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The process of becoming real

Ooohh!  Excitement!

At least, I think so.  But then, I find curious things exciting - I got oddly into watching a cormorant fishing on the River Exe on Friday, wondering if it was going to catch some lunch.

Before you start to worry, the purpose of this blog, however, is not about bird-watching.  It's all about the new tvdetective book.

Hence the ooohh!

It's finally started to become real for me, the fact that it's going to be published. I was having discussions with the publishers on Friday, and it's scheduled to come out in April or May of next year.

It's a strange thing, but up until that point I hadn't thought a great deal about it.  I'd written the thing, then done some editing and sent it off, and then... sort of forgotten about it with all else that's going on. 

But now it's all back and prompting a lovely tingling of the system and a swirling of the stomach. I've finally started to think about seeing it on bookshelves and in libraries, and that's such a smiley idea.

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The strange workings of mind and body

I've been feeling unwell of late, which is annoying (there's no time for that nonsense!), but has given me cause to reflect on the relationship between mind and body.

It's one of those agues which have made me sweat and shiver and feel like I've been beaten up all over - twice.  But the curious thing is that it hasn't affected my brain.

Or, at least, I don't think it has - it might have done so to the extent that I'm delirious, but haven't noticed.  You'll have to be the judge of that.

And then, of course, comes the question as to whether there'd be a great deal of difference to the ramblings of the "normal" me (I use the quotes advisedly.)  But that's enough digressing.

One of the great curses of being ill is the boredom.  What else is there to do except feel sorry for yourself? But that hasn't been a problem this time. I've simply been laying and thinking.

And my mind has ranged far and wide, to the extent that it's even surprised me (and I'm normally used to its oddities).  It's been working happily through ideas for new books and stories, characters, thoughts about teaching, and how to sort out these six writing lectures, as well as a whole load of things you really don't want to know about.

I can only conclude my brain has taken offence at the frail confines of the physical world and gone off on a wander of its own.  Which is fine by me, because it's been an interesting experience.

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The Voice

I've been fortunate enough to be the guest at a couple of writing events in the last few days, and a question which came up at both - as it does at many - was about the author's voice.

How do you find your authentic style, the one that people grow to like and even treasure, and which - so very importantly - distinguishes you from other writers?

Like so many things, the answer is something which sounds simple, but in fact is not.  Oh, far from it!

It can take a long time to find your voice, and I fear that some people never truly do so.  But for me, the solution is this -

It's a case of being true to yourself.  You have to shake off the years of conditioning and influences, and be yourself.

I suppose it's similar to finally finding yourself in life - no longer being what you were taught to be, or think you probably should be, or even what people want you to be.  But instead, going ahead and being yourself.

With an author, that means writing how you really see the world and in a way you truly feel. It means escaping from the chains of the teaching at school and college, and the conventions of society and politeness and political correctness, and writing what you think.

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Dangerous multi-tasking

I am attempting a feat most hazardous for a mere mortal male - the perilous art of multi-tasking.

Over the months and years of giving talks about the tvdetective books, I have come to find a kind of formula for how I structure the sessions and what I say.

I use the words "kind of" advisedly, because it's a point of professionalism and pride that I tailor each for the individual audience and what I think they want to hear.  And they all react differently - sometimes most unexpectedly so - which often prompts some very hasty rethinking!

But, there are certain anecdotes and insights I know will usually work, in either proving  entertaining or poignant, and I do tend to fall back on those.

No longer, however!  I'm adding some more variety.

Part of the reason for that is that I don't want to get bored with giving talks.  I think that it's a privilege, for people to want to come and hear my musings. And if I'm not enjoying it, how can I possibly expect an audience to do so?

It's also about the old story, the one I've mentioned several times before in these blogs - needing to challenge myself and innovate.

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I've been thinking about nothing. 

All right, that may not come as any surprise to you, but it's not quite true anyway.  What I've been thinking about are spaces.

It was in my mind on my way back from a talk about the tvdetective books I gave in Plymouth on Wednesday night.  As ever, I tried to weave in some humour, and the kind folk of the audience were good enough to laugh in the places I hoped.

