The Wonderful World of Tallis Steelyard by Jim Webster ~ #EpicFantasy @JimWebster6

The inimitable Tallis Steelyard has released not one, but two new books. These, and many other books by the author, can be purchased for a trifling sum via Amazon. Visit the Author’s Page by clicking HERE.

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The Automated Caricordia of Darset Dweel.

Shena and I hadn’t finished breakfast when there was a knock on the door. I opened it and to my surprise I was greeted by a very junior footman wearing the livery of Mistress Bellin Hanchkillian. He bowed slightly and asked, “Mistress wished me to enquire if you know the story of the automated caricordia of Darset Dweel?”
“Indeed I do.”
“Thank you.” With that he bowed and left. I closed the door after him, turned towards Shena and in answer to her unanswered question, I merely shrugged. She poured me more coffee and together we finished our breakfast. I do like the days with a mid-morning tide.

It was a couple of hours later that I got a note from Mistress. Apparently a particularly cherished great-nephew, currently residing in Avitas, has written asking whether I knew the tale, and would I be available to travel to Avitas to tell it. This was an excuse for an expedition, Mistress asked if I would accompany her daughter and her to Avitas. Of course, I said yes. Thus, it was that three days later I was seated near the bow of a paddle steamer heading up the River Dharant.
Now you might wonder how I came to know the story of the automated caricordia. To the best of my knowledge there are only two working caricordia in Port Naain. Not only that but they are both in remarkably expensive bordellos. But my knowledge is purely that of the technician. My involvement starts when Madam Veronique wished to move her bordello, the House of Stolen Dreams. Apparently, it was always the same bordello, but occasionally changed location.
In the current building she had a caricordia she had acquired with the business. She hadn’t been entirely happy with it, even to a non-technical eye it was obvious that some of the air pipes were worn and the valves leaked. So, she decided that as it had to be stripped down to enable it to be moved to the new building, it would be refurbished at the same time. She had approached Willun Pipegrip to handle the renovation, and he, having seen the job he was taking on, approached me. His plan was that as he and his lads carefully took the thing apart, I would take notes so they could put it back together again.
So the process was simple. Willun would kneel there, peering at the apparatus. He would say, “Three-quarter leather air pipe, red stripe, number one, into three-quarter brass flutter-valve.”
As he said this, his senior apprentice, armed with a pot of red paint and a fine brush would paint the number one on the leather pipe, and would then paint a red stripe on it.
Willun would continue, “’and the flutter-valve is also red stripe, number 1.”
The apprentice would apply the paint and I would write down. ‘Three-quarter leather air pipe, red stripe, number one, into three-quarter brass flutter-valve. The flutter-valve is also red stripe, number 1.”
Everything was taken apart methodically and everything was put in an appropriate box. Flutter-valves in this box, wandering gooseanders in this box, tremblers in this box. I’m sure you get the idea.
Then Willun and his lads took the lot back to their workshop and went through it part by part. Any parts that weren’t up to Willun’s exacting standards were fabricated then and there. Indeed, he made everything but the leather air pipes, as there are a number of craftsmen who make them to a high standard. So, it was cheaper to buy a roll than it was to set his own lads to fabricating.
Finally everything ready, I was summoned, and we hauled all the bits to the new location and painstakingly reassembled it. There it stood in all its glory.
Now the problem with a caricordia is the number of staff you need to work it. Even with all new pipework you needed two sturdy people on the bellows to keep the air reservoir up to pressure. Admittedly they had to be steady rather than skilled, but the rest of the crew needed to be well trained.
The person who really makes the caricordia ‘sing’ is the conductor. He or she sits above the apparatus, looking down at the participants who are placed on the mattress. (Oh yes and it needed a new mattress because of the problems they had in refitting the tremblers back into an old one.) The conductor also watches the gauges and gives orders to the team who are at their positions around the appliance. The conductor will assess the situation and will then shout, ‘second wandering gooseander three marks left,’ or ‘now, the third trembler.’ At the same time the conductor has to manipulate the feather pipes, as they come down from above. Experience shows that the conductor is the only person who can really control them with the necessary delicacy. Finally, there is the perfumer. This person works their nozzles from a separate reservoir of nicely scented air, and their role is to shoot jets of this air to strike appropriate places at appropriate times. The perfumer works with the conductor but is not under the conductor’s orders. This is frankly because the conductor has enough to do.

So, as you can see, the caricordia needs at least seven people to work it. This is why most bordellos take the decision to fit a large mattress and use it to entertain three couples simultaneously. Darset Dweel comes into our story because he got to hear, through the grapevine, that Willun and his lads were fixing a caricordia. After all it’s the sort of news that travels, and Willun’s workshop would normally have a couple of visiting artisans and engineers dropping in to watch the process. Darset did more than drop in. He joined us as we took the thing apart and was with us as we reassembled it. He even stayed when Pervan, the conductor for the House of Stolen Dreams, got a team together and did a trial run with an empty mattress. I noticed at the time he looked very thoughtful, but I never realised where his thoughts would take him.

