Tag Archives: writing

5 reasons I didn’t make it.

Stop me if you’ve heard this already.

I’ve been writing with intent to earn since 1998. Been dreaming of being an author for another two decades before that. I have written and published something like ten e-books, over eighty plays, several short stories and some non-fiction articles. I’ve written a couple of screenplays that have gone nowhere, and I’m still not rich or famous.

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To be clear, I do comparatively well from my play writing. When there’s not a global pandemic shutting down every public gathering, I get a monthly payment for my scripts that’s very nice, especially considering there’s no heavy lifting involved. Some even won awards, like this nice medal.

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But no matter what, I’m not topping the bestseller charts with my books. Look:

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All the way up to number 73! Inside the top 100 of a very, very narrow category! Anyway, my point here is not just to whine about not being an NYT bestseller, but to explain why I’m not. I mean, sure, there are LOTS of reasons, but here are the top 5 I can think of. You can add more in the comments if you would like to be hurtful.

1. Writing is rewriting.

Stephen King says the first draft is you telling yourself the story*. That’s all well and good, but you should get to the end, then (after going and doing something else for a while) go back and look at the story you’ve got. You should maybe think about theme, and how to emphasize it. Look at the characters you have, and see if there are any you’re hanging on to for sentimental reasons. Do they all serve the story? Look at the different scenes you have. Are THEY all important? Is there one there that you don’t need, but you just think it’s funny? Is that a problem?

See, rewriting can be hard. people say “Stick your draft away for a few months and it reads like someone else wrote it.” and that’s good advice, because they’re right. But the big test is whether you can take that story you built, word by word, and break it down, then reassemble it as a different version. I can’t. Even when I have had brilliant people like Lucy V Hay showing me the parts that need fixing, I can’t do the work. I’ve done it with plays – rewriting, restructuring, changing the endings. But not short stories or novels. So what I end up with is a first draft. Maybe proofread, maybe spellchecked, but not fundamentally different to the first version that fell out of my head, and I think people can tell that.

2. Bang the drum.

Nobody thinks to themselves “I love selling things! I think I’ll write a novel!” And no one says “Hey, I’m a novellist, but my favourite part is doing the publicity!” If you’ve chosen to devote huge chunks of your time to sitting alone, building imaginary worlds and people out of words, then you are unlikely to be the kind of outgoing gladhander who can sell product to everyone.

And yet, if you want to jump from writer to published author, you have to learn to sell yourself and your book. Even if you think you’re going to get an agent and get picked up by the Big Six and they’ll do the publicity, you have to sell yourself to that agent. You have to believe your work is good, believe you have more in you, and you have to be able to communicate that belief to someone who’s never met you.

I once rang a publisher when I had finished a first draft of a novel. I don’t know what I was thinking, but the poor guy actually answered the phone. I told him I’d just written a book, and he asked me to describe it. Right then I knew that I wasn’t going to make it. I stuttered and stammered and I credit that unknown phone-answerer with tremendous kindness. I don’t remember him sneering at me (as he should), nor slamming down the phone in disgust (also warranted.) He taught me a valuable lesson, which is that you have to have a pitch at your fingertips, and you have to make your story sound good. I did not.

3. Pick a lane.

This is maybe a little more controversial, but I think it applies to us enthusiastic amateurs. I mentioned I have ten e-books out there, but only two are novels. One’s a zombie novel, the other a vaguely YA book about a musician. I have four collections of short stories. One is Sci-Fi, two are coffee-break stories (warm, minor-twist endings, no bloodshed or graphic stuff), and one is… other stuff. I have a book of poetry. I have a non-fiction book about my family’s first year emigrating to Canada, and three non-fiction books about my hobby of building prop helmets. The point is, if you like one of my books, there’s no guarantee you’re going to like any of the others. And if I wanted to approach a regular publisher or agent, I could show them my dazzling sales stats (“Look! This month there were three sales! Three! In the same month!”), but would have to acknowledge that they are spread out amongst different genres. No big, pre-built audience waiting there for my next zombie novel.

