Mardi Gras LGBTQI+ Romance Promo

Yup, I have another promo to tell you about, and this one is the Mardi Gras LGBTQI+ Romance Promo.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/lgbtromancemdp/mxgjqlwf49

There are 75 titles in this promo, with all books being available on Amazon, Kindle, and some on other platforms too. Each has an info page that you find by clicking the book cover, and those pages come with a summary or blurb.

I have two series starters in there, Deviant Desire, and Guardians of the Poor. I expect most of you have read them already because you are lovely, loyal readers, but there must be plenty of titles and new authors in the list waiting for you to discover. Looking at those covers, you can see there is an eclectic mix of niches, including friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, contemporary, fantasy, MM romance, FF romance, and, of course, historical fiction. Among the authors, you will find Addison Albright, Anne Barwell, and Ann Lister.

There is even one that features a model I used on one of my covers. T.L. Travis has ‘A Little Christmas, Orion’s Secret’ in the promo, and the guy on the cover is the same one who appears on my Dracula-related mystery, ‘The Stoker Connection.’ We share the same taste in tasty main characters!

Check out the list, click a few covers to explore further, and recommend your favourite authors on my Facebook Page.

There’s another massive promo coming next month, and I’ll be sending out a newsletter about that at the start of March.

Follow The Van

As Wednesdays are my work-in-progress update day, here’s a quick update on Follow the Van (The Delamere Files book three).

This novel has probably given me more hassle than any other I have written. Why? I am not sure. One reason is because of interruptions, but another is having too many ideas. There are so many threads, I am worried they have led to a lot of repetition. That will all be fixed, and the repetition is me reminding myself of what happened when I last picked up the pen two weeks ago, or even yesterday.

Fear not! It will be fine in the end, and the end is what is in sight. I have started on the climax/finale, though I have left the build-up to it until I have finished the climax, so I know how to start it… You see? It’s one of those that needs a good, long re-look once I’ve stumbled to the end. I’ll keep at it and am aiming to finish the first draft (in whatever form) by this time next week.

Click to find the promo with 75 titles.

On Wings of Song

Today, I’m giving the blog over to a fellow author of historical gay romance, Anne Barwell, and her novel, ‘On Wings of Song.’ The book is currently on sale for $2.99 in Kindle and has been picking up some great reviews. I’ll be here on Wednesday with news about ‘1892’, the Clearwater Tales Volume One, and possibly even a cover. Meanwhile here’s some more info about ‘On Wings of Song’ and all the links you need.

On Wings of Song

“A beautifully written historical romance.”

“A sweet, and angsty, slow burn romance.”

A chance meeting they never forgot.

Six years after meeting British soldier Aiden Foster during the Christmas Truce of 1914, Jochen Weber still finds himself thinking about Aiden, their shared conversation about literature, and Aiden’s beautiful singing voice. A visit to London gives Jochen the opportunity to search for Aiden, but he’s shocked at what he finds.

The uniform button Jochen gave him is the only thing Aiden has left of the past he’s lost. The war and its aftermath ripped everything away from him, including his family and his music. When Jochen reappears in his life, Aiden enjoys their growing friendship but knows he has nothing to offer. Not anymore.


Author’s note: This story was originally released by another publisher. This edition has some added content, and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2WWpT8Q
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3NVtfjm
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/OnWingsofSongAB
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Wings-Song-Anne-Barwell/dp/0473516233/

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.

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).

Proof Reader. Proof-reader. Proofreader?

Proofing a book and making it ready for publication.

The Larkspur Legacy, the last in the Larkspur Mystery series, is now being layed out and when that’s done, it will be ready for publication next weekend. Meanwhile, I thought I’d have a look at the blurb and talk a little about the proofreading stage. As you can see from the title, I’m never sure whether I should write proofreader or proof-reader, or even proof reader. And that’s why I have one. More about that in a moment, first the blurb.

The Larkspur Legacy full blurb reads like this:

The Larkspur Legacy

The Larkspur Mysteries

Book Seven

Jackson Marsh

‘Lord Clearwater, the Larkspur Academy has forged a bond among its men that will last long after they have left us and made their own way in the world. You are to be commended for the enterprise, but you should not be surprised by it.’

