Category Archives: Writing

Blog posts that have to do with my playwriting, Community Theatre or freelance writing interests.

Books I’ve read this month Aug/Sept 17

Summer in BC is great for reading, especially those lazy days when you can’t go outside because of all the smoke from the rest of the country being on fire.

In the car I’ve been listening to John Scalzi’s “Agent to the Stars” . It’s light and fun, but has a good message tucked away inside. Like several of Scalzi’s audio books, it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, and I think this is a good thing. The story is about a movie agent who is contacted by aliens. They’re the traditional green blobs who are worried that their appearance might prejudice the Earth against them, so they want an agent to work on their image problem.

Since it’s a fun book, I listened to it way too fast, and now I’m neck-deep in “Lords and Ladies” by Terry Pratchett. It’s the third in the “Witches” series from the Discworld, but it pulls in some familiar faces from Ankh Morpork in the shape of Archchancellor Ridcully, Ponder Stibbons, the Librarian and the Bursar. If you haven’t read the Witches series, start with “Wyrd Sisters”, and don’t forget to tell your friends about them.

Outside of the audio world, actual physical books have been read too. I started with “The Magpie Murders“, even though it was written by Anthony Horowitz. I have an unreasonable dislike for him, thanks to a radio interview I heard a long time ago. Maybe he’s changed since then, maybe not, but this book is very good. For one thing, it’s a book about a book, and you get to read the book that the book is about, which is great. Maybe I should explain.

The story is told by a literary agent or editor (I forget which). She’s taken delivery of the latest – and last – in a series about a Poirot-style detective, and she’s planning to read the whole thing through. but the last chapter is missing. While she hunts for the missing chapter, she discovers the author is dead – probably suicide, but maybe not. And there are disturbing parallels between his life and the fictional village he wrote of in his series. To find out the truth, she has to solve the murder in the book and in real life.

I’m glad I read this book – now, if I ever meet Mr Horowitz in person, I’ll have something nice to say to him.

Having enjoyed one mystery, I went straight on to another. This one was “The Zig Zag Girl” by Elly Griffiths. It’s based on the real-world idea of magicians being used in the Second World War to confuse the enemy using stage magic principles. Now, years after the war, it looks like someone is targeting the “Magic Men” and killing them off. Since one of them is a policeman, it’s his job to find the others and try and solve the murders before he falls victim too. This is the first of a series, and I’ll be tracking the others down soon.

My final offering for this month is a non-fiction piece. “Blood, Sweat and Pixels” is a recounting of the effort it takes to get video games from conception to completion. I like games, though I don’t get to play them frequently enough to recognise more than two or three of the ones mentioned in this book (and I’ve not actually played ANY of them) and worst of all, the book ends with the sad story of the now-legendary “1313”, the Star Wars game that never was. When you read the stories, you wonder why anyone even tries to make video games, let alone how they reach the markets. You also, if you’re me, wonder if there’s ever going to be a playable release of 1313.

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The September 2017 Lazy Bee Newsletter

Here we are, back at the start of another school year.  (At least it is in the northern hemisphere; I have lost track of the way these things are managed in the antipodes.)  For anyone planning their theatrical season, this is a reminder that we have a variety of seasonal plays including entertainments for Halloween, both religious and secular Christmas shows and a huge variety of other material for schools and youth theatres.  Of course, it’s also the run-up to the panto season, and again we have vast numbers available.  If you’re looking for something specific, try our pantomime pages or the search engine.  If you’re in a hurry and need a short-cut to our best sellers, then follow the “what’s hot” link from the Lazy Bee Scripts home page.
 

Sketches, Skits and Short Plays

Comedy sketches and short plays.  (The plays may also be comedies or may evoke a broader spread of emotions.)  Each runs to less than 20 minutes, by our estimate.  However, it’s worth noting that our reckoning is wrong!  It’s based on word count, so it judges all plays in the same way.  This is fair, but in practice the timing will vary enormously.  Someone made good use of our script feedback (via our Contacts page) to tell us that their production of Two Surgeons (by Damian Trasler and Steve Clark of TLC Creative) ran at 4 minutes, not the 10 minutes that we suggest.  In that case, it’s very close to stand-up comedy – high rate of patter and little action – so we will tend to overestimate, whereas for plays with movement and dramatic pauses, we may underestimate.

