Tag Archives: guest posts

Guest post: Silent Justice, by Tallis Steelyard

There are new releases a plenty over the next ten days, not just from me, so rather than bang on about mine, let’s talk about Jim Webster’s new … whoop? … of books this week. There are three. Yeh. I know, he’s clearly been busy. Either that, or he’s like me, and works on more than one thing at a time, finishing them all at once! Mwahahahahrgh. Anyway, here is a story from Tallis Steelyard, Jim’s alter ego, to start us off!

Silent justice

It has to be confessed that there are times when the courts here in Port Naain are overloaded. This tends to happen at times of celebration when people drink too much. Or when the University announces just who has achieved honours this year. Or perhaps it is after a really large wedding, or funeral. Indeed it has been noted in some circles that in those periods when the ban on sedan chair racing has lapsed, the courts tend to see a sudden rush of cases.

Now within the city there is definitely a feeling that justice delayed is justice denied. So it was felt that we needed a system which was capable of weeding through the minor cases, administering salutary punishments (or occasionally rewards) and allowing the more serious cases to go through to the magistrates. A number of systems were tried. The watch was asked to do something. The problem with this was that the minor offender who had insulted a watchman was obviously a graver delinquent than somebody who had insulted a mere bystander. Also because they knew some offenders too well, the watch might not weigh the current offence lightly enough.

Then somebody thought to ask Malanthon. He had been a lawyer but had retired and joined the Order of Illuminated Seditionists. It was felt that if somebody of his vast experience and essential humanity could be called back to help occasionally, things could move faster. He agreed to assist, but there were still problems. After all, the Illuminated Seditionists are a silent order sworn to poverty. They don’t speak, they tap out their messages to each other using little hammers. Obviously this would make pronouncing sentence a little tricky.

Still the general feeling was that it was something the city could cope with, and a silent judge did have the advantage that they were unlikely to pontificate interminably upon the failings of the younger generation. (Indeed between ourselves, this unfortunate habit found so widely within the judiciary is one reason for the courts having such long waiting lists.) So Malanthon took up his new role whenever he was asked for.

As somebody who has had dealings with him in his official capacity I am entirely qualified to describe the process by which justice was arrived at. Malanthon sat in a small office rather than a court. The accused was led before him and a clerk read out the charges. The accused was then invited by the clerk to state their defence. Malanthon would listen to both parties and would then scribble something down on a piece of paper. The clerk would then ask the accused to say what penalty they felt they deserved. After some thought the accused would suggest a punishment. Malanthon would then reveal what he had written on the piece of paper. That was the penalty you paid.

Now whilst that seems simple enough, it was in reality more complicated. If Malanthon felt that you had suggested a penalty that was reasonable and fair, he might merely sentence you to that. If he felt you had been a bit harsh on yourself, or you seemed to be showing contrition, then he would put forward a much less punitive penalty. If on the other hand he felt you had not grasped the seriousness of what you had done, the penalty could be exacting indeed.
Lancet and I appeared before him because we had (or perhaps more accurately, I had) painted, ‘Buy your copy of Lambent Dreams now to avoid disappointment’, in letters as tall as a man on the side of the Sinecurists’ building. Lancet had come along, regarding it as a piece of performance art, and had held the ladder for me.

I suggested a five vintenar fine. Malanthon had written down the comment that, as we were so keen on painting things, we could each spend a day painting the houses of two widowed ladies who’d fallen upon hard times. Lancet suggested that rather than do them separately, we were allowed to work together, as the work would then be more competently accomplished. This was agreed, and the city ended up buying paint for us to apply to the houses. The fact that Lancet added an extra digit to the quantity of paint we were entitled to order, meaning he had adequate paint for his next project, was nothing whatsoever to do with me.

On the other hand, some came off badly. Eaton Tindal was arrested by the watch for stealing a coal cart as a student prank and driving it recklessly through the city as he tried to avoid arrest. Unfortunately he caught a passer-by a glancing blow with the cart which sent them sprawling and left them off work with a broken leg.

Tindal insisted that the unfortunate wasn’t a victim, because it was their own stubbornness that led to their accident. If they had moved with alacrity, they wouldn’t have been struck. Thus with considerable condescension he offered to contribute to the doctor’s bill. He suggested that he paid half.

