for the weekend on your way.

The Judas Inheritance

This book came about because I was asked to write and help produce a film. The story was converted into a film later, and the film was made here on Symi, where the story is set. Sadly, the film was never released, apart from at film festivals (where it won some awards), and it was renamed to ‘The Thirteenth.’

The book holds the original story and is written in two voices. Here’s the blurb:

An ancient curse? Desperation in the economic crisis? What is causing the suicides of so many adults and children on this small Greek island?

When Chris Trelawney arrives on the island to take away his late father’s belongings, he finds that he has been left little more than a mystery. Was his father mad at the time of his death, or did he actually believe that he had awakened a powerful evil? An ancient evil that now stalks the islanders, growing stronger by the day. A curse that will cause the death of everyone around Chris unless he allows himself to believe that such things exist.

But when he discovers the truth, Chris realises that death is the easy option.

Reminiscent of Stephen King at his best with a final twist which I did not see coming.” Amazon review.

Link: The Judas Inheritance

Lonely House

This also started out as an idea for a film script. It’s a classic ‘cabin in the woods’ type of horror story, has a small cast, would make a good play or film, I feel, and has a mild gay vibe between the two central characters. Here’s the blurb.

How much horror can one friendship take?

Drover and Pete are two hopeful drifters looking for a better life. Desperate for food, they break into an isolated house deep in a forest. There, they accidentally shoot an old man just as the rest of his family arrive for a birthday gathering.

Under intense suspicion from the family, the boys attempt to cover up the accident. But they are not the only ones keeping a murderous secret. Mistrust and deception unearth a primaeval ritual as the lies give way to a terrifying truth.

With time running out, and a deadly force closing in, Drover and Pete’s survival rests on the strength of their friendship, but they must face some horrific choices in order to stay alive.

Another fantastic horror story from James. Full of mystery and suspense, the story will keep you guessing right up till the end.” Amazon review.

Link: Lonely House

The Saddling Series

Although not horror in the gory sense, The Saddling, Witchling and Eastling are suspenseful, and are a mix of supernatural, mystery and thriller. They are an ongoing series set in the present day (2012 onwards) on the Romney Marshes, in Kent. The village of Saddling thrives under its own archaic rules. Mostly cut off from the rest of the world, it has continued with its superstitions and rituals since it was founded in the 13th century. This is currently a three-part series, and I must get around to writing the fourth, because each one takes an element (earth, air, fire, water), a season and a solstice day. There is also a coming out and acceptance theme running through the series as a gay relationship develops.

Here’s the link to the series page on Amazon. The Saddling Mysteries.

Here are the blurbs:

The Saddling

To inherit his aunt’s fortune, Tom Carey must unlock a one-hundred-year-old family mystery. The solution lies on the Romney Marshes where the village of Saddling lives by an ancient Lore. Unknown to Tom, the villagers set in motion a chain of calculated events that will ensure that the winter solstice will witness their last ever ‘Saddling’ festival.

Unaware that his life is in danger, Tom befriends two village youths. Through the mists of fear and confusion, their friendship forces Tom to confront a secret of his own.

Tom finds himself the unwitting hero in a struggle between superstition and sense, denial and love, with no escape from either.

Meticulously imagined in the eerie mists of Romney Marsh. A wonderfully evocative landscape of mystery.” Ann Butler Rowlands (Author of ‘Heaven’)

Link: The Saddling

The Witchling

“The sins of our ancestors have committed us to the flames.”
Saddling is cursed and dying. The village will be lost unless someone burns at the stake on solstice morning. Six months after the life-changing events of The Saddling, Tom Carey must solve the witchling mystery and risk his life to save his lover.
The Witchling is the follow-on to James Collins’ best-selling novel, The Saddling.
Mystery and action combine in a sweltering thriller set on Romney Marsh.

This is an edge of the seat page turner which just keeps on twisting in a new direction right to the very end.” Amazon review.

Link: The Witchling

The Eastling

“At harvest tide no place to hide as Eastling passes through.”

The spectre of revenge stalks Saddling, and the Eastling is hungry for a victim. At some time on autumn equinox night, someone in the village will die.

Tom Carey fights to hold a divided village together while racing to unlock the riddle of a boy long dead. But pages of the Lore are mysteriously missing, and all he has to work with are a looker’s spoketale and a blind woman’s poem. As solstice approaches and the vengeful grey-hang thickens, Tom realises who the victim could be. Him.

Believable characters, gripping atmosphere and tension, all skilfully woven into an absorbing mystery set in the eerie landscape of Romney Marsh.”

(Emma Batten, author of Romney Marsh historical fiction)

Link: The Eastling


Andjela, my cover designer, designed the last two covers – Witchling and Eastling – the others were designed by someone else. I haven’t got to part four of the Saddling series (yet), but I did start writing it. As I did, I realised I was writing a different kind of story, and turning everyone gay. That wasn’t what the series was about, but I had such an urge to mix gay, history and mystery, I left it and tinkered with an idea that became Deviant Desire. That became an 11-book series and led to the Larkspur Mysteries, and I’m just about to reveal the cover of book two in that series, ‘Keepers of the Past.’

How was that for a segue? Eh?

Before the cover reveal, the blurb.

Keepers of the Past
The Larkspur Mysteries Book Two
Jackson Marsh

Forgive when there is nothing to forgive, and forget when there is.
Barbary Fleet, September 1890

Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, September 1890

Deaf since birth, Joe Tanner is destined for a life of misery in the workhouse until Lord Clearwater offers him a place at the curious Larkspur Academy in Cornwall. There, while adjusting to his new life, His Lordship challenges Joe to unlock the mystery of the Colvannick stone row.

