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A Writing Holiday

I'm just back from the Writers' Holiday at Caerleon in Wales, and I had a great time.

I was told to expect one of the friendliest events I'd ever known, and such it very much was. Everyone made me feel incredibly welcome. I'd like to say a big thank you to the organisers, Gerry and Annie, and also to all who came along - in particular for laughing at all the right places in my talk!

It was a superb event, a wonderful setting, warming people, and we even managed to learn a thing or two - myself included.  If anyone is an aspiring writer, and is interested in going next year, I'd thorougly recommend it.

And as for the Cwmbach male choir, the music was delightful!  What a memorable night.

So then, it's now back to work.  I'm on the edits of the fifth tvdetective book, The Balance of Guilt, which are ticking along fine.  It's never my favourite part of the writing process, as the fun of the actual book, the characters, the plot and all is done and this is the checking of the details of spelling, punctuation etc., but it has to be done.  I did warn you it wasn't all fun, being a writer!

Off to Topsham tomorrow for the Exeter Book Fair, a very fine event, which it's my pleasure to support.  If you're interested in popping along, there are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html

Back to the editing now... and I think I've found an erroneous apostrophe - sounds painful!

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Travelling abroad...

Well, only in the most modest of ways, admittedly - I'm off to Wales.

I'm giving a talk at the Writers' Holiday, a fine programme of events designed to help people who want to become authors.  It's at Caerleon near Cardiff, and if you're interested, there are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html

The event has a great reputation as hugely helpful for aspiring writers, and as a good fun time too, so I'm looking forward to my visit. 

There'll also be a little mistiness of nostalgia, I suspect.  I took my journalism diploma in Cardiff, which was my route into the media, and much of the reason the tvdetective books came about.  It's a great city, very vibrant, so I shall look forward to revisiting some old haunts. 

You know what it's like, when the ghosts of days gone by come back to stay.  I'm expecting a poignant time. 

To the more practically minded, I'm also taking my laptop so I can continue the work on the new book, The Balance of Guilt.  The editing is still going smoothly, with all remaining on course for publication in September.  Long may it continue!

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That DJ thing

You know sometimes how you can wish you hadn't said or mentioned something?!

I've noticed it's happened to me more than a little in my life.  But on this occasion I'm talking about my last post and the news that I was once a DJ.

I don't want to go into it, said I, or at least not here.  And now, naturally, It's prompted a few questions. So, aAs I promised to answer any that are rasied, here we go -

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved music.  As soon as I could, I got a paper round in my parents' newsagents and spent most of the money on records.  That's singles, 45rpm chunks of vinyl, none of this modern downloading stuff.  I like music you can actually hold in your hand.

Well, the love of music stayed with me, and when I went to college, I looked around for clubs and societies to join.  One seemed to match my outlook perfectly - a place I could indulge myself in music and also talk a lot.  The university radio station...

I joined, was trained up (radio studios look like the cockpit of an aircraft when first you meet them - scary) and duly began jocking.  I started doing gigs in local nightclubs too, and quickly realised I could make more money for less work than my original intention on going to college, which was to become a teacher.

So, when I left, I did some DJing for a while, got bored with that, then shifted into radio news, which finally took me into TV news.  And, of course, working in the media led me into this writing lark, and the tvdetective series.

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Music

Now, this is a good question -

Why don't I put references to music in my books, I'm asked?  Many authors often quote, or cite songs, to complement scenes.  Why not in the tvdetective series?

It's not because I don't like music. I love it.  In fact, music is how I got into the media and so eventually began writing - I used to be a DJ - but that's a tale too far for this post and a blog for another day!

So, back to the question, before I go off on another Hall meander. Well, I don't put much in the way of music in the books because I fear it can be exclusive.  If you don't know the songs an author is writing about, and you're not minded to look them up, it can be a frustration, a feeling that you're being excluded from a part of the story.  It's as simple as that. 

It comes from personal experience - I have read books where I hear about some song, and it frustrates me, because I don't know it.

The other part of the question is - what's my favourite music?  I like all sorts, but if you pushed me to one songwriter, or artist, I'd go for Paul Simon.  He's got the lot - his melodies are beautiful and haunting, and his lyrics so original and evocative. 

I'm always interested in receiving questions about the books - if you have one, you can get in touch via the contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html

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Writing Workshop

Thanks to all those who came along to the Crime Writing Workshop last night.  I had a great time, and more importantly, I'm glad you did.  We can also be proud in raising some money for Oxfam and their work to alleviate poverty across the world, a very fine cause.