Barbary Fleet, December 1891

Henry Hope lies in a coma, and Lord Clearwater’s hunt for his mother’s secret treasure is on hold. But when a new clue comes to light, Clearwater and the academy men resume their greatest adventure. It is also to be their most dangerous.

With murderous enemies behind, the unknown ahead, and a warrant out for Clearwater’s arrest, no-one is safe. Loyalties and friendships are tested as the men face harrowing confrontations, a war of attrition in the national newspapers, storms, gunfights and death.

Will love and friendship be enough to secure the lives and futures of Lord Clearwater and his crew? Can they solve the riddles in time, and will anyone ever know the meaning of the seemingly unlockable riddle? Behind four points ’neath gifted crook, the light awaits for those who look…

The Larkspur Legacy follows on directly from ‘Starting with Secrets’ and is the culmination of both the Clearwater and Larkspur mystery series. It is not necessary to have read the Clearwater Mysteries, but to get the best from this ‘end of season finale,’ you’re advised to read both, the Larkspur Mysteries in particular, and to read them in order.

With themes of friendship, bromance, male love and revenge, the story combines historical fact with fiction. As with all of Jackson Marsh’s mysteries, the novel contains humour, love and action, while offering the reader the chance to solve the clues with the cast of disparate, well-drawn characters.

“This is a book that could have been written by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dan Brown.”

That is what you will see on Amazon when the book is published.

For me, the important things to remember when writing a blurb are:

  1. It is not a synopsis
  2. It is selling the book
  3. Use power words
  4. Keep it brief
  5. Entice the reader

Other authors and advisors have other advice, but those are my rules to myself.

I start by writing what I want the browsing reader to know, and I don’t care how I write that draft. Then, I go through it knocking out as much as I can that’s not necessary to convey the backbone of the story, and then I go through it again using power words.

I try to keep blurbs down to 150 words or less, and only three paragraphs.

1) The premise of the story: Henry Hope lies in a coma, and Lord Clearwater’s hunt for his mother’s secret treasure is on hold, when…

2) The ‘thing to draw the reader in’: But when a new clue comes to light….

3) The great question or hook: Will love and friendship be enough…?

As for power words, I mean words and phrases like:

Greatest adventure, most dangerous, murderous enemies, the unknown, harrowing confrontations, war of attrition, storms, gunfights, death…

I also prepare the blurb before I send my MS to my proof-reader, because it makes sense for a third party to check it as much as they check the MS.

I’m lucky to have found Ann Attwood, and she has been my proof reader on every Jackson Marsh book and a couple of my later James Collins titles. It’s important to have a good working relationship with your proofer (who is not necessarily also your editor, in fact, I believe they should be two different people, but that’s up to you).

I invited Ann over to tell us a little bit more about herself and how she got into proofreading.

I started proofreading in my twenties (a long time ago!), mainly doing technical documents, but I have always read a lot.

I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind when I was around 16. My mum had the hardback edition, which was really heavy to carry around, and, of course, I read all Jane Austen’s books, and Georgette Heyer’s. As you can see, I am a big romantic fiction fan.

I worked in banking (sorry) until I had my family, but reading kept me sane. After they all started at school I was working in a preschool, but had to give up when I damaged my back. I needed something to do.

It wasn’t a big leap to get into reading ARC editions, but many had so many mistakes from lack of editing, I think, so I began sending corrections to the authors.

It wasn’t long before I was asked if I would proofread or edit professionally, so I set up a Facebook page (now Meta), and it snowballed from there.

To be honest, it’s so long since I started working with James and his Jackson persona, I can’t remember how we met. Probably a recommendation, which is how I’ve gained most of my authors (there are about 40 or 50 on my books. Some send regularly a book a month, others may send one or two a year)

James is easy to work with, and his books are extremely good. I enjoy following the plots and untangling the mysteries to see if I reach the same conclusion. The stories are extremely well thought out, and he has obviously done a lot of research. All that is left for me to do is fix his typos and enjoy myself immersed in a brilliant adventure, ensuring there are no continuity issues (which there usually aren’t).

This last book, the finale in the series, is his longest and best yet (IMHO). All the loose ends are tied up, but no spoilers here.

As well as editing and proofreading for my indie authors (genres include romantic, historical, paranormal, sci-fi, crime, and murder mysteries), I proofread for the online edition of a financial magazine, and edit for the marketing arm of a PSP software provider.

