Newsletter May 2011

There are some times when it's hard to think of something to put into a newsletter, but not this month. There's too much going on.

So, what's new?

For a number of years there have been great organisations to help writers in specific markets. For example, there's the Crime Writers' Association, a professional group which exists to support crime writers, funnily enough; there's the Romantic Novelists' Association, the Society of Authors - but never anything for historical writers as a group.

Historical Writers' Association

Well, now there is, I'm glad to say.

I've been spending some time with Manda Scott and others to create the Historical Writers' Association, which is a group specifically for fiction and non-fiction writers who happen to specialise in books set in the past. It's caught the imagination of a lot of writers already. Just one note: it's not going to be open to all those who are keen on reading historical books: they are already catered for by the Historical Novels Society in the UK and US - this is exclusively a professional writers' organisation which is set up to help put on events and talks. As an initial gig, the HWA is involved with Kelmarsh, at which many authors (me included) will be giving talks, getting involved in discussions on panels, and generally wandering about aimlessly wherever there is a sniff of beer.

For more, please look at the HWA website.


So, that was one.

Next on my list of 'things to mention' is the (for me) exciting news that I'm riding in the London to Brighton cycle ride once more. Yeah, I know it's not exciting for you.

I did this ride a few years ago. As you can tell, I knew all about sartorial cycling style.

On the London to Brighton cycle ride, 2007

However, there are two big things about this ride. First, it's one of those charitable events where the money raised is going entirely to the charity, the British Heart Foundation. I hate to hear about charitable events in which a chunk of the money given as sponsorship actually goes to support the participant. I have no objection to helping people walk to Machu Picchu, or paraglide over the Andes - but I don't like to see my sponsorship money going to the cost of the transport of the kit or people who're doing it. After all, too often it's actually a holiday for the folks taking part.

With the London to Brighton, all participants have to pay to get to the start and get home again. The money raised won't pay for a single punctured tyre. Which means it'll be an expensive weekend, but a fun one, with luck. However, the fun part of the ride is all the training beforehand.

I'm one of a team of cyclists, and we've already enjoyed several thirty mile plus practice rides together. Last Tuesday was a good one. Forty miles from Petrockstowe to Barnstaple with Derek, Dave and Mike. Would have been even better, if I hadn't heard a gunshot as I thundered down a tarmac hill.

Seriously, it sounded like a .22 pistol going off somewhere near my backside, and that is not something that instils confidence in a cyclist seven miles into a long ride. With some concern I dismounted, and tried to figure out what was wrong.

It was a spoke. That's all. But from the noise, it was plain that it was a serious break. And when I tried to move the wheel, it was clear enough that the bike was not going anywhere in a hurry. Still, the lads knew of a bike shop, and we wandered up another mile (slowly). Fortunately, after a coffee break, my bike was ready, still without a spoke, but at least with the wheel straightened so I could continue on the ride.

Boys with bikes

That was a good ride, but since it was all down hill to Barnstaple, and the hill back was very gentle, it wasn't very taxing. So in a couple of weeks we're going to do another little ride. This one's nearer fifty-seven miles, all over the middle of Dartmoor (no, on the roads, I don't like off-road), and will involve a lot of hills. Some nice ones going down, but sadly all too many others as well. Be a good day out, in any case.

Of course, there is an ulterior motive in mentioning the ride. And sponsorship. Oh? Have you caught up now? Good.

Anyone who would like to support me, or anyone who wants to look after their own hearts in the future, I'd be very grateful for the money. Not in my pocket, sadly. I'm an author, so never allowed to get my hands on the folding stuff. Instead you have to go to my sponsorship page: - unless you prefer to see me in person and shove some crisp fivers into my pocket, of course!

With your help, you'll see me like this again:

The boys at the end of the ride

That is the delight of the internet. You can beg for cash via electronic newsletters. Another delight is the way that you can give things back.

I had this idea a while ago to get people to send in photos of places where they had been reading my books, or where they had seen my books. Anything, really, so long as a copy or two of my books materialised. And I was rather dumbfounded by the response. Literally some came in. You want to know who won the coveted signed copy of my book? In a moment.


First, that's got me thinking. Let's talk about books a little.

Last newsletter I wrote, I was thinking of how to finish the book I was writing. Well, I had a fair bit to do on that one, but I have to say, I was rather pleased with it. No, not smug: pleased. It worked rather well.

Still, because being an author means no rest for the wicked, I had to figure out how to develop my series and what to do for the next book, number 32. And it wasn't easy.

However, now I've had the idea which the publishers like, and it was helped by talking with a few readers - thanks Tom B and Loren, and all the others!

I've had a number of people tell me over the years that one thing they'd dearly like would be to see how Baldwin fared in Acre, what led to his becoming a Templar, and in short, what made him the man he became.

That is going to be the driving flow of books 32 and 33. The first is planned to be Baldwin's journey to Acre and the siege itself, how he met Edgar, and how the pair managed at last to escape the horrors of the last days. The next will be a look at his career in the Templars, and the sudden collapse of that great Order. That, I think, will be fun - you never know, I might even get the chance to travel a little to do some research, rather than wandering out onto the moors!

More seriously, I hope that concept appeals to you as much as it does to me. I'm really looking forward to these two books.


I've also been in considerable pain recently. Nope, not the bike riding. This is more strenuous pain, caused by completing the main part of my pizza/outdoor oven.

It's been a fun job, this. I spent about six man-days last year building it from instructions in a great book: Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer. First I had to dig out the rubble and trash from the place I was going to put it, and then build it all up. Then I had the fun of making a flat area. Denzer explains how to make a clay oven. First, get your clay. Mix with sand and water, and you're done. Well, sort of.

After last year's work, all I needed was a new covering of clay mixed with sawdust to form an insulation block. Great. It took me four hours of stamping and twisting to make the layer at the right consistency. Then, as I started building, the rain began. The mix got soggy and tried to slump down, but I kept at it. In the end, it worked, but it was a pain! Still, next the kids will have the job of designing a mosaic pattern to be stuck on the outside. I'll put a layer of lime mortar over it to protect it from the elements, and the mosaic can go on top. And I'll be able to have good pizzas, bread, and slow-cooked meats through the summer. All very medieval - and good!

Oven lighted

So, back to the photo contest.

King's Gold

On my photoblog I'm putting up the three best photos early in the coming week, after this newsletter is posted. The winner of the best prize will have a copy of the new book, King's Gold, signed by me, in the post towards the end of the month, when the book is published.

So: go check the photoblog if you think you're up with a chance.

However, keep the pictures coming in. I will be thinking about another prize later in the summer for those who send in more pics!

And that is all for now. I think it's about time I returned to the planned synopsis for book 32 that I have been avoiding.

Have a great summer.
Michael Jecks

Northern Dartmoor
May 2011