Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Competition Winners and Some Changes

Happy Wednesday.

First up, remember that competition I started last Monday?  I thought you had.  Well, today I announce the winners and there are four of them (I'm so generous).

E.Arroyo from Chandara Writes
Dana from The Daily Dose
Lisa Shafer
Laura from My Baffling Brain

Ladies, email me at martin (at) starfishpc (dot) co (dot) uk and I'll email you the two ebooks, A Stitch in Time and Published Short Stories.  Let me know if you want the kindle version or the ePub version...or both versions.  I'm in a REALLY good mood.

Secondly, I'm going to make some subtle changes to the posts on this blog.  Fear not, Friday will remain the day for some fun and silly/thoughtful/odd pictures, but on Monday and Wednesday I'll have the occasional guest blogger, probably once or twice a month, maybe more if the demand is there.  If you would like to be a guest, email me and we'll talk about when is best for you and what you'd want to blog about.  Feel free to use your post as part of a promotional tour for a book launch.

On that note, I'll leave with some sage advice regards writing: 'Whatever you do each day, remember to write something.  It doesn't matter whether it's a sentence, a rough idea, a whole chapter or short story, just write something.'

Adieu and see you on Friday

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back to Reality

The play's done, the set's been dismantled and I'm back.

Very little writing got done last week (none at all in fact), mainly due to me helping to build the set, paint it and do the dress rehearsals. Talking of dress rehearsals, I have some pictures for you.

Poopay, the star of the show

Jessica, the dim first wife

Julian (me) about to murder Poopay...and fail

Julian the corpse

Trying not to fall out of the window.

You can see more of the dress rehearsal photos on our facebook page. If you want to know more about us and what we're up to (okay, what I'm up to. I'm an egotist alright), 'like' us.

So what happened in the play? I'm so glad you asked.

We had a good Thursday and Friday night with laughing for the right reasons in the right places, but that didn't prepare us for Saturday night when everyone found everything funny. As a result, four of the cast, me included, nearly corpsed on stage and had to look away from the audience and hope that our shaking shoulders didn't show.

The audience's laughter started when Poopay pushed back her long coat and showed her lace underwear, suspenders and stockings and continued when Julian told Poopay she reminded him of his mother. (I should point out that my mother was in the audience watching this). The laughter grew louder as Reece explained he'd been responsible for killing his two wives. You never can tell waht an audience will be like.

When Julian came back on and spun the retreating Poopay round as you would in a barn dance, the laughter soared again, but was thankfully replaced by a lack of laughter as he threatened to kill her by making Poopay swallow more medication than was healthy.

When Julian grabbed her hair only to find out it was a wig, the audience erupted again. Poopay made her escape through a communicating door and found herself in the same room, but 20 years earlier in 1994 and meets Ruella Welles, Reece's second wife. The two of them have a conversation that borders on farcical, each telling the other that they are the one who is right leaving the audience clutching their stomachs. When Ruella tries to calm Poopay down by telling her take deep breaths and then, in a conversational tone, asks her what it's like being a prostitute, I thought the walls would collapse.

After having Poopay removed by Harold the house detective, Ruella tries the communicating door, knowing she won't sleep unless she proves it isn't a time machine and ends up in the same room in 1974, on Reece and Jessica's honeymoon night. Disturbingly, the audience collapsed in laughter when Reece came on in his underwear.

Returning to 1994, she recalls Poopay to the room, escorted by Harold the house detective (a character name that deserves a film) whereupon the audience chuckled and guffawed at almost every turn as Ruella explains that the two of them can travel through time.

Eventually, Poopay comes back to 2014 to get the confession, now they've both agreed the door is a time portal, and as she leaves Julian comes out of the bedroom, where he's been reading Lorna Doone to Reece, in the blond wig he'd removed from Poopay earlier. For some reason this brought howls of laughter from the audience and nearly caused me to break down laughing. Seeing the stage manager laughing and being the only one on stage at that point didn't help and it was with a lot of self control that I managed to get my next line out.

What I didn't know was Reece and the two stage hands behind me were also having trouble controlling their laughter, so it was just as well that I'd delivered my lines before turning to them, adjusting my wig and walking off.

Ruella then goes back to 1974, gives the confession to Jessica and as the younger Harold the house detective tries to eject her there is yet more laughter at the slapstick nature of the performances.

The last scene arrives. Julian follows Poopay from 2014 to 1994 (wigless) and Act 1 ends with Poopay screaming and Julian rolling his sleeves up ready to drown her as the lights go down. The applause was loud.

What the audience discovered is Poopay has a scream that a Dr Who assistant would be proud of. What they didn't find out is that my ears were ringing as I was right next to her when she screamed.

Act 2 was a lot shorter. It began with Ruella, Harold and Jessica in 1974 talking about time travel, Jessica saying it isn't possible, Ruella saying it is and Harold asking if Ruella could drop him off in Clapham on the way.

Ruella gets back to 1994 and Poopay tells her about Julian, how he slipped on a bar of soap and hit his head on the toilet. When Poopay says that Julian's now under the sofa they leaped up and the audience cracked up. A minute later they are reassuring themselves that they're okay when the sofa moves, Julian lets out a death rattle and several members of the audience have a mild heart attack, no one knowing that I'd been under the thing since the beginning of Act 2 some twenty five minutes earlier.

