Monday, April 30, 2012

WIP and The Plays

Wooohooooo.  I've received notice from the Hogglepot Pig, that they'll be publishing my short story, Gold, on their website from 16th to the 29th of September 2012.  Thank you for the applause.  I deserve it.  This is the second W1S1 story I've had accepted this year.

On that subject, I have completed the W1S1 story for this month and will be submitting it somewhere soon.  I've also completed another chapter of 'Apollo the Thirteenth' in which God sits down to dinner and a DVD of Galaxy Quest with Mae, Carla and Alan and talks about time travel.  Igor hasn't made much of an impression in this book so far, but he will.

The play in which I get killed twice has reached a staging point: we've finally finished blocking the play so we know where and when we stand and how to move around the stage.  Now all we have to do is make sure our lines are perfect, get into character and perform the play.  We've got a whole month and ten two-hour rehearsals.  Easy.

We're up to scene 7 of the play I am writing, which I present to you for consideration and any comments.  At the end of scene six, Elena got shot.

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Scene 7 (A room at an inn)

Elizabeth sits in a chair, crocheting, but getting frustrated with her errors. Elena is offstage (right), in bed and being attended by her mother.

Elizabeth: (Shouts in frustration and throws her crocheting on the floor) I'll never get the hang of this.

Elizabeth stands up and paces towards stage right, stops, walks another couple of steps and returns to the chair. John walks in from stage left and Elizabeth stands up.

John: Any news?

Elizabeth: The doctor's still in there.

John: Why are you out here?

Elizabeth: They told me to leave. Said I was in the way and interfering too much?

John: Were you?

Elizabeth: Of course I was. Elena's my sister and she might die. I want to hold her hand and hug her. She's my sister.

John walks over and puts a comforting arm round her shoulders.

John: Did the doctor say anything?

Elizabeth: He wasn't sure if he could get the bullet out, but he's trying.

Elena screams in pain. The two of them look towards the door as the screams subside and are replaced by crying. The doctor enters stage right, rubbing blood off his hands.

Doctor: I've got the bullet out and placed some linen over the wound. There's little else I can do.

Elizabeth: Will she live?

Doctor: I don't know. I've given your mother some poppy juice to give to the girl to help with the pain, but it's up to her now.

John: Thankyou Doctor. Can Elizabeth go in?

Doctor: Yes. Providing she's careful and doesn't cause any problems.

Elizabeth runs into the bedroom. The Doctor and John watch her go in, then the Doctor approaches John.

Doctor: Mr Maynard, your daughter...

John: She's not my daughter.

Doctor: Your step-daughter...

John: She's the daughter of my housekeeper. I look after my staff.

Doctor: No matter. The girl may not survive. The bullet went quite deep into her back. I've seen stronger men die from such wounds after battles.

Margaret enters unseen from stage right and keeps quiet.

John: This wasn't a battle, she's not a soldier and you have attended to her far more quickly than any surgeon would do in war.

Doctor: All the same, in my experience people with this kind of wound die most of the time. It may take a few hours or a few days. She will be lucky to live.

John: Then let's pray that God wants her to live.

Doctor: It is all that's left to do.

Margaret: Elena's asleep and Elizabeth is lying next to her to help keep her warm.

Doctor: And I suggest that you get some sleep also. It has been a difficult day for you all. I shall get my bag from the room and take my leave.

The doctor returns to the bedroom.

John: She will live.

Margaret: That's not what the doctor says. I heard him.

John: I have seen many people recover from wounds such as that. After a highwayman has shot them. He is an ex-military surgeon and while he may be good at what he does, he doesn't know everything.

The doctor re-enters with his bag and coat.

Doctor: Mrs...Margaret. I bid you good day.

John: I shall see you out, doctor, and pay you for your services.

Doctor: Thankyou.

The doctor leaves stage left, followed by John. Margaret walks to the chair, slumps into it and starts to cry, asking 'why' several times. John returns within a minute and stops when he sees Margaret, then slowly walks over to her.

John: (Kneels beside Margaret) She will live.

Margaret: Will she? How can you know? How can anyone know? (Cries again) Why us? Why has all this happened to my family? First it was the Millers violating me, then the villagers killing my husband. After that no one my home town would take us in until you came along, and now those villagers have shot my youngest daughter. Why? What have I done to God to offend him?

