Sunday, 1 September 2019

Prize Unboxing July/August 2019

High in errors and interruptions and low on prizes - it's my roundup of the last two months!

Hope you're having a lucky summer!

Monday, 19 August 2019

Losers who don't give up...

Finally … it’s time to go large! The moment you’ve all been waiting for, by which I mean the moment I’ve been waiting for: my book is finished. Or, more precisely, I’ve simply stopped working on it and have uploaded it for all to see on Amazon.

So what’s it about, you may well ask. To which the most obvious answer is comping. More specifically, it’s about my comping journey, from Johnny No-wins to Johnny Some-Wins. It’s a mix of winning stories, familiar frustrations, and meandering digressions on comping, and while the book won’t make anyone smarter, it does serve as a reminder that that anyone with half a mind to ‘be lucky’ can do just that.

This is my love letter to comping, and it’s dedicated to all the lovely people in the comping community who have helped me find a happier me.

For the time being, it’s only available as an e-book. Partly that’s because print is so much more expensive and I’m not sure anyone would want to pay a premium just to be able to place a bookmark in it; but mainly it’s so I can correct the typos more easily (the first ten readers to find an error all get gold stars!).

It’s nominally priced at £1.99, which is the cheapest Amazon will list it for. However, if you hold your money and wait for the official launch weekend, I’m giving it away! So, if you’d like a little light reading to round out your bank holiday weekend, get yoursef to Amazon any time between Saturday 24 and Monday 26 August, and it should be available for nothing!

Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, 15 July 2019

Where we're at

You may have been thinking that you’ve not heard much from me of late. Well you’d be right. The truth of the matter is that all my birthdays recently came at once. By ‘birthdays’ I mean of course ‘nightmares’: concurrent work projects colliding with a brief sojourn to America, combined with the matter of the loft. Oh boy, the loft.

We’ve all seen The Money Pit. We all know that when a builder says something will take two weeks, it’s a euphemism for something far more ugly. In my case, it’s now six weeks since they asked me to vacate my property for a fortnight “or so”, and I’m getting that awkward feeling that what they actually want with my gaff is squatters’ rights.

On top of this is the tedium that comes with fitting out. Last week I spent six hours looking at radiators and another hour and a half looking at radiator valves. That’s a day’s work lost to two poxy square metres of wall, and we haven’t even got to the bathroom suite yet. And don't start me on the wardrobe.

There's also the matter of my comping book, which I have been going back to in any spare moment I can grab. If I can manage to get the e-book out in the world by the end of this month, you guys will have witnessed a bona fide miracle, but more on that in due course. The short of the matter is that I have had almost no time for comping, full stop, and given the rate that I’m haemorrhaging cash, I really need to start winning stuff pronto. So if you see any comps for 96 litres of paint and an experienced decorator, do let me know.

Be lucky!

Friday, 28 June 2019

Prize unboxing May/June 2019

May wasn't a time of abundance so I rolled it into June ... which wasn't really a time of abundance either ... Must try harder!

Hope you had a great month! Be lucky!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Peaks and troughs

Children and noise go hand in hand - everyone knows that. Likewise, it’s hardly a secret that said noise increases exponentially, the more children you add to the mix. Some people are blessed – it washes over them. Not me, however – I’m literally allergic. The consecutive (and indeed concurrent) episodes of shrieking from one child or the other have overexcited my senses such that I’m now clinically intolerant of even their tiniest squawk.

Being unable to abide the incessant clanking and slurping of children at mealtimes is nothing unusual; however, the fact that I now have a doctor’s note to excuse me from the table, does rather set me apart.

These days, my happy place would be inside an immersion tank guarded by Benedictine librarian mice. And yet it was not ever thus. Indeed, there was a time when all my spare time and pennies were devoted to music. Once the small things found their lungs, however, things changed.

At first, I didn’t notice how much I was cowering from their hullaballoo. It started with simply switching off the radio so I didn’t have to suffer the blather, and before long, not playing anything during the day as I knew I’d only be hauled out of the room to wipe another backside or resolve another fight. Eventually, it got to the point that I’d simply forget to turn on my music at all. Night after night, I’d sit in unnecessary silence – not even noticing the peace, never mind enjoying it. Come birthdays and Christmas, people would give me new CDs that I’d rinse for a couple of weeks, but somehow, it was never enough to relight my fire. The silence would always prevail.

