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Conflict, Lighting, Sets……Action!

As a playwright you better find some conflict in your story. Little Women had soft, cozy conflict but make no mistake there was conflict. Romeo and Juliet had glaring conflict represented by a family feud that wrought murder and mayhem. To be successful, you must have antagonists and protagonists in your plot.
CONFLICT: It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there in front of you, to tell the story with their body language but the dialogue carries the day and is the difference between weak writing and strong, successful writing.
Using examples from a recent play of mine, I will demonstrate conflict in simple, but successful (to the overall plot of the play) terms. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are no less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. Perhaps even more of a challenge.
Sub-PLOT: The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. 

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Back in the day when there were truly ‘starving actors’ we started up theatre companies all the time with a couple of platforms and four ‘spots’ that one would use in a shop in the garage at home. This is a cheap ($12. a piece) adaptable, portable light. You can even attach a gel to the cone for a few pennies per gel. Use blues for night and warm colors (amber) for day. Each light has a wire running back to the control desk/booth and while you won’t have a dimmer option, you must be able to turn the light off and on.

When we started our own company, we had to be totally portable as our performance space could be an art gallery, a café, a gymnasium, or school auditorium. Anywhere they would allow us to use their space. All sites had to be vacated when the weekend was over and then loaded back in for the next performance date.

We could light just about any play with four of these clamp-on, shop lights. The purpose of any stage lighting is to light the actors and the set. If you don’t accomplish anything else, you need to make certain this happens. If your stage is in a very small space, it’s not super critical to light the actors brightly. Just be certain they stay in the light, which is where the director’s blocking comes in.

Even if you need to stick to the basics of simple illumination, lighting makes everything feel more professional and helps the audience to better focus on what is going on, on the stage. Theatrical lighting doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Lighting is about making certain that you can see the people on stage and that the moods of the play are represented and amplified.
Clamp lights aren’t the be all and end all. You’ll have to live with the shadows that they cast.
But remember, this is all you can afford now, and you’ll also need to be able to break it down and take the lighting with you.

I still remember the thrill when we could finally afford a couple of Klieg lights.

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Most theatres have a set designer who creates the set based on the director’s vision. But it is important that the playwright sees the set. Where your story takes place. If your set requires two different scenes/sets and you have structured the play around two sets you must think about time and money. Anticipate the cost because you want the director to choose your play to produce. But if the cost of more than one set is too much, your play might never be chosen.
An envelope design works nicely for the need of two locations/sets in one play. The first set in created on the outside fold of an envelope. When the scene changes the ‘flap’ is opened, like a tri-fold (by the stage crew) and a new set/location is used. Set pieces (Furnishings) have to be changed out and this calls for some cleverness on the director’s part.
One play comes to mind that I directed: The Cemetery Club. The main set was a living room of one of the female characters. But I also needed a Jewish cemetery. The four widows went there every month to visit their dead husbands and maintain the gravesite.
So what I designed was a single backdrop (scenery). What you might see out the living room window. Then I furnished the living room with set pieces. Sofa, chairs, coffee table, lamps, etc.
Upstage on a riser I created the cemetery with three graves. I designed starfoam monuments with the Star of David on the downstage side. The women would walk up on the risers and, while gazing at the graves, deliver their monologues. It worked because the actors believed it. Thus the audience believed it.   The magic of theatre!
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Available Now! A New Journal for Playwrights

Available NOWHow To Write a 10 Minute Play ~~ Journal and Handbook

Lots of great instruction about the art of writing a ten minute play. And over 250 blank, lined pages for your creative writing as you write your first or tenth 10 minute play.  

Excerpt from back cover:  ‘As you prepare to write your first 10-minute play, pretend that you have walked into a room and interrupted a conversation, mid-sentence. Or you have turned on the television and tuned into a sit-com, ten minutes into (late) a thirty-minute episode. That’s where your head space should be when you begin writing your play.
Give yourself permission. Sit down and write.

