Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: THE STOKER CONNECTION by Jackson Marsh-Includes Guest Post!

The Stoker Connection

Author: Jackson Marsh
Release Date: Saturday, June 23 2018
Format: Paperback, eBook
Word Count: 95,000
Cover Artist: Andjela K
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Teen (coming out), Thriller, Treasure Hunt


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

Dexter and Morgan meet on their eighteenth birthday. The attraction is instant but confusing. As they deal with coming out, they are bound together by more than first love.

Both keep diaries, and each has the same goal - to prove that Stoker didn't write 'Dracula'. They are convinced that Harker, Van Helsing and the others existed and wrote the novel's journals themselves. If Dex and Morgan can prove it, they will blow the lid off the vampire myth: Dracula existed.

As the two teenagers fall in love, so they fall into an adventure as thrilling as it is dangerous. They are being watched, and someone is willing to kill to stop them from making 'The Stoker Connection.'

The Stoker Connection is an MM Romance treasure hunt thriller. It draws on the original text of 'Dracula', but it is not a story about vampires. It is a story of first love and the power of friendship. Sometimes funny, it is an intriguing and honest account compiled from Dex and Morgan's original diaries.

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Dexter Mitchel's Diary

8 November (written on 9th). — Continued. And then there was his face, and his build, his clothes and something else that started to nag at my lust-muscles, whatever they are.

I knew I had to say something. He was looking expectantly at me, and to ignore him would be rude. I stuck out my hand on impulse.

'Great questions,' I said, my throat dry.

He took my hand, damp with sweat, and shook it.

'What a let-down,' he said, jerking his head towards the stage.

'Hell, yes. Not what I wanted to hear.'

'I know the play wasn't about Arnold's theory, but she must have looked into it.'

'Apparently not.'



We were still shaking hands.

'You've read the book?' he asked.

'Loads of times. You?'

He nodded. 'You're the only person I've met who's even heard of it.'

'Ditto. You believe it? His theory?'

Hands still being shaken, voices enthusiastic, my lust-muscles now in hopeful overdrive.

'I do, but I have one of my own.'

I grinned. 'Me too.'

I was aware that my palm was wet, and I glanced down. It was a bit embarrassing to still be holding hands now, so I opened my fingers to release him. He didn't open his. OMG, was that a signal of some sort? He was gorgeous. A moment of social 'What do I do?' and I gripped his hand again, sending my own signal.

'Sorry you didn't get to ask anything,' he said as if it was his fault.

'I didn't need to. You did it for me.'

He looked surprised and then impressed. We were the same height, more or less, so I was able to look right into his eyes. I saw something there. Something that I couldn't quite grasp at first.

'Would you…? No, forget it,' he said, and let go of my hand.

'What?' I continued to grip his.

'Just a thought.' He pulled his hand away.

That was that, then. 

'Dexter, are you ready?'

Mum was at the door. I don't know how long she'd been there, but she would have been there long enough to see us holding hands.

'You have to go,' he said, a matter of fact rather than a disappointed enquiry. 'Yeah.' He received a disappointed reply. 'Birthday dinner with family.' 'Dexter?' Mum insisted.

I told her I would be there in five minutes and she made it clear it had to be two, which made me feel ten years old, but at least she left us alone.

'Look,' he said, as soon as she had gone. 'I'd like to talk more, about Arnold's theory, and about my own. If you're interested?'

'Yes please,' I blurted, sounding lame. I recovered. 'Dexter Mitchel.' Except I tapped my chest like I was Tarzan when I said it.

'Me Morgan Davis.' He did the same, with a Tarzan voice, and I knew then that we were going to hit it off.

The question was, to what extent?

Actually, the pressing question was when? I fumbled for my notebook and tore out a page. 'My email,' I said, trying to write neatly (a gift I have yet to receive). I must have looked like a flustered waiter who's just been torn off a strip. I handed it to him so hurriedly I dropped my notebook.

'My card,' he said, coolly offering a white business card and taking my scrap of paper.

His name and email were all that were on it. 

'I'll message you,' I said, picking up my book and noticing mum back at the door. 

Upright again, I added, 'I'd invite you, but it's on the uncle and aunt.'

'You would invite me?' he said, eyebrows raised. 'How kind.'

