2021 Review

Hello and Happy New Year!

To start 2022, I thought it would be fun to invite some of my author friends over to highlight some of our achievements and memories in 2021, and say what we are looking forward to in 2022.

Today, we have brief chats with Matt Converse, Fearne Hill, Glenn Quigly, Ally Lester and… who was the other? Oh yes. Me. Let me get the ball rolling by answering the same questions as I asked my friends.

An author, thinking on his birthday while in Croatia.

My 2021 highlight as a writer

For me, it was publishing ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’
This, the 11th book in the Clearwater Mystery series, not only ties up loose ends, and takes the reader on an epic journey, it rounds off the story of Andrej (Fecker), one of my favourite characters. If you start with the prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’, and read all 11 books in order, you’ll see Fecker’s journey in full. This is also the longest book at 150,000 words, is partly written in diary (letter) form, which is a form I love, contains a map, and takes us to places I have visited in Europe.

Did I reach an important milestone in my author career in 2021?

I finished the Clearwater Mysteries series…. Except I didn’t. I carried the world and characters, backstories on into the Larkspur Mysteries. I also wrote from the perspective of a deaf character for the first time. A challenge to write and sometimes to read, but, for me, a first.

My favourite memory of the year (non-author related)

Christmas Day with my logical family, watching my husband open a present that looked like a bookmark, but turned out to be a token for a PADI diving course he wants to take. Oh, and my godson passed his grade one piano.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

Plenty. My readers, everyone who leaves positive feedback and reviews, those who nominated me in 10 Goodreads Awards categories, my husband for looking after me and making me laugh every day, Jenine for her PA work and feeding us, my proofreaders, Anne and Maryann, the guys at Other Worlds Ink for their layout services, and my characters for their inspiration.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Only to continue to entertain by writing the best stories I can, and presenting them professionally, making each one better, and exploring new ideas.

And now, I’ll hand you over to my author friends…

Matt ConverseHi Matt, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer.

  It was the release of my first m/m sci-fi thriller 99 Days. Previously my releases were all m/m romance, horror or thriller, so I was stepping outside of my box. The reviews and reception have been better than I even hoped. I am currently writing the sequel, 99 Days Later.

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

 Yes, I think crossing over into a different genre was a big achievement for me.

What is your favourite memory from this year?

Being able to see a few of my friends in person for the first time in a long time. It was great to just hang out and relax.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

Definitely, my Mom is my biggest supporter, but I give thanks to every single person who has read any of my books. I appreciate it.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Just to keep writing and doing what I love. I will reach further out of my comfort box with my first non-LGBTQ release on February 5th with The Four Corners of Horror, an anthology of short stories.

Leather Head Unmasked

Published October 28, 2021

#mm #horror #thriller #suspense

Gable needs a getaway with best friend Shawn, while Andrés and Tyler take a trip to the West Coast. Granger and his younger boyfriend Liam head to Palm Springs and stay at a gay resort known to be the wildest in town. Fate draws all of them together for a climactic weekend in Palm Springs. For some, it is the wild weekend they needed. For others, things turn so dark they wonder if they will get out alive.


Find Matt here:

Amazon profile: https://www.amazon.com/Matt-Converse/e/B00TKCCVWY/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MattConverse1 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matt.converse.39  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13495845.Matt_Converse 

Leather Head Unmasked universal link https://smarturl.it/Leatherhead-Unmasked 

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Fearne Hill

Welcome Fearne, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer.

The first book in my Rossingley series, To Hold A Hidden Pearl, was nominated in 5 categories of the Goodreads M/M Romance group awards and also received an Honourable Mention in the contemporary gay romance section of the Rainbow Awards

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

 Yes! I had four full-length romance novels published by an indie publishing company, with great feedback. And I’ve learnt an enormous amount about the whole writing process.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year.

My wonderful editor, Elizabetta, at NineStar Press for her patience, support and kindness.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

Yes. I have two self -pub books coming out in March and June, and another later in the year.

 

To Melt A Frozen Heart (Rossingley #3.5)

Published 14th December 2021

#contemporary #holidaynovella #mmromance #olderMC’s #british

Our only regrets are the chances we didn’t take.
Bah, humbug.
Freddie Duchamps-Avery has only one desire this Christmas: to ask his beloved Reuben to
marry him. However, with his needy father moping around, finding the perfect, romantic
moment to propose is proving tricky.
The Rt Hon. Charles Duchamps-Avery is a successful politician, a hopeless father, and a miserable divorcé. Facing the prospect of Christmas alone in London, he accepts his son Freddie’s generous invitation to join the gang at Rossingley. Yet, being surrounded by happy
couples only serves to remind of his past mistakes and a looming, lonely old age.
If only a handsome, enigmatic stranger would appear and distract him….

Social media links:
https://www.facebook.com/fearne.hill.50/

Facebook Group: Fearne Hill’s House

https://www.instagram.com/fearnehill_author

https://twitter.com/FearneHill

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Glenn Quigley

Hello Glenn, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer

In March I released WE CRY THE SEA, the third book in my Moth and Moon series. I never thought I’d see the day when I had a trilogy on the shelves, so that really meant a lot to me.

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

I was a Rainbow Award runner-up in the category of Best Gay Book this year which was a huge surprise. It showed me that I must be doing something right!

What is your favourite memory from this year?

I got to walk around a lighthouse on Rathlin Island, which was great.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year

My partner Mark, as always, for his love and support. Also, my brilliant beta readers ­- Tony, Christian, and Alan.

Do you have an author goal for 2022?

I have a new book and short story coming out next year. I would love to publish a collection of short stories so fingers crossed for that!

 

WE CRY THE SEA

Published 15 March 2021

#historicalfantasy #pirates #gay #bear #establishedcouple

After the explosive events of The Lion Lies Waiting, life has returned to normal for burly fisherman Robin Shipp. That is until the innkeeper of the ancient Moth & Moon approaches him with a surprising proposal, and an unexpected arrival brings some shocking news that sends Robin on a perilous journey alone.

While he’s away, his lover, Edwin, anxiously prepares for the birth of his first child with his friend, Iris. Her wife, Lady Eva, must travel to Blackrabbit Island for a showdown over the future of the family business. Meanwhile, Duncan nurses an injured man back to health but as the two grow close, the island’s new schoolmaster makes his amorous intentions clear.

Robin’s search for answers to the questions that have haunted his entire life will take him away from everyone he knows, across a dangerous ocean, and into the very heart of a floating pirate stronghold. Pushed to his limits, Robin’s one last chance at finding the truth will cost him more than he ever imagined.

