Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Fun

We've been basking in unseasonally warm weather in the UK which probaly means we'll have six foot of snow over the weekend. Odd. Talking of odd, things, here's oddbox. This week, a bacon eating competition, a festival of colour where they throw coloured powder at each other, the pope wears a sombrero and the South Korean President does a dance with world leaders.

Now, an 'awwww, cute' moment. Not, not a picture of me, but the story of the world's smallest puppy.

Like chocolate? The good news is that it may help keep you slim...if you don't mind losing your teeth.

Picture time.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Can You Ever Write Too Much?


Whenever you're writing a scene you have to keep a sense of proportion. If the story concerns two young lovers, focusing on one set of parents for a whole chapter may give the impression that they are important to the story. If thwy're not, the reader will spend the rest of the book wondering why you wrote so much about them.

Then there's the question of how much of your research you should put into the book. It may be tempting to relate all you have discovered about 13th century nuns because a character works at the historic site of one, but unless it helps tell the rest of the story, you'd better leave most of it out.

Science is always a problem for SF writers. How much to put in and what to leave out can be a tricky decision. If you're writing 'Hard SF' (or technoporn as it's sometimes called), then you need to put as much as possible in as your readers will enjoy it...if only so they can pull it apart and argue with you at the next SF conference you attend. If you're not writing that kind of SF, then you'll have to be careful.

With criminal investigations there can be a lot of science, but you have to make sure that it doesn't overwhelm the reader. Don't put a three page summary of how phone triagulation works, for instance. You're writing a novel, not a field manual for the police.

There are times, however, when the overuse of technical terms can be useful, such as when you are trying to show someone to be a geek, or obsessed with something. Through their dialogue, both external and internal, you can show this obsession as they talk about their pet hobby or interest. It's especially useful in comedy writing and is used to great effect by Tom Holt.

In short, be careful with the information you give to the reader. If it's relevant to the plot or the characters, fine. If not, let it gather dust and then use it when a reader questions your use of terminology at a conference.

See you on Friday.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday WIP

It's Monday...accept it.

I hope you all had a great weekend. I had my youngest son with me and we spent the time watching DVDs and...just watching DVDs actually. Well, we did a lot of cuddling up on the sofa watching them at night and he fell asleep on my lap each time. Aaaahhh.

I haven't subbed my two short stories yet, but that is something I will do by Friday. What I have done is write another of my 'writing raw' columns and submitted it. This month, it's about selling online. I'll post the link when it's published. The column for Christian Writer has been agreed and accepted so that'll be out in a month or so and I'm already working on the next one.

The play rehearsals are going quite well. The cast are showing up, practising the moves on stage and learning the lines too. We will be ready for May's performances.

Starfish are planning the next launch, due in June, but we are beginning to wonder if two launches a year is beyond us. We're feeling our way through this, learning as we go and the deadline we set may be a tad unreasonable. So we're going to think about it this week and make a decision next Monday evening: which I shall tell you all about.

Now it's time for the next installment of the play. Act 2, scene 2.


Scene 2 (Town square. One stallholder selling pottery visible)

A man enters from stage left and turns round to speak to someone offstage.

Man: I won't be long. I want to see what the potter's got for sale. We might be able to make a profit back home if I can get it for the right price. (Walks towards the stall holder) Interesting pots you have here. You the creator or the seller?

Stallholder: Both. What are you looking for? If you can't see what you want I'll be able to make it for you, though that may cost a bit more.

Man: I'm more interested in a trade. I'm looking for a supply of good pots and jars. Our village potter died last year and he had no family to take over the job, so we're a bit stuck.

Stallholder: And you want to supply the village before anyone else does. Surely there's a local town market.

Man: But it takes a day to get there and back and it's only once a week. If I have a ready supply of these things I can sell them as they are needed.

Stallholder: And set your own price too, no doubt.

Man: That's business.

Stallholder: So where is this village.

Man: Long way away.

Stallholder: Too far for me to get there and sell my goods no doubt.

Man: Oh yes. Far far away.

Stallholder: Then you won't mind telling me will you.


Man: So you're not interested in selling then.

Stallholder: Didn't say that. I'm just curious, that's all.

Man: Well, you look like a man I can trust.

Stallholder: Sure about that?

Man: No, not really, but I want to know how much you're selling these for so I can decide if it's worth my while. And yours.

Stallholder: No harm in a business discussion.

Man: None at all.

They talk about prices, though the audience can't hear it. Margaret comes on from stage right, holding a basket of food and looks around as if she's looking for another stall. She sees the man talking to the stallholder and thinks she recognises him. She gasps as she realises that she does. The stallholder turns to her and waves and the man turns to see her and looks at her, then turns back to the stallholder. Margaret exits stage right.

Man: (Looks at the fleeing Margaret) Who was that woman?