This journal/workbook gives you not only the space to write down your ideas for a play but there are instructional sections to help you create your ten-minute play. Develop your story line. Create the characters. Try out different dialogue. 250+ blank, lined pages with famous quotes by actors, playwrights, and writers on each page to inspire the writer in you.’

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                “Writing isn’t a calling; it’s a doing!”  t. sugarek
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Writer’s Sprints/Writer’s Block (part 2)

Writing Sprints (Part 2)

In writing my sample of a writing sprint (for this blogging session) it WORKED!  I had been ‘resting’ from my creative writing; fiction, scripts, etc., but writing every day, my blog, etc. But after writing a couple of ‘sprints’ I seemed to have kicked aside whatever was holding me back and wrote a short, one act play in less than a week.  And returned to an unfinished novel in my true crime series. 

If you want extra accountability, start your writing sprint by posting “Starting a 30-minute writing sprint” on one of your social

A new short play

media sites (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) with the hashtag #writingsprint.
Before you start, double check one last time that you have everything you need to do your writing sprint. Preparation is critical to a successful sprint.
Once you are ready, start your timer. As soon as you start the timer, start writing and don’t stop until the timer stops. Don’t pause to consider word choice. Don’t stop for a sip of water (or wine). That can wait. Don’t think about what to do next (hopefully, you have planned it out earlier, so just implement your plan). It doesn’t matter what you write as much as that you keep your fingers or hands moving and words going down on the page or screen.
You can always edit your writing later. Remember:  “Writing is not a calling; it’s a doing.” (t. sugarek)
Stop only when the timer goes off. Then celebrate your successful sprint (and motivate others) by posting your word count achieved on social media and in any group forums if you are participating in an event.
Finally, record your sprinting session to track your progress.

When to Do a Writing Sprint

There are certain times where writing sprints can be extremely useful.
• When you have writer’s block
• When you only have a limited amount of time to write
• When you want to increase your writing speed
• When you want to reach a specific word count goal by a specific time
• When you want to break out of editing mode

There is no right way or wrong way to do writing sprints. So you can’t write 500 words in fifteen minutes. So what?  Just do your best. Stop over thinking it and just write as fast and furiously as you can. Put words down and see what happens. That blank page isn’t going to fill up by itself. 

Did you miss Part I of this post? 
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How To Write a Play Journal is Now in Hardback

This beautiful journal/handbook is now available in Hardcover. Here’s a little of what you can expect inside. Plus hundreds of blank pages for your own writings and plans for a stage play.

1.  Format is very important.    If you submit your new play to anyone they will not read it if it is not in the proper format. There is software out there that offer auto-format but I found them lacking.   The character’s name is centered. Blocking (action) is indented and placed in parentheses. Setting (indent once), Rise  (indent once) and Dialogue is far left. Double space between character’s name and first line of dialogue.  Blocking (action): is placed below the character’s name in parentheses. (indent x 3).  A ‘beat’ is a dramatic pause to enhance the pace of the speech and is placed in the dialogue where you wish the actor to pause for a beat or two. 

2. Each page represents approximately one minute of time on stage.  So if you have a play that is 200 pages long, that won’t work.  Audiences aren’t going to sit for more than one and a half hours unless you are providing a circus, a fire drill, sex, and an earthquake.  You should keep your full length script to about 100 pages which equals 1.6 hours of stage time.  For a one act divide that by 2.  For a ten minute play your script should be from 10-15 pages. These times and figures are debated by others but this has been my experience as an actor/director/writer.

3.  Leave lots of white space on the page.  One day when your play is being produced, actors will need a place to make notes in the script during rehearsal.  This is a sample of an actor’s (mine) working script. The    
actor usually ‘highlights’ their lines and writes the director’s blocking in the margins. (in pencil, as blocking frequently changes)

4.  The blocking is indented, in parentheses, and directly below the character’s name.  This is where the playwright gives the characters instructions on when and where to move.  But, keep it short and sweet.  Remember there will be a director who has their own ideas of where he/she wants their actors to be.  Be aware of costume changes in your writing.  An actor can’t exit stage left and enter stage right, seconds later, if you haven’t written in the time it will take for them to accomplish a costume change.

