Busy year!

Forget busy week, this has been a truly astoundingly busy year.

And because I can never remember the log in codes for my personal blog, it’s been sadly devoid of regular content.  That might change.  Because as you can tell… I’ve found out what they were!!  Sometimes you just need to be in a different location for them to come back to you.  Me?  It’s the office.  Which means… while I type, I really should be hard at work grafting.

I wish you could see me now.  I’m surrounded by boxes.  We’re just about to hit peak seasonal sales with the website, and wholesale orders are dribbling in regularly which is why the office is awash with cardboard.

For those of you who follow me on Periscope you’ll have seen me shrink wrapping on a near daily basis recently. (I’ve just newly made it on this year I’m @redherringgames on there if you wanted to find me.) Even though I’m the MD of the firm, I’m still the one nominated to do the most boring job in the office because… you guessed it… I’m the best at it.  Yeah right.  It’s a job no one else likes.  Which means muggins here has to do it.

Fortunately I’ve just finished a slew of custom written murders, so have the time to stand there while the machine vooms hot air all around me to my intense boredom.

The most exciting custom game this year has been the murder mystery for the International Agatha Christie Festival – which will get it’s first airing on the 18th September.  Details available directly on their website.

However, that’s not the main reason I’ve made it onto the blog at last.  Rather I wanted to tell you that I’ve finally finished the first draft of “The baby the Dog and Irene” which has been in development for over a year now and am back into re-editing.

Being me… I’ve sent the first re-edited three chapters off to an agent while I’m working on the rest, just to see what they say.  As a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, I’m hoping it’ll get more of a look in than the usual unsolicited manuscript… so watch this space.

As well as finishing off a novel, I’ve also made it onto Amazon Create Space and self-published a short mini guide on how to write murder mystery games.  Details of that are below.

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Creating a murder mystery for TOWIE

Wow… this came like a bolt from the blue… Friday evening, there I am, 6pm still sitting at my desk… the perils of a home office and being self employed, and the phone rings.

First thought… it’s my husband phoning me from downstairs… (two phones in the house and 2 flights of stairs between the kitchen and the office, I will admit we are occaisionally lazy…)  But no!  I answer the phone and it’s Amy from Lime Pictures, the company that films The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) enquiring into the possilibity of a 21 player game 1920s theme.

Well… to cut a long story short, and so many emails that you wouldn’t believe… Red Herring Games will be featured on TOWIE this sunday (7th July 2013).  I’m not sure who from the cast they have playing the game that evening, only that it will be played by a total of 18 people and hosted by two men.

As you might imagine the time pressure was immense.  The initial call came through at 6pm on Friday, and the final “go” on Saturday late evening – and they needed all the game materials to begin filming for this Sunday’s show on MONDAY AFTERNOON.

Now… I’m not good with maths, or for those who know me… analogue clocks… but even I could work out that it was less then 48 hours from inception to completion that was needed.

So if I was to stand any chance of pulling this off I needed to use a “base game” as my starting point.

So we had to make a decision.  To use “Murder at Merkister Hall” or to use something else…

It would seem at first the easiest thing to do would be to use a game from the website… but what if the cast revealed the murderer either on television or through facebook, twitter, press releases… it would mean we would have to remove that game from sale.

So… I had a bit of a quandry… after all, the solution is the “big reveal”… what could I do?

Over the years, we pick up custom orders from clients.  Some make the website after a quick re-write (e.g. A Corporate Murder was written for Disney Stores Ltd originally with Mickey and Minnie mouse in it… not that you would ever know; The Smashed Hits Poll Winners Murder was originally written for a local Vision Express 50th celebration – which will explain, for those who have played it, quite why there are as many references to glasses and contact lenses in there as they are).  But there are some games which, quite frankly would be TOO RUDE to make it onto the website…

So… after a brief discussion with Amy, it was off to one of these large player “rudies” to clean it up and create something 1920s appropriate for ITV viewing.

Sunday, after church, saw me bascially superglued to my seat, and I worked, with no more then toilet breaks from 11am to 2.30am (Yes… 15 1/2 hours straight) on Monday morning creating a whole new game just for TOWIE!

They wanted no TOWIE references within  the plot, so my favourite name “Fanny Vajazzled”  wasn’t to feature shucks…  Mind you – I couldn’t help my usual nautiness and the dead body is Rudyard Well… he always was a hard act to follow… and now he’s a stiff…

Here is the synopsis the cast will be receiving this week… and their characters.

 

It’s the roaring 20’s; a time of hope, prosperity, industrialisation, liberating fashion and jazz.

There’s money to be made if you’re business savvy and have the right connections;

and tucked away in the leafy depths of the Essex countryside, millionaire Sir Rudyard Well is just one of those who has achieved a very comfortable life.

