Tag Archives: new books

Random news and an appeal … sort of …

Here we are at the end of McMini’s first week and, as usual, I haven’t really got my arse into gear and written an proper post. This is becoming a habit isn’t it? But actually it’s not such a bad thing as I have a couple of updates.  First I’m going to share a good cause with you, then I’ll share some news about my upcoming new release and then I’m going to share a bad parenting story.

Aimee and Kyle’s big adventure!

You may have seen me talking on my facebook feed about one of Mum’s carers and her chap who are walking from Skye to Sussex. Here they are with the other members of their trusty crew, Milo and Mabel:

You wouldn’t know it if you were where I am (blue sky, crisp sunlight … you get the picture) but the weather in Scotland right now is biblical rain and floods. The first day, it was so bad they couldn’t camp so they did their walking and were then picked up, taken back to the starting point for a night in the dry and dropped back where they’d got to the next day.

Mountain streams look like this …

They have now walked in the rain since 1st September, oh no wait one day it didn’t rain. But only one. They reached a guest house just outside Glasgow on Friday and are having a weekend off to dry out the tent. Even Milo and Mabel, who are always up for running about, were completely flaked out by that time.

The four of them have been moved on when trying to camp because it was dangerous – apparently the river running beside the campsite they’d chosen has a tendency to rise very fast and recently some folks, and their tent, have been swept away.

Rivers look like this

They had to take a detour over a mountain so steep that they did it, literally, on all fours because the valley through which they should have been walking was full of water and had to cross mountain streams that have turned into raging torrents of scarily cream-coloured rapids and the paths upon which they’re supposed to walk are two inches deep in ice cold running water.

Sounds nice …

On the upside, I imagine that midge bites have caused them zero stress. So there we are. Every cloud has a silver lining.

They are not walking alone, as I mentioned their two mad jack russells, Milo and Mabel are coming too. Mostly they are enjoying themselves, except when they have to be carried across a river, at which point, as you can see from the picture, below, they are, understandably, lacking in enthusiasm. The picture of Milo and Mabel, or at least Mabel and Milo, in the ruck sack was taken on a day when they had a friend walking with them.

Why I’m telling you about this is because they are walking in memory of both their dads, who died early and suddenly of heart problems. So they’re raising money for the British Heart Foundation. I wouldn’t normally do this, but since they’ve had such hard going of it, I feel I should help out by sharing their escapades.

You don’t have to do anything but applaud their efforts but if you are able to share either of the links below, or donate a few quid, it would be fabulous. I’m sure they’d welcome shares just as much as a donation.

Here are the pages about their trip to share or donate to:

Give to the British Heart Foundation via Aimee and Kyle’s Just Giving Page … or just share it: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/aimeeleazell

Likewise, they have a Gofundme which is to raise funds for the odd night in a B&B. Looking at the weather they’re enduring, they might need a few more of those, if only to dry the tent out once a week. You can share or donate a few quid to that one down this link here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/aimee-amp-kyles-isle-of-skye-to-steyning-hike?

Cheers.

MTM Book news

This week I received news that the group I exhibit with at the Christmas Fayre is starting up at another venue. I’ve sorely missed the income from this the last couple of years so I’m looking forward to having another go. Hoping the new venue will be as good as the old one. It’s certainly a lovely building.

With fair wind and a bit of luck I should have the first book in the new series ready in ebook and paperback by then, which will be good. I sent the first short in the series off for its last round of editing (hopefully) this week, although the actual slot is 23rd Sep or thereabouts so it won’t come back until just before Half Term. When that’s done, I just have to format it properly, make it into an ebook and a slim paperback and um … launch it (yikes! But good yikes!). I’m also still fighting to get a short ready for next year’s Christmas Lites by Monday. I think it’s going to be too long for me to finish in time but I’m still going to give it my best shot. Fingers and toes crossed. If I can keep it down to about 8k I may be in with a chance. Otherwise, I’ll just have to put it away and will have a story to submit next year!

On other projects, I’m working on an  Eyebomb Bury St Edmunds calendar which, I hope, will be ready for the Christmas Fayre. I suspect I am going to have to dip into my slush fund to pay for stock but here’s hoping I make some cash back! More details when the time comes.

Next week, I may even be able to link to the page where you can buy Small Beginnings on pre order. Yeh, I know. I wondered if it would ever happen, myself.

An embarrassing parenthood story.

A few years ago, when McMini was about two and a half or three, we decided to have our spare room bathroom redone. It needed it. The pink scallop shell sink was … grim. Off we went to the bath store. I managed to keep an eye on McMini but at one point McOther and I got a bit too engrossed in measuring a basin and he disappeared. I nipped off to find him and met him searching for me. He looked worried.

‘Mummy, there is a problem,’ he said.
‘Is there? What’s happened small fry?’
‘Come with me please, Mummy.’

I followed and he led me round one of the displays to a loo.

‘I have had a wee, but it will not flush,’ he said solemnly.

I looked into the display loo and discovered that he had, indeed, had a wee. Stifling an almighty guffaw I said,

‘Ah. This is a display loo, it’s just so we can see what it looks like. It’s not attached to any pipes so we can’t flush it.’
‘Have I done a bad thing?’
‘No, although, I have because I should have thought to tell you.’
He giggled and said, ‘Naughty Mummy!’
‘Yes. Naughty me. We must both remember not to do it again, alright.’

Then I did a very foolish thing. Instead of fessing up to the staff right then, I put the lid down and tip toed quietly back to my husband, who was negotiating the purchase of a basin and loo. I’d wait until we’d sorted out the business transaction and then explain. Except that it took longer than 20 seconds to make the transaction and with demented dad/mummy brain it completely slipped my mind …

It was only a couple of weeks later that I realised I’d completely forgotten to tell them what had happened. If anyone reading this worked for the Cambridge bathroom store a long time ago, and found a wee in one of their loos, I’m really, really sorry.