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I confess that I feel that if one does have to travel to Avitas, the river is the route to take. If you go by land you just enter the city through a variety of nondescript suburbs and villages. Go by river and you arrive at the Imperial Wharf. It’s a masterpiece of faded glory. I could stand for hours just absorbing the atmosphere of distressed grandeur and contemplating the idiosyncrasies of generations long gone.
The rest of the city bustles, the Great Free Market is probably a better place to buy goods from east of the mountains than Port Naain.
But still, our steamer tied up at the Imperial Wharf and we had a little while to be overawed by the decayed magnificence before our luggage was unloaded and a coach was summoned to collect us and take us to the Gateway to Paradise Inn. This hotel nestles under the ruins of the Grey Keep and is undoubtedly the finest such establishment in Avitas if not Partann. Now obviously this is not the sort of establishment I would ever think to stay, were I travelling alone, but as part of Mistress’s party I was afforded a small room, nicely furnished. My luggage stowed in my room I made my way down to the resident’s lounge. There I met Nalwent Hanchkillian, the great-nephew who was the reason for my travels. I had been keen to meet him because before one tells a tale, one needs to know as much as possible about the audience. Was it to be a collection of rakes, or perhaps engineers and artificers? Indeed, was he going to be the spokesman of an association of worthies determined to ‘improve’ society by stamping down on the immortality of the lower orders.
In point of fact such societies have normally ignored the caricordia. The cost of using one puts it well out of reach of the lower orders, and because it is therefore used by ‘people like us’ it is regarded as a harmless indulgence. Still Nalwent put me at my ease. He wished me to tell the story of the automated caricordia to a varied group of people. Some would indeed be artificers, other professionals interesting in expanding the range of activities they had on offer. Indeed, the proprietor of the House of Unseemly Cavorting would be present. Thus, and so I knew at what level to pitch my talk.
After a very pleasant dinner at the Jenweist’s Sword inn I glanced around the table. Avitas prides itself in being cosmopolitan and Nalwent and some of his guests were dressed in clothes fashionable in Port Naain when they last visited the city. Other guests were Partannese, but most were inhabitants of Avitas. The locals are easily picked out, they wear their hats even when eating. Apparently, the hats bear subtle signs which allow another local to immediately know the wearer’s exact social status. I am afraid that they were too subtle for me, other than it might be that a long sweeping feather is the mark of the owner of a place of amatory entertainment.
I then got up to tell the story of the automated caricordia. I soon noticed that some of the artisans were taking notes. Told baldly, when Darset had seen the caricordia in the House of Stolen Dreams fired up and working, he knew immediately he could improve it. As mentioned previously the equipment needs a large team to operate it, which by definition, puts the cost up. Darset’s decided that he would build a caricordia which a married couple could use in their own home and enjoy an element of privacy at the same time. He first tackled the task of powering the bellows. This surely was something that could be done easily and cheaply and would mean that you needed two fewer staff. It struck me at the time that he was wise, one should always attempt to pluck the low hanging fruit first.
He originally tried using waterpower. A proven technology, absolutely reliable and well tried. To be fair his system worked. Unfortunately, as Madam Veronique pointed out, she was not running a water mill. Even if there had been a way she could have fitted a waterwheel she wasn’t sure other patrons would have entirely approved of the constant noise the contraption created. The ability to switch the gearing and grind grain to produce her own flour was, she felt, a gimmick too far.
So Darset tried steam. A bit revolutionary but simple to operate, the proud user merely had to bank up the firebox, throw a couple of levers and then leap onto the mattress with their partner. After a few trials this procedure was altered to read “bank up the firebox, throw a couple of levers, cast aside the heavy leather apron and gloves, and then leap onto the mattress with their partner.”
Even then there were problems. Some people found the smoke from the firebox to be a distraction. Others felt that it heated the room far too much. Now it was possible to have the steam engine in a different room, along with the bellows. One merely needed a somewhat larger storage tank. The problem here was that some users felt that frantically stoking up the firebox before running into the next room, casting off apron, gloves and shoes, was a distraction and rather spoiled the atmosphere.
So reluctantly Darset discarded steam and turned his attention to an electro galvanic system. Frankly here I feel he was working too close to the edge of knowledge. Whilst I am not by any means an engineer, I don’t feel that when a participant lies on the mattress, their hair should stand on end. I know his final report was a bit vague, and perhaps didn’t go into details. This is because Darset asked me to write up the report and specifically asked me not to dwell on the minutiae.
Another problem was that when participants lying on the mattress moved close to each other, or reached out to touch each other, they produced sparks from one to another. There was also a strong smell of burning, and Darset could never work out where it was coming from.
Deciding that he had proved that it was possible to replace those working the bellows, Darset decided to look at the role of the conductor. He was sure that he could design a system where the conductor could do everything without needing others to open and shut valves or pull rods. He built a system where all the controls came to one place and the conductor sat in front of them. Here Darset had much greater success. Because he was gearing up his prototype to work for only two participants, this greatly simplified the job of the conductor. Indeed, his prototype control system worked almost perfectly from the day he first built it. There was an issue of some of the control rods being too close to other control rods. So, when you activated the fourth wandering gooseander, the second trembler was also activated. Also, some of the feather pipes tended to switch on flutter valves as well. On a positive note, Darset proved absolutely that with a two-person caricordia, the conductor can do the perfumer’s job at the same time as he does his own, with no loss of efficiency.
Had he stopped there, he might have recovered his investment, as he had produced a two-person caricordia which needed a mere three to service it. (That assumes you had two on the bellows and shunned technology to replace them) But Darset was ever the perfectionist. He was struggling with an automated control system which would replace the conductor and heard rumours that in distant Klune somebody is working on an artefact which they called a ‘difference engine’. I am a poet. So not only am I extremely vague about where Klune is, but even the term ‘difference engine’ is one that has me baffled. Present each word to me in solitary state and I can tell you what it means. Put them together in unholy unity and I am lost.
Still my talk went down well and both Nalwent and the proprietor of the House of Unseemly Cavorting tipped me generously, saying how much they valued my honesty.

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.

 

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.