When people talk about e-publishing, they often mention having a tail. Publish two or three books before you expect to pick up a serious readership. They may be right, but I bet it helps if you stick within your genre. I have a couple of friends who have written sequential books – Rick Wayne and Lisa Cohen, for example. Their earlier books were written on faith, and their readership grew as the series progressed. The clamour that people made on social media for the next book interested new readers. Don’t be a butterfly author.

4. Maintain your platform.

Everyone knows that authors these days have to have a social media presence, but that’s getting harder and harder to define. Let’s start with where I went wrong: I loved G+, built up a group of friends there, and gradually slid off the public face of G+ into more private group areas. It was more fun for me, but less useful for selling my books. I have a Twitter presence, but find I’m resistant to the Twitter style of trumpet blowing – posting pictures of your book cover fourteen times a day with pull quotes from other people saying how much they loved the book. Worse are the ones that try to give a sample of the book’s dialogue without running out of characters. Still, that’s more than I do. I can’t publicise my books on social media without deprecating them, even though I have devoted a lot of time to each one, and they’re sooooo cheap! But I don’t have a plan, I don’t have a schedule, and I lurk on Twitter rather than dividing my time more usefully amongst other sites too, like Goodreads, and Instagram and whatever else the kids are into these days. Somewhere online, there’s a group of people to whom your book will appeal. Finding them can be a big challenge, or maybe even a part time job. But if you choose not to do it, like me, then you can’t complain about book sales. Well, you CAN, but no one will listen.

5. Don’t drop the ball.

So, you write your novel. You re-write your novel. You get it edited (always a good plan). You maybe re-write it one more time. Then you go out to sell it. Maybe it sells, maybe it doesn’t. You sit down to write novel number two. The thing is, don’t completely abandon your first novel, especially if you’re self publishing. It may feel like last week’s laundry, but there will always be people out there who haven’t heard about it. People join and leave social media sites all the time. If you’re maintaining your platform, your number of new followers (or whatever) should be rising, and those new people need to know about your first efforts as well as your latest blockbuster. Yes, there’s a balance between ‘I didn’t know you’d written that!” and “Dear god, are you STILL banging on about that old thing?”, but you can find that balance. Look at what others do. Work out your own strategy for new versus old. It may be that, like Seanan Mcguire or Delilah S Dawson, you’ll want to split your genres out under different names, but whatever you decide, remember to cheer for your early efforts too. Any one of them could be the way a new reader finds their way to you.

So, Dim, does all this negativity mean you’re done with writing e-books?

I don’t know. The pandemic hasn’t been good for my confidence, or my creativity, like a lot of people. And there’s that stupid feedback loop, where I don’t make any money from e-books, so I don’t invest any time in them, but they’re not going to sell if I don’t invest the time (see three of the points above) and right now I should have time but I still can’t muster time and energy to do all the things I have to, let alone the things I think I want to.

Well, that got dark quickly. Are you still writing plays?

Yes. Sllllloooooooooooowwwwwllllllyyyyy. But yes. And tomorrow I may laugh again, because me and my writing partners at TLC Creative are still working on The Hound of Music.

Thanks.

 

 

*He says other stuff too, I expect, like “Pass the potatoes.” and “Who elected this clown?”, but I thought I should stick with the relevant stuff.

Talking a good game

My next book

Publicity is a tricky thing. A lot of social media is people carefully trying to sell you their stuff, without looking like they’re trying to sell you anything at all. Influencers call this “your brand”, or your “author platform”, and some people are better at it than others, like most things in life.

My own experience with selling my stuff (ie, plays, ebooks and whatnot) online is that I am not good at talking myself up. I like the things I have written, am often quite proud of them, but it just doesn’t feel right to shout “My stuff is great! Buy it!” without at least adding “Of course, you may disagree, and there’s lots of other great stuff out there which may suit your needs better, I would perfectly understand if you want some time to compare and contrast and make an informed decision…”

This is NOT a great advertising strategy.

