Category Archives: Writing

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

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.

 

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!

The Female Lead

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Cagney and Lacey ran from 1982 to 1988. According to Wikipedia, “For six consecutive years, one of the two lead actresses won the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama (four wins for Daly, two for Gless), a winning streak unmatched in any major category by a show.”

Having seen the outrage and fiery passion ignited by the Wonder Woman movie, I found it amazing to consider the success of Cagney and Lacey, which was, obviously, back in the “bad old days”. It’s surely no coincidence that the success of the show didn’t spawn dozens of similar shows with two female leads. In fact, the closest I can think of is the TV show “Scott and Bailey”, which did not begin until 2011, 23 years after Cagney and Lacey ended. When you see the proliferation of similar shows that burst onto the screen when the originals are proven successes – Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Wire – it’s surely only entrenched patriarchy that prevented a flood of female-lead cop shows.

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What others can we point to? There’s the excellent “Prime Suspect” that places Helen Mirren in command, fighting the prejudice of her fellow officers as much as she tries to unravel the crimes. Again, it won awards, garnered mountains of praise, ran for seven seasons and produced…What? There seem to be few imitators or successors.

When I started out to write a police procedural for the stage, I wanted to have a female lead. Originally she was going to be channeling advice from a fictional P.I. , but I soon realised that I wanted her to be working on her own, solving things herself. The second lead character shouldered her way into the spotlight a little unexpectedly. After she appeared, I went back and re-wrote the beginning, so that she – Maylee – could be a balance for Alice, the detective.

With all that has come to light in the past two weeks – Harvey Weinstein and the morass of sexual predation in Hollywood and elsewhere – it feels less appropriate than ever for me to be writing a play about the struggles of two women. White, middle class, middle-aged men have had more than their fair share of the spotlight these last few hundred years. I have no doubt there are women out there who could write a more personal, more real account of Maylee and Alice than I ever could. Odds are, there’s a better story than mine already published.

But here’s the thing: I’m a writer. I have an idea, and I have to write it. It might take months, or years, or it might be done in a day, but they turn up and get written down. I can choose which ones get my time and attention, but I can’t choose which ideas occur to me. If I could, I would write the things that follow the current market, whatever they are.

Writing is a profession that is full of people with Imposter Syndrome. Writers mistrust their own opinion of their work, they doubt themselves and they second-guess reactions to what they write. I already spend enough time doubting that what I produce is worthwhile, or readable. Since I don’t intend any disrespect or denigration to women, I don’t fear criticism for what I’m writing. As I said above, there are people who could write these things better than I could, so I would welcome any constructive criticisms. I’ll continue to write what it occurs to me to write, and I’ll listen to any objections that anyone has to offer.

You can read the full text of “Alice and the Cold Case” here. Many of my other plays contain strong female characters. You could try readingThe Kitchen Skirmishes“, orThe Red Balloon“, orDigging up Edwin Plant“. There’s alsoA Time for Farewells“, andLove in a Time of Zombies“.

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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