Malanthon on the other hand merely wrote that Tindal should serve four months in the freezing waters of the Houses of Licentiousness, sorting between male and female shore clams. On the other hand, if he apologised to his victim, then Malanthon was willing to reduce the term to four weeks. Apparently Tindal exploded in outraged fury and ended up serving six months. Eventually he was in point of fact held for seven months. It appears that his fellow students, shocked by his incarceration, decided to break him out. Unfortunately for Tindal’s chances of freedom, his putative rescuers were neither competent nor brisk. They communicated the plan to him, but were forced to postpone it numerous times. On one occasion the attempt was aborted because somebody forgot to bring the ladder. On another occasion it was cancelled because those organising it hadn’t realised that it was a public holiday and everybody had intended to attend the Summer Ball. Eventually, the authorities, who had been waiting for the much publicised rescue bid, lost patience and just released him anyway.

Personally I thought Malanthon’s genius was captured perfectly by the case of Little Arhunt. Little Arhunt was a tally clerk down on the docks. His problem was that he was an honest tally clerk, didn’t take bribes and didn’t make money on the side. He was a small, harassed, and scrupulously honest. He had digs in a house owned by Floria Mumpt. She was perhaps the mirror image of him. If you took the pair of them and spread things about a bit, it should have been possible to come out with two average people.

Arhunt got behind on his rent. This wasn’t really his fault. It was winter, fewer boats came up the river to be unloaded, thus was less work for tally clerks. When spring arrived things should have improved, but he slipped on a wet dock and broke his wrist. He kept working, writing with his wrong hand, but it was painfully slow. By the time he was working normally again, there was the jackers strike in Prae Ducis which meant fewer boats arrived to be unloaded in Port Naain.

At this point Floria Mumpt pointed out that he owed her so much money, the courts would probably sell his indenture to help her recover it. She did give him one chance to retain his freedom. She was willing to accept matrimony in lieu of payment. Desperate, Arhunt agreed.

In reality, his life didn’t change much. He still worked ridiculously long hours, eating all his meals at work. Also he still slept on a bed improvised out of an old door in his small attic bedroom, except on those occasions when he was summoned to the matrimonial bedroom to fulfil his conjugal liabilities.

Fortunately or unfortunately the marriage was blessed with a stream of children. The patter of little feet soon evolved into the clatter of medium sized clogs. Given that Arhunt was somebody who only really wanted a quiet life and the chance to sit and read in peace, his home life deteriorated. Not only that but children need feeding and clothing, and Arhunt worked longer hours still. On one occasion he did not return home for eight days, he’d been working both day and night boats and had slept on the dock, wrapped in canvas, as one boat warped out and another was warped in.
Finally, when he arrived home late one night, his wife, Floria, presented him with a bulky document. When he opened it Arhunt learnt that it was a bill. There were perhaps a score of neatly handwritten pages. To his shock he discovered that not only was he still being charged for the rent of the room, he was being charged for the food and accommodation taken up by his children. Then he came to the ninth sheet and discovered that he was being charged for ‘erotic services,’ at what can only be described as the courtesan rate. Indeed each occasion was not merely recorded, it was dated, timed, and itemised.

This was the last straw, Arhunt snapped. When the watch finally caught up with him, he was foaming at the mouth, brandishing a carving knife, and was pursuing his wife along Ropewalk, screaming blue murder.

Malanthon happened to be sitting, so Arhunt was hauled in front of him. The clerk recounted the charges and Arhunt, sobbing, told his tale. Malanthon asked the little man what he felt was an appropriate penalty, and Arhunt merely sobbed. After some thought Malanthon sentenced him to spend a year as a member of the Order of Illuminated Seditionists. When the year was up, Arhunt somehow neglected to leave, and as far as I know, he’s still there.

______________________________

And now we’d better hear from Jim Webster.
So here I am again with another blog tour. Not one book but three.
The first is another of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection. These stories are a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories. You can read them in any order.

On the Mud. The Port Naain Intelligencer
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mud-Port-Naain-Intelligencer-ebook/dp/B07ZKYD7TR

When mages and their suppliers fall out, people tend to die. This becomes a problem when somebody dies before they manage to pass on the important artefact they had stolen. Now a lot of dangerous, violent or merely amoral people are searching, and Benor has got caught up in it all. There are times when you discover that being forced to rely upon a poet for back-up isn’t as reassuring as you might hope.

