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Resolutions by proxy
Posted by Simon on 31st, December 2011 at 08:56:55
To make a list of New Year's resolutions feels far too conventional to me, not to mention an inevitable trap of sadness and self-recrimination when they do the inevitable tailspin from the blue skies of hope, so...
I thought I'd deal with a few potential resolutions that people might wish I would make, based on my experiences over the past year. Standby... it's resolutions (or not) by proxy time, and who knows - some of your favourites may be in here...
1. Explain your more bizarre tweets. I don't want to start negatively, but you leave me with no choice. This I can't help with. Firstly, it says in my book of how to be a writer to never explain what you mean as it destroys the mystery and romance, and both sell. Plus, there's the more mundane issue that I often have no idea what I'm talking about myself.
2. Write a new tvdetective book. Ah, something more positive to say! It's well in progress and depending upon editing demands, publishers' whims etc., should - I hope - be around next year.
3. That goatee. Given my struggles with the issue of hair, it's more like a kidee really. Feedback on this bold statement of fashion has been mixed. One kind lady told me it was very sexy, but she had been drinking. We got an email at work saying it made me look like a tramp, and messed up a viewer's HD television. But for now I think it's going to stay. It helps to keep me warm on the road in winter, plus if I can't grow hair on my head, I might at least try for some somewhere...
4. Can you tone down - or at least pick some tasteful - ties? No, sorry. For a man, they're one of the few ways of expressing personality, or adding some colour to an outfit, and I like them. Plus, my tastes keep at least a couple of the stranger tie companies in business, and we all have to do our bit at this time of economic woe.
5. Can you tone down - or at least pick some tasteful - shirts, when you toddle out for a beer of an evening? No. See above.
6. Dancing - can you stop trying to do it? A very fair request. I know I don't do it elegantly, in time, or anything whatsoever approaching what the dictionary would describe as dancing. I'll do my best to curtail it, promise.
7. Can you stop taking paper and pen out of an evening and noting down what happens and what we say and do? A common concern of my long-suffering friends, but I'm afraid the answer must be no. You provide far too much invaluable material for books and stories with your curious ways and deeds. All I can say is that I'll do my best to disguise the source.
8. Can you stop partaking of such quantities of beer and curry? A request from my poor body, I think. No is the answer. I like them, and a man has to have some vices, although perhaps not as many as I seem to manage to get through.
9. Can you stop running around the river? One from my knees, which complain by aching hard afterwards. No, I'm afraid not. We need to do the running to cope with point 8, above.
10. Can you stop staring at us when you go running around the river, it's unnerving? One from the cormorants who live on The Exe (there are 15 at the moment, I counted them on a run yesterday). No. You're so entertaining! I love the wings stretched drying thing you do, and also when you go fishing. I never know where you'll resurface, and when you do so with a huge fish, and then try to swallow it whole, it keeps me giggling for days. Good work those comical birds, nature at her most amusing best!
11. Can you stop talking to us when you bring bread, it's embarrassing? One from the gang of geese who I love feeding. No, It's far too much fun, and a bit of conversation is a fair price to pay for some supper. Get on with it, and don't honk so loudly next time.
12. Can you get a sensible job and life and stop being a wally? Ah, a question from the world in general, methinks. Even up to the day she died, my mother kept asking when I was going to get a proper job/jobs (TV reporter and author not enough, apparently). Another fair point, but I'm afraid the answer is no. I've got away with it this far, and have no intention of stopping now.
Finally for this last post of 2011, a very big thanks - to all who read my scribblings, all who have helped and supported me this past year, to those who've come along to my talks and workshops - I've met some wonderful people this year - to all my fine friends, to the beautiful city of Exeter which I'm proud to call home, and to the Planet Earth and life in general for hosting we strange human things.
Time to go now, before it gets like one of those nauseous Oscar speeches. A Happy New Year to you all!
Lightbulbs of the mind
Posted by Simon on 28th, December 2011 at 08:34:49
I used to love the way comic book artists indicated a character had been struck by an idea - that little light bulb which would appear over their head. It's returned of late as a childhood memory and has been lingering and making me chuckle.