As Joe sets about his task, he suspects a connection between the standing stones and a series of unsolved murders. The problem is convincing others, and his obsession soon threatens his relationship with his lover, Dalston Blaze. Joe’s determination to unearth the truth also jeopardises his place at the academy, but a man’s life is at stake, and the only one who believes in the mysteries of the past is Joe — and the killer who is prepared to murder anyone who interferes.

The second of The Larkspur Mysteries continues from book one, ‘The Guardians of the Poor.’ The Larkspur Mysteries are inspired by existing locations and newspaper reports from the time and combine fact, fiction, adventure and bromance.

If you have not yet read the preceding series, ‘The Clearwater Mysteries’, you might like to start with book one, ‘Deviant Desire.’ There are 11 books in the ongoing series including a prequel, ‘Banyak and Fecks’ which can be read first, although it is not a mystery. To get the most out of it, you should read it just before you read book nine, ‘Negative Exposure.’

The Clearwater and Larkspur Mysteries all 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.

I am aiming to have ‘Keepers’ up on Amazon by the end of the first week in November. Keep an eye on my Facebook page for details.

And now, finally, the cover. Again, another masterwork by Andjela K. Click the photo for the reveal, and I’ll see you next week.

Do We Judge a Book by its Cover?

Do We Judge a Book by its Cover?

This week I am revealing the cover for my next novel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’ a Clearwater prequel. To help celebrate this, we asked a few fellow authors to answer some questions about how they arrive at their covers. I’m thrilled to post the replies from A.L. Lester, Samantha SoRelle and Vincent Virga along with their covers and links to where you can find their books.

My new Clearwater cover is posted at the end of this blog, but first, let’s take a look at how these three authors arrange their book covers, see those covers and find out a little more about author and book.

A.L. Lester, Taking Stock
Published 19th September 2020
[Historical, Gay romance, 1970s, Disabled MC, Hurt-comfort.]

It’s 1972, and Laurie is a farmer with a problem. He’s had a stroke, and he can’t work his farm alone any more. Phil is running away from London and the professional suspicion that surrounds him at his City job. They’re both alone and unsure what the future holds. Can they forge a new life together with their makeshift found family in Laurie’s little village?

Why did you choose this cover for your book?
Honestly? Because it was purple!

Do you design it yourself or pass over to a specialist designer? What’s your process?
I work with my publisher, JMS Books, to get the cover that I want. I fill in a cover form when I submit the manuscript, saying what I think would work; and that’s a starting point. I pick out some cover art and tell them what I’m visualising, and then we have a couple of rounds tweaking the look of it and changing things if necessary.  I find it all quite stressful…decisions and all that. I don’t much like them!

Are you making a statement with the cover?
With Taking Stock it was really, REALLY hard to find appropriate cover models in the stock photography libraries. It’s set in the 1970s, and the models all tended to look like refugees from a book of knitting patterns. The sexiness levels were somewhere in the minus figures. I found a few pictures I liked that gave the right vibe for the book though, and I decided to use those rather than go for strictly accurate sideburns-and-flares type chaps. So my cover statement is more ‘Oh thank goodness, these people are in love and gazing at each other romantically’ than ‘Hey! It’s the 1970s! We all wore flares and had insanitary moustaches!’ if that makes sense?

Do you ask others for feedback or go with your gut feeling?
I rely on feedback from the cover artist. We have a good relationship, and if I say that it’s not working for me, the artist gives it another go. There’s mutual trust there, I think–they try and do their best for me, and I try not to take the mickey and be a primadonna about it.

Do you usually do a cover reveal event? If yes, is it only for selected viewing, e.g. through your newsletter?
I have in the past, but not recently, properly. I think in the future, it’s something I will make available through my newsletter or in my (tiny) Facebook group. I like people who are loyal followers to feel special.

Who would be your ultimate person to provide a quote or appraisal for the cover of one of your future books?
Oooh, good question! Can I have a dead person? I’ve got a series of 1920s mystery books planned for the next year, and I REALLY love this picture by Joan Miro, called ‘Horse, Pipe & Red Flower’. I’d love the trilogy to have covers similar to this!

 

Website: https://allester.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ALLesterAuthor/
UBL: https://books2read.com/takingstocklester

Samantha SoRelle, His Lordship’s Master
Published 20th November 2020. Series: His Lordship’s Mysteries
[Gay, Historical, Romance, Mystery, Scottish.]

Still reeling from the horrific events in London, Alfie thinks Balcarres House, the seat of his earldom, will be just the place to recover. But unexplained noises in the night, figures that vanish into thin air, and ghostly tales of the infamous Wicked Master all make for a less-than-restful stay. When one of the household turns up dead, matters only get worse. 

While Alfie tries to solve this mystery, his lover Dominick struggles to fit into his new station in life. It feels like the mud from the slums still sticks to his fine new clothes. He starts to worry that he’ll never be able to stand by Alfie’s side, and about what will happen when Alfie realises the same.

But Balcarres House holds secrets that cry out for blood. If Alfie and Dominick aren’t careful, they may become the next ghosts trapped within its walls. 

His Lordship’s Master is the second title in the His Lordship’s Mysteries series.

Why did you choose this cover for your book?
It’s a striking image that conveys the tone of my book, and the figure looks like shockingly similar to one of my main characters.

Do you design it yourself or pass over to a specialist designer? What’s your process?
I designed it myself using Canva at first, then Gimp once I became more familiar with the program.  My process is pretty simple. First I scour the internet or my own photo archives for a picture that fits what I’m looking for, then AFTER CHECKING THE USAGE RIGHTS, I spend endless hours tweaking it, moving it one pixel to the left, shading it two degrees cooler, etc. I know I spend more time fussing with it than most would, but when you’re your own designer, you’re allowed to make endless revisions!