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It’s not who you know, it’s what you know …

It’s time to see if I can boost the visitor numbers to my blog a bit and for that purpose, once again, I have procured the services of a celebrity guest. Yes you have a special treat in store today. The ever popular Tallis has returned to my blog – along with a little help from Jim Webster, his publisher and agent. Enjoy.

____________________________________________

It’s not who you know, it’s what you know.

It’s not what you know …

I realise that it might not be a fashionable view. Indeed I know some people who would disagree vehemently with me on this. They will boast of their wide circle of acquaintance, and the fact that should they want a decision making in their favour in high places, they merely have to drop a hint into the ear of the right person. Yet I would suggest that if you don’t know what’s going on, you can drop all the hints you want, you’ll never achieve the result you desire.

It was the interesting affair of Doughty Voile which illustrates this best. Doughty comes from one of the small villages east of here, along the Paraeba river. Doughty’s parents came from the city of Oiphallarian, which is even further east. His parents abandoned city life, (for unexplained reasons) and settled to the life of peasant cultivators. The area was isolated, Doughty grew up speaking with a pronounced Oiphallarian accent, and occasionally people from the city did visit them. They would stay for some time and spend most of it inside. Often they spent it in bed being treated for various injuries. Doughty truly had a nice knack at sewing up knife wounds.  But apart from these occasional highlights, life was quiet. Doughty worked hard, but was a great reader. He seems to have read everything that crossed his path. Apparently he used to sail out in his skiff to meet the steamers. He’d trade fresh vegetables with the purser for books.

His big chance came when a visitor arrived from Oiphallarian. He’d taken a cottage in the village and Doughty got to know him. Apparently the visitor, one Montain Calm, was in the book trade. He worked for a publishing house in the city. Ostensibly he had been sent to reconnoitre Port Naain with a view to exploring the literary possibilities. Not only was he to search out for new writing talent, but there was also the possibility of forming partnerships with local publishers, or having books written in Oiphallarian printed locally by Port Naain printers. To be honest, Montain wasn’t particularly keen on heading further west. His real aim was to linger in the village with his mistress for a month or two. He would then return to Oiphallarian explaining that he’d explored the opportunities and there weren’t any.

Doughty pondered this and a day or so later, casually mentioned, as if in passing, that he had to go to Port Naain anyway, and would Montain like him to check things out for him whilst he was there. It would give his report to his superiors a degree of verisimilitude if he could mention a few contacts by name. Montain thought briefly and agreed it would be an excellent idea, and even gave Doughty a few vintenars to buy himself a drink or two with whilst he was in the city.

Doughty next had to work out how he was going to get to Port Naain. He had virtually no cash, and what he had, he felt he’d need when he got there. So he decided to just sail down river in his skiff and if the worst came to the worst he could always sleep in it as well. So with a change of clothing, and his father’s business suit which Doughty had recently grown into, he set off.

It was entirely fortuitous that he stumbled upon me. He drifted past the wharfs of the city, temporarily unmanned by the sheer size of the place. When he got to Fellmonger’s Wharf he contemplated tying up, but there was no wharf space available. To be fair that is normally the case. Boats and barges are tied up to seven deep on Fellmonger’s Wharf. It’s a residential wharf, and our wharf-rat, Marson, likes it well stacked. It ensures he’s got plenty of tenants and those nearest the wharf will struggle to skip without paying the rent.

Doughty passed onwards and arrived at the Old Esplanade. The tide was in and there were a few loafers waiting for it to turn. So he paddled close to the shore and after some thought he asked if anybody could direct him to, “A literary gentleman.”

It must be confessed that on the Old Esplanade I am well known, even if it is only as Shena’s husband. Hence, it was my name he was given. Not only that but they gave him directions as how to get to our barge.

Thus it was as I was meditating in the sunshine, contemplating my muse, I was rudely awakened as his skiff scraped alongside. I welcomed him aboard and he told me his story. Let us be honest, he was obviously not a senior agent for a major publishing house. He lacked the arrogance. He lacked the belief in his own divine right to succeed that one finds in such people. To be honest, if he was in publishing I would have placed him as a literary agent who made a poor living touting his finds to small independent publishing houses.

After an hour and a glass or two, I got the entire truth out of him and it was then I made my decision. I liked him. He was a decent enough young man and remarkably well read. Thus I spent the rest of the afternoon coaching him. By the time Shena arrived home, Doughty was almost convincing. So she joined me in my work and by the time we retired for the night, he could discuss business with businessmen and literature with writers. All that needed to be done was to arrange a few introductions.

Thus under the name of Montain Calm, Doughty was launched on Port Naain literary society. He was a considerable success. When introduced to writers he was measured. If he hadn’t read their work he’d read similar. He was happy to discuss their current projects and showed a genuine interest in work they had close to completion. If he had a failing, it was that he didn’t have a large budget for entertaining. In all candour that was one area where I couldn’t help him. But we discovered that people were so keen to speak to him that they insisted on paying for his drinks.

Having caused a stir amongst the writers, we moved on to the printers and publishers. They pleaded with him to dine with them. Had he been a person with fewer moral standards he could doubtless have walked away, his pockets jingling from the bribes they wanted to slip him. As it was he amassed crate after crate of samples. I honestly believe he had acquired a copy of every book published in Port Naain in the previous decade!

Once writers saw the publishers wining and dining Doughty they redoubled their own efforts. It was now obvious that he was the man who held their fortunes in the palm of his hand. The poor chap was virtually besieged. He made an unfortunate strategic error. In a desperate effort to calm people down, he let it be known that there was no point in negotiating details. This was because his employers were sending their legal representative out to join him in a couple of weeks and this person would draw up the contracts.

