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The Joy of Ideas

Ideas have been my eternal companion.

Looking back on life, even from the earliest days, I can see how I became a writer.  I had lots of imaginary friends as a child (some may say I still do!), and delighted in making up stories.

And that's the writing thing, in essence.  Yes, there's lots of actual hard work, planning and shaping, and then the battering away at a keyboard for months, but it all stems from the original idea.  Without that, we're nothing.

I love it when I have an idea, simple creature that I am.  It lights my life.  I could almost dance with it.  I delight in its company and carry it around with me, to make us both happy. 

It's oddly like a romance - I tend to fall in love with my ideas and hope they do the same with me. 

I mention this now because I'm teaching media careers on Thursday at Exeter University.  Not one for standing at a lectern for an hour and waffling, I like to make the sessions different and interactive.  That makes for a far more fun and memorable time.

I was searching the old jungle of the imagination for an exercise which would illustrate part of a hack's life, and came up with what I think will be a very jolly one.  It's to do with news priorities and pressure, but more I won't say as I want it to be a surprise.  So, it's time to try it out and I'm looking forward to it (if you're coming along on Thursday, beware!)

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Diamonds in the Darkness

We all have our ups and downs, but it's a proud boast of we creative arty authory types that we like to do it better than most.

It's certainly been the case for this specimen of late - family issues of a kind which tend to strike at this time of life have been causing me troubles. 

However!  This blog isn't to be a wailing lament of my bruised soul, you'll doutbless be relieved to hear.  It's about my best efforts at finding a way through.

One of the favourites is indulging in the things I love.  And I was fortunate enough to be scheduled to do some teaching of the writing thing with youngsters.

To be frank, I wasn't sure I should go ahead with it.  I was hardly feeling sparkly, enthusiastic and entertaining.  But I hate letting people down, particularly children, and so on I went.

And was delighted - and more - that I did so. 

Simon otterton primary.jpg

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Ideas for Everyone

There's something that is often said, which either makes me annoyed or amused, depending on my background mood.

When I'm teaching writing, I usually dedicate a session to social media, and how a writer can use them to help with marketing.

Blogging or Tweeting is high on the list of activities I think aspiring authors should be engaging in.  Sadly, a response that commonly comes back is "But I've got nothing interesting to say".


You want to be a writer?  Of course you've got something to say!

If you've got eyes, and an imagination (and I believe they come as standard in the department of creation known as the "human" model) then you've got something to say.

Even if you haven't been published, you can write about your battle to get your work out there.  About the ups and downs of it, how you cope with them, how you keep going.  Your hopes, your dreams, so many things.

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The Extremes of Imagination

A most unwise occurence has come to pass.

I've been asked to take up a position of responsibilty.  Now, I know what you're thinking - what blundering buffoons would commit such a basic strategic error?

But I'm rather proud they have.  Because it's turned into a hugely fulfilling experience.

What I was asked to do is this - to become a judge in a youngsters' storywriting competition.  But not just any contest.  This was the excellent idea of asking the children to demonstrate "Extreme Imagination".

I always get a little awkward about being asked to judge anything.  I know how much work goes in, how much heart and soul - be it writing, or painting, or whatever - and to sit there and choose whose efforts are the best can make a man feel ruthless and heartless, emotions which I don't care for. 

However!  I did it because of my commitment to trying to get young people more interested in the wonderful world of books, writing and storytelling.  And I'm very glad I did. 

The efforts I judged were simply wonderful.  There was a great range of some of the most extreme of imagination on offer.   I was hugely impressed. 

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Staring over the Horizon

I've been looking towards the end. 

Yes, ok, that's partly one of those big, melodramatic statements with which I'm fond of commencing a blog.  For those who have suffered it, see my teaching session on the importance of opening lines in a novel!

But it's also true, and in a couple of ways. 

Firstly, I've been working on the outlines for two more books in the tvdetective series. 

(If you're getting confused with where we're at - and I do, and I write the things - then The Shadows of Justice is coming out in May.  That's number six.  Two more books have been commissioned, and I'm thinking there'll probably be two more after that before the story concludes.)

These final two novels, in terms of our "hero", see Dan getting older and reflecting on life, as he is prone to do. 

He's now officially middle-aged, and feeling mortal for the first time in all his days on the planet.  He can't run as fast as he used to, and colds and other self-inflicted ailments, (due mainly to an overdose of ale) take longer to shake off.

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Filling the Tin of Beans

Much rot is talked about this writing lark.  I know, because I produce a fair bit of it myself.

However, I once (perhaps foolishly) promised to be honest in these meandering journeys of thoughts and feelings.  So here we go again with a truth that many authors find uncomfortable, but needs facing anyhow.

It's this - we writers like to think of ourselves in romantic ways.  As somehow set apart from the rest of humanity, struggling with our souls to define the world and all its ways with the power of words. 

Which is, in a way, an arguable case.  But what is incontestible is that we are, in essence, simply fillers of a tin of beans. 

I've been asked by quite a few people how I really feel about my new book being re-titled by the publishers. 

(If you missed it, tvdetective novel number six is now The Shadows of Justice, not The Justice Mirror.)

The truth is that I'm fine with it.  Partly because it was my own suggestion, and I actually like it, but also because I've come to accept the reality of my part in the publication process.

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What's in a name?

"That which we call a rose.  By any other name would smell as sweet..."

No, I'm not comparing myself with a fairly well known writer of bygone days.  That, I'm fully aware, may be a contest where I wouldn't come off well. 

I'm talking about the name of my new book, The Justice Mirror. 

Or to borrow from another piece of more contemporary phraseology, the book formerly known as The Justice Mirror. 

Because it isn't any more. 

Confused?  How do you think I feel?!  But let me try to explain...

When you write one of these novel things, and then go through the publication process, you're usually expected to fill out various questionnaires about the content, themes etc.  They're so the marketing and publicity people can get an idea what they're talking about  as they do their work.

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