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The Wonders of Old Technology

Guest post by Michael Jecks...



Many years ago now, back in the early 1990s, I was sitting in the New Cavendish Club in London, enjoying drinks with some Crime Writers’ Association colleagues, when a loud voice could be heard. It was the larger-than-life author Laurence Block, a proud New Yorker, who had happened to be staying at the Club while on a signing tour for his latest book.

In a few moments the CWA Chairman, Keith Miles, had wrestled him to the ground and forced him to sign up for an international subscription.

Laurence was excellent company, and when I was chatting to him later, he told me that he had been in Ireland recently, and as an experiment, he had delved back into his own roots. Not in terms of his ancestry, but his writing.

Usually when he came on tour, he would bring a laptop, as would any sensible writer. He tended to write away from home, and wherever he was staying, he would set up a desk and sit and write. But this time, he had left his computer at home, and instead he had brought an electric typewriter. It was wonderful, he said, to sit and type and listen to the clatter of the hammers striking the paper and platen. There was something energising about it, something almost elemental. Next time, he was going to bring a manual. Or perhaps he would leave it at home and bring only pencil and paper.

I thought he was mad. I had been involved with the computer and office information industry since leaving university, and the idea of returning to a typewriter (I tried damn hard, but I never managed to type a page of working story on one in my life), let alone a piece of paper and pencil, almost struck me dumb with horror.

In my office here I have a massive 27 inch iMac. I use this every day to type on. For the days when I’m out of the house, I have a wonderful Macbook Air, fabulously light and thin, on which I can type in coffee bars and at Exeter University when I’m there. I have a brilliant little smart phone, on which I have photographed notes, some ebooks, and all the access to the internet I could hope for. And I have a tablet.

The Author's Office

Some years ago I bought an iPad which I was keen to use for editing. It struck me that the iPad would be perfect: I could download books to it, and read them on a screen that would be similar to a book. It would be lighter, and I could save to or three trees a year by not printing out my books for editing. Also, when I had to go to London, I could carry the iPad rather than an entire ream of paper when I was editing.

It was good. In fact, I loved that iPad, but it suffered from some issues. First and foremost was, by the time I’d got to twenty notes or corrections highlighted in one book, the whole thing slowed down to a painful degree. It didn’t work for me, sadly.

But then that little devil who so often perches on my shoulder and suggests new ideas (David Hewson, marvellous writer and exponent of technology of all forms), spoke to me. He told me of the wonderful little HTC Flyer, a tablet a little smaller, of a size to fit in my cargo-trouser pocket, and which came with a stylus that could write on the screen like a pen. Better still, the notes created on the screen could be added to Evernote and brought up on my iMac at home. It was the perfect fusion of technology. I’ve been using it for some two years now.

HTC Flyer - now redundant

Know what? I’m selling it.

The thing is, it’s irrelevant. I have learned that when I proof documents and have to reread them, it’s a lot easier to do so on paper, rather than even the best little screen. I like pens and pencils, and I can use them more effectively and without hassle than I can a tablet. Pens and paper actually work.

Don’t mistake me: the HTC is a great device. It’s a good size, it’s neat and well-built, and powerful. However, although it does lots of things brilliantly, it just so happens they are not the things I’m worried about.

For example, it’s good at emails and making notes. But when I’m out and about, I don’t carry it with me. For emails I have a perfectly good phone, and if I need to write something longer, I reach for the Macbook Air. For notes, I rely on paper because the HTC isn’t weather proofed. It would be expensive to get it soggy, whereas if a notepad gets a soaking, it’s ruined - and can be replaced for a small amount. The Flyer is very good indeed at web browsing. But I have the two computers and the phone. In fact, for about everything I need, I have twice or three times the processing power I need already. It makes the HTC redundant.

So I’ve decided to bite the bullet. The poor old HTC is going, and in its place I will copy Laurence Block and stick to notepads and pens.

They look better, they’re lighter, and I am not so scared about breaking or losing them. Makes sense to me!


The pace is hotting up for the latest book. There will be more shortly about the actual events and where I’ll be, but the publication of TEMPLAR’S ACRE, the prequel to my main series, will be published on the 6th June by Simon and Schuster. And that is a cause for celebration, isn’t it? So here’s a little thought.

Between now and the date of publication, Cult Pens will run a competition with me. If you would like to have a little say in future books, I’m giving you the possibility of naming some characters in two upcoming books!

Now there are some limitations here. You cannot name someone you really hate and demand that I make him or her a baddie with the sort of background that would make the devil wince. Assume I’ll be making this person a strong character in a story.

Firstly I will need a good, strong name that I can use in a medieval book. The book in question will be Fields of Blood, which is published next year in June and it will be the story of the battle of Crécy.

The second book will be a follow up to my book ACT OF VENGEANCE, which I hope to write late this year, early next year. For that I will need a simple English name, or the name of an African American. Again, I don’t want to be sued, so I’m going to assume that the names given are going to be good guys!

You can suggest names up until the 9th June 2013 and the strongest names given will be selected by me. The winner will receive a signed copy of Templar’s Acre as well as having the pleasure of seeing their characters in the books mentioned above and to top it off, being acknowledged in the book itself!

So, there you are: two books for prizes, but you have to do a little work for them. All you have to do is think up your favourite medieval or present day names that would be an ideal character name, and reply with the names in the comments section of this blog for a chance to win.

Templar's Acre ITW

Because I will be wandering the wilds of Devon and Cornwall signing copies of my books all that week, the winners will be announced the following week.

Happy inventing!

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

22 May 2013

Michael Randall

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