Back to Work!

This has been, without a doubt, the busiest Easter I’ve had since about 1976.

When I was a kid, Easter was a big deal. We would all pile into the old man’s car, mother in front, the four brothers behind, and drive off to Devon (we lived in Surrey back then). At Northay Farm, near Crewkerne, we would decamp, and take over the large farm cottages owned by the farmer. It was a bit of a squeeze when the Morton family joined us.

Don Morton had been a friend of my father’s for many years, since they were at primary school together. He was a tall, bluff, genial, cheerful character, who I remember was always laughing. During the war, he had been a secure, safe Ack Ack gunner in an anti-aircraft emplacement on the Kent coast – a Bofors gun or something similar. But although he was safe and protected by several miles of sea from German attack, he had a senior officer who was a pain in his backside. So Don did the daft thing: he volunteered to go to war in earnest.

He was over the channel with the later waves of soldiers, arriving two days after D-Day, and promptly caught a dose of food-poisoning that laid him out. But from then on, as soon as he was healed, he was off to the front.

The memories of those months stayed with him forever. He would never speak of his experiences to his son and daughters, but the horrors stayed with him, concealed behind his affable manner. Only many years later, in about 1999, when he realised that none of his grandchildren actually knew what the war was about, nor how it had affected him and his friends, did he begin to plan to write a memoir, and I was proud to have him dictate his story to me so I could type it all up for him.

Easters with the Mortons were loud, happy, grand times in the 1960s and 70s. Since then, sadly, I suppose I’ve allowed my work to overshadow all festivals other than Christmas. However, this year we made a bit of an effort, and with a turkey and some guests, it was much more of a special occasion.

Not that I was allowed to take too much time off.

It was two weeks before that I was told that I would have a little work. Three book manuscripts were to be sent to me for proof-checking. These, LAST TEMPLAR, MERCHANT’S PARTNER and MOORLAND HANGING, are all to be republished in June. On the 6th, the same day as TEMPLAR’S ACRE finally hits the bookshelves, these three will all be relaunched, and I have to admit, they stand the test of time. For me, it was a real test to pick up those three and begin to read. After all, they were first novels. My first ones. And that is enough to fill any author (who is either honest or sensible) with dread. But they read really well. I actually enjoyed them – which is fortunate, because I actually had four clear days in which to work on all three. That was a process of what I would call “power reading”!

The three manuscripts, completed, with post-it notes to show the corrections. A lot of work!

The three manuscripts, completed, with post-it notes to show the corrections. A lot of work!

But after that, there were meetings. Meetings with my agent (a superstar), my last agent (without whom I wouldn’t today be in print), my editor (the most near-to-perfect editor who lives today) and my new manager of publicity. All superb, enjoyable meetings which achieved a lot … unlike the infinitely enjoyable meeting in the Garrick Club later on Tuesday. That achieved precisely nothing, apart from a significantly less efficient head on Wednesday morning.

However, it was the other meeting I need to mention here.

Last week, I had a good meeting with a delightful company, Cult Pens ( I have been a customer of theirs for some years. Cult are superbly efficient, and carry a wide variety of stock. I use them for paper and pens, inks and pencils, and their speed of delivery and general helpfulness has impressed me.

However, they were surprised when I suggested to them that I might write a blog for them every week.

My idea was, that I should write a short blog post about the next few months – or longer if it seems to interest their readers. I’ll write about what authors do: writing, planning, plotting, inventing characters, going to literary festivals, book signings, meeting with publicity and sales staff – everything. I’ll explain how I perform my researches, how I get ideas for murders, how I sketch out motivations for the different suspects – basically, everything about what I do.

This year I have two short stories to write, one novella for the 10th anniversary Medieval Murderers and a second for The Floating Admiral with my friends in the Detection Club, and at least one full-length novel with the potential for a second if I can manage it. At the same time I’m helping plan a new literary festival, sorting out marketing for the existing books, and doing all those things that the self-employed are supposed to get involved with. And working with the Royal Literary Fund two days each week to help students at Exeter University.

It may seem that taking on a new blog will be a bit too much. However, there is a rationale behind it. I’m hoping that if I’m forced to sit down and write up a diary-piece each week, it’ll help me make sense of what I’m actually (hopefully) achieving!

All of which means, keep your eyes open on the Cult Pens website for more about me. I’ll still be writing here on my old blog, but my thoughts here will necessarily become more about my general life and thoughts, rather than purely about my activities that week.

I hope it’ll prove to be at least a little bit diverting for you!

Unlike the hound, who seems to be sleeping rather too well today …

This is where the hound rests when it's wet outside.

This is where the hound rests when it’s wet outside.


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