Ann Attwood

Thank you Ann, you sound like a very busy person and I very much appreciate being one of your clients.

So back to checking through the manuscript, your proofer should be able to identify everything from obvious typos to the subtle differences between words, and that’s what Ann does. Although I use a spell check, and a couple of plug-in grammar and spelling checkers in Word, there’s nothing to beat a 3rd party pair of eyes, and an experienced grammarian proof reader. We’re not just talking spelling and typos, but punctuation and consistency of story.There are so many words in the English language that are important to get right, and some of the ones I need a third eye on are these:

Discrete           Discreet

Blonde            Blond

Practise            Practice

And some of my most common typos are character’s names, believe it or not. Often your eye and brain see what they expect to see, not what’s actually written, so I am always missing mix-ups like:

Dalson             Dalston

Joseph             Joshep

Marshall          Marhsall

I’ve also put in some accidental typos that have been quite funny (as long as they get taken out). Mind you, nothing is as funny as some of the typos you see left in published classics.

In the Larkspur Legacy, there is one section where one of the characters is reading from an actual copy of Baedeker’s travel guide from 1890, and I couldn’t help quoting it verbatim. Reading from the book, the character says:

 ‘The façade, towards the boulevard… They must mean this road… Roman circular style… Three stories…” Spelt wrong. “Cottage of the pensioner who keeps the key…”’

The Baedeker travel companions, were very popular in the later 19th century and well respected, but not always so well proofed, it seems. Mind you, I can’t say anything, I am always coming up with new and creative typos: ‘Joe’s not stupid, Sir, he’s dead.’ Instead of deaf, for example. Mostly, I’m able to take them out before they go to Ann, but I also have a checklist of my most common. Form/From, Filed/filled, griped/gripped etc. I have trouble with double-letter words, as you can see, and that’s why you should always hire a professional proofreader, or a proof reader, or, assuming he/she is a compound adjective, a proof-reader.

Proof-reader might not be a compound adjective, actually. I don’t know. Which is why I call in the professionals.

The Larkspur Legacy is due for release next Saturday, 26th March. In the meantime, to celebrate the completion of The Clearwater and Larkspur Mysteries, I am offering Deviant Desire as a FREE download on Amazon until 22nd March. Maybe you had it on KindleUnlimited before but now you can download for keeps, or maybe send to a friend to get them hooked too!

I am also part of a BookFunnel promo running for the week, over 50 fellow MM author are showcasing their first in series, so if you are looking for a new binge read have a browse. I need clicks on this link to build my BookFunnel reputation so please CLICK HERE

And finally, on Monday, at 7pm Athens time, I will be available for a live 30 minutes Q and A session at the M/M Fiction Addiction Cafe. Feel free to drop by and ask me anything you like (well, within reason lol).

Cover Reveal The Larkspur Legacy

Over the next couple of weeks, whilst we wait for The Larkspur Legacy to be published, we (that’s the Royal ‘we’, i.e. Jenine, my P.A.) thought it may be fun to look at the other professionals behind my books. Those people who help transform my file on a computer into a real life published and saleable book.

To start the ball rolling, and to coincide with my cover reveal today, we are talking covers and cover art with a chance to chat with Andjela, my very talented cover artist who has been working with me for over six years.

Let me hand over to Jenine…

Firstly let us meet cover designer, Andjela Vujic. Tell us a little about yourself, Andjela.

While I have a degree in scenography, my art extends to painting, dancing and graphic design. I have been designing book covers for the past nine years, and it remains my biggest passion. I am currently producing the majority of the book covers for Foreshore Publishing in London. You can find me on instagram https://www.instagram.com/agazar_design/

Now to Jackson, how did you initially find Andjela?

When I first started as Jackson Marsh, I went to People Per Hour and put up a work request. Something like:

I am looking for a cover artist to design the covers of my MM Romance and mystery books.

Out of the many offers, Andjela was the designer whose work I felt was most on my wavelength — the most professional — and she seemed flexible. Now, I contact her with a cover idea, and tell her a few basics, such as: What I imagine, what props are involved, the weather (if an outdoor scene), the date/period, and if there’s to be a model/face, I try and send her a similar looking person to the one I want.

