The Bold Viking Quest

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It was Tiny Weasel’s birthday this week, and she had very specific plans for her celebration. We would get together on Family Day, dress as Vikings and hike through the woods playing a specially created D&D adventure. And then have a picnic.

We’re fairly new to D&D, having picked up the Starter Set at Christmas, so the campaign I wrote is very basic. It doesn’t actually follow the path we took through the woods of Belcarra to Jugg Island, so you could use it on any walk from about 30 mins to an hour and a half.

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Dressing as Vikings is essential, however. We had a bard, three fighters and a Cleric, but we couldn’t get the cleric to give up her battleaxe.

Since we are beginners, we played a very simple version of the combat rules, taking along a D20 and a D8. Since we were also outside in the woods, we carried each die in a tin with a clear lid, so you could “roll” the dice without losing them. (And, it turned out, you could jiggle the tin until you got the number you were looking for…)

The Bard suffered terribly, being attacked by Vampire bats almost immediately, and trying to fend them off (unsuccessfully) with her Kazoo. Later she remembered her magical arrow which would have been great against the bats, but was pretty useless against Skeletons.

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The cupcakes were as important as the combat….

Since it was Family Day, we were not the only people on the trail, so there was a fair amount of explaining to do as we went along, but this is Canada. No one minded at all that we were having fun.

After defeating several horrific monsters, falling into pit traps and solving fiendish riddles (only one of which I stole from “Labyrinth”), the weary questers reached the beach and opened the treasure chest of Captain Mica (Flint having been taken, you see…)

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Even the plain clothes DM got in on this picture!

I’m sure regular D&D players could make more of the campaign, but it’s also simple enough for noobs like me to run it without too much trouble. I’ve uploaded the text to this Google Drive location as a Word Document so anyone can have a go.

We wish you happy questing, adventurers.

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Eighteen years of TLC Creative

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Linked In isn’t tremendously useful. Well, it hasn’t been so far. But this week it sent me a reminder that it’s been eighteen years since the formation of TLC Creative. Our writing partnership is old enough to drink in a pub and vote.

Nearly twenty years ago, writing was a very different experience:

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As a new Dad, I was still struggling with the challenges of domestic management, and I was trying to build a writing career in the cracks in between. It was a great relief when Steve and David contacted me with an offer to co-write a pantomime. Steve is an impeccable organiser, and David’s writing is inspirational (and he’s a champion fixer if you’re stuck for a punchline or a better joke). After months of trying to sell short stories and finish a novel (every first novel is bad. Every one.) writing the pantomime was fun, and collaboration was a joy.

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Over the years we have worked in many different ways – writing pieces individually, writing a scene each and collating, writing by dictation and having Steve try to type the nonsense we were spouting on the fly. As time has gone by, we’ve all accumulated more responsibilities, and me moving to a different continent has not improved the regularity of our meetings. But we stay in touch through email and Skype, and even manage the odd planning meeting online. Our joint productivity has slowed a but, but we’re still ready to take on new challenges, reheat old jokes and routines and try to breath life into neglected stories. But mostly the old jokes.

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I’m confident that TLC Creative will still be scraping the barrel for the next eighteen years, adding to our publisher’s grey hairs with our eccentric formatting and occasional non-standard stage directions (Stage directions are for the ACTORS. You cannot dictate what the audience are going to do. Even if you use ALL CAPS). Yes, it’s past time to thank Stuart Ardern, our long-suffering publisher at www.lazybeescripts.co.uk for his help and encouragement (and the odd gentle admonition) over the past decade and a bit.

TLC Creative are still looking boldly to the future (though not able to focus brilliantly on deadlines) and we’d like to thank our friends and family for their help, support and understanding, and the many, many theatrical groups who have performed our plays*

You can find a full list of our current works HERE , all available to read online, and economical to download and produce.

 

 

*And the kind volunteers who helped them recover afterwards.

 

Beware, Poetry.

