Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dear Microsoft (an open letter)

I’ve been a Windows user since Windows 95. Though I’ve had the chance to work on Macs and enjoyed them, they’ve never been the logical choice for my home computer. I’ve written dozens of plays and a few ebooks on PCs, and I store all my music and photos on one.

Like of a lot of people who are users but not programmers, I hate upgrades. I want my computer to be fast again, want it to work without making all those groaning noises, but a new machine will always mean a new version of Windows, and I’ll have a steep learning curve again. This time it was the big step from Windows Seven to Windows 8.

The salesman was good, and encouraged me to get a touchscreen machine. This would make navigating the start screen much easier. He enthused about the various features of 8, and how they were fun and intuitive.

I don’t want to complain about the setup of 8. It was easy to find the way to revert to desktop and have the machine look very like my old computer. What I want to talk about is the issue of choice and control.

In the early days, a big feature of Windows was the ability to customise. You could choose your colour scheme, your background, alter your screensaver, rename folders…. It was as if you were in charge of your machine. Windows provided the architecture, but you could arrange the interior and exterior of your house as you saw fit.

As I went through the setup process for Windows 8, I began to wonder whose machine this was. I couldn’t assign my own password for sign in, I had to sign in with my Windows Live id. The only use I have for my Windows Live id is confirming that it is ME buying the new application or music or whatever. But YOU, Microsoft, want me to use it to tell everyone everything about my life. You want me to have a profile, to automatically link up to Live every time I want to play a game and broadcast scores and “achievements” across the web.

Sometimes, I play games. But when I do, it’s because I want to play a game. I don’t want to send that news to my friends and family. I would love the ability to play these games without being connected to Windows Live, but you know what Microsoft? You’ve made it so that some of these games won’t save my progress unless I’m signed in. If I want to play the game without starting from the beginning every time, I have to sign in to Windows Live. And that makes me think this isn’t MY game, this isn’t MY computer, it’s yours. Your rules.

I live in Canada, and my parents live in the UK. We talk by Skype every week, and it’s great for them to see my family as we grow and change, and wonderful for us to see them. Setting up Windows 8, I was asked to activate the Skype app. And then I was told I would have to change my Skype password to my Windows Live id sign in. Have to. Because this isn’t MY computer, this isn’t MY application, it’s YOURS.

I understand that some people do live their lives on the internet, that they fill out every section of their profiles on Facebook, post pictures of every meal and update their location wherever they go. I understand that some people want the validation of their friends being told their high scores, or that they just bought a certain track. I don’t mind that kind of functionality being built in to Windows. It’s wonderful that we live in a time where these things are possible.

What I would like is the control. The option to opt out. Just a radio button somewhere that’s easy to find, something that lets me choose what I update others about, when I play games and where I save progress.

I’d like this to be my computer again.

An open letter seems a little daft, a little desperate, but I’ve tried approaching large companies like Microsoft and Amazon with general comments before. Their Customer Care sections are not set up for queries and comments like this. If you find a “Contact Us” page, your comment is subject to a series of drop down menus that gradually filter you out of the system unless you’re looking for a technical or financial answer.

I don’t expect Microsoft to answer me, or change the way they work. Like many other big companies, the service they offer their consumers is geared towards providing them with more information to generate more business opportunities, not provide a better service for the customer. As time goes by, I’m sure newer versions of Windows will appear that have many, many more “options” that cover the fact that we’re being gently herded into fewer and fewer actual choices, and handing over more and more control and information.

Books of October

I've read a frightening number of Doctor Who books this month...

I’ve read a frightening number of Doctor Who books this month…

The actual number of books this month looks more impressive than it really is – several titles are individual Doctor Who stories in the Anniversary series, but they’re not really whole books – just short stories. However, since they’re packaged individually and written by different authors, I’ve given them a slot each.

The Meek – Brad Poynter

I mentioned Brad Poynter’s book in a previous post, and intended to give it a solo review. It’s a fun piece, a type of sci-fi that people don’t often attempt anymore. One day, everyone around the world (as far as we know) gets shrunk to miniscule size. Household pets become deadly predators, and getting from one room to another – or even getting up or down furniture – is a major expedition. Our protagonist is a teenage boy, trapped at home with his mother and desperately worried about his girlfriend who lives next door.

The story races along at tremendous pace. There’s no let up for the characters as everything is hard and dangerous as they search for a place that’s safe from animals, but presents food and water accessible to tiny people. The “Why?” isn’t considered for a long time, but that’s fine because you only get philosophical about things when you know where your next meal is coming from.

I was sorry this was the only the first in a series because I wanted to get all the answers, but I’ll be buying the next one as soon as it appears.

Halo: The Thursday War – Karen Traviss

A resurgence of Halo playing on my PC (Eldest Weasel decided to try it out, which meant I started playing again too…) got me curious about this new release. I like Karen’s books, being a fan of the Star Wars Commandos and Clones books she’s produced. However, I got the impression that I had missed the volume that comes before this one – I didn’t know most of the characters, and the situation was already half-developed. If I can find the one that comes first, I may go back and try it out.

Emerald City Blues – Peter Smalley

This was an e-book I’ve been promising myself for a while. Part PI novella, part spellcaster book, it’s all action and hard-boiled dialogue. Once again, it’s the introduction to a series, but it’s nicely written with good internal logic and interesting characters. I’ll be back for more.