In one way this worked. The writing community could see that there was no point in worrying him with details. Unfortunately each writer also decided that they ought to use this period of grace to win Doughty over to their side, so that when the lawyer appeared, they would be the first in the queue and would be signed up on good terms before the money ran out.

In the next week, eight lady writers of some merit invited him to picnic with them and took the opportunity to propose what might be described as, ‘an informal marital arrangement.’ At the same time, other writers would invite him out, ‘for a convivial evening.’ On several occasions the convivial evening barely finished in time for him to join a lady for the lunchtime picnic.

Finally I had to step in. The social whirl had become manic. As he said to me, it wasn’t waking up and thinking, “Where am I,” that told him it was time to stop. It was when he turned over in bed, looked at the individuals who appeared to be sharing it with him, and asked, “And who the hell are they?”

Apparently on one occasion he was only spared embarrassment because the lady’s maid had the habit of sewing name tapes into her mistress’s clothes so that they were easily identified by the laundry.

At very short notice I got him a passage on a barge heading east. Given his personal effects included eleven crates of books and nearly as many of rather good wine, there was no way he could get them all in the skiff.

“And what,” I hear you mutter under your breath, “did Tallis get out of it?”

Well to be fair both Shena and I ate rather well that week. Also, as Doughty commented, he wasn’t somebody who normally drank wine with every meal. Thus whilst he took a number of crates of wine with him, it must be admitted that he left twice that number with Shena and I. But perhaps more importantly than that, it’s always good for a chap to discover what sort of folk he lives among.

And now we’d better hear from Jim Webster.

So here I am again with another blog tour. I’ve released two collections of short stories from Tallis and if you’ve enjoyed the one you just read, you’ll almost certainly enjoy these.

So what have Tallis and I got for you?

Well first there’s:

‘Tallis Steelyard. A guide for writers, and other stories.’

The book that all writers who want to know how to promote and sell their books will have to read. Sit at the feet of the master as Tallis passes on the techniques which he has tried and perfected over the years. As well as this you’ll have music and decorum, lessons in the importance of getting home under your own steam, and brass knuckles for a lady. How can you resist, all this for a mere 99p?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tallis-Steelyard-guide-writers-stories-ebook/dp/B07TRXJH8C/

Then we have

‘Tallis Steelyard. Gentlemen behaving badly, and other stories.’

Now is your chance to see Port Naain by starlight and meet ladies of wit and discernment. There are Philosophical societies, amateur dramatics, the modern woman, revenge, and the advantages of a good education.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tallis-Steelyard-Gentlemen-behaving-stories-ebook/dp/B07TRYZV6C/

So come on, treat yourself, because you’re worth it.

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Just a final note from me, MTM. This is the last story in this tour, but if you want to read the other stories, not to mention discover some cracking blogs, I can heartily recommend starting from the beginning. You can find the first one on our lovely friend, Chris Graham’s blog here:

A fine residence – Guest Post (and Book Promo) by Tallis Steelyard (Jim Webster)…

If, for some reason it doesn’t work, or you get lost on the way, the first part of each story appears on Tallis’ own blog, starting here:

A fine residence …

 

 

 

 

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What the fuck do I call my new series and other quandaries …

Easter! What an adventure that was. We had a lovely holiday trundling round France. There was a tense few hours, on our first day at the ski resort when Mum ended up in hospital after a fall with a suspected stroke and I thought I was going to have to fly home. Luckily she was fine, just very stiff and cold because she’d been lying on the floor for two hours. I’m also feeling a little guilty because I just didn’t have the stamina to visit Dad and Mum this week, but on the up side, Mum was in great form. I have just had the new cover designs through for my short story series and for the one I’m going to give away so I showed her those, because she is actually really interested in all things K’Barthan, genuinely too rather than just because she’s my Mum. So I told he all about the batch of short stories I’ve written, and we had a giggle about the plots. Then she and the carer and I discussed titles. And having done that with Mum and Katie (waves at them) now it’s your turn.

Yes, this week, I am going to be talking about my books. That’ll put half of you straight to sleep while the others makes their excuses and leave!

The thing is, despite the picture you may get from my release schedule, and my blog – which is normally about pretty much anything other than my books – I am actually an author – you’ll notice about 99.9% of my posts are labelled, ‘off topic’ if you’re new here, now you know why. I write stuff. And amazingly, after three years in the wilderness, I finally have some work ready for publication. Woot. I’m trying to release it properly this time. I mean, I’m supposed to build a buzz, although, while I’m stoked, I doubt anyone else is particularly excited but I do, at least, have a big enough email list and enough webtastic contacts now to be able to involve my audience in the process. This, again, is hugely exciting for me – probably rather more exciting for me than for them. So at the moment, I’m bouncing around like a rubber ball in a jam jar. We are nearly there. I have the mailing list freebie ready to go, the covers are shaping up beautifully, one story is edited and two more are ready to be sent to the editor. In the meantime, there are conundrums facing me. Three to be precise.

1. The covers.

This is the least conundrumy of the three. When I speced them, it seemed smart to stick with the incredibly cunning plan that I would use the same image and then have different colours – pretty similar to the K’Barthan Series, then, which did that, except book two was set in London so the city was London. Mind you, the city on the other books is London too, although a different bit, but I digress. Also, since drawing is expansive, I want to get the titles, series name and art work finalised first. This stuff costs less if you batch it. I sent the designer various photos and sketches and an outline of what I wanted. This is what he came up with.

New M T McGuire cover; paperback version

New Series, Ebook cover

Naturally, I am completely stoked with these.

OK, so ignore the words on the front, they’re just to give a feel for text type and where it’ll go.

