Tag Archives: writing

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

Spotlight on Zoe Ambler

Last week author and blogger Zoe Ambler was kind enough to feature an interview with me about my writing and publishing adventures.
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This week I’m turning the tables and inviting Zoe into my spotlight too answer some daft questions about her work! I’m hoping this will be the first in a series of posts featuring other writers who have books already out there in the world.
Ready Zoe? First question:

When did you start writing?

I started writing fan-fiction when I was in my early twenties…and then progressed to more detailed stories by way of role-play gaming. When I had no one as a writing partner, I wrote elaborate stories for my characters to flesh them out. I can get quite wordy…>_>

What was your path to publication?

My path to publication was more like trying to trek my way through a jungle or swamp with a machete. Set back after set back. I decided, with a lot of weighing of the pros and cons, to self publish. It’s not as easy as some make it seem. I have regrets, but I’ve learned from them, and with the next book, those mistakes won’t happen!

Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

Out of the authors out there, I’d say Stephen King and Anne Rice. I could really connect with the characters they set out. Now, on the personal side, a great influence was my mother and older sister. NAG NAG NAG…”You need to publish that!” was screeched at me a lot. 😀

What was your favourite piece of writing advice?

Never rush things. Too many mistakes can be made. Also, write every day, whether it’s a blog entry, a gaming story, or reaching a word count on a story. If you don’t see fresh entries on my blog for a few days, you can pretty much bet that I’m working on a role play thread/story, or I’m working on my next book.

If you could send one Tweet back in time to your younger self, what would you say? And would you listen?

I’d tell myself “Slow down, you silly ass. Quit rushing.” And no, I probably wouldn’t listen. I’m a rebel like that. 😀

What’s the logline for your book?

Vampires, demons, war and voodoo. One little fierce vampire defies all that might redeem her, until finally she meets her match. Not your typical vampire story!

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

Hmm..not really. I mean, I role play game, that’s a little like a writing circle, but specific groups, no, I know I should. I’m shy around new people, and ooze low self esteem sometimes. I’m working on it!

and finally,

What’s the one word you always type wrong?
‘separate’ I always want to write ‘seperate’. >_<
Thanks for your honesty Zoe! Now, to learn more:
Author Bio:
Zoe Ambler hails from Enterprise, Alabama. She’s 44 years old and broke through into writing by way of role-play gaming, which she still loves to this day.
She has traveled the world, being a ‘military brat’, but always finds her way back home. Her hobbies include sketching, playing violin (badly), collecting oddities and office supplies. Zoe is often found spoiling her fat cat and obsessing over coffee and the coming zombie apocalypse.
Book cover
Zoe’s first book is called “The Road of Darkness”. Here’s what you need to know about it:
The Road of Darkness is the story of Addison. She’s a young Southern Belle in early 1700 Louisiana with a love for Voodoo. She’s a child of privilege, but never really let it go to her head. She was always a little odd.
On an innocent outing, Addison falls prey to a supernatural predator. A vampire. He attacks and turns her, then leaves her to lost and alone with this new hunger for blood. However, unlike most, she embraces this new ‘life’. She finds delight in it. A darkness grows within her.
Like any young vampire left to fend for themselves, she stumbles in her new existence. She meets others here and there, and the world of the paranormal opens up to her.
Due in part to her thrill of bloodlust, she becomes fascinated with war. Soon she is moving from country to country, war to war. Man’s evolution and technology in the art of warfare intrigues her.
Through her time and adventures, she has fleeting bits of both happiness and sorrow. The darkness within her will only allow her so much happiness.
Her link with all things Voodoo brings her into the servitude of the Baron Semedi, demi-god of the Underworld. A deal gone bad. It only serves to deepen that darkness.
Where can you find “The Road of Darkness”?
And where can you find out more about Zoe and what she’s up to?
Best of luck with “The Road of Darkness” Zoe, and I look forward to seeing the sequel soon!