  • Gill Medway gives us a trio of short plays, available to buy as a collection or individually:
    Two Left Feet (1M, 2F) follows 40-something Joy, who has turned up at her sister Carole’s place following a divorce.  While Joy sags about on the sofa looking joyless, Carole enjoys a fulfilling life in the ballroom with new boyfriend Steve – but is he really the romantic he’s cracked up to be?
    There’s plenty of life left in Sid, although he’s approaching his eightieth birthday, though life becomes difficult in Baggy Trousers (1M, 1F) when patronising new carer Melanie arrives.
    A once-popular children’s author takes solace in a letter from her last surviving fan in Out Of Print (1M, 1F) .
  • Jonathan Edgington’s I.  Guy (1M, 2F) explores futuristic friendship.  Veronica and Courtney spice up their ailing relationship by bringing Carlos into the fold.  This is much to Courtney’s chagrin – until she discovers that Carlos is a robot.
  • The Love Potion (1M, 1F) is sold to Jennifer by a mysterious shopkeeper.  She hopes to use it to save her tangled love life, though the elixir yields unexpected results in Robert M.  Barr’s short play.
  • Two clerks sort through an eclectic array of new books in Damian Trasler’s short sketch In The Library (2 Either)
  • A salesman tries to buy a second hand car and ends up considering taking a second look at his chosen career.  A Second Hand (1M) by Lucy Cooper was originally published in 2009, but has been re-jigged to keep up with these enlightened times.
  • Abandon Ship” (2M, 1 Either) cry the passengers on Fred and Ernie’s ferry – but their prevarication and bickering leaves the duo vulnerable as their vessel sinks.  A sketch by Robert Black.
  • Dana Davies’ Date Night (2M, 1F) can’t be explored in too much detail without upsetting the school email filters – needless to say, raunchy misunderstandings and ill-prepared schemes abound.

 

Musicals and Musical Plays

Two new musical pieces, both aimed at schools (probably the upper years of primary school and the lower years of secondary school, respectively).

  • What The Dickens! (8M, 3F) is something you might exclaim upon viewing Andrew Yates’ latest work for children – a madcap musical medley through Oliver Twist, Bleak House, A Christmas Carol and more.  This includes some feisty encounters, as Charles Dickens comes face to face with some of his less desirable creations.
  • Nicholas Richards writes a wide variety of material for the stage; mainly, though not exclusively, for schools.  Some time ago, we published his play A Tale of a Nail, much of which occurs inside the human body – an anthropomorphisation of the immune system’s response to attack.  He followed this up with a musical version (probably aimed at the junior years of secondary school), which we’ve just published as A Tail Of A Nail – A Musical Play.  In this case, it’s a play with four songs (and some incidental music); another of Nicholas’s musical offerings (this one in conjunction with Timothy Hallett) is a stage version of The Lambton Worm which is a single continuous piece of music running throughout the show.  Effectively, it’s acted to a sung narration.  We published that some years ago and we’ve just added a demo recording of the whole piece and an updated backing recording.

 

One-Act Plays

Theatre writing covers a wide range of subjects and purposes.  Sometimes it’s purely for fun, sometimes it’s a cathartic experience (in which, for example, the writer gets to choose which relative gets murdered on stage).  It can also tackle some of the big issues of our age. Outside politics, two of the issues that exercise me the most are the prevelence of dementia and the rise of artificial intelligence. Consequently, I’ve written a one-act play that combines the two subjects.  (My feelings about this echo Vaughan-Williams remark about his fourth symphony: “I don’t know whether I like it, but it’s what I meant”.)