Social media links
WEB            https://www.glennquigley.com

TWITTER    https://twitter.com/glennquigley

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/glennquigleyauthor

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Ally Lester

 

Nice to welcome you back Ally, tell me about your 2021 highlight as a writer

At the beginning of the year, I decided I’d write a trilogy with three months between each fifty thousand word book. I am nearly there! I’ve had to extend the deadline for the final one because of various #LifeThings that tripped me up, but I’m so pleased to be on track to achieving this!

Do you feel you reached an important milestone in your author career in 2021?

Yes, I do. I’ve released four short stories, a novella and two books. That’s pretty good going! I feel like I have a bit more of a grip on what I’m doing these days…back when I began in 2017 I felt like I was flailing around only just keeping my head above water.

What is your favourite memory from this year? Non-author related

Oh! We took the kids to the Swannery at Abbotsbury on the South Coast of England in the summer. Littlest, who is a twelve-year-old wheelchair user with pretty complex issues, got to feed the swans. It was extremely cool. We also took my Mama, another wheelchair user. We sat in the sun and had a picnic and it was so simple and so lovely to spend time together as a family in the midst of all the pandemic stress.

Anybody special you would like to thank for their support/help this year

A HUGE list! Mr AL, who is Team Amazon Ads, Nell Iris and Ofelia Grand who I often write with first thing in the morning, and Jude Lucens, Elin Gregory and Lillian Francis, the mods from Quiltbag Historicals, who all put up with me moaning about writing and life, and offer support!

Do you have an author goal for 2022? Or maybe an event planned that you are working towards?

I want to write more Celtic Myth short stories this year. And I’ve got a couple of stand-alone books in the works. I’m finding the trilogy thing quite stressful, so I’m giving myself a break from them this year.

 The Quid Pro Quo

Publish date: 20th November 2021

#Historical #Transgender #Gay #Mystery #Paranormal

Village nurse Walter Kennett is content with his makeshift found-family in tiny Bradfield. However one midsummer morning a body is found floating in the village duck pond, dead by magical means.

Detective Simon Frost arrives in Bradfield to investigate an inexplicable murder. The evidence seems to point to Lucille Hall-Bridges, who lives with doctor Sylvia Marks and nurse Walter Kennett at Courtfield House. Simon isn’t happy—he doesn’t believe Lucy is a murderer but he’s sure the three of them are hiding something. In the meantime, the draw he feels toward Walter takes him by surprise.

Walter is in a dilemma, concealing Sylvia and Lucy’s relationship and not knowing how much to tell Frost about the paranormal possibilities of the murder. He isn’t interested in going to bed with anyone—he’s got a complicated life and has to know someone really well before he falls between the sheets. He’s taken aback by his own attraction to Detective Frost and angry when Frost appears to twist the spark between them to something transactional in nature.

Will Walter be satisfied to stay on the periphery of Lucy and Sylvia’s love affair, a welcome friend but never quite included? Or is it time for him to strike out and embark on a relationship of his own?

Social media links:

Free story with my newsletter: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/v6xhdi5d19

Facebook group (monthly giveaways, irregular moaning about deadlines and life, a drop-in for other authors to pimp their books once a week): https://facebook.com/groups/LesterTowers

Website: https://allester.co.uk

Twitter (chatter): https://twitter.com/CogentHippo

Instagram: https://instagram.com/CogentHippo


Thank you, everyone, for your contributions and thank you for reading.
If you missed yesterday’s post, my 2021 in more detail, you can find it here. http://jacksonmarsh.com/a-year-as-an-indie-author-2021/

A Year as an Indie Author: 2021

A Year as an Indie Author: 2021

Happy New Year’s Eve! Tomorrow, I have another blog post for you, one where some of my author friends call in to give us their perspectives of 2021, so watch out for that. Today, I want to give you a roundup of what 2021 was like for me, and here it is…

This time last year, I started the New Year with a blog post: New Year, New Story. The opening paragraph read: Hello and welcome to 2021. It is January 1st as I write this. I have been up since 5.30, we had a power cut at 6.00, and just after the lights went off, the thunder started. It’s now 7.30, the power is on, the rain is hammering on the roof, and I couldn’t be happier.

Well, as I write this post, it’s December 31st 2021, I have again been up since 5.30 (ish), there has been no power cut, but we did have thunder overnight, and it’s been raining for four days. It’s currently 7.00, and I am still happy despite a tough year. Why? Read on to find out.

Winter to Spring
Negative Exposure. Released 25th February 2021

The cover that Facebook banned, lol!

As I entered 2021, I was 50,000 words into Clearwater Nine, ‘Something Exposure’. I had released ‘Banyak & Fecks’ on 1st December 2020, and that was selling a few copies. ‘Banyak & Fecks’ remains my personal favourite, the one I am most proud of, because I set out to show myself I could write a compelling story that had nothing to do with mystery, clues, chases, train crashes and all that thriller jazz, and I believe, I achieved that.

Negative Exposure (as it finally became) was a return to the classic Clearwater style and grew out of things that happened in the non-mystery prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ I felt that I was coming to the end of the Clearwater run, but didn’t want the series to end, and was looking for a way to extend it, modify it, but still keep my core characters who are so popular with readers. ‘The Larkspur Mysteries’ was forming in my imagination, but before that, the Clearwater series needed an end piece.

At home, in a lockdown, 2021 began quietly with online quiz groups, plenty of films on Netflix, wine, and my usual six hours a day writing schedule. Our Greek island, Symi, is a quiet place in the darker winter months, and always has been. There is not a lot open, and we stay home, with our outings being countryside and hill walks now and then, and dinners with our bestie and godchildren once or twice a week. This was not possible in lockdown (the walks were), but I continued to teach Harry the piano via video twice per week. How on earth teachers manage whole days of teaching via video is beyond me; half an hour at a time was enough for me.

As restrictions lifted, so the winter turned to spring, and then to summer and the return of tourists. During all this time, I was writing the next and final Clearwater, and that was to turn out to be the longest novel in the series. (And the most fascinating the most epic and the one that brought several strains from Banyak & Fecks, and previous stories, back into one thread.)

Summer
The Clearwater Inheritance. Released 10th June 2021

My characters’ journey on the Orient Express in ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’

Summer, for me, consisted of freelance writing work, which, then, was still coming in, seeing friends at the bar where Neil works in the afternoon, and plotting the next series. With temperatures reaching the mid to high 40s for some time, it wasn’t always easy to concentrate on plots and characters, but I sweated onwards. In winter, the temperature in my office, my ‘workhouse’ as I call it, gets down to four or five degrees, and I work in fingerless gloves, three jumpers and a hat. In summer, I am virtually naked (eek!), the windows are open, and the fans are blasting. We jump between weather extremes in Greece.