It’s Sunday afternoon. I have appraisals to finish, still haven’t started the Chesil Theatre 10X10 entry, we’re in the middle of cooking, and there’s lots to be sorted before the return of the work week tomorrow. So, naturally, I’ve written a poem. It’s a bad one, because it’s in blank verse. Blank verse, without a recogniseable meter. Sorry.

“Blank verse is the poetical equivalent of Abstract Art. By which I mean, it’s rubbish.”

Henri de Starqueville, 1972*

Anything helps

Yesterday

I saw a woman.

She was holding a sign that said

“Anything helps”

And I thought “No.”

 

“Apathy doesn’t help.

The sideways slide of the eyes

Erasing the woman from the mind

Easing the passage of the pedestrian

Whose pockets jingle as they stride by her.

 

Prejudice doesn’t help.

Assuming that the cigarette

You’re smoking is proof that you

Will waste any gift on the wrong appetites

As if I have the right to decide that.

 

Faith doesn’t help.

At least, I don’t think

That my views on god, or

The righteousness of my beliefs

Will be welcome or useful, or

Even be tolerated unless they accompany

A more concrete demonstration of charity.”

 

These thoughts occupied me.

It was only today, looking back

That I realised, despite these thoughts,

Despite her sign saying “anything helps”

I had not

Given her

Anything.

 

 

*No, there’s no such person. This is my view. Blank verse is a terrible, terrible cheat, but this is how the poem turned up. Once again, I’m very sorry.

New Releases from lazy Bee Scripts Jan 2018

As I often do, I’ve clipped the “New Releases” section of the Lazy bee Scripts newsletter and re-posted it here so you can see the new plays on offer from my publisher. Since these days I run my social media from my lunchbreak, I haven’t got time to add links to all the plays (though I have taken a moment to link to mine : Sorry everyone else!) And here’s a little reminder that you can visit www.lazybeescripts.co.uk anytime and check out their “What’s New?” page.

One-Act Plays

As I’ve said before (following George Douglas Lee), all plays are in three acts, even one-act plays.  This category is based on length (something from 20 to 75 minutes), but the structures are three acts (situation, development, resolution).  In some cases, the author has made that structure more obvious, so Ryan Bultrowicz’s play is formally a one-act play in three acts.

  • Ryan Bultrowicz’s The Drowning Star (1M, 4F) is a poignant character study of a former child star who, after the death of her father, determines to make amends to the long list of people she has hurt.
  • Not enough robotics on this list for your liking?  Cyborg With Rosie (2M, 4F) by Troy Banyan will address that.  It features a reclusive cybernetics genius and her dog-man hybrid, as a visit from a journalist exposes many secrets.
  • Young runaway Poppy takes shelter in a student’s flat, only to encounter the ghostly presence of a former tenant, in Towards the Light (1M, 3F), a spooky supernatural drama by Judith Ezekiel.
  • From robots to ghosts to… Leeds Airport.  But as Richard Curtis fans know, airports are in fact the perfect place for love.  Actually, there’s also friendship, grief, disappointment, comedy and deceit to be found, in Liz Dobson’s Arrivals (1M, 5F).
  • If you’re short on actors, Beyond the White Noise (1M, 1F) by Steven A Shapiro is the play for you, focusing on two souls working out their issues as they sit in a therapist’s waiting room.
  • Paul Kalburgi took inspiration from Pinter when writing Almost the Birthday Party (2M), in which an eccentric couple are asked to recall details of an absurd first rehearsal – complete with cheesecake, vicar and taxidermied cat!
  • Pat Edwards’ Asking For Trouble (5M, 3F, 2 Either) explores some topical issues, as two girls narrowly escape serious assault.  As they recount this incident, the play questions whether it’s right to apportion blame to they were dressed.
  • Damian Woods’ Deadline (3M, 1F) features a playwright with a serious grudge to bear against a scathing reviewer.  Luckily, it’s good, so we’ll never have to find out if Damian would react in the same way.
  • Three suspects, all being questioned because of their political beliefs.  Three interrogation rooms.  Three points in time.  Those are just three of the triplets at play in Louise Wade’s Interrogation (here are some more – 3M, 3F).
  • If ‘convoluted black comedy inspired by Edward Albee’ sounds like your idea of a nice way to spend half an hour, you’ll want What’s The Time, Virginia Woolf? (2M, 2F) by Doc Watson.
  • Special Occasions (3M, 5F) by Roger Hodge, adapted from the middle act of his full-length Eating Out, peers into the lives of three very different couples eating at the same restaurant.
  • The revised edition of Paul Bovino’s Elephants (2M, 2F) was published in November.  In an oddly decorated (see title) New York apartment, a strange birthday party reveals hidden love…