John: (Puts a consoling hand on hers.) I don't know that God has much to do with the evil that men do to one another. The only promise he makes is to help us in times of trouble, not protect us from it. As for the villagers, they are both dead by my hand and their bodies are feeding the creatures of the forest.

Margaret: Will you be hung for their murder?

John: No. The magistrate has sent a group of men to find the bodies and has accepted my story. Though he may change his mind, it is unlikely. We can continue onto Oxford. All four of us.

Margaret: (Smiles weakly.) Can you afford for all of us to stay here?

John: Easily. (Stands) Now why don't you go and sleep alongside your daughters. It's been a few days since you were last in a bed.

Margaret: And what of you?

John: I have a room further down the corridor. I shall come by later with something to eat and drink for you, Elizabeth and Elena. Now go and sleep.

Margaret: (Stands) Thankyou. You have shown me such kindness. And my daughters. (She steps towards him) Is there anyway I can repay you?

John: You can be my housekeeper.

Margaret: Is there nothing else you desire? A wife maybe?

John: No.

Margaret: Are you sure? (She places a hand on his chest)

John: (Steps back) I am perfectly sure, Margaret. The memories of my wife are still with me as are those of my children. I stayed in that town too long after their deaths and until I can think of them and not weep I shall not remarry. (He walks to the door, stage left and stops. Without facing Margaret he speaks) I understand your desire to marry again. This is not a world for unmarried women, especially those who have children. But please rest assured that I will not throw you out and if I do ever decide to marry again, it will be to you that I turn. Unless you have married someone else.

John exits stage left.

Margaret: But who would want me? (She sits down in the chair, thoughtful and resigned to fate) Old men want young women who can breed children and young men want young women for life. Old women who are still desired are not wooed for their fading looks, but their wealth. I have neither youth or wealth. My children will marry, but who will marry me and care for me when they are gone?

(Fade to black)

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On that note, I bid you adieu and I shall see you on Wednesday when I'll talk about rousing the muse when YOU need him/her.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Fun

It's yet another Friday and that means it's time for some fun and some deep thinking.

First up, as always, is oddbox. This week, the international beard festival, some odd parking in Paris (which you have to see), a caviar eating contest and woman falling through a pavement..not a hole in a pavement, but the pavement itself.

We have local elections in the UK next week and one woman put up a mannequin for election under the name of Helena Torry.  She has been arrested for a crimem which I think is sad as it could have added a much needed dose of good sense to the elections.  You can read mroe about this on The Independent's website.



Picture Time




 
When people ask how I cope with three boys, I point them to this example of good parenting.
 



On that note, I shall wish you adieu and I'll see you on Monday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Your Voice

How do you create your own voice? By writing.

Voice isn't something that can be taught, norr can it be forced. It comes over time by writing a lot. You can copy the style of other other authors, but only as a way to find your own voice. If you do write it another person's style it will read badly.

The early works of famous authors have a voice, but not a mature one and sometimes not a distinctive one. Terry Pratchett's early books are in his voice, but they could also have been written by other authors. His later discworld books are his and could only have been written by him. The same applies to Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov Jane Auten and any famous author.

In short, there is no easy way to find your voice, but there is a method that can help, which I've lifted from 'Self-Editing for Fiction Writers' by Browne and King.

First of all, take a yellow highlighter (or pink or green or whatever your favourite colour is), read through you current WIP and highlight all the sentences and phrases that really appeal to you. Then, with a red pen, read through the same piece and underline all the sentences and phrases that you don't like or jar with you but can't think of how to replace.

By comparing the two, thinking about what doesn't work in the bad parts and what does work in the good parts, you should be able to get some idea of your voice. It will take time to do this, but be patient with yourself. Some authors take years to fully find their voice.

Finally, here are some quotes about words and writing.

See you on Friday.

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Slang is a language that takes off its coat, rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work (JB Priestly)

'Whom' is a word invented to make everyone sound like a butler. (Calvin Trillin)

The word 'good' has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of 500 yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man. (GK Chesterton)

An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. (F Scott Fitzgerald)

A synomym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of. (Burt Bacharach)

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book. (Cicero, 43 BC)

Write someting, even it's just a suicide note. (Gore Vidal)

My advice to aspiring writers: marry money. (Max Shulman)

The way British publishing works is that you go from not being published no matter how good you are, to being published no matter how bad you are. (Tibor Fischer)

I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done. (Steven Wright)

Anyone could write a novel given six weeks, pen, paper and no telephone or wife. (Evelyn Waugh)

I dedicate this book to my daughter Leonara without never-failing sympathy and encouragement it would have been written in half the time. (PG Wodehouse)

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. (Richard Bach)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

WIP

Goooooooooood Morrrrrrrrrning. For some unaccountable reason I'm in a good mood. Maybe it's because I've received another rejection, or it could be that I've finished the first draft of a short story and am waiting for critiques. It could easily be the pills kicking in. Whatever.