Stallholder: Who?

Man: The one you waved to? The one that just ran away?

Stallholder: Her name is Margaret. She lives with a man called John Maynard as his housekeeper with her two daughters. Came back to the town to see her father after her husband was murdered. Why?

Man: She reminds me of someone from our village, someone we've been looking for.

Stallholder: Looking for?

Man: Village business. You know what it's like in small towns and villages. There are things you need to take care of that you don't want the law involved in.

Stallholder: Yes. We've had our share of that.

Man: How long has she lived here?

Stallholder: Quite a while. A year or so. You think that's her?

Man: Are you sure she's been here that long?

Stallholder: Quite sure. (Pause) I don't think I'll be able to supply what you need at the price you're offering.

Man: (Hesitates) No. I'm sure you can't. Won't stop me coming back another time and trying though. If you catch my drift.

Stallholder: Perfectly. Good day.

Man: Good day.

Man exits stage left.

Stallholder: (Puts his head in his hands) Not again. Not again.


There we go. Let me know what you feel/think.

With that, I'll wish you a pleasant couple of days and hope to see you on Wednesday.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Fun

Woohoooooooo, it's Friday. And where else would I start but with Oddbox. This week, the world pole-dancing championships (with men daincing too), an angel sculpture made out of margarine, panda poo tea and a question: did a man really flap his wings and fly?

From the Beeb we learn the flying man was a hoax and why efficiency can create more demand for some things.

Now for the pictures.

That's it for another week. Spring has arrived and I'm going to make the most of it this weekend and I hope you'll enjoy yours too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To Be or Not To Be...Get Rid Of It (And Competition News)

The competition is over. It was hard to pick the winners...okay, so it was dead easy when someone else picked them, but we have our winners.

Milo James Fowler, Kelley and Nick Wilford.

And just to show how nice we are, the three winners will receive all four ebooks on Starfish's current list. Let me know your email addresses by emailing me at martin(at)starfishpc(dot)co(dot)uk and I'll send them by return email.

Thanks to everyone for taking part.

And now, for this week's bit of writing help.


In his book 'Help', Oliver Burkeman relates the tale of David Bourland, who, in the mid 1960s, wrote an essay proposing that all forms of the verb 'to be' should be removed from the English language.

Burkeman gives some examples of how this would affect certain parts of the English Canon. 'To be or not to be...' would be revamped as 'To live or not to live, I ask this question' and 'The Lord is my shepherd' would be rewritten as 'The Lord functions as my shepherd'. Hmmmm.

It did, however, get me thinking about this idea to help me with writing and editing.

I sometimes get a problem with a sentence or a paragraph that I know isn't right, but I can't for the life of me work out why. By rephrasing it without using 'to be', I can't always see the problem, but I can get a different perspective and give myself more options with description.

'He is', 'she is' etc, can all be changed to make writing less stilted and more varied.

The removal of 'to be' from our own language can also help us to focus on what is true about ourselves. Instead of saying 'I am a failure', we would have to say, 'I feel like a failure', or 'I have failed at this task'.

The complete removal of 'to be' is not to be encouraged, but a more sparing use could be the lift our writing, and our own lives, need.

See you on Friday.

Monday, March 19, 2012


The start of another week and some writing progress to report.

First up, I have finished off two short stories for Write1Sub1. One is an old story I've dusted down and the other is a brand new one. Now for the dilemma: do I sub 2 or save one for next month and give myself an easier life? Sub 2 I think.

As for the performance in May, we have gotten our teeth into rehearsals and are half way through Act 1. As we only have two hours of rehearsals, twice a week, we're cutting it fine with not much rehearsal time, but we can do it. Tonight we ran through my main part where I threaten Poopay's life and nearly kill her. As the young lady acting the role has a bad back we've worked out how to do it without me throwing her around the stage.

And now, the play I'm, writing. I've reached Act 2, scene 1. All comments are welcome whether good or bad. I'm especially interested in your thoughts on the realism of the situation and the dialogue.


Scene 1 (John's house, evening)

The four of them are sitting. John reading, Margaret crocheting and the girls playing chess. Elena makes a move.

Elizabeth: You can't move that piece there.

Elena: Why?

Elizabeth: The knight doesn't move diagonally.

Elena: That's my bishop.

Elizabeth: Bishop's don't ride horses.

Elena: Yes they do. The bishop of St Albans has a white one.

Elizabeth: That's real life. This is a chess board.

(Pause. Elena takes the piece back to its original position and thinks.)

Elena: Why don't they have a man on the rook?

Elizabeth: I don't know. Why should they?

Elena: Because it's a castle and when you defend a castle you need soldiers. They put a man on the horse for the knight, so why not on the castle?

Elizabeth: Look. Are you going to play the game or just ask stupid questions?

Elena: I'm bored with chess.