Having read that book covers and adverts with people in them are way, way more effective – if you look at indy book covers you will notice I am not the only person who has read that research – I wanted a figure in the cover, but at the same time, not too much drawing. Since the stories I’ve written are about The Pan of Hamgee’s adventures after he arrives in Ning Dang Po but before the events of the main series begin, it seemed smart to put him on there, complete with trademark hat and cloak, seen from behind because … less drawing and also more scope for ritzy view and a glimpse of the SE2 because … flying cars! The colours will vary so the final item may well be brighter than this. More like the prequel shown below, for example – although this one is still in progress so I’ll probably ask the designer to remove the white outline round the figure.

There’ll be four short stories in this batch, three at around 20k, one at 10k but I’m working on making that one longer so it ties in. There is also a starter at about 12k which I will give away exclusively to people who join my mailing list, or as a free paperback at any events I do. That is one that works equally well as a prequel to both series; the main, K’Barthan Series of of full length books or this one.

So far, feedback on the covers is good but a couple of folks think that although it ties in with the overall M T McGuire brand, these are bordering on a different genre to comedy. There are two ways to fix that. One, change the font or brighten the colours or two make sure the titles are properly comedic. More about this in a minute.

Second thing about the series … I suspect there will be more stories, both about The Pan of Hamgee and possibly about other characters. So this is where the second conundrum comes in.

2. Series Name

To make sure nobody muddles stuff up and that everyone reads everything in the right order, I’ve called the short stories, ‘K’Barthan Shorts’. Clearly, though, since these ones are all about The Pan of Hamgee and others may be about different characters or settings, with different covers, I need to qualify it a bit. I do have ideas for a series of short stories about events at The Parrot and Screwdriver and I’d quite like to write one about that assassination mission Deirdre Arbuthnot goes on when she ends up getting ambushed but manages to escape by blowing up the Grongolian first minister with a lorry full of custard.

So, I was thinking that K’Barthan Shorts would be the umbrella name and then I’d qualify it with a secondary name so it would look like this: K’Barthan Shorts, Misfit Hamgeean: Part 1.

3. Book Names

Bearing in mind the comments on the covers so far, I thought funny titles were probably expedient. Normally, when I name my books I take my cues from Sir Terry since he’s probably the nearest thing to my demographic. He tends to do three things:

  1. Snappy phrases that are already in use – or sound as if they are – such as, The Light Fantastic, Lords and Ladies, or Feet of Clay.
  2. Two words, for example, Wyrd Sisters, some of which are also short snappy phrases, for example, Interesting Times or Soul Music.
  3. One word titles, such as Thud, Nation or Snuff.

With the original K’Barthan Series I went for titles which fell into the first group. Since the stories in this series are shorts I thought I’d also try pithier one or two word titles. They tie in both with the main series and with the free short, Unlucky Dip. In fact they pretty much come between the two. But after some of the comments about the cover, I wonder if I should go the phrases route again, to make the genre clearer. So what we have are the following:

In the one word corner: Jump, Drop, Pastries, Switch/Punched and Flight/Spiced (but spice is a drug here in the UK so I’m a bit ambivalent about using it).

In the two word corner: Night Swimmers, Small Beginnings, Special Delivery, Close Enough, Spice of Life/Blind Flight.

In the three/four word corner: Night Swimming, A Poor Start, Nothing to See Here, A Spot of Bother and Too Good to be True.

What do you think? Your thoughts are hugely appreciated since you are my readers, after all, and what is comfortable, to you, will be fitting to other new, untamed readers who are encountering my books out there in the wild for the first time. To make it easier for anyone who wants to give feedback, I’ve made a quick survey. Which should be embedded, below. If it isn’t, follow this link:

https://poll.fm/10305095

Enjoy!

 

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And now for something completely different!

This week, once again, we are striking out in a different direction, although, clearly it’s a slightly less different direction than it was last time because we’ve done this once before. Today, we will be taking a pleasant and rambling detour to Port Naain in the Land of the Three Seas with our friend and poet from a couple of weeks ago, Tallis. This week, I’m sharing a complete tale. As well as appearing in the Port Naain Intelligencer series, Tallis also appears in his own series and on his own blog, no less. I have no idea how Jim Webster finds the time to write all this stuff but as you know, I always enjoy Jim’s books, so a chance to share this one was too good to miss! It also has an extremely apposite title for the condition of yours truly, pre holiday. Enjoy!

Unfashionably Tired …

There are disasters that can strike even the most well organised entertainment. Some you can plan for and seek to avoid. Some you can watch out for and step in immediately to nip trouble in the bud. Others seem to strike out of the blue.

If I was apportioning blame, the temptation would be to give a generous helping to Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren. There again Almas Slackwater cannot be held innocent of blame. Finally I would point the finger firmly at Bethan Phloom who was the hostess and failed to keep control.

To be fair, everything started well enough. The hostess was gracious, people were pleased to be invited, and there was a genuinely pleasant atmosphere. Then Madam Mudfold arrived in a nice dress. It was in silk with a rather interesting floral pattern. The hostess commented on it, others passed equally flattering comments, and Madam Mudfold was delighted. To be fair, she was entitled to be; it was a really nice dress and suited her perfectly.

Five minutes later, with Madam Mudfold barely out of the entrance hall, who should arrive but Madam Cockeren. Now I know these two ladies have had their differences in the past. I am willing to admit that the term ‘feud’ adequately described their relationship.

Still, of late they have been genuinely restrained, behaving with reasonable dignity and even some decorum. Personally I suspect husbands ended up getting involved, mainly due to the risk to life and limb that the feud occasioned.

Still the arrival of Madam Cockeren wouldn’t have been a cause for concern, but for the small, but hardly trivial detail, that she was wearing exactly the same dress as Madam Mudfold. The same silk, the same lines, and to all intents and purposes the same dress. Admittedly there was a little more material in Madam Cockeren’s dress, but this is merely because there is a little more material in Madam Cockeren. But still, it was a delightful dress and suited her perfectly.