The trouble is, if you’re going to build a brand online, you need to be consistent. If you’re going to be consistent, you have two choices. The first is to invent the person you’re going to be, and stick rigidly to that persona whenever you post ANYTHING AT ALL. The second is to be yourself, and admit that sometimes that might not be great for everybody. This is why we see actors or authors get slammed for having political opinions online. We think we want to get to know the real person, but often there are doors we don’t want opened, or illusions we want to keep intact.

Part of who I am is the self-deprecating, anxious, uncertain person who feels it’s wrong to brashly boast of your brilliance. Certainly you won’t find me quoting reviews of my stuff on Twitter where I refer to myself in the third person (I have seen authors do this, and it looks weird.)

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying, when I finally got “Even More Cosplay Disasters” fixed for the third time and published for the second time, I was all out of enthusiasm for doing any publicity at all. I’d done a little for the first publication, and luckily it had fallen flat, because the book had NOT been properly published, and anyone who bought it would only have been able to download the cover.

I thought I might try and interest the local papers, but writing a press release is really just talking about yourself in the third person again, so instead I wrote directly to the reporter for the local paper (Janis Cleugh of the Tri City News) and asked if she might be interested in the story of a playwright who builds strange helmets and props with his daughter. She was, and she came round to interview me and my Eldest Weasel, as well as taking a very nice picture. She was kind enough to mention the books, as well as being very thorough in her questioning (best of all, she didn’t ask “Why the hell do you bother with all this tosh?”, which is Mrs Dim’s favourite question.)

Here’s the online copy of the article:

https://www.tricitynews.com/entertainment/sci-fi-superfans-build-costume-props-1.23852723

Sales of the books have not gone through the roof, so as an advertising stunt, it hasn’t achieved its aim. On the other hand, I did take a positive step towards marketing, and it was a different one to the ones I’ve done before. We got a nice picture out of it, if nothing else, and the article seems to have spurred Eldest Weasel on to fixing up Derek the Dalek for the next Fan Expo.

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Why do you have unfinished or unpublished projects?

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You work hard on your manuscript. You produce anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 words, right? That’s a LOT.

So why, why on earth would you NOT submit that completed manuscript to a publisher? And if you haven’t reached the end, but you know the story and you have the drive, why not FINISH the story?

A lot of authors who have made it (a term that covers so much ground it’s pointless trying to define it) will tell you they have complete manuscripts in their desk drawers (sometimes virtual desk drawers) that will never see the light of day. It can be an infuriating thought. Imagine, another Stephen King novel, or a Delilah S Dawson book that you can never read! Why would they do that? If a story is worth investing enough time and energy to type to completion, it’s worth reading, right?

The sad answer is no. Like Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is you telling the story to yourself”. Until that first draft is down, you have no idea, really, what the story is going to look or sound like to anyone else. And sometimes, you look at what you’ve got and you say “Yeah. That’s what I was thinking, that’s what I wanted to say, but it’s not good enough. It’s not right.” Sometimes that means draft two will come at the same story from a different direction. Sometimes it means you explore the same theme with a different story. Some of those drafts just go into the drawer.

Years ago, I wrote a complete screenplay. I used some bespoke software that doesn’t even exist anymore, I worked hard, and I got from “fade in” to “fade out”, and I was really pleased with myself. Pleased enough that I sent it off for some feedback.

What came back was a stack of notes. I began to re-work the screenplay from the notes, but it quickly became clear that the resultant story was not the one I’d written, and it wasn’t engaging me. If I didn’t like it, I wasn’t going to do a great job writing it. I still loved the original story, I was glad I’d told it to myself, but it went into the drawer.

Not every story you tell will be for everyone else. Sometimes, we are the only audience we need for our stories.

Start as you mean to go on…

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The start of a new year is a great time for new beginnings. We make resolutions, renew memberships, draw up lists. We pledge on social media to be better, to be more consistent, more productive. In the post Christmas calm, when work has shut down and we bask in the warmth of good food, gift-giving, family and friends, a new start seems almost inevitable.

Neil deGrasse Tyson upset some people on Twitter by pointing out that January the first is only significant in the Gregorian Calendar.