Elizabeth: That's because you keep losing.

Elena: I don't. I beat you on Sunday.

Elizabeth: You beat me once on Sunday. I won the other games.

Elena: Mother, can you teach me to crochet.

Margaret: Certainly. Come here and watch me.

(Elena walks over to her mother and watches her intently)

Elizabeth: John, would you play chess with me?

John: I'm not much good at chess.

Elena: Elizabeth likes that. She only wants to play people she can beat.

Elizabeth: That's not true.

Elena: So why didn't you play father very often?

Elizabeth: He was always too busy working.

Elena: No he wasn't, he was just too good for you.

Margaret: Girls. That's enough. Elizabeth, put the chess set away and get a book to read, providing Mr Maynard doesn't mind.

John: When are you going to stop calling me Mr?

Margaret: I can't get used to that. You're my employer, not my husband.

John: You don't mind the girls calling me John.

Margaret: I do, but you insist, so I let it pass. But I can't.

John: (smiles) Very well, Margaret. Maybe it will change in time.

(Elizabeth puts the chess set away on a drawer, Elena watches her mother and John watches them all)

John: (to Margaret) Did you have any further problems in the market?

Margaret: No more than usual. Why?

John: (Looks down at the book on his lap) I've been thinking about moving away. From this town. Moving to Oxford. I have family there, a brother, who runs a clothing business. He's been asking me to move to Oxford since the deaths of my family and, to be truthful, he could use my head for business.

(The three women look at him horrified)

Elena: Does that mean we'd have to find somewhere else to live?

John: No. I'd want you to come with me. Not as my family, but as my household.

(There is silence as the three women look at each other and then back at John)

Margaret: I don't know. It would moving the girls again and after all that's happened over the past couple of weeks I'm not sure...

John: It wouldn't be immediately. It would take a few weeks to get everything organised, tie up loose ends here, not that there are many of them, so you have time to consider it. (Pause) I suppose you want to know why I'm thinking about this?

Margaret: The thought had occurred to me.

Elena: Aren't you happy here?

John: I haven't been happy since my family were killed, but I had nowhere else to go.

Elizabeth: Except Oxford.

John: My brother was being kind at the time, and, I have to admit, there was a part of me that wanted to make this town suffer for what it had done.

Margaret: Do you still want them to suffer?

John: Yes. But I've had enough of the memories.

Elena: What would you do if we didn't want to go?

John: I don't know. (Turns to Margaret) Would you consider it?

Margaret: I'll need to think.

John: Of course. (He stands) I'll retire and leave you some time to talk. Tomorrow we can talk further.

Margaret: You sound as if you've made your mind up.

John: I wish I knew. The truth is, at the moment I'm caught between leaving this place behind and all the memories that go with it and wanting to help you. If you decided to stay I'm not sure I would want to go badly enough to leave you behind.

Margaret: You pity us?

John: After a fashion. But I also respect you. You saved your daughters from death, brought them here and didn't give up trying to do the best for your family. (Pause) No one can live their life alone when they have responsibilities. Sometimes, not even when they have none. I feel the need of a new start, a new life in a new place. I think you need one too. Not to forget your husband (Looks at the girls) your father, but to carry on living. I've spent too much time wallowing and being spoon fed through other people's guilt. Oxford won't remove the memories of what happened here, but it will break the ties that hold me back. Goodnight.

John exits stage right

Elena: Can we go mother?

Elizabeth: But what if we don't like Oxford. What if it's worse than here?

Elena: Worse?

Elizabeth: We don't know anything about his brother, for all we know he could run a brothel.

Margaret: Elizabeth! Stop that. And in front of your sister.

Elena: What's a brothel?

Elizabeth: It's where women....

Margaret: (Stands up) ELIZABETH. (Elizabeth takes a step back, scared) Stop that talk at once. This is not a game of chess we're playing, this is real.


Elizabeth: Sorry mother. I just...I mean...I don't...(sits on the floor and starts to cry) I miss father. I miss not seeing him come home, I miss acting out plays and scenes from plays. I miss home. And I'm scared.

(Elena puts a hand on her sister's shoulder)

Margaret: (Angry) We all miss him, but not everyone is trying to put obstacles in the way of everything I try and do.

Elizabeth: (Angry) I'm not putting obstacles in the way of anything. I followed you here when I could have stayed at home and married Philip. I didn't have to come with you. I left MY life behind too. And now you want us to go off with a man you hardly know to a place we've never been and start a new life? All I want to know is that we'll all be safe.

Margaret: And that's what I'm trying to provide. But unmarried women with children can't just go out and do what they like. It's always been like that and maybe it always will. And at this moment, my options are limited, as are yours. Do you really think that Philip would take you as a wife after what happened to your father? Do you?

Elizabeth: He might have. You don't know for certain that he wouldn't have protected me.