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

For more stories from the Gentlemen Behaving Badly Blog Tour visit Tallis’ hosts…

Chris Graham at The Story Reading Ape’s Blog  ~ A fine residence. ~14th July

GD Deckard at Writers’ coop ~ A man who doesn’t pay his bills never lacks for correspondence ~ 15th July

Ritu Bhathal at But I Smile Anyway ~ Be careful what you pretend to be ~ 16th July

Willow Willers ~ Call yourself a writer ~ 17th July

Colleen Chesebro ~ Every last penny ~ 18th July

Robbie Cheadle ~ It all comes out in the wash ~ 19th July

Sue Vincent ~ Noteworthy ~20th July

Stevie Turner ~ Oblige ~ 21th July

Annette Rochelle Aben ~ Performance art ~ 22th July

Lynn Hallbrooks ~ The alternative career of Dilkerton Thallawell. ~ 23th July

Jaye Marie ~ The automated caricordia of Darset Dweel. ~ 24th July

Ashlynn Waterstone ~ The dark machinations of Flontwell Direfountain. ~ 25th July

Suzanne Joshi ~ Thoroughly married ~ 26th July

Ken Gierke ~ Water under the bridge ~ 27th July

MT McGuire ~ Who you know, not what you know ~ 28th July

 

We continue to explore the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. In this invaluable publication Tallis Steelyard discusses the ways in which a writer can bring their work to the attention of the masses and more importantly, sell the book to them. As well as this, we have the importance of getting home under your own steam, music and decorum, brass knuckles for a lady, and of course, a few simple spices.
Surely this is the one essential book that every aspiring novelist should both purchase and study.

About the author

Someone once wrote this about him:

“Jim Webster is probably still fifty something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels.”

Now with eight much acclaimed fantasy works and two Sci-Fi to his credit it seems he may be getting into the swing of things.

Find and follow Tallis (and Jim)

Jim Webster may be found  at his blog, on Twitter, Facebook and on his Amazon author page.

Tallis Steelyard may be found loitering at his own blog while their book have their own Facebook page

For many more books by Jim Webster (and Tallis)…

Click the images to go to Amazon.

 

#TuesdayBookBlog 13 Steps to Evil @sacha_black

 

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Your hero is not the most important character in your book. Your villain is.
Are you fed up of drowning in two-dimensional villains? Frustrated with creating clichés? And failing to get your reader to root for your villain?
In 13 Steps to Evil, you’ll discover:
+ How to develop a villain’s mindset
+ A step-by-step guide to creating your villain from the ground up
+ Why getting to the core of a villain’s personality is essential to make them credible
+ What pitfalls and clichés to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs
Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create superbad villains. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned writer, this book will help power up your bad guy and give them that extra edge.
These lessons will help you master and control your villainous minions, navigate and gain the perfect balance of good and evil, as well as strengthening your villain to give your story the tension and punch it needs.
If you like dark humour, learning through examples and want to create the best villains you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting superbad villains. Read 13 Steps to Evil today and start creating kick-ass villains.

 

I have read many ‘how to’ books before, but none of them talk quite like Sacha Black. She tells it straight from the hip in an inimitable and refreshing style of direction.

This book is an in-depth and thorough expose of all things villain. Far more complex than you would first imagine.

Cause and effect are explained in easily understood writers speak, along with some amazing examples, just in case you have your dim head on!

Most crime/thriller writers love to create a good/bad villain and probably spend more time on them than the good guys. We should definitely make our villains bad, but giving them one ‘nice’ trait is an interesting idea.

The first thing that surprised me was that the hero is not the most important character in your novel. And that we tend to create a villain and then just let him/her get on with it.

If this book does nothing else, it will encourage, nay, demand that you create some awe-inspiring villains, and some of them will be female. The world seems to think that women don’t make good, bad people, so it could well be time to change all that.

Anti-heroes are something I haven’t given much thought to, but this book explores many such interesting concepts. Anti-heroes can get away with anything, so long as they finish on the side of the angels.

My favourite chapter was all about fear. That the idea of fear is all you need and far more important than all the stark reality of any awful world you create. Fear is such an emotional part of your imagination because you can only guess how bad it really is.

Another good question; should we really kill a villain?

Summary

I am going to have to recheck all my villains after reading this book. Have I actually created believably bad men, or are they just a tad second rate?

I received an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

UK Amazon Link Here

US Amazon Link Here

About the Author

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Sacha Black has five obsessions; words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement, and breaking the rules. She also has the mind of a perpetual sixteen-year-old, only with slightly less drama and slightly more bills. Sacha writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, blogging, sniffing musty old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.

I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you about Sacha’s new book!

Time to check out my latest hero!  (and a review will follow once I have picked the bones of this book clean…

 

Tallis Steelyard Book Tour… Something of the Night by Jim Webster @JimWebster6

Today, it is our turn to host the next instalment of Tallis Steelyards incredible story.

We hope everyone is enjoying it as much as we are!

 

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Something of the night?

I suppose I ought to just call her Lotti, if only because that was the name she ‘worked’ under and inadvertently ended up with. I’m trying to be tactful here because I always liked Lotti, but it has to be admitted that her occupation was perhaps not the one her mother would have hoped she’d have gone into. There again as Lotti never knew her mother, we cannot be sure of that.

Lotti was a foundling and was raised in one of the foundling hospitals. No need to mention which one. They were good with her, taught her to read and write and trained her to be a lady’s maid.

Hence at the age of fourteen she went out into the world set on a new career. But alas it did not go well. There are houses to which you would send a fourteen year old girl, and there are houses you wouldn’t. And frankly there are houses where you would only burn them down when you could

guarantee you’d got the entire family and all the staff trapped inside. I will say no more.

Lotti left that house and desperately tried to make a living. Eventually, after trying any number of things, most of which didn’t last long, with employers who were more or less sordid but none who were what you might call decent, she decided she would have to take charge of her destiny.

Feeling that fate seemed to demand that she provide what we might call ‘erotic services’, she’d make damned sure she was properly paid for them.

Her knowledge of the houses of the apparently respectable had given her an insight into a market which she felt she could fulfil. Thus she set out her stall as ‘the naughty maid.’

Men of a certain age would hire her and send her as a birthday present to a friend, ensuring that his wife and family were out. ‘Gentlemen’ would even hire her themselves. She demanded payment in advance, cash only, and it was tucked away in an account with her usurer before she would ever cross her client’s threshold. Some looked down on her for it, but as she pointed out, how many innocent maids were left alone because she was there to provide the service?

The reason I knew her was that the foundling hospital had somehow instilled in her a genuine love of poetry. In her late teens she had many of the poems of the masters off by heart and she would occasionally come to the barge bringing a bottle of wine, a ham, or the makings of a meal. She’d dine with Shena and I and we’d talk poetry and the art of versifying.

