Mirror Mirror …

Those of you who, like me, have been following and thoroughly enjoying Star Trek Discovery over the past few months, will be aware that the crew have recently visited  – indeed, appear to be stuck in – a very dark and dangerous universe, completely alien to their own.

The Mirror Universe is a plot line well-visited on Star Trek, but rarely has it grabbed hold of its entire crew and kept them there for more than a single episode. (I confess here to not having watched every episode of every incarnation of the franchise, so I may be mistaken and am willing to be corrected.)

However, the latest unfortunate adventure sees the starship and its inhabitants well and truly entrenched in this malevolent, disturbing place, and it looks like we may not be leaving for a few episodes yet.

The idea of a mirror universe is a fabulous one. Most of us as writers are familiar with the idea of a person’s shadow – that part of our character which we would rather not have to admit to and which we often find very difficult to face, let alone reconcile. This makes for a very useful way into a story when one is exploring a specific character.

What is so fascinating about the mirror universe is that it takes this concept one step further. Everyone in the universe is a weird transformation of who they present as in the ‘real’ world. Obviously, the ‘goodies’ come over as less than favourable, but those who are normally recognisable as dodgy, dubious or downright evil have a chance here to become champions and heroes.

Take Voq, for instance, a fairly typical un-politically-correct Klingon, who majors in trying to put down all and sundry in the name of Kahless, including his fellow warriors. In the mirror universe, he gets to be a leader of the  rebellion, uniting any number of alien species against the ruthless Terran empire. Oh yes, it’s the humans who have relinquished any idea of respect or peace in this world.

Interestingly, when Michael challenges him to explain how he has come to be in this position, he still talks about the importance of unity within the Klingon tribes under the ideals of Kahless, but now states that because the Klingons are at one within themselves, they are able to be open to others from outside their race.

This is the beauty of the idea of the mirror universe. It is not a straight reversal of the original, nor is it, for each individual, a simple visit ‘to the dark side’ (to mix my sci-fi references). As a concept, it has innumerable places to go because each of us is a complex person. And in our writing, so should our characters be, if they are to be life-like.

I believe the idea of a mirror universe could be a utilised as a fantastic writing aid, because it allows each character’s potential to be fully explored. If you were to try writing your character from within this perception, you would begin to clarify quite clearly who this person could be if they chose differently, and therefore define who they definitely are not in their current situation.

I would think – I have yet to try this out – the technique would help tremendously in enriching the persona of a novel or short story, enabling one to avoid thin, superficial characters and to create a rich canvas for each personality, even if most of it never reached the page.

As I have said before, I don’t believe good writing features its people in a vacuum. We need to know much more about the characters we create, than we actually spell out, if they are to be credible.A visit to their individual mirror universe could be just the treatment they need to achieve this.

If nothing else, it could allow us to envisage new perceptions which might influence the story we’re telling. Remember, after all, what happened to Alice, not to mention Snow White.



Where Do I Start?

After all the shenanigans of the holidays, the much-treasured rest from deadlines and to-do lists, and recovering from excessive relatives, many people at this time of year, despite their best intentions, find themselves at a loss.

The pondered, proposed and pontificated upon New Year Resolutions already feel a light-year away. The holiday season is a distant memory, and for many, they are already in the throes of an unwelcome return to work.

Whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself, as your world gets up and running again, you have to determine a sense of direction, then couple that with appropriate motivation, if you are not going to succumb to a despairing sense of ‘same old, same old’.

Trying to force yourself into new habits, or to clear out no-longer-needed items, not to mention making major life-reforms – all of these traditional New Year activities also require a starting point which may not be easy to see, if you are too swamped by an old life you wish to change.

Personally, I really enjoy this time of year – the opportunity to do things differently, to explore a new aspect of who I am, to take on new challenges, to empty the closet of old rubbish. Even to look at what was once cherished and to name it as rubbish, can be very liberating.

But finding a starting point, and utilising it well, are difficult skills to acquire without practice. Too many of us fall by the wayside because we begin a new regime too enthusiastically and find we cannot sustain it, or because we have attempted to take on something too unfamiliar and suddenly find ourselves feeling very uncomfortable and searching for a way back to more solid ground.

Knowing how to change is a valuable piece of knowledge, and one which I think can only be obtained by experience. It’s almost as if discovering how not to do it, provides the mechanism for learning how it is best done. For me, finally recognising that the baby steps approach actually works, was a life-changing event in its own right.