For the first book in the series, “His Lordship’s Secret”, I used a photo I took myself then played around with the coloring, then was fortunate enough to find the painting I use for “His Lordship’s Master” which already fit my color scheme of golden yellow and navy blue, however with the emphasis on the blue as opposed to “Secret” being predominantly yellow. So the two are distinct but still maintain that stylistic link.

Are you making a statement with the cover?
The only statement I’m trying to make is “Here’s a book you want to read! Come take a closer look.” I do try to keep similar elements within a series, so someone who has read book one will immediately know book two when they see it.

Do you ask others for feedback or go with your gut feeling?
I ask for feedback after I have a rough version marked up, or if I can’t decide between certain elements, but mostly I just go with my gut.

Do you usually do a cover reveal event? If yes, is it only for selected viewing, e.g. through your newsletter?
So far, all I’ve done is tease for a few days on social media before releasing the cover.

Website: www.samanthasorelle.com
Facebook: @samanthasorelleauthor (www.facebook.com/pg/samanthasorelleauthor)
Amazon Series Page: www.amazon.com/author/samanthasorelle
Amazon Link “His Lordship’s Master”:  www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089FSQLLV

Vincent Virga, Gaywyck
Published 1980
[The first gay Gothic romance]

In the summer of ’75, pissed off by the fashion in the bestselling contemporary gothic romances of having the husband’s evil secret not a crazy wife in the attic but a hunky male lover in his bed, I decided to prove that genres have no gender. Essentially, it was about claiming territory. I was captivated by 19th-century writers like Charlotte Bronte, who used spooky happenings for spiritual shake-ups while prowling the labyrinthine corridors of self-discovery. My central character Robert Whyte’s psychological dilemma is not his being gay; it is his being human and prey to romantic delusions. To make this point, I rampaged through world literature and Hollywood movies abducting lines associated with female characters and putting them into the mouths of my male characters with no camouflage. (Like Bette Davis in “Now, Voyager,” Robert bursts into tears in Chapter 18 when being called “darling” for the first time.) I knew I had succeeded when Irish Murdoch sent me a note welcoming the new genre–the gay, gothic romance.  

In one sentence, tell us why you choose this cover for your book?
The book was published by Avon; and their art department, having much experience with romance novels, had great, brilliant fun with it on their own.

Do you design it yourself or pass over to a specialist designer? What’s your process?
With my own Amazon reprint, I did my own simple cover: a single peony for the first volume of the trilogy.

Are you making a statement with the cover?
Yes, peonies are my favorite flower and make an appearance in both published volumes of the Trilogy.

Do you ask others for feedback or go with your gut feeling?
With my own reprint, I knew what I wanted.

Do you usually do a cover reveal event? If yes, is it only for selected viewing e.g. through your newsletter?
There were no cover reveal events. They were first seen in reviews & in bookstore windows.

Who would be your ultimate person to provide a quote or appraisal for the cover of one of your future books?
I would have to talk this over with my editor. All of my nonfiction books have quotes from appropriate people.

My website is www.vincentvirga.com

Back to Jackson

I’m waving at my screen and saying a huge thank you to those authors for taking the time to give their answers, which I hope you found as interesting as I did.

Three very different sets of answers to the same questions.
That shows us that everyone has their own approach, or their publisher does, and that book covers are very personal things. I’m thinking of A.L. Lester’s comment about purple, and Vincent Virga’s comment about peonies. And what’s interesting about Samantha SoRelle’s comments about the image fitting how she imagined one of her main characters, hits home with me.
Which leads me to my next cover. As usual, I discussed this with my professional designer, Andjela K, and, because this novel is about two of the Clearwater series’ main characters, I wanted them to be on it. I gave Andjela descriptions and some photo ideas, and she agreed to create portraits of the two boys circa 1884, giving the cover an old-world feel with the colouring.
So, once again, my thanks to Ally, Samantha and Vincent (whose books are now in my to-be-read collection), and will leave you with the front cover of ‘Banyak & Fecks’, due out at the end of this month.

Jackson Marsh, Banyak & Fecks
Publishing at the end of November
[Historical, Bromance, Male prostitution, Survival]

Halloween Reading: Lonely, Curious or a Judas?

Welcome to Halloween, and the chance for me to talk about three of my novels.

My Horror History

When I was 11, I hankered after all things Hammer Horror, the British film company that made a series of Dracula, Frankenstein and other horror films. I’m not sure what it was that attracted me to these films at such an early age, but my best friend and I shared the Hammer Horror magazines. Where some boys smoked or did other naughty things ‘behind the bike sheds’, we pored over the horror stories. These magazines had glossy photos of Christopher Lee impaled on a cartwheel, or Peter Cushing bearing a crucifix, and those, I found more exciting than the busty vamp playing the leading lady. That Christmas (1974), I asked my dad to buy me Dracula, the Bram Stoker novel, and I have since read it innumerable times. My novel, ‘The Stoker Connection’ is based on it, and Bram Stoker appears in the Clearwater Mystery book five, ‘Bitter Bloodline.)

I was also into James Herbert novels like ‘The Rats’ and ‘The Fog’, Universal horror movies, and even made the Aurora glow in the dark horror model kits. Strange then, that I have only written one or two horror novels… So far.