The Last Colony – John Scalzi

One of my favourite audio books is “Old Man’s War”. I have it on Kindle too, as well as  the sequel “Ghost Brigades”, but I’d never picked up this third in the series. It was nice to hear from the protagonist John Perry again, along with his unusual wife, ex-special forces soldier Jane, and their adopted daughter. As before, the politics of living in a multi-species galaxy drives a complex plot, but the essence of the book is that John and Jane are given command of a colony world and have to make it work despite indigenous life forms, intransigent colonists and, ultimately, alien invasion.

Unless I’m completely mistaken, I still don’t think that this book quite brings the reader up to the point where the latest book “The Human Division” opens, so maybe I’ll look up “Zoe’s Tale”, which purports to be the daughter’s view of events. It may go further….

Dr Who: Tip of the Tongue – Patrick Ness

I’m really enjoying this series of stories, giving each incarnation of The Doctor a new adventure. This story – about an alien race existing on Earth and being sold as fashion accessories that only speak the truth – had a real Whovian feel to it.

The Map of Time – Felix J Palmer

I’ve read a few books on Jack the Ripper, so his inclusion in this book that was supposedly about Time Travel was intriguing. However, overall I was a little disappointed. The book can be divided into three parts, each section dealing with a different (but connected) main character and situation. Each involves time travel, and each one used the same gimmick. I don’t want to give too much away, but halfway through the second section, I was thinking “If this works out like the first one, I’ll be really annoyed…”

I was really annoyed.

Dr Who: Something Borrowed – Richelle Mead

Despite him being on TV when I was growing up, I don’t remember much about the sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) but this story was entertaining and fit the Whovian universe nicely, drawing in old characters and putting them in feasible (in a Doctor Who sense) situations.

Dr Who: The Ripple Effect – Malorie Blackman

I haven’t read the award winning “Noughts and Crosses”, so I was looking forward to this short as an introduction to Malorie Blackman’s writing. Sadly, days later, I can’t remember anything about it. Even looking at the cover in front of me, I can’t for the life of me think what “The Ripple Effect” was about.

Dr Who: Spore – Alex Scarrow

I can remember this one alright – Spore was grim sci-fi, with invasion and destruction and soldiers sent in to investigate getting digested in the streets. However, the realisation that Alex Scarrow was also responsible for the Halo Jones knock-off “The Legend of Ellie Quinn” took some of the shine off for me…

The Purloined Number – Jenn Thorson

I was glad to finally get my hands on the second in Jenn’s trilogy of GCU sci-fi comedies. In a world of hard sci-fi, Jenn is taking a much more human and imaginative approach, making her Greater Communicating Universe more about the characters in it, than about the physics that allows them to travel between the stars. Better yet, her Earthman snatched from his home and dumped amongst the madness in the first book has found his feet and is starting to be a proactive protagonist. After years of watching poor old Arthur Dent wander bewildered through a wonderful Galaxy, it’s great to see Betram decide to go sightseeing, to cash in his fame for real money and use it to buy his own ship – to make the most of his opportunity now he’s offplanet. Of course, there’s also the little matter of the theft of the number three and his erstwhile friend and captor Rollie Tsmorlood to “help out”… But that’s life in the good old GCU.

Dr Who: The Beast of Babylon – Charlie Higson

I’m really glad that Charlie Higson is having so much success as a novelist. Taking on Young James Bond right out of the gate must have been daunting, even for a seasoned comedy writer, but his quartet (quintet?) of zombie novels set in England are particularly good. This adventure featuring the Ninth Doctor has the right blend of humour, horror and lesson-learning, and has the nice touch of being set between the Tardis dematerialising after Rose has decided not to travel with the Doctor at the end of the first episode, and then rematerialising for him to say “Did I mention I can travel in time too?”. The whole book takes place in the space of two seconds of screen time….

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

This book has slid over my desk at the library several times, and the picture on the front was enticing. However, it was a while before I got hold of a copy not being held for someone else, and discovered that the author used found photographs to illustrate his bizarre tale. Be warned – this is a magical tale of time loops and VERY peculiar children, and there are monsters. It’s also the first in a series that promises to be very engaging, but who knows how long we have to wait for book two? (Edit: Book 2 comes out in January 2014 – “Hollow City”)

Live and Let Drood – Simon R Green

There are some books that you keep reading because you just can’t believe they are the way they are. This was one of those. By page five I was heartily sick of the word “Drood”, which is a shame because it is mentioned on every page. Every. Single. Page. The lead character is Edwin Drood, and his entire family has either been killed or transported to another dimension. He’s not sure which, but someone is going to pay. Because he’s a Drood. And his family were Droods. And now he’s the last Drood. And vengeance is something that Droods do. Can you see how annoying it is?

Add in the fact that there are so many shadowy, magical and mystical organisations and rogues, that it makes you wonder if anyone in the whole world is actually NORMAL. Not werewolf, sorceror, half angel, witch, wizard, warlock or whatever, just a regular person….Anyway, after this, there’s another book. It doesn’t have the word Drood in the title, but I’m willing to bet that’s the only page that doesn’t have it.

Devil May Care – Sebastian Faulks

I read the original Bond books at the behest of Mrs Dim, many, many years ago. They were good, in a grim, 1960′s way, and I much preferred the lighter and less complex Modesty Blaise series. However, Faulks has captured the tone and pace of the original books and combined them with a convincing and gripping Cold War plot that works well.

Dr Who: The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage – Derek Landy

Although I’m a huge fan of the Tenth Doctor, and Landy caught his mannerisms well, I didn’t take to the story. It was a good decision to pair the Doctor with Martha, rather than the more ratings-grabbing Rose or Donna, but the “falling-into-a-story” plotline was hard work to explain and escape from. Fun for the dialogue and well-written, but not my favourite of the series.