I received a rejection from Corvus magazine for Februaruy's W1S1 story, Jurors. In their rejection email the editor said the following: We enjoyed reading it and found the concept very interesting, unfortunately, it is not quite right for Corvus at this time.

Rejections aren't someting I worry about as it's another one for the writer's group list. When we collect ten of them between us, we celebrate with a meal as it means we've been doing some work.

April's short story for W1S1 is complete but will need some tweaking after I receive the critiques and I may well send Jurors out again. It's been rejected twice so far and I want to see if I can get it up to twleve by the end of the year, or have it accepted somewhere.

I've also added another couple of chapters to Apollo the thirteenth. I especially like the chapter where Mae and God are talking about time travel and how God can be everywhere at once.

With that, here's scene 6 (of nine) of the play 'wot I is writing'. This scene gets a bit tense at the end and I would appreciate comments of how it reads.

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Scene 6 (Late evening/night. A field by a road on the way to Oxford)

The four of them are sitting and chatting and eating. They have stopped for the night and are getting ready to sleep. Elena is tying Elizabeth's hair in a plait

Elena: When will we get to Oxford, John?

John: By tomorrow evening.

Elena: Why can't we just continue on tonight? Elizabeth and I can sleep in the back.

Margaret: And who will drive the cart?

Elena: John.

John: And when do I sleep?

(Pause as Elena thinks)

Elena: Oh yes. (She continues doing Elizabeth's hair)

Margaret: Are you sure your brother's still interested in having you there? Even with us?

John: Yes. I wrote to him a day after you came into my house and his reply arrived a few days later. He's making room for us all.

Elizabeth: As a family?

John: No. As a household.

Elena: Are you going to marry mother?

Margaret/Elizabeth: Elena!

John: (Laughs) I have no plans to marry her. I will tell my brother that you are related to me through my marriage and I am caring for you.

Elena: But why don't you want to marry her?

John: Because I'm too old to get married again.

Elena: But the priest siad you can never be too old to marry. Unless you're a woman. If you're over thirty as a woman, you're too old, but not as a man.

Margaret: Elena, you can't force someone to...

Elena: But then, mother is over thirty, so I suppose she can't get married again.

Elizabeth: Are you finished with my hair yet? I'm getting a stiff neck.

Elena: Nearly.

(John and Margaret exchange knowing looks)

John: I'll go and sort the horse out for the night. Come when you're ready.

(John exits stage right. Elena finishes Elizabeth's hair)

Elena: All done

Elizabeth: Finally. You take so long to do my hair. Why?

Elena: Because I like your hair. It's so lovely to touch.

Elizabeth: Yours isn't. I can't wait to finish. It's usually covered in dirt where you've been playing in the mud and dust. It feels rotten and wiry.

Margaret: (Calm) Elizabeth, don't upset your sister. Take what she says as a compliment. Let's put everything away and go back to the cart.

Elena: There's something in the bush over there (She points to stage left).

Elizabeth: Probably a wolf come to get you and eat you.

She puts her hands on Elena's shoulders to scare her. Elena jumps and screams.

Elena: You're being horrible.

Elizabeth: Of course I am. I'm your big sister and that;s what big sisters do to little sisters. Isn't that right mother?

Margaret: No it isn't.

Elizabeth: It should be. Little sisters are rotten.

Elena: No we're not. Little sisters are perfect.

Margaret: And daughters should be helping their mother to gather up their belongings and get back to the cart.

They gather round and pick up the cloth and food and start to walk to stage right.

Elena: There's that sound again. (She turns to stage left)

Elizabeth: Then we'd better hurry or the wolf will get you.

Elena: It could be a rabbit.

Elizabeth: Good. We can catch it and eat it tomorrow.

Elena: You're horrible.

Margaret: Girls. Come on.

A man enters from stage left. It's the man Margaret saw talking to the potter in the town square He is carrying a gun and a sword.

