Well, this has been a very busy year, as some of you will already know.
Back in the last newsletter I was able (at last) to let people know that I was to move from Headline to Simon and Schuster.
There were a number of reasons why this made sense, and yes, the first thing was that there was more money! However, I think that after fifteen years, I needed more of an impetus behind the series. A commitment to further marketing and the chance of bringing the series to a wider audience. With zero marketing from Headline, it was obvious that I would never see an improvement in sales - and I do write as a professional. It's not a hobby.
So, in October, I signed up with Simon and Schuster. They impressed me hugely with their focus, energy and commitment. Mind you, since I've been working with them for six or so years with the Medieval Murderers books, I was already comfortable anyway!
At the end of October I was also delighted to pass over book 29 in the series - the working title is The Oath, but I can't promise that it'll come out as that at the end. Still, it's a great story, I think, and agent and editor are both very happy - and since it's the first book they've both worked on with me, I'm really keen to see how things go from here! And you should be able to buy a copy at any time from May onwards.
The launch of Bishop was rather nicely timed, in fact. There was a new piece of music played in Exeter Cathedral the week before, Songs of Hope and Creation, by a talented local composer, Andrew Daldorph. The cover of the programme was marvellous, a sort of purple and pink creation. And on the back was ... yup - an advert for my latest book. I think it made the Dean hopeful for promotion, but his hopes were to be sadly dashed!
And I have to warn you about another thing that's in the pipeline.
As anyone who knows me will already know, I am a hugely keen fan of Conway Stewart pens, and have two of my own. They are excellent tools, really well balanced and beautiful to look at (don't take my word for it, follow this link to go and look at some pictures). However, they're also made in Devon, which adds to my pleasure. Not many miles travelled there to sell them to me.
Well, I've been talking to them for a while about some different ideas for projects - and to my astonishment, I've been asked to collaborate on a pen with them. The idea being to work with them to design a limited edition pen. Hopefully it'll mean a small number of numbered collectors' pens, perhaps with a short story written specifically for that model. I am thrilled by the idea, as you can probably imagine.
Something else, which I have avoided like the plague due to lack of time generally, is the idea of 'blogging' or 'Tweeting'. Neither appeals. However, a couple of months ago, I thought it was time I tried looking at other methods of communication, and from talking to people who're infinitely more aware of such things than I am, I began to investigate Facebook.
It's a scary site. You do get to realise how easy it would be to get someone's life details and commit ID fraud, when you see how open people are with their details - but still, it's an easy way to keep in touch with people. So if you are on Facebook and would like to keep in touch with what I'm doing on a far too regular, alarming basis, look me up and ask for a 'friendship'. There are some fan sites dedicated to me too, if you want to have a wider audience to speak to in order to question my mental capacity while writing a specific book, but I'll leave that to you! You'll find all the links on the front page of this web site.
In November, idiot that I am, I went off on a walk to research some new areas on the moors. In mid-November, you may be surprised to learn, Dartmoor was cold and wet. Very wet. My brother joined me, and we stayed out for three nights, four days, and we returned with some foolish ailments. In my case, a broken watch bracelet (that was expensive) and campylobacter (is that right?); in Keith's case it was the expense of a new door on his car, after learning at his cost that often Devon bushes have grown that way because there's a lump of granite behind the damn thing!
It was while I was recuperating that I had the idea I've been working on recently, which was a modern day book. Don't panic - it's not because I'm thinking of stopping the Templar series. Rather, it is a way of keeping my head in the prevailing century for a little while. It saves my sanity!
However, I worked very hard and fast and got about a quarter of a book down in a few weeks. It's with the agent now to see what he reckons, but I think it has legs as a story. We shall see.
Those who've been keeping up on this newsletter for a while will remember that I was collaborating with Martin Jarvis on a play for Radio Four - sadly nothing came of it, and there was no critique to explain why. So that story will have to wait for another year. But it was good fun to work on it, and wonderful to speak with Martin, who is a delight. I only hope I can work with him (more profitably next time!) again.
And that's about it. I was up until 3.30 this morning signing Christmas cards, stuffing envelopes, and having to drink copious whiskies just to take away the taste of the gum on the blasted things. You know the stuff that just seems to cake itself on your tongue, but then refuses to stick the ruddy envelope flap down? Two hundred plus of them. It took so long, I could listen to/watch The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, long director's editions with two DVDs to each film, in the time it took my wife and me to sign the cards, stuff them, add comments, and stick labels to the envelopes - but at least the whole lot was off this morning.
But I could have done with more than four hours sleep.
And this morning I've already been to the dump, clearing space for all the rubbish we'll accumulate next week. Not only Christmas, you see - we also have two family birthdays in the run up to Christmas. At least there's no one with a birthday on Christmas day, like my poor nephew!
So, to all those who have managed to reach down to this final part - many thanks for all your support as readers and for keeping this historically-challenged author moderately remunerated and off the streets for another year.
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and wish us all a happy and prosperous New Year!
All best wishes
PS - for those who're near, if you are bored with too much food and drink, come to the Duke of Yorkshire at Iddesleigh on Boxing Day to watch a bunch of daft Morris men freezing their bits off at lunchtime! Yes, I'll be there!