I can now reveal I was rather nervous about the whole event.  Firstly, I've done little in the way of trying to give people tips on how to write a book before, so it was a new experience for me.  Secondly, there's always that lingering question - who am I to try to teach?!

However!  I was delighted by the kind feedback (and the reassurances that it was genuine), to the extent that I'd be very happy to hold another workshop, if anyone is interested.  If you want to get in touch, about that or anything else, you can do so via the contact page - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html

Last night was beneficial to me in another way, too.  It's often said that you learn as much as the people you're trying to teach when you attempt to pass on some thinking or experiences. That was certainly the case with me.  Preparing for the workshop made me think in detail about how a book works, and what the ingredients for a successful novel are.

I shall diligently attempt to apply those lessons in my future scribblings!

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The Balance of Guilt

A much awaited - and also rather dreaded - email has arrived from my publishers.

In it come the suggested edits for the new tvdetective book, The Balance of Guilt. 

The reason I always worry about this is the continual fear that I've overlooked some detail which would render the entire plot impossible.  That would mean, at best, a very large amount of rewriting work, and at worst, perhaps even having to start again, almost from scratch.

I'll give you an example of one little such error in a while, but first the main point of this post.

It's good news!  There were no major structural problems found by the editors, so it's only a question of some minor editing, a bit of tidying up, subbing and tightening, and some improved characterisation.

Phew!

That all means Balance of Guilt should be fine for release in September, as per the plan. 

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The weather

I always thought I wasn't a sufferer from the English obsession with the prevailing climatic conditions, but writing these strange book things as I do, I've had to come to reappraise my view.

I've noticed that in almost every one of my scenes, there's some reference to the weather.  And without any conscious effort on my part, the conditions that I rope into my imaginary wanderings seem to complement the occasion. 

In the dramatic scenes, the weather tends to be either wet, or close and dense.  Come the (admittedly rather rarer) jolly interludes, I can usually be relied upon to encourage at least a glimpse of the sunshine.

It's only lately I've really noticed this, and I suppose it's inevitable, as we're all so influenced by the weather.  It's particularly pertinent at this rare moment of warmth, when the summer appears to have at last remembered its job description and people smile as they walk.

Long may it continue, although as ever with the English weather, I travel more with the companion of optimism than any sense of realism.

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Plots and Morris Dancing

I'm often asked where my plots come from.

The answer can be just about anywhere.  I sometimes read a story in the paper, or hear one on the radio, that sets my mind off into a little flurry of thought.  Or I can just imagine one quirk, or theme around which a whole plot can be based - The Death Pictures was like that, the concept of the whole book coming from an idea for one central riddle.

Often I can find the beginnings of a plot in something I see.  Such it was at the weekend, and is the reason behind the odd title of this post.

Firstly, a confession.  I'm a big fan of Morris Dancing.  I think it's a wonderful evocation of a great tradition, and a hugely enjoyable spectacle.

On which subject, congratulations and thank you to all the Morris Dancers who performed in Exeter at the weekend to mark the 40th anniversary of the first Great Western Morris Whit Tour of the city.  I watched several of the events and found them most entertaining.

But!  I didn't realise how competitive Morris Dancing could be.  In the final dance, on Exeter Quay, there was more than a little lively rivalry regading who should be performing next.

Which set the Hall mind wondering about some future plot based around Morris dancing... well, we shall see!

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Troublesome chapters

I've been reviewing the new tvdetective book, The Balance of Guilt, which is due out in Sept.

The good news is that - in my humble view, at least - it seems to hang together pretty well and make for a decent story.  I even got quite excited towards the end to find out what would happen - strange perhaps, when you consider I wrote the thing!

The odder news is that I appear to be struggling with my chapter structure.  I've noticed some of them can go on for scores of pages. So, some work to divide them up into more manageable chunks has been required. 

I think I've worked out why that is. When I'm writing, I tend to get so into the book - almost wanting to find out what happens next, like a reader (hopefully) - that I just keep on going and forget to portion it all up. 

The good news is that it's not hard to do - just a question of spotting the natural breaks, with maybe the odd added paragraph or two.  And after some debate, I've now convinced myself that my little chapters issue is a positive sign. 

At least it means I'm enjoying the story, wanting to tell it and believing in it, so coming back to insert proper chapters later seems a reasonable price to pay.

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