Ranking #3 in the Forbes millionaire list, Rudyard Well is presently the wealthiest land owner in Essex, with a massive investment portfolio which includes the very latest in aviation technologies, as well as one of the largest international import export businesses on the Essex coast, Well Enterprises Ltd.

Sir Well is known for hosting lavish soirées, and tonight was to be no exception.  With exquisite food and lavish surroundings the evening was passing pleasantly and uneventfully, at least it was until he was discovered dead in his cellar face down in a tray of kitty litter.

The question is – which of the guests killed him?

THE SUSPECTS

Faye Slift – Mistress of Sir Rudyard Well.

A glamorous film star of some renown, Faye Slift is incredibly enticing and she has never been short of wannabe suitors.

Chuck Soveigh – The inventor and founder of Magnetic Underpinned Gearing (M.U.G.)

Aesthetically very pleasing on the eye, and with some significant financial backers, Chuck Soveigh is a good catch and he knows it.

Gill Tedd – Estranged third wife of Sir Rudyard Well.

A former model, Gill Tedd is a glamorous blonde famous for her appearance on numerous motorcar calendars.

Al Tetude – Founder of Essex Lion Aviation

Well connected and a fascinating conversationalist, Al Tetude is incredibly suave and good with the ladies.

Hugh Jinnins – International cricket coach.

Resplendent in his cricket whites, Hugh Jinnins is very handsome and has a charming and witty personality.

Anna Glipta – Art dealer

Classy and reserved, Anna Glipta has an attractive figure and has a sculptor’s eye for the other men at the party.

Hugo Furst – Test Pilot

Brave and daring, Hugo is hardly ever out of his flying gear, and is always reluctant to be parted from his leather jacket, long white scarf and goggles.

Debbie Taunt – American Socialite

With links to the French fashion industry, Debbie Taunt is dazzling at any party and a favourite of Sir Well.

Marc D’Triumph –  French Ambassador

Flamboyant French ambassador with a seductive accent and a cultivated look, Marc certainly knows how to entertain a lady.

Charity Bahl– Singer

Able to wow any crowd with her canary like voice and her peacock display of colour and form, Charity shines even without a spotlight, and always draws a crowd.

Warren Pease – Navy Captain

With the archetypal stiff upper lip, and smart in his dress uniform Warren radiates victory, though his career has been more chequered than he cares to admit.

Lee Enfield – Hunter.

A marksman of some renown and currently in pursuit of the “Beast of Brentwood” Lee Enfield is a powerful presence in any room, more noticeable for his preference for safari gear.

Ros Well – Celebrity Journalist

Never one for missing out on a scoop Ros Well is incredibly well dressed, and always on the look out for scandal and gossip, she always dresses to thrill… just don’t ask where she keeps her notebook and pen!

Emile Tikkit – Decadent Writer

Incredibly vain, fond of fashion and very much a man of leisure, Emile is single-minded in his pursuit of dandified elegance.

Ena Trance – Astrologer and spiritualist.

An enigmatic lady with hidden depths, Ena Trance positively oozes luxury from her every pore.

Jenny Tix – Creator of the Elixir of Youth.

A jewel encrusted beauty, Jenny Tix partakes of her own elixir and is regularly mistaken for a much younger woman.

Ivan Ego – Self-made Millionaire

An international man of mystery, Ivan’s financial beginnings may be inscrutable but his money is very much in evidence in his attire.

Anita Drinck – Executive vice-president in Sir Rudyard Well’s Corporation.

Elegant and with refined tastes, Anita Drinck doesn’t suffer fools gladly and takes no prisoners.

 

Of course… I suppose we need to write this one up into a proper plot now for everyone… and it’ll have to be called “The Only Way is Murder…”

You can find our more about our regular games here:  www.red-herring-games.co.uk

Well… I might not have been here in a while but…

Sorry for all who read my blog… things got more frenetic then usual this autumn/winter at Red Herring Games and I ended up working some very long, but rewarding hours, and January has just seen me complete a big custom written game, so finally, I’ve made it back into the land of blogging…

So… what’s been going on… well…

I’ve been featured on the mumpreneur blog (you can read all about how and why I set up the company on there and also where I see us in 10 years time… ha!  Let’s hope so!

I’ve also been sledging with the kids, updating technology, sourcing and buying in new products and working on a big global redesign and lots of “world domination” plans… cue *evil cackle of laughter* – OK,… not quite… but we’ve got some BIG ideas this year, and it’s a case of lining up all the ducks to make them come off.

But… here’s a tale for you to make you chuckle.

Driving down the road with my daugher in the car after the last big snow storm, I spot this “older lady” (I say older lady… as she looks older then I feel, probably only 10 years in it these days, but as I still feel 21 she’s “old looking” to me…) and this older lady is busy sweeping her drive clear of the slush now that the snow has passed.