Who knows how long she would have lived this existence, but then she made an error. She would get the client’s address and the money and she’d just knock on the door and be shown inside. Except on this occasion the address was slightly wrong. Obviously I’m not going to tell you what the address was, but they’d got the numbers the wrong way round. So Lotti knocked on the door of the wrong house, if memory serves it was number fourteen rather than forty-one.

What made things more interesting was that in this house they’d just hired a new maid from an agency and were expecting her. When Lotti turned up wearing a perfectly respectable maid’s outfit (we shall not mention the somewhat ‘unusual’ underwear), they just assumed she was the new girl. As an aside I’ve often wondered what happened to the girl who was supposed to turn up, did she make the opposite mistake and arrive by accident in the house where they were expecting Lotti? Frankly I don’t know and I long ago decided not to find out.

So when Lotti arrived, she was welcomed by the housekeeper, which was unusual, introduced to other staff, which came as something of a surprise to her, and was then introduced to the Mistress herself. This had never happened before. Lotti inquired, cautiously, about the master of the house, but the Mistress informed her, somewhat sadly, that she was a widow. She welcomed Lotti to her household, hoped she’d be very happy, and the housekeeper then showed Lotti her room and instructed her in her duties.

That night, in her solitary bed in a small room she had to herself, Lotti lay there and pondered the situation. She had been trained to be a lady’s maid, so she could do the job. She pondered her previous employment but eventually decided that she would try this new life.

Over the next few weeks she got to know the others in the household and they got to know her. Both the Mistress and her housekeeper were impressed; Lotti threw herself into the job. Yes there were areas where she was rusty, but when a maid moves from one household to another, there is always a period of transition when she learns the new way of doing things.

On top of that Lotti is, in reality, a nice person with a captivating smile and a genuine willingness to help. Her past had made her wary, but it had not yet made her bitter. As they got to know her, they made use of her strengths. Her ability to be absolutely formally correct in the presence of gentlemen (originally a necessary part of the game she was paid for) meant that her employer let her pay off tradesmen.

Time passed, Lotti became an accepted part of the household, and one morning she woke to the realisation that she was happy.

It was about then that Julatine Sypent, a recognised artist, was invited into the house to paint the Mistress. Apparently her various offspring wanted a portrait of her, and so, under protest, she’d agreed. During the course of the process, which consisted of a number of sittings over a period of weeks, Lotti, as lady’s maid, was the one who fetched Julatine his cup of infusion, offered round the sweet biscuits and generally was on hand should her Mistress need her.

Julatine was utterly smitten with her. One afternoon when she was out of the room he begged Mistress to be allowed to paint Lotti as well. Mistress agreed, even though she was wise enough to realise she might be about to lose a good lady’s maid. So with one portrait done, Julatine started on the second. Now it has to be realised that Lotti wasn’t going to be an easy victim of a painter’s charm. But Julatine was lucky. He’d long realised that a painter has to entertain the person he is painting. The last thing you want is somebody sitting there listless and bored. So he quoted poetry as he painted. Once he realised she loved poetry, he brought in books of it, he ransacked the libraries of friends for books to lend her. Eventually, the painting finished, he leaned back and looked at it thoughtfully.

A little nervously Lotti asked, “Is it all right?”

“Yes, I think it’s about finished.”

“Can I look at it now?”

As she stood up to see it Julatine said sternly, “There’s just one thing that has to be done before it’s fit for viewing.”

A little concerned Lotti asked, “What’s that?”

“You have to agree to marry me.”

She always said she wasn’t likely to get a better offer.

 

And the hard sell!

So 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, ladywriters, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks the great question, who are the innocent anyway?

 

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.

 

Tomorrow, the next episode is at https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com…

See you there!

#Throwback Thursday ~Cusp of Night by Mae Clair #ParanormalMystery @MaeClair1

The truth hides in dark places . . .

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Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house—a woman whose ghost may still linger. Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, triggers Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .

Visit us at www.kensingtonbooks.com

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Forli, Emilia Romagna, Italy: narrow dark alley in the old town – ancient Italian street at night with lampposts and cobbled pavement

Our Review of Cusp of Night

“Equal parts monster and fallen angel…”

I knew when I read the blurb for CUSP OF NIGHT that I had to read the first book in Mae Clair’s new series, and I wasn’t disappointed.

It is an unusual story, beautifully written, dripping with a chilling mystery that draws you into the dark world of spiritualism and myth. Mae Clair skilfully blends and intertwines the chapters, connecting the reader to the 1900’s and the present day and the mysteries of both.

I especially loved the way the mysteries from the past begin to resonate with the present circumstances, leading the hero, Maya Sinclair into the paranormal discovery of an evil that somehow can live forever.

Why would an evil entity visit the present, dragging tragedy and horror with it?

This is the mystery that Maya needs to solve, as disaster begins to strike the people around her. Would she be able to solve the mystery and discover the truth behind the legend?

The tension had me chewing my nails, and then the unexpected sadness had me reaching for a box of tissues, but I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

Already described as  “unique, addictive and creepy…” this new series promises to be a best seller and I can highly recommend Cusp of Night to anyone who loves a haunting and formidable story…


 

EXCERPT FROM CUSP OF NIGHT

She’d left her purse on the dresser, keys by her jewellery chest. A half dozen shoeboxes that had yet to find a place in the closet were stacked beside a white rocking chair. Made from distressed wood, the chair had come from Mrs.Bonnifer’s antique shop. Maya had bought it on the spot after hearing it dated from the 1880s. She’d placed it in the parlour initially, then moved it to the bedroom, where it fits perfectly in the corner by the fireplace. Almost as if it had been made for the spot.

The fireplace had long ago been converted to gas, but the charm of the elaborate Victorian mantel had been one of the deciding factors prompting her to sign the lease.