Then we have a Tallis Steelyard novella:

Tallis Steelyard and the Rustic Idyll
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07ZKYMG1G/


When he is asked to oversee the performance of the celebrated ‘Ten Speeches’, Tallis Steelyard realises that his unique gifts as a poet have finally been recognised. He may now truly call himself the leading poet of his generation.
Then the past comes back to haunt him, and his immediate future involves too much time in the saddle, being asked to die in a blue silk dress, blackmail and the abuse of unregulated intoxicants. All this is set in delightful countryside as he is invited to be poet in residence at a lichen festival.

And finally, for the first time in print we proudly present:

Maljie, the episodic memoirs of a lady.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07ZKVXP24/

In his own well-chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation, and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.

All a mere 99p each

To read the preceding and following story in this series, follow the links:

Yesterday’s story:
Cartographically challenged

Tomorrow’s story:
Knowing your profiteroles

 

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A Charming Child: guest post by the inestimable Tallis Steelyard #newbooks

What can I say? We have a guest, my writer friend Jim, Webster, along with the inimitable, the one and only Tallis Steelyard who is here to tell us a little tale. Thank you Tallis and Jim, for stepping in and giving me something to share with everyone at the end of a week when gastroenteritis has left me short. On you go, Tallis.

—o0o—

A Charming Child.

Having your illusions shattered can be hard at times. One clings to them with the tenacity of a shipwrecked sailor who grasps the spar with a death grip. They are all you have to help you navigate the storms of life. But one has to be brave and when the evidence is presented, one has to admit the new reality into your life.

Thus one evening, as I dined with Shena, my lady wife, and Mutt, I learned something new. Now Mutt is aged about ten and has accepted some element of domestication to become Shena’s employee. That being said, he has his own extensive business interests within the city, and appears to maintain a group of street children who look to him as their master and provider. As we ate I commented that Avia Hassenbut was a charming child. Mutt just looked at me as if I were a total idiot and said, in terms of obvious admiration, “She’s devious is that one.”

This surprised me as Avia and Mutt hardly move in the same social circles, but there again I have learned never to disregard Mutt’s comments. So I asked him to elucidate. The story he told struck me as so far fetched that I felt the need to check the facts. Alas it is largely true, and it is this largely true version I shall now recount.

It seems Avia had taken against her nurse. Whether she felt that at the advanced age of eight or nine she ought to have a governess I don’t know. Perhaps nurse had in some way crossed her, but Avia decided that nurse must go.

Now a lesser daughter would undoubtedly have approached her father, wheedled and pleaded, and achieved little. But Avia was cut from different cloth. She was prepared to plan. The first thing she did was look at her potential assets and allies. She turned her attention to Dame Ballot’s School for young persons of breeding. This was an exclusive academy, by which I mean expensive. Perhaps a score of children attended and were given a solid grounding in the basics, (reading, writing, rhetoric, accountancy, character assassination and social climbing.) Now one of her little playmates was Tonks Valin. He was the son and possible heir of ‘Barbarity’ Valin, extortioner, racketeer and thug. Old ‘Barbarity’s current wife, known universally as Mistress Valin, had decided that it wouldn’t hurt if the family moved up in society and had enrolled Tonks with Dame Ballot. Society in Port Naain can be fluid at times; it’s barely two generations since they last hanged an Oeltang for brigandry. So Avia had Tonks invited to her house to play, and whilst there she introduced him to the litter of puppies that had just been born to one of her father’s hunting dogs. With parental permission, Tonks was promised a puppy and from that point onwards he was Avia’s most devoted servant.

At this point it appears that I enter the picture. Madam Hassenbut was a patron of mine, and one afternoon I was asked if I could keep Avia amused for an hour because her parents had to spend time with lawyers, attorneys and similar such individuals. I realise that this doesn’t really fall within the duties one should expect of your poet, but one does try to help a patron so I agreed. It was a wet afternoon and I kept Avia amused by playing a storytelling game. One of us would start, the other would continue the story, and we’d take turns trying to bring it to a suitable conclusion. Time flew by so fast that frankly I was surprised when Madam Hassenbut came into the room and apologised for being away for two hours. She was generous with both her praise and her silver and I hadn’t got it in my heart to complain.

