Archive for November, 2015

Saving Anna and Visiting Lilly

I’m proud to announce that Visiting Lilly now has a sequel, Saving Anna.

When I first wrote Visiting Lilly I knew that my main characters, Detective Inspector Jake Talbot and Frankie Hayward, had many mores stories to tell, but I didn’t have a publishing contract, so the ideas sat on the back-burner. As soon as I was published by Booktrope they asked if I had any other novels I’d already written, to which I replied, ‘yes,’ and then quietly slipped in that I’d already scratched out a first chapter of Saving Anna, a new mystery with the same lead characters.

I was advised to prioritise finishing Saving Anna, and to build a series. Finish it? I’d hardly started writing it at that stage. Yipes! But hey, if the publisher wants more, then the publisher shall have more. Who was I as a fledgling novelist to refuse such an offer? As time went by I quickly learnt that this is how it works in the world of being a ‘real’ writer. While we were editing Visiting Lilly I was busy plotting and writing Saving Anna.

Having agreed to write a series, I had to come up with a name for it, so that readers can easily see that the books are associated with each other, and that they’ll find a story about the characters they’ve already become familiar with. After much deliberation I decided on Jake Talbot Investigates which gives a fair idea of what a reader will find between the covers. I then realised that the series title is a little long to hashtag on Twitter, so look out for #JTI as I’ll be using this abbreviation in tweets.

Saving Anna book coverVisiting Lilly is based in Farnham, Surrey, but I spend some of my time down in Dorset, and am very passionate about the local wildlife, history and scenery. For Saving Anna I decided to shift location and have Talbot and Frankie travel to Bridport, Dorset, to carry out an investigation. In truth Talbot starts off being requested to only observe a cult, the Temple of Purple Light, and report back to the Ministry of Defence, but he’s determined to find out what they’re up to as their beliefs pose a threat to his catatonic sister, Anna. Furthermore the MOD also need Frankie’s exceptional computer skills, skills he’s prohibited from using except on the Ministry’s behalf.

Neither man knows what they’re meant to be looking for, but observation turns into investigation when they discover a woman’s body draped over the gravestone of one of Talbot’s ancestors. Soon after, a dangerous piece of evidence slips into Talbot’s hands, the plotters’ desperation to get it back becoming the catalyst for murder.

As they uncover a conspiracy that links psychic manipulation, drugs, and death, the two friends grow from master and apprentice to partners in detection, protecting each other from increasing hazards. The trail leads them into deeper shadows, where Talbot’s old enemy waits to wreak a revenge that is as shocking as it is painful.

How far will Jake go to save his sister?

Each book in my Jake Talbot Investigates mystery series is a stand-alone novel, a complete story in itself. I’m now busy writing Book 3, Finding Louisa, which brings the action back to Farnham. A little girl has gone missing from the ponds and wooded acres of Puttenham Common. As they work on finding Louisa, Jake Talbot and Frankie unearth shocking evidence that links back to an old case.

We’ll be running promotions to celebrate the launch of Saving Anna, so come along and join me on Twitter @Listansus and watch out for the #JTI hashtag.

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Jane Austen the complete collectionI must admit that until recently I’ve never truly understood why everyone gets so excited about Jane Austen. To my mind her novels have always been classic romantic tales of girl meets boy, then through some social disaster girl gets torn away from boy, only to meet boy again and live happily ever after. The end.

Not so fast. This is a highly simplistic way of viewing Austen’s work. Yes, I have been naïve in my understanding and comprehension of what she is actually showing us. When I studied Persuasion at school we all mocked Louisa’s stupidity for leaping off The Cobb when it was slippery, thus twisting her ankle. What was wrong with the woman? When we took a school trip to Austen’s home, Chawton Cottage, we all gazed dumbfounded at the small round table she wrote at. Yeah, it’s a table, not even a proper desk. And, in more mature years, like many other women, I’ve slow motioned the scene of Colin Firth, aka Mr Darcy, diving into the ornamental pond wearing a white shirt, which once wetted, turns semi-transparent. Hmm, very nice indeed, thank you.

Apart from Mr Firth’s shirt, what is all the fuss about? Watch the clip and listen to what Darcy asks Elizabeth near the end.

I’m not a great historian, and although interested in historical events, my ability to retain specific data is sorely lacking. I’m one of those people who needs surround-sound educational material, with lots of pictures and associated stories before history means anything to me. A text book of dry words has me yawning and gazing out of the window. Fortunately, I own a television. It’s an appliance that sits in the corner and gets switched on once every few days. I’m not an addict. I trawl through the TV listings and record programmes I might be interested in. Out of mild curiosity I set my system to record the BBC’s ‘At Home with the Georgians.’

