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A curious feeling...

I'm approaching the end of the writing of the new tvdetective book, and experiencing some odd sensations.

The first, and most straightforward, is that I'm enjoying it immensely.  It's strange to say, but I find myself wanting to find out what's going to happen.  Now, as the author, clearly I should know that, and I do!  But it's as if I want the relief for the characters, of knowing what's going to happen to them,and how the story will conclude.

The second feeling, which is more difficult to describe, is one of apprehension. 

When I write a book, I get so attached to it that it effectively becomes a very good friend. I look forward to seeing it ,being with it, writing it.  When I'm not writing, I'm often thinking about it - what's going to happen next, how I'll structure the next chapter, what a character might do in a certain situation, that kind of thing.

So now I'm starting to feel concerned about how I'll be when the last full stop is set down upon the page.  I know I'm going to miss the book, and will have to cast around for other things to occupy me, or I shall start to mope.

I suppose it's like many things in life - a mix of pleasure and pain. 

The good news is that I won't be without my friend for too long.  After the passage of a few weeks, I shall pick it up again, read it afresh and start the editing process.  So at least there's that to look forward to.

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The importance of inspiration

Some very important memories have come back strongly to me this week.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to Park School in Barnstaple on Thursday, to work with Year 8 on an Enterprise Day - a challenge to get them to think about designing and managing the London Olympics of next year.  In teams, they had to work out schedules of events and entertainments, budgets, catering, design mascots, T-shirts, tickets, a whole range of problems.

Then came the sting - they had to perform a presentation to the whole of the rest of the year, marked by 5 evil judges (including me). Nerve wracking or what?

It was a fantastic day.  I've said this before, and I'll say it again, and many times I suspect. Young people get such a panning in the press that you'd think they all carry knives and do little but mug old ladies. But the kids I met were great, so enthusiastic, full of energy and ideas, not to mention creativity.  I was hugely impressed and found it a privilege working with them.

But the point of this blog is more about the teachers and classroom assistants I had the pleasure of meeting.  Their work is so important, yet so often undervalued by society, when what they do should (in the humble view of the Hall) be held in the highest of esteem.

I've mentioned before that without the intervention of 2 wonderful  teachers from my formative years, I doubt I'd have made much of my life.  On Thurs, I saw that all over again, as a range of teachers inspired the youngsters to find a vision, believe in it, and see it through.  Now that's what I call teaching, and it took me back to when I was 14, and the way Mr Warr and Mr Lewis helped me.

So there was a little misty nostalgia (which I hope I disguised), and a great day. Thanks to one and all at Park for making me so welcome, and congratulations and commendations on your efforts.  You all deserved to win in my view!

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Causing consternation

I appear to have unwittingly caused some consternation with my last blog, when I wrote about the joys of riot training and it giving me an idea for the final tvdetective book.

Firstly, I'm a tad saddened to say it wasn't the riot training part which created the worry - a grand total of no one at all has enquired as to whether I'm still ok, in one piece, a little bruised, singed by the petrol bombs etc.

No, what's caused the interest is the idea of the series coming to an end.  Let me make it clear here that I didn't set out to bother anyone in the last blog, nor was I seeking a little cheap publicity - I've always thought the books would finish some day, but I wasn't quite prepared for the reaction that's caused.

So!  A few words of reassurance, to address some of the emails I've received.

Firstly, the tvdetective series isn't going to end for a fair while yet (assuming of course, you kind folk are good enough to keep reading my scribblings).  I can't say exactly how many books are yet to come, but I've certainly got ideas for at least three, and that's before we come to the last one.

Secondly - and this is something which crops up time and again - yes, the relationship between Dan and Claire will come to a resolution.  Would I be so cruel as not to tell you what happens there?!  Yes, I do know what that resolution is going to be. And no, before you ask, I'm not saying which way it'll go.  That's one of the most common questions posed about the books and I'm staying stum!

Thirdly, yes, some of the unanswered questions about the characters will also be resolved, and I'm thinking particularly of our "leading man" here (if ever he deserves such a title).

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A fascinating interruption

Usually I don't care for being interrupted in the middle of writing, and particularly not when I'm in the closing stages of a book, as is currently the case.  But on this occasion I didn't mind at all.

I've been away for a few days in Kent, at the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Training Centre. This is a compound centred around a mock town where officers are drilled in all elements of crowd and riot control.

I've been learning how to survive while working in a riot, and an extraordinary experience it's been. The last time I was in anything similar was back in the 90s in Luton, and I'd forgotten how frightening it can be.  The training is very realistic, even to the extent that petrol bombs were being thrown. And that certainly concentrates the mind!

Anyway, I'm back home now, writing again, and just getting back into it.  It's amazing how fast you can lose your flow if you leave it for a few days.

So, following a familar bit of Hall rambling, the point of the blog is this.  For around a year now I've had an idea about how the tvdetective series of books might end (but not for a few novels yet, all being well and you kind people continuing to read the things!).  It's slowly coming together, and the training gave me a thought about what part of the book could contain.

