Interviewed About Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books

I was recently asked by Bob James of Valley FM to go on his Sunday morning programme and talk about my latest children’s books. As these included illustrating Fiona Jennison’s new book ‘Tiny Teeth and Magical Creatures’ we were both interviewed. Bob kindly gave me a recording of the interview and I’ve posted it on YouTube in three bite-sized chunks. Here’s a link to part one – the other two parts can be found on my YouTube channel.

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Another Production of ‘Look Out – He’s Got A Gun!’

I’m pleased to say that a drama group in Cornwall will be presenting my spoof thriller ‘Look Out – He’s Got A Gun!’ later this month.

I found out when a member of the cast very kindly wrote to me asking for tips on how to play her character. I wish St Erth Players all the best and hope they have as much fun with the play as my cast did when I directed the preniere performance back in December 2019.

Broken legs all round!

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‘Bats’ confirmed as Jávea Players’ Summer Show

I’m pleased to announce that I will be directing my play ‘Bats’ for the Jávea Players’ summer show at the Casa de Cultura in the heart of the old town. Further information on the poster below.

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Pirates, Knees and Chips: New Children’s Books Added

I’ve recently added some more books to those I’ve published on Amazon. Please check them out.

Children's books by Phil Manseel published by Back2Back Books on Amazon,
The recent titles I’ve added to the books I’ve published on Amazon
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Inspired by Fish and Chips!

For my latest children’s book I went back to my childhood in the back streets of Birmingham. I remembered going to buy my family’s fish and chip supper on a frosty autumn Friday night and queuing outside the shop with friends and neighbours. Because everyone went to the chippie on a Friday night.

The cover of my latest children’s book

The first thing I came up with was the title and then I imagined what would happen if I – and everyone else – was being robbed of my precious hot newspaper parcel (fish and chips were always wrapped in newspaper in those far-off days). Who were the robbers? It had to be two hooligan brothers from the Rough End of our street. They were wearing masks and armed with powerful water pistols. When I refused to hand over my fish and chips I was squirted in the face.

In the fish and chip shop.

I needed someone to help me track down the thieves and created a clever schoolfriend called Anita. She is smarter than me and decides the best thing to do is to look for clues. Her keen eyes spot a trail of hot chips leading through the dark and dingy back alleyways. We follow the trail…

A trail of chips leads us through the gloomy alleyways in search of the fish and chip thieves

What we find is a regular thieves kitchen in the ramshackle house of the Rotter family. How do we get my fish and chips back? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

The greedy Rotter family scoffing their ill-gotten gains

Like many of the books I publish on Amazon this was originally in a letter I wrote for my two grandchildren, Maddy and Max. If they enjoy my stories I turn them into books. It’s not the first time I’ve plundered my childhood for story ideas and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

To order ‘The Great Fish and Chips Robbery’ and the rest of my books on Amazon go to my Author’s Page.

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‘Look Out – He’s Got A Gun’ Published

I’m pleased to announce that my play ‘Look Out – He’s Got A Gun! is to be published and represented by Stage Scripts Ltd.

It becomes my 12th play published by the company which represents playwrights and their work worldwide.

‘Look Out’ is a fast-paced spoof crime thriller in which a husband and wife team are called in by a baffled Scotland yard to solve a series of mysterious kidnappings. Inspired by British films and radio serials of the 1950s, the play premiered at the Jávea Players’ Studio Theatre in December 2019 and starred a cast of talented JP stalwarts who tackled a variety of challenging roles including a crooked American, a deranged inventor and a sexy Spanish singer. The play was sold out and received very favourable reviews.

When I was taking the publicity photos for the production I planned to shoot a promotional video. Unfortunately, I was struck down by the effects of some new medication I’d been given which totally knocked me for six. I was unable to shoot the film but I have put what I did shoot into a trailer for the newly published play. It’s now available here and on Youtube.

‘Look Out – He’s Got A Gun!’ is also available as a novel on Amazon. Click here to go my author’s page on Stage Scripts. Click on the image below to view the trailer on YouTube:

Look Out - He's Got A Gun! (Trailer).mp4_20200818_110312.387

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Turning An Old Poem Into YouTube Video

The Lockdown here in Spain is thankfully coming to an end. While I’ve been confined to quarters I’ve taken the opportunity to learn some new skills and try to produce examples of “virtual theatre”, based on plays I’ve written, such as Some Enchanted Evening  and Fool’s Errand.

I’ve just posted another short animation video on my YouTube channel. Based on a poem I wrote back in the mid-70s, this was created using two new (free) programs I’ve recently discovered.

Mediabang Pro is a painting program that I found easy to use and which produced good results.  You can download it here.

Opentoonz is an open source animation program. Originally called Toonz, it’s the software used to create Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and the popular TV show Futurama. It’s open source and free for any budding animator to download and use. Here’s the link to the download page.

I may well create a video showing how I made my new video Shore Lines  which can be viewed below or via this link.

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Proof That Writing Is Never Wasted

As a writer, I’ve always believed that everything one produces is of some value. All writing has merit, if only to take you a little nearer your goal of producing something you’ll be proud of. Every time we write we learn from the experience – if it’s only that maybe that’s not the best way to do it.