And of course, I’ve also read my own book several times this month – “Tribute”.

The story of a teenage girl trying to find her own way to grow as a songwriter while coping with the death of the man she thought of as her father and come to terms with a man who might be her biological father. It’s more fun than it sounds. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned the death and stuff?

Available now from Amazon stores around the world, you can find it on Amazon US HERE , Amazon Canada HERE, and Amazon UK HERE .

I think next month I’ll be balancing out all this Doctor Who with some good old fashioned Star Wars books, and I’ll be recovering from Halloween with some comedies and fun stuff. or maybe some cerebral non-fiction again. Coming up soon, I intend to take a whole month to investigate the appeal of the Harlequin-style romance novels (Mills and Boon, to you UK readers…) and then try and write my own within a month. Title suggestions below, please….

Preparing to recross the pond

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about emigrating. Long ago life settled down into a regular form, became just the ordinary every day. Yes, there are still times I marvel that we live in Canada, that I tell which direction I’m driving by seeing the mountains on the North Shore, but I don’t convert dollars into pounds any more, trying to see if things are cheaper or more expensive. I don’t flinch from saying “pants” instead of “trousers”, and I no longer think “parkade” is a fizzy drink.

Soon we’ll head back to the UK for our second visit since we emigrated. This time we’ll be going back in the winter, with all the added unpredictability that brings. Will there be a sprinkling of snow that closes roads and railways? Having once shoveled my driveway clear three times in the same day, I’m inclined to roll my eyes at that thought. And we don’t get “real” snow here in the Vancouver area… Just ask someone from Winnipeg.

Our last trip back was a summertime thing, and we met friends on the beach in Bournemouth. We walked through parks, in London and Worcester. When I think of going back, those are the images that come to mind.

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

After a while out here the view of the UK becomes somewhat idealised, like this:

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

But we’ll be there for early nights, cold, brisk days. And probably rain. We’ll be spending almost every day going from one place to another so we can visit as many friends as possible, but we also have to set aside time so we can celebrate Christmas with the family we’ve been away from for so long.

The travel is, as ever, the part that bothers me the most. Our appreciation of distance has changed significantly. To illustrate, let me show you our last but one holiday : we went to Cardiff-by-Sea, Encinitas, by way of San Francisco. We drove, and it took a week or so to get there. It was fun (except for going through LA, obviously.) Here’s what that journey looks like:

Thank you, Google Maps!

Thank you, Google Maps!

You can see (perhaps) that that journey is 2197 km. If you need a translation, that’s 1365.153 miles, or a trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End and more than halfway back again. We did the journey home again in three days.

We won’t be traveling nearly as far in our trip around the UK, but our nomadic lifestyle prior to leaving the country means we have friends all over the place, and I look at the map of the UK Mrs Dim has pinned to the wall and the little flags stuck into it and I think….”How hard is that going to be?”

Four and a half years is quite a long time. It’s time for a child to be born and reach school age. It’s been time for one of our Weasels to reach High School and settle in. Middle Weasel is now in the top age group in her school. I’m on my third job, and am convinced the ancient curse has followed me to Canada (I worked for TVS – they lost their franchise. I worked for Peter Dominic’s – they went out of business. I worked at the Bell Hotel in Alresford – it looks like they did  a good job of rebuilding it after the fire. Here in Canada I worked for Canpages and they went out of business.) But I’m happy in my library job and hope to stay with it for a long time to come.

I guess the idea I’m circling here is that the only part of the UK we miss is the people. We moved every two years all the time we were married, and learned to place value on friendships, rather than places. We loved the old stuff like the Cathedral in Winchester, the Standing Stones in the Avebury Ring, or Roman ruins, or Iron Age Forts. We loved medieval towns and historical buildings, and we loved the modern parts of the country too, but they’re not why we’re going back. *

We’re going back to see our friends and family, and we’re only sorry we won’t be able to visit everyone in the time available. And of course, if it snows, we may not get out of the airport….

*There are certain factions within the family that maintain the ENTIRE reason for the visit is The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. If anyone from the BBC is reading this, we know the perfect person to co-ordinate a Doctor Who Exhibition in Vancouver – she already knows EVERYTHING about Doctor Who.

Doctor Wheasel - TARDIS not included.

Doctor Wheasel – TARDIS not included.

The new news from Lazy Bee Scripts

Lazy Bee Logo

I recently received the latest newsletter from Stuart Ardern at Lazy bee, showcasing the new scripts available:

“As usual, you can find all the scripts (and all the rest of the items detailed in this newsletter) on the Lazy Bee Scripts web site.
(If you’re looking for new scripts, the “What’s New By Category” page is a good place to start.)

Since the last newsletter, we have published around 70 new scripts, so, without further ado, on with the motley…