At what point do you start imagining the cover? At what stage do you contact Andjela?

I usually start thinking about the cover once I have completed a first draft. By then, everything of importance is in the story, and from it, I extract either a moment as in the covers of ‘Fallen Splendour’, when we see Clearwater (or Andrej) rearing their horse on a clifftop,

or ‘Keepers of the Past’ when we see Joe racing to stop a murder.

Both involve horses, in the way ‘Twisted Tracks’ involve a couple running for a train.

In other words, a moment of excitement from the story.

Other times, I feature the characters, as in ‘Banyak & Fecks’ because it’s more of a biographical story.

Sometimes, I take ‘props’ from the story, and highlight them, such as the cover for ‘Agents of the Truth.’

How easy is it to communicate your ideas, does she understand what you are looking for quickly?

It’s easy, and yes, she knows what I want even when I don’t!

For ‘the Larkspur Legacy’, I wrote,

A sailing ship with three masts, sails, (the year is 1890) in a storm, heading towards us, like the train in the cover you did for ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’. It’s during a storm, and needs to say ‘dramatic journey.’ The book is about a travel, adventure and mystery. So: stormy, the image suggests movement, maybe with a map and compass in the sea like the music was in the ‘Inheritance’ cover. How would that look?

I had another idea too, and she tried that, and I realised it wouldn’t work. She often does me several mock-ups and doesn’t mind how many times I ask for tweaks.

So, you are both on the same wavelength?

Yes, it seems we are. I only have to send the basics, and she knows what I like and, somehow, comes back with exactly what I was picturing, even though I didn’t explain it very well.

I asked Andjela a similar question…

When Jackson sends you his ideas for a cover is it easy to visualise what he wants?

Yes! We have been cooperating for years now, and we have always had great communication. He is one of my favourite clients-always clear on what he wants, which makes my job a lot easier. His initial idea is often the one we go forth with, in the final design.

You were nominated for a Goodreads award for the cover of ‘Seeing Through Shadows’. Congratulations!

I am so glad to hear that. That cover was a pleasure to create.

Which is your favourite cover that you have designed?

Seeing Through Shadows and Negative Exposure 🙂

Jackson, ‘Shadows’ was nominated for best cover by Goodreads, in your opinion is this Andjela’s best? Which one is your favourite?

I like all of them for different reasons. ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ is great because it gives us a ghostly atmosphere, features the owl, and is slightly misleading, which is what I wanted. The colours are also perfect for the mood of the story.

One of my favourites is ‘Negative Exposure’ because it shows the image of either a young male posing for an erotic photograph (a part of the story), or a body lying dead on a rocky shoreline, which is also appropriate. The colours are spot on too.

Mind you, I love the artwork for ‘Banyak & Fecks’, the black and white for ‘Fallen Splendour’, and the drama in ‘Starting with Secrets.’

As for the Larkspur Legacy, as you can see from that email excerpt above, the guides for the cover were:

  • A sailing ship with three masts
  • 1890 (1891)
  • A storm
  • Dramatic journey, travel, adventure, mystery
  • Map & compass

From that, we have the cover which suggests adventure and danger. Within it, however, are also important props from the story. Also, as this is the end of a series, I wanted to do what I’d done with the final Clearwater book; show a moving object, rather than a person. ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ showed a train ploughing through music in the snow. ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ shows a ship ploughing through rough seas against a map. What all that means will become clear when you read the book. Click the photo below to see the new cover…..

Don’t you think it’s fabulous? I’m nearly all the way through my beta read and I can say that it perfectly depicts the thrilling adventure you will be taken on!

Before we finish Andjela has an early birthday surprise for Jackson 🙂 Click on his face for another reveal…

(even Jackson doesn’t know what’s underneath!)

Work In Progress: 5.14

The Larkspur Legacy

The work in progress news this week. I have the proofed MS back, and am reading through it for the last time; still a few days to go with that.

Meanwhile, I have sent the back cover text to Andjela so she can make up the full cover, and I have estimated the page count to be around 500, including the author’s notes, front and back matter, map and an illustration. I expect to have the covers finalised in a week or so, and we are still on track for release on March 26th.

My next job, after my final read, is to set up the Amazon page and get the ISBN number, so I can add that to the front matter before sending everything off to be formatted.