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I understand why people were annoyed, but I think he’s right. If we’re only prepared to make a new start one day a year, what good is that? The day before the new year began, I tried to load up the file for my latest book, but it had corrupted, and all the work I had done up to that point was lost. One day it worked, the next day it didn’t. So, here’s the new year, and I’m preparing to make a new start on a project I was a third of the way through. And once that’s done, there are plays to write, sketches to produce, DIY and craft projects to take on. Each one will require a new start.

Every day is a new beginning. Enjoy the next 365 fresh starts.

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.

Babes in the Wood promo

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.

 

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.

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.

The Latest Scripts from Lazy Bee : Sept 2016

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The latest round of scripts published by Lazy Bee Scripts have been gathered together in their regular newsletter (The Buzz). I’ve taken that list and some of  the other notices and put them here for your edification. All the scripts can be found by searching the title or author at www.lazybeescripts.co.uk  and it’s always worth checking out “What’s New” on the website.

Plays for Schools and Youth Theatre

Our latest publication for children (covering a range of ages) are:-

  • Peter Yates dispels a few Nordic myths while providing some real historical insight in his school piece The Vikings (9M, 3F)
  • The Seven Wonders (17M, 4F) by Nicholas Richards is an accessible and educational school play, that teaches not only history but also the power of books, and their ability to educate and inspire.
  • Roger Hurn’s new plays are ideal for school assemblies.  Thor’s Hammer (7M, 1F) is based on a traditional Scandinavian folk story, and Joseph And The Truth Stick (2M, 0F) provides a cautionary tale from ancient Egypt.
  • Face2Face (15M, 9F), Helen Spencer’s school ensemble piece is designed for Key Stage 2 pupils, with the theme of bullying at its core, though has many humorous TV-themed interludes.  Sam is a delightful child – happy, smiley and kind to others.  Well, at least that’s the impression she gives to grown-ups.  When her parents aren’t looking, or the teachers’ backs are turned, Sam reveals her true personality.
  • Gerry Murphy’s single setting piece The Three Wishes (7M, 3F) tells the cautionary tale of an impoverished peasant who makes a Faustian pact with Lucifer.
  • Young people come of age in the high school drama Behind Their Eyes (8M, 7F).  The play is a poignant dramatisation of the real life stories and experiences witnessed by the author Taylor Seymour.

 

Musicals and Musical Plays

Shows with a significant musical element – original songs or song suggestions.

  • Sarah Archer’s comedy drama Dearly Beloved (1M, 3F) features an original song and the opportunity for two others, and sees three very different people trapped in a mysterious room.  The trio must work together to find the answers that will set them free.
  • More amateur dramatics chaos in Cheryl Barrett’s comedy Free For Hall, as a double booking in the village hall leads to a tense stand-off.  There is potential for two song and dance routines.
  • Trinity Road School Reunion by Dawn Cairns is a full length musical with suggested songs.  A class comes back together years after school has finished, for a 70s night at a local pub.  New romances awaken, and old ones are remembered.  Some have changed quite dramatically, but the old bully is still the same.
  • And while we’re here, I should mention Ruth, Graham W Evans’s musical telling of the bible story.  We published this some time ago, but we have, at long last, added Graham’s CD of backing tracks for the show.
    We’ve also belatedly added vocal demos for a couple of children’s shows: A Musical Mother Goose by Gerald P.  Murphy and Minny Pinny Makes a Difference by Stuart Ardern.

 

Full-Length Plays

We are sponsoring the writing competition for full-length plays run by Bread & Roses Theatre.  (Submissions close on September 30.)  They are seeking plays with a majority of female roles (which is a good thing, reflecting the make-up of many theatre companies).  More information on their web site.  We look forward to reading the winning entries, meanwhile, our latest publications are:-