I also mentioned a couple of the more poignant experiences from my life, and how they translate into my writing.  And what tied both those anecdotes and the humour together, were the spaces.

People need time to think and react.  If you babble ever onwards, there's no pause for breath, no time for reflection.  It's not an easy thing to do when you're standing up in front of 70 people, just to stop and look at them.  But it's a very worthwhile art to try to master.

It's just the same in a conversation. A formal talk is only an extension of that, after all.  But I always find it interesting (and often irritating) how many people are exceptionally good at talking (and usually about themselves), but not at all talented at the noble pastime of listening.

And that's what I've come to think of as one of the most important parts of giving a talk - listening to the audience. 

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An uplifting first

I was privileged to experience a first at my Crime Writing teaching day in Barnstaple on Saturday, and a most uplifting one at that.

A member of the group was a young person, and by that I mean very young - 14 years old, in fact. 

In the days before the session, I got a call from one of the librarians asking if it would be all right if she came along. Given the potentially adult nature of the crime theme, it was understandable her parents were concerned.  

As I don't tend to do the really nasty crime stuff - the gory details of crimes, all the kind of thing - I said it would be fine.  I did though have a few amused imaginings of what people thought one of my crime writing classes might have been like.

Perhaps me entering by kicking in the door, laying down some covering fire from my shooters, yelling every profanity known to man (plus a few others), then doing a bit of robbing and pillaging to source some cash for my hard drugs and whores habit?! 

(Perhaps I'll keep that in mind for another course, as a little surprise!)

But no such drama, it was all relatively genteel.  Not only was she allowed to come by her kind parents, I thought we should encourage her and it was great to have her along.  All too much is talked about "young people nowadays" with a glum look and sour tone etc., but when you meet a teenager who's already decided she wants to be an author, and is busily going about doing so, how can you not have faith in the future?

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Travelling afar

A couple of people have already said that they think I should set a tvdetective book outside of Devon.

How remarkably radical!  Why would anyone ever want to leave this heavenly county, I wondered? Surely, as the old saying goes, all life is here?

But then again....

I've just got back from a trip to Strasbourg, to the European Court of Human Rights.  That's a reporting trip, I should add, not appearing in any way - and certainly not as a defendant!

It was a fascinating time, which did give me pause for thought as to whether I should send Dan and Adam away on a journey abroad.  There's certainly plenty of material to compare with Blighty, and often favourably.  I could see it making quite an impression on the curious pair.

Adam would certainly appreciate the shift in attitude.  The city was so strikingly clean, with little in the way of litter or graffiti.  There was a real sense of civic pride, and of believing in a shared society, just the sort of thing of which my traditionalist friend of a detective would approve.

The ways of officialdom would appeal to Dan.  In Britain, all too often the mantra is "you can't do that."  Go to a court in this country, and you're largely on your own in trying to find your way. In Strasbourg, we were welcomed, shown around, and offered every courtesy. 

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A funny thing happened to me on the way home... (I was in the fair isle of Guernsey, doing some BBC work) which has led to this blog.

A kind lady from the hotel was driving me to the airport, and we were talking about writing. She said - as folk often do - that she'd like to try writing a book.  But then followed it up with a statement I found rather breathtaking and saddening - that there was no point, as everything had been written and there was nothing new to do.

In a word - no!  Or, in several words - no, no, no, no, no, no!

I understand in part what she was saying. Many things have indeed been written about, but originality and creativity (in my humble view) are only as limited as the human imagination, and for me that's limitless.  There's always something new to do, a different turning to take, a new mountain to climb, another place to explore - otherwise life would become dull indeed.

However, her words did get me thinking. Which I was grateful for, as I had to get on a plane, which I like not at all, so they did prove a fine distraction.

I even remembered back to school days (that's how much I needed a distraction from the flying!) and what may have been my first understanding of my own creativity.  It could even have sown a few of the seeds that set me off on this writing lark.

I would have been about 14, in an English class.  We were told to write a story about "My First Love".  I didn't think twice and just wrote about it, why it was my love and what it meant to me, and handed it in. 

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