 

Full-Length Plays

Again, we are confronted by the question of what is a full-length play.  We take the view that anything with a duration of over an hour could legitimately be staged as an evening’s entertainment.  On the other hand, something with a duration of less than an hour and fifteen minutes might easily be paired with a shorter piece.  Thus Damian Trasler’s 65-minute “Under the Hood” is presented here, but might just as easily fit into the One-act Play category.

  • Aliens in the Park (2M, 3F, 1 Either) by Louise Bramley is a sci-fi comedy in which aliens visit Earth to abduct a male human, in order to improve the gender ratio back home.  There are suggested video effects as backgrounds, if you’re feeling really ambitious.
  • Another comedy from Louise Bramley, Cardigan Coast (2M, 4F) follows the pilot of a reality TV show in which six elderly contestants share a house – and are determined to show the camera they’re up for anything.
  • The title character of Ragnhild (6M, 4F, 1 Either) was the daughter of a usurped Viking king who, despite her exile, schemed her way back into power.  It’s a fascinating historical tale, and Charles Eades tells it with a slice of brutality appropriate to the period.
  • Under the Hood (3M, 1F) by Damian Trasler sees actor Rose rehearsing the title role in a new psychological interpretation of Red Riding Hood, while her husband is torn between his dead-end job and his dreams.

 

Sketches, Skits and Short Plays

Drama, comedy and satire.  In short, all life is here.

  • Gerald Murphy has adapted the O Henry short story After Twenty Years (3M, 0F), in which a wanted criminal meets up with an old friend… not knowing that he’s become a cop.
  • Live (3M, 1F) by Robin Fusco is a post-apocalyptic short play – but don’t worry if that sounds ambitious, as it’s all set in an underground bunker.
  • Olivia Arieti has Tramp Business (3M, 1F) for you to attend to… It’s a heartfelt and lightly comic sketch about the homeless inhabitants of an arrangement of park benches.
  • In The Little Cottage (5M, 4F), Gerald Murphy turns his attentions to Irish folklore.  The Doyle family have a perfect life, until Margaret’s parents move into their cottage.  Father Kelly’s advice only makes things worse.
  • Helen Bradley’s A Day at the Vets (3M, 2F) is exactly what it says in the title… well, a pretty bad day, truthfully, as the vet’s three least favourite customers – and their imaginary pets – all show up.
  • Love Is Blind by Andrew Bawn sees Gary and April meet on a blind date in a restaurant.  There is an age gap between them, and… well, you don’t expect it to go smoothly, do you?
  • Three middle-aged friends meet up for a coffee and a natter in Something To Talk About (3F) by Bob Hammond, but it turns out that they all have more exciting lives than each other thought.
  • The Vikings meet reality TV – and why not?  – in David Dean’s The Alf Factor.  They’re as vicious and bloodthirsty as ever – and that’s just the ones judging the cakes!
  • Who ever said fairy tales are old hat?  Three Billy Goats Cyber by Richard L Sanders is a politically satirical mix of the classic tale with today’s cyber technologies.
  • World War II-era Vienna is the setting for The Attic Room (3M, 3F) by Elizabeth Anne Wells, as a young Jewish girl hides from Nazi soldiers in the house of an Austrian family.

 

Pantomimes

At the time of writing, we have 359 pantomimes on our books.  (By the time of reading, this may well have changed).  We’re always looking for material to diversify the range.  This time Sherlock Holmes is given the panto treatment, not for the first time, whereas The Scarlet Pimpernel is given a first panto outing.  There’s a novel approach to the genre from Helen Spencer and Puss-in-Boots is rendered in rhyme.