It is, I guess, rather like beginning a new piece of writing. That completely blank page in front of you is both magically enticing and scarily intimidating. I know many ‘writers’ who never get past the blank page. It is very important to see it as an opportunity rather than an injunction, if one is to make use of it.

I have reflected a lot this week on how best to get a story going. I have met fellow writers who insist on ‘setting out their stall’ at the start of a new piece. They feel they cannot move into the unknown world stretching out before them without first anchoring themselves in something solid. So they create beginnings along the lines of: Maureen was thirty five and a housewife. She had short brown hair and was slightly over-weight. She had two young children, one aged two and one, only thirteen months. 

When I read something like this, I always hope the next sentence is going to be – She was bored with her life and had decided to change it.

Within the various writing groups I have belonged to over the last few years, the vexed question of ‘how do I start?’ is probably the most commonly raised. And there will always be those mentors and tutors who are ready with rules and suggestions to get the new (or the old) writer going.

For what it’s worth, my take on this is that one is best starting in the middle. Even if you feel it is helpful to have some outlines for your character to hand, make their first visit to your page one where they are already in action. Put them in a situation, or a dilemma, or a conversation. Then write your way out of it.

Your characters should not, I believe, exist in a vacuum, as if there were not alive before you penned them. They were already there, waiting for you to notice them, busy doing … whatever they were doing before you switched on to their existence.

Make your opening salvo a piece of dialogue, or a startling observation. Something to capture your reader’s interest or empathy. Place Maureen in the supermarket, struggling to manage her children, or playing with them happily in the park, or talking with a friend about the shock of finding herself a mother unexpectedly, just when her career was taking off.

The best beginnings, I always think, are those that give us a glimpse of knowledge about a situation but without sufficient facts for a full understanding of it. That way, we are hooked.

For example: When my captor brings my evening meal, he leaves the door ajar for just a moment as he places the tray on the table with a thud. No words pass between us. This is the routine we have established over the last two days. He comes in, he brings food, he leaves.

Or perhaps: Glenda, or to give her her full title, Baroness Glendifera Saxon-Burleigh, would not stop scratching. Mitch was gutted and embarrassed in equal proportions. Shows like this didn’t come around every week.

Or one of my favourites: ‘Stop!’ he shouted. I froze, my heart pounding loudly in my ears. Now I was for it. ‘Where the hell do you think you’re going?’              ‘Nowhere in particular.’ I shrugged, trying to make light of my arrested flight from the scene.                                                                                                                         ‘What do you mean – nowhere?’ he asked, menacingly. He moved closer, and in the dim street lighting, I saw the glint of what I took to be a pistol sticking out from under his jacket. His hand was moving slowly towards it.                       I felt myself gulping. Need to change these dynamics. I turned to view him full in the face and put out my hand. ‘Name’s Gene,’ I said. ‘Clarity Gene. I’m so sorry – did I disturb you?’

Just as with a mandala, all of these three beginnings draws me in, with plenty of unknowns to explore from the core outwards. As a reader, I wonder who these characters are, how did they come to be in this scenario, how will they move on from it – or, indeed, will they? As a writer, I long to explore what might happen next. Incidentally, these are all beginnings that are still waiting for me to do just that, having originally been written as exercises in response to specific stimuli.

I have wandered far from my starting point in this blog. Doesn’t that just say it all? I invite you to relish this time of new beginnings, to treat each with the respect it deserves and to explore the excitement waiting for you if you can make your first steps with care this new year. I know that is my New Year Intention. I wish you well with yours.


Will That Be One Sugar Or Two?

I’m such a sucker for Christmas films. You know, those sugary-sweet, one-and-a-half-hour, TV stories where you wonder if the girl will get the boy (no, you don’t), if the grumpy-knickers will reform in time (still not wondering) and if the new, updated Santa will find a way to deliver the presents at the last minute (of course, she will).

I love it that the same old, same old, gets delightful new twists, that the ‘bad’ ex-boyfriend always receives his just deserts, and that the kids will inevitably acquire a new ‘mum’. There is something unbelievably reassuring about a story that can only have one, entirely predictable, ending, despite the turmoil through which the key characters must pass to get there.

I particularly love the way that – for just a limited season – I can turn on the TV and know that I can find a film operating with the basic premise that there’s more to life than material possessions, and that available cinematic storylines will contain scenarios other than violence, greed and self-serving sex, albeit dished up with an unhealthy dollop of saccharine!