I mention it now, because I've been hunting some ideas over the last few days. Elusive little beasts they can be, hiding in the darkened corners of the brain and often annoyingly reluctant to reveal themselves, but I think I've managed to track a few down.
One of the (very few, you'll doubtless agree?!) flaws in my character is that I don't like to do things straightforwardly, nor conventionally. I realised that from an early age, when presented by a rule, the first thing I'd look to do was to find a way to break it.
Whether or not that's served me well in life is another matter, and not necessarily one I think I should go into here...
Anyway, what I'm talking about (I think) is the teaching I'm doing in Geneva next month. I've got a couple of things I want to try to convey, and have been looking for a fresh and entertaining way to do so.
(Part of this is that I also like to entertain myself when I'm teaching, but again, that's a digression too far for this little ramble.)
Happily, my most creative moments also tend to be amongst my most enjoyed - in summary, walking around the graceful River Exe, delighting in the antics of the avian world (the cormorants have been great this Xmas, on a real fishing frenzy), and sitting in a pub, trying new ales and letting my mind wander.
So, after an arduous few days of such pursuits - I had to fill my Xmas time off somehow, aside from overeating! - I think I've just about got somewhere. I won't say too much, so as not to give away the surprise to the lucky folk who are coming along to the Geneva session, but a little fun with some darkness, and unexpected smells and sounds beckons... and one or two other tricks besides.
I've also come up with a few ideas for projects to amuse me for the year ahead, including one thought for a new tvdetective book, a bit more on the play (getting increasingly excited about that!), and some more bits and bobs. All in all, it's been a refreshing, productive and enjoyable break.
So, finally, back to the point of this entry, and the lightbulb over the head. I was thinking what a clever and appropriate way it was of representing an idea. You can sit there, thinking, thinking, thinking, and nothing comes along, until all of a sudden... click! It's like magic, the flicking of a switch, illumination, all suddenly clear where only a second ago there was darkness.
And what a beautiful moment it is. It's one of my favourites of the entire creative process - the concept, the starting point, the idea from which everything flows. It can fill you and overwhelm you, lift you and carry you, and sometimes for months.
The one which has just popped into brainland is a little more mundane, but also important and enjoyable, so kindly excuse me if I go attend to it now... it's time for a coffee and a pain au chocolat!
Festive and unfestive thoughts
Posted by Simon on 24th, December 2011 at 17:52:44
I've never set a tvdetective book at Xmas. It just wouldn't feel right, all that killing and criming at such a festive time of year. But that does mean that my dear and beloved friends haven't lived the special time of year properly, and they're nagging me as they often do, so here we go with a resume...
Adam is the easiest to deal with - in an Xmas sense, anyhow - so I'll start with him. As befits a family man and traditionalist, he loves Xmas. All the presents are beautifully wrapped, the Breen household looking well-decorated, and he's very content, having a few days off work for Xmas.
The only slight stains on the pretty picture are twofold. Firstly, there's Tom. Being now a sufferer of the teenage ailment, he's out on Xmas Eve until 3am at the eariliest, and Adam is getting fed up with the early morning awakening, and having to wait until almost noon to open his presents. Not to mention the sight of an uncomely green-tinted son over the dinner table.
Plus Adam has volunteered to be on call over the New Year which tends to be busy. He doesn't so much mind this - he sees New Year as more a time for the younger and single cops to enjoy than those ensconced amidst family - but he knows he's likely to be working on quite a few cases. As the turning of the year can be a time for positive resolutions, it's also often the moment when people resolve to make a new start - perhaps escaping someone in their lives - in a very permanent and less than pleasant way.
For many years, Dan was a detester of Xmas, in the way that many more are than care to admit. It was all down to his instinctive loneliness, and the vicious attentions of The Swamp, but these days, a few years on since we first met him, life is rather kinder. By which of course I mostly mean the wonderful Claire.
