WIP: 6.08. Nearing the End.

First: The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge will be free all day on Saturday 24th June to celebrate Pride Weekend (somewhere in the world) and Pride month. Also, to celebrate its new, tidier edition, with enhanced readability.

I have learnt so much over the last few years, I have a new mission. When I can, to go back and tidy up earlier novels, and Barrenmoor is the first to receive the treatment. Here’s its Amazon.com page, but it will be FREE everywhere for 24 hours on Saturday (Amazon time.) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078TFPQ89


Merrit & Chase

I am nearing the end of the first draft of ‘As Yet Untitled. A new Mystery Series, Book One.’ This may end up being titled, ‘Merrit & Chase’ as that’s one of the ideas I am playing with. Others include a play on words around ‘Knowledge’ because Jack Merrit is a London hansom cab driver in 1892. Other ideas include something to do with the word Two, or Streets, a street address (not very punchy), or a phase that lurks somewhere in the draft that’s not yet leapt out at me but might do when I start on draft two.

I am nearing the end of the first draft now and am at 90,000 words (with two chapters of backstory already cut), and have about another 10,000 words to go. Then, I will edit, cut, rewrite, check and dither, before repeating the process and moving on to book two. I can’t say when this one will be ready for publication, but I can tell you I have a title for the series.

Yes, I have made up my mind. On hearing my decision, my husband said, ‘You just can’t leave them alone, can you?’ which made me laugh. No. And why should I? Astute readers of mine will understand what he meant when I give you the series title, and tell you it is to be…

The Delamere Mysteries

At least, that’s the plan for now. More to follow in due course.

A hansom cab

Work in Progress: 6.05

The First of a New Series

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

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

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

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

The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge

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

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

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

Work in Progress: 6.02

The Unnamed

‘The Unnamed’ sounds like the original title of ‘Dracula,’ The Undead. My new story is definitely ‘undead’ because it’s very much alive and kicking. I am up to 24,000 words and the end of act one. The main characters have their initial setup, time and place have been established, and now, there is a quest for the main character, a dilemma, a fair amount of pressure and a big decision to be made. I think Jack Merrit is to be something of a reluctant hero, because he doesn’t want to do what he has to do, and there is both an external reason for that and an internal one.

By external, I mean an action-driven reason for him to react, and by internal, I mean he has a personal dilemma to deal with, and it’s a big one.

What I haven’t yet convinced myself of is the action spine; the events that will drive the physical action through to the end. Initially, what I had in mind sounded interesting and is based on an actual event. However, it strikes me it might be flimsy when transformed into a novel because it is basically a search for a location, and we can’t have 50,000 words of a man driving up and down London streets looking for a particular place. Well, we can, but other things will have to happen along the way, otherwise the reader will soon be asking, ‘Are we there yet?’

Once I’ve finished other work this morning, I will continue with chapter eight and see where that leads me. We have visitors arriving on Sunday for two and three weeks, and I’m not sure how much I will be able to get done during that time, but I will carry on carrying on, and I’ll let you know how it all goes in my regular blog posts.

From ‘Street Life in London’, 1877, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith (Wikimedia Commons)

Learning the Knowledge for a New Series

If you read my Wednesday work-in-progress blog, you will know I have embarked on a new series, currently titled ‘New Series’ in one folder, and ‘Victorian Series’ in another. So far, I have written four chapters in draft one, a rough outline, some character notes, and some research notes.

Part of my research has been around cab drivers because one of the two main characters is a young cabman, and that led me to a couple of books, a few websites, and a coincidence.

The Knowledge

When London cabbies train for the job, they spend on average two years learning ‘the knowledge.’ That’s the layout of all 25,000 or more London streets in a six-mile radius from central London, roughly.

If you’ve ever taken a black cab, as we call them nowadays (though they are not always black), you’ll feel assured that once you step in and say, ‘471 Kingsland Road,’ the driver will say, ‘Righty-o, Guv,’ and off you go. You can give as obscure an address as you fancy and, the chances are, your driver will know where it is because he’s got ‘the knowledge.’

When this term came into use, I am not sure, but then, I’ve not completed my research yet.

