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
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.”
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
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’
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
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.