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My Yearly Children

I count myself very lucky in everything I do - the TV work, the writing, the places I get to visit and the people I meet. But of it all, what means the most to me is the careers work.

It's how I've come to think of it - as my yearly children.

Each year, I get to mentor a couple of students from Exeter University who want to find their way into a career in the media.  And one of the great delights is watching them grow.

I usually meet someone brimming with talent, but a little unsure of their place in the world and their future. And all I do is nudge and shape, provide some thoughts and guidance, and off they go and do it.  It's that simple.

For a relatively small amount of effort and input, the rewards are enormous - both for me and for them.

I was fortunate to be invited to a celebration lunch at the university last week, and asked to say a few words about what it meant, to be a mentor. 

I won't bore you with the speech, aside from the conclusion.  You know how we hacks like a bit of hype and a soundbite?  I summed up by calling mentoring not just a win win, but a double win win. 

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Reflections of Character

When you write these book things it's inevitable that parts of yourself slip into them - but I'm continually being surprised where and how.

I haven't answered a question for a while, so for today's ramblings/musings I thought I would, and it's taken me on a pleasantly surprising tour of my personality.

The question was this - "Your love of Devon is obvious from the tvdetective books, particularly Dan's journeys into the countryside with Rutherford, but is there one walk that's your favourite above all others?"

The answer is yes, and more of that in a moment.

First, the point about reflections of character is that when I was thinking of the answer, I quickly realised that Dartmoor is my favourite destination in this wonderful county.  And then, of course, I started wondering - why?

Why not one of the fabulous walks on the dizzying coastal path?  Or over Exmoor?  Or through the countryside of the South Hams? Or the east Devon pebblebed heaths? Or so many other places...

I think the answer comes down to this - contrasts.  It's the beauty and the bleakness.

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Flirtations of the Mind

This may come as a surprise to you, but... I've had an idea.

Actually, I quite often have ideas.  It's just that they're commonly not terribly good, so nothing much comes of them. 

But this one I like.

It's a radical piece of potential organisation and planning.  Because this idea is for the new tvdetective book after the one that's not even been published yet.

Wow! I told you it was boldly and innovatively organised.

But, before we can go any further together, as ever with ideas, we've got to go through the dating process to see if we're compatible.

At the moment it's at the very early stage.  We've spotted each other across a crowded bar.  She's being a little coy, just occasionally looking over at me and giving me a little smile.  I'm doing likewise to her.

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An Author's Christmas

Ok, I know it's not quite Xmas time yet, but it's the feeling of the moment in the mind of this writer. 

Perhaps the countdown to Christmas would be a better way of putting it.  It's now just under seven weeks until the new tvdetective book, Shadows of Justice, is published, and I'm in the process of busily working myself into a frenzy.

I've said it before, but there's no better comparison I can think of - it takes me back to being a child, and watching the days pass, ready for the arrival of Santa.

As is the way in the run up to publication, there are lots of things going on which are a constant reminder - the sorts of thought-poke which I don't mind at all.

Firstly, I've just finished approving the final edits of the book. 

This is the dots and commas stage, and it's far from exciting.  But it does keep Publication Day (I've decided capitals are warranted due to its importance) continually in mind.

Secondly, something more interesting has been happening this week.  It's a dilemma, causing much agonising, but highly enjoyable for it. 

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Candles in the Darkness

In my traditional melodramatic way, I've been musing upon what I might leave behind should I exit stage left this curious drama called life.

I know I'm relatively young and ought not be thinking such thoughts, but I suppose it's a consequence of how the year has started - with the loss of more family, and in this case the closest of the close.

It struck particularly hard on Thursday evening, when I had the privilege of being invited to St James School in Exeter, to hand out the awards at the prizegiving ceremony for the youngsters who'll be leaving this year.

It was an absolute delight to be there.  There was so much pride in achievement from students and their parents alike.  I got sufficiently bound up in the atmosphere that I was caught out when I was asked up to the front to speak, and had to stir myself and shift.

The speech was easy enough to give, because it was all true and even more - entirely from the heart. 

I won't bore you with the details (the youngsters suffering it is quite enough to inflict upon the human race), but it was about the importance of working hard and the wonderful places that endeavour can take you. 

I was so pleased that quite a few students came up for a chat afterwards, said my words had made sense (that was plenty enough of a relief), and had even given them something along the lines of... wait for it...

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The Upside Down Excitement of Writing

It's a common complaint of mine that the excitement of this writing lark is back to front.

For me, the part that's the most fun is the idea.  That one little grain of grit which grows to become the beautiful pearl.

If you analyse most books - and it's certainly true with the tvdetective series - at their heart lies one fundamental idea, character, event, or premise.  There's much else built upon it, but that's the foundation.

And that's the part I love.  Finding the foundation of inspiration and feeling it grow; shaping it, madly scribbling out page after page of notes on how it'll come to make a book.

Then follows the actual writing.  Which is still good fun because the book will continue to evolve, will surprise you by going off in directions you didn't expect, but which is also darned hard work too.

After the first draft however, for me, the excitement begins to wane.  Then you're into the re-writing and editing.  Which is still vital - don't get me wrong - but frankly rather mundane.

And as most of my books have been re-written six or seven times, by the point you're getting to the end of that process it's starting to become almost a chore.

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A Youthful Inspiration

One of the greatest joys of this writing life is that inspiration can come visiting in the most unlikely of places and at the strangest of times.

It happened to me yesterday, when I was lecturing in careers in the media at Exeter University -

Simon Exeter Careers talk 005.JPG

It's something I love doing for all the reasons you've heard before - putting a little back into the community, offering the students a thought about a rewarding way of life, feeling young again as I get to engage with the future of the nation, delighting in that sense of life, talent, energy and optimism etc. 

So I was enjoying the lecture because of all that when - out of nowhere - the idea came.

It was during the question and answer part, at the end.  When I sensed something about the audience had changed. 

An interesting number of the questions were about how to find a work-life balance; secure a good degree, but also do a part time job to try to minimise debt, while at the same time getting some work experience to enhance your CV, and also the important issue of actually having a life, too.

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