character sketch: Rob from Inheritance of Shadows

Rob is a farm worker on Matty’s farm. He was born in 1884 and started working there when he was about thirteen. He’s now about thirty-five. He’s gentle and good with animals. He’s clever, thoughtful and quiet, a steady sort of person who likes to think things through before acting. If I had to use one verb to describe him, it would be stabilize.

He joined the army in 1914 when Britain first went to war with Germany and was promoted to Sergeant in the Signals by the time he was discharged in 1919. He’s largely self-educated, very eclectically. He’s a regular library user.

His wartime experience involved a lot of communications tech and he happens to find ciphers and codes fascinating and breaks them for fun. (This is extremely handy for my story, I have no idea how it happened, honest!).

Rob has been in love with Matty for years, but Matty was oblivious. Neither of them said anything to each other before they went off to the war, but afterwards, Rob decided that life was too short and fragile not to take a chance at happiness and made his feelings for Matty clear.

Their story begins in The Gate, which is free on the various ebook platforms and when you sign up for my newsletter; and it continues in Inheritance of Shadows.


I am trying to serialize IOS free, monthly for newsletter readers (not always successfully because of life-chaos). The following month, episodes then go to my Ko-fi for subscribers and hopefully when I finish the whole thing I’ll be publishing it as a novel.

research rabbit-holes

One of the things I find most difficult about writing in a period or place I don’t know all that well is research. Not because I find research hard… although it can be. My issue is that I find I get sucked down rabbit-holes and dead ends in to fascinating articles on subjects I have no need to know about in depth.

Image by ardilladecolores from Pixabay

Today for example… Himalayan mountain sheep, Argali, which led me in to an article about Himalayan grass populations. Then eighteenth century shoes, which morphed in to three articles on seventeenth century Civil War uniforms. And I am still digesting this fascinating article about the eighteenth century garden flower seed trade.

My work in progress is a whole new era and location for me – the Himalayas in the 1780s – and it’s taking me ages to get to grips with the setting of the story. I was going to spend April doing Camp Nano and get the first draft sorted by the end of the month. That is not happening – life, children, chickens, all that good stuff has pretty much overwhelmed me. But I’m plodding along now, back in my thousand-word-a-day groove, or close to it and it’s just a matter of time.

I’m also working on my serialized sequel to The Gate, the continuing adventures of Matty and Rob, that will be released to newsletter subscribers as I go. (Please do sign up if you’d like to be included in this!). This doesn’t require quite so much research because I am already comfortable writing in that era after two full-length books and the short story, so fingers crossed I can keep it going.

Shadows On The Border

Release Date: 9th March 2019.

This is the sequel to Lost In Time and the books make most sense when read in order.

Newspaper reporter Lew Tyler and his lover, Detective Alec Carter, are working out the parameters of their new relationship. Meanwhile, Lew is trying to decide whether he wants to stay in the 1920s or find a way to get back to 2016 and Alec is trying to decide whether he can bear the vulnerability of being in love with someone who uses such dangerous magic.

Fenn is a Hunter from the Outlands, come through the Border to search for the murderous Creature and its offspring at the behest of The Ternants, who maintain the balance between Fenn’s world and ours. Fenn strikes a bond with Sergeant Will Grant, Alec’s second in command, who is keen to learn more about his own magical abilities and as time goes on also becomes keen to learn more about Fenn.

Fenn has their own painful secret and when they appear to have betrayed the team and and goes missing in London, Will is devastated. He has to choose between following his heart or following his duty.

Moving through the contrasting rich and poor areas of post-First World War London from West End hotels to the London docklands, they need to work together to capture the Creature and choose who and what is important enough to hold on to with both hands and what they may need to give up to make that happen.

Image of blurb for Shadows On The Border

The Gate

My 7,500 word freebie short story “The Gate” is now available for download when you join my mailing list at Bookfunnel.

It’s 1918, and Matty returns home to the family farm from the trenches only to find his brother Arthur dying of an unknown illness. The local doctor thinks it might be cancer, but Matty becomes convinced it’s connected to the mysterious books his brother has left strewn around the house.