Who says 'How kind' like that? Morgan, obviously. Perhaps he was much older than he looked.

'Yes, I would, but I can't. Let’s talk, yeah?' I had to move away from him, I had to go. I was desperate to stay and learn more. I mean, who else out there has even read this book, let alone had a theory about it? 

'I'll write,' he said. 'Email me.'

A sudden thought attacked out of left field, and I don't know why I did it, but I took back the scrap of paper and wrote, 'I'm gay,' before handing it back and saying, 'Don't let that put you off. It's not why I want to write to you.'

'Dexter.' The last warning from mum.

'Tomorrow,' I said, suddenly sick inside. What the fuck had I just done? And why? Too late to worry now, I'd done it. 'I'll email you tomorrow…' I was heading for the gents so I could change, bright red and trembling.

'I won't, Dexter,' he called after me. 'And have a birthday drink for me too.'

It stopped me in my tracks. Sod the Adams family currently gathering at the Metropole. They could fester for another minute. I spun around to find him facing me. We were both grinning.

'For you?' Did he mean it was also his birthday?

'Today.' He made a small bow.

'Mum?' I pleaded towards the exit. She shook her head. Even randomly meeting a stranger who shares the same obscure interest and birthday was not enough to get him an invite.

'How old?' Morgan asked, and I didn't find it intrusive.

'Eighteen. You?' It was easy to ask.

He did that friendly wink again. 'Would you believe eighteen?'

No f*cking way. 'Today?' I glared at mum again. We had to invite him. 

No chance.

'We would invite you,' she told him. 'But it's not up to me.'

'No, no, of course not, don't worry,' he said, all smiles and thanks. 'I have a journal to write up in any case.'

'F*ck off!' That was out of my mouth before I knew it. 'I do that too.'

We stared at each other until he said, 'These coincidences are a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner.' An altered quote from the end of chapter two ('Dracula' obviously). He nodded to me. 'I'm away from my email until tomorrow night, but I'll be waiting to hear from you.' 

'I'll write,' I stammered back.

He waved my piece of paper at me as he left. 'I do hope so.'

Guest Post:
How did 'The Stoker Connection' come about?

I blame Orson Welles. When I was young, I saw 'The night that panicked America' on the television. That's an Orson Welles' film where a radio station broadcast 'The War Of The Worlds' as if it was actually happening. People thought it was for real and panic ensued.

Since then, I'd always had this idea to write 'factual fiction', a novel constructed as though from real journals, news reports, email etc. Of course, the best-known novel that does this is Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', another story I was hooked on by age eleven.

So, I thought, why not take 'Dracula', the novel, as inspiration and ask myself, 'What if I could prove that the greatest Gothic novel ever written was, in fact, a true story?'

When I started to write 'The Stoker Connection', I knew it had to be written in diary form, like Stoker's classic Gothic horror/romance. It also had to be a romance, happen in real time, touch on themes of friendship and loyalty and involve a thrilling chase to the climax, like the original. That was all I had to go on, at first, and I decided to set it in 2017. 

The original idea was to present the novel as if the two main characters had approached me as an author and asked me to compile the book from their diaries and journals. After writing an introduction, I changed my mind so, like 'Dracula', 'The Stoker Connection' had a first chapter which was never published. 

Instead, I began by asking myself, what if these two guys coincidentally share the same birth date, and that date is the same as Stoker's birthday, 8th November?' And what if they first meet on their eighteenth birthday in 2017? 

So, my pivotal scene in the first half of the book was to happen on November 8th, 2017, exactly one-hundred-and-seventy years after Stoker's birth. 'I wonder what would happen,' I thought, 'if I looked up page 170 and read what was on lines eight and eleven.' I mean, why not? Would I find inspiration there?

There are hundreds of versions of the novel available, but I am lucky enough to own a limited-edition reprint that is typeset and numbered exactly as the first edition. Turning to page 170, I was amazed to find that one of the sentences suggested the author had left us with a mystery and the other mentioned a firm of solicitors, giving me a name. What if Dexter and Morgan traced that name, found that the solicitor in the novel had really existed, and had descendants living today…?