Now at this point Madam Phloom as hostess should have done something. As it was she merely had a fit of the vapours and left me to deal with it. Still, that is why I was there. As tactfully as possible I explained the problem to the two ladies, separately, and they agreed to remain in separate rooms and to let me know if they needed to move from one room to another. Thus they need not ‘accidentally’ meet each other.
It’s a scheme I’ve used a number of times and with good will on both sides, it works nicely. I personally had no doubt that it would work equally well on this occasion. Madam Mudfold was in the first floor parlour; Madam Cockeren was in the first floor salon.

And then Almas Slackwater arrived. Alas, she too was wearing the same dress. Unfortunately Almas, is almost a full generation younger than the other two ladies. Now I have heard her described as winsome. Personally I would describe her as charming, witty, and fascinating; others have used the terms ‘frenetic’ and ‘maenadic’.

So whilst the other two ladies could feel assured that they looked elegant and attractive, Almas looked stunning. When she walked into the room one elderly gentleman muttered to me it was as if spring had arrived two months early.

Unfortunately, she arrived just as Bethan Phloom had recovered from her fit of the vapours, and had returned to duty welcoming her guests. She took one look at Almas and fainted clean away. We carried her to her room and she plays no more part in the proceedings.

Almas proceeded to blaze a trail through the house like a comet. She swept through every room, leaving the ladies feeling inadequate and the gentlemen feeling overwhelmed. To be fair to her, it’s just something that happens in her presence, she doesn’t need to work at it. Finally I met her on the hallway and asked her about her latest work. She is a very promising young poet. This distracted her and allowed the rest of the guests to get on with enjoying themselves, until the bell rang for supper.

Now supper needs some explanation. Bethan Phloom had inherited a cookery book from her grandmother. Whilst Bethan and her mother had done well in the grocery trade, grandmother had been in service as a cook and was apparently a really good one. The book Bethan had inherited was the old ladies collection of custard recipes and Bethan had decided to have an evening of custard. We would have a chance to taste over fifty-seven different flavours and textures of custard.

It was then, as custard was served, that everybody had to move into the same room and mingle. Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren were careful to ensure there were always people between them and so they weren’t forced to acknowledge the other. To be fair to them they managed to achieve this without appearing to snub anybody, and frankly I was rather proud of them for achieving this and making my role so much easier.

The Almas arrived in the dining room. Not only did she go and stand right next to Madam Mudfold, she even examined the other lady’s dress to see if the stitching around the neck was the same. Madam Mudfold was mortified. It wasn’t merely that Almas was wearing the same dress, she was wearing it infinitely better. I felt sad for the older lady. The dress suited her. I suspect she had loved it, but I knew that she would never wear it again.

Then as Almas moved away, she seems to have inadvertently bumped into somebody, who in turn stumbled and knocked somebody else. The upshot of this was that strawberry custard was poured down the front of Madam Mudfold’s dress.

Madam Mudfold didn’t hesitate. She put two fingers into her mouth, emitted a piercing whistle which caused everybody, including Almas, to turn round. She then hit Almas full in the face with a carefully hurled bowl of caramel and ginger custard. To be fair, it was an excellent shot. People applauded.

Almas rallied, fell back to another table, and proceeded to send volleys of thick-set summer-fruits custard tarts in the direction of Madam Mudfold. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the custard dripping down her face, Almas’s aim was not perhaps of the best. Whilst all the tarts hit, not all of them hit Madam Mudfold. Others joined in, a number of younger ladies rallied to Almas, whilst Madam Cockeren led a party to rescue the now much beleaguered Madam Mudfold.

The older ladies drove their younger opponents down the stairs, but at the kitchen door Almas rallied her forces. Re-equipped with individual custard pies, they counterattacked. The battle raged up and down the stairs, into the kitchen and out of it, until at least, vanquished, Almas and her legions retired, gloriously custard-besmeared, into the night. The older ladies, realising the damage that had been done to their garments, bid each other an affectionate goodnight, and also decamped. The last to leave were Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren who were arm in arm as they went to find where their sedan chairs had got to.

This left me with Sina the maid and Cook. Bethan Phloom remained firmly in bed, so it fell to the three of us to clean up. It took us nearly nine hours. I washed custard of the walls and shovelled it into bins whilst the ladies cleaned the floor behind me. Then Cook retired to clean the kitchen whilst Sina worked her way through the other rooms that hadn’t been plastered with custard, whilst I finished off washing carpets and similar.

Finally, long after dawn I went into the maids’ parlour to find Sina had put the finishing touches to the fire there. She was preparing for a new day. I went into the kitchen to discover that Cook had made coffee but had fallen asleep before she could offer us any. So I took two mugs of coffee, added cooking brandy to both and went back to the maids’ parlour to give Sina hers.

As she drank half of it she leaned back in the chair.

“Mr Tallis, yesterday my young man asked me to marry him. I told him I’d think on it.”

I waited whilst she emptied her mug in one long swallow.

“You know what, Mr Tallis. After last night I’m going to tell him, yes.”

I congratulated her, took the empty mug off her and went back to the kitchen with our two mugs. On my way out again I glanced through the door of the parlour. Sina was fast asleep.

¶=========================== ¶

And the hard sell!

Welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella length collections of his tales.

So meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run their soirees.

These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is here, and perhaps even a little more.

Firstly:-

Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories.

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady writers, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks the great question, who are the innocent anyway?

Click on the picture to find out more or use the link below!

http://getbook.at/DeepWaters

And then there is:-

Tallis Steelyard. Playing the game, and other stories.

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at the delicate sensitivities of an assassin, wonder at the unexpected revolt of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red. Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death by changing the rules?

To find out more, click on the picture or the link below.

http://getbook.at/PlayingTheGame

Finally …

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to Jim’s Amazon page by clicking on the link below, it should take you to his page on your local Amazon:

author.to/JimWebster

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to Jim’s Amazon page at
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/
https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/

 

 

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Let me take you by the hand and lead you …

Through the streets of Port Naain.