The Clearwater Inheritance’, the only book in the series not to feature a person on the cover, came out in June. This publication included a map, and masses of research, a longer proofing and preparation time, and while all that was happening, I had already started on the first in the follow-on series, Guardians of the Poor.

Guardians of the Poor. Released 22nd August 2021

Joe Tanner as drawn by Dalston Blaze and inspired by Luke Adams

I have a folder in my system where I keep the ‘bottom drawer.’ This is a dumping ground for ideas, chapters and even halves of novels that started well but didn’t fly. One of these old files was a chapter, or rather, a study that’s the length of a chapter, and it concerned a quirky character being tricked into being rescued in Leather Lane market, London, in the late 1880s. While I was writing it, a name popped into my head, and I could not remove either the name or the character from my mind. Barbary Fleet was born.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I was sure the series shouldn’t start with the founding of the Larkspur Academy and the finding of Barbary Fleet to run it, it should start with the place already up and running. I would introduce a new character or two and the reader would follow his adventure into and through the academy, so we could discover it along with the character. This was handy because, at this point, I had little idea what this academy was. I knew it wasn’t a school or a college, but a place where (gay) young men could be rescued to. Therefore, the characters needed to be in a dire situation and needed to be saved from it by existing Clearwater characters, and then… Well, then I would see what the characters did, and we’d take it from there.

This is actually my husband, Neil, but the image inspired me to write Barbary Fleet.

And so, Guardians of the Poor starts with a man in the dock accused of a crime he didn’t commit, but telling everyone he did commit it because he wants to go to prison. Intriguing. Why? I thought, and the answer was because it was the only way to save his life. That, I reckoned, was an excellent start to a new series, and away I went…

Then I watched ‘The Amazing Race’ and was knocked sideways by deaf contestant Luke Adams, and my character of Joe Tanner was born.

Larkspur Academy came to life. I learnt some basic British Sign Language, tourists came and went, summer came and went, and as we settled into autumn, I was at work on Larkspur Two.

Autumn and the start of another winter.
Keepers of the Past. Released 4th November 2021

Standing stones, ritual murders and the pain of a new relationship seen through the eyes of Joe Tanner

Temperatures cooled, we have a wonderfully mild end of summer and start of autumn. The new series had started well with good sales of ‘Guardians’, and Neil and I still had some freelance writing work to provide us with spending money. Then…

Sadly, a job I’d had for 16 years, and one he’d had for two, ended because of the company changing management and deciding to do their writing work in-house. I had/have a couple of other clients who I continue to work with, but that’s never been ‘core cash,’ and even they are slowing down their workloads because of Covid.

So, as we entered winter, and now as we steam on into the new year, I am beavering at the keyboard to write my novels while also beavering to find more freelance writing work. I have set up a service on PeoplePerHour where I offer writing and editing services should anyone want help or mentoring with their writing.

Meanwhile, suddenly poor as church mice (thank heavens I organised myself a semi-decent private pension when I was young; it now covers most of our bills), I began work on the next Larkspur. I’ve been charting this in a Work In Progress blog which you can catch here every Wednesday, and we’re currently up to week nine, so, ‘Agents of the Truth’ has, so far, taken me nine weeks to write 110,000 of a first draft, and I am currently 60% through my first story edit. After that, I shall go through each chapter with my checklist:

What is the point of this chapter (and have I made it)?
Grammar
Spelling (as best as my word blindness allows)
Style improvement
Make it better or cut it out… And so on

While all this has been going on, I was thrilled to receive 10 nominations in the Goodreads MM Romance awards, pick up new followers to my Jackson Marsh Facebook page and to this blog, to sell more books, and, thanks to my PA, Jenine, have my best sales year ever. Let’s hope that continues into 2022, which, for me, will start like this:

New Year’s Eve 2021. Neil is cooking roast dinner for the logical family (Jenine and our two godsons), and we’re in for an evening of food, films and fun.

2022 will start with us all going to a large house overlooking the sea, cooking together and continuing the feasting rituals before wadding back up to 400 steps to home.

χρόνια πολλά!

And onwards… Into ‘Agents of the Truth’ and beyond. This, the third Larkspur, brings the development of my two main characters to a logical conclusion and sets me free to invent new plots and people for book four. What that will be is anyone’s guess, but that’s the best part about a new year’s beginnings. As I wrote this time last year, “there is a whole year ahead in which to achieve some wonderful things.”

May you achieve wonderful things of your own. I certainly intend to.

Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you for reading and your support, and here’s a χρόνια πολλά! to everyone.

WIP blog Eight: Nearly There

WIP blog Eight: Nearly There

Hi all, and welcome to Wednesday and my work in progress update. When people ask me how long it takes to write a novel, I usually have no idea how to answer because by the time I get to release it, I’ve forgotten when I started it. This WIP blog has helped change that, and I can say that it has, so far, taken me eight weeks, and there is still a long way to go. Not so much in the first draft storytelling because I am now about to climax, if you’ll excuse the expression, but once that is done, and I have epilogued (excuse the made-up word), there is still a way to go.

A random photos of the model kits I like to build in my downtime.

Yesterday, I finished chapter 27 yesterday and made inroads into chapter 28. Last night, I was running through ideas for the climax with hubby Neil, because he makes a great sounding board, and I worked out I still had, probably, about, maybe… five scenes to go before the story will be concluded. That would put me at roughly 110,000 words, which is a nice ‘get your money’s worth’ length. After that, however, and after Christmas, comes the draft two-stage and the editing down, ‘bettering up’ and putting all things as right as I can before I can be happy with the finished product. After that comes the cover design, the proofreading, the layout and all that jazz, so we are still looking at February as a release month, all being well.

Sensible storage is important.

And a random photo of our main town.

As I write each chapter, I save it in a file that is automatically linked to me OneDrive just in case, and I give each one a number, of course. What I also do, however, is name the file with a piece of action; the more critical the action the better. This is so I can remember where certain things occurred, and can easily find them if I need to go back and change or check something. I just looked down my list of saved, individual chapters and thought you might like a small insight into what’s to come with ‘Agents of the truth.’ Some examples:

01 Newspaper announces ball

02 14th October threat one

08 18th Friday The Killhaddocks

16 Archer letter to James and 26th Sunday

20 After Newgate

27 D leaves London 3.15 at Larkspur

That should mean absolutely nothing to you, and that’s how I like it. All will be revealed in time.