Meanwhile, Neil read the full draft and had a comment to make. I’ll put it here to whet your appetite.

As with all the Larkspur books, The Larkspur Legacy catches the reader in a tale of mystery and mayhem, and twists and turns that will not disappoint. This last story is a book that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dan Brown could have written together.

Jackson Marsh is a gifted author who keeps his readers on the edge of their seats. There will be tears, and your blood will be thumping in your chest as the excitement unfolds.

My proof-reader wrote,

This one’s going to be a hard one to surpass!

What you make of it will be revealed in time, but there’s not long to go now. If you’ve not started on the Larkspur Series, then now’s a good time to begin the adventure with ‘Guardians of the Poor.

As I’ve mentioned before, things that happen in this novel have their roots in previous books, and in ‘Legacy’, the skies are darkening with the wings of chickens coming home to roost, as an old friend of mine used to say. (If only chickens could fly; I think he was being ironic.)

Upwards and onwards, and less than three weeks to wait.

How To Start an M/M Romance Series

Currently, my first-in-series novel, Deviant Desire, is enjoying a book funnel promotion in their M/M Series Starters listing. There are many series-starters on the list, which you can explore from here. This gives me an excellent opportunity to talk about the first story in the Clearwater Mysteries, and to address the title of today’s blog: How To Start an M/M Romance Series.

First, have a deviant desire to write.

I’ve often been asked,

‘How did you start writing the Clearwater series?’

My answer?

By accident.

The Stoker Connection

Back in 2018, I’d written a novel called ‘The Stoker Connection,’ and by doing so, unleashed within myself the deviant desire to write more mysteries based on fact, but ones that also included romance and adventure.

I’ve been a fan of ‘Dracula’ since I was 11 and begged for a copy for Christmas. (I was mad on the Hammer Horror films of the 70s and had a thing for creepy castles and what I now know as Gothic.) Dracula is written in the form of diaries and articles, journals and messages, and that makes it all the more real. So, when I set about ‘The Stoker Connection’, I wrote it in diary form, and based the story on a great big What If?

“What if you could prove that the greatest Gothic horror novel of all time was a true story?”

That was my starting point, and if you want to read how it all turned out, you can find The Stoker Connection here.

The Clearwater Mysteries

What ‘Stoker’ did was open up another What If? In this case,

What if Jack the Ripper had killed rent boys?’

That led to a

Why not?’

and then came the,

‘I can, and I will.’

Why not write a story where the villain is the famous Ripper of history? It’s an unsolved crime(s) that continues to grab the imagination of everyone, from conspiracy theorists to famous novelists, filmmakers to composers, so why not have a go? I’d read just about every book on the subject, seen the documentaries and films, and had gathered an amount of knowledge of the times and places. I’d even lived not far from Whitechapel and often walked its streets.

But… Yes, it had been done before, so I needed a different approach.

Make it a gay love story?

I’d written some classic MM Romance with ‘The Mentor of Lonemarsh House’ and other ‘Mentor’ books, and I’d dabbled with gay-to-straight mystery/romance/lore in my James Collins series, ‘The Saddling Series.’ What, then, would happen if I wrote a gay romance set in October 1888, the time the Ripper was stalking the streets of Whitechapel? The only way to answer a question like that is to set about writing one, so I did.

But…? How to make it faction?

Faction being a word for a novel where fact and fiction mix. How to make it realistic without descending into blood and gore, and how to make it dramatic? As if the original events weren’t dramatic enough. First, I thought, because it’s not going to be fact-fact, I will change Whitechapel to Greychurch, so I can create my own world. Greychurch is simply my name of the area of London, and now, eighteen books later, I rather wish I’d just called it Whitechapel, because the series has gone on to be accurate in historic detail apart from the names of a few places. Once they had appeared in ‘Deviant Desire’, it was too late to change them, so I still have Limedock for Limehouse, Westerpool for the Wirral, and St Matthew’s Park instead of Hyde Park. Hey ho! You write and learn.

But… Eighteen books by accident?

Well, yes and no. ‘Deviant Desire’ was meant to be a standalone novel, one that went into detail of the living conditions in the East End in 1888, and one that used facts as well as fiction, told a love story, and that was it. While writing it, I made references and gave nods to some of the facts from the original horrors. Astute Ripperologists may note that I have a double murder on one night, that some of the murder sites bear similarities to the originals (Mitre Square became Bishop’s Square, for example), and there are other hidden references which the avid reader might notice.