What type of self-publishing author are YOU?

(Clockwise from top left) The NYT bestseller, the slow-but-steady, the Hobbyist, the...other guy.

(Clockwise from top left)
The NYT bestseller, the Slow-but-steady, the…other guy, the Hobbyist

1: Do you have a completed manuscript?

a. Yes. Three published, two drafts and four notebooks of ideas and outlines.

b. One. Edited and professionally covered, uploaded and on sale.

c. Several. None are really as good as I hoped, and sales are miniscule, but I keep trying.

d. No. But I have a great idea for a book. How about I tell you what it is and YOU do the writing, then we can split the money fifty-fifty?

2: Have you paid anyone else to produce any aspect of your book?

a. Yes, I used a professional editor and cover artists for all of my books. I also have an SEO and marketing consultant to help me co-ordinate my sales plan.

b. Yes, editor and cover artist. I’m managing publicity and promotions myself, though, through my blog and other social media.

c. No. I got a friend to read through the draft and I did the cover myself. I think it’s pretty good.

d. I’ll just use some photos from the internet when I need a cover. I mean, once they’re online, they’re free to use, right?

3. Have you considered book signings and public readings to promote your work?

a. Of course. I’ve done many of each, and these days I get requests to do guest blog spots too.

b. I’ve done a couple of local readings, but no signings because my book is an e-book. I did do a blog tour though, and that really helped sales.

c. No. I don’t feel my books are good enough yet. Maybe for my next one I’ll talk to the local library about doing a reading. Perhaps.

d. Are you kidding? The press are going to come to ME. How are you getting on with the writing, by the way?  Because I could really use the money sometime soon…

4: Do you have a plan for your next publication and sales strategy?

a. Yes. I have plans in place for my next two publications, and one already has a chapter included at the end of my last published book to act as a trailer. The e-book versions all have hyperlinks to my Amazon author page, so readers can quickly find my full list of books and order without putting down their e-reader.

b. I’m still working on my second book, but I’ve been blogging about it and sharing the process with a number of friends and other blogs online. There’s already a lot of people asking about it, so I’m hoping that will result in good sales and reviews.

c. No. I keep meaning to work things out in advance, but then I get wrapped up in writing the book, and once it’s done I just rush to throw it out there. I don’t really have the time or patience for a big orchestrated “event”. That’s for real authors.

d. What? Oh, books. Man, I’m done with books, there’s too much, you know….words! I’m writing a screenplay now. Well, I say I’m writing it, I’ve emailed Joe Cornish because I saw one of his movies and thought it was rubbish, so I’ve sent him a great idea for a new one and told him he can send me the money… You don’t think he’ll steal my idea, do you?

Results

Mostly “A” : You’re an established author who’s likely to do reasonably well, treating writing as a business and keeping your eye on the future, not just the end of the sentence. Good job.

Mostly “B”: You’ve got a good grasp of the essentials, but it sounds like you lack confidence. Push yourself forward a bit, make some more noise about what you’ve done, and don’t get discouraged. Slow and steady may win the race in the fable, but you can do better than that if you look at the “A” authors and do what they’re doing.

Mostly “C”: Gee, I really hope this is just your hobby. Writing to please yourself is the best place to start, but if you’re planning to have writing as a career or a decent second income, you need to pay more attention to the business side of things. Your books may start out as your babies, but when you publish them, they’re your product, and how they look and sound is how other people see you. Be the best you can be.

Mostly “D”: I wish you the best with the next crackpot money-making scheme you latch on to. And the one after that, and the one after that. Because you’re not even reading this anymore, are you? You lost interest around question number 2….

75 or over: You are the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey! And you’ve been doing the wrong quiz!

Outrage of an angel

Traffic

It was kind of a crazy coincidence that I saw her at all. Daytime tv is something of a mystery to me most of the time, but the night before I had taken a hard tumble at a softball game and my ankle was swollen and angry. The Doc had said to keep it elevated and use cold packs from time to time, and I had told my boss (who happened to be waiting for his turn to bat) that I wouldn’t be in the next day.

