Harrogate and more

Big B 2

Beryl Joan Jecks, 1929-2015

I have been booked for most of this year to go to the Harrogate History Festival, and I was really looking forward to it, but I’ve had to cancel. My event was to be on the 23rd, and that is the day of my mother’s funeral. Apologies to anyone who was hoping to see me there.

Before continuing, I have to thank all those, and there were hundreds, who offered condolences on her death. It was wonderful to get so many kind thoughts from so many friends. I was really touched, and very grateful to all those who took the time. Thanks.

But life continues.

I am in the middle of a book now which is proving to be enormous fun. It’s quite a diversion from my usual novels. For one thing, it’s my first book written in the first person, which makes life (surprisingly) easy. Since I don’t have to explain from six viewpoints, select which is most relevant, then use that point of view to look at a specific scene, I am finding it really quite freeing. And since it’s crime, I know what I’m doing with the plot, which helps!

However, this book is soon to be finished, and from the middle of November, with luck, I’ll be launching on a new project. This is to be the first in a series again, but I’m returning to the medieval period and looking at the Crusades and Knights Templar. Although my main series was always the Templar Series in my own mind, it wasn’t really about the Templars. As all my readers will know, it was much more to do with the life of a man who had been a Templar, and how he found life after the destruction of his Order.

This new series is going to be much more about the Templars themselves. I want to look at the men who joined the various religious Orders, the type of men who went on Crusade to fight and die for their religion in the sand and heat, but also to consider the merchants, sailors, labourers, slaves and indigenous populations, and think about how they would have viewed this period. Perhaps it is to do with my own interest in medieval times, but it’s also, I am sure, a story that resonates today, especially now with the major powers fighting in and over Syria.

Look at all those luscious inks!

Look at all those luscious inks!

This year has been notable for the way that my work has been disrupted by catastrophe, however. I had a disaster in March when my computer failed – the back up drive I had been using overwrote my main disks with errors, causing the loss of the last fifteen years of work and photos. My secondary back ups on DVDs have not been entirely successful. Half of the disks have not worked, meaning that my local storage has failed. Fortunately I had also backed up to Flickr and the pictures I took in the past are mostly there, but some are lost forever. It took me three weeks to set up the computer again in the way I was used to, and a further week to read myself back into the story. Then, in the summer, my screen went peculiar and started presenting me with strings of Chinese or Japanese logograms in bright pink. This was interesting, and alarming. Especially when the screen went blank. I went to visit my friendly local Apple store, only to learn that on my ‘veteran’ machine (six years old) the blasted graphic card had blown. It was a dead machine. Another three weeks later, and another week to read my way into the book once more, and I had a new computer. But I had lost eight weeks of my book. I managed to catch up to an extent and presented the book only four weeks late after heroic typing, but it’s not something I want to do again.

So, as a result, and because I adore my fountain pens, I have decided that the next book will be written by hand. I’ll have to type it all up, of course, later, but the first draft will be briefer and written in ink on paper. That way the type up will become my first edit. Hopefully, by writing long hand, and then typing, I will be able to see the glitches more easily than by attempting to edit on screen alone. I tend to have to type the book, print it, edit it, and retype, so this is a different approach.

I have to thank three companies: Diamine Inks have been enormously helpful and have sponsored the idea by giving me one of each of their main ink colours and shades. That may not sound like much, unless you’re a fountain pen nerd like me, but it means that I’ve been presented with 103 inks. I will be writing the project with my Visconti Homo Sapiens, and Visconti are keen on the whole project and have given me their support as well, while Cult pens have been enormously helpful, providing me with Atoma notepads and paper – good quality paper and the ability to rip pages out and move them about is going to be esential.

My Visconti with the wonderful DreamTouch nib.

My Visconti with the wonderful DreamTouch nib sitting on my Atoma pad

This is going to be a seriously interesting project for me. I will not have handled a pen in anger for such a protracted time since I was at school, I guess. However, I think it’s going to be good to try. I’ll not be interrupted by bleeps and whirring from the computer as someone comments on his dog’s ingrowing toenail on Facebook, for a start. I’ll instead be able to concentrate purely on plot and character.

However, I will be posting videos about my progress, writing about my experiences on this blog, and tweeting about my day in the morning, midday, supper time, and at the end of my day. I’ll allow myself my Twitter fixes at those periods. But not more. It’s going to be fun to see this one progress, although I confess it’ll be difficult to see how to film and photograph the project without actually giving away the whole story!

Finally, to return to my mother briefly: she was looked after wonderfully by the NHS staff at Guildford’s hospital, but more important than those were the staff of the Hospice that made her last weeks much more positive. We are so grateful to these people that we have set up a link so people can donate money in support of the hospice. After all, hospices are likely to be helping more and more of us as the population ages. If you want to give something for a marvellous organisation, please go to the link here. Any sum will be gratefully received, and put to good use.

Many thanks and have a great week.

14 Responses to “Harrogate and more”
  1. Lindsey Russell says:

    Nothing, NOTHING, is more important than family. The organizers will apologize on your behalf, someone else will step in and people expecting to see you will understand.


  2. Clive Mullis says:

    Sorry for you loss Mike. Was away last were with no connection so missed your post. Anyone will understand under those circumstances as family always comes first.


  3. Looking forward to the new Templar book, and also seeing how you get on with the old school way of writing! 😊


  4. Lindsey Russell says:

    I was looking at your box of inks and admiring the colour chart when I found myself looking past them to the background (isn’t that what we writers do best, look at what is beyond not just under our nose?) – Does your cottage have window seats? I’d love a cottage with window seats and sit there looking out at a beautiful inspiring view. But I’ve put off serious house hunting until next year as I can’t face hours of driving in winter weather conditions.


    • You are quite right. Sadly, that window seat is only 14 years old, because I had it put in when we bought this place. And it’s been torn to pieces by the blasted Ridgeback! I’ve never actually sat in it until today, but it does the job well. I can recommend them!


  5. D.G.Kaye says:

    Lovely ink box selection Michael. I write my books in longhand all the time. I can’t think at a screen. I don’t consider I extra work entering it into the computer, rather a first round of edits while I’m entering. :)


    • That’s how I’m hoping it’ll go. The big problem will be: aching hands (I get RSI now, so, so what!); slowness of writing compared with typing: perhaps, but fewer interruptions; and whether I can write as productively/creatively on paper: we’ll see! I’m thinking that writing longhand will have the effect of freeing my creativity more. Be interesting to find out!

      Liked by 1 person

      • D.G.Kaye says:

        I find the pen goes way faster than the keyboard. I found myself stopping myself and wanting to edit as I wrote on the keyboard. I’m much more productive with pen and paper. And, I will say there are days when the old wrist does get tired, but a small sacrifice. :)


      • Lindsey Russell says:

        I can recommend comfrey oil (available from most health shops) because it is a natural product you won’t be introducing any nasty chemicals into your body. Just massage it in before bed to both hands to just above the knuckles then wipe any excess off with a kitchen towel.


      • Many thanks, Lindsey. I’ll try that.


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