Margaret: Do you know he would have?

Elizabeth: That's the point. We don't know anything. We don't know why father was killed, whether we would all have been hung, whether Philip would have married me, we don't know. (She collapses to the floor and sobs loudly) We don't know.

(Elena starts crying too)

Margaret: (Walks over to Elena and pulls her towards Elizabeth) I haven't made any decision about Oxford or anything else. I was hoping that we could stay here for a while before deciding anything. But I can't. I have to consider this and what would happen if we stayed here.


Elizabeth: Do we have any choice?

Margaret: Does any woman?


With that, I'll bid you adieu and see you on Wednesday.

And don't forget, the closing point for the competition is midnight GMT tonight, but if you're a little late I might be kind enough to enter you anyway. Ciao.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Fun

What else would I start with but Oddbox. This week 607 dancing chickens, musical carrotts, a newsreader tries to play the bagpipes while another one sleeps on air.

From elsewhere on the Beeb comes news that male Fruit Flies turn to alcohol if rejected by females and Trenton, New Jersey is facing a toilet paper shortage.

Sad news. Yoda has died. Not the Jedi master, but the worlds ugliest dog.

Picture time.

And finally, why you should never go shopping with me.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday, which is the last day to enter the competition for free ebooks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Award and A Hint

Yet another award, this time From Lisa Shafer. She writes YA fiction and her current release is entitled 'Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire' a story about a teenager who is a half-vampire. Having read it, I would say it's a good book for adults too.

Naturally, there are rules for this sort of thing and they are:
1. Link back to the person that bestowed the award upon you. (tick)
2. Follow the person that bestowed the award upon you. (tick)
3. Pass along to 15 Lovely Bloggers! (Errr...I'll try.)

Finding 15 lovely blogs may be a bit hard for a man (you know how we are with colours), so I'll pick some lovely people.

1. Michelle Davidson Argyle at the Innocent Flower. One of the first blogs I followed and one of the best writing ones I've seen.
2. Dana at The Daily Dose. Writes each blog in 100 words and it's always thought provoking.
3. Valentina Hepburn at Letters. Everytime I read her blog I just go, aaahhhhhh.
4. Caitlin at All About Growing Up. How can you not love someone who makes her own detergent.

Not quite fifteen, but not far short...kind of. Now there's nothing in thye rules about telling them, but I will anyway.

Onto other things, and a gentle reminder that I'm running a competition to win ebooks. The rules are available on last Monday's blog, so hop on over and enter if you haven't already. If you have, post another entry anyway.

And finally a little bit of advice I picked up from a book called 'Self Editing for Fiction Writers', by Browne and King.

Be careful with your points-of-view. Sometimes it's tempting to write a scene and get inside the head of more than one person. Their advice is not to do this as it can be confusing to the reader unless done well. If you need different perspectives, break the scene up by leaving a line-break between the points of view.

Personally, I prefer it when there is one point of view per scene and it's made clear at the start of the passage as I'm not wondering who's head I'm inside. You can miss some information by using only one POV, but by using the line-break you can get round this.

With that I'll say sayonara and see you on Friday for some more fun and silly pictures.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WIP On A Monday...Almost

Oooops. Got caught up in the play last night hence I forgot to post this....that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

The good news is that we have definately got a Jessica for 'Communicating Doors' so I get to play an all out baddy. In my first scene I get face to face with a dominatrix and dominate her and in my second scene I push her around. I have to be careful though, as the young lady has a bad back after a car accident a couple of years ago so I can't be too horrible. On the plus side, she gets to stick a sofa on top of my body after killing me later on in the play.

I've added another scene to 'Apollo the Thirteenth' and it's taken me in a surprising direction. Commander Anne Howe is now married after proposing to her chief medical officer on the bridge of her starship. Why? She's known him for years and it seemed like a good idea. Well, the book's a comedy so why not. I can always delete the scene later if it doesn't fit.

In addition, I've started on Act 2 of the play and it's starting to get real heavy. I was initially wondering whether I should skip the scene I'd planned, but decided to start writing it anyway to see what would happen. In the end it's turned out to be an excellent scene and ends on a philosophical note. You can read it next week.

Don't forget to enter the competition to win your choice of two ebooks. Closing date is 19th March, midnight GMT.

And now for the last scene of Act 1 of 'Tomorrow's Just Another Play'.


Scene 6 (John Maynard's house, night time)

There is a fire in the hearth. John sits in his armchair, reading a book. Margaret sits on a wooden chair sewing while the two girls are on the floor playing chess. Elena makes a move.

Elizabeth: You can't do that. The pawn can only move one square and only forward.

Elena: So why did you move your pawn two squares?

Elizabeth: Because that was it's first move. On it's first move it can move two squares, but only forward.

Elena: You moved that pawn diagonally.