  • Stephen Mercer gives us the alliteratively titled Llandudno, Lust and Lollipops (1M, 1F) – unless you’re using the proper Welsh pronunciation, that is.  Charlie and Annie’s marriage has become humdrum, such that Annie finds herself experiencing fantasies of a more exciting life.  The pair unwind forty years of strained politeness to discover that they both have more in common than they thought.
  • The Night Nurse (2M) greets Greg after he wakes up in a hospital bed following a car crash.  When he encounters the eerily familiar day nurse, Raymond, Greg soon realises that things are a little odd.  A tense one act drama from Louise Wade.
  • Take The Turing Test (3F, 1 Either) if you’re after a festival-length drama, the latest from Stuart Ardern.  Alison Grove, an Artificial intelligence researcher, is struggling to cope with her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease when she should be focused on the question of whether machines are capable of rational thought.
  • Jenny knows that John’s Mother (3F), Diane, isn’t her biggest fan.  When the put-downs and asides get too much, she confides to her best friend that she’d love her out of the way.  When Diane unexpectedly dies, the real trouble starts in Helen Boyce’s new drama.
  • The Importance Of Being Belinda (6F) follows the feminist Sapphire Theatre Collective in their final rehearsal for ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’ – though Wilde’s original has been revised and updated to cater for a female cast and political correctness.  A witty one-acter from John Garforth.
  • Pensioner Veronica has settled very nicely into her cottage and has developed a substantial (and profitable) following amongst the men in the village.  News of her exploits has reached her daughters who are, at first, determined to put a stop to it.  Sibling rivalries boil to the surface and themes of family, love, relationships and cake are explored in Paul Foster’s Prerogative (2M, 3F)
  • Paul John Matthews’ Café Fear (3M, 3F) is a drama with elements of tragicomedy.  Two newspaper reporters, Angela and Jim, are following up reports of an escaped patient from a local secure mental hospital.  Stopping off at a café, they are soon joined by a cast of bizarre characters, and mutual suspicions grow when their backstories become increasingly unlikely.
  • A Change Of Heart (4M, 7F) comprises a tale of deception and murder in 19th Century Manchester, the latest enrapturing historical drama from Tony Frier.  When Mrs Chiltern unexpectedly returns home one evening to find her husband dead, little does she imagine that she will be the one facing the gallows.
  • A group of friends make a contingency plan in the event that any of them become seriously ill.  Ten years on, that pact is put to the test in Duncan Battman’s Spoofing For Gordon (3M, 1F)
  • School staffroom strife in Damian Woods’ The Primary Candidate (3M, 4F).  Headmaster Gordon Lewis has called an extraordinary staff meeting, but has excluded one department in doing so.  He announces a forthcoming VIP visit along with the vacancy for Assistant Head, causing much lively discussion and rivalry.
  • Get your Christmas play shopping done early with I Don’t Think I’ll Be Here Next Christmas (1M, 3F) by Dawn Cairns.  Cantankerous pensioner Jean always spends Christmas with her son John and his wife Sheila.  The mutual dislike between Sheila and Jean bubbles under the surface, and threatens to boil over after an incident involving sixpences in the Christmas pudding.
  • The two acts of David Pemberton’s Doppelganger are now available individually as one-act plays.  Deception and Disguise (7M, 4F) were inspired by the plays that in turn inspired Shakespeare’s A Comedy Of Errors and Twelfth Night respectively.

 

Full-Length Plays

I’m amazed by authors’ capacity for invention.  The new full-length plays include a tale about an autocratic publisher.  I couldn’t possibly imagine anyone like that…

  • Jane Eyre (5M, 9F) has been adapted from the Charlotte Bronte novel by Richard Hills.  The story of Jane, who takes the position of governess of Mr Rochester’s young French ward in 1846, is faithfully transformed into a stage piece.
  • More early-bird festivity can be found in Jamie Lakritz’s The Great Christmas Cracker Heist (5M, 6F, 1 Either).  Everyone at the cracker factory is looking forward to their seasonal bonus – But things aren’t going as well as they seem at the company, so the staff take steps to get the money they’re banking on.
  • Mike Warrick’s spooky comedy A Wake All Night (5M, 5F) takes place in the mansion of late billionaire Sir Roger Laughton.  Following the eclectic businessman’s funeral, several select guests are invited to try and spend the night at his haunted abode.  But why these guests in particular?
  • Similarly ghostly is Nothing Old, Nothing New, Anne Graham’s single-setting farce.  Valerie is dead but unable to leave her house, now occupied by her son and his wife Zoe – the cause of her fury and her enforced sit-in.  Her grandson arrives to find his mother making plans for his sister’s wedding – though scandalous revelations soon scupper everyone’s plans.
  • A detective on administrative leave and a reporter with everything to prove have to team up to solve a forgotten crime in Alice And The Cold Case (5M, 5F) by Damian Trasler
  • White Rock (4M, 4F) is the publishing firm in Martin Ward’s thriller, where autocratic owner Sir James Bannerman has just been found murdered.  Inspector Hilliard has his work cut out to find the culprit, given that everyone at the office had a compelling reason to commit the crime.  We can confirm that no such dramatics occur in real-life publishing houses.