Horror Novels

Actually, thinking about it, I’ve written more, if you include ghost stories and dark thrillers. For example, as James Collins, I have three books in the Saddling series. Starting with The Saddling, they follow the MC, Tom Carey, who returns to his ancestor’s village of Saddling in pursuit of a mystery which, if solved, will land him an inheritance. What Tom finds is a village living in the past with its own rituals and way of life akin to the 19th century. He also finds confusion when he meets the ethereal, mysterious and stunningly attractive Daniel Vye, and later finds love. I won’t give too much away, but the plot was inspired by The Wicker Man film from 1973. Part two, ‘The Witchling’ is about a returning witch seeking revenge, and part three, ‘The Eastling’ concerns one of the annual festivals and a dark spirit that inhabits the marsh mists. You can find them on my James Collins Author page.

As for my first, true horror story, well, that’s also a James Collins and was inspired by a true story.

Lonely HouseLonely House

Some time ago, two youths broke into a lonely farmhouse to rob it but encountered the owner with a shotgun. Outraged, the owner shot the boys and later, was put away for the crime. I wondered, what if it was the other way around? Two boys break into a lonely house because they are vagrants and starving. They encounter a man with a shotgun, but instead of him shooting them, they shoot him and kill him.

They do this just as a car arrives at the house; the family coming to the old man’s birthday party. The boys hide the body and try and cover their tracks, but as the story unfolds, they learn that things are not what they seem. Forced to confess, they take the family to where the body is hidden, only to find it gone.

And then things get really bad.

Ancient rituals are involved again, as is a supernatural inheritance, a lot of deception and a freezer full of body parts, but I’ll not spoil the story for you.

Unsurprisingly, this novel is called ‘Lonely House’, and you can find it on Amazon. It’s a kind of ‘cabin in the woods’ story with plenty of twists and two central main characters who not only have a dubious past but what one reviewer called ‘a Steinbeckish relationship’, which I thought rather flattering. We are also left wondering if they end up as a couple.

The Judas Inheritance

Also, as James Collins, I wrote ‘The Judas Inheritance‘ back in 2014. At the time, I was working with a collaborator on ideas for a low-budget horror film. He was involved with a film company who wanted to make good-quality but cheap-to-produce horror films, as they are, apparently, best sellers in the film world, or were at the time.

I came up with a story set on a Greek island during the Greek financial crisis of the time, and one which could easily be scripted and filmed here.

I used Symi, my home, as the island because of it’s ruins and scenery which would provide the sets should the film ever get made. It was! Well, a budget was raised, and a crew came over, we filmed for two weeks during which I was reduced from scriptwriter and producer to location manager, office manager and catering, but that’s how low-budget films get made. Neil even appeared in it as a character who wasn’t even in the script when we started, and the film, although looking fantastic and sounding good, wandered from the script so much, there was a problem in post-production, and it was never released. Such is life in the screen trade.

Anyway… ‘The Judas Inheritance’ is presented in two voices. The narrator via diary form (note the ‘Dracula’ inspiration) and in the third person, so the reader is at times in the story and at other times, outside. It concerns an inheritance left to a reluctant hero who travels to the island to claim his late father’s possessions and discovers an island in decline. An evil spirit has been set free by the father’s investigations into the whereabouts of the 30 pieces of silver given to Judas in the Bible story. The spirit of a guilt-ridden Judas causes islanders to kill themselves in ever-increasing nasty ways, and if not stopped, will cause the end of the entire population. There’s the analogy to the financial crisis if you want one.

The story combines actual island history with supernatural imagination, and as with many of my books, is a mix of fact and fiction.

Jackson’s Horror

And then we switch over to Jackson Marsh. I started writing as Jackson because I wanted to be freer with my storylines and characters. The Judas Inheritance is the only novel with no gay character, but the James Collins ones are tame in terms of gay relationships and openness of sexuality and sex. I didn’t want to confuse my established readers, who follow my autobiographical books about moving to and living in Greece, by presenting them with two guys bouncing around a bed, and so came up with Jackson Marsh. As him, I can write more intimately about men and what we do together.

That’s one thing, and after a few books with a fair amount of erotica involved (such as ‘The Mentor of Wildhill Farm’, I am now veering more towards the ‘fade to black’ handling of sex scenes, or at least, writing fewer of them.

Curious Moonlight

In ‘Curious Moonlight‘ I went for the ‘fade to black’ approach because I wanted to write a story about a gay-curious guy struggling with feelings towards an out gay guy. Luke moves into an old house on a Cornish clifftop and needs a repairman. Peran turns up to do the job, but that’s where the clichés end. The house comes with an unsettled spirit and a long history which, together, Luke and Peran investigate.

As they do, they come closer together, but Peran is straight… ish. The trouble is, the spirit, or ghost, doesn’t want them to be happy until his story is known and understood, and starts misbehaving. I’m making it sound like a comedy, but it isn’t. It’s a slow-burn, paranormal romance and mystery.

Curious Moonlight was inspired by an old Cornish legend. In it, an old sea captain, living alone and remotely, was the go-to person when young, newbie sailors wanted to be blessed before their first voyage. A night spent with the old man would ensure safe travels, but when the sailors returned the next morning, none would speak of what had taken place, or what the ‘blessing’ consisted of, only that it took all night. Well, you can imagine how my imagination set off on a voyage of its own with that one! That story is the background of the haunting.

Whatever you decide to read this Halloween or after it, I hope you enjoy it. Meanwhile, here’s the latest news from my desk.

Banyak & Fecks

Banyak & Fecks has been booked in for its proof-reading on November 20th. That means, I should have it back and approved about a week later, and that means, I should be able to release it around the end of that month. Andjela, the cover designer, has shown me the first proofs of the cover idea and has created two portraits, one of Fecker and one of Silas. I think they’re fab. We’ll do a proper cover reveal in due course.

As usual, you can find all my novels on my two author pages.