I got dragged off the stage and due to not being held properly knocked my head on the door jam. OUCH.

While I was backstage being made up to look forty-five, Ruella got Harold the house detective to rearrange things so it looked as though Julian died while having a threesome. When Harold saw the dead body of a 65 year old Julian he exclaimed 'Look at him. You've destroyed his entire metabolism. Whatever it is you're up to, don't invite me along' the audience once again collapsed quicker than a minority government in Italy. As they put my body into the laundry skip Harold's brought in to get the body out without anyone noticing (offstage and not really as I was having my makeup redone), Poopay yelled out 'he's too fat', at which point my eldest son lead the audience with his highly infectious machine gun laugh.

Poopay and Harold took the now dead Julian to another room and after some time and a little calmness Poopay and Ruella (now in different rooms) realise that although 2014 Julian was dead, 1994 Julian wasn't and because they've read the confession know that tonight in 1994 is when Julian kills Ruella. Poopay screams out that Julian is still alive and Harold the house detective shouts back in alarm 'I've just handcuffed him to the bed'. More loud laughter and a growing pool of salty water at the foot of each chair from the tears of the audience.

Julian arrives at Ruella's door, grabs her and goes into the bedroom, wraps a sheet around her and takes Ruella to the balcony to push her off. Poopay comes in, fails to knife him at which point 45 year old Jessica comes in throught the communicating door, pretending to be Julian's mother (who Julian had killed when he was young) and Julian falls over the balcony to his death. Cue raucous laughter from the audience and a cheer from my son.

Nice but dim Jessica unties Ruella and accidentally spins her over the balcony. In the ensuing efforts to get her back Poopay mounts Jessica (see photo above) to get a grip and as they try and pull Ruella back, Jessica shouts 'I feel like a prize Fresian' to which Poopay replies, 'I hate to think what that makes me'. More loud laughter ensues at ahich point Harold walks in, sees what's happening, shouts 'oh my god' and leaves. At this point we nearly have to hand out oxygen bottles to the audience because of the breathless laughing.

It winds down after that, but not before Jessica goes to the window and waves to the crowd below studying Julian's squished, dead body to yet more audience laughter.

After a little summing up, the audience have calmed down, Poopay returns to 2014 and discovers that Reece and Ruella didn't divorce. With Julian absent, Reece becomes a nicer man and Ruella goes to the children's home where Poopay was brought up and adopted her, but die in 2013 of cancer.

A happy ending as Poopay leaves the hotel room, looks skyward at the soul of the dear departed Ruella and says 'Thank you'.

Well, that's the play and what you missed. If I get more photos, I'll put them on facebook and maybe share one or two with you.

Adieu and see you on Wednesday.

p.s. Another author needing a legup to the 100 followers is DR Cartwright. She has a book, Son of Jack, out in electronic format and is another great, undiscovered writer.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Fun

Taking a quick break from the play to bring you some funny/thoughtful/inspiring pictures.

The play has two more nights to run, tonight and Saturday, and to enter the competition to win ebooks, just leave a comment on this blog (or Monday's and Wednesday's) to be entered.

Adieu and see you Monday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

No?  Well let me help you.

I spent four years as a Work Station Assessor when I worked as a programmer and learnt a lot about how to sit and arrange a desktop, so I'm going to pass it on to you.  This doesn't mean I'm medically trained, just that I've been trained in the basics of ergonomics.

1.  Make sure your back is supported properly.  It is said that your back needs to be at 90 degrees to your legs, but later research shows an angle of 95 degrees to be better.  What I learnt is that as long as your back is supported and you're relaxed you shoud be fine.  We had one man who was almost lying down in his chair and had no back problems, probably because he was relaxed.  Those who hunched their shoulders had problems.

2.  Don't let your legs dangle.  Make sure your feet are resting on something, so your legs aren't being pulled off the chair.  If your legs aren't supported it pulls on your back and causes problems.  Footrests are ideal for this and if you can't find one that suits, make one from chipboard and old bits of wood, or get a friend to do it for you.  Just make sure it's the correct height.

3.  The keyboard should be placed so that your forearms are at 90 degrees to your body, or as near as possible.  This gives your shoulders a chance to relax.  Also try and make sure that your wrists aren't forced back while typing as this can lead to problems later on.

4.  The top of the screen should be at eye level.  This may not be possible with a laptop, but do try and avoid looking up at the screen.  If you're looking at it or slightly down to it, you'll be OK, but if you find yourself leaning forwards a lot, take regular breaks to ease the neck muscles.

5.  Take a break every forty minutes or so.  Make a drink, go to the loo, walk the dog, anything to get the blood flowing and give your limbs something else to do.  Five to ten minutes ought to do it.

6.  Take off your watch, bangles etc.  Having something on your wrist weighs it down and will feel uncomfortable as well as put unnecessary strain on muscles that are already working hard typing.