5.  Your script has to work on a stage.  If your story takes place in more than one locale, you have to be aware of the logistics of set changes. So keep it simple to start.  If you are ambitious in your setting buy a book on set design to research if your set is feasible.  There are some wonderful ‘envelope’ sets that unfold when you need to change the scene.  But you have to consider the budget; would a theatre have the money to build it? Always a worry.

6.  Dialogue: Now here’s the sometimes hard part:  everything you want the audience to know about the story and the characters, is
conveyed in the dialogue.  Unlike a short story or a novel, where you can write as much description as you’d like, a play script has none of that.  NO description. 

Here is a Sample of formatting your script correctly.  (Click link for details.) 

Journal includes instruction on: 

How To Begin
How to Write a Play
Formatting your Play on the Page
How to write Dialogue
How to Create Rich, Exciting Characters
Designing a Set
Stage Lighting
Stage Terminology
and more…..
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews
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New Release ~ Creative Writers’ Journal and “How To”

Bigger and better.  Revision 2021 newly released Journal/Handbook.

How To Begin To Write
How to Create interesting Characters
How To Write Fiction
How To Write a Stage Play
How To Write Poetry
How To Write Haiku Poetry

275+ lined, blank pages for your writings.  Each page with an inspiring famous quote from actors, authors, playwrights, poets. 

Review:  Midwest Book Review 

“Creative Writers’ Journal and Handbook begins where so many writer’s guides should: with the basics of how to pursue a dream job as a writer. The problem with most writers’ guides is that they assume some prior degree of excellence or experience; but this handbook poses something different: the opportunity to begin with no prior skill level or experience. All that’s needed is the desire and passion to be a writer, and everything flows from there.
So if you ‘scribble’, if you like words, if your stories ‘find’ you, and if you aspire to be something more (say, a published blogger); then here’s the next step in the process. From how ideas begin to how they are nurtured and written down, there to be refined until they see the light of day (i.e. other readers), this journal offers support, insight, and ideas for jump-starting the creative process and linking it to action.

White, lined journal pages offer a workbook approach that augments white space with inspirational quotes on the process from other, successful writers. So while you’re staring at the usual journal blank pages, inspiration can spark from others’ experiences and insights.
This isn’t just about prose, either: Sugarek includes sections on different formats, from Haiku Poetry to writing a stage play. Each section offers inspirational insights into format, structure, and writing challenges – then uses the journal/quote format to encourage readers to put something down on paper.
So if it’s nuggets of information spiced with the encouragement of fresh lined, white space that is needed, Creative Writers’ Journal and Handbook offers a success formula beginners can easily absorb, all packaged in a survey that assumes no prior familiarity with writing.”
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry and October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan.
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Rewrites Are Fun and Creative!

Don’t Be shy about about editing some of your older work. For example, Next! A Hollywood tale.  This stage play is from 2009. Full length drama, for adults. What inspired me to look at it again was a little flurry of book sales for this play.

So I pulled it out, dusted it off and read it again.  And found some interesting spots to make it better. In this latest revision I added a whole new scene, which was overlooked the first go around. I couldn’t believe that I had neglected to tie up a loose thread, which the new scene did nicely. 
I have a philosophy; That is that no story is ever finished and I’ve never been shy about looking back and seeing if something needs a good polish or a rewrite. 
This story is about ‘cattle calls’. Auditions that are open to the public; to anyone with a resume and a headshot. Grueling, harsh, and often cruel, the casting directors are ruthless and go through starving actors like a threshing machine. 

Synopsis: Four young, brash actors come to Hollywood to live out their dreams of making it big in tinsel town. They are convinced that hard work and honed skills will bring them everything that they ever dreamed of. They discover that hard work and talent have very little to do with success.