Double-Check for accuracy

A vague attempt at a Christmas scene, our-house style.

Something that was revealed to me the other day has put a bit of a groan in my step. This novel runs to a timeline, as I like to do, with some chapters starting with the location and date. I checked the legitimacy of these dates with what I thought was a reliable online calendar. I.e ‘What day of the week was October 30th 1890?’ and from that, I drew my own calendar of days/dates. All well and good until I got to chapter 24 ’30th Wednesday Larkspur preparations’ and checked the news for that day in history with the British Newspaper Archives. There, in print from 131 years ago, I found the Morning Post, Telegraph and others were published on Thursday 30th October. So, when I go through draft two, I’m going to have to change all dates/days and double-check references to ‘three days to go’ kind of stuff and make sure things remain accurate. I guess I don’t need to add this authentic detail, but I like to do things properly. That is why, for example, in ‘Agents’ you’ll find the climax happens under a moon that was full two days previously, and the newspaper articles the characters read were actually published in those papers on those days. Background detail is fun!

Happy Christmas

Anyway, I must continue with chapter 28 and hopefully get into chapter 29. I don’t think I’ll be finished with draft one by midday on Christmas Eve as I hoped, but I’ll be close, and after taking the weekend off, I’ll be right back at it. Meanwhile, have yourself a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it, or holiday if you don’t, or weekend if you don’t take a holiday, and I will be back with you next Wednesday for WIP Nine.

WIP Blog Seven: Towards the Last Reel

Towards the Last Reel

(And a Christmas competition)

I’m heading towards the last reel of ‘Agents of the Truth’, with the word count now at 72,000 words (draft one). Because of one thing or another, I’ve not been able to set aside as many hours per day for writing as I would like. As you might know, I also freelance for a living, and recently, a job I’d been working for several years suddenly came to an end. Not only has this left a gaping hole in the income stream, but it’s also left me looking around for a replacement job. I’ve been working up some proposals for Fiverr and PeoplePerHour, offering creative writing developmental services, and have a couple of other feelers out, but until things are back on track, I have to concentrate on finding work, while balancing the novel-writing with promotions.

So, instead of writing up to five or six thousand words per day, recently I have only been able to manage two thousand. What this has done, strangely, is make me write more slowly. I am correcting as I go. Rather than correcting a sea of red underlines at the end of a three-hour sprint, I am writing a paragraph, rereading it and making corrections and changes, and then moving on. Odd, I’ve not worked this way before.

It may be because I have the story planned in my head. I am already a few scenes in advance of myself, and, mentally, putting in the details. These often change when the fingers get to work on the keyboard, but at least I have the structure, hurdles, complications and ‘hit points’ ready for when I need them.

On which note, it’s five in the morning and I’m up early so I can do my job-hunting before I settle down to grapple with a guest appearance by a character from the Clearwater Mysteries. After that, my agent of the truth, Dalston Blaze, has another hurdle to overcome before he can move on emotionally and within what’s turning out to be a slowly building climax to a double mystery.

Talking of Dalston…

Christmas Competition with Giveaway

I’m planning to feature Dalston Blaze on the cover of a future book, but what does he look like? We already have Joe Tanner on the ‘Guardians’ cover, but how do you imagine Dalston? We know he’s six-foot, and there are a few other descriptions of him in ‘Guardians’ and ‘Keepers’, but who do you see when you read about him?

Tomorrow I will be the featured author on the fabulous M/M Euro Book Banter Facebook Page. Come over and join me and have your chance to share your image of anyone you’ve seen online who you thinks looks like Dalston.*

Do that, and you’ll be in the draw for a free eBook giveaway of ‘Agents of the Truth’ when it’s published. (Kindle or ePub version.)

Check my FaceBook page for more details.

* This may not be the person I use. I will have to license a photo/model for the cover, but it will be a bit of fun and give me a good idea of the kind of guy you’d like to see on the cover.

WIP Blog Six: Newgate Prison

WIP Blog Six: Newgate Prison

Before we get to today’s WIP update, here’s some great news. I have been nominated in ten categories in this year’s GoodReads Awards.

If you head to my FaceBook page, you will find all the nominations listed, plus links to where you can cast your votes. there are also links at the bottom of this post. I think you have to sign in to GoodReads (free) to vote, but it won’t take you long, and you can vote for as many titles as you want. It’s also great to see Andjela nominated for the best cover for ‘Guardians of the Poor.’ This has been possible thanks to my readers and members of GoodReads, and it’s got my day off to the perfect start.

Now, though, I must take you back in time and to another prison…

Yesterday, I was researching Newgate Prison. This was for a scene in ‘Agents of the Truth’, the third Larkspur Mystery, currently in its first draft (just over halfway through). I found a very useful website (link below) that shows a collection of the very few available photos of Newgate from the late 18th century. With the rain blustering in, and the temperature here dropping, and with true horror stories to read on websites and in the National Newspaper Archives, it was something of a dismal, yet fascinating day.

In the story, two characters are tracking down a third who was in Newgate Prison before and after a trial at the Old Bailey in 1889. You might remember that a week ago I was researching Millbank Prison, also in London, and that venue has yet to play its part, but it will soon. Victorian prisons were not pleasant places, as you might imagine. Prison reform took a long time to come about, and Newgate didn’t close until 1902. During the Clearwater period, it was mainly used for those awaiting trial at the Old Bailey, so I wasn’t able to keep my character there for long after sentencing; hence, Milbank comes into play in the next chapter.

For those who like the character of the barrister, Creswell, you’ll be pleased to note that he makes a cameo appearance in ‘Agents of the Truth.’ It’s only a short appearance, but it was as exhausting to write as it would have been to live through. The man simply does not stand still. He is as physically active as his mind, but still as brilliant and quick as before, and his appearance gives us a little light relief from the slowly building tension while remaining pertinent to the plot.

Plan of Newgate Prison 1880

So, that’s where I am at right now, 61,000 words and over the halfway hurdle, heading towards the last few days of the timeline, with things happening the reader knows about, but the characters don’t. That’s a fine old storytelling technique and used to make the story more compelling. I’m pleased to say, I am compelled to write more, so I will leave you with the link to Peter Berthoud’s handy blog, Discovering London, which is now bookmarked in my research folder because of his collection of old photos and his knowledge. Take a look, and if you’re in London, perhaps even take one of his guided tours. The page about Newgate Prison is here.