Jackson Marsh
James Collins

Coming Out

Coming Out

Last Sunday was International Coming Out Day (October 11th), and that turned my mind to coming out novels, or first-time stories as they are sometimes called. I’ve been talking about some of my coming out icons and scenes on my Facebook page all week, but to round it off, here’s a little more.

I didn’t come out until I was 25, probably because for the first 21 years of my life, I was illegal, the age of consent then being 21 in the UK. I didn’t start reading overtly gay literature until I was in my twenties. Where I grew up and when, there was no such thing as popping to your local bookshop to order the latest Gay Men’s Press publication, even if I knew of its existence. There was no Amazon to buy from because there was no internet, and it wasn’t until I moved to London in the early 1980s that I even knew gay literature existed. (Not counting Wilde, Forster et al. who were spoken about in hushed whispers at school.)

Once I found an outlet for gay novels through Gay’s The Word bookshop and others in the capital, I was off and reading. As I was writing this post, two novels came back to me, and I looked them up to see if they are still available. I particularly remember ‘In The Tent’ and ‘The Milkman’s On His Way’, both by David Rees, both of which were about young men (late teens, at school) struggling with their sexuality and coming out. Both, I found uplifting, reassuring and helpful.

They, for me, were the front runners of what I do now – write gay literature. Oh, and there’s another recommendation for you, ‘The Front Runner‘ by Patricia Nell Warren.

I had a look at my catalogue of books and wondered, ‘Have I written a coming out story?’ That might sound like an odd thing for an author to ask, but I decided I’d never sat down to write a coming out story. At the heart of most of my novels, I decided, was friendship, and when a character summons the courage to tell a friend he is gay, I see it more of a test of friendship than a coming out novel. I think, because, I have read so many coming out novels that seem to be the author coming out rather than a character, I subconsciously shied away from it. Or did I?

The Stoker ConnectionThe Stoker Connection
In this novel, the premise is ‘What if Stoker didn’t write ‘Dracula’ but merely put together actual diaries and evidence supplied to him by the characters in his story?’ Not what you’d immediately think was a coming out novel, would you? Yet, when I got to the end of it, I realised that what I had written was indeed a novel about coming out wrapped up in an engaging YA mystery.

I even wrote the blurb: Dexter and Morgan meet on their eighteenth birthday. The attraction is instant but confusing. As they deal with coming out, they are bound together by more than first love. They’re bound by coincidence and destiny as it happens, but along the way, Dexter’s coming out is pre-empted and complicated by his well-meaning but slightly dim best friend, whereas Morgan’s took place under the knowing eye of his sex therapist mother. Each boy had a completely different coming out experience with friends and family, but both had a third when they come out to each other. Still, I maintain that the story isn’t your classic ‘coming out’ story because that’s not the main thrust of the plot.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts if you’ve read, ‘The Stoker Connection’. You can comment on my Facebook page and let me know what you think.

The Mentor Collection
I call it a collection rather than a series because the stories are not linked. They all concern a younger man and a relationship with an older man, so they are what some people call; ‘May to December’ or older/younger romance novels. Except, the first one, ‘The Mentor of Wildhill Farm’ is more erotica than it is romance, but it was my first, and I was finding my feet.

The Mentor of Lonemarsh HouseThe Mentor of Lonemarsh House
I’m sometimes asked, what is my favourite of the four Mentor books, and although I like all of them, I would have to say ‘The Mentor of Lonemarsh House’ because it’s closer to a classic coming out novel. In this story, 35-year-old Matt Barrow takes on Lonemarsh House, an isolated manor in the Kent marshes. When he meets 23-year-old Jason Hodge, a brilliant violinist, Matt knows this is the young man he wants to share his new life with, but Jason is closeted and at the mercy of his treacherous friends.

There’s your classic coming out trope – treacherous friends – which equates to peer pressure, and in the story, also the non-understanding parents and remote-village locals with backwards attitudes. Jason knows he is gay but can’t tell anyone (his female best friend already suspects/knows, of course), not until he meets and falls for the older man, Matt. ‘The Mentor of Lonemarsh House’ is definitely MM Romance, but it is older/younger romance with an element of coming out, and yet, still not a coming out story. Again, you may disagree, and I’m happy to have a discussion on my Facebook page, or even personally via email.

Another reason I am fond of ‘Lonemarsh’ is because it is set where I grew up, on a lonely marsh. The house that John buys and is moving into when he meets Jason is based on the house I grew up in, and, I guess, I based Jason on myself – a young man closeted because of where he lived, though he’s a far better violinist than I am a pianist.

The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge
Outside of The Clearwater series, my top-selling title is ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge‘, another older/younger, kind-of-coming out story set in the world of mountaineering and mountain rescue. This one, I felt, needed a sequel, but not one specifically about the older/younger couple of the story, so I came up with ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge.’

Now then, this story probably comes closest to your typical coming out novel. Liam has set himself a goal. To come out to his best friend, Casper, before his 18th birthday while hiking at Fellborough in the Yorkshire Dales. You don’t get much clearer than that! In Liam’s case, though, it’s not the pressure of friends and family that’s kept him from coming out to his bestie, it’s the fear that Casper won’t want to know him any longer if he does. That’s another pressure on young guys wanting to come out that is often explored in coming out novels. Set at Barrenmoor again, bad weather and mountain rescue are involved, but it soon becomes apparent that the rescue is more than physical. Liam and Casper both have secrets that when known, have the potential break or mend their hearts.

In ‘The Students’ you can see the influence that David Rees had on me when I was a young reader, and not only because some of the story takes place in a tent between guys who are 18 and holding secrets. Also, in all the mentor books, you can feel an influence of ‘The Front Runner’ which, it could be argued, is a story about mentoring and love with an age gap.

