Yesterdays (and Theatre)

So, as many of you know, I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I’ve had words (and that’s a long time at this point, but I digress). Recently, I was chatting with a friend of mine who teaches Theatre at a mid-western university. She mentioned that the school has been on her butt to do more small plays, because they have the space for it, but if they don’t use it, someone else might encroach on it and they might end up losing it.

I’ve known her for twenty years at this point, and she knows that I’ve written all sorts of stuff. So I mentioned that I had a bunch of old one-act plays I wrote a while back, sitting on my NAS awaiting entropy. (Or the heat-death of the universe, one of the two.)

Backstory: I was in Philadelphia, working on selling a new customer some software, back in 2005. I had been doing 3D graphic art with Poser and other softwares, but I didn’t have the skill to take the visions in my head and put them on paper. Patience, yes, but the tools were just not sophisticated enough for what I wanted to do, and the tools that were, were beyond my meager capabilities.

So I’m in PA on a sales call, and had a realization that there was a tool I could use to get those ideas out of my head. It was cheap, infinitely flexible, and I had a much greater mastery of it than I did Poser.

So I started writing again. It had been a while. I went most of the stretch ’85-’97 writing poetry. Some of it is even out there for sale and consumption, but there are about six volumes of stuff that has never seen the light of day. Might never. Don’t know.

Then I got my artistic fill by painting miniatures and designing RPG engines that my group played. Again, mostly never seen the light of day, but that’s because I would have to rewrite everything from scratch to eliminate all claim to IP from the asshole who was my partner for a few years, before he bailed on me and left me holding the bag.

After that, Poser and 3D art that was good enough to actually win me a few ribbons at The Puyallup Art Show. (And that’s serious art, people.)

But it wasn’t enough.

Went back to writing.

This time, I started writing plays. Don’t ask me why. Never had before. Partly, the result of knowing my friend and listening to her comments. Partly, looking for a new challenge. Whatever. It worked for me, for a while.

This was about the time my first wife was diagnosed with Stage Four Breast Cancer. Nothing they could do. Doctor gave her six months to live, back in summer of 2005. (She wasn’t done, so she held on for three years, but that’s another story I might tell someday. And I might not.)

She was still working, following an initial surgery to put a rod in her leg, and then radiation, but nothing worked. The Chemo was at best going to keep everything at bay, but would eventually be what killed her when it stopped working from tolerance issues.

Since I had an office job, and she was in retail, there were several nights in any given week when I would come home to an empty house. I used to paint miniatures on those nights. At that point, I started hanging out at a bar down at the bottom of the hill where they got to know me. They would let me sit at the bar, order food, and then write (longhand, mind you) for an hour or so. Turned out several cute, short, one-act plays of fairly poor quality (didn’t know what I was doing, but the dialogue was still pretty good). Mostly, just filling space in my artistic needs.

Later, I would learn writing screenplays with another guy, and never went back to the stage plays. Then I met the second wife and she got me back into writing, but fiction this time, with the understanding that I could publish stuff instead of having to deal with gatekeepers in Manhattan.

So I’m talking to my Midwest friend (the one who teaches Theatre) the other day. On a lark, dug up a half-dozen or so old plays and sent them to her to see if there was anything worth improving. God only knows, there might be. Dunno. Not an expert on Theater. Leave that to her.

But then I had a realization. “Because it is the future, and I can…” was the subject line of the email I sent her.

I can bundle all those short one-act plays up and publish them.

Her response was that normally a play had to be staged at least three times before they would publish it, but then she realized that I’m my own publisher (technically, Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) has a publishing house, and I have a separate one that will start putting stuff out in 2017, good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.)

So I spent today committing techno-archaeology. Dug up a bunch of pieces and read through them for a light editing pass. According to my notes, most were last touched in early 2009. In the modern fiction business, we call those Trunk Stories. You have them, you like them, but you have to throw them in the trunk because you can’t sell them anywhere. Maybe too long, too short, wrong subject matter. Maybe they aren’t that good. Or not what New York TradPub wants.

Doesn’t matter. I can publish those plays. I can share with the world where my head was at in 2008-2010. It makes fascinating reading.

So then we went looking on the Amazons for how stage plays are published today. I have a shelf of old Samuel French booklets. Dull, boring covers with text and either no art or something vague.

Not any more.

One of my favorite plays is “The Lion In Winter.” It was interesting to see the covers that various people had put on it. The best was probably the two teenage kids, artistically nude, clenched, with her back to the camera and nothing showing.

I mean, come on, this is sixty-year-old Henry 2 and seventy-year-old Eleanor. But no, we get a couple that looks better suited to a cover of Romeo and Juliet (and no, don’t get me started on THOSE covers, thank you very much).

So guess what? I’m going to figure out how to bundle them up, and put them out there. Four Cisco plays (so far, might write more. Like that boy). Couple of monologues. Few other talking heads kind of pieces where I was (unconsciously, because I didn’t know any better) working on my dialogue as a craft. The conversations still hold up nicely, IMHO.

It goes back to the bakery. I have Science Fiction in a variety of flavors. There’s fantasy to consume. Got some poetry for folks. And now, I’ll add Theater.

It also inspires me to either write more Cisco plays as an ongoing thing, or turn him into a genre hard-boiled punk kind of character. Probably both. It’s more fun to just let dialogue rip, and not have to deal with inner thoughts, because many of these characters work better as ciphers.

If you get inside their heads, you lose something. I always prefer my writing to keep some element of burlesque to it, making you work to fill in some of the gaps with your own damned imagination instead of me having to spell it all out.

So watch this space for more news. Right now, trying to decide if I should drop them individually, or as a bundle. The plays all run about 30-35 pages, so maybe 40 minutes if staged. They are all discrete, but series (Gosh, me? write a series character, even then?) The monologues, while shorter, are also much denser. Probably 20-25 minutes if staged.


99c each for a bunch, or $4.99 for a whole block together? I prefer the latter, but that’s because I make more money at $2.99-$9.99 than I do above or below. Let me know your thoughts?

shade and sweet water,


West of the Mountains, WA

One thought on “Yesterdays (and Theatre)

  1. Barry melius

    A whole block together. Those really short stories have such a limited Kindle sample size that once you’re thru the cover, title page, etc you hit the end of the sample before page 1.

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