Kids Plays

  • We’ve gone some way to catching up on Geoff Bamber’s output of humorous plays for children by publishing Two Gentlemen of Verona, a retelling of Shakespeare’s story as a modern-language one-act play, then there’s Nellie’s Cottage, a battle between an old lady and a railway, and finally Sherlock Holmes and The Book of Secret Secrets, a good-natured send-up of the great detective.
  • Following the success of his comic adaptation of Jane Eyre as a one-act musical farce, Gerald P.  Murphy brings Wuthering Heights to the stage as a one-act comedy with minimal settings.  All of the important characters are there, with the exception of Heathcliff who unfortunately was not available.  His last minute replacement is another familiar taciturn character…
  • Bill Tordoff has finished his short adaptations of Shakespeare, Webster and (see below) Jonson and has now dipped his toe (or possibly his pen) into the Indian epic, the Mahabharata.  The Story Of Eklavya (the skilled peasant who wants to be the world’s best archer) and The Story Of Karna (who became a mighty warrior before cruel twists of fate led to his death at the hands of his own brothers) are presented as short one-act rhyming plays.
  • Take Me To Your Leader by Caroline Spencer is our first publication from a series of short plays about aliens.  In this case it’s a small-cast piece set in a school headteacher’s office.
  • Loosely based on the ‘Princess and the Pea’ fairytale, Jon Boustead’s Happily Ever After, a short play for Junior or Elementary School ages, unfolds through a newsroom and outside broadcasts, as the Prince and his true Princess are united.
  • Same, But Different by Pat Edwards has two fans of opposing football teams making friends, and then having to face their fellow supporters.
  • An old magical carousel takes the protagonists of Round, Round by Linda Stephenson and Alison Hudson back in time to 1919.  A fantasy adventure.
  • Robot Heart by Patrick Derksen is a romantic comedy set in the 1980′s in a Canadian High School (a venue that also crops up in the musical plays category).  Nerdish Frankie, who longs to be one of the cool kids, decides to use his considerable scientific skills to build a robot…

Musical Plays and Plays With Music

  • Kate Goddard’s A Breath Of Fresh Air is a one-act junior school play with an environmental theme (and a French super-hero) and plenty of options for music and dance.
  • The Phantom Of The Talent Factor by Robin Bailes, as you might expect, combines a parody of TV talent shows with a flavour of Gaston Leroux’s most famous creation.  (Again, suggested songs rather than original music.)
  • Set in a Canadian High School, Len Cuthbert’s Saving Grace is a one-act drama with optional music inspired by the life of John Newton, the writer of ‘Amazing Grace’.
  • Theseus – The Journey To Athens is the first part of a two-part exploration of the legendary Greek hero by Nicholas Richards.  It’s a one-act play aimed at a school class-sized cast, and comes with sheet music for an optional finishing song.  The journey to Athens was, of course, a major tour, so you can guess what’s coming in the second part of Theseus’s story (which we’ll publish shortly).

Pantomimes

  • Sian Nixon’s Cinderella is, more-or-less, our seventh pantomime version of the rags-to-riches fairy tale.  This one’s a full-length version for a cast of at least 20, amongst whom there is an erudite giant rat!
  • Peter Bond was going to call his simplified version of the story ‘A Cheap Cinderella’ but his family persuaded him that this gave the wrong impression, so his one-act rendering for a cast of 15 is called A Budget Cinderella.
  • On similar lines, Bob Hammond has created a mid-length panto in the form of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, aimed at groups who need simple staging.  (We’ve already published Bob’s longer, more elaborate version.)
  • A longer, more traditional approach to Robin Hood is provided by Dave Jeanes.  (The full title of his show is omitted because it uses an innocent word for infants that will trip some e-mail filtering systems!)
  • Sticking with traditional themes, there’s Luke Reilly’s Jack and the Beanstalk [our Version 7], although this one shakes up many of the elements of the original story (for example, it has more chickens and a female giant).
  • Sleeping Beauty [Version 6] by Bob Heather and Cheryl Barrett is a full-length panto for a cast of at least 21.  It follows the traditional story, but adds a few panto twists.
  • Mark Seaman puts inverted commas around his dwarves in Snow White and the Jealous Queen, another new look at the old favourite.
  • We’ve published two new versions of Pinocchio.  First there’s our version 3 by Andrew O’Leary for a cast of at least 16, running to around an hour and twenty-five minutes…
  • …  then there’s Version 4 by Joshua Dixon for a marginally larger cast, and running a little longer (our estimate is one hour, fifty minutes).
  • Following the success of their Sleeping Beauty, we’ve published Robinson Crusoe And The Pirate Treasure by Julie Petrucci and Chris Shinn.  As you might expect there’s an element of being cast away, but, since this is a pantomime, Robinson Crusoe is never alone for very long.
  • Continuing with the piratical spin-offs, there’s Long John Silver by Andrew Yates, bringing Stephenson’s larger-than-life character to the pantomime stage.
  • Going further back in time, Sharon Hulm presents Percy and The Holy Grail, an Arthurian fable with the knights of the round table in pantomime form
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream The Pantomime is Matthew Harper’s novel treatment of Shakespeare’s characters, making the original tale easily accessible without losing the essence of the story.
  • Arawen’s Dragon is a completely original storyline by Martin Hailey.  Everyone thinks that the unseasonably cold weather is odd, but they don’t suspect it’s a wicked spell until Arawen, the Baron’s daughter, is given a magical dragon as a birthday present…
  • Another completely original panto story is told by David Churchyard in The Great Gold Dust Conspiracy, though in this case he brings in traditional characters such as Aladdin, Beanstalk Jack, the Pied Piper and Goldilocks who seek out the magic gold dust which gives them their panto powers.