Because in between the sticky sentimentalism, corny conversations and obvious outcomes, there are some wonderful moments and some fabulous characters. Take Mrs.Miracle, for example. One of my favourites.

With the inimitable Doris Roberts in the lead, a film that has all the potential of invoking nausea, it turns – for me, at least – into a delicious romp through personal agonies, difficult decisions and spectacular household disasters, ending, at it should, with everyone forgiving everyone, including themselves, and stepping into a bright new future.

Along the way, there are some inspiring lines delivered, and some interesting ideas explores, but what is most lovely about the film is the true sentiment expressed by Doris’s character. In the midst of increasing chaos, she remains solid, dependable and unexpectedly – magic! I even enjoyed the sequel. I only wish I could be half so open to the people I meet.

There is now, it seems, a huge industry for Christmas films. Indeed, I could watch – if I was daft enough – every day for the two months leading up to Christmas and never see the same film twice. I’m actually quite in awe of the writers who take the same unsurprising plot and turn it into something I didn’t anticipate. There’s a real skill in that.

Writing an original story for Christmas is a massive challenge, I think. I have come across a few gems over the years. I really enjoyed Jodie Taylor’s When A Child Is Born, which I read last year but I guess you’d need to be a follower of her St Mary’s novels to fully appreciate it.

I am, of course, tempted to have a go. Not this year, though. Not enough time now to investigate my own take on the annual delivery of treacly wordage and candied characters. Perhaps I should add my desire to produce a suitably syrupy story to my New Year resolutions …

I cannot, however, let the blog close ( I have to go and put up my tree in a minute) without mentioning what is possibly the best, and the most loved, Christmas film of all time: It’s A Wonderful Life. I have loved this film for almost my entire life. I first came across it on TV when I was a teenager, I think, and already a great James Stewart fan – mostly because he had that ability I mentioned above. The ability to take sentimental dialogue and convey real sentiment.

It remains for me an extraordinary film. I find something new to reflect on every time I watch it, and it still has the capacity to reduce me to tears. I have veered, over the years, from believing at times that Jimmy’s character was week-minded and foolish in not pursuing his dreams, to recognising the essential happiness waiting to be experienced when one is fully present within the life one actually has.

There are few better Christmas messages than that. Have a good one!

‘Tis The Season …

I absolutely love the energy at this time of the year. It is always intense. It’s an energy of clearance, of paring down, of anticipation, of opening up to something new and unknown – yet, possibly, very familiar. It’s an energy which sears away the irrelevant and unnecessary, and which reveals what is real and essential.

Many people in our bright and shiny Western culture hate winter. They complain about the cold, the dark, the wet. They winge about Christmas and how they’re not ready for it, fret about all the presents they haven’t bought yet, worry that their cards won’t catch the last post, buy into the commercialism of the season and then proclaim how much they despise it. They seem to forget they have a choice.

This season relentlessly saturates us with its strange and magical energy, regardless of our particular perspective. Whether we attempt to disguise, sentimentalise or ignore it, the sharp poignancy of the approaching Solstice refuses to go away. It always feels to me as if it has a message to deliver and it will complete that mission whatever.

In the ancient Chinese calendar, the turning of the year was always understood in terms of energies. Each season has its own ‘flavour’, an energy resonating with one of the five elements – or, more accurately, the five rhythms. Rather than interpreting the elements of fire, earth, water, wood and metal as static components, the Chinese interpretation emphasises the essential movement of the natural world. The seasons roll on, one following another, as well as roll through, each exploring a journey from start to finish.

What often speaks to me about this very different way of experiencing the world is that the original map of the year included the four seasons we recognise in our own culture along with a transitional one, to which the natural world returned as each of the other four finished and the next began. This fifth season, then, occurs four times a year – hovering for a week or thereabouts, either side of an equinox or solstice.

What I find so beautiful about this scheme is the way it elevates the apparently chaotic state of change into a time of real value – a period when we can safely let go of where we’ve been for a while, and welcome the next place we are to inhabit. Each visit to this season opens the door to personal reflection but each time it happens, the focus of that reflection will be subtly different.

The joy of the Winter Solstice for me – within the Chinese pattern of things – is the invitation it offers to honour the need to let go, clear out and dispose of what’s no longer pertinent (the energy of Autumn) before embracing the still, quietness of embryonic possibility (the energy of Winter).