This was illustrated recently when, in lockdown here in Spain, I needed to find something that could be adapted as a recorded reading to go on the website of amdram group Jávea Players. The aim is to keep our members entertained at a time when producing plays onstage is obviously not possible. Some people are posting videos of themselves reading stories or monologues. I wanted to do some of my own work so delved into the folder containing all my old writing and re-discovered an abandoned play that I’d written back in 2003 entitled Some Enchanted Evening.

Sam and Janet phone the police. - illustration by Phil Mansell

Sam and Janet phone the local police station to report the break-in

This was a quirky surreal comedy about a couple – Sam and Janet Evening – who return home from the pub quiz to find everything in their bungalow is not as they’d left it. There had been a break-in but nothing had been taken – except for some chocolate Hobnob biscuits. The television was on, showing a marathon session of snooker. It all pointed to the fact that the intruder had sat and watched the snooker on television while eating the aforementioned biscuits.

The play went on to introduce a zoo-keeper and a mysterious cyclist called Nigel who has a habit of abandoning bicycles in the fireplace of the bungalow. However, the opening scene was all that I needed for the lockdown project. I had written the play in several forms for various media – stage, radio and TV. All useful writing exercises. I adapted the version for radio as I originally envisaged it being an audio file. Once my wife, Caroline and I had recorded it, however, I saw other possibilities – a video illustrated with cartoons of the characters. And that’s how it turned out.

Sam with Fruit- illustrated by Phil Mansell

Sam with the basket of fruit that was second prize in the pub quiz

I never imagined that this play that I wrote so long ago would ever see the light of day again – let alone that I would end up supplying the voice of Sam!

I had written it, enjoyed the experience and moved on to other projects. Yet here it is today – resurrected as a short film. Proving that old, abandoned writing has its uses. So never throw that old stuff away. You never know when you may need it.

Some Enchanted Evening can be viewed here on YouTube. And here’s my blog about how I came to write it.

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First Lockdown Video: Some Enchanted Evening

Here in Spain I’m now on Day 45 of the emergency lockdown regime implemented to stop the spread of the CoronaVirus (Covid-19). The need to self-isolate has curtailed many of the activities my wife and I enjoy doing – going to cafes for Spanish lessons, exploring the beautiful countryside where we live and working on theatrical productions for our local amdram group, Jávea Players. My wife, Caroline, was in rehearsals, directing the play Dead Guilty which was due to be performed earlier this month, and sadly, like so many theatre shows, it had to be cancelled.

Sam&Janet coming in front doorPLUS web

Sam and Janet Evening return home from the pub quiz

However, some people suggested it would be a good idea to provide performances that our members could access and enjoy via the JP website, Some people are posting videos of themselves reading stories or monologues. I looked through some of my old scripts and found Some Enchanted Evening – an early play which I haven’t touched since 2003. I remembered it was very quirky and full of surreal humour and Caroline and I agreed it would be a good one to tackle. So we edited down the first scene and adapted it so that it told a little story – about a couple, Sam and Janet Evening, who return from their local pub quiz to find a surprise awaiting them.

Choosing a room with the least echo to record it in, we huddled close to my video camera to get the best quality sound, and read the script from an iPad (to avoid the sound of turning pages). Luckily, we did it more or less in one take and then simply re-recorded the bits we weren’t happy with. All I needed was the soundtrack from this (I’d kept the lens cap on) so, after transferring the video to my laptop, I converted it into an mp3 file (using Wondershare’s free video converter). I then edited the sound, cutting out the gaffes and adding the bits we re-recorded in the appropriate places. We recorded an intro and outro  and had a suitable audio file in mp3 format to send to the JP website.


Sam Listening2 PLUS webI then realised it would make a nice little video if I added some drawings to illustrate the action. So I set to work. My drawing style is very loose and I embellish it with a watercolour wash. I must admit that it took rather more pictures than I first imagined! After scanning them onto my laptop I tweaked them with imaging software and popped them in the appropriate places on the soundtrack. As it’s quite a long video at 12 minutes, I divided into three to make life simple and then simply put them together when I had finished each section.

editing pic

The editing timeline for the video showing the images placed in the appropriate places above the soundtrack.

There are lots of free or inexpensive video editing programs out there to use for this. I used an ancient version of Sony Vegas which enabled me to animate some of the action. My final cut was made in Movie Maker, which used to come free but if you don’t have it is still available to download.

Once I had a first rough cut I could see which pieces of artwork needed re-doing. We also created opening titles under the banner of Lockdown Productions –  into which I dropped two padlocks to replace the ‘o’s. This was done using PowerPoint (and converted to video using a screen capture program).


We then had fun making up some credits for the film and tacked these on to the end using the scrolling credits mode in Movie Maker. This was a little jerky towards the end for some reason but that seemed to be a problem we couldn’t overcome. The final finished version that I was happiest with was number five. The video is featured here and on my YouTube channel and will eventually be loaded onto the Jávea Players’ website. Hope you enjoy it!

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Meet Arabella Saturday – the juggling star of my new Children’s Book

I’ve just published my latest children’s book on Amazon. It’s available via this link.

And here’s a video telling you all about it.

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