Yes, this week we are doing something a little different. I am posting an excerpt from the latest adventure penned by Jim Webster. This one is from Port Naain in the Land of the Three Seas and features Benor, apprentice cartographer and Tallis, poet, who meet and have numerous adventures in the Port Naain Intelligencer series. If you don’t know these guys, you should, they’re fun, some of my favourite indie characters. The series is well worth a read as are Jim’s longer books – which are about Benor when he is older. But what do I know? Read the excerpt and see for yourself!

Embarrassing

Tallis, with a tight grip on the hand of Young Vortac, ran down the alley, frantically trying to think of a safe destination. He glanced over his shoulder, realised the pursuers were temporarily out of sight, and dived down a side alley and kept running. A cry from behind of,

“There they are,” showed him his subterfuge hadn’t worked.

He knew this neighbourhood; they were now approaching an area where he had patrons. Still he didn’t want his patrons faced with a horde of ruffians. He glanced behind him; their pursuers were more spread out than they had been but some were getting very close to them. Then he recognised a house. He’d performed there but as an anonymous participant in an affair organised by somebody else. Without hesitating he led the boy through the side gate off the lane and burst in through the servants’ entrance. Hastily he slammed the door and barred it behind him. He was just in time. Somebody shoulder-barged the door even as the bolts slammed home. Ignoring the outraged cries of cooks and miscellaneous downstairs staff he led the boy, still at a run, through the house, out of the front door and away down the road. He reckoned they’d gained over a hundred yards before somebody thought to go round the front of the house to check the other doors.

Now with a better lead he had chance to think. The boy, Aea be thanked, had got the hang of it now and they were running side by side. Not having to pull the child had made things easier. Tallis ran in silence, considering and rejecting options. A glance over his shoulder showed him that he wasn’t going to outrun the thugs behind him indefinitely. Then the brainwave struck him. To the boy he gasped,

“Another hundred yards, then into the Institute.”

They accelerated as they approached the tall red-brick building with the imposing façade. Tallis ran in through the open door and slammed it behind him, then at a brisk walk made his way up the grand staircase. They had reached the top of the staircase before the first thug hit the door. Tallis didn’t have much confidence in the lock, a feeble thing. He reached the first floor landing and opened the door to the art class. Below he heard the crash and the door gave way.
As quietly and as unobtrusively as possible he made his way past the various ladies painting. Then to his delight he realised their model was a boy. Gently he drew Young Vortac to him.

“Go through there to the side room. You’ll find tea and cake laid out. Help yourself; I’ll join you in a minute.” The boy nodded and disappeared.

Tallis made his way to the model who was looking at him nervously. Tallis leaned forward and said softly, “When a mob appear in the doorway, point at them and shout, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Why?”

“A good question. Because I’ll give you money.”

Tallis reached into his pocket, but the boy suddenly looked up, pointed at the door and screamed, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Good boy, now run and hide behind the most formidable ladies you can find.”

Tallis turned to look at the fracas that was developing. One ruffian found himself standing very still as a young lady held a palette knife to his throat. The man obviously wasn’t sure how sharp it was but didn’t feel the urge to experiment. Others had gone down in a cursing heap of thrashing bodies, paintings and easels. Tallis ducked down, and hidden behind a phalanx of indignant artists, made his way to the side room. There he found young Vortac tucking into the cakes. Tallis helped himself to a couple and then led the boy down a side stair to the kitchens and then out into the street. Tallis and the boy walked casually together through the suburb heading generally south. Tallis pointed out sights of interest; finally Vortac asked a question that had obviously been troubling him.

“Excuse me sir, but who are you?”

“Why me? I’m Tallis Steelyard, the poet.”

It was distressingly obvious that the name meant nothing to Vortac. “And the other man, the one who rescued me?”

“Benor? Oh he’s a cartographer.”

Vortac touched the ring hanging round his neck. “So you know my father?”

“Never had the honour, I’m afraid to say; but I’m sure Benor knows him.”

They walked along companionably in silence for a while, and then Vortac asked, “So where are we going?”

Tallis pointed towards the estuary, visible now. “We’re going to the barge where I live. Benor will doubtless get fed up of looking for us and come back to the barge. Then we can take you back to your father.” Tallis glanced down at the boy. “I think it will be better to take you back to your father than back to school.”

“But my father is assumed to be dead.” The boy sounded uncertain.

“I’ve been assumed to be dead occasionally,” Tallis replied. “So long as you don’t actually die, it’s a useful way of stopping people hunting for you.” With this they walked on again. Not far from the Old Esplanade, Benor caught up with them.

****

Back at the barge Benor found some bread that had been left too long, and some cheese that was harder than is normally considered pleasant. With the bread toasted and with the cheese heated and spread over it, it made them not a bad meal, enlivened with a splash of spicy fish sauce to give savour. They finished with coffee and Benor reached behind a pile of documents on the dresser and brought out the silver drinking cup made by Young Vortac’s father.

“Do you recognise this?” He handed it to the boy.

“Yes, it belongs to my mother, my father made it for her.”

“I’ve sent a message to your mother, telling her I’ve found it.”

“She’ll be glad of that, she loved it.” Then more eagerly, the boy said, “And I got a letter saying she was coming to Port Naain on business and she’d see me soon.”

“How soon?”

“She should be in the city now; I was to meet her tomorrow.”

Benor glanced at Tallis. “We’d better get this boy back to his father now.”

They walked the boy back through the city. He carried the silver drinking cup wrapped in some rags.

At the door of the house on Togger’s Gyll, Benor knocked. Eventually it was opened by Vortac. Immediately his son rushed to him and threw his arms around him. Benor and Tallis stood back to give the father and son space, until finally Vortac set his son down on the ground again.

“So?”

Briskly Benor said, “There was an attempt to murder him and we thought he’d be safer here than at school.”
Vortac nodded slowly. “Then you have my deepest thanks.”