A soft creak broke the stillness, and the rocker pitched slowly back and forth. The runners bobbled up and down as if someone sat in the chair, controlling the movement. A finger of cold traced Maya’s spine. Secondcrept into second as the deliberate rocking continued, the floorboards creaking in unison with the lurch of the runners.

 Barely breathing, Maya stood. Ever since those few seconds in the Aether, she’d grown sensitive to ripples on the fringe of normal. She didn’t believe in ghosts or hauntings but couldn’t deny the existence of vibrations that breached barriers between life and death. She was living proof of a “between” world. Ivy was the only person she’d ever told what she’d experienced while EMTs fought to revive her.

Shock. Trauma, they’d said. You were lucky.

Be careful here. Mrs Bonnifer’s warning echoed in her head. This place has a history.

Maya stepped to the foot of the bed, her gaze glued to the rocker. Its movement stopped abruptly as if an unseen hand had clamped down on the back…

 

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PopularBlogTour: Two New Novellas from Jim Webster @JimWebster6

Today it is our turn to share Jim Webster’s amazing stories with you.

We are delighted to be a part of his latest Blog Tour introducing Swimming for profit and pleasure &The Plight of the Lady Gingerlily.


The ethical choice

Shena served out the meal Tallis had prepared and started eating. She was
becoming aware that they were sitting in total silence. Benor glared
gloomily at his food, (although it didn’t stop him from eating with a
reasonable appetite). Mutt was obviously deep in planning some dark scheme
of his own, whilst Tallis was obviously miles away, mentally at least. Shena
assumed he was just pondering a rhyme scheme or trying to fit words to a
metre. She began to wonder if she’d somehow offended them all.
Finally she picked on Benor as the one most likely to confess. “What on
earth are you looking so miserable about Benor?”
“The basic unfairness of the world.”
“All of it or just one specific bit?”
“It’s just typical. Somebody asks you to fix something. So you go out of
your way to fix it and then when you need their help in one small area, they
come over all ethical and leave you to get on with it.”
“How about being a bit more specific?”
“I need somebody to distract Minny and her sister Jan. You remember, the
pair who run the ‘Two Sisters’ dress shop, just down Dollymop Street.”
“Why do you want them distracting?”
Benor temporised. “We know Minny had a letter which seems to instruct her to
kill the Chevaleresse of Windcutter Keep and her two children. I’ve been
asked to stop this happening, but I really ought to see the letter so I have
some idea what is going on. But the problem is, I asked somebody to provide
a distraction for me and they wouldn’t, so I’m now stuck.”
“Nothing could be easier,” Shena said, “Tallis can take me in there and buy
me a dress.”
The conversation was interrupted by coughing as Tallis seemed to choke on a
mouthful of food that had apparently gone down the wrong way. Everybody
stopped and watched him as he pulled himself together. Hoarsely he said
carefully, “Given time I’m sure I too could find a suitable ethical
dilemma.”
Thoughtfully Benor said, “Just Shena on her own isn’t going to take the two
sisters to serve her.”
Mutt said cheerfully, “I could go?”
“They’d just call the Watch,” Tallis said dismissively. Mutt was about to
say something indignant when Tallis added, “Any anyway, you’d have to wear
shoes and satin knickerbockers.”
Mutt subsided.
Shena said thoughtfully. “Benor’s right, it’ll have to be more than one
customer. I shall ask some of Tallis’s patrons. I’m sure Mistress Bream
would fancy a trip out. Then there’s the Widow Handwill.”
Tallis had gone pale at this. “But they spend fortunes on clothes!”
Shena turned on him. “No they don’t, they invest wisely in classics which
they get plenty of wear out of.”
“I cannot afford classics.” Tallis contemplated his words. “I admit it; I
cannot even afford cheap and tawdry.”
“Nonsense. Mutt, I’ll write a couple of letters of invitation to these
ladies and you can deliver them.

”’

Inevitably the invitations were accepted. Still his patrons, sensitive to
the worries Tallis was too polite to even hint at, decided that he shouldn’t
be present lest it cause him to fret. Instead he was left behind at the
house of the Widow Handwill. There he could supervise and entertain a number
of grandchildren, some hers, some apparently borrowed for the occasion.
The widow had also insisted that Shena call round to her house first. This
meant she could change into a dress abandoned by one of the widow’s
daughters. Thus and so the three ladies, properly arrayed, were conveyed by
sedan chair to the shop.
They entered and were immediately made welcome. The two sisters had made a
rapid appraisal of their combined net worth and obviously decided that this
was not an occasion to stint on service. Styles were discussed; a number of
fabrics in a variety of colours were seen and felt.
“So what exactly is Madam looking for?”
Shena said thoughtfully. “Something long, but short enough for dancing.
Above the ankle perhaps.”
The widow added, “And I would recommend silk. It is universally acknowledged
that there is almost nothing so well suited to any season.”
Unwilling to be missed out, Mistress Bream said sagely, “And it is the most
pleasant to wear.”
“What colours have you in mind?” Minny asked.
“I thought of something plain,” Shena replied.
“You are still young.” Mistress Bream insisted. You want fresh simplicity, I’d
say pale colours.”
“And you have kept your figure,” the widow commented in tones that might
have been envious. “A slender figure sets off to perfection a dress with a
high neck.”
Benor, listening through the shop door, worked softly on the lock of the
private stair. Mutt, standing behind him, watched the street. As Benor had
suspected, the lock was simple and easily defeated. The door was meant to be
bolted when those living in the house were out. As quietly as possible Benor
made his way upstairs, walking close to the wall in an attempt to stop them
creaking. Mutt followed in his footsteps.
There were four doors off the landing; from what they had been told the far
one was Minney’s room. Again walking near the wall, Benor approached the
door and tentatively tried the handle. The door was not locked and opened
easily enough. Looking inside the bed with its curtains was to his right. He
approached the bed. Wast had said the box was under the mattress. From below
him he could still hear the hum of conversation. Occasionally a phrase would
be audible. Mistress Bream’s determined assertion, “No gores or flounces,”
wafted up to him.
He carefully lifted the mattress slightly and saw the chest. It was flatter
than he’d expected but then if it were to be slipped under a mattress it
would have to be. He pulled it too him, turned it round and put the key in
the lock. It turned beautifully. He opened the lid almost reverently.
Instead of loose coin there were three bags. Two were labelled. The largest
was labelled Jorrocks Boat Yard, another other bore the name Salat
Wheelstrain. Jorrocks Boat Yard he’d heard mentioned before, Minny had some
sort of dealings with them. But Salat Wheelstrain? Who was he?
Benor opened the unlabelled one. It contained a considerable number of
coins, all ten alar pieces. He removed ten and replaced them with the ten
forgeries. Then purely out of curiosity he had a quick look in the other
two. Both contained only ten alar pieces. The money might have been bagged
because it was soon to be paid out?
There was no sign of the letter Wast had seen. Benor contemplated the open
chest. Perhaps Wast’s flight had convinced Minny to be more careful. So she’d
hidden the letter elsewhere. He turned to see Mutt holding out a hand. Benor
took an extra ten alar piece and dropped it in the outstretched hand. After
all, the boy had to pay the pickpocket. He rearranged the bags, trying to
leave them as he’d found them. He locked the chest and put it carefully
back. Leaving, Benor didn’t let his sense of achievement prevent him from
continuing to take proper precautions. At the outside door they waited until
everybody had passed before slipping out into the street. As they waited
Benor could hear Mistress Bream railing on the topic of petticoats.