  • Ethan Bortman’s Obvious Guilt (4M, 3F) has been remastered with a British setting.  Nigel’s wife has gone missing and her mother is determined to involve the police.  As time goes by, things look blacker for Nigel, but he protests his innocence to the last.
  • A vivid historical drama on the life and loves of Byron, Mad, Bad, And Dangerous To Know (2M, 4F) is told largely from the female perspective, written by Jim and Bronwyn Jameson.
  • Play Safe (6M, 5F) from Paul Rudelhoff & Jane Hilliard is a full length farce set in a home for retired entertainers.  Trouble brews as two rookie criminals break in, with the intention of stealing the combination to a safe.
  • Lee Stewart’s Legacy (3M, 2F) centres around a dysfunctional family attending the reading of Uncle John’s will.  The provisos within lead the characters to in-fighting and nefarious scheming in a bid to get their hands on the inheritance.
  • Greeting Cards (2M, 2F), Frank Flynn’s comedy drama centres around two roommates.  Robbie is out of work, having suffered a stroke, while Max struggles to care for him.  Two women, Mandy and Max’s sister Gertie provide the catalyst for life saving changes for the pair.  There are three possible endings to choose from in Robert Scott’s The Amateur Killer (3M, 4F), a murder mystery drama centring around a local amateur dramatics society.  Director Daniel is letting his personal history with Lucas affect their relationship as he directs the production of Adieu, but it’s his knowledge of Lucas’ affair with Natalie that will lead to murder.
  • Two spirits ponder the manner of their death in Herb Hasler’s A Haunted Haunting (8M, 7F).  Confusions arise in this full length comedy, as medium Mona summons a host of oddball spirits to find the answer.
  • To Shut The Mouth Of Lions (4M, 2F) is a powerful drama from Dave Clark.  William’s wilful refusal to acknowledge his son’s lifestyle choice leads to a Christmas confrontation with his family.
  • Take five ladies of varying backgrounds and put them in the rest room at an exercise class.  They talk about their lives, their hopes and fears openly and unashamedly. Add into the mix a young, single, male fitness instructor and see what happens in Geoff Fulford’s Exercise In Discretion (2M, 5F)

 

Sketches, Skits and Short Plays

Mainly sketches, this time, but also a couple of short plays.  All running to less than 20 minutes.

  • Two Yorkshiremen share anniversary gift ideas and other worldly wisdom in Cheryl Barrett‘s Silver-Tongued
  • The mercurial minds at TLC Creative have gifted us with a menagerie of new skits, the settings of which range from boardrooms to safari parks.  These offerings come from David Lovesy with occasional help from Brian Two, and one contribution from Damian Trasler: The Business Meeting (2M 1F), Soul Bargain (2M), Imagine You Are A Tree (2 Either), The Wonders Of Science (2M), Is This A Sketch? (2 Either), The Earthquake Drill (1F, 2 Either), Shyfari (2M, 1 Either), and A Day At A Spa Resort (2M)
  • I Will Pass My Jeans On from Patricia G is a short but sweet piece.  Two sisters sort through some old clothes for the charity shop while their mother watches on.
  • Three new contributions from Robert Scott give equally humorous, sharp and absurd takes on the worlds of art critique, classical music and Hollywood film: Joan: The Movie (2 Either), For The Love Of Art (3M), and Symphony Dreadful (1M, 2 Either)
  • Philistines and experts face off in Herb Hasler’s Art’s Gallery.  (2M 1F)
  • Olivia Arieti adapts a Mary E.  Wilkins story in The Mayor’s Christmas Masquerade (5M, 7F)
  • The customer is always right, although in Peter Keel’s Book City they can sometimes struggle with the finer points.  (1M, 2 Either)
  • Tony Domaille’s spoof detective noir Rick Risk P.I. sees the title character embark on an amusingly cliché ridden roller coaster, meeting the glamorous Somer Field on the way.  (1M, 1F)
  • A case of mistaken identity leads to A Blind Date in Rollin Jewett’s short comedy play.  (2M, 1F)
  • Just A Bus Driver, Susan Middaugh’s ten minute drama, sees the title character confronted with a gun wielding passenger.  (2M)

 

Pantomimes

Here we have some traditional panto themes, along with a smattering of unusual subjects, mainly for family audiences (but one show that definitely isn’t).