Man: I'm no rabbit. More like a wolf. You should have listened to your sister and run, Elena.

Margaret: Run girls, run.

Another man enters from stage right, also carrying a gun and a sword.

Second Man: I wouldn't bother.

Elena: (Shouts) John!

Second Man: He's dead.

Margaret/Elizabeth: No.

Second Man: Yes. Shot him with this pistol.

Elena and Elizabeth get close to their mother.

Man: Now, Margaret, you and the girls are coming back to the village and die for your crime.

Margaret: What crime? I didn't do anything.

Man: Oh yes you did. You took one of our men as a husband and stopped a village woman from marrying him.

Elena: That's not a crime. Father loved her.

Second Man: Love's got nothing to do with it. It's about land and inheritance.

Man: And now you own it, we are going to kill you and marry the girls to a couple of properly chosen villagers.

Margaret: You two?

Man: Can you think of anyone better?

Elizabeth: Satan?

Second Man: He could only marry one of you.

The men approach the women.

Man: You can go voluntarily, or violently. I don't really care as long as the girls are alive when we get to the church.

Second Man: After the weddings...well, who cares what happens to you. If you're good, we may let you live. If not...I'll leave you're imaginations to work on that.

Elizabeth: I'd rather die.

Elena: So would I.

Man: Then you'll get your wish. In time.

The two men raise their guns and a gun is fired from offstage. The second man falls to the ground, dead. John enters stage right, sword in hand.

John: Ladies, get behind me.

They turn round and see John.

Margaret: They said you were dead.

John: Then I shall haunt them. (He points his sword at the man) Leave now, or die too.

Man: You have no gun.

John: And you have only one bullet.

Man: It'll be enough for you.

John: I doubt it.

Elena reaches down and picks up the second man's gun.

Elena: John. Here's a gun.

She runs over to John with it and the man fires. Elena falls to the ground. John runs at the man who runs away, stage left. Margaret and Elizabeth shout 'Elena' and run to her.

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Fun

A bit late in the day, but I'm here. I went to the movies with my youngest son to see Wrath of the Titans in 3D. Borrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnnng film. As for 3D, if that's all 3D has to offer I won't be seeing another one anytime soon.

Anyhow, first up, oddbox. This week using zombies to liven up a race, tv for dogs and a video taken while someone is free falling from a cliff.

For the writers among you, a few quotes about critics

- A critic is a person who will slit the throat of a skylark to see what makes it sing. (JM Synge)

- A bad review is even less important than whether it is raining in Patagonia (Iris Murdoch)

- Anyone who can fill out a laundry slip thinks of himself as a writer. Those who can't fill out a laundry slip think of themselves as critics. (George Seaton)

Picture time.











And finally, revenge is sweet.



Havae a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

As, -ing & Sophisticated Writing

We all know to remove as many adverbs as possible when we write, but what about sentences beginning with 'as' or 'ing' words? Removing as many of these as possible can raise you prose up a notch.

Examples:
As she pulled off her gloves...
Pulling off her gloves...

They are not bad, ungrammatical sentence structures, but can show a lack of sophistication in your writing (to quote Browne and King in 'Self-Editing For Fiction Writers'). Having a few scattered about your book is not a problem but several per page is.

In the above example, 'She pulled off her gloves' is a good substitute and keeps the prose simple and well defined.

To add a bit of colour you can describe how the gloves were pulled off. 'She pulled off her gloves nearly ripping the seam as she did.' Note that using 'as' in the middle of a sentence (or an 'ing' word) is fine.

After that bit of editing, how about replacing adverbs with verbs. Changing the sentence above to 'She pulled off her gloves and slammed them on the hall table.' gives more action and shows her mood.

In short, be creative while keeping it simple.

See you on Friday.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday WIP Update

Not a busy week, but still a few things happening.

I finally finished my short story (first draft) for write1sub1. Next week I'll edit it and add in the various bits that I left our in order to get the story finished. I also designed and printed a DVD cover.

The idea is to sell CDs at our next book launch, each with a copy of the book burned onto them along with a link to Amazon's free kindle software in a 'readme' document. We'll package it into a thin DVD case, print a cover and also add a bookmark and a small advert for all our books in it, like Disney do in each of their DVDs. I created one and took it along to the weekly meeting and it went down well.

