Blog

Ways with words

A jolly good question arrived in my inbox a couple of weeks ago, and 'twas this - why do I write the tvdetective books in a sparse and factual style?

The answer - and prepare yourself for a shock here - is that it's no accident of chance, but actually planned and intended.  Stop laughing, it is I tell you!  I do occasionally, sometimes, just now and then come somewhere close to having a deliberate plan for some parts of this curious phenomenon called life.

The reason is straightforward, perhaps even (ready for another shock?) logical.  I thought as I was writing about a journalist, it would be appropriate to pen the things in a journalistic type style. 

Clever huh?  Hey, what're you looking like that for?! Oh, ok then, I'll just keep rambling...

First aside here (took a while coming, not bad for me) - journalistic "style" it may be, but hopefully without all the cliches of this disreputable trade that you know and hate so well.  "The battle's being stepped up (translation; nothing much is happening)... furious row erupted (a mild disagreement) ... only time will tell (I can't think of anything else to write to end this report) etc etc.

Anyway, it also helps me in that the old hack's way of writing is that which I've grown up with, and so it's like putting on a familar and friendly T-shirt.  I do sometimes slip into the odd bit of florid writing, but it's not really me - I'm a boy, after all.

Do keep the questions coming in, I always enjoy hearing from readers. You can get in touch via the contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html

Read more

Words and the weather

Ever the most British of fascinations, the weather is even more so at the moment.  I suspect it's because Autumn turned up so tardily that when it finally arrived it came as a shock.

I was thinking a little about the part the weather plays in the tvdetective books, and the world of words in general.  I defy just about any English author not to mention the weather on repeated occasions - we're programmed to do so! - but equally you've got to be careful not to let it become a cliche.

How many times is the denouement of a work set against a storm... how many times must a chase scene take place through the pouring rain... and a happy ending against a sunset?

Ah, some of it is unavoidable.  It's hard to write realistic misery when the sun is blazing down upon the characters.  It's just the way of sunshine, it magics up smiles.  And it's hard to be cheery when caught amidst a monsoon, unless you're one of those doommongers, the modern day Horsemen of the Apocalypse, known (with no obvious sense of due irony) as weather "forecasters".

(Quick aside - I use the quotes because if you look at most of what they say, they're telling you what's already happened - and even I could get that right! - and when it comes to the "forecasting", they always couch their visions in the most esoteric of caveats and provisos.)

However, as I was saying, the weather is so influential in our lives, I suppose it's inevitably going to play a big part in our literature.  I however, having thought about it, and being the contrary type I am (rules were made to be broken etc.) am now going to try to set some scene counterwise to the weather in a future book - perhaps a jolly wedding in the rain type thing - and see if my editors let me get away with it.

All this because some of my shoes are still drying on the radiator after they, and I, got a good soaking earlier in the week...

Read more

The joy of animals

I had a curious conversation this week (first aside of the blog - in fact, I tend to have many in most weeks, but whether that's just me or the two strange professions I pursue I leave to you to decide), which I thought worth musing about, as it's central to the tvdetective books and also the lives of many of us.

'tis this - the wisdom of animals. 

I'm not quite sure how the conversation started, but a friend was arguing that the most intelligent birds she knew were chickens.

How so? asked I.  Did you once come home to find one sitting on the sofa, in front of the fire, sipping whisky and doing The Times crossword? (This chicken isn't so smart, look - it hasn't got 12 across etc...)

No, her contention was the delight of the simplicity of their lives.  And from my observations of the birds in question, that's certainly true. Their entire existence appears to be taken up with (1) hopping around, letting out a squawk of joy every time they discovered a piece of corn (which happened a lot), and (2) sleeping. 

Personally, I favour geese, as there's a gang on the river here in Exeter of whom I've grown fond.  They recognise me to the extent they come running each time they see me, and are gentle and amusing whenever I feed them, taking the bread by hand and showing signs of being true English geese; that is, they queue politely for their turn for titbits.

Anyhow, we debated the matter (you may not believe it, but it really was a stimulating chat), until I pointed out that my favourite creatures are dogs.  Not because of their brains, but more to the point, the lack of them.  What I like about dogs is that they'll never leave you alone to be a fool.

Read more

Stretching mind and body

Something interesting has happened (it occasionally does to me). 

I had a straightforward and simple title for this little musing - just the one word - but hesitated when I went to write it, as I thought the original version would put many people off from reading onwards.

I suppose that's because the word is very divisive, some people loving it and being almost addicts, others immediately shutting down their ears the moment it's aired.

Anyway, all that's a new record in itself, a digression to begin a blog, instead of at least having the decency to wait until I'm a few sentences in.  However!

The word I was thinking of is exercise.  And it came to mind yesterday, when I was thinking how much I envied Dan.

It's at this point of the year I really yearn to have a dog.  It's such a great time to go out on walks in fair Devon; not yet too cold, often just right in fact, and all that beauty in the countryside with the palette of autumnal colours, the spiralling leaves, the wonderful sunsets (they're my favourites in spring and autumn).

But, for now at least, this often chaotic lifestyle of mine doesn't allow for a Rutherford of my own, so it'll just have to remain a dream.  But this I have promised myself time and again - as soon as life settles down, one of the first things I shall do is go out and get myself a dog.

Read more

Socks, scarves and other follies of fashion..

I've been having trouble with my socks of late, as those lucky folk who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will know.  First one of my favourite pair splits, and that on a Monday morning too - what an inauspicious start to the week! - and then I can't find a matching pair anywhere in the whole drawer.