I can sense new things urging themselves to come in. (I’ve already seen bulbs pushing their way up through the earth.) But they won’t make it successfully to fruition next year if I don’t release what is currently filling their space. And that will mean, for a short while, sitting with an emptiness.

And emptiness is something which scares the bejeebers out of our culture.

That, I think, might be the real reason why people find winter so difficult – because it means acknowledging the nothingness left by things passing and the vital importance of holding a sacred space into which an unbelievable miracle can incarnate.

The stunningly beautiful weather of the last few days – the deep, biting frosts, the soft, enclothing snowfalls, the pristine blue and golden skies, the blinding, all-illuminating light – is surely reminding us of the essential message of this transitional season:

Love is what is left when you let go of everything you don’t need

Making My Own Discovery

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I’d been watching the new Star Trek series: Discovery. Since then, I have made a wonderful discovery of my own. There exists on Netflix, a companion programme entitled After Trek. It airs directly after each Discovery episode, and as well as providing a space for fans’ tweets and opinions, it hosts invited personnel from the show – including the writers!

It is absolutely fabulous to hear the creators, directors and actors associated with the show, talking about their beloved creation, with such passion and such detail. The care and respect shown for the Star Trek universe is humbling. I was fascinated to hear, for example, Matt Mira asking Aaron Harberts how he coped with inheriting fifty years of ‘canon’!

I have to say how much I respected the writers’ expressed desire to discover, since they are writing about a Federation that pre-dates peace with the Klingons, exactly how that peace was brokered, Harberts even suggesting this is knowledge we could do with in our present time. I love that they intend to discover the answer as they write.

In fact, I have become so enthusiastic about the creating of the show through watching and listening to them all talk about it that I’ve been inspired to have a go myself at creating a Discovery story. I’m including the beginning of this below, and if there are any Discovery fans out there – indeed, any fans of any description – perhaps you’ll let me know what you think of my attempt to play with someone else’s characters.

A Christmas Discovery

‘What is that white stuff?’                                                                                                      Michael heard First Officer Saru’s astonished enquiry in her earpiece.                ‘I believe it is snow.’                                                                                                                ‘Ah.’                                                                                                                                            There was a pause as Michael placed her boot on the crystalline surface before her.                                                                                                                                  ‘Yes, Sir. Initial observations would confirm that it is, indeed, snow.’        Michael had never actually seen snow before, but she had read about it in the ship’s records, and the unfamiliar substance which crunched, then compacted under her foot, matched the textbook knowledge she had acquired.                                                                                                                              ‘Cool.’ A girlish laugh behind her indicated that Lt. Tilly had followed her through the hatch. The young woman jumped down from the space-shuttle with apparent glee, landing on both feet and sinking a few inches into the white covering.                                                                                                                        ‘Can you give me a 360?’ Saru requested, and Michael obligingly turned at a steady pace, allowing her video feed to scan the surroundings. The flat, featureless plain stretched to the horizon in all directions, a complete blanket of snow.                                                                                                                            ‘There’s … a lot of it,’ he commented. ‘As far as the eye can see, it would appear.’                                                                                                                                ‘Yes, Sir.’ Michael agreed. ‘There is, indeed, a substantial quantity.’                    ‘It’s awesome.’                                                                                                                        She heard Tilly’s comment over her shoulder and turned to face her colleague, raising one eyebrow in a characteristic Vulcan request for clarification.                                                                                                                              ‘Oh, you can never have too much snow,’ Tilly responded. ‘Don’t you agree, Sir?’                                                                                                                                              The cadet turned towards her ‘boss’, Stammets, as he paused in the shuttle hatchway. He replied with a grin, and with one deft move, landed a few feet from where his companions stood, reached down to collect a handful of the subject under discussion and hurled it in Tilly’s direction. It hit her precisely on the side of her head, causing her to scream in evident delight before she suddenly twisted and bent double. With another scream, she produced her own snowball and aimed it neatly at Stammets’ chest, where it left a white imprint.                                                                                                                                      ‘What are they doing?’ Saru’s voice resounded coldly.                                                  ‘I have no idea,’ Michael said, ducking swiftly to avoid a passing missile. She watched her landing-party members for a moment. ‘They appear to be engaged in some sort of game.’                                                                                          ‘Ah.’                                                                                                                                              Michael took advantage of the momentary silence in communications to monitor the bleak landscape for any indication of life-forms – either visitors or indigenous. There was none.                                                                                          ‘Lt. Burnham.’ Saru’s voice cut into her private thoughts.                                        ‘Yes, Sir.’                                                                                                                                    ‘The Captain wishes me to remind you of your mission. Is there any sign of the Klingon warship?’                                                                                                            ‘No, Sir. There’s absolutely nothing here at all.’                                                              ‘And how near are you to our last sighting of it?’                                                      ‘We landed almost directly below where they cloaked. They must have travelled on past this point. There’s definitely been no-one else here in the last few hours. It would be impossible for anything that big to land here – or even to fly low over the ground – without leaving a trace in this snow.’          Michael anticipated the next instruction over her intercom.                                  ‘Then you must begin a search.’                                                                                    She sighed. ‘Saru, that’s not going to be possible.’                                                          ‘And why not?’                                                                                                                  ‘Because we also cannot move without being seen. If we use the shuttle, it will be visible for miles. And if we go on foot, we’ll leave a permanent trail behind us – at least until the next snowfall. It’s far too dangerous. Even if we found the warship, the chances of us living long enough to report back to you are extremely remote.’                                                                                                                  An icy voice brought the conversation to an abrupt end.                                  ‘Find a way.’ Captain Lorca closed communications.                                    Michael turned to face her companions. ‘We must kit ourselves in anything we can find inside the shuttle which is white. We will have to leave the shuttle here and proceed on foot in the direction the Klingon ship was following when it dipped towards the planet.’                                                          Her colleagues looked at her aghast. ‘That’s crazy, Michael. We’ll have to walk miles,’ Tilly said. ‘And they’ll easily see us coming. Most probably before we can see them. Can they stay cloaked once they’ve landed?                                      ‘I don’t know,’ Michael replied. ‘Perhaps we’ll find out.’