Benor continued remorselessly, “But probably not for the next bit. According to your son here, his mother is in the city and expects to meet him tomorrow.”

Vortac looked shocked. “So what do we do?”

“I know what I’m going to do. There’s a plot to kill your wife and daughter as well, so I’m going to find them and try and prevent it.”

With that Benor turned on his heel and strode off down Togger’s Gyll. Tallis murmured to Old Vortac,

“Don’t take it personally, he’s had a difficult few days.”

****

Katin, the Chevaleresse of Windcutter Keep and her daughter Natisse sat in the office of Raswil Muldecker the usurer. They both sipped small glasses of wine as Raswil himself checked through various papers. He looked up,

“Excellent, excellent. Everything balances and the inventory agrees with the contents of the chests.”

Somewhat haughtily the Chevaleresse said, “Shouldn’t it?”

“It’s a rarer occurrence than you might expect madam.” Raswill allowed himself to smile. “But yes, your funds are now deposited in the accounts as agreed.” He passed across three papers, “The top one is yours, the second is in your daughter’s name and the third in the name of your son.”

She scrutinised the papers and passed the second to the daughter. The others she folded and tucked into a purse hanging from her belt.

“Thank you Master Muldecker. Everything seems to be in order.”

“Thank you madam.” There was a note of sincerity in the man’s voice. “We have a reputation for reliability to maintain, we value our customers from Partann. We aim to provide security and anonymity.” He raised his glass, “To the continued good health and prosperity of you and your family.”

The mother and daughter raised their glasses dutifully and sipped. There was a knock on the door. The miser looked displeased.

“Who is it?”

“Santon Gilfell, sir, a matter of some urgency sir, concerning the ladies.”

“Oh well, you’d better come in.”

The young clerk entered looking flustered. I’ve just had a letter from an ex-colleague, Sir. You remember Wast Divot who used to work here?”

“The young fool who left a good job with prospects to become the clerk to a mercenary company?”

“Yes sir, well here’s his letter.”

The miser took the letter and read it in silence. He looked at the young clerk.

“Can you vouch for it coming from Wast Divot?”

“Yes sir. Admittedly it’s scribbled in haste but it’s still in his handwriting. On top of that he and I had a code. If he needed to prove a letter was from him he’d call me Sant in the greeting. I call him Waston when I write to him.”
The miser turned his attention to the two ladies.

“Does the name Ulgar-Zare mean anything to you, and would he try to kill you?”

The two women looked at each other. Eventually the mother said,

“Yes, if he thought he could get away with it.”

“It appears that young master Divot and his companions met one Ulgar-Zare in a wayside tavern. He was riding north with a dozen men in his train. There seems to have been drink taken and he overheard a couple of the men talking about the problems of finding you and killing you in a big city.”

Hastily Santon Gilfell added, “With your permission, I think I have a solution. I handle the account for Jorrocks Boat Yard and they have a boat, the Flower of Partann, which is ready to sail. It’s just been in for a refit, and they would leave tonight without taking on cargo, on your assurance that they’ll be able to trade with Windcutter Keep without tariffs to get a return cargo.”

The two women looked at each other again. Natisse whispered in her mother’s ear.

“I don’t like running.”

Her mother whispered back,

“Neither do I, but this way we can be home before he knows and mount our own strike whilst he is still in Port Naain looking for us.”

She turned back to Raswill and his clerk. “Thank you, we will take you up on your kind offer.

****

Benor went first to the house in the Merchant Quarter which the Chevaleresse had previously rented. Alia the housekeeper was there. She remembered Benor and was friendly in a somewhat guarded manner. She couldn’t tell him where the lady or her daughter were, but did tell him they’d sent her a note to ask her to close the house up for a while because they had to travel back to Partann unexpectedly.

Benor ran to Rapscallion’s Wharf where ships to Partann normally sailed from. As he passed along Fellmonger’s wharf, Mutt, still wearing his borrowed school uniform, fell in step with him. The boy had obviously been waiting for him.

“Benor, I was meaning to ask you summat.”

“What?” To his own ears this sounded a bit curt, so Benor added, “If it’s something I can help you with I will.”

“Am I still an apprentice cartographer?”

This question was so unexpected that Benor nearly stopped in his tracks.

“Yes if you want to be.”

“Good.”

Together they made their way down the Ropewalk. Evening was falling as they dropped down to Rapscallion’s Wharf. From that point on Benor moved cautiously and tried to stay hidden. He finally saw the Flower of Partann. There were a handful of crew on deck and the gangplank was still out. He made his way closer. It was there he noticed two sedan chairs travelling down the wharf. They stopped opposite the end of the gangplank and two ladies, the Chevaleresse and her daughter, got out of their chairs and walked up onto the boat.

Benor glanced down at Mutt.

“Can you go and get Tallis and old Vortac please? If those two women sail in that boat they’ll be drowned. Somehow we’ve got to stop it.”

“Nail and another lad are supposed to be waiting for me on Ropewalk, I’ll send them, Nail’s quicker.”

“Fair enough, send them to Tallis first, Tallis will know them and listen to them.”

Mutt slipped away and Benor turned his attention back to the Flower of Partann. The ladies were being shown into a cabin set under the poop deck at the stern of the boat.

Then he noticed two other figures watching the Flower of Partann. One was a man he didn’t recognise, the other was a women he did known. It was Minny. He moved forward, keeping a pile of sacks between himself and them. At the end of the pile there was an open area, but once he crossed it, he’d be able to get close to them by walking round the other side of some barrels. He made his way silently across the open area and reached the barrels. Here he stopped and listened. He could hear the voices but not well. He moved closer and peered round the edge of the barrels. He was now almost within touching distance of the man. He heard the man say, “You got them to go on the boat. If I was a betting man I would have put money against it.”