My ordered book has arrived, ‘The History of the London Horse Cab’, and I’ve read the introduction, but there’s a long way to go yet, so my knowledge of cab work and ‘the knowledge’ currently equates to knowing only about five streets out of the 25,000 or more.

I’ve also been looking at various collections of writings from Victorian times that I’ve found on websites, including my favourite, The Dictionary of Victorian London, compiled by Lee Jackson.

A Coincidence

While looking around for various resources, I came across a Facebook page dedicated to a book, ‘Carter the Cabman.’ After a little investigation, I discovered that this book was available on Kindle, so I downloaded a copy and set to reading, out of interest.

It turns out to be a novel, presenting in a nicely clever way, a collection of papers discovered in an antique shop in 1988, and those papers were written by a cabman called Carter in 1888, at the time of Jack the Ripper. That’s as far as I have got with my reading as I only bought it yesterday, but already, I feel a weird sense of coincidence. My Clearwater Mysteries series begins in 1888 at the time of the Ripper (though it’s not Jack), and my new series is not only about a cab driver, but is also set in 1888, though the Ripper murders are not part of the plot this time. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of ‘Carter’ and perhaps asking the author if he’d like to appear here in a guest post. (Though I’m not sure how to tell him that the word ‘weekend’ didn’t come into usage until after 1912, so his cabman author of 1888 would not have used it… but that’s me being pedantic.)

More About ‘New Victorian Series’

My notes are vague in places, and detailed in others. I have in mind a set of investigations that my two main characters will undertake, but unlike the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries, these will involve a different investigative style. Clearwater and Larkspur use a lot of unlikely but not impossible scenarios, and inventions of the time or just before the time, such as vanishing and reappearing ink, telegraph printers, and glow-in-the-dark paint. The new series will, if all goes according to plan, focus on real issues of the time and how my two MCs put things right. A little like ‘Guardians of the Poor’, where our heroes uncover corruption at the Hackney workhouse. I have in my list of ideas notes such as:

  • Slum landlords Vs paupers,
  • The Thames Murders (cold case),
  • Mediums,
  • Quacks,
  • Lunatic asylum, and
  • ‘gay’ cases.

The latter one is also a hark back to Larkspur, where the initial idea was to base characters and stories on actual events, which I did all the way through: Dalston Blaze and the workhouse scandal, for example, or Edward Hyde’s incident on the train and the court case with that nasty Tory MP. But don’t think this new series is going to be all special investigation and doing the right thing, and don’t think it will be a repeat of issues and events from the other two series.

So far, I know that it is going to involve the following:

  • Clues
  • villains
  • adventure
  • A slow-burn romance over a couple of books
  • A character with an undefined ‘problem’ who will turn out to be a genius (at something)
  • Brotherly love
  • Bromance and MM romance (of course)
  • Falling in love, falling out of love, blah-di-blah
  • Humour
  • Real places and events

That’s where I am with ‘New Victorian Series’ right now, researching and learning more knowledge about life in Victorian Britain, especially London, around the end of the 19th century. It all starts with a journalist discovering a handsome young cabman in tears late at night on August 17th 1888. Why is he crying? That’s what you will one day find out.

Work In Progress: 6.01

Untitled

These past few days, I have started on a new novel which I intend to be the start of a new series. So far, the folder is titled: Victorian Series, and I have in it chapters one, two and three, plus a file called ‘New story ideas,’ and one called ‘The cabmen from James Greenwood.’ Let me explain…

Who was James Greenwood?


James Greenwood (1832–1927) was an English social explorer, journalist and writer, who published a series of articles which drew attention to the plight of London’s working poor. He was one of the first journalists to cover stories incognito, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of investigative journalism.

[Wikipeadia.]

What’s he got to do with anything?

When I was writing ‘Banyak & Fecks’ and investigating what it was like to spend a night in a casual ward of a London workhouse, I came across an article Greenwood had written following his experiences of spending a night in such a place. I returned to him for background reading for this new series, and in particular, the book, ‘Tales from Victorian London’ by James Greenwood and Henry Mayhew. There is a chapter in it where Greenwood recounts an interview with a hansom cab driver who tells him a tale of catching burglars, and that was the inspiration for my ‘New Victorian Series.’