After watching the very first episode I began to comprehend Jane Austen’s novels. Yippee! At last! I already knew that in Georgian times it was impossible for a woman to inherit property or finances unless it was particularly specified in a will. Women were powerless in that respect. I also knew that the type of carriage one used was important, not only because it declared status, but also because it showed how modern you were, and whether you used the equivalent of a Ferrari or a 2CV. This latter fact didn’t escape my notice because I’m a bit of a petrol-head, and I can therefore easily make associations with my personal interest.

Property is the part that I had never understood. The house. What kind of gaff the bloke could offer. Wow! It’s a revelation. In Pride and Prejudice there’s an awkward scene in which Elizabeth Bennett visit’s Darcy’s home, Pemberley, with her aunt and uncle. Darcy is known to be away, but he returns unexpectedly, causing Elizabeth great embarrassment. Yeah, serves her right for snooping. Hang on, Georgian social conventions were different than ours. If someone owned a fine house with a large estate, it was normal and accepted behaviour for them to permit visitors to view their house while they were absent. A few people still do this, especially in London if they have an architecturally interesting property.

We’re now beginning to see that an understanding of Georgian social conduct gives us greater insight into Austen’s world. While watching ‘At Home with the Georgians,’ I’ve learnt that great importance was placed on owning your own home, as well as wallpaper being the new fashionable trend. ChippendaleThe cabinet maker Chippendale was the first person to create a sales catalogue from which you could choose products from the comfort of your own home, and above all else, personal taste, as displayed by how you decorated your living quarters, was the in thing. This is why in Austen’s books women are always popping over to ‘take tea’ with some important lady or another. It isn’t for the genteel conversation, it’s to judge their host’s taste, and to decide whether or not they are worthy companions. These days we choose what to display on Facebook, in Georgian times people walked straight into your living room, so there was no picking or choosing choice tit-bits to show off, everything had to be socially acceptable.

Chawton Cottage - Jane Austen's home

Chawton Cottage – Jane Austen’s home

This is such an eye-opener. In Sense and Sensibility I’ve always fully understood that the Dashwood women should feel heartbroken at having to leave their beautiful estate, Norland, when their half-brother inherits. What I didn’t comprehend was that when they are left with meagre means, it’s not simply the lack of superior daily provisions, but also the lack of a fine home which makes them a less than attractive proposition to many suitable men. This is why Willoughby jilts Marianne, she has no money, and is considered lacking by his aunt, on whom he’s dependant, due to their inferior social status. In other words, they didn’t live in the right type of house as would befit any future wife of her precious nephew. No doubt they didn’t have the correct wallpaper either.


Chawton House where Austen’s brother lived

In Georgian middle-class England women were chosen on breeding and wealth. In fact there were published lists of how much each woman could be expected to bring as a dowry. Men would make a bee-line for the most prosperous women first, of course. But let us not make these men all out to be gold-diggers. ‘At Home with the Georgians’ included readings from diaries and letters of men who thought themselves too unworthy to wed, mainly because they still lived under their father’s roofs and had no property to offer their prospective wife. To seduce a woman with a house was to offer her the opportunity to decorate it as she wished and to flourish within society. This is what a Georgian woman required in order to feel fulfilled.

There were, of course, exceptions to this accepted notion of happiness, but I’m not certain that Austen was a true rebel. Just like the Dashwood women, Jane Austen, her mother and sister, were ousted from their family home when the eldest son inherited. Living in comfortable circumstances, on the fringes of society amongst the landed gentry, much of Austen’s work focuses on a woman’s need for security, how society gives women no power, and of the need for a home. I believe that Austen truly desired these things. Although Austen never married, it is said that she did receive at least one proposal of marriage, but there is nothing written as to why she refused him.

Austen’s home, Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, is only a short drive down the road from me. I live on the edge of Jane Austen country, and often pass many country estates which could readily stand in as Norland or Pemberley. Next summer I shall visit Chawton Cottage again, look at the little table she sat at to write, and see if it’s grown in stature at all now that I understand more about the world she lived in.

Finding a modern day Pemberley. An article pondering which house Mr Darcy might buy now.

Which is your ideal Mr Darcy?

Colin Firth Darcy

Colin Firth


Matthew Macfadyen

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VL 4 Traditonal detectives

As you’re probably aware by now, Book 2 in my Jake Talbot Investigates series, Saving Anna, is due for release REALLY soon. I’m so excited by the approaching launch of my new book that I thought it would be great to offer book 1 for free between 9th – 13th November. Grab your copy!

This is a terrific opportunity to meet British Detective Jake Talbot and join him in unravelling the mystery of a romance that crosses the boundaries of time. Why doesn’t anyone want young Frankie Hayward to visit an old woman named Lilly? Why is the Ministry of Defence interested in Frankie? Can Jake manage to set aside the unhappy memories of Christmas past, and keep working through the festive season: or will he crack under the strain?

Find out in Visiting Lilly


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