 

Pantomimes

Sheer Luck Holmes was produced by the Apollo Players (on the Isle of Wight).  A picture of their dancing policemen appears on our web page for the script.

  • Bob Heather and Cheryl Barrett have remastered Sheer Luck Holmes (1M, 5F, 13 Either).  All of the familiar panto ingredients and faces bound together to solve the mysterious case of the missing art works.  Holmes is assisted by his housekeeper Dottie the Dame and Baskerville the pantomime dog.
  • A new take on Cinderella (4M, 4F, 10 Either) takes the audience from the Job Centre to the Palace via Hardup Hall by a rejuvenated Fairy Godmother and a talking parrot.  The Ugly Sisters are addicted to Facebook, while Prince Charming runs his life according to his fitbit.
  • Best-selling author Robert Scott takes on the world of panto with Adrian – The Alternative Pantomime (5M, 5F, 1 Either), available in both clean and not-so-family-friendly versions.  Adrian’s not your typical inhabitant of Pantoland.  He’s level-headed, and can spot the difference between a wolf and a Granny.  But due to unfortunate circumstances, he’s tasked with the role of Fairy Godmother – for everyone!

 

Plays for Schools and Youth Theatre

There seems to be a theme running through our new youth plays, but, for the most part, it’s Greek to me:-

  • Stewart Boston goes all Greek with Antigone (4M, 2F, 2Either), a dramatic retelling of Sophocles’ tragedy – perfect for secondary/high schools and youth theatre.
  • Continuing the ancient theme, Graham Milton offers us two short plays, ideal for school assembly pieces: The adeptly-named Troy Story (6M, 2F) is a comic take on the story of the Trojan War, featuring a rapping and bloodthirsty chorus to keep the audience up to speed.  Oedipus – Swollen Foot (8M, 3F) similarly provides a remarkably light-hearted and accessible take on a Greek tragedy.
  • Lou Treleaven’s Absolutely Aesop (3M, 1F, 14 Either) may prove ideal for those looking to stage a family-friendly one-acter.  As part of the series of Absolutely Ancients, the eponymous author is brought onto a chat show to discuss his most famous fables, and meet some of the characters again.
  • Feline fanatics may take to Louise Wade’s It’s A Cat’s Life (1M, 3F, 3 Either).  A group of cats are introducing the latest kitten to life on the lane, when a stray offers a differing view of humans and their houses.  Before any conclusions can be drawn, the kitten gets into danger and needs rescue.
  • Chariot (4M, 6F) by Chad Bearden was written for two young principals (and could be played by a youth company or a mix of youth and older actors).  Lenny and Margo are left orphaned when their mother dies, but their Uncle Joe sneaks them away from government care and takes them on a wild and imagination-filled road trip.

 

Murder Mysteries

Just one new murder mystery this time, but featuring the reprise of the detective from the best-selling Death on Delivery:-

  • Detective Inspector Ben Cleveleys bobs in and out of the action in Richard Adams’ An Inspector Pops In (4M, 4F).  Ageing actor Gary’s estranged wife is plotting with his entourage to systematically drain his bank balance.  When Lisa, a young reporter from the local newspaper arrives for an interview with Gary, she becomes privy to conversations which threaten to uncover the whole plot.

 

Waiting for Gadot

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Life can sometimes move a little slow here at Polly Cottage*. So it is that we’re only just back from our first screening of Wonder Woman, despite being keen to see it from the first trailer. Or was it a teaser for the trailer? Or a sneak still from the teaser for the trailer? Anyway, we all wanted to see it.

Generally, the weasels are interested in watching the comic book movies, but in common with a lot of people, we’re less keen on the grim direction that DC has taken in recent years, preferring the lighter comic touch of the Marvel universe. However, Middle Weasel’s militant defence of gender rights (along with every other type of rights) meant that this movie was on our lists, and hopes were high.