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

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’

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07NDWQRVL/
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NDWQRVL/

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

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Plight-Lady-Gingerlily-Naain-Intelligencer-ebook/dp/B07NDXJSD8
https://www.amazon.com/Plight-Lady-Gingerlily-Naain-Intelligencer-ebook/dp/B07NDXJSD8

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.


Anita’s Journey to The Planets ~ Earth

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Our Earth

 

 

I will start my journey on Earth because this is where we all live.

Our wonderful Planet swims on the edge of the Milky Way like a newborn waiting for mother’s milk.

We live on this magic ball, spinning on its axle like a trapeze artist.

On occasion, there is a wobble, and I often wonder if this wobble coincides with those wobbly moments in my own life. Like any good trapeze artist, I re balance and stay on course.

There are too many beautiful things to see and do, so many beaches to visit, warm seas to swim in and beautiful sunsets that should never be missed.

So many people to converse with and learn their way of life.

Long may our Earth continue to spin in our spiral Galaxy.

I am off now, to see what I can find in this perfect alignment…

As I look back towards Earth, I see the Northern Lights and my soul is baptised by the glorious colours of the dancing river of lights…

I am now heading towards Mars… Please join me on my journey tomorrow ?

Anita Dawes

Release Date for The Sentinel’s Reign by Suzanne Rogerson #science fiction & fantasy @rogersonsm

The long awaited sequel is launched today!

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The Sentinel’s Reign – Silent Sea Chronicles Book 2

Publication date 29th June 2018

99p for a short time only

To Buy Link

Add to Goodreads bookshelf

Blurb

The new Sentinel’s reign is doomed to failure unless Tei can prevent the Kalayan people from plunging into war.

With the new Sentinel initiated and the magic restored on Kalaya, life is flourishing for Tei and the exiles. But Rathnor’s plans for war soon escalate and thwart any chance of peace.

Brogan’s position on the Assembly is uncertain as rumours circulate that he is an exile spy.

After an attempt on his life, Farrell is more determined than ever to build a home for his people on Stone Haven. But the council have their sights set on Kalaya and Farrell struggles to steer them from war.

As trouble brews within and outside forces gather against them, can the exiles keep their hold on the magic, or will this spell the end of Kalaya and its people?

The Sentinel’s Reign is a heroic fantasy. If you like character-driven adventures then you will love The Sentinel’s Reign.

This is the second book in the Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy and follows on from The Lost Sentinel.

Excerpt from Sentinels Reign

 

They’re gone…

As Brogan crested the ridge, he yanked at the reins and stared down in horror. In the valley below, twin blazes lit up the sky.

‘No!’

His chest tightened as he saw the barn and farmhouse completely consumed by fire. He picked out a couple of dark shapes fleeing; a few horses lucky enough to escape the fire for a second time.

Before he could react on the instinct raging through his blood, Tei manoeuvred her horse in front of his, blocking his path. Her horse pranced and snorted, and Biscuit took a step back.

Brogan looked at the formidable pair stopping him from reaching his friends. ‘Move out the way.’

‘They’re gone.’

She said it so quietly he wished he’d imagined it, but looking over her shoulder at the fire, he knew nothing could survive the inferno.

Tei walked her horse forward so she was level with his and grabbed the reins from his hand. She held Biscuit steady.

‘Brogan, I’m so sorry.’

He saw the devastation written on her face. Then he glimpsed the sword concealed beneath her cloak. ‘Give me your sword.’

Tei pulled away from him, guarding her weapon. ‘That won’t help.’

‘It will if I kill the bastard responsible…’

 

The Sentinel’s Reign – Book 2 Silent Sea Chronicles

The Lost Sentinel – Book 1 Silent Sea Chronicles

Visions of Zarua – Standalone epic fantasy

Website

Goodreads Author Page

Facebook Author Page

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Photo of Author Suzanne Rogerson.

Author Bio

Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.

She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.

Suzanne is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles. But most of all she likes to escape with a great film, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.

 

Social Media links

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Preview and Early Review of Cusp of Night by Mae Clair #Mystery/Suspense #Supernatural Thriller @MaeClair1

 

 

Cusp of Night, Mae Clair’s stunning new book is released tomorrow, and we will be posting our review in the morning!

In the meantime, here is An Early Review of  Cusp of Night by Mae Clair

Thank you for having me as your guest today to share my newest release, Cusp of Night. A mystery/suspense novel with elements of urban legend and the supernatural, Cusp of Night uses dual timelines to tell two mysteries—one set in the past and one in the present. Naturally, both have to converge at the end, creating a tidy package. As an author, it involves writing two stories at once—something I found challenging to do, but also intriguing.

