Newsletter September 2019

Country view

There are some summers that go past really quickly and which can be remembered for many years to come - long, alcoholic afternoons in the yard, chatting with friends, or walking over the moors and camping out near a stream, or walking the dogs for miles and miles...

A Missed Murder - the new paperback edition

This wasn't one of them! Sadly this year has involved mainly work, with massive editing of a new book, and trying to work out how best to sell books. Yes, I have been able to walk the dogs every day, but there's just been no time to take a holiday.

However, all the hard work is paying off.

I have always found that I really enjoy writing books when I know the characters. The Templar Series was always an easy task. I knew Baldwin and Simon so well, they kept nudging me when I went astray, and ensured that I remained on track. But when I have written a new book, such as Fields of Glory, or Pilgrim's War, or Rebellion's Message, I have always found that it's the getting inside my protagonists' heads that took up all my time.

This summer has been spent editing a new novel that has taken over a year to write. Yes, I have written two Jack Blackjack/Bloody Mary Tudor books at the same time, but it's still taken me a lot longer than I would have expected. But that is the nature of the job, sadly. The actual first draft was very quick - it only took about three months - but it's the tidying up and redrafting that takes all the effort. It is now up to about 154,000 words, and that means it needs drastic cutting in several places, because no publisher will want it at that length.

A Manuscript that is too fat!

THIS is a manuscript that is too fat!

Still, life moves on. We're very lucky that the hound only managed to bite one wasp. Seriously, her face swelled up so badly, I thought someone had taken my little Ridgeback and replaced her with a Shar-Pei. A quick visit to the Vet's so that I could throw another £50 into her pension fund, and the hound began to recover, luckily. Now she seems to consider it her bounden duty to kill off all flies in the house - and sadly cannot tell the difference between a fast-flying black and yellow creature, and one that is all blue-black.

She'll learn.

Earlier this year I was asked to write a short story for a new anthology, and I was initially keen to do so - and then I started thinking about it. The fee was £100, which is less than authors used to be paid twenty years ago, and I was left with the conviction that it wasn't good use of my time. So instead, I thought I could write a short story and put it on Patreon, or some other site where people could read and enjoy it, but then I began to think that it would be better to finish off some of the other work that is still knocking about on my desk.

So it occurred to me that maybe it would be better use of my time to rewrite one of my other books, putting up a chapter at a time, so that readers can view it as it is progressing. That way I am getting my work done, readers are getting the story they want to read, and I'd have the book to sell at the end of the day. I still have to look at the various ways that I could do this, but it could be an interesting project. So long as it doesn't distract me from earning a living!

And that brings me neatly to Patreon.

I've found it really interesting. In the past I would put information up on Facebook (which I really don't like), on Twitter (which is frustrating, and mostly a cause of wasted time), or in a blog (which never reached many people). In the last few years I have been making videos about things that interested me, from pens and paper to all the different inks, comparing their shades and colours. To my surprise, the inks have generated some 3,500 subscribers, and has been enormously rewarding.

However all these different social media take time and effort. I am moving more towards Patreon, because it allows me to put photos and stories up on the internet, and can be a central place to focus all my efforts. That means only the one site to learn and understand, whether I'm putting up pictures, blog posts, videos or even podcasts (not yet!). For those who are interested in my books and writing - or the other things I get up to - it means you will not miss any of my posts. In the past I might put a post up on Facebook, but forget to add it to Twitter; or I'd put a photo or two up on Instagram, and forget that there was nothing on Twitter; or vice versa.

Patreon is an interesting site because it gives readers and viewers the option of supporting the creative person involved - but you don't have to. I'll still be putting up short comments and photos for free. All the stuff I have been putting onto social media will just migrate to Patreon and still be free. And that leads me on to another commitment I am trying to make: that I will paint more often. Until the end of August this year I had failed abjectly to paint even one picture. Which means I am growing determined to take at least a half day per week to try to paint. It's not easy, because I prefer to paint in daylight, and I have to do it only once I have walked the dogs, but since I tend to work through to midnight on edits and writing, it should be feasible. The real problem is the age-old one of trying to stop feeling guilty. That comes from being self-employed. Taking time off from the main money-earner to do something else is very guilt-inspiring. It feels terrible. However, the paintings, when converted into cards, could generate much-needed income, so I have to try to convince myself that, just because it's damn good fun, doesn't mean it's not another form of work!

I have, at last, managed to complete one painting now.

Painting of Finch Foundry, Sticklepath

Painting of Finch Foundry, Sticklepath

Interestingly Okehampton has recently opened a new bookshop, for which I wish all the luck in the world. It's called Dogberry and Finch, and has a great location in the town. Opening bookshops is always very difficult, but this one has an interesting approach, mixing words and pictures, with several paintings on sale from local artists - so if I do manage a number of paintings, perhaps I can sell cards and pictures there too!

And now, as I look out at the street, I see that the summer has gone. The sky is grey, the roadway is soaked, the windows are spattered with raindrops. It seems peculiar in the extreme to sit here and realise that the summer was spent sitting in here with a computer.

Although there were breaks, of course. I was off out with Tinners' Morris, dancing at the Royal Cornwall Show, in the worst, most miserable rain-swept conditions we've ever experienced. Never before have we had to have people brushing the rain from the stage while we performed so that dancers didn't slip over. We danced at Sidmouth Folk Festival, at the Okehampton Show, at various pubs in Exeter and all over Dartmoor. I'm very proud to be a member of Tinners', which is a great group of friends - who manage, generally, to keep me more or less sane!

Morris dancers

Morris dancers

And that, for now, is it, I think. The next time I write a newsletter, it will be in the run up to Christmas. Hopefully by then I'll know what the next Jack Blackjack/Blood Mary Tudor story will be about, and may even have a title for you! Rebellion's Message should also be published in mass market paperback, and with luck will find its way to a bookshop near you. Hopefully I'll have news on the latest book as well, since it should be finished and will have done the rounds of a few publishers by then.

So, for now, I hope you have a wonderful autumn and look forward to speaking to you soon!
Best wishes
Michael Jecks.

North Dartmoor
September 2019