If you would like to vote for me and my books then please hurry over to the polls and cast your vote! You do need to be a Goodreads M/M Romance member but it is easy to sign up and then you will have access to the polls. I will post more details on Saturday. I hope to see you then.

The Perfect Day to go to Prison

The Perfect Day to go to Prison

It’s raining here in Symi, Greece today, making it the perfect day to go to prison. I’m not referring to being stuck indoors, because that’s me most days, positioned at my PC happily writing another chapter. I’m talking about research, and, in particular, research into Victorian prisons.

Part three of the new Larkspur Mystery series, ‘Agents of the Truth’, involves a prison. At least, part of the story does. To create authenticity in my imagined Clearwater world of late 1800s Britain, I make sure I do my research, so my world is as authentic as I can make it. At the moment, I am looking into Victorian prisons, and so far, have found two invaluable recourses I want to share with you.

Dictionary of Victorian London

I have a couple of sites permanently bookmarked on my toolbar. One of them is the Dictionary of Victorian London, a gem of a site created by Lee Jackson. There is an entire section there on Prisons, and, as with the rest of the site, this contains authentic reports and first-hand accounts of the subjects written at the time. Sometimes these are earlier than my period, but still in the Victorian era, and it is easy to imagine that not much changed between, say, 1840 and 1890.

Millbank Prison

I still double-check facts, though, in case changes had been made, and that’s a useful tip for anyone starting out on historical research. Always cross-reference. Yesterday, for example, I thought I’d found the prison in which to base my scenes. Coldbath Prison sounded perfect. I loved the name apart from anything else and decided to use that one. Reading further, though, revealed that although the prison in Clerkenwell was extended in 1850, it closed in 1885, and was transferred to the Post Office in 1889. Today, it is the site occupied by the Mount Pleasant sorting office, and I’ve passed it many times over the years without realising it was once a notorious prison.

So, I had to throw Coldbath out with the bathwater and find somewhere else. The Dictionary of Victorian London came in handy again, and there, I found The Wilds of London, by James Greenwood, 1874 – Three Years of Penal Servitude. I’d read some of James Greenwood’s writing before, ‘A Night in a Workhouse’, which was published in the 1860s, was his account of spending a night on the casual word of Lambeth workhouse. That article informed a couple of chapters in ‘Banyak & Fecks’, where Silas, at his lowest, spends a night in the casual ward of the Hackney workhouse. (It’s interesting for me to note that while Silas was doing that, in November 1884, two characters from the new Larkspur series, Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner, were living in the general population in the same workhouse. They would have been 12 and 13 then and would have only just met, but that’s another story.)

Location of Millbank prison

The James Greenwood piece takes the reader from the court to Newgate, where the author was held, and then later, to Millbank prison and on, later still, to Pentonville and Portland prisons. They are very detailed accounts, and those details have been invaluable when writing a chapter from a prisoner’s point of view. I decided to use Millbank prison for my setting. Millbank used to stand where the Tate Gallery is now positioned, in London, and again, I have been to the site many times without realising there was once a prison there.

Prison History Org

The second site I found was Prison History, a resource for anyone interested in the history of the British prison system. There’s a page about 19th-century prisons, and linked to that, lists of prisons, their details and even their records. The site includes ‘your stories’, which are first-hand accounts from prisoners and visitors both historic and modern. While surfing the site, I found the mention of a book that sounded exactly what I was looking for. A ‘Guide to the Criminal Prisons of Nineteenth-Century England’, by Rosalind Crone, Lesley Hoskins and Rebecca Preston. You can find this for sale online, in hardback, and it’s not cheap. However, if you take the survey at Prison History, you can then email for a free PDF download. This is exactly what I did, mainly because I wanted to thank the site for their resource, but also because I wanted the book. I had it downloaded within the hour and shall delve into it as soon as I have posted this.

Agents of the Truth

There are, of course, many other resources available if you’re researching life in the Victorian Prison. I only highlight these two because they are the ones I am currently working with. But why, you may ask? How does a prison feature in ‘Agents of the truth’?

Well, I can’t tell you too much, but what I can say is, the villain of the piece has spent time in prison, and I wanted to get inside his mind. I wanted to know what suffering he would have endured, and how he might have been treated. As I read through some of the above-mentioned articles and accounts, it occurred to me how similar prison life was to workhouse life. Except, at the workhouse, a person could choose to leave, and was not there as a punishment, even though many workhouses treated their inmates as criminals. The picking apart of oakum, the limited diet, the regimes, all were very similar, depending on what workhouse you were in.

Reading the first-hand accounts of life in a Victorian prison, it’s not difficult to imaging the hardships, the loneliness and the despair, and those are the things that are driving my evil character to do what he does. I’ve done it this way so that the reader might find some sympathy with him because even the evilest villains should spark some sympathy to make them a more rounded and believable character. Not too much sympathy, though, not considering what he is about to do.

On which note, I must get back to Millbank prison in October 1890, and let my villain loose in London…

Remember to catch up with the latest book on my Wednesday WIP blog.

Photos from wikiwand.com/Milbank Prison

WIP: Week Five. Halfway Mark

WIP: Week Five. Halfway Mark

This week’s update on my work in progress, ‘Agents of the Truth’ sees me at 47,800 words, which is nearly at the halfway mark of the planned timeline of the first draft. To be honest, I’m surprised I have made it this far in what seems a very short time. I have been managing between 2,000 and 4,000 words per day, depending on what other (paid) work has come in. There seem to be so many other little things to do, and together, they add up to a fair chunk of my writing time. I’m talking about things like replying to emails, filling out a census, looking for Christmas presents, and playing Scrabble.

Actually, the Scrabble thing is work, because I use the tiles and the board to help me with anagrams. I’ve tried online anagram makers/solvers, but they are never as satisfying as doing it yourself, and using pen and paper is trickier than having lettered tiles to move around. Also, using tiles (or cards if you don’t have enough Scrabble letters) is safer too. You find the word(s) you want to make into an anagram and select only those letters, put all others aside so you don’t get mixed up, and then you can’t go wrong.

So, nearly halfway and the story has, as I intended, split into two mysteries. In one, we have two of our new Larkspur characters now in London, and in the other, we have some of our existing Clearwater characters down at Larkspur, both working on mysteries that may or may not be related. The research is going well—everything from the British Museum and Flinders Petrie, and from the Bible to Edgar Allan Poe… Those who like a twisting mystery filled with unusual characters and led by gay men in Victorian times are in for a real treat with ‘Agents of the Past.’

I am still aiming for early next year as a release date, though probably not until the end of February at the earliest. We shall see. And now, back to writing.