Obviously I must have given Avia ideas, because a fortnight later I was asked by Mistress Valin if I would organise a children’s entertainment for her. Now let me state, categorically, that I am not a children’s entertainer, I am a poet. But to be honest I have always felt that it was wise to oblige free-spending patrons, especially if they might take refusal badly.

Now I confess to being both surprised and relieved when I discovered that there were only a handful of children, which included Tonks and Avia. I’d dreaded there being a horde of the screaming little beggars. Four or five is manageable. So I sat down and asked what they would like. Avia piped up immediately and asked me to tell them a story.

“Which story?”

She smiled a little slyly and said, “The dark tale of Bethom baby eater and her gang.”

I smiled back. This was one of the stories we’d built up together when we’d played the game, and I’d promised that one day I would show her how to tell it properly. Indeed I quoted one of the ancients to her, “I’ll add plenty of corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

So I told the story. I wove it into Port Naain, mentioning places, hinting a people, tying it to dates and places and generally doing the job properly. The children loved it. So, apparently did the adults.

What I haven’t mentioned is that each child (with the exception of Avia) was accompanied by a couple of heavies who acted as bodyguards. They were there purely to ensure nobody got any silly ideas about kidnapping expensive children. They sat around the room, drinking fruit juice and eating cake and trying to look fierce in a restrained and domesticated manner. Of course they listened to the story, and seemed to enjoy it at least as much as the children. Indeed so much were they enjoying it that I brought them into it, tying in details such as the disappearance of Bouncer Queel and the unexplained death of Blabs Joggan.

I finished the story in the usual way. “And so children, even today nobody knows who Bethom baby eater is or who is in her dark gang. But luckily you’ve got such good men to protect you.” This remark had assorted heavies sitting up a little straighter and surreptitiously checking the placement of concealed weapons. Then I concluded with, “Which is lucky really because more than babies, Bethom especially loves to eat rich children because they’re so tender and nicely fed and taste delightfully sweet.”

Personally I thought no more about it, but apparently one of the little horrors had nightmares about Bethom the baby eater. Mother summed a thug to ask what on earth had been going on, and the thug recounted my story. He didn’t do it word for word, or mother would have recognised it as the elegantly constructed tale that it was. No he told it in his own words which made it more real. Mother, not entirely convinced talked to other mothers. Of course they’d all got a similar version from their own hired bruisers and so Bethom became real.

Once Avia knew that the story had spread, she too had nightmares. Hers were more specific. She woke up screaming that Nurse was a cousin of Bethom baby eater. Madam Hassenbut have never heard of this person but thought it wise to check with Mistress Valin. The tale she was told was enough to chill the heart of any mother. When a few simple checks showed that nurse did indeed have a cousin called Bethom, (a ladies’ hairdresser in Avitas), nurse was dismissed with a month’s salary in lieu of notice.

It has to be said that I take a degree of comfort from the thought that by the time young Avia comes into her full powers, I will almost certainly be safely dead. It’ll be up to Mutt and his generation to cope with her. I wish him joy in it.

—o0o—

Thank you Tallis, that was awesome! Jim, do you have anything to add?

I do. You might not realise that Tallis Steelyard has just produced his second book of stories and anecdotes. This is book, ‘Tallis Steelyard, a harsh winter, and other stories,’ is available from the first of June.

The book is available to all discerning readers at £0.99 from
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071LH1THB

or $1.28 from
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LH1THB

Were Tallis less busy he’d doubtless remember to thank me, Jim Webster, for the efforts I make on his behalf. But you know what it is with someone like Tallis who is constantly in demand. So I just get on with writing his stuff down for him and from time to time making collections of his wit, wisdom and jumbled musings available for a grateful public.

Tallis does have a blog, it is apparently de rigueur now for all writers. It is available at

https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/

Riding in on his coattails I’ll merely mention that my own books can be seen at Jim Webster’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I

or here: https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I

Thank you, Tallis and Jim.

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Guest Post. Handy hints on developing a villain over a series.

I am delighted to welcome my cyber buddy Charles Yallowitz, author of the long running fantasy series, Legends of Windemere, to talk about villains. Legends of Windemere is a seriously epic series – 9 books and counting. But as well as writing lots of excellent books Charles runs a great blog; plenty of thought provoking posts, interesting news and lots of chat in the comments. I thoroughly recommend you have a look at it, here. But do read the article first won’t you? Which reminds me… over to you Mr Yallowitz.