One other task I completed was to go through a pile of papers with story ideas on them and decide what to keep and what to throw. I only threw a couple of them away as they were duplicates and pulled a couple of others out to work on.

Not much for the week, but enough.

Now for the next scene of the play. Let me know what you think.

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Scene 5 (John Maynard's Parlour)

John and the Mayor sit at a table, facing each other, with the Mayor's son and Margaret standing behind them. John is reading a piece of parchment and the Mayor waits while he does so. After a moment or two, John signs it and hands it to the Mayor.

John: The house is now yours, along with everything I leave behind. As soon as I pass through the town gates, I rescind my claim to anything left in this house.

Mayor: Thankyou Mr Maynard. (He signals to his son to give him the bag he's been holding) And here is your payment. £425 as agreed.

Son: (Aside) Too much if you ask me.

Mayor: No one did.

John and the mayor stand up and shake hands.

Mayor: When will you be leaving?

John: As soon as the cart is loaded and the horse has been hitched to it.

Mayor: Are you sure you want to travel overnight? It may be best to wait until the morning and use as much daylight as possible. Not forgetting that there may be highwaymen around.

John: Highwaymen are as likely to rob you in daylight as during the night. I should know. Besides, I can deal with them. What I don't want to deal with is the return of those villagers looking for Margaret and her children. Highwaymen will take my money. Those men will take their lives.

Mayor: As you wish. (He turns to leave stage right and ushers his son out first Before he leaves the stage he stops and turns back to John). I hope you can make a new life wherever it is you go. (He bows, then turns to Margaret and bows) Madam. I wish the same for you.

Margaret: What will you do if the men return? Will you tell them where we have gone?

Mayor: I don't know where you are going, so what can I tell them? You have my assurance that if they return within the next week or so, I shall ensure that they do not leave for several days. I'm sure there are some town bye-laws I can accuse them of breaking. (He bows once more and exits stage right)

John puts his hand on the bag of money.

Margaret: I've never seen so much money in my life.

John: Nor have I. Not in one place anyway. (He turns to Margaret). Are the girls ready?

Margaret: Elena is cleaning the kitchen and Elizabeth is making sure everything is packed properly on the cart. (She walks over to the carved chair) Are you sure you don't want to take this with you? As a keepsake in memory of your family?

John: I'm sure. I have a trunk of smaller items for that purpose and a head full of images from the past. We have enough furniture on the cart already as well as four people.

Margaret: We? I own nothing, not even the clothes I'm wearing. How can you say we? I am not your wife. Unless you want me to become your wife. I would be glad to and not just for the sake of my children, but...

John: Margaret, I do not want you as my wife. When we reach our destination I will tell everyone that you are my sister-in-law.

Margaret: But surely your brother will know I am not.

John: My brother has never met my wife...my late wife, nor does he know much about her family. He moved long before I got married. He may have his suspicions, but he will not question me on the subject.

Margaret: Will he think I am a whore?

John: No. He knows I would not entertain such a woman.

Margaret: But he may think you have...

John: Trust me in this. Please.

Margaret nods. Elizabeth enters stage right.

Elizabeth: The cart is loaded and secure and the horse has been hitched.

Margaret: Good, get your sister and wait for us outside.

Elizabeth: She's already outside, looking after the horse. The young man who brought it over, Michael, is telling her about how to look after it.

John: Michael? Oh yes, the blacksmith's son. A good lad. It's time we were going. You two go outside and I'll join you in a minute.

Margaret: Is there anything I can do to help.

John: Not in here. I shall be with you soon.

Margaret and Elizabeth exit stage right. After they have gone, John walks over to the carved chair and runs his hand over the arms and the back.

John: Oh Caroline, how I miss you and the children. I wonder what you would have thought of Margaret and her children? Would you have taken them in as I have? Of course you would. But I wonder what you would say now, if you knew my thoughts, if you knew I was considering a marriage. What would you say?

(John pats the chair and walks slowly off, stage right)

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Fun

Today, is the anniversary of the day my mother gave birth to me. Yes, it's my birthday. 49 years ago at 6.30am, after much screaming and shouting, the thunder and lightning causing massive electrical blowouts across London (according to my father), I was born.

As is usual on this day, my kids said happy birthday in passing, didn't give me a card or buy me a present...which is just how I like it. My mother took all four of us out for lunch and the boys launched into the birthday song specially composed for the occasion

Happy bald day to you,
Happy bald day to you,
You look like a light bulb,
And you shine like one too.