“Good on her” I think to myself as I watch her bend down to pick up a lucozade bottle that some helpful school child has tossed onto the path beside the place where she’s sweeping.  “Lovely to see someone removing the litter”.  But no.., just as soon as she straightens up with the bottle in her hand, she lobs it down the road towards her neighbours drive for them to deal with!

“That,” I say to my daughter  “Is NOT how to deal with littering.”

And finally, a joke I heard the other day… (Well, I liked it)

It’s Christmas eve and there is snow on the ground. A couple are cuddled up on a rug in front of a log fire when there is a knock at the door.

The husband answers the door to find a snail, shivering on the doorstep.

The snail looks up and, with pleading eyes, says, “Please sir, it’s the coldest winter I’ve ever known. Please can I come in and warm myself by your fire?”

The man slowly bends down, gently picks the snail up….and throws him to the bottom of the garden.

One year later, Christmas Eve again, it’s colder than ever. The same couple are sat on the rug, in front of the same log fire, when there’s a knock at the door.

The Husband answers the door, to find the snail on the doorstep again. He looks up, with pleading eyes, and says…

…”What did you do that for?”

When I grow up…

I know, I know, I’ve been shockingly tardy at posting blogs…but, in my defence it’s been a busy few weeks, and only today has the business calmed down sufficiently to allow personal blog posts (and I admit I’m shirking…from business tasks this morning as I’ve got something I don’t want to do…)

Also in my defence I have been keeping up to date with my alter ego – posting as Dr Whiting for the business’s mascot Sherlock on: Dr Whiting’s Blog

Of course, with so many weeks gone past, this does mean there’s been a saving up of anecdotes from the children…

Things like…

“Mummy, what does Daddy want to do when he grows up?”

and….

“Do you think I can go to a funeral one day – before you die?”  (admittedly although the request sounded odd, he did have his heart in the right place… he wanted to make sure he had been to a funeral of someone he didn’t care about first, so he knew what to expect… and yes… this IS from a 6 year old).

and…

I think it looks like a large gold cheese grater.” (Yes, you’ve guessed it – the olympic torch!)  Which passed the end of our road one early morning to much un-excitement.

What can I say?  Yes, it REALLY was just a piece of flame sitting on top of an oversized cheese grater, and really, quite frankly, not at all interesting.  We might as well have been watching killingholme oil refinery chimney stacks… which are a lot easier to see from a distace.  I suppose, had it been darker, the flame might have been more visible, which might have helped, but in bright sunshine (a rarity in itself these last few months) there was very little to see.

Added to that there was the dissappointment of realising that the olympic torch itself wasn’t being passed around the UK like a relay race, but rather each torch was simply lighting another one in a chain… perhaps I was naive to expect more, I don’t know, but it really was such a non-event that we all simply went home and ticked it off the “bucket list” wondering why it was even on the list in the first place!!

As to what I’ve been up to on the writing front, well, there’s going to be a screening on the Local Freeview for my first ever TV program script sometime in 2013.  Seems ages away I know, but filming starts this summer, and there will be a winter live show as well to get the footage.  All good fun and a great experience getting it looked over by a professional TV producer.

There’s also been a lot of progress on the business front, with licensee requests from abroad for the retail side (translations into dutch), and in the UK, Florida, Dubai and Ireland, for the event management side, so that’s been tying me up for a bit; added to that, there’s a series of new You Tube films on the cards (keep your eyes out for our “Come die with me” video, AND I’m presently in the middle of drafting a script for our first ever video based team building game which will hopefully be filmed in the autumn and available in the winter for companies who want a different team building experience.

And if that isn’t enough, we’ve been preparing for the arrival of Mycroft Herring.  (And yes, I make all the mascots).  So that’s kept me busy too!

#SBS winners inaugural meeting

Yesterday saw Fiona, Sherlock, Dr Whiting and I driving down to Birmingham for Theo Paphitis’s inaugural #SBS meeting.  Sherlock has his own take on the day… but you can find that on his blog.

I think he has designs on Theo’s car… fortunately he didn’t set off the car alarm!  We might have had some explaining to do if so…

It was a great afternoon, and as it was totally sponsored by Ryman Stationery everything was free, including the bar!  (I hate to think what the bar bill was at the end of the afternoon!)

We even got a goodie bag to take home at the end which included all sorts of useful things including a business account with £50 pre-paid on the card!  Thanks Ryman!

There must have been over 400 people there, at least… and it was wonderful meeting all the tweeps I’ve been tweeting with face to face at last.  Sadly I couldn’t get around everyone, but thankfully my trademark “Knife through head” prop meant that even if I didn’t find the people I wanted to see – most of them found me!!  (Next time perhaps I’ll invest in one of those Think Bike signs with “Jo Smedley Red Herring Games” flashing above my head!)

This is Fiona, Sherlock and I with Jacqui Thompson who was the tweeter who told me all about how to enter #SBS and thanks to her RTs during the week to Theo probably gave me the leg up I needed to win!