I’d made a comfortable nest on my couch with drinks and snacks within reach, but that meant I wasn’t in a hurry to get up when the dvd I’d been watching came to an end. I switched off the dvd player and the tv leapt back into life with some moronic mid-morning talk show.

The hostess was a plasticated Barbie Doll who had to keep saying “That’s sad” or “That’s so funny” because her botoxed features couldn’t form the relevant expressions. She rounded off her chat with a comedienne who was promoting her latest movie and turned to the camera. She lowered her tone to indicate this was a serious segment.

“We’ve all experienced them.” She said, her painted eyes solemn and unmoving. “Those moments of desperation and despair when we feel we simply CANNOT go on. Those are the times when we cry out to a higher power for help, and sometimes…”

The camera cut to the audience, entranced and a little fearful, then back to the host.

“Sometimes… those prayers are answered in a truly physical way!”

I snorted and began to root around under the debris of chip packets and candy wrappers to find the tv remote so I could change channels.

“For our next guest, her moment of despair came during a dark and snowy winter’s night on the I-99. Her car had died, and she and her baby daughter had no phone with them. They were miles from the nearest house, and neither of them had clothing that would keep out the bitter cold.”

Now, I drive the I-99 every day. I would have been driving it that day too, if not for my ankle. The truth is that you’re never more than a mile from a house the whole length of the road, but I did remember it getting pretty snowy last winter. I stopped searching for the remote and watched the host introduce her guest. The slight blonde woman looked nervous, in sharp contrast to the comedienne who had been on earlier. The host established that the baby girl was safe at home that day, and then invited the mother to explain the course of events as they unfolded in the snow.

“The car was toast.” said the woman, “The engine shut off and there was smoke coming out under the front there. Casey and I were warm enough inside, but without the engine running I knew it would get cold pretty fast. I put the emergency flashers on and the other cars were just driving past me.”

“No one stopped?” asked the host, trying to twist face into a mask of concern.

“No one stopped. And I had no phone because it had run out of charge. I was feeling pretty desperate.”

The host nodded sympathetically.

“That must have been so scary. And what happened next?”

“Yeah,” I asked the tv, “What happened next? Did you die of exposure?”

The woman had taken a moment to compose herself, but her eyes were glittering when she looked up again.

“I just looked out the windscreen and I saw this figure walking towards me. They didn’t seem bothered by the wind or the snow and they were carrying something.”

“Were you scared?” asked the host.

“I don’t think so.” said the woman, “I mean, I had been scared, but I think I started to calm down almost as soon as I saw him coming.”

The camera cut to the audience again, some of them smiling, some nodding encouragement. Back to the host.

“Just seeing him brought you a feeling of calm, of security?”

The woman was nodding herself.

“And he just came straight up to the front of my truck and waved at me to pop the hood. I don’t know what he did, but in no time at all he slammed the hood down and I could start the engine again!”

The host leaned forward again.

“You said the mysterious figure seemed to be carrying something. Was it a toolbox? A bag of wrenches?”

The woman shook her head.

“No it was something smaller, like a flask or a bottle.”

The host turned to face the audience.

“So he fixed a dead engine with no tools. He appeared just when you needed help, even though you didn’t call anyone. And when he had fixed the truck? What happened then?”

The woman shrugged.

“I was just so relieved, I started crying. With the engine going again I made sure Casey was safe in her car seat, and I put my seat belt back on too. Then I looked out of the windscreen again, and he was gone.”

“He disappeared?” the host whispered.

“Like he’d never been there. Except my truck was running and Casey and I were home safe ten minutes later.”

The host probably said something, but I missed it. There was a hollow roaring in my ears, and I was struggling to close my mouth. It had been hanging open for the last five minutes, from the moment I recognised the woman’s story. While I struggled to get control of my head, the host set up the line that finished me off.