From then on, it was pretty straightforward if a little unnerving. I was stunned at how many 'clues' there are in the novel (Dracula) to point us to real places and events. We know that Whitby Abbey, Piccadilly, Hampstead Heath and so on are real locations, but I didn't know that other incidents in the novel could have been inspired by actual events. An escaped wolf from a zoo in the 1890s, a madman attacking women in London in 1895, a great storm and a shipwreck… If you look hard enough, you can make connections. All you have to do then, as a writer, is say 'What if?'

After that, Dex and Morgan took over the storytelling and followed the clues in the novel on their own. 

Writing in first person diary form is fun, but it can be hard work. I'd finish one chapter in the morning, writing from Dex's point of view, and then move on to one written by Morgan. They have different styles and different ways of thinking. Dex is flippant and straightforward, Morgan is circumspect and better at prose, he invents words and phrases, whereas Dex tries, but doesn't always get it right. My husband took to asking me who I was that day. 'I'm Dex this morning,' I'd say, and a little later I'd be wandering the courtyard trying to change myself into Morgan. Later in the book, I also had to become Tim, Dex's best friend who is involved in the final chase and climax of the story.

Once I had started on the process, with my rough plan and my ideas for where the story was to go, it flowed easily. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Dex and Morgan took over. I'd reach the end of a chapter and shout, 'Damn it!' My husband, patient and supportive, would ask what had happened, and I'd say things like, 'They have to go to Cornwall now,' complaining about where my characters had led me. I'd then have to alter my notes to suit what Dex and Morgan wanted to do. That's the joy of writing and getting lost in it; they take over, and you often have to pull them back or else lose your plot completely. In this case, my two boys did me proud and took the story to places I'd not thought of until I started writing in their voices.

Whether 'The Stoker Connection' actually comes across as factual fiction is up to the reader to decided, but I hope it does. It is, so far, the closest I have come to presenting a novel as though it was a true story.

Maybe it is and, like Stoker, I'm sworn to secrecy…

Carra's Review

Since I am a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with my own paperback copy that I do re-read from time to time, the title and blurb for this story immediately caught my eye.  It’s definitely a unique approach, and it certainly drew me in right from the start.  That it is told in the same format as Stoker’s work with journal entries and letters/emails also gave it a distinctive touch that made the story more intriguing than if it had been told in a regular story narrative format.

I liked both Morgan and Dexter’s characters, and thought they paired up quite nicely with each other.  The coincidences between them just made their matchup all the more enticing.  The supporting characters were well written, and definitely helped to add depth to the story.  I was a bit perturbed by Dexter’s best friend Tim near the beginning of the story with a scene involving Dex’s coming out, but my ire was tempered later on in the book.

I was completely drawn in to The Stoker Connection from start to finish, and this story made for a compelling read, particularly as things get more exciting the further into the book you read.  Both the thrill of the mystery and the emerging romance between Morgan and Dex combine well to result in a truly enjoyable story.

This book was a 4.5-star read for me, and is one I’d highly recommend; if you’re a fan of Stoker’s Dracula, and also a fan of M/M romance you’re definitely going to want to add this to your library.  Though the main characters are teens about to finish school and move on to university (the equivalent of a senior in high school here in the US), there is enough adult language and sexual content where I would advise this one for the mature young adult crowd and higher…usually I’d say 18+, though more mature 16+ readers could probably handle this one as well.

About the Author

Hi. Jackson was born in 2017 as the penname for me (James) so that I could publish my new gay fiction independently from my other writing work. I was born on the south coast of England during a blizzard, but now like to warm thing up with MM romance novels, gay mysteries and some occasional erotica. In 2007 I was awarded and EGPA award for my erotic short stories, and in 2018 I won a Best Screenplay award for one of my films. I am a diverse writer with thrillers, comedies and horror stories under my James belt, and now romance and mystery under my Jackson belt.

At the moment I am concentrating on two genres: older/younger MM romance, and youth mysteries with early 20s main characters and a love story included.

I live on a Greek island with my husband. My interests outside of writing and reading are outdoor pursuits, traveling, piano and genealogy. That's probably why my books tend to involve characters who are musicians, writers, mystery-solvers and rock climbers; there's a bit of me in every one.


Jackson is giving away copies of two ebooks – The Blake Inheritance and Remotely – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win:

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