Now, for those of who you seeking hints on how matters will end up between the pairing - and I know there are plenty - don't think that's any kind of clue. All that's happening is that they'd both rather be together than alone, and who would criticise them for that? So Claire will be spending Xmas at Hartley Avenue, bringing the great sack of presents she's thoughtfully and carefully collected, and seeing how things go as to whether she spends the night.
And Dan, protest though he may, is secretly very glad of that. And with the mellowing of those passing years, has even made quite an effort to buy some fine presents for her too. They'll open the gifts, eat together, (Claire in charge, naturally, you know how inept Dan can be in the kitchen), then go for a walk somewhere, and see how the evening takes them...
And as for Rutherford, he's happier even than ever. For turkey is his favourite treat, and he's in the company of the two curious but pleasant human creatures that he loves most in the world, and who can be relied upon to spoil him at all times, and even more so at Xmas. And Dan will air the observation that often he does at this time of year - that Xmas was made for children and pets.
And finally, as for the alleged patron of these three fine people? Well, he always finds these contemporary Xmases a little hard. They're so full of memories, of times past and family and friends faded away. But he's glad at least of the time off work, and the efforts of most to be rather more pleasant to each other than usual, and tries hard not to raise the obvious question - why they can't manage that all year around?
Anyway, wherever you may be, whatever you may be doing, and whoever with, I wish you the hope of the Xmas you would wish for yourself.
Posted by Simon on 21st, December 2011 at 07:58:31
I've never claimed to be a high brow writer, quite the reverse in fact. My literary brows are so low it's sometimes remarkable I can see where I'm going.
But prepare yourself for a foray never before attempted in these blogs. We're going to try a little trespass into the daunting land of international politics.
Before you stop reading, just hang on and give me a chance. You should know by now this isn't likely to be in any way intellectual or impenetrable. What I'm talking about here is the issue of nicknames.
How's that connected to politics? Well, stay with me, come on, you know you want to...
I was reading yesterday a series of articles about the death of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il. They were all very worthy, but a touch dry and analytical, until I came upon one much lighter and far more entertaining piece. It was about the nicknames the man was given (presumably by himself, or those surrounding him / seeking various promotions / escapes from torture and death).
I'll share a few with you, for there were plenty - Unique Leader, Sun of the Communist Future, Ever Victorious Iron Willed Commander (my favourite), Glorious General who Descended from Heaven, Great Man who is a Man of Deeds, and Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love. There were quite a few others too, but I think the point's made.
All that got me thinking it might be time to use a few more nicknames in the tvdetective books. I've only really employed one - Dirty El - and that's more of an epithet. There is clearly an unmined seam here!
Dan might be - Insightful, but Rather Cowardly, Commitment Fearing Comical Buffoon. For Adam, how about - Irascible Justice Hunter, Prone to Vanity and Pomposity? And for my lovely Claire - Fragrant Shimmering Beauty of Tenderness, Intellect and Patience, who Fortunately has a Weak Spot for Idiot Men.
Ah yes, I can definitely feel more nicknames coming on in future low brow works. There's much fun to be had in them! Thanks Kim, and all your toadies, for the tip.
So that's it for another tour of the curious corners of my mind, and yet again I'm left wondering what it was all about. Heaven knows how you must feel, having to read these things.
Anyhow, best regards to you all on this winter, near Xmas morning, from the Well Meaning, Oft Misguided, Life Meandering, Occasionally Entertaining (usually when not intended), Mostly Affable, Sometimes Tempramental, Beer Enjoying, Daft Tweeting, Life Appreciating, Literary Aspiring, Jobbing Hack.
Posted by Simon on 17th, December 2011 at 16:50:00
I haven't waffled on the matter of "the play wot I wrote" for a while, so I thought you'd doubtless be captivated - nay excited beyond the ability of your constituent atoms to hold your existence together - to find out more.
Well, whatever, I'm going to tell you anyway.
Here's the hard news bit; me in journalist mode (it does happen sometimes, though sadly perhaps not enough during the working week.)
It's all going ahead. The play in question - An Unnecessary Murder - will open on Weds, April 25th, 2012 at the Barnfield Theatre, Exeter. The run will be four nights.
