Newsletter December 2022

Hallo, and welcome to a very late newsletter.

This year has been rather a tough one. It started out as all New Years should not, with a diagnosis of diabetes, and the ramifications of that have been clattering on through the year, with various health issues. It's had a rather profound effect on work and work/life balance - which isn't necessarily bad, but it has slowed things down.

Still, I have managed to keep working, mostly.

The Merchant Murderers

The beginning of the year saw me completing my Bloody Mary Tudor/Jack Blackjack book 7, The Merchant Murderers for Severn House. I am very fortunate to have a new editor, who is one of those people with a mind like a steel trap, and who knocked my book into great shape.

Portrait of a Murder

Not only is she a superb editor, she also has great taste and imagination. Many, many years ago, I wrote an outline for a book which I thought could be interesting. I chose an artist as the investigator for a new series - which I now think of as THE ART OF MURDER series. At the time I wrote it, nobody was interested. There was always that response of, "Oh, no. No one reads cosy crime nowadays," to which I would point the reader towards Agatha Christie's continuing sales, or perhaps to the books of Alexander McCall Smith, or to the books by Richard Osman. Their sales do not seem to be flagging.

However, blinkered editors are difficult to argue with - if you want a career as an author - so I shoved that book into a bottom drawer and carried on with Simon and Baldwin.

But when I met my new editor, I was immediately struck by her attitude to my stories, and tentatively suggested my modern series. She demanded a read, I sent it in, and she accepted it. The first in the series, Portrait of a Murder, will be published in April next year. Meanwhile, of course, I am trying to write book 8 in the Bloody Mary Tudor series, because that is due with the publisher in January, which will leave me one month to edit another new book, One Last Dance Before I Die, a period crime story set in Shanghai in the 1920s, which has been receiving some positive comments from another publisher - I am hopeful for that one finding a home - and then I have to crack on in March with the next Art of Murder story before June, when that one's due!

All in all, a busy beginning to the year.


At the same time, the Templar series is returning to print. I am delighted to say that The Last Templar and The Merchant's Partner are both available in print, and early in the New Year A Moorland Hanging will also return to bookshelves. It's a huge relief to see them as actual books once more, especially with the brilliant covers from Canelo, which I think really give a great feel for the stories.

The Last TemplarThe Merchant's PartnerA Moorland Hanging

Talking of the Last Templar series, there is a 33rd book waiting in the wings. I started writing it some years ago, and it needs a lot of heavy work, but it is close to being completed, and as soon as it is, I will submit that to Canelo as well. But just now, as you can tell, I do have more than enough work on my plate already.


Agatha Christie's house, Greenway

As well as the writing, I have just completed two more trips with the Smithsonian. They have a separate arm called Smithsonian Journeys, which caters for people who enjoy travelling and learning about their favourite subjects. On their "Mystery Lover's England" tour, I am the tour expert, talking about my own writing, about how crime writers work, about the great Golden Age crime writers, and more recent authors too. It's been enormous fun, and although it was exhausting, I feel I've made several new friends from both tours.

The trips start with a visit to Torquay, where Agatha Christie was born, and where she had a holiday home for many years, and we drive up to her house, then over the moors, and I talk about the landscape and some of the books it's influenced, before we travel up to the Cotswolds, talking about the authors who used to live up there, and then on to Oxford and finally London, all in the space of seven days. I did two tours in October, and they can't have gone too badly, because I've already been commissioned to return for two tours in 2023. I'm looking forward to them!


As if I didn't already have enough to be getting on with, I'm also now considering recording my own books as audio. The Last Templar is still not available on audio. It used to be (a particularly dreadful recording that did it no favours), but it's been out of contract for a long time now. I have a feeling that the author reading his own work might not be too bad, and I've bought a new microphone in order to experiment. I'm not convinced. First and foremost, because it will involve so many hours of reading - but audio is very popular, and I don't want the book to miss out.

Stone cross at sunset

In other news, for those of you who aren't already aware, I have been producing YouTube videos on my own channel, WriterlyWitterings, for a while now. Mostly I'm wittering on about pens and stationary, but occasionally I wander into writing too. I'm also on Patreon, which gives me a chance to talk more about my work and books, and about writing more generally. You can take a look at that here.

Away from work, I am trying to get more active (one of the results of the diabetic diagnosis), and so I am gradually getting used to mobility via pushbike as well as walking the hound for longer distances. I'm aiming to walk at least five miles a day, but currently it's proving a little problematic. I do, after all, need to get the words down on paper just now. As to cycling, well, I've been keen for a while to get back on my bike. It's a little old, admittedly, but ... well, I realised last month that my tyres were so old that the rubber had degraded. I could see through the tyre walls to the inner tube inside! Therefore I invested in two nice new tyres and two new inner tubes. Which would be great, except while fitting them yesterday, I managed to pinch a hole in one of the new inner tubes. So now I'm waiting impatiently for a replacement to arrive in the post.

Nothing's ever easy, is it?

That, for now, is about it. I do hope you enjoy a happy, peaceful and restful Christmas, and a better New Year than we have enjoyed for the last three years!
Michael Jecks

North Dartmoor
December 2022