Since reading the article and others, I have ordered a book about the history of the hansom cab, and have read other articles and stories from the time (mid-1800s, though my story is set slightly later). I have also been trying to find a street map of London from 1887 with street names, though that’s proving a little more difficult. What I need is an original A to Z, although that invaluable street atlas was not printed until the 1930s, so I am left with online maps, many of which don’t name the streets.

Why the need for street names and maps?


The simple answer is because, my main character is a cabman, a driver of a hansom cab, or a cabbie, as they were and are also known. So far in the story, the MC has decided he needs to earn more money, and so, steps in to take his grandfather’s old job driving a hansom cab.

Not an easy task. It takes the average London cabbie two years to learn ‘the knowledge’, the layout of every street, the names, places, locations, short cuts etc., of the city. There are, and were in 1887, thousands of streets, and new ones being built all the time. Having a map will make it easier for me to be accurate, because unlike the Greychurch and Limedock of ‘The Clearwater Mysteries’, the new series is to be set in Whitechapel, Limehouse and other places where I will use the real place names, events and possibly, people.

Who is our new main character?

There are to be two.

Meet Jack Merrit…

a 24-year-old carter and labourer at the East India Docks who has an estranged father working in the music hall, an absent mother, a younger brother who has ‘an undiagnosed problem’, and who lives with his grandparents, Reggie and Ida Merritt in a two-roomed dwelling in Limehouse.

My visual inspiration for Jack came from a photo of a prisoner taken sometimes during the late 1800s. This chap had such a bewildered look of ‘I’m innocent’ about him, it stirred my heart and made me think, ‘Poor young man, his only crime was to fall in love—with another man.’

My second main character, the one who, after a first-person introduction tells the story in the third person, is

Larkin Chase,

a well-to-do ‘journalist’, investigative reporter as we’d call him now, a solver of mysteries and a champion for the rights of the put-upon. Larkin is 30, and meets Jack in August 1888 much in the way James Greenwood met his cabbie, late at night in South London.

And there I shall leave this update so I can get on with chapter three. Before I do, I will let you see a snippet of chapter two, which only gives away two plot points, that Samson Merrit, Jack’s father has died, and his grandfather, Reggie, has suffered a stroke.

The only way his parents or children heard of [Samson Merrit] was from the variety newspapers and bill posters, and, when Jack was twenty-four, via a messenger from Shoreditch who brought news of a tragedy.
Samson Merrit suffered an untimely but entertaining death on the stage of the Shoreditch Music Hall early in eighty-seven. He left behind his two sons, a shocked audience, and an even more shocked Marie Lloyd, with whom he had been performing a duet version of ‘The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery.’ The coroner said it was heart failure and had nothing to do with his fellow performer. Ida Merrit said he’d had it coming and good riddance, but on hearing the news, Reggie suffered apoplexy that brought an end to his cabbing career the moment he staggered backwards into his chair and collapsed.

More updates to come next week, and on my Saturday blog.

Taking a Break and Why

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

It’s important for writers to take breaks

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

What?

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

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

But…

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

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

Where to?

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

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

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

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

Work In Progress: 5.16

The end of the line.

This morning, I received the final layout files from Other Worlds Ink, so The Larkspur Legacy is ready to go. Only three more days and I will upload it to Amazon, and the Kindle version should then go live on Saturday night/Sunday morning (GMT + 2).

Before that, you can find out more about OtherWorldsInk and their services, because we’re arranging a chat with them for Saturday’s blog. They arrange blog tours and publicity, do book formatting and cover design and are a great help to me. I’ve used them since ‘Negative Exposure’, and now no longer have to spend hours setting out my pages and doing the best I can, because they do it for me. More about that on Saturday.

As for the next work in progress,

I have already begun on The Clearwater Companion by gathering my notes, cuts, excerpts, images, and other ideas. Right now, I am typing up the notes from my bible (series notebook). We may not use all of them, but as long as I have them all in one digital place, I’ll be able to work with them much more easily. It’s a pretty thankless task, but a couple of hours a day and I should have both large notebooks transcribed in a month, and I can then set about seeing what’s what.

Meanwhile, look out for The Larkspur Legacy, the series finale to the Larkspur and Clearwater books. You should be able to get it from Kindle on Sunday (the print version may take a day or two longer to appear).

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.