I'm rehearsing my teaching for the Winchester Writers' Conference this coming weekend, and thinking back to my visit last year.

It's remarkable how much of what I plan to say has changed in only a year. Perhaps that says something about how much you learn as you write - which is one of the joys of the job.

To start with, there are now six section headings to my day of teaching - all beginning with a letter P - compared to four last year.  That's a 50% bonus, according to my limited maths.

(And no, I won't be revealing what the Ps stand for - mystery and suspense are important parts of writing, particularly crime.)

Suffice to say that between them, they should cover all areas of how to write a novel, alongside tips on getting published and staying there.

I'm looking forward to the conference enormously.  It is chaotic, with hundreds of aspiring writers running in all different directions, going to seminars and workshops and one to one apppointments to go through their work in detail. Everyone wants to get the most they can from the weekend.

But there's a great atmosphere - a real sense of togetherness, with so many people united by their shared love of words and desire to write.

For a creature of the same creed, it's impossible not to enjoy. 

And behind the fun, there's great professionalism, too - a desire to improve as writers and to reach that ultimate goal of publication.  It's utterly admirable and a delight to be a part of.

I shall do my humble best to help some folk along the sacred way.  I've managed to assist in getting a few published in the past, and it's a great sense of warmth and achievement when it happens.

Here's to more this year!

Finally for this ramble, a big thank you to all who came to my signing at the Waterstone's in Newton Abbot on Saturday.  It was lovely to meet you and hear all your kind words about my books, and a pleasure to scribble a few passable attempts at signatures.

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Here I am at my own little table, kindly set up by the staff, where I could waylay unsuspecting customers and browbeat them into buying a book.

(Actually, it wasn't quite that dramatic, but you know how we authors like to up the ante.)

For now, please excuse me, I must be off to finish my final P ready for the weekend, if you'll excuse the phrasing...