Excuse me as I stand back while you rush for tickets... Go on then...
A few more bits of info. It's being put on by a newly formed theatre company, Ad Hoc productions. I am not - contrary to rumours / fears - going to play a cameo role, or any part whatsoever, which I suspect will come as a sizeable relief to you poor folk who suffer enough of me on the telly. And audtions are at the beginning of January, so if you fancy yourself as an extra, or something more...
The characters are those you've come to know and love (or not) from the novels, and the initial story is loosely based on my first book, The TV Detective. But the plot is an entirely new one, with a rather fun twist, if I do say so myself!
The play will be a charitable performance, the funds raised going to help Hospiscare, which is a cause close to what's left of my heart.
And one more thing, because it's a favourite quirk of mine. There's going to be a special beer to accompany the play, courtesy of my fine friends at the Exeter Brewery. Cheers all!
Now the feely part. What do I think of the play being put on?
It's a darned peculiar feeling is the answer! It's an odd enough sensation, writing books and imagining them being out there, people reading them on trains, in the bath etc. But this time I'll actually be amongst the audience, seeing how they react, as actors present my strange imaginings on stage. And that's more than a little scary.
But it's always been a Hall maxim that the most rewarding bits of life are those we find daunting at first, when we dare to venture somewhere new, and it's a bit late to back out now, so here we go...
I'll keep you updated on how it's all going, and put more details on the News and Events page too, as they're confirmed - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html
Finally for this post, don't forget to pop the date in your diary now... please! I wouldn't want to be all alone in the auditorium.
Posted by Simon on 14th, December 2011 at 08:28:25
It's only a small word, belief, but so very powerful.
Regular sufferers of my rantings will know that I teach media and careers at Exeter University (lucky students, I hear you say), and that I find it one of the most rewarding features of my humble existence.
The pinnacle on that particular peak is when a student gets their first job. Well, that's just happened with one of mine from last year, and in time for Xmas too. Lovely!
Another thing I do (or perhaps try to would be more accurate) is the teaching of the creative writing thing. And here, a lady I've been helping and encouraging for a year or so now has just had her first poem published, and been paid for it too. Double lovely!
(Don't forget to send over my percentage, if you're reading this.)
Both the people in question have been kind enough to thank me for my help, and in warming terms. But here's the curious quirk - if I'm honest, I don't believe I've actually done a great deal to assist, aside from one thing.
I've made them believe in themselves. And how very potent that can be.
I've come to think that if you tell someone they're good at something, that often makes it so. Both the folk I'm talking about had lots of talent, but an issue with self belief. So I just beat up the doubts and polished the belief, and voila!
I think it works for me too. When the writing isn't going well, with my usual tendency to melodrama, I slump and convince myself that I'll never write again. And when it is flowing, it just runs and runs and runs and it can be an effort to stop it and remember the rest of the world.
Belief, it's all about belief. What a wonderful phenomenon is human psychology, and what curious creatures we are.
"It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen". So said Muhammad Ali. And he knew more than a little about talent.
Mind you, one final word here - belief does have limits. I just told myself repeatedly how handsome, charming, witty, intelligent, charismatic and sexually magnetic I am. The nasty old bathroom mirror however, disagrees.
A hesitant traveller
Posted by Simon on 9th, December 2011 at 07:29:14
A couple of folk have remarked that, in the tvdetective books, Dan can be a chap of limited horizons. That is, he doesn't travel much outside of Devon.
And then the question then follows - all too naturally it seems! - whether I have a similar outlook?
The answer is yes. Now, i don't want to sound like a Little Englander, but to adapt an old newspaper slogan, the way I feel about the south west of England is - all life is here. Or, at least, mostly all I want from life.
I'm very proud of living here, and also, in truth, rather besotted with it. I love the natural environment, the moors, coasts, cliffs etc., so where better to reside? I love the lack of noise and pollution and the simple delight of seeing the night sky, something so difficult these days.