“So, tell us, do you know who the mysterious stranger was who helped you that night?”

The woman nodded and faced the audience for the first time.

“I believe I do. I think he was an angel. He answered my prayers, and he saved my life and the life of my baby!”

This bizarre pronouncement was met with whoops and cheers and a storm of applause. It was also met with rustling and curses as I finally unearthed the remote and snapped off the tv. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Some of them were complimentary too. But I’ve never been called an angel.

I’d been driving home slowly, cursing the snow that was making a regular journey into a slow motion epic, when I passed a truck in the inside lane, flashers on and steam still erupting from under the hood. I didn’t need all the time I spent working on my uncle’s old truck to know that the radiator had blown its cap. I had a big water bottle on the passenger side, relic of a rained off softball game. There wasn’t space on the shoulder until I’d crested the hill and the truck was out of sight. I parked up and grabbed the bottle of water, then pushed out into the night.

It was cold, and the wind pushed the snow right into my face and down the back of my neck. It took at least five minutes to reach the truck, and I waved at the woman to pop the hood without wasting time going to her window to talk to her. I mean, I knew what was wrong, knew I could help, so why waste time yakking? She’d probably feel more threatened by a stranger approaching her window anyway. Besides, I was already half-frozen, so I wanted to get this over with.

The hood was still hot to the touch from the gout of boiling water that had hit it, but the radiator cap hadn’t fallen out of the engine compartment. Huddling in under the hood kept the worst of the wind and snow at bay, and I was able to absorb some of the heat streaming off the engine. I dumped the contents of the bottle into the radiator, and the fact that there was only a minimal hiss told me that things had cooled off sufficiently. With a couple of minutes to get the whole bottle in and re-seat the cap, I figured the engine would be good to go. I slammed the hood and made twisting motions with my wrist. She got the idea and the engine started up. The water I’d put in should hold long enough to get her wherever she was going, and if she had any sense she’d get the damn truck checked over by a mechanic ASAP. Now the cold was getting to me again, so I didn’t hang around for tea and medals, just ran back over the hill to the warm sanctuary of my car. I was home inside ten minutes too.

Having a duff ankle meant I couldn’t stomp around my living room, kicking the furniture, but that was certainly what I wanted to do. I picked up the phone, determined to call the studios, get through to the stupid host and tell the truth about what happened that night, but I stopped, and not just because I didn’t know the number.

What did it matter? Well, to me, it shouldn’t matter at all. Had I not seen the stupid show, I would have gone on my merry way, neither knowing nor caring that someone viewed my amateur mechanic moment as heavenly intervention. Did it matter to that woman? Since I’d shut off the program, I couldn’t be sure. What I hoped was that this experience had encouraged her to do a basic car maintenance course, to prepare better for inclement weather, maybe even just check the damn weather forecast once in a while. But I think what was making me angry was that she probably wouldn’t. My miraculous appearance was confirmation that the helpless have a divine protector, and they never need to take care of themselves. Well, I would have been sorry to hear that little miss meek there had frozen to death in her truck that night, but her kid… For god’s sake, she had her kid with her. Casey ought to grow up knowing her parent can stand up for her, not expect them to stand by and hope for rescue.

In the end, I put the phone down. Call me a cynic, but I had more than a little suspicion that if I had got through to the host herself, she would have assured me that, yes, I was the one who helped, but my decision to stop and help was prompted by another angel, one I couldn’t see. And little miss meek would go on believing that the universe will care for her regardless.

I limped into the kitchen. I needed a cold pack for my ankle, and you know what? No one was going to appear mysteriously and bring it through to me. I sat back down, the cold seeping into my ankle and bringing a measure of calm with the reduction in pain. Maybe I would just print up some cards for the next time I rescue a damsel in distress:

“This aid has been brought to you by an entirely earthly entity, unbidden by any ethereal figures, visible or invisible.”