This full length play tells the story of the unflagging optimism of these four actors. They never give up in spite of the daily exploitation and frustration. This comedic drama portrays the real story behind the auditions, the type casting, the ruthlessness and hidden agendas of the movie industry. How the beautiful people, with virtually no acting talent, become stars overnight while trained, talented actors work for years in menial jobs while pursuing a career in film and theatre. The four characters are representational of all the fine, new actors that Hollywood lures into its machination of heartbreak. The author purposely uses only first names as a symbol of how dispensable these young people are.

A surprising and shocking ending will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

3f. 3m.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry. October: Susanne O’Neal 
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What does it look like? From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

A fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  After years of writing my blog and interviewing other authors,  it seemed to be each featured author’s favorite question.  Having also completed  several novels  I’d like to add my two cents:

When writing my first novel, (Women Outside the Walls) I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all, if ‘structured’ means writing an outline, a story plot and character descriptions. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper (or in my case, sitting at the keyboard). I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book and then they published.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations for Women Outside the Walls).   I had 8 pages of a new play about Winston Churchill written and  had to stop to do research on his life during WW II. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.  Your muse begins to tell you the story.  This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.books, authors, book stores, women writers,

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is and how it works for me. (First posted January, 2013)
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, July: Veronica Henry.
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Adapting your Stage Play into a Novella or Storybook

Many of my stage plays have ended up being the story outline (or more) in creating a children’s story book, or a short story, or a novella, or the bones of a novel.  I thought that I would share, with my readers and fellow playwrights my process in converting these plays/stories. 
The demand really began with my friends and fans insisting on more of the story they’d read or seen in a play. It wasn’t enough. Satisfyingly, they wanted to know what happened after the play ended, or they wanted to know how my characters got to where they were in the play’s timeframe. 
Currently I am adapting my latest children’s play in to a story book. A  chapter book with colored illustrations. 

First I pull up the full script. I re-read it in sections to get immerse, once more, in the story. The blocking will be my guide on describing the ‘action’. I will be certain to describe each character as they appear in the story. Something you can’t do writing a stage play. After I read this section of the play, I begin to describe the characters, the environment, the emotions within the scene. Remember, playwrights, you are now free to write as much description as you want. (But don’t be redundant or boring, please.)  I copy and paste the section of the play script into my new manuscript. Then I write above the scene in the play. I am able to use almost all of the dialogue that I have created in the play. After I have written the new work I delete the play script and go on to the next.  Here’s a sample:

Chapter 1 ©

Agnes and Annie, sister Aardvarks, stepped off the path into the forest clearing. Except for the occasional rustle in the underbrush and bird song it was a quiet, sun-filled idyllic setting. The smells of forest; tree sap, damp moss, rotting tree trunks, and hidden flowers filled their busy noses. It was worlds away from the dusty deserts in their homeland of Africa. They both looked around fearfully. The fanciful hats atop their heads bobbled in the breeze.
“I think we’re lost, dear sister.” Agnes moaned.
“This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.”
“Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid,” Annie whispered.
“Whooo?” Something said from high atop a tree.
Annie rushed closer to her sister, “Ekk. What was that?”
Annie had always been the shy Aardvark. Her sister, Agnes had always been the bold one, leading the way and protecting her younger sister.
“Who?” Came the cry again.
“What?” Agnes demanded, looking up into the tree where she thought the sound was coming from. “There are so many trees, all mashed together, I can’t tell where the creature is, Annie.”
“Who?”
“That.” Annie cried.
“What?” Agnes demanded.
“I can’t see anything.” Annie said. “What do you suppose it is?”
“Not certain,” Agnes replied. “But keep a look out anyway.”
“I don’t like this place, Agnes.”

ACT I ©   (The section we are adapting.)
Scene 1

At Rise: Morning in the fabled forest. Pale sunlight filters through the trees.

(ANNIE and AGNES enter. THEY cross into a clearing, looking all around. THEY are wearing ridiculous hats and are carrying suitcases and a book entitled Australia. The WOODLAND CREATURES scatter into the underbrush.)

AGNES
(Gazing up into the trees, HER nose switching as fast as possible.)
I think we’re lost, dear sister. This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.
ANNIE
(Frowning.)
Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid.

