Welcome to my autumn newsletter.
I've had a very busy year so far, and it doesn't look as though it's going to slow down any time soon.
In the first quarter I managed to republish Act of Vengeance, For the Love of Old Bones and No One can Hear You Scream with the very excellent Endeavour Press. All those books are available on Kindle, but also as print on demand copies if you (like me) prefer your words on paper. Soon after, in April, the first Jack Blackjack book, Rebellion's Message, came out from Severn House, and it's selling very well. In May, I contributed to the Detection Club's latest collaborative novel, The Sinking Admiral, which you can buy from HarperCollins, and in August Simon and Schuster brought out the last of my Vintener trilogy, Blood of the Innocents. Now I'm looking forward to seeing my story, Alive or Dead, in The Detection Club's collection of short stories, which will come out on 3rd November to celebrate the birthday of Peter Lovesey. Keep a lookout for that!
In the meantime, I'll be at Yeovil on 6th October to speak at a Booker Prize event, discussing the various shortlisted titles, and during that week I'll be chairman of judges at the Impress Books prize too. I'm giving a talk at Bloomsbury's "How to get Published" event at Plymouth University on 29th October. All of which are looking to be great fun, and I hope to meet a lot of readers - you too? - at them. Details, as always, on the Events page.
There's been a lot going on, both at home and with work. For those of you who have read past Newsletters, you'll know that I managed to step on the one piece of grass that was not connected with the ground in any way just before Christmas, and badly wrenched my knee and ankle. That, thank Goodness, is largely healed now, thanks to the ministrations of Rachel, my Physio at Okehampton hospital, and I've started Morris dancing again, but it's been a long, hard struggle. Still, I had a great visit to the Royal Cornwall Show with Tinners' Morris, and we've been dancing at Drogo Castle and a number of other places. I'll be at the Exeter Dragon Boat Races on Sunday 25th September, and in Tavistock for the Pudsey/Children in Need charity event at Tavistock on Saturday 19th November.
While I was recuperating, I spent a lot of time looking forward to long walks with my hound, but sadly we learned that our lovely old Ridgeback had contracted an aggressive form of bone cancer. She's hugely, hugely missed and I cannot see another Ridgie now without asking to make a fuss. Luckily Ridgebacks are very sociable, and not one has turned me down when I offer a petting.
We were very fortunate to have been given our latest pooch, a delightful little spotty dog who smiles every morning to greet us. She's a lovely natured little girl, and a wonderful companion. Not the world's brightest, admittedly, but her smiles make up for that!
We managed to get a holiday this year. My daughter has worked so hard all through the year and got some very good results for her GCSEs and needed a break badly, so we found a quiet little cottage in France and had two weeks of doing really very little.
It was a holiday of coincidences, though. When we arrived and met the owner, Roger Clark and his delightful wife, Ulli, we were invited to aperitifs and snacks. While there, Roger mentioned that he had several artists go to his house for painting holidays. I was interested, and he began to expound on the painting classes that had been run there, about the swimming pool and farther afield, painting the countryside and local villages. Later we chatted about other things and I mentioned where we came from. That was when we realised that Roger was talking about John Christian, a fabulous painter - mostly of Dartmoor scenes, since he lives in my village! John has taken many painting groups to France and always used Roger's house as the base.
We managed one trip while in France, which was a drive down to the beautiful old city of Carcassonne. I'd read a lot about it, but this was my first visit to the town reimagined and largely rebuilt by Viollet le Duc. It was a wonderful day, made all the better by meeting with Ian Mortimer and his family - a little while before our holiday I mentioned to Ian that we were going to the south of France, and he told me he was too. The look of shock on my daughter's face when she recognised our neighbours so many miles from home was wonderful!
It was a wonderful break. I painted a lot, read three books for pleasure, NOT for work (James Lee Burke, Peter Mayle and Susanna Gregory), and managed three other books for research for a new idea I have. Oh, and I did a fair bit of painting again, which was enormous fun. It's great to put paint on paper and see that it works in the way you hope. I've even sold a few of the pictures, which will go some way to helping with the cost of the holiday. I love France. I adore the countryside, the warmth, the villages, the food - ah, the food ... and the wine. I cannot claim a great palate, but while I know many who wax lyrical about the splendours of classic wines, I rather like the quaffing, local wines. At the local supermarket, I could get 1.5 litres of quality local wine for six Euros, and it was very good! I also managed to chomp through a ridiculous number of loaves of bread, mostly laden with cheese or sausages, and I had my first ever cassoulet: rich but utterly delicious; I recommend it highly.
At the end of the holidays, we had another great event. My brother from New Zealand came over to visit, and it was good to see him, his son and oldest grandson. They're such a lovely family, it's just a pity we get to see them so rarely. Now my daughter's planning on going to see them in NZ as soon as her A levels are over, and if I can save some money to do the same, I'll join her. I've always wanted to see Australia and NZ. I'll take a back pack and tent and see what the countryside's like, if possible.
All good things come to an end. Now we're back, I'm back into the swing of things. I'm recording occasional interviews for the BBC, and I've started recording videos on YouTube again. If you haven't seen any of them, do take a quick look. They aren't the most professional videos (I tend to giggle too much and the Ridgeback always snored rather loudly when I was talking on older films) but they do give you some insight into what I'm doing, the pens, papers, pencils and paints I'm using, and the things I've read or seen that have interested me the most. I'm also planning a few days helping at a local-ish school, with a view to helping students with their creative writing.
And now I'm entering writer's purdah once more. I've a book to finish before the end of November (a deadline that is approaching with the speed and fearsome threat of a galloping water buffalo) and I have three other projects to work on. I need a story to follow up on Act of Vengeance, a second in my new Crusades series, and I'm working on ideas for another series, too. A writer's life is not one involving lots of rest and dozing through the day, sadly!
However, my blog at writerlywitterings.com will keep you abreast of Jecks news, the YouTube videos as well, and with luck I'll see you soon at Harrogate or another festival.