Now, I'm aware I can get over excited and give a little too much away sometimes, and authors are supposed to be mysterious, so I'll stop there, except to say this - I hope the last book might just explain something rather fundamental about the main character and finally explain how he can do what he does and why he is the way he is.

Enough now, before I say too much!   But one final thought - if you're around Tavistock on Thurs evening (24th March), I'm in town as part of a fine event to celebrate historical fiction.  There are more details on the News and Events page -

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Ah, fair summer...

How sweetly summer has been flirting with us of late, and how very welcome her fickle attentions are.

I'm thinking not just as a long suffering member of the human race here - tired as most of us are with what's felt like an extended and bitter winter - but also as an attempted scribbler of the odd novel.

(And some odder than others I hear you say, but let's continue anyway...)

As an author, the longer, lighter and warmer mornings and evenings sure do help.  It's my routine to do most of my day's writing in the morn.  I usually get up about 6, to make sure I can fit in a couple of hours before work comes calling.  I tend to be at my freshest and most creative then.

In the evenings, I don't do much actual writing as I'm usually pretty jaded after the day. But what they are good for is thinking and planning.  I often sort out the next section of the book I'm working on in the evening, ready to set it down come the morn.

I also find it a remarkably powerful way to relax, switch off, and leave behind the tensions of the day; the simple act of settling back, closing your eyes, and letting your mind wander.

So, it's been splendid over the last few days to get a sense of the kinder season to come, and feel the inspirational power of the sunshine. Long may it continue!

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Rites of passage

There are more than a few rites of passage you have to go through as an author.  I've just completed another, and am feeling rather chuffed about it, in that somewhat pompous way with which regular readers of my musings will be more than familiar.

Thinking back, some of the highlights of the aforementioned -

Doing my first talk about the tvdetective books. I'll never forget this - I suppose for a scribbler it's kind of the literary equivalent of losing your virginity.  Or something such!

It was at Plympton Library, just outside Plymouth, on a dark winter's evening, to a lovely group of people, but I was so nervous I could have laid a carton full of eggs. I think it took approximately 4 days to calm down afterwards.

Another rite that sticks in my mind was the first talk I ever gave to the Women's Institute. It was in a village hall, just outside Dorchester, to an audience of around a hundred, and so was another beating for the nerves.

But my distinction there - apart from failing to recall the words to Jerusalem, and picking the winning Easter cake - was that I managed to present the whole talk with my flies undone.  As one lady pointed out - but only after I'd finished speaking.

Strangely, I've not been invited back...

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My last blog, on the subject of da yoof, and how mixing with a fine sample of them had given me an idea for a new tvdetective plot, has prompted a couple of questions on the same theme.

Where do I get ideas for books from?

Well, the answer, albeit a little odd, is everywhere.

As I've mentioned before, I always carry a notebook to jot down thoughts. These can be as tiny as a detail of description - yesterday, for example, I scribbled a couple of lines about the impressive ruffling of a tree by a couple of frisky pigeons - or something much larger, like a concept for a whole book.

Looking back on the tvdetective series, most of the novels are based on one central theme. In The TV Detective, it's Dan's change of job and how that leads him to meet Adam.  The Death Pictures revolves around the central riddle and Evil Valley the hunt for an unbalanced man, and what he might do to take revenge on society. The Judgement Book is all about settling scores, and as for The Balance of Guilt - I can't say, because you don't get to know what the title refers to until the very end, and I don't want to spoil it if you haven't read it!

So I think that's how it works for me - to seek out one simple concept that might extend through a book and build on it.  I wonder if that's a reflection of my journalistic work.  One of the first things you learn as a cub hack is to be clear what your story is, and follow that narrative through.

Anyway, back to where the ideas themselves come from. One of the most common sources is the newspapers. I try to read a paper almost every day, time permitting, and some of the items can prompt plenty of thoughts about a possible plot.  But most of the work is done by our old and indispensable friend, the imagination.

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Da yoof

I've been doing some careers work at Exeter University, trying to give the students an insight into the media and whether it might be for them.

Hence the correct young person speak title of this blog.  Or something such...

Anyway, before I go off on another Hall digression, the like of which you'll be more than familar with by now,  the point was this.

Young folk can get a very bad press, and often seem to be routinely portrayed as wearing hoodies to disguise their identity, whilst doing some mugging / drug dealing as they sport a knife (at best), and (more likely) a sub-machine gun. 

This is not my experience. I found the group I worked with today to be keen, interested, talented, eager and simply looking for a decent future and to do their best in the world.  If any of you should be reading this, it was a pleasure meeting you and thanks for listening so attentively to me.

Part of the motivation for this blog is that I've been bitten by an idea for a new tvdetective book, and it feels like it might have enough mileage to make the perilous journey from thought to reality.  If it does, it will revolve around a group of youngsters who - without giving too much away - get fed up with the way they're being treated by society and try to do something about it.

Enough, before I go too far and blow all my secrets!

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