I also love the sense of community which persists in the south west, a great asset which ruefully seems lost in so many places. And I'm very grateful that on this overcrowded island, my region has more space than most.
Anyhow, apart from a eulogy to Devon and Cornwall and their fine inhabitants - which I'm very happy to give anyway - there is an irony here. This teaching of writing thing that I've somehow gotten into is starting to require me to travel, and not just a few miles around Britain.
Now don't get me wrong, I love the opportunities I'm being given. I'm very grateful, in fact I'm flattered by them! I'm going to get to see places I've never before known, and that's such an honour and pleasure.
I'm off to Geneva next month, then a cruise down to Africa later in the year, which is all wonderful. But, these blogs are supposed to be about the truth, and to be painfully honest... I'm a little nervous and daunted by it all.
Airports are big and scary things. So many people in such a hurry. I can feel very small and insignificant in such a setting, and do often wish there was someone there to hold my hand and guide me to the plane! (Aside - all say; aaaahhhh...)
And one final confession here, while I'm in the way of it. Like my good friend Dan, I'm not the bravest of men and I'm terrified of flying. I don't care for the take off, I can't abide the landing, and the bit in between I dislike immensely too. Aside from that, it's ok...
I do however have a tried and tested solution to my fear of flying. It lies in one of my other great pleasures in life, and a couple of easy and profitable hours in the airport pub before the ordeal of taking to the skies...
A Virtual Conversion
Posted by Simon on 3rd, December 2011 at 07:46:48
It took quite a while, but I have become an internet convert.
The thing was only really getting going in Britain when I started writing, and I remember thinking "I'll get round to that sometime, it's just some minor oddball thing, hardly a priority" when someone suggested I bag thetvdetective domain name and get myself a website. I'm now very glad I listened.
For a scribbler, perhaps more than for most folk, the online thing is so important. Every week I get inquiries about doing talks, or festivals, or teaching work through the site. And also comments from readers too, which can be very uplifting.
Many times before I've gone on at length - as can be my way, as well you know - about how lonely this writing lark can be. The books are out there, and .... what? What's happening? Is anyone reading them? Even enjoying them? Or just propping open a door with them?
The net helps to ease the fear of no one noticing your work, when people get in touch to confirm they (a) have actually bothered to read your books and (b) are kind enough to say the experience has been a passably pleasant one.
I'm often asked for advice on how to get published. Part of that is getting yourself a good internet presence. If an agent, or publisher, is interested in you, the first thing they're likely to do is look you up online. And no website, Facebook etc. means you're far less likely to be approached. It just looks as though you're not truly committed to the dark art of the writing thing, and that's what will be expected of you.
There's also fun to be had online. Getting published is hard, with one great exception - the net. There, you can publish away to your soul's content. I very much enjoy my Tweeting, even if some of what I write does seem to perplex the poor folk who read it.
Don't worry, what's going on in my head often baffles me too! I just quite like sharing it (inflicting it?!), but do occasionally live in concern of a knock at the door of Hall Towers, and some men in white coats saying "We read what you posted online, would you mind coming along with us please..."
But I can't let this blog go by without the excuse for a little Hall sermonising / ranting / pontificating / being a grumpy old git. So, a quick lesson for some. Shocking as this may be - the net is not a substitute for having a life!
If you've spent hours on your computer, try popping outside (you can see outside via a window, if you need your memory jogging). Fresh air is a simple beauty; breathe deeply of it. Take a walk across some fields, through a wood, along the coast, or around a river. Listen to birds singing. Feel the earth underfoot. Look up at the joy of the sky, instead of down at your phone the whole time. It's called the real world, and you never know, you might like it!
On the off chance you don't already follow me on Twitter (and you're clearly now gagging to do so), there's a link to my site towards the bottom of the home page - www.thetvdetective.com/
I suppose I should first issue a health warning re. what nonsense I can babble, but I suspect you're already prepared for the kind of ramblings you might hear. It's quite a challenge to compress my mental tangents into 140 characters or less (as the rest of this blog so amply demonstrates), but one does one's best!