Full-Length Plays

  • Shah Jahan is Subrata Das’s modern translation and adaptation of D.L.Roy’s epic saga of the Mughal Empire.  The retelling of last turbulent years of Shah Jahan’s reign (complete with the Taj Mahal and the scheming sons) are brought to life in this powerful and gripping play, written in the spirit of a Shakespearean tragedy.
  • When not writing comedy for kids, Geoff Bamber writes grown-up farce.  Art for Art’s Sake is the latest, centring on a wedding and a work of art.  A single living room set and a cast of seven.
  • We move from the living room to the kitchen for another farce in the form of The Finish Line by Paul A J Rudelhoff & Jane Hilliard – a group of old Olympic athletes are brought together at a decaying mansion where the celebrations get decidedly confused.  (5M, 7F)
  • Still with farce, Robert Scott subverts a familiar trope of murder mysteries with A Butler Did It! in which the funeral of Aunt Francesca has finally brought the Butler brothers together.  Shockingly, she is not dead – well, not at first…
  • Liz Dobson’s drama You Just Never Know (2M, 2F and 1 or 2 others) is set in a living room where a surprise party delivers more surprise than anticipated.
  • Henry V Revisited is David Baldwin’s revised version of Shakespeare’s play which contains much of the original, but also has a chorus who reveal a more accurate version of the history.
  • From time-to-time, authors revise their plays.  Lynn Snyder’s Blackmail has undergone a revision after a public rehearsed reading by a professional group in the San Francisco Bay area.  Consequently we have published the revised edition, a tense drama with political, and moral themes, with a congressman under investigation over the disappearance of an intern.
  • John Mee is another playwright who has revised a script, in this case his riotous staffroom comedy, What I Did At School Today.  The result is a sharper edition of the story of a supply teacher introduced to a struggling school.

One-Act Plays

  • When we publish scripts, we go through a reviewing process.  As a result, we sometimes ask the author for small changes.  In the case of Not In My Lunch Hour by Amir Rahimzadeh, this caused a delay because Amir was in Jordan, playing a small role in Jon Stewart’s feature film “Rosewater”.  Anyway, his script is now open for business – a comedy set on a park bench, where Lewis is trying to eat his lunch…  (2M, 1F)
  • Good For Something by George Freek is a play for 1M, 1F, set in an establishment for the retired where Lizzie and Max meet regularly for a game of checkers.
  • Paul Mathews plays with the eccentricities of community theatre groups in Murder at Dress Rehearsal in which real-life tensions spill over onto the stage.  (2M, 4F)
  • Much Ado About W… by Leo Finn sits on the boundary between panto and farce.  An entertainment of quickfire gags and mistaken identities.
  • We’ve published two new one-act plays by Jim Pinnock.  There’s The Clever Clogs Gang (for a cast of 12 to 14) set in a scientific laboratory, and there’s the thriller A Second Chance (6M, 2F, 1 Either), set in a bank where an unexpected event puts staff and customers through psychological torment.
  • Whatever Happened To Old Miss Weere by Richard Hills is a drama set in a public bar where Miss Weere is a regular, except that nobody has seen her for some time…  (2M, 5F)
  • Liz Dobson offers a mix of comedy and serious drama.  Representing comedy (with drama mixed in) there’s Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention (2M, 2F) and there’s Revenge (1M, 4F).  The former presents a surprise for a couple renovating an old cottage, the latter a tale of the unexpected set in a museum.  Representing the more serious side, there’s More Sinned Against Than Sinning? (1M, 1F, 3 either) Set in a condemned cell in 1936 in which Marianne spends her last hours reliving the events leading up to her conviction with her conscience, which takes the form of the three characters Anger, Fear, and Joy.
  • There is a maxim for authors: “Write about what you know”.  I’m not sure if Horry Parsons has ever refurbished a library, but his knowledge of the construction industry shows up in The Big Event (3M, 3F), a comedy of the chaos of working within a building project.
  • We’re in a more sedate library for Mari, an emotive monologue from Jackie Carreira who has also delivered Regret Rien, a drama set in Paris, where a family has gathered to fulfil their late father’s last wishes.  (2M, 1F)
  • In addition to the his short plays, we’ve published a couple of new one-acters by Charles Alverson.  In Vino Veritas (1M, 5F) is a comedy of reminiscences and home truths, whilst Curtain Calls (2M, 5F) is set in a retirement home for entertainers.
  • Where would you set a romantic comedy? Jo West has set her play A Little Extra Help in a supermarket.  Well it’s a place where you can meet people, and there’s a friendly manager on hand to help.  (4M, 4F, 2 Either)
  • Mathilde Dratwa’s Escape From Garden Grove is set at a bus stop, where Sophie has paused with her grandmother, having just kidnapped her.  Contains comedy, pathos and (appropriately) strong language.
  • Birthright is an original story by Christine Steenfeldt that sets up a dispute over Shakespeare’s birthplace.  (1M, 1F, 1 Either).
  • Sandra Horn’s Cissie Encountering The Gods is another (female) monologue.  Cissie tells us of her strange neighbour Thea and the big effect she has had on Cissie’s life.
  • The Pursuit Of Perfection is a dystopian vision by Anna Tyrie of a world where genetic engineering is used to create perfect people.  (A cast of 14 to 17.)
  • A PTA committee meeting descends into chaos in Tea and Biscuits by Paul West a comedy which, if it were a novel, would be described as magic realism! (5M, 6F)
  • Margaret Thatcher meets Brian Clough in the afterlife.  Not the start of a joke, but the basic premise of Rising Blue by Jason Jawando.

Abridgements and Adaptations

Having completed his one-act abridgements of all of Shakespeare’s plays, Bill Tordoff has turned his attention to other parts of the 17th century.   Having done a couple of Webster’s this time it’s Ben Jonson’s turn.

  • A Forty-Minute Volpone is an abridgement of Jonson’s tale of a miser and his servant tricking all their neighbours, with the original text cut down to 40 minutes or so.
  • By contrast, A Fifty-Minute Alchemist is an adaptation.  It uses mostly Jonson’s language, but Bill found it necessary to rewrite in order to keep the sense of the original in a shorter edition. Three con-artists set up a series of swindles starting with the pretext of an alchemist who can create charms and turn base metal into gold.  The result is the 17th century equivalent of a multi-door farce, with a different problem lurking behind each door.