  • Sharon Hulm’s collection of panto-themed sketches Behind You! features an interview with a genie, the characters of Robin Hood trying their hand at speed dating, and a piratey job interview.  More fairytale worlds collide in Goldie Locks And Some Other Guys, Sharon’s latest full length offering, where Goldie, jewel thief extraordinaire, is pursued by three hungry bears.
  • Cinderessex by Barry Smith is most definitely not suitable for family viewing.  Fairy Nuff’s magic allows Cinderessex to attend an exclusive party at The Glass Slipper club, owned by millionaire England footballer Jack Charming.  Only until midnight, that is.
  • Richard Coleman gives us a rhyming masterclass in Chaos In Wonderland, where Alice teams up with Jack to overthrow the Queen of Hearts.
  • Andrew O’Leary’s Rapunzel is our fourth published adaptation.  When the wicked fairy Gothel is stripped of her powers, they are accidentally transferred to the hair of baby princess Rapunzel.  Years later a brave boy sets out to find her and bring her home
  • Cleopatra Kicks Some Asp is a fun packed Ancient Egyptian-themed offering from Jonathan Goodson.  The evil Avaricia and her ugly sisters try to cheat young Cleo out of the Mighty Jewel of the Pharaohs.
  • Our second Ali Baba panto (others have Ali Baba and something else in the title, usually thieves) is set in a Cairo bakery – Will Fatima Baba’s flatcakes ever get the seal of approval from Pharaoh Rosher?  (Authors Bob Heather and Cheryl Barrett will donate a percentage of their royalties to charity.)
  • Suzan Holder gives us a a revised re-telling of Cinderella, our Version 6.  An updated rags-to-riches – via a pumpkin – story.
  • Aladdin has been given the girl’s school treatment by Rachel Harries.  This panto is designed for an all female cast, though can easily be adapted to suit a mixed bag.  Evil villainesses and magic lamps abound in our tenth Aladdin adaptation.
  • Dame Patsy’s pasty factory is under threat in The Parrots Of Penzance, Peter Yates’ eclectic offering.  The race to capture two valuable giant Peruvian parrots descends into pantomime fun.
  • Bottoms Up!  – The Panto by Hilary Ayshford sees pantomime meet Shakespeare, as A Midsummer Night’s Dream is retold with a healthy mix of modern day humour and eloquent quips.

 

One-Act Plays

We estimate run times from the number of words.  (There’s a post about this on the Beewaxing blog entitled ‘How Long is a Piece of Theatre?’) By our calculations, all these plays have run times of between 20 minutes and an hour.  The upper boundary may be of concern to groups planning competition entries (because usually there’s an upper limit of 50 or 55 minutes).  This concerned Tony Frier in particular, as his play would make a good festival piece but is possibly on the long side (though your production may well run at a faster pace).  In any case, Tony’s production notes say that he is amenable to cuts to meet festival limits.

  • Scott Kingsnorth gives us the remarkable Palindrome (1M, 4F), a dystopian drama with a unique narrative.  Ladies (2F), on the other hand gives us a more identifiable tale of post-wedding-party blues.
  • The true story of Donnie Merrett is superbly adapted to the stage in Tony Frier’s powerful drama As The Clock Struck Ten (6M, 4F).  At the age of 17, Merrett shoots his mother after she discovers he had been forging cheques in her name.  Joining the navy reserve upon release from prison, he soon returns to a life of crime and debauchery.  After fleeing the military and narrowly escaping court martial he heads back to London where he continues to demand money to fund his habits.
  • Our Little Secret (2M, 1F) is Rollin Jewett’s award winning comic drama.  Darlene’s evening in is interrupted by an armed intruder, and an unlikely relationship develops between the pair.
  • Geoff Rose-Michael’s latest thrillers are three different tales of drama and deceit – the dire consequences of cheating a driving exam in The Test (1M, 1F), a sinister cover-up in When You’re Dead (3M 2F), and an armed robbery that isn’t as it seems in Innocent Witness (2M, 2F).
  • Window Pain (3M, 4F) is a bitter-sweet comedy from Patricia G.  Brenda thinks she knows all her neighbour’s secrets from the comfort of her window.  The residents of her neighbourhood, however, have their own stories to tell, and they are stark contrasts to Brenda’s preconceived ideas.
  • An American and an English couple squabble in Rosemary Frisino Toohey’s drama Fish Have Feelings Too (3M, 3F).  Eventually the couples’ children diffuse the situation give them something else to think about
  • Matters Arising (4M, 1F) by Richard Moore features a routine will-reading gone awry, unveiling the web of deceit in the secret lives of the beneficiaries.
  • An obsession with ancestry and a desire to claim the inheritance of an obscure relative are the driving points of American Dreaming (5M, 5F), David Pemberton’s comedy drama.