STARE

Whooo?
ANNIE
(ANNIE runs over to AGNES.)

Ekk. What was that?

STARE
Who?

AGNES
What?

STARE

Who?

ANNIE
That.

AGNES

Not certain. But keep a look out anyway.

ANNIE
I don’t like this place, Agnes.

AGNES

You’re such a scaredy-cat, Annie. It’s a simple forest, much like the jungles of home.

(DONALD, a fairie, enters whistling a merry tune. HE sees the Aardvarks. AGNES and ANNIE turn to run.)

DONALD

Don’t go. I mean you no harm.

STARE
Who? Who?

PATSY
(Knitting her web very fast.)

Eye–eee! Por favor, who are these ugly newcomers? Dios mío, ¿se comerán mis insectos? The bugs are for me and me alone!

You have your character list to refer to so you don’t forget or leave out a character from your play. In the story books, I always use an illustrator to bring the story alive with their wonderful color drawings based upon the scene I chosen.  I try, as much as possible, to give the artist full rein; hoping that they will be inspired by the writing. That approach has been very successful for me.  Here’s another sample of adapting a section of my play:

 

©   A couple of days had passed since Emma had visited the clearing in the forest. She and Donald had still not solved the problem of helping Annie and Agnes on their journey to Australia. There suddenly came some rustling of the undergrowth and Stare, the owl began to hoot.
“Who? Who? Who?”
“What’s wrong, Stare?” Emma peered up through the leaves and branches trying to see the owl.
“Whooo?”
From the path a man stumbled into the clearing. He wore work clothes, suspenders and a bow tie. A tool belt hung from his waist. He carried a large tool box. He walked to the middle of the clearing and made a courtly bow.
“Greetings from the Royal Court.”
“Oh my.” Emma murmured.
Donald stepped forward a couple of paces. “Greetings to you. Who are you, sir?”
“Who?” Asked Stare.
“Who might you be, young sir?”
“I’m Donald, a fairie of this realm.”
Taking his half-glasses off his nose he polished them with a clean, white handkerchief, “Blimey. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.”
“And you, sir?”
“Who?”
“Not now Stare.” Donald glanced up.
“Allow me to formally introduce myself. I’m Sir Fergus, the royal engineer. I’ve been sent here by the⸺”
Emma sighed, “The Queen.”
“Our Queen.”
“Who?” Stare asked.
“Who?” Annie asked.
“What’s a queen?” Agnes asked.
Cheets began running around the clearing, “The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!”
Sir Fergus looked around, “No. I don’t think so. It’s just me with my toolbox.”
“Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?”
“The name’s just Fergus, Miss. Or at court, Sir Fergus.”
“And you’re here because⸺?” Donald inquired.
“To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?”
“Our portal?”
“We have a portal? Cheets whispered in awe but having no idea what a portal was. “What is a portal, exactly?”
“And the Queen knew ours is broken?” Emma asked.
“Yes. Yes. Indubitably.” Fergus became impatient to see it, “If you’ll just show me the way, I’ll begin my work.”
“I’m afraid we have no idea where it might be in the forest.” Emma explained. “Until the sisters arrived we didn’t know anything about a portal. They arrived from Africa.”

ACT I ©
Scene 5

At Rise: The clearing in the forest.

(FERGUS, the royal engineer enters from the forest path. HE wears formal clothes but with a large bow-tie and a pocket protector in his shirt pocket. HE carries a large toolbox.)

FERGUS
(Sets down toolbox and bows.)
Greetings from the Royal Court.
EMMA
Oh my.
DONALD
Greetings to you. Who are you?
STARE
Who?
FERGUS
Who might you be?
STARE
Whooo?
DONALD
I’m Donald, a fairie of this realm.
FERGUS
(Takes his half-glasses off and polishes them.)
Blimey. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.
DONALD
And who are you, sir?
STARE
Who?
FERGUS
Allow me to formally introduce myself. I’m Fergus, the royal engineer. I’ve been sent here by the⸺
EMMA
(Sighing.)
The Queen.
DONALD
Our Queen.
STARE
Who?