Written In The Stars

A few days ago, I engaged in the delightful enterprise of purchasing new notebooks. I’m not in the market for anything ‘hi-fallutin’, but as I write nearly everything by hand first, a quality A4 notebook is important to me.

The anticipation of a pristine blank page, the smooth flowing of my now-quite-ancient blue pen, the manifestation of unexpected ideas, the satisfaction of a full sheet of words and sentences, the enjoyment of picking up and re-reading from a physical copy the next morning, the gentle reminder from the stack of already-filled notebooks sitting under my desk …

These are all, for me, a part of the process of immersing myself in the magical world of writing. Take this morning, for example. An inviting notebook will make me want to write – even when I don’t really have the time or the energy. (I have to say, I rarely lack the motivation.) Today, however, just as last night – my ‘traditional’ day for writing the blog – I’m conscious of the once-a-year imposed deadlines of material needed for an AGM.

Reports to be written, samples prepared, items finished for a Show & Tell, cakes to be made (or bought), items scavenged for the raffle … All of these are essential ingredients of our annual event at the Weavers’ Guild. (Shorthand for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.) And that’s after I’ve done all the publicity for the day and created the On-Line Colour Brochure for next year’s programme, since I’m currently part of the Programme Organising Team.

So trying to find the space – physically and mentally – to put pen to real-live paper this week, is difficult.

But my eye is caught by the beautiful notebook I found by surprise in my local supermarket. A seductive, sensuous, dark blue/purple cover, sprinkled with a coppery constellation and embossed with the invitation: Written In The Stars. How can I resist? The book is simply sitting there, begging to be written in. If I just pick it up … take a little look inside …

And I’m away. Plonking myself in my old wooden rocking chair, with my blue and gold star-spangled throw and my blue and gold star-spangled cushion providing the perfect backdrop, leaning onto my ageing pine kitchen table with its puppy-chewed, cat-scratched legs, surrounded by crayons, diaries and a pile of sparkly Christmas cards which I’m slowly working through – I’m suddenly in heaven.

The only thing I need now, apparently – besides my morning cuppa – is a squeaky tennis-ball, placed just beyond my reach and which appears to be barking at me ferociously in an urgent need to be thrown. Oh yes, there’s Rosie, impatiently waiting for the end of the paragraph …

I am – I’m sure I’ve said this before – a great fan of the Slow Movement. Slow food, slow knitting, slow reading. Whatever it happens to be that floats your boat, I’m very sure it is best done ‘slow’. It’s important to understand, however, that ‘slow’ in this context has little to do with speed or quantity.

All of the ‘slow’ movements have at their core an appreciation, a celebration, of quality of experience. Performing things slowly is essentially both the means of accessing the depth of an enterprise and a description of the timelessness encountered when one is truly immersed in, and intimately connected with, one’s own being and the beingness of the Universe.

