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Resolutions by proxy

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.

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Lightbulbs of the mind

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.

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Festive and unfestive thoughts

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...

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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!

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Dramatic news

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!

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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.

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A hesitant traveller

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.

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A Virtual Conversion

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. 

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