Elizabeth: That's because I took your Rook.

Elena: So pawns CAN move diagonally and more than one square at a time.

Elizabeth: Only on certain occasions.

Margaret: Stop arguing you two. Mr Maynard's trying to read.

John: (Not looking up from his book) I don't mind the noise. It makes a pleasant change from years of silence. Besides, Elena's questions are perfectly logical. (He looks up and at Elena) However, your sister is correct. Those are the rules and you have to learn to play within the rules.

Elena: But she keeps beating me.

John: You can't win all the time. As it is in chess, so it is in life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. When I used to trade between towns there were goods that I bought in one place that I made a large profit on, but others that I made a loss on. I just tried to make sure that I lost far less often than I gained, or at least, lost less money than I made elsewhere.

Elena: What did you trade?

John: I didn't specialise in anything particular. I found out what each town needed and then found somewhere that made it or grew it. I then went to the town, bought as much of the good that I thought I could sell and brought to the other town and sold it. (Puts his book on his lap) Most of my trips involved me being away for weeks at a time, going round the local towns and villages, buying and selling and whatever was leftover I brought back here. To this town. Sometimes I bought things for this house.

Elena: Like what?

John: The chair you mother's sitting on. I bought that many years ago from another trader in...I forget now, but the Carpenters in this town couldn't make anything like it, not with the detailed carving in the arms anyway.

Margaret lifts her arm and looks at it. Elena turns round and feels the arm.

Margaret: It's hard to see it properly at the moment.

Elena: It feels beautiful. Father liked beautiful things. He said that's why he married mother.

Elizabeth: Are you going to play chess, or shall I assume I've won. Again.

Elena: Mr Maynard, you said you'd tell us about your family and how they died. Are you still going to?


Margaret: When I was in the market, the man selling and sharpening knives wouldn't say anything about it. He, and everyone else, don't want to talk about you? Why?

John: I'm not surprised they don't want to talk. They are ashamed.

Elena: Of what?

John: Of themselves. Of what they allowed to happen.

John closes his eyes and looks at the ceiling and the women look at each other. They wait for a moment longer hoping that John will speak. He doesn't.

Elizabeth: Is it something to do with the Millers? Father said they were in charge in this town, that they were thieves and very violent.

Margaret: When did he tell you that?

Elizabeth: Last summer. He also told me what happened to you when you were engaged to one of them.

Elena: What happened? What did he do?

Elizabeth: You're too young to understand.

Elena: You always say that, but I'm twelve. I could get married.

Margaret: Elena....

John: Your sister's right. On this occasion at least. There are some things that are best left in the past and left unknown. And I think your sister wishes she didn't know.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Margaret: So why did he tell you?

Elizabeth: Because I pestered him to, I kept asking him. And then he looked at me. (Pause) You know that look he in his eyes when he was being very serious? That's the look he gave me and asked if I really wanted to know, because if I did, he would tell me and then I'd have to live with that knowledge for the rest of my life. (She looks down at the chessboard, picks up a piece and plays with it) I said I wanted to know, so he told me. I wish I didn't now, but at least I know that he loved you. Only a man who truly loved you would marry you after what happened.

Margaret: That's true.


Elena: Did he kiss you?

Margaret: No, dear. But if you persist, I will tell you and then you may well regret knowing.

Elena: (Looks at John) Do you think they're right?

John: I would trust your mother and sister in this if I were you.

Elena: And what about your family? How did they die?

John: I did promise didn't I. (Pause) This is going to be difficult, so I would appreciate it if you would be silent while I tell you the story.

Elena: I will (She sits down on the floor)

John: (Collects his thoughts) I left town one morning on another trading trip, though I was only going away for a few days this time. Winter was coming and I didn't want to be away when the weather changed. I loaded up my cart, made sure my horse was fit and fed and left the town. I completed my trip earlier than I expected and when I got home I found the house deserted. I waited till dusk, assuming that they were out shopping or with friends, but when night came and they hadn't returned home I went to look for them.

As I left the house, it dawned on me that the housekeeper had gone too, which was very odd. I knocked at my neighbour's door and it took several minutes before he answered. I kept knocking as I knew they were in, the light was burning in their parlour. When I asked if he knew where my family and my housekeeper were, he looked down at his shoes, mumbled something and then asked me to come in.

My wife and children had been killed. By the Millers. My wife had been...taken. By the man who was to be your husband. He then did the same to my children.

I asked what had been done and when my neighbour, who I haven't talked to since then, told me that nothing had been done except bury my family, I was incensed. He tried to remonstrate with me and remind me that the Millers owned the town, but I stormed out and went home.

As a trader you must carry a gun and a sword at all times, in case you meet a highwayman and I've had several occasions to use such weapons so I've become quite skilled. I didn't always get the best of them, but I managed to half the time.

