Newsletter Christmas 2011

It seems incredible that yet another year has already flashed past. A year of talks and signings, two more books written, work on two modern novels, as well as an ebook of all my short stories collected together. In one year I appear to have stretched myself rather thinly.

However, it's not unusual in this modern digital age. With all the temptations of blogging, tweeting, mailing and texting (how I hate that term!) it's hard to see how any writers can find time to do the work that pays the bread and butter.

Still, I am pleased with my work this year. Especially with my new thriller, which has been read by Lee Child, who said, "An instant classic British spy novel - mature, thoughtful, and intelligent ... but also raw enough for our modern times. Highly recommended." For a quote like that, I'd happily have paid a small fortune! Sadly the book hasn't found a home yet, but watch this space. With luck, I am hoping to have the series placed before too long - and if not, this could be my first straight-to-ebook venture.

OK - ebooks.

I know that a lot of my readers are rather like me. The idea of an ebook is either faintly obscene or downright repellent.

Personally, I've fought against the concept for some time. I never thought that the idea would take off. It was only when Amazon brought out their little gadget that I could see the potential - as always, it's not the idea of a simple device, it's the packaging around it.

In Amazon's terms, this meant ease of uploading new books, it meant free access to the cloud, no matter where the user was, it meant synchronisation with other devices, and it meant little tweaks like email access from abroad. All of these persuaded my neighbour to buy.

I don't have one. I don't need it. However, I do have an HTC Flyer, which is a similar machine. Except it does a lot more. For me, crucially, it allows me to edit and revise my work without printing. I can read a manuscript on the screen which is, believe me, a great deal easier than reading it on a page. And I can use a pen to mark up corrections and amendments. For me, that is a big, useful feature.

And, yes, I have recently read a lot of other works on it, too.

I have read three books submitted to the International Thriller Writers for a competition. It was easy to read them on the Flyer. And it meant that those submitting books were able to get their titles to me without worrying about the post losing them (as happened with three other books).

And at long last (for an ageing grumpy old git like me) I have managed to acquire a copy of War and Peace. It's on the Flyer, ready to be read. And I will, honest!

But the big thing about the tablets and ereaders, so far as I am concerned, is the ability to sell many more copies. There are many new readers out there who have never heard of me, and who have no idea what my work is. Hopefully, these Jecks Virgins will find my works on ebooks before long, and consume them.

I have been inordinately lucky since moving from Headline to Simon & Schuster, because I have been given some excellent people to work with. I have recently acquired a new editor, and I have to admit I'm thrilled to be working with someone who seems incredibly forward-thinking and dynamic. In the recent past she was the editor for Bernard Cornwell, which gives an indication of her track record, and I am sure that with her promoting my work my books will start selling in vast(er) numbers!


Meanwhile, however, all is not well on the home front.

My daughter caught a cold nine weeks ago. Hah! I thought. Girls get colds too. And how.

The poor monster has still got the damn thing, and she is coughing and spluttering still every time the atmosphere changes - ie, from car to house, house to open air, open air to school. So am I. I caught it from her one week later, so I've had the same appalling cough for eight weeks.

Dartmoor with a little snow

Dartmoor with a little snow

Already it has forced me to forgo my walk with my brother. We had hoped to take a few days to walk about forty miles over the top of Dartmoor towards Tavistock in late November, but being reluctant to see my cold progress to galloping pneumonia, I called it off. Now I'm trying to sort out a few days in late January or early February - hopefully when it's icy and freezing. It's lovely on the moors in cold, frozen conditions.

And I will take my camera out every month in the coming year. I missed out on a lot of opportunities this year, purely because the work was getting a little heavy. Mind you, there was also the problem with my camera bag.

I had a Kata DR467i bag, which I have found to be fantastic for four years. It's taken my camera with me everywhere, as well as being my overnight bag, my computer bag, and my daybag while walking the moors with the dogs.

But alas! A little while ago the top handle began to come loose. I contacted the manufacturer.

And Kata said it shouldn't have happened, and sent me a brand new one, without quibbles, without trouble - all I had to do was give them my address and this fabulous new bag materialised in a few days. Happy customer!

I am planning to get a lot of photos next year, with a view to producing a calendar. It'll have photos of the main locations of my books - places like the castle at Lydford, the abbey at Tavistock (such as remains) and Baldwin's house as it now is.

This is early planning currently, of course, but if you think you could be interested, do please let me know..

Old Mine near Mary Tavy

Old Mine near Mary Tavy

Another venture is, since I've decided I need to take things a little easier, to take up watercolours again. Yes, it may sound peculiar, but= I used to dabble, and I miss the action of brush against paper. So, with luck I'll soon be observed sitting at a tor and sketching the scenery with paintbrush in hand.


Of course that will have nothing to do with the fact that my coffee machine of some five years appears to have decided to go on strike.

Merry Christmas!

My poor Gaggia Syncrony Compact has performed faultlessly for about eight thousand shots of coffee. And it had kept me awake at nights when I've been close to deadlines.

Alas, no longer. The grinder mechanism is completely blown, which means that I have to grind the beans in a separate grinder. Well, that is an intolerable additional responsibility for a mere author. And now the pre-soaking of the ground beans has decided to go on the blink too, I think its days are numbered. I must instead seek out a new coffee machine for my morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night-time shots of caffeine.

Because I need a lot. It offsets the regular infusions of whisky, gin and rum - which are essential to the art of devising new stories, honest. I think they should be tax-deductible for authors, personally.

Well, I think that is about all I can cope with for now. There are two birthdays between now and Christmas in my family, and then the Big Day itself. My parents are coming to join us this year, which is cause enough for celebration.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and let's pray we all have a happy, prosperous and healthy 2012.
With all best wishes to you and your family.

Michael Jecks

Northern Dartmoor
December 2011