Which all got me thinking about the broader issue of fashion, both in the tvdetective books, and the rest of my life.

The following confession will come as little surprise to anyone who knows me, and it's thus; I don't think I ever really got the hang of fashion.

I couldn't help but notice that, from the very first of the "fortunate" bunch, every one of the few girfriends I've ever had has gone about trying to amend, alter, or just entirely change the clothes I wear.  Every one!  There's a hint in there somewhere, surely...

Even my friends have, on occasions, looked me up and down, and if not said anything, then probably haven't needed to do so.   Sometimes the eyes are all that's required.

It's true I favour louder shirts and ties, but there's a reason for that.  As a man, there are only limited ways to express any form of personality, particularly in the working environment.  Gals get to choose skirts or trousers, frocks or jackets etc etc. We boys are stuck with the jacket, shirt and trousers, so any opportunity for a little indulgence I tend to take.

I'm often asked how much of Dan reflects me in the tvdetective books. Adam is a sharp and expensive dresser, and Dan admires his style whilst being unable to replicate it in just about any way.  Which I suppose provides an answer of sorts! 

Read more

A basic human fear

I had the pleasure of talking to the Hampshire Writers' Society last night, and one subject came up aplenty and guided me to today's subject for musing.

It's something which strikes at the heart of we fragile human things, and which dominates many of our fears. In a word, it's rejection.

My first memory of the dreaded feeling was from age about five or six.  There was a singing lesson at school, and some of the class were selected to be recorded warbling Christmas carols.  The teacher went around listening to the various children and picked them out, one by one.  I'm sure my memory is making this worse, but the way I recall it is that every other kid got chosen, apart from me and the smelly boy in the corner who no one liked.

Cue constant waves of tears, all the way home and long into the evening.

And then come the rejections of later years - of first loves when the heart is lanced through with a blade of ice, of first jobs, when the stomach sinks lower than the deepest pit of the Pacific Ocean at that bland letter, thanking you for your interest, but...

Last night we were talking about being rejected as a writer.  The fall, I can tell you, is no easier now than with first loves or first jobs.  You have this great idea for a book (at least, you think so), you fall in love with it, you plan and plot it, you work on the characters, you write the thing, then re write and re write time and again, and then finally, all that time later, you send it to some publishers...

... who - almost inevitably - don't want it. 

Read more

Reflections of time

If you're wondering what I'm going to write after such a grand title for an entry, then I fear I may be joining you in that.  However...

What I was thinking of is how we use our time and how much of it we waste. 

The reason for today's musing is this - another fine question has arrived in my inbox, and it asks in essence; "How do I come up with some of the strange tweets I post?" 

In truth I've edited the inquiry a little, there was a suggestion some were more than a tad strange, accompanied by the thought that my mind must be either jolly creative, or simply mad.

On that matter I won't - daren't?! - comment, but i will do my best to answer the question, and it comes back to the title of the blog.

I've always been fixated by time.  From early memories of watching Dr Who (very quick aside - it was the Cybermen who freaked me the most, not Daleks), i think I fairly rapidly came to the conclusion that time itself is the one enemy we can never defeat.

And from there, I've noticed time had featured strongly in many of my tastes in life.  One of my favourite paintings is Dali's The Persistence of Memory, with its mesmeric melting clocks.  A favourite poem is Eliot's Four Quartets, with its reflections on time.

Read more

A simple pleasure of inspiration

I haven't answered a question for a while, being the naughty writer type chap I am - it's part of the job description not to play by the rules! - so I thought this morning may be a good time to rectify that omission. 

An email arrived a couple of weeks ago with the simple inquiry - what inspires me?

As with so many apparently straightforward questions, it's much more complex than it first sounds and there are a host of possible answers.  But one has been nudging me to talk about it, so I'll choose that boisterous candidate.

A quick aside here - I suppose it was inevitable - I've never been materialistic, and have always been glad of that.  I don't seek contentment in new cars and big foreign holidays, but tend to find tranquility and release in more modest manners.

Such it is with the answer to the question.  What I've been much enjoying in recent days is the simple pleasure of the sky.

I mostly write in my study, a converted attic with a skylight which looks out over Exeter. And often, when I'm searching for inspiration, I find myself gazing to the heavens. 

For all its many moods, the sky is always stirring. Be the great canopy filled with the fires of the autumnal sunsets we've enjoyed of late, the pure blue of the lost summer, the thousand shades of grey of the moody winter, or the racing clouds of classic October, there's always something to stare at and lose yourself in.

Read more

Fighting a modern-day dragon

Every day, I partake of a practice which I thought - until recently - was perfectly normal, but have come to realise through conversations with friends and those members of the wider world, that it very much isn't.

First aside of this blog - and so rapidly! - I can sense you're starting to worry what I'm going to say here, and indeed whether it's safe to carry on... Fear not, it's nothing offensive.  Just, apparently, unusual.

I might as well get on with it, so here's the confesssion which it seems puts me out of step with much of modern society.  Deep breath, prepare myself, right, here we go, it's this...

...I am able to turn off my mobile phone and email!

Yep, that was it, but as bland as that may seem, it strikes me I'm unusual in doing so. 

The thought first came upon me in August, when I was teaching at the wonderful Swanwick Writers' Summer School.  A discussion was going on about how to keep writing when emails were a constant distraction, and I suggested the simple remedy of turning off your email.

To be given a reception roughly akin to the devil himself strolling in to join the congregation at a Christening!

Read more