Sketches, Skits and Short Plays

  • Starting off on a serious note, For The Greater Good is a short, powerful play about the holocaust by Canadian actress Aviva Philipp-Muller.  Charles and Jonah share their memories of a single day, a day they experienced in very different ways.  (2M)
  • Tom Jensen’s Baggage is set on a railway station platform. A short tale with a surprising final twist.  Bruce finds Kathy, alone and crying and takes pity on her…  (A minimum of 1M, 2F)
  • Someday I’ll Find You and Gerri and the Attrics are two short comedy plays by Charles Alverson, the former set in the reception room of a retirement village where Jack and Helen meet by chance after some forty years (1M, 2F), the latter a tale of a group of ageing entertainers (2M, 4F).
  • A tailor’s shop is the setting for Cheryl Barrett’s short comedy You’ll Suit Just Fine where trainee Kevin has to deal with a difficult customer (3M).  Meanwhile according to Cheryl, on the nearest park bench, Everything’s Coming Up Roses for a short, off-beat romantic comedy (1M, 1F)
  • Moving on to shorter sketches, Robert Scott presents us with Audition Anxiety, a wry look at the theatrical process (1M, 1F).
  • Graham Jones has delivered a couple of very silly sketches in the form of Golfer (for a cast of 3M) and Thesaurians (2M), the latter an interview for an editorial post, job, vacancy, position, employment opportunity…
  • A Night At The Movies by Peter Keel is a comedy sketch about cinema etiquette (3M, 2F).

2014

Next year marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War.  If you’re looking for commemorative scripts, then take a look at

  • Leaving Tommy, an award-winning one-act play by Mark Seaman.
  • The Wakefields at War, a full-length family saga by Tom Mather

Half-Price Sale of Greetings Cards – Ends September 20th

That’s all I’m saying here.  See the web site for more!

Say It With Shirts

The Autumn and Winter season approaches – now is the time to organise clothing embroidered with your logo in time for your winter shows.
A recent price review left our competitive prices alone and to make these even more attractive we are pleased to offer a 10% discount on all orders (15 items or above, all the same or mixed) placed before Christmas this year.
So, set the ball in motion now and send in your logo using the link on the website.
The website offers just a snapshot of the range of items we can supply.  If you would like more information, just ask (via the contacts listed on the embroidery pages.)

 

That’s all for now, but as ever there will be more along soon.
(Follow us on Twitter – @LazyBeeScripts – to receive updates whenever we publish new scripts.)

Best regards,

Stuart Ardern

Of Cats

(From the forthcoming “The Poems of Edwin Plant”)

Image

Of Cats

When life’s harsh, gruelling, grinding pace

Wears away my personal space.

And strain shows clear upon my face.

I crave a little feline grace.

A cat’s demands are simple, few.

He lets you know what you must do.

“Let me in/out” and “Feed me!” too.

And in return he’ll offer you…

Well, nothing, if the truth is told.

Your payment, neither love nor gold.

A cat may warm as he grows old,

But in youth’s bloom, his heart is cold.

So, what appeal, this silent sage?

How does cold heart soothe injured rage

From battling this baffling age?

Why care, without receipt of wage?

(Now I pause, regard my pen.

I think I’ve found the words, and then…

They’re gone. I falter, once again.

I take a breath, and count to ten…)

Is love the word I’m looking for?

This creature curled upon the floor

Commands obedience with a wavḗd paw.

No Caesar reigned half as secure.

He deigns to live at home with me.

His presence more than company.

His cutting sneer a balm to see

Whatever that day’s misery.

I’d make this daily toil my lot.

Serve Cat and leave the world to rot.

If this could be, yet it cannot.

I’ll serve the cat I haven’t got.

Third time’s the charm….

For the third time since our arrival in Canada over four years ago, I’ve had a first day in my new job.

This one wasn’t too nerve-wracking. The co-workers were friendly and understanding, the situation matched the training I’ve been given, and the customers (referred to locally as “patrons”) were patient and seemed to have read the same training materials I had.

I’m sure I’ll have up days and down days in this job, like any other, but it feels like a job I could love. I’m actually looking forward to my next shift. Best of all, there’s plenty of work to do, but time in between to keep up my script appraisals and play writing.

I hope whatever you’re doing is bringing you as much pleasure.

From both sides now…

Some recent discussion of New versus Original Trek on G+ brought this song to mind. Does JJ Abrams really “get” Trek, or is he just taking characters who had some depth and originality and running them through the wringer of the modern, effects-laden action movie?

That’s not the question this post is going to look at, because I thought about it and then thought about how I loved watching the new movie. On one side I have some hard-core Trek friends who decry the many fallacies and inaccuracies in the movie (see this FAQ for some of the better points), but on the other side – maybe on the INSIDE – I am still a kid who loves zippy spaceships, phaser battles and action and adventure in space.

This isn’t the first time I’ve fought this particular battle with myself. I’m a big Star Wars fan. Big. For example, most of you out there will know that Han Solo’s* ship is called the Millennium Falcon. Well done. But did you know it was a YT1300? That’s me. I have a suit of Mandalorian armour in my workroom.

I made this. And I'm remaking it. Sometimes, yes, I wear it.

I made this. And I’m remaking it. Sometimes, yes, I wear it.

So, if anyone was going to react with horror to the new trilogy that George Lucas produced, it would be me, right? So steeped in the lore of the Star Wars universe that I simply wouldn’t be able to bear the mish-mash of ideas and storylines that got run through the mill.