I hope to see you on Saturday for my other regular weekly blog.

A Writer Writes (but not always)

A Writer Writes (but not always)

I have just read a blog post by author KJ Charles in which she warns against the guilt authors feel when they are not writing.

But hurling yourself into a book before you’re ready can be at best a waste of time, probably disheartening, and sometimes a project killer,

she writes at KJ Charles, When Not to Write. She also warns against writing when you’re not interested in writing, because then the reader won’t be interested either; and not forcing an idea, because forcing an idea can kill it. Knowing when not to write is important, she says, and I agree.

Here’s my take about not writing.

A Writer Writes

Remember ‘Throw Momma From The Train?’ that film about a frustrated author teaching creative writing? Well, Larry, played by Billy Crystal, tells his class just that; a writer writes.

But Not Always.

You know how it is when you meet someone new and they ask, ‘So, what do you do?’ and you want to say, ‘None of your business,’ but you don’t because you were well brought up. These days, I reply, ‘I’m a writer,’ because I am. I am also an author because I write novels, but a writer because I also hire myself out to write copy for websites and others when I need income. Which is all the time. I write just about every day, even if it’s only in my head, but there are some days when I simply don’t bother. Why?

I’ll explain.

Flowing

Sometimes a novel flows. I start with an idea for an opening and a climax, a theme and a device which, in the mysteries, is the key to unlocking the mystery, or the shroud that wraps the mystery and must be solved. (* Examples below.) With those in my head, or occasionally on paper, I set off on the adventure. From then on, the characters lead me down a path I have vaguely outlined in my head, and before I know it, six weeks have passed, and I am at the end of the first draft. Several of the Clearwater Mysteries happened like this because, after books one and two, I had a cast of formed characters, so I didn’t have to think about creating them, only developing them.

When I am flowing like this, I can write upwards of 6,000 words a day. Editing them later, of course, is another matter.

Slowing

On some occasions, I progress slowly, and accepting when that is necessary is a question of experience. ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’, for example, was always going to be an end of series book. Therefore, I had loose ends to tie up, events from ‘Banyak & Fecks’ which took place several years before had to come back into play, I had to revisit characters from the past and plot where they were now, put it all in the context of a legal complication and the influenza pandemic of 1889/90, and have it progress through a timeline. However, it was also a novel that started something else, the Larkspur Academy, and the follow-on series of books, the Larkspur Mysteries. That thread had to be plotted in, and those foundations laid. (They actually began in book nine, ‘Negative Exposure.’)

Thus, if a novel needs technical plotting rather than running free, I tend to write more slowly. I will imagine a scene while on a walk or watching a dull TV show, and will write it up the next day once it has fermented.

Writing like this, I can write up to 3,000 words a day, but they are more thought out and will take less editing later.

Knowing

When not to write is another matter again. Some day I know that whatever I write will be crap, yet I still make myself write something. There’s nothing more inspiring than a blank piece of paper, and each empty Word doc is a challenge. Even if the words are no good, at least you got some practise, right?

Yes, well, not always. Sometimes, as KJ Charles says, forcing an idea can kill it. So, leave it alone and go and do something else. In my case, on days like this, I go and research. I find that is not only useful for my general knowledge and world-building, but it can set off creative ideas I’d not thought of.

Knowing when not to write is as important as ‘A writer writes’, and again, comes with experience. If you’re new to writing and have the feeling of ‘Now’s not the time to write’ because you are scared to, or worse, couldn’t be bothered, be careful not to make that an excuse for not working. Sometimes writing when you’re not in the mood can work, just don’t push it, or let the poor results put you off. I know when I am writing poorly, but I also know when I am page-filling (**see below), and I know when I am writing well.

So…

Flowing, Slowing and Knowing (when to hold back and fill your time with something more positive) are my three aspects of knowing when not to write.

A writer writes, Mr Crystal, just not all the time.

* The mystery device.

An example of a device, a key that unlocks the mystery, would be the painting in Clearwater six, ‘Artful Deception.’ This is different to the ‘smoking gun’, which, to my mind, is the ‘ah-ha!’ moment of cracking the case; when a character says, ‘Oh my God! Why didn’t I think of that?’ Or finds that vital clue which has evaded him all this time.

An example of a shroud that wraps the mystery would be the poem by Tennyson in Clearwater four, ‘Fallen Splendour.’

** Page filling

I was doing it yesterday, describing the interior of the British Museum Reading Room in 1890 in great detail. What I was actually doing was familiarising myself with a location and developing an idea. A lot of what I wrote won’t make it to the book, and I’ve done that many times before. In fact, as a treat, I will let you see a chapter which never made it to a book. This was going to be ‘Men of a Similar Heart’, a Clearwater Mystery about a death at a public school when Clearwater was young. I wrote the first five chapters, and had a thoroughly fun time doing so, and had the entire plot worked out. But then… it didn’t feel right, went so slowly I knew I didn’t want to be there. I knew something wasn’t right, so I put it aside for later. I still have the draft chapters though, and I’ll put part of one up now.

Remember, this is draft one, unedited, not proofed, and may come into use later.


Men of a Similar Heart, A Clearwater Mystery, Chapter Two in part, first draft. Copyrighted.

02

Witheringly thin and pale, the man clung to the back of his chair for support. His eyes hung in his face as two dark circles above prominent cheekbones, themselves overhangs of hollow cheeks. Silas didn’t know the man, but he was immediately concerned. Falconbridge was Archer’s age, but looked twenty years older, his eyes were tinted yellow, and his lips nearly non-existent. The only thing that suggested his thirty years was his hair, cut in a younger man’s fashion and thick, the temples, however, showing streaks of grey against black. Silas assumed he needed help discovering who was behind his poisoning; it was the only reason he could think of for an ill man to consider a private investigator.

He was soon to be proved wrong.

‘Clearwater,’ Falconbridge said, a smile on his skeletal face. ‘How the devil are you?’

Barely contained by skin, his Adam’s apple rose and fell like the puck of Silas’ imagined high striker, and the hand he offered was more bone than flesh.

‘Better than you by my first examination,’ Archer replied. ‘Freddie, are you ill?’

‘No, Archer, I am quite healthy.’ Hands were shaken and withdrawn. ‘I am suffering no disease or disability, but I am gravely concerned. Sit. Dine. I shall explain all.’

‘My secretary and friend, Silas Hawkins.’ For obvious reasons, it was as close to a personal introduction as Archer ever made about Silas, and in this instance came with the added, ‘Hawkins is also one of our two lead investigators.’

