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Signing - and not Signing

Guest post by Michael Jecks...



This has been an enormously busy week. Launch weeks tend to be pretty loopy, but this one, with four books launched simultaneously and then a weekend away, has been more mad than usual.

Last week I said I’d enjoyed the running around from Exeter to Plymouth and Truro, but after that last signing at Waterstone’s (at which I was surprised and delighted to meet six different fans by sheer good luck), I went off to enjoy an afternoon’s Morris Dancing in Padstow. Morris Dancing, as any Englishman knows, is a rather light-hearted dance style in which the participants dress up either in white or black, and idly prance around. I know, it’s what I used to think as well. But when you take it even moderately seriously, Morris is a fabulously energetic anaerobic exercise. And when you dance it in the sun, it’s not only very tiring, it’s also damn hard work! We danced three sets of five or six dances in Padstow, and the beers were medicinal, I promise you … and essential for rehydration!

Saturday was more of the same. Tinners’ Morris (my side) were dancing at the the Royal Cornwall Show, at various points of essential interest. They included outside the Sharp’s Beer tent, the Skinner’s Beer tent - you get the message. It was a very good day. For some reason the Royal Cornwall always is.

Morris at Royal Cornwall Show

But to return was to jump back into the maelstrom of work. First of all, with the selection of the winner of the competition here with Cult Pens.

I’ve made some comments on things in the last post from Tuesday, but I have to say thanks again to all those who sent in their suggestions. I was stuck for hours trying to pick the winners, and finally finished typing up my comments at one in the morning. With so many names to pick from, it came down to basic principles, like looking at the names I already had in the book and not using a name that sounded too similar to them. It’s all too easy to confuse readers with similar names. At last I did get two that looked different enough, and suited the books, so thanks for all the entries.

After that, it was down to the basics of selling books again. I sorted out a short trip to London for Friday - both to sign a pile of books at Goldsboro Books in Cecil Court in London, an excellent place to get hold of signed first editions of all your favourite authors, and then on to various other Waterstone’s shops. Er. And then things went wrong.

The thing was, when the car went in for a bog-standard MOT, I learned that it was less bog-standard than I’d expected. In fact there’s been some extraordinary wear and tear on the suspension doohickeys at the front, which means that I will have to spend Friday travelling to pick up the relevant large bits of metal and driving them back to a garage so that the car can be used and MOTed. Which is going to cost the equivalent of all the books I sold last week, I suspect. Oh, for the days of horsepower again …

So, I’ve had to put off the trip to London for a few days, and will have to sort a different day to sign Goldsboro’s books. Which is irritating, because a reader from the US is over in London and I would have signed her new books for her. Still, she’ll be back again (after touring the UK) in a week, so perhaps I can see her then instead. I hope so.

And now I’m preparing for another little adventure. A few times each year my brother Keith tries to persuade me to leave my desk and go for a walk with him. I took him for his first wander on the moors some five years or so ago, and we’ve been out two or three times a year since then, apart from those like last year, when I was unavoidably held at my desk by too many deadlines.

My brother Keith checking directions

Next week he’s coming to prise me away, and I’ve spent a few hours playing with rucksacks and tents. Since it’s supposed to be summer, I figured that there should be little need for a full tent and rucksack with the weight of a sack of housebricks. Instead, I liberated my 43 litre Berghaus backpack and filled it with what I thought would be needed. Not all the little twiddles and toys for a serious march, but the lightweight stuff for a wander.

Instead of a full raincoat, I’ve a lightweight windshirt and poncho. Rather than the tent, I’ve a bivvy bag for my sleeping bag. The poncho will double as my tent (I’ll set it up as a tarp). For cooking, I’ll take my little gas burner for emergencies, and mostly rely on my BushBuddy and any sticks and twigs I can find.

I should, of course, take all the gear out on the moors and give it a trial run. I will, I know, make myself look a twerp on the moors with my brother watching on. However, better to look a twerp when there’s someone else there to help (or laugh), rather than discovering a major error when there’s no one else carrying a heavy Trangia cookset!

I’ve managed to cut the weight of my pack from 21 Kg to under 10Kg. A little more finessing to do, but basically I’ve got it down to a good weight for an old man.

It was always my walks on the moors that inspired my stories. I would wander around from Belstone, up to Hangingstone Hill, Steeperton, and beyond. Many times I’ve slept out to the sound of water rippling past in the little streams. A few times I’ve woken to the discovering that rain had brought the stream up to the door of the tent! Nowadays I don’t get to walk the moors as often as I’d like, so I’m really looking forward to next week.

One thing that will travel with me is the new notepad I’ve bought. It’s a lovely little Japanese one, a Midori, with refillable pages, and which works with my Visconti Homo Sapiens superbly.

The pad itself is a ludicrous concept - a flap of leather with elastic bands to hold pages inside, but it’s excellent quality, and the leather makes me feel like Indiana Jones whenever I use it. It also has the advantage that it’s as tall as A5, but not so wide. It will fit into cargo pockets, but also into jacket inner pockets much more easily than, say, a Moleskine. Added to that, the paper just will not feather the ink or let it bleed through to the other side. I cannot use Moleskines for that reason - the ink soaks through on every page - which is why I tend to use Rhodia notepads and paper generally in the office. Rhodia is much heavier, more reliable for a fountain pen user.

I am still stunned by the Homo Sapiens. It’s a fabulous pen, with a superb balance and heft. It feels gorgeous in the hand, and I love the fact that it just doesn’t scratch even when it meets a lump of metal, like a key. Instead, the pen wears away a little of the metal, like any good piece of rock would. Any of my other pens would be damaged, but not this one. It’s the Rottweiler of fountain pens: wonderfully handsome, but not one to prod or push around! After some months, it still looks like new, and because of the huge reservoir, it keeps writing for hours at a stretch, which is pretty damn essential for me.

Even so, I think I’ll not take the pen with me on the walk. Instead it’ll be a job for my little Kaweco AL-Sport. Smaller, lighter, and considerably less valuable in case I lose it. I can use that at nights when I want to write up my journal notes, and for the daytime I have a Wörther pencil.

I think my next task is to get a new nib for the Kaweco. The little pen needs a stub for neater-looking writing. With my handwriting, I need all the help I can get!


As well as collaborating with fellow members of The Medieval Murderers, Dartmoor-based Michael Jecks is the author of thirty three novels in his best-selling Templar series. His latest, Fields of Glory will be published in June 2014 in hardback and Kindle from Simon & Schuster. Expplore more of Michaels' work at: www.michaeljecks.co.uk

Michael Randall

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