On with the Friday goodies. First up, Oddbox. This week, international pillow fighting day, Batman rides again and someone proposes at the North Pole.

From elsewhere on the Beeb, Hilary Clinton sees the funny side of spoof love texts and Newt Gingrich's campaign cheque bounces.

Now for a video. For those of you outside of the UK, Orange is a mobile phone network.




Picture time.










And finally, a picture from Star Trek showing William Shatner holding...well, see for yourself. It's worth remembering that this is NOT photoshopped and was broadcast.


According to George Takei (Sulu) the props department were given hell for that piece of work.

And on that note, I'll wish you a fabulous weekend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Paragraphs and Chapters

How long should a paragraph be? It depends.

Journalistic writing has very short paragraphs, often containing one sentence. You can see examples of this on any news site, such as this one from the BBC news pages. Academic writing tends to have longer paragraphs that can last a page, or, occasionally, two. In fiction writing the general rule of thumb is, if a paragraph lasts for more than half a page it's too long.

The length of your paragraphs can help determine the pace of your scene and your chapter. Longer paragraphs give a relaxed feel, while shorter ones ramp up the tension. One thing you should do is to have each person's dialogue in a new paragraph. You can see this at work in any modern novel.

My guiding rule of thumb is to start each new thought in a new paragraph, but paragraph lengths are as much art as science.

The guidelines that apply to paragraphs also apply to chapters and scenes. Short chapters tend to be fast paced pieces of action while longer chapters are deep and thoughtful. That said, there are books with 80 chapters with some that are thoughtful and other books with a dozen that have some action running through each. Terry Pratchett doesn't use chapters at all and divides his books into scenes of varying length that get shorter at the end of the book.

In short, there are no hard and fast rules regarding paragraphs, scenes or chapters, just the guidelines mentioned above.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Monday Update

Well, well, well, as the man said when he saw three holes in the ground. One of my March subs for 2012 has been accepted for publication. Nothing that pays, but hey, it's somewhere different to the norm.

The story is entitled Galaxy of Spirits and will be published by 'The Weaving Knight' online in May. The email I received said the following:

I read through "Galaxy of Spirits," and I found it fascinating--and particularly sad. Mark had some good sarcastic quips too, but overall, your short gave me a deep sense of discomfort that is difficult to pin down, almost like watching a well-designed machine that isn't calibrated with the due precision, and so it is spinning off course... almost imperceptibly. Perhaps you understand what I mean? It's an elusive sensation to describe, but it most certainly isn't a bad thing.

In any case, I'd like to publish your short story on my site and wrap it up as one of the debuts in the first "issue" in May. I suppose that was the line you were looking for. If you are still interested in being published through our venue, I have attached a copy of our Author contract for you to complete.


YEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAA!

I'll be returning the contract soon and I'll let you know more details about it's publication date and where to read it as soon as I know.

In other news, I have no rehearsals for this week and next week I'll just be a corpse, meaning I can get on with line learning. I have, however, been told that I play a great corpse.

I have started a new short story, another SF comedy, about a starship sent to make second contact. The mission has been planned with all the detail necessary to achieve complete failure, up to and including an officious security officer, a ship held together by sticky tape and a computer with a personality.

Now, for the play I am writing. We're up to scene 4 of act 2.

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Scene 4 (Mayor's office, dusk)

Mayor is sat at his desk writing.

Man: (Offstage) You can't go in there. The Mayor's busy.

John: (Offstage) I don't care. This is a matter of life and death.

Man: (Offstage) Not this old saga again. Are you ever going to forgive people?

John: (Offstage) The murder of my family is not some ancient saga that you or anyone else can just brush away as if it doesn't matter. But that is not why I am here. It's about my housekeeper and a visitor to the town.

Man: (Offstage) You still can't go in there.

John: (Offstage) And who's going to stop me? You?

Man: (Offstage) Yes.

There is the sound of someone being punched and falling to the floor, then John walks in, stage right.

John: Mayor. I need to talk to you right now.

Mayor: (Not looking up from his writing) So I gathered. Do I need an undertaker for my assistant or just the doctor.

John: A bucket of cold water should do the trick.

Mayor: In that case I'll leave him for a while. He's been asking for that for a while now. (Looks up) I should have guessed you'd be the one to hit him, though others have had plenty of opportunity and reason. There are times I wonder why I keep him in that job.