I’d like to share a snippet from a pre-release review today. After downloading a copy of Cusp of Night from NetGalley, Dianne, of the Tome Tender Book Blog had this to say:

Mae Clair takes us on a twisted journey through time and back in her latest mesmerizing read, CUSP OF NIGHT. The feel of the 1890’s comes to life, with its dark secrets, heinous betrayals and the jarring inner pain of a woman used for the very differences that forced her to grow up labeled a freak and a monster. What drives Maya to unearth the past with such obsessive fervor? Has Maya’s own past created a connection beyond the veil of death? One man is determined to help her, and together they will learn the nightmare called the Fiend is very much alive…was it ever dead?

Absolutely one of Mae Clair’s best paranormal mysteries to date! I could feel the change in eras, the emotions, I found my own monsters in so many of these characters and had to ask myself, who were the real victims? Deviously dark, this tale unfolds like a coiled snake ready to strike at any time and through it all, the webs that are woven grow into a barbed tapestry of suspense.

Too many riveting, entangled events to dismiss, you may find yourself dreaming of waking at 2:22 am a little cold and no longer alone…Fabulous reading intrigue from an author who knows her craft!

 

It’s so rewarding to find a review that makes all those late nights and long weekends juggling plot lines worthwhile. Many thanks to Dianne for posting her thoughts.

If Cusp of Night sounds like something that might interest you, perhaps you’d like to take a closer look at the blurb:

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BLURB

Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house–a woman whose ghost may still linger.

Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .

PURCHASE HERE

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Newsletter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Other Social Links

 

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#The Yak Guy Project : Our review #OriginalFiction #Distopian @Virgilante

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Imagine waking up in the desert with no idea what happened to you. You have clear memories of situations and places, but a complete loss in personal matters… like your own name. This situation is bad, and you have no idea how to get home.

When you’re rescued by a talking yak, the situation gets exponentially worse. You have obviously lost your mind. The immediate needs of a ride off the salt pan and searing heat, along with a drink of water, outweigh the concerns about your mental state.

This is exactly what happened to the Yak Guy. In fact, he’s been placed in an alternate world and given a chance to start over in life.

Can this selfish, almost parasitic, young man learn to start over in a world where charity is hard to find? Life is brutal and short here, but he’s going to have to adapt or perish.

The Yak Guy project is loosely based around The Fool’s Journey from the Tarot. Those with experience in Tarot will spot people and situations from the Major Arcana.

Our Review:

Near to death, with no idea of where he is or why he is there, a hapless survivor meets a yak in the desert.

The opening chapter is a corker!

I loved the yak from the get-go, with his sensible advice, observations and his sense of humour. With the help (and patience) of this yak, the survivor will learn the difference between need and want, beginning a massive learning curve for him.

In many ways, this story reminded me of The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, in which a traveller encounters many challenges on his journey through life. Another story about destiny and fulfilment leading to wisdom.

Elements of the Major Arcana from the Tarot appear in the people and situations our survivor finds, creating a thoroughly fascinating insight as we travel the road with him.

The Yak Guy Project is a highly unusual and entertaining story, just what we have come to expect from the author, Craig Boyack.

I loved every person the survivor meets and every lesson he learns, and I can highly recommend The Yak Guy Project to everyone.

If I haven’t managed to convince you to read this book, here is an excerpt…

I stepped up to the edge, and below us, in a natural cavity, was a pool of water. There was about ten feet of cliff to get to it.

 “This is a known water hole. Take the bag, tie it to the rope, and fill it. Then pour it into the trough so I can drink.” The yak nosed a rock that looked like it had been carved into a trough by cavemen.

I grabbed the waterskin. “Get your own damned water. I’m thirsty.”

“I’ve helped you. Now you need to help me.”

“Fine. I’ll do it, but I’m drinking first.”

The yak approached the ledge again. He swung a horn into the small of my back and flicked me off the ledge. I dropped the bag and yelled. Water smacked me like the concrete at a skate park. It wasn’t cold, but it was a shock.

When I clawed my way back to the surface, I gasped for air. Blood ran from my nostrils. “You fucker. When I get up there I’m going to kick your ass.” I reached for the edge, but couldn’t find a hand-hold. I circled the pool, but the cliff walls were nearly vertical all the way around. “I’m trapped, asshole.”

“So it appears. Do you have a plan? Perhaps you can get your drink while you’re down there.”

 “You’ve got to get me out of here. You climb like a goat. Come get me.”

“I will not. Some terrain is too steep even for me.”

“You can’t just leave me here.”

 “Actually, I can.”

“Please!” The yak backed away from the ledge. The sound of gravel crunching lasted long enough to tell me he hadn’t left. A rope unfurled toward the pool, and the yak peered over the edge. “Wrap it around your waist.”

 I floundered over to the rope, and wrapped it around my middle. “Okay, pull me up.”

 “You forgot my water.”

The yak won the argument.

Amazon Link:  https://amazon.com/Yak-Guy-Project-C-Boyack-ebook/dp/B07D1QY9Y7/

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures From an Exhibition Blog Tour with Tallis Steelyard @JimWebster6

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More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Here Tallis tells the stories behind a series of paintings presented at an exhibition held in Port Naain. Discover the dangers of peasant dances, marvel at the duplicity of well brought up young ladies who mix with robber barons and prepare to be astounded at the wisdom of the goose girl.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tallis-Steelyard-Pictures-Exhibition-Webster-ebook/dp/B07C5V726Y/

 

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I love these stories from Tallis Steelyard and the amazingly beautiful paintings that always accompany them.

This story, The Gnome, is the second story in this collection of stories about the art exhibition Tallis and his friends create for their friend, the artist Andeal Willnoton Quillabin. Who, in their opinion, was not as well regarded as they thought he should be.