Introductions made, and seats taken, Archer switched the conversation to a less dramatic topic than Falconbridge’s appearance, the menu.

On cue, a waiter appeared from a door hidden among the cartoon representations of London characters that ladened the panelled walls, and slithered to the table to serve water. As he did so, an unexpected beam of sunlight streamed through the tall windows, one of which was partially open allowing the sound of the street to invade, and the waiter asked if Their Lordships would rather have it closed. As Falconbridge was the host, Archer left the decision to him, and, to Silas’ horror, did the same with the meal. Falconbridge chose the most uninspiring of dishes accompanied by a German wine, and told the waiter to leave the window open but to stoke the fire.

‘An excellent choice,’ the waiter fawned, unconvinced, before putting logs in the grate and slipping from the room as greasily as he had entered.

‘Terribly sorry to have been so blunt,’ Archer said once they were alone. ‘I didn’t mean to be rude, Freddie, but you don’t look at all well.’

‘The matter is forgotten.’ Falconbridge waved away the faux pas with spindly fingers. ‘I have become accustomed to the reaction of late.’

‘What has gone wrong?’

‘Nothing is amiss with me,’ Falconbridge said, adjusting his napkin. ‘But I fear something has gone terribly wrong with a dear friend of mine.’

‘I would suggest he’s a very dear friend,’ Silas said, his mind already filtering information.

‘Why do you say that?’

To his credit, Falconbridge didn’t take umbrage at a mere secretary joining the conversation as if they were well acquainted, and his manner was civil. His tone suggested he had already accepted Silas as an investigator of worth, a sign, perhaps that he was desperate. Either that, or Archer had sold the agency’s talents to him in a private correspondence. Whatever the reason for the viscount’s acceptance, Silas needed to live up to the part, and thought like James would have done while applying Thomas’ impeccable manners.

Silas had spent enough time working with Dr Markland at the mission to have picked up a few technical words and some knowledge of illness, and employed his experience in the manner Markland used when at work.

‘A man,’ he began once he was sure of his words, ‘that orders a light lunch because he has no appetite. Excuse the forwardness, but I suggest you have not eaten well for two or three weeks at least. I am no doctor, Sir, but the description His Lordship gave of you bears little resemblance to what I see, and as the two of you last met six months ago, the change is dramatic.’

Falconbridge gawped from Silas to Archer, himself wide-eyed at the sudden change in his secretary.

‘Go on,’ Falconbridge said, more interested than affronted at the familiarity.

‘Again, forgive my boldness,’ Silas continued. ‘But as you say you are physically fit and well, I have to conclude that you are suffering from nervous exhaustion. You suggest a problem with a friend, but this person must mean more to you than the average chum, else why worry yourself to starvation?’

‘I agree,’ Archer said. ‘Either that, Freddie, or you have transformed through some curse, which, in this day and age, and for a man so well educated, I find unlikely.’ Leaning on his elbows with a wicked glint in his eye, he enthused, ‘Or you are lovesick. Who is she?’

Falconbridge also leant forward, but his eyes were neither wicked nor glinting. They were wide with wonder.

‘I knew I’d come to the right men,’ he said, cracking a smile of pale gums. ‘You’re right, of course, Clearwater, but the friend is not a lady.’

‘Oh?’

‘Before I say more…’

Falconbridge paused as the waiter slunk back to the table, presented the wine, opened it, had it approved, and poured. The moment the bottle was in the ice bucket, another waiter appeared, this one crookbacked with a face set in a permanent leer, and set down the first course; a depressing salad served with a suspicion of sardines.

Once the hidden door had thudded gently back into place, Falconbridge resumed his sentence.

‘I wanted to ask how your new venture is coming along.’

‘The electricity company, the Henwood stud farm or the detective agency?’ Archer enquired.

‘The agency. Are your men experienced?’

‘We are,’ Archer replied. ‘And I say we because I count myself among the number. Mr Hawkins has handled several successful cases. Our director, James Wright, you may have heard of as it was he who cracked The Case of the Poisonous Parakeet, as the more sensational press titled it. We also have among our number Doctor Philip Markland who devised the cure for the unfortunate victim, a Russian speaking man of action, another who specialises in firearms, and we have a range of experts on whom we can rely. Together, we have extensive knowledge of codes, mysteries, the law and other foul deeds.’

‘Most excellent,’ Falconbridge nodded. ‘But who are these men? Where did you find them?’

‘At home,’ Archer said, calmly investigating his salad.

Silas couldn’t start eating until the viscounts did, and Falconbridge showed no interest in his meal. Growing tired of the politeness and formality, he decided to move things along.

‘Aye,’ he said. ‘Jimmy was His Lordship’s valet, Andrej’s the coachman. The butler looks after the weapons in his cellar, and we’ve got an assistant housekeeper with a memory like a camera. Oh, and our man of all works knows a bit about mechanics. Our disguise man lives next door. You don’t need to worry about credentials, Your Lordship.’

‘I see that you come with the brevity of the Irish, Mr Hawkins,’ Falconbridge said, unfazed by what he had been told. ‘But I can’t quite place the accent.’

‘Dublin, My Lord, though raised in Westerpool.’

‘Ah, then that will be it. Please, do start.’

Silas did, but soon wished he hadn’t. Spoiled of late by Lucy’s overindulgence in the kitchen, a weak salad that smelt of Billingsgate leftovers was not exactly his cup of tea. A cup of tea would have gone down better than the insipid wine, and Archer’s barely concealed gasp of dismay when he took a sip, suggested he was of the same opinion.


And so it wittered on to the end of 3,700 words. I took from it the name Falconbridge (‘Negative Exposure’), and rather liked the descriptions of the waiters, but that was about it.

And so… To work. I hope to see you on Wednesday for the Work In Progress blog.

WIP: Week Three. Act One.

WIP: Week Three. Act One.

‘Agents of the Truth’ is coming along. I am now up to 20,000 words and am halfway through chapter eight. I had intended to reach 25,000 and the end of act one, but I may go over that target, which means we might be in for a longer novel. Either that, or there will be lots to edit. It’s zipping along, though, as per my usual style. Plenty of intrigues, some pressures building in the background for the characters to be challenged with later. I’ve also dropped clues for later (and noted them so I don’t forget to resolve them), and there has been some humour.