The big announcement, and the most exciting part of the day was that Ryman Stationery and Theo Paphitis are launching a new #SBS winners website designed by @MetalFrogstudios one of the early #SBS winners – which will contain all the information the press need to know when they run articles on winners, and also the facility for the winners to upload all their information onto the website so that they are easily searched.

The site will provide back links to winners websites and also there is a separate members only section which provides useful business tips and also networks winners and their special offers.  We’re also all going to have access to new badges which will be great!

The #SBS website will be getting populated over the next few weeks as the #SBS winners are sent out their user log in details.  In the meantime you can find the website here:

http://www.theopaphitissbs.com/

It also has some tips on how to enter and what Theo is looking for.

Again the website is free to #SBS winners and we’re all really looking forward to using it!

Theo ran a question and answer session during the meeting.  There were a LOT of questions and I have to say, Theo came across as really sincere and “down to earth” with his answers.  How he can think on his feet that fast, I don’t know, as he fielded questions from things like “What is the future of the highstreet?” through to “Will you run for prime minister?”

Thanks to waving Sherlock around in the air we actually got to ask the one question I know everyone keeps asking me.  Namely:

 “How does Theo Paphitis pick his #SBS winners each week?”

The answer:  Well, it isn’t random chance (Which is really nice to know if you’ve been picked).  Instead he uses the following criteria:

1)      The tweet must catch his eye.

This means it could be cheeky, interesting, or it might just be related to something he’s been doing that week so it attracts his attention.

It has to be a good tweet.  And the avatar can’t be an EGG! Theo also checks out your bio on twitter when he does his research – so ensure the Bio is up to date and friendly.  Theo values the personal touch.

As there are so many tweets week to week Theo also has help from his wife and Tina at Ryman when it comes to selecting #SBS winners – as he has so many to look through of an evening he needs help to do a proper job.  So even if you miss Theo’s attention you might still be noticed by Tina or Mrs P and forwarded onto his shortlist.

2)      The tweet must have a website link – and the link you post with the tweet must work!

Once Theo has his shortlist (and he does create a shortlist) he then clicks through to the website link posted.  The website must be functioning, clear and appropriate.  It doesn’t need to be all singing all dancing – and can just be a “gallery website” for those who understand that term (one page website for those that don’t), but it does need to be working!

If he feels your business has the “basics” in place, that your website is effective and that you will make the most of the RT then he’ll RT you.

3)      Catching Theo’s eye might be something you do during the week.

Theo looks for tweeters he recognises in the #SBS line up.  He looks for regular tweeters, not people who ONLY post each Sunday or who have very little to do with twitter week to week.  If you are going to make the most of your #SBS win, then you need to be making the post of your marketing on Twitter already.

To catch his eye, might mean that you might have tweeted him during the week, or that you’ve been regularly tweeting with someone he follows on twitter so he’s seen your posts regularly throughout the week.

He doesn’t like people repeating tweets during #SBS – that is more likely to put him off RTing someone.

So are there any “hot tips”?

I think so… given that you need to be catching Theo’s eye to get that RT then I’d suggest the following techniques.

1)      Follow everyone Theo is following and speak to them on twitter.  Theo only follows a select group which means he does actually follow what they are saying.

2)      Reply to Theo’s tweets during the week.  There were a few winners he called “Stalkers” at the meeting in jest – but clearly stalking got them their RT.

3)      If you think you’re doing something interesting then include @Theopaphitis in your tweet during the week so he sees what you’re up to.

4)      Write a really “eye catching” tweet.  Say something unusual and something that will get you noticed.

5)      Have an eye catching avatar so it stands out amongst the rest – NO EGGS!  It doesn’t have to be pink, but it needs to be clear.

6)      Make sure your Bio on twitter is accurate and has a friendly, personal feel.

7)      Make sure your website is top-notch.  It WILL be looked at.

8)      Be persistent in your entries and adjust your tweets week to week.  If it didn’t catch his eye the first week, it probably won’t next time around either.

And that’s my hot tips.  Good luck with your own #SBS entries.  With the new website launching this week and all the benefits that’s going to bring – Theo is expecting increased traffic to #SBS and as a result there is talk of him changing the time he RT’s to Monday evening to give him a chance to look through the entries properly.  So get those entries in and then just wait and see!  Next week it could be you!

What next?

Well, Theo recognises that small businesses need leverage to obtain attention, so he kindly posed with all the #SBS winners for a formal photo at the end of the meeting in the hope that beeing seen with a TV personality will provide some leverage we can use to obtain further media attention.

We also have a nice certificate which we’ll be framing for the office…

Also – given that the #SBS winners website has a “county” winners area – we in Lincolnshire are hoping to arrange a regional lincolnshire #SBS  meet up of our own.  so watch this space!