The Gnome is the nickname for the artist’s muse, model and assistant. A very small woman, hence the nickname, but a force to be reckoned with…

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The artist and Morri…

The Gnome

Not many people know why Morri was nicknamed The Little Gnome. Some thought it referred to her size and it‟s true that she‟s not the tallest of women, but if that was the reason, the name seemed a little harsh. Personally I always had a lot of time for her; there are not many women who have been the muse for two such different men.

It‟s been mentioned before that she was Andeal ‟s muse, model, and assistant. Indeed the whole exhibition had been planned with the idea of producing enough funds to enable Andeal to acquire a house. Hopefully it would be a suitable house, with such fripperies as glass in the windows; a house that would convince her to marry him.

But she had also been the muse of Rargan Grosset. Rargan was one of the handful of living poets that I ever looked up to when I was young. He was a lot older than me, perhaps forty years or more. But he was always generous with advice and praise, and what is more he was not too proud to feed a starving poetaster and many of us dined at his table over those years.

It always struck me as a little sad; Rargan had a body of really fine work. In his youth he had shown himself a master of Zeugma and had done truly wonderful things with the Triadic stepped line. Yet in later life, at the time when I first met him, the springs from which his verses flowed seemed to have dried up.

It was when his elderly housekeeper died that he advertised for a replacement, and Morri applied for the position. He took her in, assuming that she was another waif who needed rescuing, and fearing that if he didn‟t rescue her, she‟d fall into the hands of worse. As it was she rescued him. She didn‟t merely keep house for him, she took it upon herself to set his business affairs in order.

I have mentioned that he was generous. Not merely did he feed us, some borrowed money from him to fund artistic projects. One such was Dash Blont. Always a womaniser, at the time he saw that being a published poet would open doors to him. In his case predominantly bedroom doors, but still, I can understand his reasoning. Thus he borrowed a considerable sum from Rargan to publish his unspecified work of poetic genius. Personally I suspect that he borrowed as much as he did because he assumed that Rargan would die of old age before Dash was called upon to pay it back. The elderly find it easy to become creditors.

Having looked at Rargan‟s accounts, Morri decided that Rargan needed the money, so she would get the money back. She wrote gentle letters of reminder which Rargan signed. Dash Blont of course ignored them. She wrote stronger letters which Rargan didn‟t want to sign. It didn‟t matter, she signed them for him, but Dash Blont still ignored them. Finally she arrived at Dash Blont‟s house in person, sat down in his kitchen and explained that she‟d come to collect the money. She refused to leave until it was paid.

Dash tried everything. He tried charming her, flirting with her, cajoling her, but she merely kept carving a block of wood with a wickedly sharp knife.

He wooed her with fine wines and excellent food. She ate, drank, and continued carving.

Finally, after three days, Dash realised he was beaten. He could hardly invite some inamorata back to his house, lest she find Morri sitting in his kitchen and asked questions he wasn‟t really willing to answer. Not only that but he could hardly go out to the house of a lady friend, lest Morri wander from the kitchen and perhaps stumble upon his correspondence. Thus he offered to pay her all the cash he had, which was a third of the loan. Morri continued carving. She continued carving for the remaining two days that it took Dash to gather together the money. She left with the money, leaving Dash a sweet smile, and a wooden phallus. It was so finely carved that one could even see where it had been severed from the body.

After that word circulated, and Morri‟s gentle letters to creditors produced a veritable avalanche of currency, some even adding a nominal amount to cover interest charges.

Still there were others who needed chasing up. These were people who had promised to supply things and had never delivered. Rargan Grosset had business associates. For example rather than merely going to a printer and having his work printed, he‟d worked through publishers. One of them, Balor Finch, had published three of Rargan‟s books of poetry and whenever Rargan asked how the books were selling, Balor pulled a long face and explained that the market for poetry was depressed and the books were sitting on his shelves gathering dust and cobwebs.

At this point Morri came to me for advice. After all, you can see her reasoning; „Tallis is a published poet and an honest man. He will tell me what sales are like‟. Here I was in a quandary. My own sales remain such as would not cast doubt upon a writer‟s amateur status. On the other hand Rargan was one of the greats of our day. Not only that but since Morri had appeared on the scene he‟d got a new lease of life and was writing once more. Not only that, he was writing beautifully. I was sure that if anybody was selling poetry, it was Rargan Grosset.

So I asked for a little time and dropped in to Glicken‟s Printers. I knew they printed for Balor Finch. I asked for a few prices, as if costing out a work of mine own, and old Ardwok had the decency to give a young poet half an hour of his time. He went through all the costs, explaining the problem about short print runs and suchlike.

Finally I asked, “So how do folk like Rargan Grosset manage?”

Ardwok smiled. “Tallis lad, they manage because they sell steady away, and we‟ll print a thousand every year.”

With that information I returned to Morri and explained that it seemed that Rargan was indeed selling his work. Indeed if he was selling a thousand copies every year he was outselling most of the poets in the city.

It must have been a week later I met Morri in the street near Balor Finch‟s office. She was carrying a bag in one hand and her wood carving knife in the other. I walked with her for company and asked about the bag.

“Oh Balor Finch has done a hasty recalculation of sales and has paid Rargan everything he owes him.”

I was impressed; indeed I was almost rendered speechless. Finally I asked, “How did this come about?”

“Oh, after talking to you I went to see Ardwok Glicken. I just told him that Balor Finch was having trouble paying his bills and perhaps he was experiencing financial difficulties. Ardwok cancelled Finch‟s line of credit immediately. It was only by paying Rargan that Finch could convince Ardwok that he wasn’t about to go bankrupt and so Ardwok has allowed him a little credit.

It was at about this time Rargan was heard referring to Morri affectionately as “his little gnome.‟ I don‟t know anybody else who really used the name, although I know some who had much harsher names for her.

Me? I have always liked her; there is about her a freshness of attitude, a no- nonsense briskness. My lady wife Shena is, after a manner of speaking, her cousin, and I can see the resemblance.