For anybody considering writing for theatre: Things Theatre Writers Should Know

Theatre Advice 3The full advice, before you start writing for theatre:

  • Sadly directors are not there to get your ‘vision’ on stage in an unadulterated form – many have thoughts of their own. Live with it.
  • Actors are not wet-props. Some have thoughts and feelings like regular people do.
  • You will rarely get the credit, but some directors will always try to give you the blame (even if they rewrite your script).
  • Putting on a play is very much a group activity, but you’re not really in the group (most of the time).
  • Part of your job is to present your work in a properly formatted fashion with clear and precise stage directions. Your genius is more recognisable that way.
  • Do not expect to live on what you earn as a theatre writer, get yourself a proper job too.
  • It’s all right to say ‘I’ve got a new play on’, just not in the presence of anybody else involved in the production.
  • Writers are not meant to marry actors. It’s a matter/antimatter thing.
  • If you want to work with professionals, act like a professional – sorry, be a professional; never act at all. That’s not your job.
  • Theatre writers are not restricted to just writing plot and dialogue. If you really, really believe it is truly important that somebody should enter STAGE LEFT say so, but don’t be an arse about it.
  • You are not writing a radio play – think visually.
  • You are not writing a film script either – don’t think that visually.
  • If you require lavish sets marry well.
  • Never tell anybody with a manual occupation, or working in public services, how hard your job is.
  • Awards don’t matter until you get one.
  • Never trust anybody who says you can make money at the Edinburgh Fringe, unless they sell fast food.
  • Most critics are only human.
  • The show does not have to go on, get a sense of perspective – other people have lives too.
  • Producer is a job too.
  • Never be the last one to stop clapping at your own show. Continue reading For anybody considering writing for theatre: Things Theatre Writers Should Know

Did I blink and miss them?

One thing I didn’t quite get about ‘The Shanara Chronicles’ – as clearly stated in the opening credits:

Shanara opening creditsA distinct lack of ‘Dwarf’ . That’s the sort of thing that annoys a certain dwarf Master Detective. Are the elves to blame?

Continue reading Did I blink and miss them?

Excellent Empire Magazine June ‘Ghostbuster’s’ Cover

Yes, the subscription cover offers loads of uses for blatant self-publicity! Such as:

Slimer on Nicely

Well, you have to do it, don’t you?

Continue reading Excellent Empire Magazine June ‘Ghostbuster’s’ Cover

Next book news – soon!

We’re all hoping to give you some news very soon about the latest Nicely Strongoak adventure. It’s all written and has a great title too, which of course I can’t tell you – battle axes might have to be hefted. What I can tell you is that it’s got even more dwarf detective shenanigan’s and wisecrackery – as well as some great new suits. You’ll learn more about the Citadel and Widergard too, but nothing more about surfing and very little about house prices on the Third Level, although they are extortionate now.

We all want to know!
We all want to know!

So, keep your eyes and ears open for word on the sequel to the Epic Fantasy #1 Bestseller – very soon, we all promise you.

Continue reading Next book news – soon!

Spoiler Alert!

Spoilers are called ‘spoilers’ because they spoil things. If you let a ‘spoiler’ out of the bag you are going to spoil something for somebody. It does not make you clever or cool to know something and then tell everybody else, it makes you a total d*ck. So thanks newspaper writer who started his bit of smug smart-arsery with ‘as everybody must know by now…’ – no I didn’t!

This is a DUCKhead
This is a DUCKhead

I can’t afford Sky you see because nobody pays me to write drivel for a national newspaper and I have only just bought the physical DVD box set, because it has just been release and I was enjoying it – immensely. Now you have spoiled it for me. Because that’s why they’re called SPOILERS and that’s why nice people write things like SPOILER ALERT above their articles.

So thanks newspaper writer: d*ckhead

Continue reading Spoiler Alert!

The Devil is in the Decal.

I love decals. I even love the word decals. I especially love the fact that the word is derived from decalcomania. What a fab word that is too! ‘Transfers’ just isn’t in the same league, sorry.

I especially love vinyl-cut-decals, that’s the peel and stick sort, but I have a problem and it’s this. I like them so much that I can’t peel and stick them, or rub over the dry transfer sort with my biro. I also loved Letraset you see (dry-transfer lettering – other makes are available, probably. Heck I don’t even know if you can still get Letraset!), I just hated to use them. I loved the unsullied, unused sheet. I just like to stare at them! I did it when I was a kid with a sheet of fabulous different trees – just couldn’t stick them down.

comic book rift wars


You see, while the decals are still there on that sheet the possibilities are endless! So many eventualities to be explored and imagined, scenarios to be worked out – and while that’s the case then Schrödinger’s cat is both still alive and dead! The waveform hasn’t collapsed, hurrah!