Actually, my reaction to “The Phantom Menace” was about the same as to “Star Trek Into Darkness”. I could see all the objections. Yes, Jar Jar is annoying. Yes, the whole Midichlorians things was out of left field. No, it doesn’t take a Jedi master to spot that Ian McDiarmid was up to SOMETHING… But there were new worlds, new droids, and fighting with double-bladed lightsabres!

When I was a lot younger, we used to watch tv together as a family. We watched all kinds of shows that aren’t around any more: “It ain’t ‘arf hot, Mum”, “The Good Life”, “Some mothers do ‘ave ‘em”, “The Goodies”, “The Sweeney”, “Starsky and Hutch”. I sat there and watched these shows every week, and you know what? I couldn’t tell you a thing about any of them. I mean, I might be able to remember some character names, but the actual plot lines? Not a clue. Because I was watching at an age when the spectacle was the important thing, the immediacy. I laughed at the jokes, was excited by the chases, worried about the heart-stopping danger, then let it all drift away afterwards.

Looking at the internet rage over Star Trek, the people sharpening their knives ready for Disney releasing Star Wars Episode 7, I find myself longing for that ability. I love the originals in both cases, and I’m going to carry on watching the new versions because they are new. I’ll continue to divide myself in two, seeing both sides of the arguments, if that’s ok with everyone.

 

 

 

*Anyone who thought his name was Hans Solo, please stop reading. FOREVER.

Suit up! It’s Vancouver Fan Expo time!

Fan Expo 053

If you’ve read much of this blog, you may know that last year’s Fan Expo was an interesting experience for me and my family, but one we only got to see from the outside. Nonetheless, the parade of costumed characters coming and going was impressive.

This year, to avoid being left out in the cold, we booked our tickets well in advance. Although I’d put together my suit of Mandalorian armour in time for Hallowe’en, it wasn’t quite right, and I stripped it down for a rebuild, which wasn’t done by the time Fan Expo rolled around. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it…

Mando costume

…Not appearing at this year’s Expo…

Eldest Weasel had rallied some friends and was flying the flag for Doctor Who, having transformed herself into River Song and her mates into the Doctor (11th) and TARDIS.

Fan Expo 031That left Mrs Dim and myself to herd the two smaller Weasels into the Fan Expo.

So, you need to arrive early, especially if you’ve booked photo shoots or signings or whatever. We rolled up around eleven and joined the “Saturday only” queue, which was moving along, and a pretty jolly affair. We chatted with the lady in front of us, proudly wearing her Buffy t-shirt because she would be meeting James Marsters shortly.

Fan Expo 022There were plenty of costumes to see in the lineup, but most were in the “Two Day” line, which wasn’t moving as fast as ours. We passed the Bunny-eared Master Chief on the way up Canada Place, and then back down it, and he didn’t seem to have moved at all….

Yes, the ears are funny, but that's an MA5B Assault Rifle on his back....

Yes, the ears are funny, but that’s an MA5B Assault Rifle on his back….

When we got to the door we had to pass an angry woman who’d been waiting a couple of hours with small children, demanding to be let in ahead of the queue because her photo shoot time was coming up. The guy on the door was apologetic but firm, explaining that there were over thirteen thousand people to organise.

We’d planned to make purchases and all kinds of excitement, but the reality was that we goggled. There’s not much opportunity for goggling in the real world these days, but at Fan Expo it was positively encouraged. Everywhere you looked were either amazing displays, like the Lego booth:

WP_002005

Middle Weasel goggles at the Lego Booth.

Or it was the endless stream of fantastic outfits roaming the crowded walkways.  Mrs Dim kept reminding me that they wouldn’t mind being stopped for photos, but my essentially English nature prevented me from stepping forward often enough. We were delighted to meet two of Ankh-Morpork’s finest Watch officers, Captain Carrot and Sergeant Angua, and they were delighted that we knew who they were. The two tiny weasels are considering being Nobby Nobbs and Cheri Littlebottom next year.

Carrot and Angua appear most often in the "Guards" book s of the Discworld, by Terry Pratchett.

Carrot and Angua appear most often in the “Guards” book s of the Discworld, by Terry Pratchett.

The standard of the costumes ranged wildly, from things people had clearly cut out of cardboard the week before, to outfits that were indistinguishable from the original movie costumes. The ratio of costume to regular folks was about 1:3, so if you’re considering a costume for next year, don’t worry about being the only one – there’ll be plenty of others.

After two or three hours of strolling and gawking we were hungry and overstimulated. We wandered out and across the road to a food court and saw the most amazing mix of costumed characters and regular Vancouvians sharing tables. We queued up for pizza in front of Arthur Dent and (another) eleventh Doctor, but just behind a Hobbit. She explained she’s gone for the Hobbit costume rather than her Trek outfit. Imagine having a choice!

Even Ghostbusters need a lunchbreak...

Even Ghostbusters need a lunchbreak…

We took our pizza outside to sit in the weak sunshine, where the gardens around the fountain were dotted with X-men, Sailor Moons, Whovians and people I still don’t recognise. Maybe they were just from Vancouver?

Jean Grey is having hair trouble, it seems...

Jean Grey is having hair trouble, it seems…

After lunch it didn’t seem like a good idea forcing the Weasels back into the crowds, so we walked back to Canada Place and watched the plaza fill with people. There were dozens of impromptu photo shoots going on, and we grabbed the chance to get photos of our heroes.

These Guildies may have been one short, but their costumes were spot on.

These Guildies may have been one short, but their costumes were spot on.