7.  Take everything out of your pockets.  Front or back, it doesn't matter, remove the lot.  Anything in your back pocket will put your spine out of kilter, anything in your front pocket can dig into you and be uncomfortable.

If you have any ergonomic tips to share please do so, always remembering that all our bodies are different and will react differently, especially if you have ingrained habits.

See you on Friday.  Adieu.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Update

Happy Monday!

You may well find me absent from your blogs this week and for a good reason: not only am I preparing for the three performances of 'Communicating Doors' (Thur-Sat), I shall also be building and decorating the set.  It's also why I'm writing this and Wednesday's blogs on Sunday and scheduling them.  I may have time to eat occasionally, but I doubt it.  Still, I need to lose weight for my speedos in the summer.  Now there's an image you can treasure.

With that in mind, what have I achieved writing-wise?  I've received a rejection (YAY) from Roar and Thunder for my short story Jurors along with some excellent feedback on it.  I've added part of chapter 7 to Apollo The Thirteenth and have decided that Mae's blossoming romance with Ben is as much part of the story as Alan and Carla being chased round the moon by a psycopathic war machine.

And that's it for achievements...aside from rehearsals, sleeping and storing fat for the coming week: or pigging out as it's more commonly known.

I also promised you a competition to celebrate passing the 100 follower mark, so here are the rules.  Leave a comment on any of this week's blogs (Mon, Wed, Fri) by midnight, Sunday 27th May (BST), and you can win ebooks of A Stitch In Time and Published Short Stories.  I'll send them in Kindle or Epub format.  Simples.

I'll hold another easy-to-enter competition when I pass 200.

If you're in the area, you can come and see me get killed twice and wear a blond wig.  Ticket information can be found on our Facebook page.


p.s.  Lisa Shafer is only on 62 followers, so if you all go follow her blog, we can get Lisa past the 100 mark.  She's an excellent writer of YA fiction and deserves exposure.

p.p.s.  No money changed hands for this advert.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Fun

WARNING: If you are a politician, accountant or the CEO of a major corporation, looking at this blog could seriously damage your health and ours. It will make you laugh and cause the world to fall apart.

First up is Oddbox.  This week, the two oldest radio presenters, a 93 year old yoga teacher and more perils of broadcasting live near sports fans, while from the Telegraph we learn that the average teen novel has 38 swear words.

Now, for the pictures.

And finally, I now realise why I'm single...

And on that note, I bid you adieu and I'll see you on Monday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Important Is The First Draft?

Not very. Why? When you think about what a first draft is for, the relative unimportance of it becomes apparent.

The first draft is about getting your story down in an organised format, allowing the characters to breathe the air of the storyline and to give you something solid to work with.

It is NOT the final version you send to an agent/publisher or even to your beta readers, nor is it something you will ever look back on and say 'WOW' about. It is nothing more or less than the first step, if you're a pantser like me, or the second step if you plan and organise your story.

In the first draft we can make spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, leave small plot holes, unfinished dialogue, note places where more research is needed etc. We don't have to worry about fleshing out the characters too much but can learn a lot about the story, the people and world we've created.

The first draft is for us. It shows us things what no amount of research or planning can bring out and helps define whether the story is workable or not. It is not something to fret over, worry over or obsess over.

Our fist attempt to write is not our last and does not need to be perfect or even very good, it just needs to set out the signposts and the general direction.

How important is the first draft? In the grand scheme of writing a novel, not very. It is a stage along the way, not the final destination.

Monday, May 14, 2012


A short one today as I'm off to a funeral with my mother. It's her aunt Pearl who died several days ago, a year after her husband. She was in her 90s and had long, happy life.

Taraaaaaaaaa! I've reached one hundred followers. To celebrate, I'll have an ebook contest next week.

Novel: Added two more chapters to Apollo the Thirteenth and have realised that Alan and Carla's marriage is very strong with neither of them threatened by the various other men/women who are trying to 'divert' them from each other. Mae is also proving to be a bit of a diva who hates people letting her win and hates losing when they try.

Short story for May's W1S1: Had a great idea inspired by Cowboys vs Aliens which I watched with my eldest son on Friday. More next week.

Play (Writing): Thanks to everyone who's left a comment over the past couple of months. I am now going to have a good long look at it and see what needs to change and where I need to add in further details and dialogue.

Play (Performing): Less than two weeks to go and the nerves are homing in on me like a guided missile. Can't wait for the three performances and I'm looking forward to falling over a sixth floor balcony. If you're nearby, come and see it. The line my kids will like most is where I'm stuffed into a laundry basket and one of the characters says, 'he's too fat'.

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Fun

It's Friday and that can only mean one thing...tomorrow's Saturday.

First up, Oddbox.  This week, an upside down house (yes, it's really upside down), waterski-ing on a football pitch, the 5th annual Zombie walk, refrigerated bras and the number 1 is someting you HAVE to see to believe.

From elsewhere on the BBC, it has come to the attention of Paleantologists that Dinosaurs warmed the breaking wind and in jubilee year, WH Smith has been selling lots of the Queen's Knickers.

And now, Picture Time.

And on that jolly note I bid you adieu. Have a great weekend.