I took these weapons from their box and marched over the inn where the Millers drank. It was late, nearly the middle of the night, when I arrived, something I made sure of. I was not so angry that I didn't want to get an advantage over them and their being drunk was an advantage I could use.

With one shot I killed that man. I put the gun against his chest and he dared me to pull the trigger. I did. His brother and father were unarmed, but decided to launch themselves at me and within a few seconds they too were dead. I looked around at the other customers, people who had been drinking and laughing with these butchers and challenged them to try me for murder, to put me in front of a judge. No one did and no one ever has. (Pause) And that's what happened to my family.

(He looks over to Margaret)

So you can imagine, that when I found out that you had returned, and also what had happened to you, I felt the need to help you in some way.

Margaret: Does that mean you know what happened?

John nods. Elena is about to say something but Elizabeth puts a hand on her lap and shakes her head.

Elizabeth: We have a lot in common, Mr Maynard.

Elena: But why do the people give you everything? Food, clothing, wood?

John: Guilt. Not long afterwards, a few days I think, they swore in a new council.

Margaret: Which is why that man was bitter at me.

Elena: Which one?

Margaret: The one we first met when we approached the town.

John: Adam. His wife left him and took the children. We don't know where they are now and no one really cares.

Elizabeth: What about the other wives and children? What happened to them? Do they still live here?

John: No. One married in the town, but the rest left. She died last year, during childbirth. She was the only member of the family not tainted by the murders and other crimes.

Elena: If the Millers were so bad, why did people put up with them? Why didn't they get rid of them earlier?

John: Fear. We all just bowed down to them, me included. Some did take a stand, like your father, and disappeared.

Margaret: My father?

John: Yes. The Millers had him killed, a year before my family.

Elena: So they give you everything as their punishment for allowing it to take place.

John: Yes. The new Mayor paid me a visit the day after he was sworn in and said that the townspeople were grateful for my actions and that no action would be taken against me. They had the remaining Millers, and their servants, jailed until a trial could be held.

Elizabeth: What was the result?

John: It never went to trial.

Elizabeth: Why not? There must have been a lot of evidence against them?

John: It never went to trial as they realised that too many people in this town had blood on their hands. Turning a blind eye to crimes, or taking part, even unwillingly. Any independent judge would condemn half the town to jail...or death.

Margaret: What happened to the Millers?

John: The last of them died in jail six months ago. A family retainer. Some were given the option of taking their own lives and did so, even though it is an unchristian thing to do. Two were poisoned. Only one of them escaped, but she was soon recovered and...accidentally drowned when she fell into the canal.

Margaret: So why did they all shun me? Did they think I was in league with the Millers? Partner to their crimes?

John: More guilt I would imagine. They've gotten used to me and my habits and have been able to live their lives as normally as possible for a while now. Now you've returned, and after the tale you've told, they are reminded of their sins.

(Silence for a few moments)

Elena: We can be a family. Our father's dead and you're family are dead.

Margaret & Elizabeth: Elena!

John: (Leans forward to Elena) I can never be your father and you can never be my daughter, and the thought of marrying again does not appeal. But that is no reason I cannot look after and provide for you, your sister and your mother.

Elena leans forward and hugs him. Margaret goes to stand, but Elizabeth grabs her mother's arm and shakes her head. Margaret sits down.

Margaret: Mr Maynard?

John: (Releases Elena) Yes?

Margaret: Now I've returned, can you be sure that the townspeople won't change their minds about giving you everything?

John: That's a thought I've been having for a while now, ever since Edward died in jail. I've heard murmurings and some people are less willing to give than they used to be.

Elizabeth: As if they feel they've been punished enough.

John: Exactly.

Margaret: Have you thought about what to do?

John: What can I do? This is my home. I've not left this town once since the death of my family. I have no business, all my contacts will have started trading with other people and I no longer have the desire to travel as I once did.

Elena: Does that mean we'll have to leave again?

There's a knock at the door. John goes to answer it. Elizabeth and Elena continue with their chess game and Margaret returns to the sewing, all deep in thought. John returns and sits down, but doesn't continue with his book.

John: It looks like there could be a problem. They can't deliver any wood tonight and hope that it won't cause too many problems, given that it's summer.

End of Act 1


As usual, comments are very welcome.

I'll see you tomorrow and share a blog award with some lucky people. Toodlepip.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Friday Fun

Another week gone, another 7 days of fun to catch up on and a reminder that there is still time to enter the competition to win some free ebooks. The deadline has been extended, after much persuasion (two creme eggs), to Midnight (GMT), Monday 19th March 2012.

First up, as usual, it's Oddbox. This week, the world Yoga championships, a 50 foot scarf on a pier, the Conch Shell contest from Florida and comedian Jack Whitehall showing what I would be like if interviewed on live TV.