Yes, but… Eighteen books?

I’m getting there. The background to ‘Deviant Desire’ was London 1888, but what was the love story? Let’s call on another popular trend, I thought, one that some critics call cliché, and it is, a bit. Rich and poor, across-the-divide, Prince and Pauper, except, not a Prince but a viscount. In the British nobility, a viscount is less than an earl, more than a baron, but still an ancient title that often comes with much responsibility, and as much inherited wealth as debt. Of course, the other character had to be a rent boy, a ‘renter’ as he calls himself, and that’s how we ended up with the two main character’s you see on the cover. Archer Riddington, aka, the Viscount Clearwater, and Silas Hawkins, aka Billy O’Hara, the renter.

Their story starts with the line,

Silas Hawkins was searching for coins in an East End gutter when a man four miles distant and ten years older sealed his fate.

We don’t know who this man is yet, but within that line, we know Silas is poor, where we are, and that there’s going to be an age-gap element. The story continues… Silas has a best friend, a straight man with a big, er, talent, who works as a rent boy out of necessity, and who is an immigrant from Ukraine. Clearwater, meanwhile, sets his crotchety butler and his gorgeous, sexy footman the task of acquiring a renter for an interview. There are already enough ‘standards’ in the story, and I didn’t want another, i.e. the one where a rich man hires a poor man for a shag. Archer is more noble than that, and is using his new-found wealth to finance a shelter for homeless young men in the East End; rent boys, mainly. Thus, he wants to know what life is like for them and what they would want in such a shelter, and sends his staff to find someone who looks a little like a picture he drew. (There is an element of Archer wanting a fantasy to come true, and boy, does he get it.)

Yes, but…? I’m still getting there.

The story unfolds. Silas and his mate, Andrej, meet Archer. Silas immediately falls for him, and vice versa, at which point, the over-arching theme of the book begins: being gay in Victorian Britain was illegal, so everything that follows must happen away from the public eye.

So, now we have: rich and poor, nobility and renters, the East End and Knightsbridge, gay and straight, friendship and love, a 19 year old and a 29 year old, and our main cast can only love illegally. Oh, and there’s a series of murders taking place too, let’s not forget the villain of the piece. Let’s also not forget that the footman is in love with the viscount, the viscount is in love with the footman, but nothing has ever happened because, even within a nobleman’s house, relationships must not cross the threshold of the green baize door. (Upstairs and downstairs mustn’t mix.)

All these elements continue as the mystery unfolds, reaches a climax, and ends with an ending I was not entirely happy with. I was happy with it as a writer, but it left me feeling that there was something more. A longer story to tell. Characters have arced and changed, but where do they go next? What happens to the footman? Did the Ripper escape? Will he be back? Is he dead? And what am I going to do with this main cast of characters.

They’d already become so real, I knew Deviant Desire had to lead to something else.

It did, it led to 17 more novels.

At last! Yes, you see, I got there in the end.

What started as a one-off became a series, by accident, as I said. I hadn’t planned the series, so my ‘How To’ tip remains:

just get on and write it and see what happens.

It’s easy to base future stories on elements of those in the already-published earlier books, you don’t need to plan ahead. Having said that, as I worked through the series, I made notes of what I might like to see happen when the time was right, what other characters I could bring in, and what historical events I could use as fact in my fiction. Had I done all that before writing, Silas Hawkins was searching for coins… I would have found the prospect too daunting, so I am glad I just said, What if? and got on with it.

How Many Novels make up the Clearwater Series?

I mentioned 18, but that includes the follow-on series, the Larkspur Mysteries. The Larkspur novels include characters from right back in book one of Clearwater, Deviant Desire, and they even include threads that began in the prequel (which I wrote after Clearwater eight, ‘One of a Pair’, but which happens before Deviant Desire and leads into it). The two series are connected, and the five main characters, the ‘canonical five’ (you will note the Jack the Ripper reference) can be found playing parts in just about all eleven Clearwater and seven Larkspur books.

So, to answer the question, How To Start an M/M Romance Series, I’d have to answer:

Plan it, write book two before you publish book one, be passionate from the start, keep notes and a ‘bible’ for details, and keep going.

