YouTube If You Want To

There are times when it seems like there’s no time to sit at the desk and write, and this has been one of those weeks.

University was – well, mayhem is a little too polite, I guess. From nine in the morning to four thirty, Monday and Tuesday, I had no time for even a cup of tea, let alone a break for lunch. There are just too many students clamouring for help. Which is very pleasant: after all, I depend on them to fill my day.

However, after a day at university, I find my brain is just too fried to think sensibly about a story, so my writing has been horribly affected, so when I get home it’s just impossible to do any effective work (either on my own work, or reading through students’ dissertations or theses), so for the first time in twenty years of writing, I’m finding that Monday and Tuesday are not personal working days. It’ll soon be over. I’ll miss the visits to Exeter University, but I will find it a huge relief to get back to real full-time working.

In the last week I’ve been busier, though. As well as university I had the delight of taking my daughter to be tested on her ability with a piano. Nerve-racking, I assure you, but it did at least give me a chance to get the camera out while wandering Exeter.

The old Canon's Row beside the Cathedral

The old Canon’s Row beside the Cathedral

Thursday I had a visit to the library at Windsor (if you’re on Twitter, check them out at @RBWM). That was enormous fun, and I’m very grateful to Jeanette and the others for making me so welcome. Also to Waterstone’s for staying back so late just to sell all those books with my scrawl in the front! And of course to all the audience, who listened with such apparent interest and then proved it by buying several copies of my books!

What made it really special for me was, seeing so many friends. On the train from Exeter, while minding my own business and just as I was opening my book to do some work, a voice said, “What are you doing here?”

It was Ian Mortimer, the superstar author of the Time Traveller’s books and presenter of the TV series of the same name. We haven’t met up for many months, and had a hell of a lot to discuss and chat about, finally ending up with a conversation about our event later this year at Tavistock, when we’ll be sharing a stage for the first time.

Then it was time to see my old mate Andy Setchell again. Andy’s been really unwell for the last year and a half, and seeing him on the mend fixed was a real delight. I spent the afternoon with him at Windsor railway station, drinking excellent coffee, before going on to the gig.

The talk itself was a fun event, although, sadly, I admit, I was a coward. I had a new line to take with my talk, but didn’t actually go ahead with the idea on the night. It didn’t feel quite strong enough at the time. I need to rehearse and practise it more first, I think. I’ll have to save it for another evening! It will be a good way to break the ice with an audience, I think.

And afterwards, it was time to have an entire evening with Spike and Cathy. That was the first time I’d spent that long with them – without children of all models and ages getting in the way. And fortunately they put me up for the night, so I didn’t have to worry about a last train or anything. Which was also fortunate, because the next morning I had to catch one train from Maidenhead to Reading. One train. It was important, so that I could catch the London to Exeter train.

I arrived at the station with no time to spare because the traffic was appalling, and so I had to run through the barriers and on to the platform. My train was due to leave at 9.03, and as I arrived, the stairs were full of commuters leaving their train. Well, I knew that was my train and hurtled through the hordes to the platform, only to see the doors shutting. It was exactly on time, damn it. I sighed with irritation. If only all that traffic hadn’t been in the way … and then the doors opened again! Miracle of miracles, someone must have had an umbrella stuck in the doors or something, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity. As they opened, I jumped in.

Yes. I jumped into the fast train to London, and not the train to Reading.

These things happen in life, sadly. Especially to gormless authors who are let loose only too rarely, for good reason. Fortunately, I have a wife and a teenage daughter who are both determined to prevent me making any similar errors.

It is an astonishing thing, to see a daughter (who, somewhere in my subconscious, I know is still about eighteen months old) take me in hand. She today decided that it was time to have all the books logged on maps, so today she printed off some maps of Devon and similar areas with a view to getting me to mark out where the key action sequences are. That was fine, but then she peered at me with quizzical expression and asked why I don’t use video blogs. Well, because not too many people seeing my face would be overly happy with the thought of a five minute film of me, I suppose, but that wasn’t good enough for her. So this afternoon, while walking the dog, I have been fully briefed on how to direct a vlog (as these things are apparently known), what locations to use, how to reorganise my office – and then she did reorganise my office for me, took some photos, demonstrated the use of her camera … in short, she used up the entire day.

A horrible sight. A grimacing author hoping to make a video that won't scare away all readers!

A horrible sight. A grimacing author hoping to make a video that won’t scare away all readers!

However, her ideas are sound (I have to say that, don’t I). And that means, whether you like it or not, in future I will be planning and putting up on the web various videos: some will be general posts looking at writing and how I plan and plot – the usual fare from me, I suppose – but the rest will be based on the books themselves: where they were based, how I gained inspiration for them, what the locations look like, and even (this is a scary one) how I paint those bits. Why painting? Well, when you are looking at an area, and want to describe it in a book, the best way to do that is to paint it, because that forces you to look deeper and more carefully into every aspect of the scenery.


So today, I have managed to type up these few words. In weeks to come, you’ll start to see more blogs with links to videos on YouTube so you can see how I wrote the books, where they were set, and everything else about them! Hope you will like them.

Speak to you soon!


PS – the first video is up! To look at it, go to YouTube and look up Dartmoor Writing or WriterlyWitterer – hope you enjoy it!

The latest daub, taken from an ancient path on the north of Dartmoor.

The latest daub, taken from an ancient path on the north of Dartmoor.

6 Responses to “YouTube If You Want To”
  1. Great idea about YouTube, Mike! Sounds your daughter has some good ideas, Looking forward to your YT adventures!


  2. Debbie Rakestraw says:

    Great blog – and I think the idea of a “vlog” is wonderful! It may be the closest I get to hearing your voice talking about your work. I’m curious how your daughter’s evaluation on the piano went – hope she did as well as she expected to do. Please find time to keep writing, though!


    • Trying to keep on writing, Debbie, don’t you worry. Still waiting for the piano grade results. I’m sure she’ll have done well. Meantime, the first video is up. Apologies for the gormless squinting into the light! Next time I’ll not stare at the sun!


  3. Old Trooper says:

    Now I’m only a few months and not years behind. It is amazing all of the productive writing you do. I certainly hope more learn to appreciate it!


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