Newsletter May 2019

This being May already, I thought it was time that I wrote another newsletter. Well, my excellent website administrator did!

First of all, my apologies. Writing has been very difficult in recent months for a number of reasons that I won't bore you with, but there have been some interesting developments.

A couple of years ago I started recording videos on YouTube, because my daughter nagged me into it. To my great surprise, the videos grew to be quite popular, and although I was forced to let them lapse last year when my daughter/director/cameraman/editor took a year out in order to complete her A Levels, and then deserted me for the sunnier climes of academe, I have started learning how to film myself (which without auto-focus on my camera wasn't easy), how to edit, and how to upload to YouTube.

Of course the life of a videographer is not so easy. No sooner had I learned how to film myself and edit my films, than my camera toppled off my desk and lens-butted the floor in my office. The first I knew of it was the crash, and then the sound of a lens, having sheared off from the camera's body, rolling across the floor.

That was not a happy moment. Less happy was the moment when I received a note from Nikon UK detailing the damage and outlining the cost of repairs. It worked out at roughly three thousand four hundred book sales. Since a new camera will cost some seven thousand book sales, I swallowed hard and put the charge on the credit card.


The Dead Don't Wait

To my great happiness, Severn House have commissioned two more stories in my Jack Blackjack series. These are fun stories to write, and the fifth is already outlined. Even better, Black Thorn Publishing has taken on the series as well. In case that sounds confusing, Canongate bought Severn House. Severn publishes only hardback and trade paperback books. Now Canongate has decided to publish mass-market paperbacks as well, and has created a sister publisher in Black Thorn. The first, Rebellion's Message, will be published in December.

Before that, at the end of July, my fourth Blackjack outing will be published by Severn in the UK (sorry, America, you have to wait until November): The Dead Don't Wait. This is another fun romp, with poor old Jack being accused of murder - and this time it's no one he knows of. He hasn't even been paid to assassinate the fellow. But then he discovers that the local miller has been guilty of unpleasant offences, that the dead man himself had a chequered past, the innkeeper has a problem with violence, and Jack's old associate, Atwood, is the man who accused him! All great fun, and the book can be ordered in advance, of course.


I have been talking at length to my agent, and have a series of alternative projects to work on. The first is a more recent historical, which will be a police procedural, and considerably more gritty than Jack's Tudor escapades. That story has been written, and I'm into the second draft now. There is still a lot of work to be done with it, but I am working as hard as I can.

In moments of slack time, when I have finished one story, or while I'm waiting for the next edit, copy edit or proof to come back to me from my publishers, I will often sit down and write something totally different. I have a modern police procedural (Hawkwood), a modern spy thriller (The Sniper), a political thriller (Power and Money), as well as two crime stories, a series based on a pair of detectives, and other stories, all sitting in a pile beside my desk.

They had all been lost. For example, The Sniper, which was the first book I actually wrote, and was the first to be accepted by a publisher (who later changed their mind and rejected it) was written on my old IBM PS2 back in the early 1990s. It was a great little machine, which used floppy discs. I had one copy of the story printed, and when my great friend Andy asked to read it, because he always took huge interest in my work, I was happy to oblige.

Andy then moved house. And one of the things that never appeared in the new house was my manuscript. Not only that, by then the IBM had disappeared - as had the AST that replaced it and the Toshiba that replaced that. All of which is a slow way of saying that I had no means of reprinting the story. Not only that, I had no means of actually seeing it because when I wrote the thing, I was using Word Perfect (a brilliant word processor that really should not have disappeared). That no longer existed, so I didn't even know if I could load the words to a different machine. I certainly couldn't load it on my iMac, which only had a CD drive.

But my wife managed to recover the discs last year. Don't ask me how, but all are now on my computer and reprinted. However, they are not ready to be sent to a publisher. They all need a fair amount of time to update them and make them marketable.


In recent weeks I have been thinking about other projects too. Severn House work very hard to market my books, as does Headline, but other publishers are less effective. It was because of this that my daughter persuaded me to start making YouTube videos. It's enormous fun: I tend to speak about inspirational writers on a Sunday, review books on a Tuesday, and have a review of inks, pens, pencils and other stationery on a Thursday.

Some time ago a good friend recommended that I should look into Patreon. The idea is that subscribers can access additional content that isn't available through YouTube and other media. I will be sharing more blog posts, videos, and examples of my work with different projects there. If you enjoy my work, you can see sections from books I'm working on there: pages with all my and my editor's comments and additional notes, advance copies of illustrations, and many more. If you would like to consider joining on the projects, please hit the link here.

This is going to be a very interesting departure for me. I don't feel comfortable sharing my work in progress with a very wide audience, but I think Patreon will allow me to keep people abreast of things I'm working on, while maintaining some control over the information. If I put a comment on Twitter or Facebook, it's all over the internet in moments; if I restrict information to subscribers on Patreon, it makes things much more manageable.


And there is one more thing I should mention.

I have been a member of the Crime Writers' Association for many years now, and served as Chairman in 2004. Obviously one would expect that members of the Association would have some understanding of my competence as a result. However, apparently that is not the case. Someone thought it would be a good idea to ask me to organise the next CWA AGM and conference.

I have no idea who the idiot was, but as a result I find myself in the rather confusing situation of staring at hotel information sheets and trying to work out which would be best. It's scary. And rather exciting, I suppose. But mostly scary.

There you go. A fairly action-packed newsletter this time, and lots going on. I'm certainly keeping busy!
Here's wishing you a peaceful and enjoyable summer. Happy reading!
Michael Jecks

North Dartmoor
May 2019