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Taking My Imaginary Dog for a WalkNot many people know this, but I have an invisible dog. It’s my constant companion, a devoted friend. No one else can see it, but I know it’s there. It’s been following me around for years—ever since I was a boy, dreaming of becoming a writer.My dog is my imagination. And, like real dogs, it requires frequent exercise.Luckily, there’s a field not far from where I live, and when I need to stretch my creative legs, I’ll head outside, let my imaginary dog off the leash, and allow it to run free. This is how I do my best thinking. As I walk, I toss sticks to my dog. Sticks are ideas. It may be something I’m working on, an image that has caught my mind or a scrape I’ve got one of my characters into, but for a while I’ll lose sight of the world around me and disappear into the story I’m trying to create. And sometimes, while I’m out walking, my dog will return with something in its mouth. It may be the old stick, slightly chewed and slobbery now, but sometimes it’s something much more appetizing: a bigger, better stick—a brand-new idea! That’s when I get really excited and sprint back to my room to continue writing. . . .I went on hundreds of imaginary dog walks while writing my second novel, The Story of Cirrus Flux. I journeyed to the icy limits of the known world, where I survived a shipwreck and discovered a strange new species of fiery bird; I travelled back in time to eighteenth-century London, where I encountered a diabolical hypnotist and several fiendish scientists, all intent on getting their hands on divine power; and I came across the sympathetic plight of children abandoned at the Foundling Hospital, whose mothers were often too poor to be able to care for them and who left heartbreaking tokens with their babies, so that they might not be forgotten. Along the way I met two remarkably brave young characters, Cirrus and Pandora, whose lives were in grave danger. I hope you enjoy their story.And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’d better take my imaginary dog for another walk. . . . – Matthew Skelton
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