 

Murder Mysteries

There are three new interactive murder mysteries in the latest crop.  Time for your audience to get out their magnifying glasses and work out whodunnit…

  • Downtown Crabbey is a period mystery by Joanne Mercer, set in 1900 in a London hotel trying to cater for American tourists.  The impending arrival of a hotel inspector has caused a panic in the dining room and, worst of all, a fork has gone missing.
  • Nostalgia for a different period from Debi Irene Wahl in The Monster Mashed – a mystery for a small cast of comedy horror characters, with a couple of songs thrown in for good measure.
  • Richard Adams presents a detective-led mystery in Mystic Myrtle which starts with a visit to a fortune teller and leads into an intricate tale where all of the characters have motives for doing one another in.  So the first mystery is who goes first.

 

 

New Web Site Features

Pick a number (not quite any number)

If you buy a performance set of scripts from us, we used to define that as one Producer’s Copy and a fixed number of Cast Copies. Now we’ve changed that so that the customer can choose the number of Cast Copies.  Normally, at this point, you’d be given a sales pitch about why more Cast Copies would be useful to you.  Of course I’m going to do that, but I’ll also tell you why you might want fewer (the cheaper option).
With some scripts, particularly large cast productions, it’s possible to have one actor playing multiple roles.  If you know you’re going to do that, then you can pick the number of Cast Copies you need.  (There is a lower limit, which is the feasible minimum cast size.)
On the other hand, you might want additional copies for members of a chorus, for prompt and stage crew and to give to competition judges. In that case you can add as many Cast Copies as you need.
(The same function also makes it possible to order multiple Review copies.)

Buy a collection, perform a script

We have a small number of “collections” – sets of scripts, generally sketches or short pieces, grouped by theme and bundled together (at a discount over the sum of the individual parts).  Occasionally, customers want to buy the collection but perform just some of the component scripts.  Our web site will now recognise this automatically and grant performance rights for individual scripts that were bought as part of a collection.

Get an up-to-date catalogue

We’ve moved the Catalogue (or Catalog, if you prefer the US spelling) into the [Browse] menu.  We’ve also updated so that the catalogue is generated when you click the button, so you instantly get a PDF which includes the latest publications.

Build your own catalogue

The point of the catalogue is to be printable (so that you can hand a copy round).  The problem with a catalogue is that it contains a lot of things that you don’t want mixed in with the things you might want.  The Lazy Bee Scripts search engine gives results that are closer to what you are looking for, but it’s more difficult to print.  Aha!  There’s now a button which enables you to create a PDF of your search results.

PDF Receipts

We have, for a while now, had a feature whereby you can generate a receipt for a paid order via the [Customers] menu.
We’ve extended that so that the receipts (and invoices, for orders for which you have yet to pay) are generated as PDFs – which look better and are easier to print.
This is particularly useful for customers who pay by card but want a receipt in their own currency (as long as it’s Euro or US, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand dollars).  The customer’s currency part of the receipt will be approximate – because we charge in pounds and the customer’s card provider does the conversion into local currency, so we never see the exchange rate – but for most purposes it will be close enough.

Gallery

Waiting for Twist Stiffly – RPI Players

This gallery contains 7 photos.