  • The game is afoot in Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Pantomime (minimum of 5M, 2F, 11 Either) by Giles Black, which pits Conan Doyle’s great detective against Professor Moriarty in his most, well, goofy case yet.
  • The copyright on Baroness Orczy’s works expired in November, and we jumped straight onto that opportunity with Steven J Yeo’s take on The Scarlet Pimpernel (minimum of 3M, 3F, 4 Either).  Who knew France’s Reign of Terror had such potential for slapstick?
  • Another Cat, Another Hat (minimum of 3M, 3F, 4 Either) by Stuart Ardern is a one-act rhyming take on Puss-in-Boots, purrfect for a one-act production using minimal sets.
  • Panto goes meta in Helen Spencer’s Pantomime Academy (minimum of 9M, 16F, 10 Either), which follows poor Maurice, a regular panto actor doomed to always play the back end of the cow.

 

Plays for Schools and Youth Theatre

This category covers scripts written specifically for schools or youth groups.  On this occasion, we’ve made relatively few additions (despite our current catalogue of over 770 pieces for schools and youth productions), although there are probably pieces suitable in some of the other categories…

  • February 14th is fast approaching, and Olivia Arieti’s V For Valentine is perfect for teaching children about Valentine’s Day traditions.  Alternatively, reading it might keep you occupied if you don’t have a date.
  • Howard Does His Best (3M, 10 Either) by Geoff Parker is an offbeat comedy for high school ages.  As Howard tries to ask the most beautiful girl in the school for a dance, various parts of his body argue about how to co-ordinate themselves.
  • Dip into Pond Life, a one-act play (with a couple of optional songs) by Nettie Baskcomb Brown, populated with (a minimum of 9) ungendered roles of plants and pond creatures.

 

Murder Mysteries

The structure of whodunnits varies enormously.  Angela Lanyon’s approach is definitely along the lines of a play: it’s fully-scripted, with no interaction with the audience.  There is, however, the opportunity to put forward suspicions and accusations before the mystery is resolved by the performance of the second act.  (Unusually, as well as deciding who did the deed, this mystery requires the audience to work out who was murdered, although I suspect that this becomes obvious when the remainder of the cast assembles for act two.)

  • A group of friends make a cup of tea and settle in for a nice peaceful séance in Angela Lanyon’s Séance for Murder (3M, 4F).  And then there’s the murder, of course.

Goals for 2018, or listing future failures.

Happy New Year! Assuming you’re working from the same calendar as me… Anyway, I sat in bed this morning and contemplated my view of the future.

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Looks like the future is dogs.

As is traditional at this time of year, I have decided to lie outrageously about the things I absolutely intend to do this coming year, even though they’re things I have completely failed to do in the previous 365 days and no circumstances have changed at all. Well, other than my “Rogue One” Calendar being switched for a “Last Jedi” calendar. Cool.

1. Get fit. I mean, fitter. Well, less fat. Maybe lose weight. Get my blood sugars down. Eat more vegeta…wait, no one will believe that one.

2. Write that novella. No, not that one, the other one. Write it, make a really good cover, and then not sell any, just like the other ten e-books. Yes, ten. As has been previously noted, I spend more on toothpaste in three months than I make from e-books in a year. But this is a really GOOD idea, and I’m going to write it. Sometime.

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3. Write more plays. My plays have continued to sell well, with the last three months of 2017 being the best for TLC creative in several years. I’m chalking that up to my continued advertising efforts on Twitter, where I have over 600 followers. Although I’m not comfortable with the term “followers”. It’s not like I’m leading them anywhere. We’re all just sort of sauntering along in the same direction. So, yeah, write more plays. Format them properly. Get photos of people performing them*.

4. Finish some helmets. Not because I’m short of helmets, but because I’ve had the TIE Pilot helmet project under way for half a year, and I want it done so I can start the next one. These projects earn no money and have no practical use, so I call it a hobby, but it feels like more than that. A calling. An obsession. Or, as Mrs Dim puts it, “A complete waste of time”.