The film didn’t disappoint. Since it’s still on in theatres, I’m not going to risk any spoilers, but the colours were gorgeous (in contrast to the iron and steel of Batman and Superman of late) and the origin story made a gloriously insane kind of comic book sense (though I could hear Tiny Weasel huffing about the mangling of Greek Mythology a couple of seats over). The truth is, DC don’t mess with Greek mythology any more than Marvel have with Norse to get Thor onto the Avengers team, and since no one on either production has been struck by lightning, neither pantheon is too offended by their portrayal.

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The story has been well-thought out: Wonder Woman appears at the closing stages of World War One, and though there’s still a lot at stake, she’s not brought in to re-fight battles we know were won by the sacrifice of real soldiers. It’s not disrespectful in that way. In fact, the film highlights again and again how much the innocent suffer in war, and my weasels were struck by the youth of the German soldiers, when they remove their gasmasks at the end of the film. This is not a film that revels in war, even as the choreography of the fight scenes makes them a phenomenal ballet.

I think the question of whether or not it’s a Feminist movie is a stupid one. It’s a good film. It has a female lead that young girls can look up to – long overdue, and in short supply still. It’s got a female director, and though it often bugs me that the director gets all the kudos for a good film and the writers for a bad one, I have no doubt that women in Hollywood have a harder time than the men, so I applaud Patty Jenkins for a terrific film. I hope the door stays open for women in film now.

Straight, white, middle class males have had the run of the world for a long time. If we whine when someone else has a chance to see themselves on the big screen, as the main character in a book, or leading a country, then it’s the feedback of realising how other people have felt for centuries. Wonder Woman is a great film, and it’s good to see it done so well with the effects available now. But it’s a shame it’s taken 76 years to get her a movie of her own.

 

 

*Polly Cottage is not our official address, nor is it named for any relative called Polly. If you really want to know, it’s because we’re big fans of Mr Gum, but have a short mailbox.

Analysis of “Skull Island” as a subtextual discussion of the inherent violence in Man and his struggle to escape the animal heritage of homo sapiens.

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Emerging from the venerable heritage of the Creature Feature, it’s easy to dismiss “Kong Skull Island” at first glance as nothing more than the latest in a parade of monster movies where viewers wager which of the shrinking band of principals will survive the carnage. Yet, I would say there’s a remarkable vivacity to the subtext of this film that bears further examination and even deserves greater credit than it has thus far received.

Leaving aside the lyrical, poetic cinematography that doesn’t so much recall “Apocalypse now” as reshoot it, I’d like to focus on the plot.

Scientists discover a mysterious island, thanks to the new technology of Satellite photography. But these are not ordinary scientists – these scientists have been tasked with finding previously unknown monsters, and this is (for unspecified reasons) their last chance to do so. Surely this previously unknown island that has been mentioned in historical documents as a place to avoid (wait, how unknown is it?) contains monsters by the BUCKETLOAD? The plan is approved and a survey is cobbled together with other, genuine scientists who are looking for something else. Probably oil. This is the 70’s, everyone wants oil. A squadron of helicopters, almost on their way home from Vietnam, are reassigned to this expedition, to the great relief of their commanding officer who clearly knew the likelihood of his men to fall prey to depression, drug abuse and homelessness following their return home to a hostile country. How farsighted of him.

As the helicopters sweep in over the island, they drop seismic charges, theoretically to map the substrata of the island. In truth, these are bombs to draw out the monsters. Kong makes his appearance and destroys all the helicopters, leaving only a handful of scattered survivors. He and the commanding officer lock gazes through the flames, establishing their emnity for the hard-of-thinking. Then Kong wanders off.

Later in the film, two characters get into a discussion over the AK-47 one of them is carrying.

“I took it off a Vietnamese farmer”, the character says. “Man told me he’d never held a gun before we came to his country. Sometimes you don’t have an enemy until you go looking for one.”

This is another pointer for the hard-of-thinking or American audiences. Because at this point the survivors are split into two groups – the soldiers, who are looking for the biggest heap of weapons to avenge themselves on Kong, and the others, the pretty ones, who meet the locals and a handy WW2 survivor who can explain everything to everyone.

Kong is a protector, the last of his kind. And he was defending his charges from the attack by the helicopters. This is proven by his lack of interest in attacking the film’s leading lady when she wanders across his path. He’s a nice guy, just two hundred feet tall. Worse still, Kong is needed by the islanders because there are worse monsters and he’s their only defender.