Matty confides his suspicions in his friend Rob, a hired hand on the farm and potential lover. Rob has found something that looks like a gate of some kind, something Arthur referenced in his papers which may rest at the heart of his illness. But a gate to where?


Read an excerpt:

The tap at the kitchen door took him unaware and he carried the bottle of brandy out with him to answer it. It was Rob. Matty stepped back in silent invitation and let him in. “All right?” Rob asked, quietly.

“Not really. Do you want a drink?” Matty gestured to the bottle he’d set on the table.

Rob looked at him with narrowed eyes and nodded. “I’ll join you.” He’d been promoted up to sergeant in the Signal Corp, Matty remembered, in a disconnected sort of way.

“Come on through. I was in his study.”

Rob hesitated. The farm men never came any farther into the house than the kitchen. But it was an unusual day. In front of the sideboard, Matty slopped some more out of the bottle into another dusty glass and proffered it. Rob took it and sat where Matty gestured, on the worn leather settee. Neither spoke. It was a comfortable kind of silence.

He and Rob had always got on, in the way of single men. They’d gone to the pub together sometimes and taken a couple of local sisters on Courting Walks through the bluebell woods as a pair, a long time ago. Matty hadn’t been particularly interested in Marie Booth and he didn’t think Rob had been much interested in her sister Clemmie, either, probably for the same reason. Matty had made sure never to look at him like that, though. He didn’t need that sort of trouble on his doorstep.

But now he really looked at the other man, comfortably sprawled opposite him. Looking back, they’d been inseparable. Four years of muddling through in the trenches and taking soldier’s comfort in a few minutes here and there, furtive and messy behind the lines, had snapped something in him. He didn’t really care overmuch what people thought of him, not anymore. And he suspected a lot of other people were the same. When you’d had boys too young to be away from their mothers die in your arms, you learned to grasp for any comfort or happiness when it appeared and damn the consequences.

“I was just checking on you.” Rob said quietly. “I can go if you like.”

“No, don’t go. I appreciate the company. I just haven’t got much talk left in me.”

“No need to talk with me, Matty, you know that.” Rob’s smile was slight but genuine. He turned to small talk. “Cows are milked. I left the churns in the dairy, though. It’s too warm to put them out tonight. We’ll need to do something about the back of the barn before the winter. There’s gaps of light coming in through that red stone wall. The brick’s crumbling away.”

They made desultory conversation for a half hour and Matty’s eyes started to droop. “You need to sleep, lad.” He could hear a small, genuine smile in Rob’s voice.

“I do.” He stood and put his glass on the sideboard. “Thank you.”

“Any time. Just ask. Whatever you need.” Rob stood quietly beside him, stalwart and solid and so very comforting. They faced each other. Rob raised his hand to the back of Matty’s neck and Matty stepped forward into the embrace. Rob’s other arm came around him and settled him, forehead against that broad shoulder, smelling of hay and good sweat. It was such a relief to have someone else take his weight for a little while. Neither moved. After a little while, Matty felt Rob press a soft kiss against the top of his head. He was hard in his corduroys, against Matty’s hip, and Matty felt himself stirring in response. “Get some sleep. It’ll all look different in the morning.” The arms fell away with a passing caress to his nape and they stepped apart.


You can find the right format for your eReader when you sign up to my mailing list via Bookfunnel.

The Gate has a cover!

Look, here’s a thing! Yesterday, JMS sent me the cover art for The Gate, my new short story.

Matty comes home to the family farm from the trenches in 1918 to find his brother dying of an unknown illness that the local doctor thinks is cancer. Matty is convinced it’s connected to the mysterious books his brother has left strewn around the house. With the help of his friend and would-be lover, Rob, Matty needs to work out what killed his brother and prevent it hurting anyone else.

The story is set in the same universe as Lost In Time, my debut novel that is set for release in January. The Gate will be available from JMS Books as a freebie from the 23rd December.