Why do coming out stories matter?
Coming out a favourite theme for many writers of gay literature, particularly new writers, because it is something every gay person either suffers or just gets on with. It’s something every out gay person has done, and something every closeted gay person wrestles with or in some way has to deal with. Coming out is a rite of passage that only gay people go through, no matter their sex or age. I think it’s the duty of authors of gay lit when writing about coming out, to give the younger or closeted reader not only characters they can identify with but hope that their personal story will come right in the end. You might even offer advice, as in ‘The Students’ which is basically saying, ‘If he’s your best friend, he’ll understand; if he doesn’t, he wasn’t…’

Links

David Rees at Goodreads

My author page on Amazon where you can find all my books

Coming Next: One of a Pair

Coming Next: One of a Pair

This week, I’m giving you a cover release, or at least, a draft cover release because it’s not quite finished yet. I also want to whet your appetite for the story – without giving away any spoilers.

The next book in the Clearwater Mysteries series is called ‘One of a Pair’ and it follows on from ‘Home From Nowhere’, starting about six weeks after that story finished. For those who enjoyed the start of Jasper’s story in ‘Home’ (and the feedback suggests that was everyone), you’ll be pleased to know that it continues in ‘One of a Pair.’

Now then, I can’t give too much away, but ‘One’ is a mystery, though not in the same vein as the earlier action-led mysteries like ‘Fallen Splendour’ or ‘Artful Deception.’ This is a calmer mystery, though still with tension, and a race to beat the clock. Our lead character is James Wright, now a private investigator in his own right. Here is part of the blurb for the back cover:

Enlisting the brilliant but scatter-brained Dr Markland for help while mentoring Jasper through the pain of first love, James embarks on a mystery that takes him from the Greychurch morgue to Queenstown in Ireland where tide and time wait for no man. It is a journey of discovery, both scientific and emotional.

I had great fun writing this one because it involves a suspected poisoning. Not that someone being poisoned is fun, but researching poisoning in Victorian times was. The fun part was finding something that was not your standard 19th-century toxin (and I can’t tell you what those were without spoiling the story for you), and I turned to my brother for help. My brother, by the way, is not a poisoner, but he was a chemist, as in, someone who works with chemicals. My nephew was of great help too as he studied medical genetics, and from that, you can see where the scientists are in our family! They were of great help in identifying the more unusual and little-known facts about certain chemicals and helped me put some of the scientific parts of ‘One of a Pair’ together. My problem was then finding out what such things were called in 1889 when the story is set. All I can tell you is that much of what you read is factual, or at least, possible, but some of the chemical names I have used are made up.

Don’t think that ‘One’ is going to be all formulas and compounds, it’s not. I have injected some humour into the story, as well as love and ‘ah’ moments, pace and tension. You’ll find Thomas isn’t too happy about… something, Mrs Norwood is playing ‘mother’ to the boys, Dr Markland shows his genius, and there’s a fair amount of domestic detail below-stairs at Clearwater House. As usual, I turned to another friend of mine for train journey details and all things railways, and the timings are accurate based on his ancient copy of Bradshaw’s Railways Timetables, as are the details about the White Star Line and their liners.

Enough about the story, back to the cover. I thought about this for a long time because I wanted to show a representation of one of the characters. I’m never sure whether this is a good idea, because every reader forms their own image of what the characters look like, and to put one so obviously on the cover can distract the imagination. I did it for ‘Deviant Desire’ where you can clearly see Archer and Silas, and the same model appears as Silas on the cover of ‘Unspeakable Acts.’ For other covers, Andjela K, my cover designer, has used silhouettes, so for ‘Twisted Tracks’ we see Archer and Silas running for a train, ‘Fallen Splendour’ shows a man on a charger, and the man could be Archer or Fecker. The cover of ‘Bitter Bloodline’ shows the back of Dorjan, the assassin, and ‘Artful Deception’ shows a man on fire, but we can’t see his face. ‘Home From Nowhere’ is obviously Jasper and Billy up on the roof, but we don’t see their faces, but for ‘One of a Pair’ I thought we should see Jasper… or is it someone else? The image isn’t yet finished because the chap on the front should be holding a smoking test tube which Andjela K hasn’t yet fitted in, but otherwise, it’s there.

Before you scroll down to the cover image, if you haven’t already, I just want to let you know that ‘One of a Pair’ is going off for proof reading on September 10th, and that means, it should be available around the 24th, maybe sooner. You’ll know when it’s available from my Facebook page, and you can always sign up to the newsletter to get more news. I send out a newsletter each month to keep in touch with everyone, and unlike other authors, I don’t use them to advertise everyone else’s books, only my own, so there is also a newsletter when a release happens.

And finally… The cover as it stands now.

One of a Pair

One of a Pair, the Clearwater Mysteries, book eight, draft cover

Ps. I had to disable comments on the blog/site because of spammers, but if you have any comments about the cover or anything else, feel free to put them on my Facebook page.

 

 

Hot and busy here in Greece

Hot and busy here in Greece

My husband took this the other day at sunrise

Yesterday was July 1st. The temperature in the courtyard, in the shade, was 28 degrees at 6.30 in the morning. The day before, it had reached 36 at four in the afternoon, in the shade in the courtyard. For those who don’t know, I live on a Greek island (hence the photos). It relies on tourism to survive, but so far this year, we’ve had no-one visit. That’s starting to change now, and hopefully, local businesses will be able to start picking up the pieces. Meanwhile…

My latest story, ‘Artful Deception‘ was published last month (“I think this is one of the best in the series.” Amazon review), and the next one, ‘Home From Nowhere’ is about to go off to the proofreader, and should be out by the end of this month. Meanwhile, I have started tinkering with a new novel, another in the on-going Clearwater saga set in 1889.