The solution was of course simple: if you want mobile music, plug in your headphones. If you want to block out the noise of your issue, plug in your headphones. If you want to listen to music uninterrupted, plug in your headphones.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with smarts these last few years and it took me a while to work this out. Don’t all judge me at once.

The real clincher in this regard was winning a pair of wireless headphones. That they were officially noise-cancelling too got me extra excited. To be fair, so “noise-cancelling” doesn’t mute children quite as much as I’d like, but at least I can no longer hear them from the other side of the county.

More to the point, thanks to these cans, I’m finally able to offer my ears shelter-in-place without leaving the auditory blast area. This means I’ve started listening – actually listening – to music again. It’s like finding a nugget of my soul down the back of the sofa.

Or it was. Last night they went Pop. Sproing. Or whatever noise you might imagine a piece of tech might make when it bursts open FOR NO GOOD REASON.

it broke! it broke!

I mentioned this to the promoter. They oohhed and they ahhed and they said it was definitely odd.
But no replacement will be forthcoming. Their best offer was 25% off a new pair.

It’s a nice discount, to be sure, but when your experience with a product is that it self-combusts before you’ve even used it a dozen times, you feel a little reticent to renew it. Or is that just me?

Thankfully, I do have some other headphones that I can plug in and please my ears - a gift from someone I met because of our shared interest in this deliciously niche hobby. And for this reason I say Thank You Davina - My sanity is in your hands!

I’m regularly touched by the generosity I see in this community and can’t wait to meet more of you later this year!

Sunday, 5 May 2019


I just entered the biggest competition of my life. Well, technically it wasn’t a competition - every now and then, the BBC scouts for fresh talent by opening its inbox for the submission of speculative scripts. The BBC makes it quite clear that this isn’t actually a competition and there aren’t prizes per se; however, those writers with the strongest potential to be developed and produced are invited on to a six-month development scheme for writers. Personally, I can’t see how such a life-changing opportunity isn’t a prize, but then semantics isn’t my strong point.

So, yes, I’ve been quiet of late because I’ve been putting an indescribable amount of effort into writing a sitcom about superheroes that contains no superheroes. A disproportionate amount of that effort was made in the last few days. Not because I care to be a last-minuter (I really don’t), but because I only scrutinised the instructions for authors four days before the deadline.

I’ve a degree in literature and a career in publishing. I’ve spent more hours reworking other people’s manuscripts than I’ve slept in the last ten years. But can I actually read instructions? (Clue: no).

Things I’d missed on the first pass included (a) how to format the screenplay; (b) the minimum length of the screenplay; and (c) all that extra stuff you have to include, such as outlines for the next two episodes.

For the uninitiated, screenplays are generally typeset in 12pt Courier, with all manner of prescriptions for where to lay out (i) this; (ii) that; and (iii) the other. Do it wrong, and your script goes straight for recycling. It’s basically combat school for writers. I’d researched elsewhere how to format a script, so my formatting wasn’t awful; on the other hand it wasn’t perfect, so it had to be fixed. Really though, that was the least of my worries.

The big problems were the fact that my screenplay was timed to accommodate an ad break - not something there’s much call for at the BBC, and that I hadn’t even thought about outlining further episodes.

In other words, I went from thinking I was an hour or two away from submission to finding about one-third of the labour still lay ahead. Oops.

Screenplay titlepage

On top of that, my eyes were bubbling from my heinous week of work, and my blood was boiling from my heinous week of parenting.

Blessed was I then that my incredibly supportive wife effectively locked me into my office, acted as a human shield, and sent in food as and when I sent out words.

Realistically, the odds of getting through to the final stages are punitively long. Last year, there were over 2600 submissions, most of which were likely discarded after the first ten pages were read. For this reason, if twenty pages of my work get read, I’m doing well.

I’m not sure they let you know how far you make through the process, but rest assured, if I find out someone has read the whole thing, I’ll be popping fizz.

The fact is, it’s a learning experience. And already I’m better prepared for my next effort-based competition as I’ve learned the hard way that instructions are designed to be read at the outset, not retrospectively!

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Prize Unboxing April 2019

Due to other commitments (more on which anon), I've taken my foot off the pedal these last couple of months. As a result, the wins have tended to be more modest. This month, however, has enjoyed a little uptick. That and a minor injury to my little helper - but don't worry, it grew back!

Be lucky!