This has been a strange year, hasn't it?
I know that for most people this has been a difficult time. Being incarcerated in their homes, not allowed to socialise, to go and hug a friend or family member, not allowed to visit a restaurant or pub - it all seems oddly apocalyptic.
Of course, for an author, it's not that different from normal working life. I am here in my office - as usual. I have finished another book Death Comes Hot, which is due to be published on the 30th of September, and which will involve poor Jack Blackjack discovering new depths of cowardice and incompetence (the more I write about him, the more I realise how similar he and I are!). That makes a total of five books with Jack Blackjack, and the next book I write with him will mean that I can start haggling over a new contract. Always a good situation!
It is odd times in publishing, of course, but these predate the C-19 virus.
Last year, reluctantly, I had to pull all of my books from Simon and Schuster. The reason was very simple - my income has fallen every year for the last I don't know how long. Sadly, Simon and Schuster were putting no resources into marketing my books and it all came to a head last year when I was forced to ask for the rights to all my books.
This is not a situation any author wants. Pulling the rights of books means finding a new publisher; it also means losing income for a year or more until sales build again. However, leaving books to moulder without any marketing behind them is a one-way trip to disaster as well. It means the end of a writing career.
Interestingly, I read a review recently of a book by Michèle Roberts called Negative Capability: A Diary of Surviving, published by Sandstone Press. She has been a hugely successful author, and nominated for all the big prizes - and yet now she has no contract. The works she has proposed have been rejected, and in this book she describes the horrible situation in which she finds herself, working desperately but not sure she'll ever be published again. It's a situation many authors will recognise - and have nightmares about. I know too many authors in the same boat. Even the wonderful Robert Barnard went through terrible times. So often readers assume all authors must be wealthy, but the truth is, most authors suffer extreme financial hardship.
I have been lucky, I suppose, in that I have always had a contract, and now I have a new one. My Baldwin and Simon series, now rebadged as the Last Templar Mysteries, is available again from Canelo Press. They are a small company, but one that is eager to sell books. Not only that, they involve their authors at every stage, including the covers of their titles. It's been great to work with them and see them incorporate my comments about their proposed jackets for my books.
Canelo have already released the first four titles and are already contracted for the next four, but they're already so happy with the way things are going that they have asked for rights to the next five as well. That will mean that the first thirteen books will be published from Canelo. The next fifteen are still in print from Headline, and the last four may well be taken on by Canelo as well. When they are all being published again, I'll be a lot happier! If you want to see more about them, my page on their site is here.
And now to move to happier subjects.
First, there are increasing numbers of audio versions of my books available for those who really like to listen rather than read. The latest titles are being read by Peter Noble, who is doing an excellent job. I've had many comments from people who love his characterisation and ability to change his voice to an uncanny extent!
During the lockdown I have been trying to keep on working as much as possible. It's not been easy, especially with one teenage son who is not going to complete the exams he had been expecting - that has hit his motivation, unsurprisingly. At the same time my daughter has been sent home from university, and was working flat out to try to complete her second year coursework. With my wife at home as well, it's not been easy to keep working. However, I have completed a couple of short stories - one of which is now live on my Patreon pages. It's a different kind of story for me - present day village life, I suppose, giving an outing to two old ladies who have retired to the country, and who're trying to cope with the lockdown.
Next to write is my sixth Bloody Mary Tudor / Jack Blackjack novel. I've a great idea for that one which I'm looking forward to testing on paper. And after that? Well, I can feel a very black crime story based in Plymouth in the present day. In fact, I can feel about three novels based there, but the first is the one I'll be testing on my agent first.
Sadly, last year's efforts with the book based on Shanghai in the 1920s has not been accepted yet. That being the case, I may well decide to put it on the internet myself so people can take a look and make their own minds up about it. I really liked it, but there's no point leaving a year's work to fester. I'd much rather sell it and make a little money to replenish the bank account - and compensate for the losses of all the speaking engagements! Another development has been the number of expressions of interest in my books for film and TV. I've had a number of charlatans in the past, but just now I have a couple of people keen on the Vintener Trilogy and Act of Vengeance, and my film agent is very keen to push the Last Templar Mysteries as well. I have always felt that Simon and Baldwin would do well with an outing on the small screen, so let's hope something comes of that.
And that, I think, is about it for now. I have to crack on with a couple of pieces of work before I can settle into Jack Blackjack's latest. One of which is keeping the videos coming on YouTube. It's a fun project, and gets me away from my desk to talk about pens and paper - I know, not a subject I'd expect too many people to be interested in, but I seem to have a loyal following of nearly 5,000 people!
Just recently I've been talking about Conway Stewart, which has begun manufacturing small quantities again, and who are keen to see me talk about their brilliant pens. Since it involves them sending me wonderful pens every so often, I'm more than happy to oblige! Do please look me up on YouTube - I hope you enjoy it!
Keep safe in these odd times!
All best wishes