John: Probably because he's your son.

Mayor: Ah yes, that'll be it.

John: Much as I'd like to spend time...

Mayor: Martin sent me a message about the visitor. His daughter gave it to me earlier.

John: He didn't tell me that.

Mayor: Did you give him a chance? (Pause) No, I thought not. The mood you're in I doubt you're going to listen very much at all.

John: Listen...

Mayor: No, Mr Maynard, you listen. (Stands and walks round his desk to face John) This town and its people have done everything they could to make your life easy for the past few years, but it's gone too far now. You are no longer contributing.

John: You owe me...

Mayor: No. The Millers owe you. Yes, we were complicit through inaction and fear, but how much longer do you expect the people to feed your hatred of us? What we did would not cause any of us to be jailed. We are guilty of nothing but cowardice and we have paid you a price for that, far above what would normally be expected. And now you have this woman and her children we can no longer turn a blind eye to it. How much longer do you really expect us to keep paying for the sins of others?

(Pause)

John: I want to leave this town and take my housekeeper and her girls with me.

Mayor: No one will stop you.

John: I need money.

Mayor: No. I am not going to give you money just because you're leaving. You have had....

John: I'll give you the deeds to my house and all but a few items of furniture. What I can't load on my cart the town can have.

Mayor: And what use would the town have for that house?

John: An official residence for the Mayor? A guest house for visiting officials. It's one of the finest houses in the town and I'm sure it would go for a handsome price at a public auction. £500 and it's yours.

The Mayor considers this for a moment.

Mayor: £400

John: £450

Mayor: £425

John: (Sticks out his hand) Agreed.

Mayor: I'll be round in the morning with the money. And I'll make sure that the townspeople provide you with enough for your journey to...where are you going?

John: I'd rather not say. In case some people start talking loosely.

Mayor: Wise.

John: I'll have the deeds ready to be signed over to you.

Mayor: I shall bring Mr Demeter along as a witness. I assume your housekeeper can be a witness to the signatures?

John: She can.

Mayor: Then I wish you goodnight.

John bows and exits stage right. The Mayor returns to his desk and sits down to write. There is a groan from offstage, followed by the Mayor's son entering from stage right.

Son: Where's Maynard?

Mayor: Mr Maynard has gone home. Tomorrow or soon after he will be leaving this town for a new life away from here.

Son: Good riddance.

Mayor: I beg your pardon?

Son: I said good riddance to bad rubbish.

Mayor: Son, there is one thing you need to remember. For all of John Maynard's faults, and he has many, he performed the most striking act of public service this town has ever known when he killed the Millers. I have made sure that he has been well looked after.

Son: So why have you been urging people to be less co-operative?

Mayor: Because he has begun to wallow. He is dying a slow tortuous death. When that woman turned up I saw the perfect opportunity to lift him. Sadly, today's visitor has put a spoke in the wheel.

Son: What happens now?

Mayor: I want you to go to the vault tomorrow morning and (hands his son a piece of paper) withdraw this amount in gold coins.

Son: You're not giving him that much are you?

Mayor: Yes. For his house.

Son: It's not worth that much.

Mayor: You're right. But that's what he'll need to start a new life. We owe him nothing less. Though I doubt the aldermen will see it that way. (He turns to his desk, but stops) I've done enough for one day. Let's go home.

They exit stage right.

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On that note, I'll bid you good night. See you on Wednesday.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday Fun

It's Friday and it's Easter. First up, a festive Oddbox. This week, easter eggs on a tree and an economics reporter doing an Irish jig.

And now, for something new. Jokes.

Recent polls show women favor Obama over Romney in battleground states by over 18%. In response, Republican strategists urge women to get out of the kitchen and vote.

An author dies and is given the choice of going to Heaven or Hell, but is shown them both before he has to choose. His first stop is Hell and he sees writers chained to desks being forced to write for eternity and whipped if they don't produce anything. He's then taken to Heaven where he sees writers chained to desks being forced to write for eternity and whipped if they don't produce anything. He turns to St Peter and said, 'This is exactly what happens in Hell. What's the difference?' Saint Peter said, 'In Heaven you get published.'

A man professed a desire to become a great writer. When asked to define great he said, 'I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level. Stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger'. He works for Microsoft writing error messages.

Picture time.













Have a great Easter Weekend. See you on Monday.