Got a song trapped in your head that you want to get rid of? Here are 10 ways to get rid of it. My favourite suggestion is to sing 'Mnah Mnah' by the Muppets, though I prefer the Pink Panther theme.

From the desk of Newsbiscuit:
- Incidents of elephants on trampolines have ‘gone through the roof’
- Reaction to International Women’s Day: ‘That’s nice. Did you keep the receipt?’

Also from Newsbiscuit comes the revelation that Jedi's are unhappy with their energy-saving lightsabers and Costa Coffee have opened a branch in one man's bedroom.

Picture Time

I know I shared this one on Wednesday, but I just gotta share it again.

Have a great weekend and I shall see you on Monday with the last scene of Act 1 of 'Tomorrow's Just Another Play' and some more news about my next stage appearance. Oh, and I shall be plugging the competition again.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


First up, a reminder about the contest to win some free ebooks. What is more, you don't need a separate ereader to enjoy them as you can read them on your pc/mac/ipad etc.

I have been tagged in a couple of Memes, so I thought I'd share them today. First up, I was tagged in the Lucky 7 Meme by Freya Morris. The rules are straightforward.

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

My problem is that neither of my WIPs are at page 77, so I've bent the rules by picking my longest WIP (currently titled Magic) and going to page 27 instead. Here's what it says.

“That's one of the new rules. It wasn't in force when you were training me. Sadly.” He opened his fingers and peered through them at Ban Hou. She sat on the edge of his coffee table, legs crossed, hands placed behind her. “You've lost weight.”
“I can be any shape I want. I improved my looks too, not that it's easy to better perfection, but I did it.” She smiled at him, but it wasn't the hateful, cruel smile he remembered.
“Are you still angry at me?” He said
“For what?”

Intriguing, no?

The second one is a tag and I was tagged by Valentina Hepburn. For this I have to answer the questions below.

What is the title of your current WIP. Tell us about it? I have two on the go and a play. The first novel is the follow up to A Stitch in Time and is currently called Apollo the Thirteenth. In this one, Mae tells the tale of how her parents were chased round the moon by the Apollo 13 lander, which turns out to be a Dagon weapon that they never used in the war. The second is a comic fantasy with the working title of Magic and is about a wizard and his apprentice fighting comic book villains. The play is a more serious tale about a woman and her two daughters who have to flee their village after her husband is murdered.

When did you start blogging and why? I started a little over three years ago, partly to join the blogging world of writers and partly as an online diary of my life.

If you could do anything tomorrow, what would you do? Take my kids on holiday to somewhere warm. There would be lots of athletic things for my youngest to do and lots of computers so my other two boys can play games. I'd have a brand new ereader and all the books I could ever want.

Describe your happy place. A house in the middle of nowhere with good central heating and a fast internet connection.

What was your first happy memory? My 10th birthday when I had a rocket cake made by my mother.

What was the scariest thing you've ever done? Climb to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. I'm scared of heights so much, I get a nosebleed when I stand on tiptoes.

What is the funniest thing you did today? Shared banter with two colleagues at the charity shop I work in every Wednesday afternoon.

What is the strangest place you've ever got an idea for a story? The bathroom. I don't go out much (All together now...aaaaaawwwwwwwwwww).

Where do you write? In my bedroom or my front room, or anywhere else I happen to have a pen and paper or my computer.

If you just won a ticket to anywhere in the world and you had to take me, where would you take me and why? Well, Valentina, if you're asking me out on a date you're going about it in a roundabout way. Alright I'll stop messing about. I think I'd take you to Hay-on Wye and spend the entire day going round the book and tea shops. If you're lucky I'll treat you to a Pizza before taking you home. Why? I think you like books as much as I do.

That just leaves me to pass on the happiness.

For both the lucky seven meme and the tag contest, I'll nominate:

E. Arroyo
Lisa Shafer
Saucy Lucy
Nick Wilford

The observant will notice I've only tagged six people. Well, rules were made to be broken and if I can get away with it, I'll break 'em.

Finally, I normally post funny pictures on Friday, but I just had to share this one ahead of time. Enjoy.

Monday, March 05, 2012

A WIP and a COMP

Last week, I completed my goal for February's Write1Sub1 by finishing and submitting 'Jurors', but sadly, I also received a rejection for January's Write1Sub1. It means I have two stories to submit instead of one this month, which brought me to reflect on how I see this years Write and Sub goals.

My goal is to write a new story and submit that new story each month. Stories that get rejected get resubmitted in addition to this, so in December I could be submitting twelve stories. But where's the harm in that?

What else have I been doing apart from entertaining you with my blogs? I have added a few thousand words to one of my novels and realised I'm not sure if I want it to be a comedy or not. Why? My mood. There are days when I get a little more than sad and that reflects itself in my writing, but I also find that on those days, what I write brings to the fore how a particular story should be written. I'll give it some thought, but I may still edit the story to be comedic rather than straight. The scenes I've written are, like most comedy, able to be comedic or tragic.