Or

Do what I did, and start one by accident.

Either way, I now have my own best seller, ‘Deviant Desire.’ Two actually, because the first in the Larkspur Series, ‘Guardians of the Poor’ is also doing well. People like a good ongoing series with characters who develop, and, I am pleased to say, that’s what you get with both the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries.

Note: The last book of both series, ‘The Larkspur Legacy’ is due to be released around March 26th. You don’t have to have read all of the Clearwater books to enjoy the Larkspur series, it can be read separately, but you’ll get more from Larkspur if you’ve read Clearwater. You’re advised to read both series from the start and in order. You can find them all here:

The Clearwater Mysteries

The Larkspur Mysteries

Other novels by Jackson Marsh

The Saddling series and other books by James Collins

All my novels are available in paperback, Kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.

Guest Post from Ellie Thomas

This week I am delighted to have fellow MM author, Ellie Thomas, over as a guest blogger. She is here to celebrate her new book, A Touch of Spice and to talk a little about the research behind her writing.
I wish you a great release Ellie, the blog is all yours…..

A Touch of Spice

By Ellie Thomas

Thank you so much, Jackson, for having me as a guest on your blog today. I’m Ellie, and I write MM Historical Romance novellas. This week I have a release day for my new story, A Touch of Spice, set in Elizabethan London. It’s great to celebrate that here!

As I write historical stories, research takes up a big part of my writing preparation. Of course, websites are invaluable for fact and date checking and an online map for a sense of place, but there’s nothing like picking up a book to get solidly into a historical period. Or maybe that’s just my excuse for buying yet more reference books!

A Touch of Spice is the follow-up story to my last year’s Valentine’s story, The Spice of Life. In my new tale, I continue Gregory and Jehan’s ongoing love story and their everyday lives. Gregory is emerging from being trained as a servant in his relatives’ household, and Jehan has transitioned from a spice merchant’s apprentice to a shopkeeper. My intention in this new story was to give an impression of the colour, vibrancy and occasional danger of the crowded streets of Elizabethan London while depicting Gregory and Jehan’s loving relationship. So I had to grab my reference books.

I have two go-to authors for all things Tudor. The first is the fabulous method historian Ruth Goodman whose knowledge of day-to-day life in the 1500s is encyclopaedic. I find her books as lively and entertaining as they are informative (and I have most of them!)

For A Touch of Spice, I consulted How To Be A Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life. This is a brilliant resource for daily customs (clothes, food, mealtimes and so on) and also gives a fascinating insight into the Tudor mindset, which is pure gold for any author writing historical stories. For a little extra colour, I also had to browse How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain (worth buying for the title alone) giving further insight into what offended Tudor folk, including some choice insults. I mean who could resist calling someone a ‘prating fool,’ or a ‘ninnyhammer’?

The second author I turn to for Elizabethan mores is Judith Cook, the author of one of my favourite books, Roaring Boys: Shakespeare’s Rat Pack. This wonderful volume firmly puts Shakespeare and his contemporaries within the context of the bustling streets of overcrowded London. The introduction gives a wonderfully vivid description of the playwright and man about town Robert Greene, wearing a “wine stained doublet is in his favourite colour, ‘goose turd’ a virulent yellowy-green.” Irresistible!

In writing about Gregory and Jehan’s continuing love, I wanted to give a historically rich backdrop to their sweet love story to place the reader as firmly as possible in my chosen place and time. The fact I relished revisiting my invaluable sourcebooks was a bonus!

Blurb:

In the spring of 1573, twenty-one-year-old Gregory Fletcher is a happy man, set to move into the spice shop on London’s Ludgate Hill with his true love Jehan Zanini, who he spared from being condemned as a thief the year before.

But Gregory’s kind inclinations to help others in need tend to thwart the couple from fulfilling their dreams as Gregory delays living with Jehan to assist his adoptive family in a crisis.

Then William Anstell, their friend and the cause and saviour of Jehan’s previous problems, gets amorously involved with an unscrupulous tavern server and relies on Gregory and Jehan to resolve his embarrassing mess.

Can the lovers finally put aside distractions and other people’s problems to find lasting happiness?