AGNES
Who?
ANNIE
What’s a queen?
CHEETS
(Jumping up and down.)

The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!

FERGUS
(Looking around.)
No. I don’t think so. It’s just me and my toolbox.
EMMA
Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?
FERGUS
It’s just Fergus, Miss. Or in more formal settings, Sir Fergus.
DONALD
And you’re here because⸺?
FERGUS
To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?

Your play script can grow into something much more ambitious than a novella or children’s story. I have written three full length novels using my stage play as the story outline.
Please leave your comments if you found this informative and helpful. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

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Research Can Unearth Some Surprises!

Nazi codes in the hem of a dress?

After reading Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary I was inspired to write a short play about Winston Churchill and hisChurchills.Cat.BookCoverImage cat, Nelson.   Ms. MacNeal referred, in passing, to Mr. Churchill’s pets being allowed free rein to wander the war rooms at #10 Downing Street during Churchill’s time in office.  I could clearly see  the rotund, shambling figure of the Prime Minister with two pugs yapping at his heels while Admiral Nelson, the cat, sat high atop a side table. Silently observing his human and the general hysteria of the dogs.

Churchill was a master not only in crafting the English sentence but also in the coinage of words.  His tongue-in-cheek comment:  “A fanatic is one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” is a favorite of mine.  In a World War I speech, (1914) Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty coined the phase ‘business as usual’.  Saying the maxim of the British people is “business as usual.”  Churchill gave the world the phrase: “Iron Curtain” in his speech in Missouri in 1946 when he said, “…..an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

Having grown up during the post-war years, I knew something of Mr. Churchill.  A historic figure that was a great statesman, orator and leader.  But I really knew nothing of the man.  And once again, (as I have mentioned before) I began a project and then started my research.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, (which I highly recommend) is fiction but based in fact.  Ms. MacNeal was fortunate enough to have several interviews with Churchill’s private secretary before her death.  The book is about a ‘typist’ who was relegated to a menial job because of her gender.  She was actually educated in mathematics and cryptology and could easily have fitted in with MI-Five (British CIA) but for her being a woman.  The novel’s heroine, Maggie, saves the Prime Minister from certain death by breaking a Nazi code.  And this brings me to the fashion advert that actually ran in the London Times and was full of Nazi messages.  All the stitching (around sleeves and hem) was Morse code for attacks at #10 Downing and St. Paul’s cathedral. 

“German spies hid secret messages in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions in an attempt to outwit Allied censors during World War Two, according to British security service files. Nazi agents relayed sensitive military information using the dots and dashes of Morse code incorporated in the drawings. They posted the letters to their handlers, hoping that counter-espionage experts would be fooled by the seemingly innocent pictures. But British secret service officials were aware of the ruse and issued censors with a code-breaking guide to intercept them.”  (actual advert from the London Times).

If not for my love of reading, my passion for writing, and the need for research, I would never have delved into Churchill’s life and his time in office. (my interests don’t generally take that path).  It’s an unexpected delight to learn more about this amazing statesman.  He was quirky, irritable, brilliant, and very funny.

And all because I had begun writing a short play about Mr. Churchill and his cat!  I love when that happens!!

(Originally published 2013)
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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Fresh little nuggets…about writing!

writing, create, write, blog, authorsWrite 50 words; that’s a paragraph.

Write 400 words; that’s a page.

Write 300 pages; that’s a manuscript.

Write Every Day! That’s a habit.

Edit and rewrite; that’s how you get better.

Spread your writing for people to comment. That’s called feedback.

Don’t worry about rejection or publication; that’s being a writer.

When not writing, read. Read from writers better than you. Read and Perceive.
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(Courtesy of  Ajay Ohri. Bio: Ajay Ohri, Manager Data Science comes from a rich background in data science and technology and is passionate about consumer insights, research and strategy. Ajay has – created meaningful impact with data science projects by leading and mentoring data scientists. )

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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