Minny replied, “Easily done if you know her. A forged letter which told of a serious threat, then an opportunity to avoid the threat and strike a sharp blow at the person who was threatening them, she couldn’t resist it.”

The man nodded, “Cleverly done. Anyway we got the boat ready, Minny. We’ve done our bit, so we want the money.”
Minny replied, “Yes, Ardal, you’ve done your bit, so I’ll do mine. Here’s the money.” She passed across to him a heavy pouch. The man opened it, looked in and shook the coins up a little. “Ah gold, don’t you just love it.”

Benor heard a sound behind him and felt a tap on his shoulder. He spun round just as a fist struck him on the side of the head and everything went dark.

======================================

And now the hard sell

I’ve thought long and hard about blog tours. I often wonder how much somebody reading a book wants to know about the author. After all, I as a writer have gone to a lot of trouble to produce an interesting world for my characters to frolic in. Hopefully the characters and their story pull the reader into the world with them. So does the reader really want me tampering with the fourth wall to tell them how wonderful I am? Indeed given the number of film stars and writers who have fallen from grace over the years, perhaps the less you know about me the better?

Still, ignoring me, you might want to know a bit about the world. Over the years I’ve written four novels and numerous novellas set in the Land of the Three Seas, and a lot of the action has happened in the city of Port Naain.

They’re not a series, they’re written to be a collection, so you can read them in any order, a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories in that regard. So I had a new novella I wanted to release. ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure.’ It’s one of the ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’ collection and I decided I’d like to put together a blog tour to promote it. But what sort of tour? Then I had a brainwave. I’d get bloggers who know Port Naain to send me suitable pictures and I’d do a short story about that picture. It would be an incident in the life of Benor as he gets to know Port Naain.

Except that when the pictures came in it was obvious that they linked together to form a story in their own right, which is how I ended up writing one novella to promote another! In simple terms it’s a chapter with each picture. So you can read the novella by following the blogs in order. There is an afterword which does appear in the novella that isn’t on the blogs, but it’s more rounding things off and tying up the lose ends.

Given that the largest number of pictures was provided by a lady of my acquaintance, I felt I had to credit her in some way. So the second novella I’m releasing is ‘The plight of the Lady Gingerlily.’ It too is part of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection.

So we have ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure’

View or download the book from your local Amazon here.

Benor learns a new craft, joins the second hand book trade, attempts to rescue a friend and awakens a terror from the deep. Meddling in the affairs of mages is unwise, even if they have been assumed to be dead for centuries.

And we have ‘The Plight of the Lady Gingerlily’

View or download from your local Amazon here.

No good deed goes unpunished. To help make ends meet, Benor takes on a few small jobs, to find a lost husband, to vet potential suitors for two young ladies, and to find a tenant for an empty house. He began to feel that things were getting out of hand when somebody attempted to drown him.

======================================

Lastly, if you’d like to read yesterday’s excerpt you can find it here on Ken Gierke’s blog: https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/

While, tomorrow the thirteenth and final episode will be posted on Sue Vincent’s blog, here: https://wp.me/p1wss8-hR3

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New stuff, has landed! Woot!

So, I have a new release.

Yep. That caught you by surprise didn’t it? It’s a 10k short and it’s in an anthology of other excellent stories for yes, now, once again, ’tis the time of year for Christmas Lites. In this case, Christmas Lites VIII.

You may or may not remember the story behind this because I shared it last year. Splitter, an author friend from way back, found himself in a women’s refuge, dressed as Father Christmas with a bunch of candy canes in a sack. He was supposed to be arriving at the office party but instead, ended up doing the whole Santa malarky where he was and giving the candy canes to the people staying there.

You may also remember how his boss asked him where he’d been and how she then called him into work the next day where he found she had loaded her car with presents and how the two of them went back to the refuge with them the next day.

It’s a brilliant story, it’s human nature at its absolute best, and now every year, a group of authors join together and release a new Christmas Lites anthology to raise money for a charity which helps domestic violence victims, and which, I believe, was the the charity behind that shelter, the NCADV. It’s all the more poignant to the authors involved, now, since Splitter died of cancer a few years back so as well as the charity element there’s a dimension of doing a kindness in memory of a lovely guy. I am incredibly proud to be involved.

I’ve made a page of links to places where you can buy it. Unfortunately, because of the logistics of getting the money made to the charity, the book is only available on Amazon at the moment.  Hopefully that won’t be too much of a pain in the arse for users of other platforms – I can recommend the Kindle app if you have an Amazon account.

Grab your copy of Christmas Lites VIII here.

On other news, I also have stumbled upon a rather excellent give away.

It’s a Strange World Science Fiction

This giveaway is running from 22nd December through to 22nd January. These are authors who’ve written sci-fi books that are planet-based, you know, either future Earth, parallel Earth or different planets in other universes. If you enjoyed my stuff about K’Barth I think you may find some things you like among these too. At the least it has to be a release from Christmas telly and turkey farts!

You can find the books and have a look at what’s on offer by clicking on the picture or clicking on this lovely link here.

That’s about it from me, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas or, if you don’t do Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful whatever it is you do. Incidentally, did you know that the whole thing in America where they can’t say ‘Christmas’ is actually just something that occurred because Happy Holidays catches it all and shops didn’t have to have loads of labels, cards etc printed to mention all the other celebrations around at the same time. Then, in order to disguise their laziness, they pretended it was altruism and said they were doing it not to offend anyone. So now everyone’s up in arms at the liberals when the origin may well be down to Hallmark trying to save printing costs! Mwahahahrgh a little Christmas-tastic trivia for you. Sadly, I have not been able to fact check it, but I am very much enjoying the idea.

Anyway, happy it, whatever it is you do and all the best for a fabulous 2019. Whatever the New Year brings, here’s hoping it’s good.

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, Blimey!, General Wittering

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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