The play has reached the end of Act 1 and I've put scene five below for you to read and comment on and scene six will follow next week. Enjoy.

What, you ask is a 'COMP'? It's a competition. I'm offering a choice of two ebooks from Starfish Publishing's current list for the three lucky winners. Anyone who enters will have their name hand-written by a handsome man (not me) or beautiful woman on a hand-cut piece of paper. The three winners will be drawn by two lovely ladies and one gorgeous man (still not me) who will stick their hands in a hat and rummage around to find you.

To enter you can do any/all of the following:
1. Tell me in the comments section of this blog you want to enter.
2. Go over to Facebook and 'like' us, then tell me in the comments section.
3. Go to twitter and stalk...errrr...follow us, then tell me in the comments section.
4. Follow the Starfish Blog, then tell me in the comments section.

You get one entry for each of the above and the closing date is midnight, Monday 12th March, GMT.

Now, the Play for Today.


Scene 5 (Town market, midday. There is only one stall holder present in this scene, selling and sharpening knives.)

Man at stall has his back to the audience and is sharpening a knife as Margaret enters from stage left. She walks up to the stall and passes by, then stops, turns, looks at the man and walks over to him.

Margaret: Excuse me. (No answer) Excuse me, can I ask you a question?

Man turns round and stops what he is doing when he sees Margaret.

Man: Yes madam, how can I help you? I haven't seen you before, have I? Or am I just getting old?

Margaret: I move back here yesterday, my father...

Man: Oh yes. (He stiffens and becomes less friendly) I'd heard you'd returned. You're not very popular in this town after the way you left with that...that...what was he? An actor?

Margaret: He wrote plays too, not just acted in them.

Man: And the life didn't suit you, so you thought you'd come back and see who you could leech off now, that it.

Margaret: My husband was killed. By the people in his own village.

Man: Why?

Margaret: I don't know. I just know that he made sure we, myself and our daughters, were safe. He led them away to give us time to leave. My youngest daughter saw them hit him with a club and we all stared as they beat him to death. Then they started looking for us.

The man stares at her and tries to say something, but can't. He's too shocked.

Man: I didn't know that. Sorry.

Margaret: No one knows. No one wants to listen. (She's getting angrier) All you people want to do is judge me on an action you know about but don't understand from twenty years ago. You have no idea what that man I was due to marry was like, but then why would you care. He's one of yours, or was. And you know what. I'm glad he died in pain, but I don't believe he had broken heart. He didn't have a heart. He was cruel and treated me as if I was some common whore. He took me before we were married. In his Uncle's field. And then threatened me, saying that if I told anyone I'd be found floating in the river. As far as I know he was responsible for the death of Hester. Remember her. (She's face to face with him now)

Man: Yes. She was my sister. They were engaged. She told me what he'd done. I'm sorry for what I said, I didn't realise he'd taken you too. I told your father but he didn't want to listen. He said that he had to marry you off or it would be too late for you and...that man, was the only one who'd take you.

Margaret: Only because he'd threatened everyone else. (Pause) Does his family still run this town, still own it?

Man: Not anymore. We have a proper town council now.

Margaret: What happened? Everyone seems so tight-lipped about things. John Maynard, the man who employed.....

Man: You're working for John Maynard?

Margaret: Yes. He took us in last night when everyone else turned us away. Even my own Aunt.

Man: Oh. (He has become reticent)

Margaret: Why does everyone become distant when I mention his name?

Man: It's not my place to say. It's better if....

Margaret: It doesn't seem as if it's anyone's place to say anything. (She turns away and walks a couple of steps before stopping and turns to face the man again) If it wasn't for the fact that I have nowhere else to go, I would leave this place. It's just the same as I remember it. The only difference is the faces of those who run it. (She exits stage right)


Man: It's not the same place, Margaret. It's far worse and in ways you can't imagine. You'd have been better off staying away. You don't know what you've walked back into and you don't deserve any of this.


See you on Wednesday.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Fun

Another week gone by, another month gone another step towards my grave. How jolly.

First up, oddbox. This week, ice musical instruments, Angela Merkel gets soaked by beer and the BBC gives you the news where you're not.

Ever wondered why Democracy doesn't work? Professor David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. Or, to put it simply, we're all stupid.

Funniest blog of the week goes to Nicole at Peace-Love-Nicole for sharing the gem that is Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live. Especially as no one can keep a straight face...except those wearing Disney costumes.

Now for something...else. Music. This time it's a version of 'Then Kissed Me', entitled 'Then He Kicked Me'.

Picture time.

And this is how I feel first thing in the have been warned.

Have a great weekend.