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5. Do things less crap. As part of our family engagement protocol, we’ve all adopted House Names and Words, Game of Thrones Style, to inspire us in the new year. I am now of House Bodger, whose proud words are “Doing things less crap” with our sigil of crossed saw and hammer over bandaged thumb. 1st attempt at producing a plaque for my new house has already gone awry:

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6. Encouraging the Weasels in their education. I think it’s ironic that I need to resolve to drive the Weasels to school after spending a year driving them to school. Apparently I should have been driving them to bike to school, then driving them to school themselves while at home. Parenting is all about learning. We also need to have the courage to let them fail, a courage they already seem to have in bucketloads, because failure is a great teacher, something I have failed to learn so far.

7. Social media wizardry. I’m going to try and blog more often. Or at least, more often than I have been doing, which shouldn’t be hard. For a while I was trying to project an adult, socially responsible Author persona through my social media platforms, in order to encourage readership. However, that meant that people would arrive at my books or plays expecting a socially responsible adult to have written them, and boy were they disappointed. So instead I’m going to blog about the things I want to blog about, I’m going to say them the way it occurs to me to say them, and if you don’t like it, you’re in the majority.

So, having wasted a large portion of the first day of the new year setting down how I’m  not going to be wasting time in the New Year, it’s time for me to have lunch. I hope 2018 is kind to you and your endeavours, and if not, I hope it gallops past on feathered feet and delivers you safely into the loving arms of 2019, when I intend to go to Disneyland.

 

*To put on my website. Not for any sinister, secret police-type purpose.

Under The Hood

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Finding a way through the woods..

This week has been a little busier than most, since Mrs Dim launched off to the UK with Tiny Weasel for a whistle-stop pre-Christmas visit. There was a lot to organise before they left, and, strangely, even more to organise once they’d gone. But despite the pressures of laundry, cooking, shopping and work (all of which, now I come to think of it, I was doing anyway) my latest play* “Under the Hood” was published by Lazy Bee Scripts.

The play is about Rose and her husband Mark. Mark works at a job he hates, because he has a heavy workload that his boss doesn’t understand. Rose is an aspiring actress, and she’s just secured a role in a small production that has a lot of prestige attached – it’s directed by theatre legend Cain, a man so awe-inspiring that he’s known by just the one name. This could be the start of big things, even though the production is a new interpretation of “Little Red Riding Hood”.

As Rose learns more about the part, Mark is finding his limits with his work situation, but the mortgage rides on his salary. Tempting him all the while is the chance to risk it all on a startup with his friend Mike. The payoff could be huge, or it could be disaster, and his company have a yellow dog policy that would prevent him profiting from any idea he had on company time, so he’d have to be underhand…

Things come to a head on Rose’s final night in the play, as the couple finally find their way through the woods and come out on the other side to face the future.

You can read the complete script here.

*It’s not the latest I wrote, just the latest published. I wrote it, but it had some issues, and in between writing it and rewriting it, I wrote another play and it got published first. THAT’s my latest play, chronologically speaking. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to explain.

Still Boldly Going On….

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A long, long time ago* I wrote a short play that was a spoof on the old Star Trek trope of the guys in the Red Shirts getting killed. It’s not an original idea, but I like to think that my take was fairly fresh at the time. Best of all, it’s a three hander for two males and one female, with minimal set and no expensive special effects…much like the original Star Trek series.

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Like many of my early short plays, the performances have been scattered, and I haven’t managed to see one. But this week (in November of 2017) I got in touch with Send Amateur Dramatic Society (See their website here) and Karen there was kind enough to send through some pictures, which I have placed in the Gallery here on the blog. From the pictures, it looks like the people in Send put more effort into the production than I did into writing the script – I hope their audiences were appreciative of the excellent job they did!

You can read the full text of ‘Strange New Worlds” here, and if you want to see that trope taken a giant step forward, read “Redshirts” by John Scalzi.

 

 

*Yes, I could look it up, but I’m not going to. Sorry. I’m on lunch and time is precious. PRECIOUSSSSSSS!