This, I feel, is the brilliance of the film. Mankind goes to the island, looking for a monster. Because of the way we go looking, we find one, and we give it reason to act monstrously. The film shows the two possible responses to meeting a monster: Arm, and fight back, or learn, and react with that knowledge in mind. The soldiers, and their commander in particular, arm because it’s what they’ve been trained to do, and to do in Vietnam where the enemy was almost impossible to see. Here’s the exact opposite, and enemy that’s all too visible. It’s easy to see the appeal in the notion of all-out attack.

But the pretty people have knowledge. They know what else hangs in the balance of Kong’s life, and they are willing to put their own lives on the line to protect the villagers, just as Kong is. They step between the soldiers and their enemy and try to make them see reason. All but the commander are persuaded, but for most it takes the arrival of the worse monster to prevent the killing of Kong. The commander himself is killed by the new monster, a victim of the hateful actions he has taken against the enemy he made.

I came away from this movie filled with a profound sense of having learned something about human nature and storytelling and the rediscovery of old tales.

Mrs Dim said she liked the bit where Tom Hiddlestone ran through the water in his t-shirt and jeans.

LAUNCH DAY! More Cosplay Disasters

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Yes! It’s finally launch day for my new e-book, “More Cosplay Disasters”!

In this follow-up volume to “My Cosplay Disasters”, I lay out the method I failed to develop properly to build another four helmets. This time I ruined:

A Captain Rex Clone Trooper Mod

A First Order Stormtrooper Helmet from “The Force Awakens”

Handles the Cyberman Head from Doctor Who

A Deathtrooper helmet from “Rogue One”

Each disaster is neatly laid out (which is more than can be said for my workshop) with accompanying photographs and a detailed account of where I went wrong (often, simply starting the project.)

There are many authors and makers out there who are keen to tell you how to do things right, but I’m pretty much the only person showing you how I do things wrong, thus proving that YOU could do a better job than me if you put your mind to it. Also, that I should have a different hobby.

The e-book is available exclusively on Amazon:

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCF665N

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCF665N

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B06XCF665N

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And anyone else, check your local Amazon variant!

An allegory (not about the election)

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Once upon a time, in a small village, there was a shop that sold pots. There were pots of all kinds, in different sizes and shapes. Some were squat and earthy, some were tall and elegant, some were useful, some were purely art pieces.

Each had only one handle.

One day, a new potter came into the shop. She was holding a pot with two handles. The proprietor looked over his glasses at her.

“Two handles?” he said, not quite sneering. “How…Unusual.”

The woman swallowed, but stood tall.

“This is how I make pots. With two handles.”

The man smiled in a patronly fashion.

“And that’s very admirable, but as you can see, all the pots in this shop have ONE handle. I simply can’t sell a two handled pot. No one would buy it.”

The woman frowned.

“Excuse me, but how do you know that?”

The man waved once more at the stock in his window.

“Because I’ve been selling pots for over thirty years, young woman, and I have never yet sold a two-handled pot. It can’t be done.”

The woman arched an eyebrow at him.

“Have you ever HAD a two-handled pot to sell?”

The man had no answer to this, and in his moment of confusion, the woman carefully placed her pot in his hands. Both hands instinctively closed around the handles, holding the pot firm. It felt right in his grip, comfortable, safe and secure. There was no arguing that it wasn’t different from every pot he’d held before. He liked the pot, but his pride prevented him from saying aloud how he felt. He cleared his throat.

“Well, look, I can see you’ve worked hard on this. I think we should be charitable and give a chance to new…odd, things. I’ll put it in the window, for now. We’ll give you a week, how about that?”

But less than a week had passed before the woman heard from the shop owner. Her pot had sold, and word had got round, and could she bring him more pots, more two-handled pots please. As many as ten? By tomorrow?

Along with the modest flow of people buying the new pots (new to the shop, but perhaps an old design, to be sure) came an angry potter. He was, he explained, there to represent the views of several potters who had concerns.

“These new pots of yours, ” he said, “They’re not right. Not proper.”

The shopkeeper frowned at that.

“I don’t see how that’s the case. They are pots. Whether artistic or practical, they do what needs to be done.”

The potter shuffled his feet, as if physically adjusting his mental stance.