I remember Nigel Mansell once being asked what it was like to drive at nearly 200 mph. He said it was as if the whole world around him slowed down so that he could see and feel everything in minute detail. They call it ‘being in the zone’.

The experience is one of stepping outside time. You are no longer separated, alone, frustrated, struggling. All of that falls away. You remain an individual but you are, sublimely, a part of a greater whole. An exquisite, holographic moment.

I will continue to revel in buying my enticing, empty notebooks and to honour the process they invite me to participate in. I will continue to be diligent with my ritual of sitting in my chair and picking up my pen. I will also continue to engage my whole body and my whole mind in the writing I do every day, and to say ‘yes, please’ to whatever surfaces.

That way, I can be sure I will continue to be open to every possible avenue which might connect my writing with the stars.

What Colour Is Tuesday?

When I was a child, Tuesday was definitely orange. Orange was my favourite colour, and Tuesday, my favourite day. Therefore, Tuesday must be orange.

But, as I became a teenager, we passed through a psychedelic fashion phase that rather ruined orange for me. Designers and wearers alike, insisted on pairing it with day-glo pink, bright lime green and vibrant yellow – none of which combinations, in my opinion, did the colour any justice at all. Gradually, I relinquished my hold on orange.

It was my mother who first introduced me to the concept of days having colours. My recollection is that this idea came to her naturally, but that – once the ‘important’ people in the family found out – her notion was seriously frowned on and squashed out of existence.

I wonder now how much more of her imaginative approach to life was sat upon, ignored or ridiculed, because in later life, she tried to do the same to me. Apparently, there’s a certain age at which the display of imagination becomes an embarrassment.

Unless, of course, it is dressed in academic colours, and made to look respectable. And that is an acquired art. Sophistication not being something I major in, my imaginative offerings have always caused problems – either for me or for someone else.

I am constantly instructed to ‘live in the real world’ – or to be ‘realistic’. Like there is some great tome somewhere that defines what is ‘real’, and whatever falls outside its remit, doesn’t count – in some strange way that eludes me.

I wouldn’t mind, but the people who have urged me to move in this direction over the years have usually been very miserable. Miserable about their lot in life, miserable about the state of the world, and miserable about  – well, everything.

Such people often present the impression that they expect there to be some kind of reward for their miserable ‘real-ness’. It’s almost as if – in their world –  being realistic is more virtuous that being imaginative, coupled with an apparent belief that such a stance makes life more manageable. Yet they remain miserable.

I bought into this view of the world for a while. I guess it was a necessary journey to the ‘dark side’. It was important for me to discover that the ‘realistic’ approach to life had such serious limitations as a way of living as to make it untenable. Being ‘realistic’, I decided, allowed nothing to change.

Nothing new could be conceived within this world view. No positive future could be envisioned, and then worked towards. Once you had committed a sin, or a crime, that wickedness haunted you forever, dragging you constantly backwards into a sad place, and defining who you were into a constant, impermeable state.

And by ‘sin’, I’m including here such awfulness as disagreeing with someone else’s worldview, as much as I am referring to lying, cheating and running in the corridor.

(Sorry, that last one might need explaining. It came from a survey, conducted many years ago, into the ten worst things a pupil could do within school. If I remember rightly, it came a close second to ‘fighting’ and ‘swearing’! If the interviewed youngsters had stuck to being realistic, I’m sure such an entertaining perception would never have materialised.)

My point is that, just as ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’, the same is true of the unimaginative life. If one leaves out a whole collection of ways to experience being alive, ignores a vital and life-giving segment of one’s brain, relegates the as-yet-undreamed-of to babies and children, then surely, one is living only a partial life. And who would want to do that?

As writers, I think we have a responsibility to encourage and enable this exploration of things outside the ‘real’ and the ‘realistic’. And not just because we write fiction that, by definition, is not true. For me, the best fiction is always that which goes beyond the ‘realistic’ and envisions new ways , and therefore presents what is actually true, at a much deeper level than whether something can be declared to be ‘real’.

When I renounced orange, all those years ago, I gravitated slowly to blue, which then held a special place in my imagination for years. It still does, but the blue that is conjured up for me now on a Tuesday morning, is much nearer to an aqua/turquoise/duck egg – if there is such a thing. It is very beautiful.

What colour is your Tuesday?