To that end, I now have a shelf of books about the period including books about Jack the Ripper (1888), clothing and costume of the 19th century, real accounts from those living below and above stairs, Mr Beeton’s book of household management, a few more books about being in service, stately homes (including floor plans), and books about the railways with maps. I think I need a new bookshelf. I also have a couple more books on the way, one more about costume, a dictionary of Cockney rhyming slang with notes on whether the slang is new or old, 20th century or earlier. What I need to look at next is arsenic poisoning. Well, you have to, don’t you?

Draft cover

As for ‘Home From Nowhere’, this is a slightly different Clearwater novel. I thought it was about time we saw the characters from someone else’s point of view and found out what affect Archer’s generosity has on other people. There is a mystery. It comes in the shape of Jasper Blackwood, who you would have met briefly in ‘Artful Deception’ at Kingsclere House. Typical of me, the mystery revolves around music and messages from the past, and the ‘crew’ are the ones to solve it. This means we see Archer, Tom, James and Silas at work in their detecting venture while learning about what goes on below stairs with the other servants, mainly Jasper. Another new character is also introduced, Billy Barnett, and as you will see when the new book is out (hopefully later this month), Jasper and Billy will be an on-going feature for another book or so, at least.

Our home – on the right.

Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away, just to say, I am having so much fun writing these tales that I intend to carry on, even if the series runs to ten or more, I’ll keep going until the time feels right to stop. Although I won’t rule out pausing now and then to write something different, as I did earlier this year with ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge’, which, I am pleased to say, continues to do well.

That’s it for now. Stay safe wherever you are, remember to like and follow on Facebook and leave reviews where you can, drop me a line if you’ve got anything you want to say or ask, and look after yourselves. Right! Now I am heading back to September 1889 because I have Clearwater book eight to think about, and it’s time we had a poisoning…

Home From Nowhere

Home From Nowhere

Hello everyone. I thought it was about time for another blog post, just to check in and let you know what I am up to.

As usual, I have been writing. In this case, I have been working on a new Clearwater mystery, ‘Home From Nowhere’ (book seven). I don’t know how long a series is meant to go on for, but I am enjoying writing this one, so I’m carrying on regardless. However, I felt the murder and mayhem, wild adventures and on-going battles of the Clearwater Crew needed a breather, so book number seven will be different.

This chap reminded me of Thomas Payne, Archer’s best friend and butler.

I thought it was time we saw the crew from someone else’s point of view, and experienced life at Clearwater House from a new character’s perspective. So, ‘Home From Nowhere’ breaks from the two-word titles from the past and starts us on a different kind of mystery; no ‘meet a deadline or be dead’, no nasty villain, just a gentle mystery and the start of a love story that will continue in part eight. The sort of story you can put your feet up and relax with, and come away from with a sense of feel-good, like watching an episode of Downton Abbey.

This doesn’t mean there’s no mystery to solve, and Archer, James and Silas are the ones to take the mystery and work out the clues, but they are doing it on behalf of the new character who, if you have read ‘Artful Deception‘ you would have briefly met at Kingsclere House.

As usual, I have mixed real people, times, events and facts with some fictional ones, and there is a background theme, in this case, it’s music.

‘Home From Nowhere’ is currently in draft one stage, which means I’ve told myself the story on paper and now need to rest it for a few days before I return to it and a) check the mystery ties up, b) check consistency generally, c) see to as many of my typos as I can find, and d) improve, edit and cut.

Clearwater House ground floor (click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, my cover designer is working on a cover image and, to give myself a break from typing, I set about drawing a floorplan of Clearwater House. As you will see, I am no technical drawer or architect, though I based some of the details on a book I have that gives floorplans and elevations of Victorian houses – none of which fitted Clearwater House exactly. I doubt that if a house was built to my plans, it would stay up for very long! Still, I thought I would share my amateur attempt to give you an idea of how I see the house laid out (sorry about it being a bit squiffy and blotted with smudged felt-tip pen). I’ve only done the ground and first floors so far, I still have the basement and top floor to go. The shaded areas are the servant’s department, the backstairs and servery etc.

Clearwater House 1st floor plan (click to enlarge)

As for other news… Over here in Greece, the island on which I live is very quiet. We are starting to see a few tourists arrive, and we have had no cases of you-know-what, so people are worried about visitors coming from more infected countries. My husband, Neil, is working back at the bar he looks after seven afternoons per week until October, but so far, has had only local customers, while I am carrying on as usual, at home, writing. Which is what I will get back to now.

There’s no definite release date for ‘Home From Nowhere’ yet, I’ve only just let ‘Artful Deception’ out of its cage, but I am going to try and be more regular with my blog posting, so there will be updates as we head deeper into the year.

Stay safe, stay well and most of all, stay reading (and putting up helpful reviews on Amazon and social media if you possibly can).

Thank you for reading
Jackson

My Facebook page

Thank you, suzunh, for the 1st review of ‘Artful Deception’

I love this series
Reviewed in the United States on June 15, 2020
All of them are good. Sure, they’re a little wild sometimes but they are a heck of a lot of fun. I like that the same characters return for every book and I’m excited they are going into business together. Can’t wait to read the next one.

Clearwater’s London

Welcome to Clearwater’s London

It has been a while since I posted on my site. That’s because I was away for a while and spending much of my time working on the sixth instalment of The Clearwater Mysteries.

