Newsletter Christmas 2010

This has certainly been one of the harder years I've known.

For one thing, I've had to work much harder and faster than before. My first book of the year was number 30, which will be out next June with the title King's Gold. I've written books that were tough to write because of plotting, some that were difficult because of the intricacy of the actual history and trying to weave a plot into it, and some where the characters brought their own issues. I've had, I suppose, just about every problem an author can find, really. But this one was easily the most difficult!

King's Gold

The main problem was, I always knew that this book would deal with the period in 1327 from the abdication of King Edward II to the report of his death arriving with King Edward III.

Now, I like short period stories, as most of my readers will know. I like easily summarised storylines, with convoluted plots that get bigger because of characters sticking their oars in. The problem this year was that the book kept expanding. There were so many people involved in the story, from the Dunheved brothers, to the gang around them, and then all those who were supporting the new administration with Mortimer and King Edward III, that trying to isolate where the main story was became ever more of a problem. Then there was the death in Berkeley, the individuals there, and Lord Berkeley too - the man accused and put on trial many years later, who said he hadn't heard yet that Edward II was dead.

These were very troublesome times for the poor bloody novelist.

So, instead of taking the original line, I've moved it sideways. I've gone to look at the implications of the change in administration from the point of view of one generally disliked group (bankers) and an ignored bunch of peasants.

Yes, it's the great thing about writing historical that the author can bring in modern themes, such as, is it a recent phenomenon that we've grown to dislike bankers? Certainly not!

The book did need a lot more work than usual, but I have to admit I'm very happy with the result. Even if the last three weeks have needed 80 hours plus each week. The last few days have been quite - well, quiet, really. I've been incapable of more than sitting about looking completely washed out!


My second book this year was my long-planned modern thriller. It's not sold to a publisher yet, so don't ask when it'll be in the shops, but I do have high hopes. It's a very strong story, with a cast of highly believable characters, and the action takes place over several states in the US. It was enormous fun to write. I know I say that quite often with my books (I'd be a sad old git if I didn't enjoy writing, wouldn't I?) but this was very different.

It took me back to my first ever novel, sadly lost years ago, which was a modern thriller all about terrorism in the UK and US. Written in 1994, it was quite forward thinking, really. I may well have to rewrite it.

Thing is, I've always loved books like Fred Forsythe's. The grittier stories with fast plots are what have always grabbed me. Crime was the secondary aspect of my original stories, I think now. I always wanted to make sure that the books were pacy more than anything else.

Well, so far my readers have told me that this one is, and there is quite a lot of excitement about it. So, we shall see. Perhaps I'll sell that in 2011.

A peaceful winter scene

The rest of the year has been fairly quiet, really. I've been working so hard, I only got one walk on the moors with my brother. It was so wet, both tents leaked, and in the foul weather there was no chance of getting my camera out. It's at that sort of time I really wish I'd bought a Pentax K system rather than my Nikon. I love my D80, don't get me wrong, but the waterproofing of the Pentax really would make a difference.

I've been delighted to have the Michael Jecks fountain pen made by Conway Stewart, which is here on the desk in front of me. A lovely asset. I've also gone and clumsily lost my Faber Perfect Pencil, which was a great tool. It went with me wherever I walked. I had to replace that because I felt utterly lost without it.

We've been all over the country. Up to Shrewsbury Folk Festival, London for meetings, Cornwall for signing books and surfing. We managed a short holiday in Norfolk and an even shorter break over a weekend at our favourite hotel at Evesham.

I've had an idea for a new series that will bring my books together in a way that I think will satisfy historical fans, crime readers and thriller readers, which I'm looking forward to proposing soon, and I have had some really exciting plotlines develop for the medievals. I was very glad to have a contract renewed with Simon & Schuster for the Templar Series, too (which means as soon as Christmas is out of the way I have to start writing book 31), and now I have a definite plan for number 32 as well.

On a sad note, this year a lovely lady, Gilda O'Neil, suddenly died. Gilda was a gorgeous woman whom I met a number of times. She was one of those writers who's always helpful and considerate of others, and wrote some of the best historical series based on her own childhood in the East End of London. She was ridiculously young to die, and a great talent's gone with her.

The Christingle service at Crediton church

Last Sunday, I went to the Christingle service at Crediton church. It's the beginning of our Christmas holiday when we go there as a family. As always the tree was stunning, the church beautiful. It was good to see the tomb of Sir John de Sully again, and to meet with the Rector, Nigel, and his family. We're planning to take a good 16 mile walk in January or February, along one of the old trails that crosses Dartmoor from one side to the other, the Abbot's way, from Buckland to Buckfast, or possibly Tavistock. The abbots set up the walk with granite crosses so that they could safely navigate over the moors, and the ancient paths survive. It will be a fun walk, hopefully. Sadly we won't be able to stay out - his job is a little more strict than mine! - but maybe we'll manage a longer walk later in the year.

I'm in the middle of learning a new set of dances. Yesterday's Morris practice has left me with aches in muscles I didn't know I had. Very good fun, though. If there are any who are near enough, come to the Duke of Yorks at Iddesleigh on Boxing Day to see a silly four man dance, and maybe some iron bar dancing.

The things authors do to get noticed, sigh.

That's it for now.
It's soon now, so I'll wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - hope you have a great one.

Michael Jecks

Northern Dartmoor
December 2010