GLaDos - the best interpretive costume we saw all day. She was stopped dozens of times for photos in the space of ten yards.

GLaDos – the best interpretive costume we saw all day. She was stopped dozens of times for photos in the space of ten yards.

Who wouldn't recognise that hat?

Who wouldn’t recognise that hat?

As we finally headed back through the Convention centre to the car park, we found the big group costume photo shoot going on. Everyone was smiling and laughing while a huge Thor directed like he was arranging wedding photos:

“Now VILLAINS! Ok, now all the Spidermen at the front, Batmen at the back! Black Cat, can you and that other Black Cat lie down at the front there? Let the Ghostbusters through, please!”

From above it looks like chaos, but it was organised chaos. Well, fairly organised...

From above it looks like chaos, but it was organised chaos. Well, fairly organised…

We didn’t come away from Fan Expo 2013 with a lot of loot, but we’d seen some amazing costumes, been inspired all over again for next year (and Hallowe’en!) and we’d even taken some time to speak to the comic artists who are after all, the reason for the whole event. Middle Weasel was told “You have to do a million bad drawings to get a good one” and that’s good to remember in life no matter what.

Thanks for a fun day out, Fan Expo!

You never know WHO you'll meet there!

You never know WHO you’ll meet there!

Doctor Horrible meets his nemesis...or biggest fan

Doctor Horrible meets his nemesis…or biggest fan

Maybe next year Fan Expo needs to be bigger on the inside?

Maybe next year Fan Expo needs to be bigger on the inside?

Capn America

Aside

Today I’m honoured to be the guest blogger on Cate’s excellent writing blog: If you’re not following her yet, get over there and sign up! http://cateartios.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/you-dont-have-to-be-a-novelist/

Videogame violence – An unscientific analysis.

Not so long ago there was a horrific massacre by one individual armed with several guns. This spawned the usual round of condemnation and a search for cause. Inevitably, amidst the furore over the right or wrong of gun ownership, someone took a potshot or two at violent videogames.

The argument goes something like this: Loner types sit in dark rooms playing games where they are heavily armed and can gun down imaginary people with impunity. After a certain amount of time doing this, something snaps inside their head and they go out and gun down real people. Therefore, to prevent future massacres, the logical thing to do is ban videogames.

This image was selected at random and no motivation, intention or cause is intended to be associated with this game.

This image was selected at random and no motivation, intention or cause is intended to be associated with this game.

Here’s my disclaimer. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, I have no formal training in brain science or behavioural analysis. I have not conducted scientific experiments regarding the effects of videogames on the cerebellum or the adrenal gland, or behavioural modification arising from extended gameplay. I’m a forty year old guy who’s played videogames since he was around eight or nine – yes, “Pong” and “Space Invaders” and “Breakout” and onward. If anyone has been saturated in the world of videogames, then it’s me. I drink beer and I live in North America. There are stores near me where I can buy guns.

Oddly, like thousands and thousands of other people, I have not committed mass murder. Is there something special about my brain that allows me to resist the mind-altering effect of these violent videogames? No, I don’t think so. I think the reason that mass-murderers are often found to have stacks of violent videogames is not that they were the CAUSE of the rampage. They were present as an EFFECT of the mindset that allowed the massacre.

yoho

Let me explain. My kids played videogames from an early age. One of them was obsessed with the BBC game of “Yo Ho Ahoy!”, where Claymation pirates perform various tasks around their ship. Repeated exposure to this game did not drive my daughter to become a pirate. Nor did it, I can positively assert, encourage her to mop the floor on a regular basis. The game appeared to do NOTHING to alter her behaviour from what it was. I think this is because she played the game to be involved in a tv programme she enjoyed. She liked the show on tv, and this game allowed her to interact with the characters, watch clips, hear their catchphrases.

I’m a big Star Wars fan. I was five when it came out, and I have grown up with the movies, the books, the extended universe. I have some Star Wars toys still, and a lightsabre. Well…ok, two lightsabres, the one I bought and the one I made myself. To go with my Jedi robes. Ahem.

Anyway, when Lucasfilm produced games that allowed you to play as a young person becoming a Jedi Knight, I leapt at the chance to buy one. I bought the series and have played it through many times. So has my family. None of us have ever tried to emulate the gameplay by decapitating strangers with our home made lightsabres. We play the games because they are a simulation of something we would like to be able to do.

Did I mention we're all Star Wars fans?

Did I mention we’re all Star Wars fans?

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Those murderers weren’t inspired to kill by the games they played. They played the games because it was an opportunity to play out the things that they wanted to do. Playing “Star Wars Starfighter” doesn’t make me want to fly a starship – Wanting to fly a starship makes me PLAY THE GAME. For those would-be murderers, playing the first-person shooter games was a place they could fulfil their need to shoot and kill. For some people, this simulation will be sufficient and they will not go further. For some it will not be enough, just like some people find they only want to smoke cigarettes, while others want to smoke dope and others move on from dope to hard drugs. Why do some people need to escalate and not others? I don’t know. I’m sure there are scientific studies on that somewhere.

We’ll hear this argument again and again, because the real causes of these horrible events are far more complex. They are to do with a lack of empathy, a loss of hope, a lack of role models, of boundaries, of discipline and so many other conflicting things that untangling it could take decades, even if EVERYONE was trying. And they’re really, really not trying. Because fixing it will almost certainly cost a lot of money and it will almost certainly affect someone’s profits. Governments don’t like splashing out money on long-term social issues because the slow results don’t drive votes. And corporations prefer profits to people. It’s easier, in the short term, to advocate banning a small selection of videogames.