Book six is now going through its second draft, and it’s a bit of a belter. A twisting tale of deception as Archer battles to outwit his arch-enemy and stay one step ahead of the game. Titled, ‘Artful Deception’, this one brings back some of the more popular characters from previous books such as the barrister Creswell and young Jake, half-brother to Silas’ sisters. The action takes us from Kingsclere House in Berkshire to Clearwater House in London and on to the Netherlands where Archer has no option but to release his murderous brother and reinstate him to the title of Viscount Clearwater.

Or does he?

There will be more information about the book’s release in time.

Meanwhile, as I was passing through London earlier this year, I took some photos of locations used in the Clearwater Mysteries and thought I would share them with you. They’re not the best photos, sadly, but I thought it was a fun exercise to see places Archer and his comrades have trod. Things look very different now to 1888 and 1889 when ‘Artful Deception’ is set, but you can still feel the original Victorian grandeur of these places.

So, just for amusement, here are some of the locations I found when I was there.

The Royal Opera House where Silas nearly dies in Unspeakable Acts.

Bow Street police station opposite the Opera House. Fallen Splendour.

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. This appears in Artful Deception.

The National Gallery

The Criterion. Now a theatre, Silas and Jake had lunch here (Piccadilly) in Bitter Bloodline.

The Ivy, Seven Dials, which in my books is called ‘The Grapevine’ at Five Dials. Archer and Quill lunched here in Deviant Desire.

The side of the Lyceum Theatre from Bitter Bloodline. Silas found Jake homeless on this street corner.

The side of the Lyceum Theatre from Bitter Bloodline. I imagined Stoker’s office was at the top/back (round window), but I have no idea where it really was in the building.

Charing Cross railway station will appear in Artful Deception

The Garrick Club, Archer’s club in Covent Garden. It is mentioned in several of the books.

This street doesn’t appear in the books, but it is called Archer Street. Perhaps it was named after the viscount? The Windmill revue theatre beside it is famous for its nude revues. Silas would have approved; Thomas would not have done!

Students Book & Blog Tour

Students Book & Blog Tour

As part of the book tour of ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge’ organised by Other Worlds Ink, there is a unique guest post over at Midnight Café today. Am I a Plotter or a Pantzer? To find out, hit this link:

https://mm.midnightcafe.uk/mm/the-students-of-barrenmoor-ridge-by-jackson-marsh/

Over the next two weeks, there will be more unique posts, reviews and interviews about me, and here’s the list should you want to find them.

Feb 19th: Joyfully Jay

Feb 20th: Love Bytes

Feb 21st: Valerie Ullmer

Feb 24th: Books, tattoos and Tea

Feb 27th: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

Feb 28th: MM Good Book Reviews

Giveaway

Jackson is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47107/?

The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge

The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge

Over the New Year, I took a break from writing The Clearwater Mysteries and wrote ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge.’ I’m not sure why it decided to pop out just then, but it did. I wrote the novel, ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’ a couple of years ago, and for a reason I’ve yet to fathom, it did better than any of my previous releases. It still does well, I am pleased to say, and maybe it was that which inspired me to write ‘The Students…’

This novel took me back in memory to the age of seventeen/eighteen, and to the issue of what we’d now call bromance. I wanted to explore the idea of when a bromance is something more, but neither party has the way with all to admit they want the friendship to develop further because they fear rejection. The strength of young, male friendships, the intensity of them, and how it is easy to confuse platonic love of a friend for something deeper, is a theme that runs through many of my novels. Or, if not ‘easy to confuse’ then difficult to separate the feelings of being mates from the feelings of being in love and what that can lead to; self-denial, lost love, missed opportunities…

In ‘The Students…’ Liam and Casper are the two main characters, and they are pictured on the front cover. Casper is the dark-haired, Greek/English man and Liam is the blond one, both musically brilliant, both suffering doubts in their own way. They take off on a camping trip which Liam has designed because he wants to have Casper on his own to make his ‘confession’, i.e., come out. He has chosen to visit Inglestone (or, Ingleton as it is in real life) and walk up Fellborough (Ingleborough) one of the three peaks. He is also there to see the famous Ribblehead Viaduct for reason of his own which don’t become apparent until the end. However, bad weather gets in the way and leads to a life or death emergency towards the top of the fell. That’s where the characters from ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge’ come in…

John Hamilton and Gary Taylor from ‘The Mentor…’ appear in this story as the mentors of the two younger men, and as ‘The Students…’ is set two years after the first book, their lives have moved on a pace. So, if you enjoyed the first book, ‘The Mentor…’ you can continue John and Gary’s lives in this, the second in the series. You will find drama, action, adventure, mountain rescue, rock climbing, some laughs and plenty of sweet moments during the story, and who knows, there may even be a third instalment in the future.

For now, though, I am back to The Clearwater Mysteries, my most successful venture to date, and I am working on part six, with a working title of ‘Artful Deception.’ There will be more about that in due course. Meanwhile, look out for news of a blog tour for ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge’, and check out my Facebook Page for more information. If you do go to the page, please give it a like, and if you do read any of the books, please give them a review.

I’ll leave you with the first review of ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge’ which, when I read it, completely made my day.

What a beautiful novel… A perfect sequel to The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge.
This novel tells a story of 2 people discovering more about themselves and discovering more about each other. It’s touching, exciting, filled with adventure, and will take you on the most incredible journey. The characters are so well developed it’s like you’ve known them for a long time.
Re-introducing John and Gary from the first novel was such a nice treat.
This novel is highly recommended. Another beautiful novel by Mr. Jackson Marsh.

[The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge – Amazon.com (and other Amazon outlets) Kindle, print and KU.)