I was delighted to get a Tweet from the RPI Players this week, telling me they had completed their run of “Waiting for Twist Stiffly” and enjoyed the play very much. They had the very talented Demetrius Green (photographybydegrees.com/) on … Continue reading

Spotlight on: Brooke Johnson, Author

TheBrassGiant

I’ve blogged before about Brooke Johnson and her books, but she’s recently reworked the book I reviewed for real-world publication as “The Brass Giant” and so I thought I’d ask her some impertinent questions.

1: When did you start writing? 

I started writing seriously (with the goal to be published) when I was about fourteen. I started a fantasy novel that was a horrible conglomeration of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings, that thankfully died after its eighth or ninth iteration when I decided to write something else five years later.

2: What was your path to publication? 
In a word: weird.
When I sat down to write the book that would eventually become The Brass Giant, I made the decision to self-publish  because 1) I really didn’t want to go the query route and face the months of rejection on that path; 2) I felt that steampunk was “in” and I didn’t want to waste time with traditional publishing when it would be at least a couple of years before the book saw print; and 3) I just really felt like it was the right decision at the time. So that’s what I did.

A year later, Harper Voyager put out an open call for submissions. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to enter, I submitted the book and promptly forgot about it. Fast-forward another year and a half, I got an email from a Harper Voyager editor saying they wanted to publish my book. After much flabbergasted squeeing, I decided that I’d done what I could with self-publishing and signed a contract with the publisher. In the months since, I have been prone to varying degrees of stress and madness, and will soon have a traditionally published book to show for it.

3: Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

It was always a mixture of things when I first started writing, elements from my favorite books, movies, and video games, all cobbled together into one story. Stylistically, probably J.K. Rowling. I still primarily write third-person point of view and I will always write dialogue tags with “said” before the name of the person speaking.

4: What is your favourite piece of writing advice? 

I’ve gotten a lot of bad writing advice over the years, and very little good advice, so this is a tough one… probably “Write the story you want to read.” It’s the one dictum I’ve actually been able to stick to throughout the years.

5: If you could send one Tweet back in time to your past self, what would it say? And would you listen? 

Oh gosh… Um… “Stop wasting time on the internet and get to work. You won’t have the luxury of spare time in a few years.” Would I listen? Probably not.

6: What’s the logline for your latest book? 

When Petra Wade meets Guild engineer Emmerich Goss, she finally has a chance to prove her worth as an engineer building a top-secret, Guild-sanctioned automaton, but as their project nears completion, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy within the Guild … and their automaton is only the beginning.

7: Do you take part in a writing circle, either online or in real life?

I did when I was in college, but I never liked it–I’m not much of a group person. I also had a critique partner once, but it fizzled out when life happened. These days, I write all by myself and rarely read other writers’ work before publication, though I do often share scenes or snippets with a few close friends to get initial feedback.

8: Finally, what word do you always type incorrectly? 

Jeopardize. Receive. Mischievous. Judgement. Privilege.

So, what about the book?

The Brass Giant: A Chroniker City Story

Sometimes, even the most unlikely person can change the world

Seventeen-year-old Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, wants nothing more than to become a certified member of the Guild, an impossible dream for a lowly shop girl. Still, she refuses to give up, tinkering with any machine she can get her hands on, in between working and babysitting her foster siblings.

When Emmerich Goss—handsome, privileged, and newly recruited into the Guild—needs help designing a new clockwork system for a top-secret automaton, it seems Petra has finally found the opportunity she’s been waiting for. But if her involvement on the project is discovered, Emmerich will be marked for treason, and a far more dire fate would await Petra.

Working together in secret, they build the clockwork giant, but as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy from within the Guild council … and their automaton is just the beginning.

Releases May 5, 2015

Preorder now ($1.99)

Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00M719Z06

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00M719Z06

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brass-giant-brooke-johnson/1121123553?ean=9780062387165

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-brass-giant

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-brass-giant/id904017054?mt=11

HarperCollins: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062387165/the-brass-giant

About Brooke:

Brooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving writer. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes to one day live somewhere more mountainous.

Website:

 http://brooke-johnson.com

 Social Media:

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/brookenomicon

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+BrookeJohnson

Tumblr: http://brookenomicon.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brookejohnson.writer

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5320239.Brooke_Johnson