Newsletter September 2010

This has been a pretty lunatic time, what with one thing and another.

I can remember quite distinctly that when I was a young boy, school holidays stretched forward into an unimaginable distance. There was endless excitement. They were so long, it was hard to imagine how to fill such a vast reservoir of time.

Nowadays, I blink and the whole damn summer's gone again.

Could be partly to do with filling up the diary so effectively. The beginning was the delight of the Dartmoor Folk Festival. A marvellous one this year, kicking off with Show of Hands. Phil Beer, Steve Knightly and Miranda Sykes were wonderful, as always. If you haven't tried their music, you should! It was also a weekend with superb dancing from Great Western Morris.

Great Western Morris

Great Western Morris. Not all Morris has hankies!

We managed to get away for a week. Some very nice people (thank you, Marvins) let us rent their camper van, and we wandered off to Norfolk, which was a very good break, especially since on the way we were able to see my parents and celebrate my father's 90th birthday - by presenting him with two IOUs. One for his copy of my latest, The Oath, and one for his actual birthday present. A pen. You want to see one?

Yes. IOUs. I hadn't received my own author's copies yet, so couldn't give him one. And the pen... the pen.

Last year I had the idea for a series of pens. I've bored you with them already, I know, in past newsletters. For those who're new to my endless witterings, go to the last newsletter, in July, for more about the pen details. It's enough to say now that the pens are available now, but not number 90 in the series, which I bought for my father. He is 90 years old, after all. And to make sure that the nib doesn't get wrecked with his gentle scrawling, I persuaded Conway Stewart to make his pen as a rollerball.

Michael Jecks signing books for Conway Stewart

Signing books for Conway Stewart

Incidentally, don't forget that if you have a copy of The Oath, in the back there is a special competition: the winner will receive a Michael Jecks Detection Club pen as prize, so it's a worthwhile competition to enter!

It is not my only writing implement, of course. In the past I've been an enthusiastic user of a Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil. These are excellent tools for writers on the hoof like me. It's a cap for a pencil, so you don't stab yourself with a sharpened point; it's an extension to the pencil when the thing's getting short; and in the cap is a pull-out sharpener. An ingenious design all told.

My Lost Pencil!

My Lost Pencil!
With thanks to Cult Pens for the photo.

The trouble is, I was invited last Monday week to go to Dartington for a radio interview, and although the pencil was in my pocket when I left home, it wasn't there when I left the station. Absolute disaster! Sadly my four year old pencil has gone the way of so many things. I only hope that someone has found it and will use it. It'd be terrible to think of such a wonderful tool being left to rot.

With my next royalties, hopefully I'll be able to afford a replacement.

I managed to find four days to get away with my brother, too. Iíve been working solidly on finishing book 30, King's Gold, editing it, and working on my proposed new thriller which will be set in the present day, mostly in the USA, and that's left me little time for walking or enjoying myself. So it was with some relief - and enormous trepidation - that I agreed to go walking with my brother Keith.

We set off on the Sunday he drove down, walked about five miles that afternoon, another twelve or so on the Monday, and all in all we probably covered about thirty five miles. Not very much in four days, I know - but then, when it's raining solidly, the tent leaks, your clothes never dry, and every step could take you into a good old Dartimoor bog, you don't walk quickly. Interestingly we weighed our packs before leaving, and they were both within a few grammes of 20 kilos (about 44 lbs). So imagine the pleasures of walking with that weight on your back, up hills (there are more uphills than down, I swear) in driving rain.

Curiously, it actually was fun!

Walking on the moors in the rain

Walking on the moors in the rain

Apart from all that excitement, there were the Morris dancing events. We were allowed out at Okehampton Show, and Chagford too, and more recently we had our annual Tinners' bike ride and dance out from Okehampton over Meldon to Prewley and the Bearslake Inn. Marvellous time with a lot of excellent friends.

And now I have the pleasure of going off to Poole in a month or so to talk with other authors Simon Hall and Minette Walters and the delightful Lorelei King at the Poole Literary Festival on 31 October. Hopefully I'll see some of you there, if you live near the south coast.

Donít be surprised if I turn up in Morris fig. Lorelei King has promised me a beer if I dare do so. And I dare! What Morris man would turn down a free beer?

Morris man with beer

Morris man with beer

Well, that's about it for now. I am a sad old sack who is immersed in a modern thriller which is reading so well just now I'm desperate to finish it and actually read the whole thing through again. 90,000 words to date, and it should wind up as about 130,000 in total, I reckon. Fast moving, and with a really strong series of characters who make me want to extend this into a trilogy. Don't know, yet, but it is a possibility if a publisher sees potential. Wish me luck.

Sorry? What? You're worried about Baldwin and Simon?


I am delighted to report that Simon & Schuster have just agreed a new contract for books 31 and 32. I was asked a little while ago when I saw my series ending, and it was quite a thought.

King's Gold

There are no plans to end the Templar Series. I like my characters, and I love the period; I have to be one of the most nerdy geeks there is on the 1320s now. If a publisher stops wanting new stories, then the series will end - I cannot afford to write for free - but for now it appears that all the books are remaining in print and soon should all be available as ebooks too.

I have plotlines that continue all the way from the beginning of Edward III's reign through to the Hundred Years' War and the Black Death. This is, to my mind, one of the most fascinating, thrilling and terrifying periods of Britain's long island history, and the idea that I could kill off my characters is unthinkable.

However, I do occasionally have to write different stories. The modern book I'm writing now may never appear in print. My first ever book, The Sniper, never made it to print because it was all about the IRA and they agreed a ceasefire just after a verbal acceptance of the book - which became a written rejection as a result. This one has taken me a good four months of my life to write, and I seriously hope it may become a trilogy, but there are no guarantees. Still, I refuse to be limited to one series of books. I love writing and I really like many other periods in history as well as the present day. My real problem is, I have too many stories I want to tell. That makes it confusing. So, my modern book may appear in print. It may not. There are no guarantees in writing.

On the other hand, Baldwin and Simon pay my mortgage. I would like them to continue to do so - so no, there are no plans to cancel the series.

What with this thriller and the edits coming back any time now for King's Gold, I don't have too much time to get out and about, but I'm always interested in emails from people. Feel free to contact me with any questions - and certainly with any positive or adulatory comments on the books.

No author can survive for long without a large number of adulatory comments. It's our substitute for wealth!

I hope you all had a great summer, and that autumn will be warm and cosy!
Michael Jecks.

Northern Dartmoor
September 2010