“Look,” he said (and the strain of keeping a level tone was nonetheless evident in his voice) “I can see there’s a bit of a fad for this new style. Well, fine. If you want two handles on pots, I can supply pots with two handles.”

“Why?” asked a softer voice.

Both men turned to see the woman who had made the two handled pots. She had clearly heard the exchange.

“I beg your pardon?” grated the potter.

“Why would you suddenly start making two handled pots? I make them that way because that’s how I was taught to make them. It’s the way my family have always made pots.”

“I’ve never seen them before.” asserted the potter, as if that were a closing statement.

“Little wonder about that, since they’ve never had space in the shop before.” replied the woman.

“Well, now they are taking up space. Space that other potters have earned. Potters that have more experience, that have sold pots for longer than you…”

“Not hard to do, since I haven’t sold any pots before this week.” admitted the woman.

“Exactly!”

“But then again, that doesn’t make them better. It certainly doesn’t make them better at making two handled pots.”

The potter stared at her, then glanced at the shopkeeper who shrugged, unwilling to intervene. The woman continued in a level and understanding tone.

“You see, I know you are a good potter. I see your pots right there in the window and they are beautifully made. Some are useful, and some are too lovely to use. You are clearly a master potter.”

He stammered a vague thank you, trying to see why she should compliment him.

“And yet… All your pots have one handle. They only need one handle. That’s how they were made, how you have always made your pots. You COULD make pots with two handles, and they would be good pots, but you know what? You’d be making them because people are buying two handled pots. Not because you want to MAKE two handled pots. And before you could sell them, you would have to go away and learn about the design, probably from someone like me, who has spent her life making pots like these.”

The potter opened his mouth and the woman held up one finger. Not imperiously, not commandingly, just to indicate a moment’s pause was needed.

“You should make the pots you have always made. They will still be beautiful or useful. People will still buy them and love them. And yes, you may sell fewer pots because the shop shares the space with different pots. But you’ll be making the pots that you make best. The pots you understand. The pots you dream of. And so will I.”

So, this is the internet, where you have to point out when you’re writing a satire. This is not a satire, it’s an allegory, and it’s not about the American election, even though it seems like EVERYTHING is about the American election right now. This is about a discussion in the publishing industry that rose and fell recently. It’s how I feel about that argument.

May the Fours be with you…

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Still putting one foot in front of the other, with three Weasels in tow…

It’s my forty-fourth birthday. Despite dire warnings regarding fruit and vegetables and the necessity thereof, I’m still here. Which is nice.

This summer has been long and very, very pleasant. We’ve had a visit from my parents and been out to see new places, as well as revisiting some old favourites. The Weasels have had independent adventure time, and plenty of family time too. Mrs Dim and I managed to take simultaneous vacations and discovered that we still like each other very much.

In past years I’ve put my books on sale and encouraged new readers to try them, but I think there’s enough misery in the world right now thanks to Brexit and the US elections, so instead I’m encouraging everyone to embrace the spirit of the Fours and review four books. ANY four books. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book you read last week, or your childhood favourite. Doesn’t matter if you post the review on Amazon, or on Facebook, or on a sheet of A4 pinned to the nearest telephone pole.

Reviews matter. They matter to the poor author who has torn their hair out arranging these 100,000 words into that specific order for your pleasure. They matter to other readers, who want to know if this is a book they should devote time to. And if Oprah and Richard and Judy and their ilk can influence entire countries to buy a book (“50 Shades” and “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” respectively) then you can encourage people too. Even if it’s just the author, relieved that someone has READ their book, thank you.

You don’t have to be a literary critic. You don’t have to analyse the beats of the plot, or the structure, or the effectiveness of the b-story. Did you like the book? Did it grip you from the beginning? Could you see it happening in your head as you read it? Did you want to read it right to the end? Were you sad when it was finished? These are the things people want to know about the books, not whether the symbolism was richly influenced by the pre-modernistic fiction of Northern France.

Summer’s pretty much done, and as Sean Bean is always here to remind us….

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Dammit, Sean, YOU HAD ONE JOB! Try again….

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Right. Thank you.

Yes, Winter is coming, so no more lying in a hammock reading books. Now comes the time for curling up in an armchair near the fire with books. It’s completely different.

So, may the fours be with you. Go FOURth and review books.