You might wonder what I mean by ‘Act One’, so let me explain. I’ve picked up the term from my screenplay writing, because films are all about structure, and are divided into acts. I have several books on the subject, and if you want to know more, I suggest two:

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler Mythic Structure for Writers

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

Here they are on my shelf beside my Jackson Marsh collection. Ann Zouroudi, who writes the Greek Detective Mysteries published by Bloomsbury, gave me the Vogler book, so it has a special place on my shelf. It’s a great book for understanding the journey of a hero through a classic story, which he breaks down into acts. The Aronson one is more filmmaking centred, and discusses other structures besides the four-act structure I favour. Both are invaluable for plotting, character arcs, and structure, whether for film or fiction.

Act One

I’ve read many discussions of the four-act structure of storytelling, and when you know what they are, you recognise them in films. A standard film script will be roughly 20 pages for each act, leading to an 80-page script, with each page being one minute of screen time. During that time, things happen that turn the plot and move things forward, and they always happen at the end of acts. I’m referring to the plot there, but along with the plot, a character will also develop, and that process goes through several stages of the four acts. (We’ll have a quick look at that in a moment.)

We often refer to act one to as ‘The normal world’, where everything is in its place and the hero/heroine is undisturbed. Then, a challenge comes along, he resists it, gets mentored, accepts it, and ‘steps over the threshold’ into the new and unexplored world of act two… and off we go. That’s known as the reluctant hero’s journey beginning. In my Clearwater world, the heroes are rarely reluctant, but I still use the same basic structure.

Without giving away too much, ‘Agents of the Truth’ starts out in Archer’s normal world, a villain makes a subtle appearance, the men at the academy are existing in their normal world too, but then one or two are asked to assist with something outside of their usual day-to-day. They accept the challenge, and away we go. Simple?

You can rest assured it won’t be!

Four Acts

Think of any standard horror film and you’ll easily be able to identify your four acts. Crudely put, they run like this.

Act 1, There is no shit

Act 2, What is this shit?

Act 3, What do we do about this shit?

Act 4, Shit dealt with

Or to use Titanic a more gentille example, with the end of act turning points:

Act 1, People board the Titanic, and it sets off

Act 2, Rose and Jack get it together, ship hits iceberg

Act 3, Ship is sinking, panic, ship sinks

Act 4, Jack dies, stories resolve, Rose dies

20,000 words

Having written many books and screenplays in the four-act structure, I now find I don’t need to remind myself of turning points, character arcs and so on. They come naturally to me, although they are always at the back of my mind. So, having reached 20,000 words and approached my end of act one target, I find I will go beyond it. That’s fine, the novel can be longer, or it can be cut, because I have not yet reached the turning point that will take us into act two.

In terms of writing, I should have written 25 or 30,000 words by now, but in the last couple of days, a few home-life things got in the way. I.e. Needing a new washing machine, having to take some paid work to make money, cooking a chocolate mousse, etc.

So, I shall leave this here, and get back to ‘Agents of the Truth’ (I like the title more each day), and I’ll see you on Saturday when there will be an interview with one of my characters. Dalston Blaze will be along to talk about his life in the workhouse, his love for Joe Tanner, and his move to the Larkspur Academy. I hope to see you then.

WIP: Week Two, Plotster and Panster


WIP: Week Two, Plotster and Panster

I am in my second week of writing Larkspur Three. I have the working title, ‘Agents of the Truth’, and I am currently halfway through chapter five of the first draft. I don’t know if you remember, but last week I said that I had plotted the four acts of this story, and was wondering what was going to take up the middle two. Well, now I find I have plenty going on in the middle two acts, and at the end, but not so much in the first quarter. Maybe what I mean is I have too many ideas for the middle and just enough for the first and last, but that, for me, is the point of a first draft. As you may know, I live by the maxim:

Don’t get it right, get it written (and then get it right).

And that’s the point of a first draft. Tell yourself a story and then perfect it. You can’t edit a blank page, so write something.

In this case, I have written nearly five chapters, but I shan’t tell you what’s happening, as that’s not the point of WIP Wednesdays. The point of this blog is to tell you how I am writing it, and to catch you up on any other news, books-wise or personal, and that, I shall do at the end.

Plotster/Pantster

When I first hear these two words, I had to scramble around to find out what they meant, and once I’d done that, they were obvious.

Plotster. Someone who plots a story before writing it.

Panster. Someone who makes it up as they go along.

I am a hybrid because I do both, but why ‘they’ don’t just use plotter and freestyle is beyond me.

In the case of ‘Agents’, as we will call the WIP, I needed facts at my fingertips because the story involved eight murders over 10 years, and some of the details were discussed in ‘Keepers of the Past’, therefore, I needed consistency. Along with those notes, I plotted a basic outline because there are to be two points of view; one MC remaining in Cornwall while the second MC heads to London, and I need a timeline so I know where and when everyone is. There is also a deadline and I have a date for that (October 31st 1890), so, I thought, I need to plan every day of the story.

Well, I don’t actually, because I can always go back and redate the chapters if I need to, as long as I am not relying on a factual event that took place on a specific date in 1890, and so far, I am not.

I am, however, usually more of a panster, and I am being one in the case of ‘Agents’ — to a certain degree. I have a timeline, I know how I want Act 1 to end, and I know what the middle-point twist is at the end of Act 2, what the crisis is at the end of Act 3 and what the climax is during Act 4, but I haven’t yet thought of the details. Much of that will come from the characters as I put them together and let them lead while using their own reasoning. Example: I might think it best that characters A and B do this… But, when the dialogue and action are flowing, one of them may come up with another idea and they end up doing that

That’s happened to me before. I get so into a scene, I let it run away from me, but I keep typing and let the characters talk and interact, and usually, I end up with a twist or turn I’d not thought of. I know it still comes from me, but when you free yourself from the plotster stricture, you can do more inventive things.

And that’s where I am right now with ‘Agents’, banging through draft one, and currently at… [does a quick check] …11,160 words. Oh, that’s not bad, actually. I usually aim for the first act to end around 25,000 words, so I am nearly halfway through the first quarter of the book.

I’ll chat about the four-act structure another time. For now, here’s some random book and home news.

See below

Book and Home

In the book department, ‘Keepers of the Past’ shot to #6 in Amazon’s LGBTQ/Historical ranking within a couple of days of release. I now have three titles in the top 100, and that’s great news.

Symi yesterday morning

Meanwhile, at home, I’ve started taking myself off for a couple of miles walking in the morning. This is after I’ve done a little freelance work, and before I sit down to do chatty blogs and write chapters. I like to go as soon as it’s light, and before I get stuck into creative writing, because then I have the rest of my day free. I usually take the same route, but I’ll post the odd photo now and then so you can see what I am looking at while I walk and plot the next chapter. Talking of which…

Back to work.

See you on Saturday for my next blog post.