The Lich by Jason Pedersen

The Lich by Jason Pedersen

First, thanks to M T McGuire for allowing me to write a guest post. The question posed was about character development over the course of a series. Legends of Windemere, my fantasy adventure series, has six books out with a seventh on the way. So I get asked about this area a lot since I’m also very character driven. I always go on about the heroes, so this time I’m going to give a few tips on how to develop a villain in a long series.

  1. Give them a few scenes in each book, but don’t overuse them. Each appearance should have an impact to either the story or the villain. Appearing too often can weaken their influence over the reader and develop them too quickly. For example, I use my villains at the beginning to set up their end of the story. After that, they appear maybe every 2-3 chapters for brief scenes or confrontations. The latter is typically saved for the second or third act depending on what the outcome will be.
  2. Henchmen and secondary villains help fill out the opposing side of an adventure. These characters can be around for one or two books then be eliminated. You need to give them a reason for being with the bigger enemy, but it can be very simple. Money, bloodlust, fear, or any base wants can be used. A character like this only needs enough personality to do their job and be a threat. Not saying you can’t evolve them in a short time, but keeping it simple prevents them from growing too big. Unless that’s what you want, which means see #1.
  3. Very few villains are pure evil. Those that are have to be used sparingly and will have an issue being in a long-term series. Give your villains some longevity and depth by giving them a ‘good’ trait. It can be a delusion that they are right, a soft spot for something, or a personality trait that one typically finds in heroes. For example, the Lich in my series is an undead necrocaster and definitely a creature of darkness. Yet he demonstrates a loyalty to his master that rivals the heroes of the story. It doesn’t make him a good guy, but it does make the Lich a deeper villain.
  4. Going too evil can shorten your villain’s lifespan. In a series, the bad guys have to create multiple plans and make several attempts to kill the heroes. Each one has to be either equally or more evil than the last. Otherwise readers might think the bad guys aren’t trying any more. You still have to be careful if you have a few more books to wring out of the character. So if they do something so horrible that it can’t be topped then you will have trouble keeping them going for much longer. For example, I have a villain who starts off pretty bad with wanting to ‘break’ one of the female heroes. He was going to go for a while, but he began as a real monster. As the first few book progressed, he got worse and worse. I tried giving him a time out for a book, but it was too late. This villain had to either be removed for me to keep the story going.
  5. The heroes shouldn’t be the only ones to get new toys and abilities. Villains that run longer than one or two books should get some type of upgrade. New weapons or spells or a powerful new henchman can be introduced at the beginning of a story. After all, if the bad guy keeps losing then it’s a pretty smart bet they’ll try to upgrade themselves to, at the very least, stay on equal footing with the heroes.
  6. If you’re going to have a villain turn good then set the groundwork a book or two beforehand. The intensely loyal henchman shouldn’t have an abrupt change of heart after following orders for several adventures. It’s not realistic and comes off as the author wanting to save the character since most villains are killed by the end. Have your potential turncoats demonstrate the ability to be good just like a traitorous hero will show a sign or two of being bad. Have them doubt their path or reveal that they weren’t always a villain. Plenty of methods to make sure this isn’t a plot twist out of nowhere.
  7. Multiple villains can help flesh out the entire group because they will play off each other like the heroes. You can include scenes where these characters discuss plans or take an interest in the life of their comrades. There should always be an edge to it since these tend to be distrustful people, but they are together. Having everyone in their own corner and planning to betray the other villains can get silly.

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Oh no, the M word! Yes. Marketing.

I’ve travelled to another blog to write today’s post… So if you want to discover the connection between inter-galactic church travel and marketing books, I’m afraid you’ll have to click again and visit my excellent friend Seumas Gallacher, here. In fact, please do.

Seumas is a bit of a success story having sold 70,000 copies of his books – which is about 69,900 more than I have so obviously, I’m in awe. Since I’m not usually invited anywhere – except back to apologise – I’m also feeling pretty honoured to be guesting on his blog.

Seumas writes a very good blog, btw. He talks an awful lot of sense with a Scottish accent – he’s from Govern – think Billy Connolly and you have it about right. I can thoroughly recommend his blog and one of his books – I haven’t read the others yet. So yeh, do pop over there. I can recommend it.

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