Excerpt:

Mistress Cecily looked up from her stitching with a smile as Gregory entered her sewing room. Gregory felt a sting of nostalgia, that increasing sensation of being caught between two worlds. The safe patterns of boyhood grated against the exciting challenges of impending adult independence as he passed the age of a serving lad, only tied to this place by family loyalty.

As a courtesy, Gregory reported the purchase of the nutmeg and delivered his lady’s remaining money. Mistress Cecily nodded her head absently without bothering to count the change. 

“And how is young Master Zanini today?” Mistress Cecily inquired.

“Both he and his trade are doing well, and he sends his compliments,” Gregory replied, the courtesy causing Mistress Cecily to smile more widely. 

The Master and Mistress, Gregory’s de facto parents, had been delighted when he broached the notion of entering into merchandising. Jehan’s skill and knowledge of the goods he sold were never in question but Master Crossley had previously dealt with the business side of running the shop where Jehan was apprenticed. So the newly established merchant had scant experience of running a business and little certainty in his ability to notate letters and numbers.

Here, Gregory held the advantage. Growing up in a considerable household and being involved in its daily management proved invaluable, and Master Robert had guided him through the rest, poring for hours over the business ledgers and discussing how best to invest Jehan’s store of sovereigns. 

If Master Robert had gladly imparted his knowledge of bookkeeping, Mistress Cecily had immediately bestowed her patronage on the Ludgate shop. Gregory reckoned that Master Crossley would not be dismayed at losing such a prestigious customer since he owned both premises, but Mistress Cecily’s friendly support to Jehan was a boon, as well as her recommendation of his services.

A few months after Jehan started trading from the narrow shop, Gregory was set to join him, openly as a partner in the business and privately, to conduct their burgeoning love affair. In overcrowded London, it was usual for men to share a room or even a bed without inciting gossip or moral outrage. Additionally, there was a small upstairs front room in direct proportion to the shop below, ideal for keeping the shop’s records. This chamber had a decent-sized window overlooking the street, garnering enough natural daylight for scribing. 

Gregory had been preparing to decamp to Ludgate permanently in the depths of winter, when Master Robert’s elderly father had fallen down from the icy front steps of the Bishopsgate house. The doctor declared that Master Edward was lucky to get away with shock and bruising and a clean break of the bone in one arm. Gregory was a particular favourite of the old gentleman and had attended him in recent years more from fondness than duty. After the accident, not only did Master Edward require more practical assistance until his limb was mended, but the shock of the injury suddenly aged and confused him. For some months, it seemed that only Gregory’s presence could restore his good humour.

Neither Master Robert nor Mistress Cecily expected Gregory to remain to tend to their kinsman, but he could not bear to leave under the circumstances. After all, he reasoned, they had unhesitatingly opened their home and hearts to an orphaned boy. It would be unthinkable to repay those long years of kindness with desertion, especially when the old master needed him. 

When he tried to explain his decision to Jehan, he feared outright rejection, even the end of their dreams of forging a life together, but although Jehan’s expressive face was sombre at the disappointing tidings, his dark eyes were full of compassion. “Family comes first,” He said. “You can’t desert Master Edward now. I sympathise, and I would expect no less of you. After all, if you hadn’t stuck by me when I was in trouble, where would I be now? You’re not the kind of man to abandon loved ones to follow your own desires, and I cherish you all the more for that quality. Never fear, I can wait a while longer.”

Book Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BW3KQDB9/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1GF81C8ED0MKB&keywords=a+touch+of+spice+ellie+thomas&qid=1676642430&sprefix=a+touch+of+spice%2Caps%2C225&sr=8-1

Universal Book Link: https://books2read.com/u/bry6ee

Publisher: https://www.jms-books.com/ellie-thomas-c-224_420/a-touch-of-spice-p-4620.html

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/122751455-a-touch-of-spice

Add to Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/a-touch-of-spice-by-ellie-thomas

Bio:

Ellie Thomas lives by the sea. She comes from a teaching background and goes for long seaside walks where she daydreams about history. She is a voracious reader especially about anything historical. She mainly writes historical gay romance.


Ellie also writes historical erotic romance as L. E. Thomas.

Website: https://elliethomasromance.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elliethomasauthor/

Twitter: @e_thomas_author

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19835510.Ellie_Thomas

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ellie-thomas