The same is true with my stories and plots. I carry a lot of ideas around in my head and I explore the different possibilities, varying different scenes and thinking about other eventualities.

Press or stick them down and the cat’s dead or alive. Of course, you have to do that with stories in the end, which is almost kind of sad, but that’s what a story is.

You don’t have to do it with decals!

And this is why I have I still have a reasonably ‘mint’ Worlds Collide Number 1 July 1994 DC/Milestone Comics in printed plastic bag with decals – that have never been used. I could have adorned my cover with my own punch-ups but couldn’t have unpeeled the superheroes to save my life.

Continue reading The Devil is in the Decal.

Me and Tom Stoppard

As a jobbing writer, for all sorts of different media – but mostly now for film and books, ideas I pick up from each of the different skills inevitably inform each other. How useful this might be is debatable. Shouldn’t you stick with one form of writing? Certainly a lot of agents aren’t happy to represent writers who aren’t specialists. I know this because a top agent once told me at a Writer’s Guild meeting that I was ‘too unspecialised’.

website page

This was quite distressing for me to be told because, to be honest, I hadn’t given up science to simply become a one trick pony – even a great one. I wanted to write what I wanted to write: animation, musicals, books, you name it! I may not succeed, but at least I would try.

In a state of gloom I picked up the newspaper the next day and, coincidentally, I read an article by the great playwright, TV, radio, and film writer and novelist, Tom Stoppard. In it he addressed the subject of writing for different media and he concluded: ‘it’s all writing’.

So, I’m with Tom Stoppard – thanks Tom! – and here are a few thoughts that I had about creating great fantasy characters for film and for books that I wrote for the Harper Voyager blog.

Continue reading Me and Tom Stoppard

Mad March Madness!

Yes, Mad March err Madness! Lucky USA! ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ (former Kindle Epic Fantasy #1) is on esale for $1.99 until March 14th and this time B&N too and some more sellers … I think.Detective Strongoak book cover with banner

Continue reading Mad March Madness!

Getting it.

What is the most important thing in life for a writer?

Paying the bills is nice, having the chance to do more writing is vital, but probably, above all, you want people to ‘get it’. Whatever the ‘it’ is that you are doing, it is important that people – the listeners, the viewers, the readers – someone somewhere, ‘gets it’.

There's been a murder - get it?
There’s been a murder – get it?

You can sometimes read a review and think to yourself: ‘did they actually see my show?’ or ‘did they watch my film?’  – but most especially ‘did they actually read my book?’

You know the one I laboured long and hard at writing that they seemed to have missed completely in favour of a book with the same name as mine, obviously by a completely different author, who just happens to have the same name as me too? People not ‘getting it’ is depressing, it brings you down, it make you think you’ve GULP failed.

Especially lately, judging by the reviews, a lot of people (86%) have been ‘getting’ ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’. What’s more they’ve been ‘getting it’ without necessarily being a fan of the hardboiled detective books it tips its fedora hat at, or the fantasy universe in which it is set. That is great. That is what we live for, And to have that sort of general appeal is really, really important for a ‘genre’ writer. So thanks to all of you lovely people out there that ‘got it’.

Continue reading Getting it.

When I was a Legend.


not much of a legend


I once went with a chum to see a recording of a BBC show, for which I had written some comedy material. I was particularly pleased as a comedy actress and writer acquaintance of mine was very involved and I was chuffed to see her doing well.

Post-show drinks, I went to say hello to acquaintance and she introduced me to her tall, red-headed friend called Damian. I chatted with her for a bit and caught up and then went back to my chum who had been getting drinks.

‘Well?’ said my chum.

‘Well what?’ I replied.

‘That tall guy was the actor Damian Lewis!’ chum said with some urgency.

‘Oh yes!’ I said, ‘thought I sort-of recognised him.’

Chum was aghast.

Now, I should just mention that I am not the most super-cool person on the planet, although I have my moments, but in these situations I am not fazed. The thing is I met the late Russell Steere. Not only met him, he came over and chatted with me.

You don’t know Russell Steere? A great electron microscopist, he was one of the inventors of the freeze-fracture technique that was instrumental to my day job for many years.

That’s right and he came over and actually talked to me!

Celebrity is like that I guess, it all depends on the size of the pool you’re swimming in. I was amused to see myself once described as ‘legendary’ in the context of a pool so small it regularly evaporated on sunny days.

So, sorry I didn’t have time to chat Damian, I might have been an anecdote for you. Probably not, thinking about it.

Continue reading When I was a Legend.