Category Archives: writing

Would you begin….

Once upon a time.

My youngest grandson, from the time he was about six, displayed all the signs of a word class writer, or film maker.

Even back then he had an advanced knowledge of words, asked pointed deep questions and actually did some writing.

As the years have gone by he continues to dissect characters and motivation and discuss scenes. He is a deep thinker.

Now, at the age of fourteen, there have been times he has called his grandma (that’s me) to talk about story ideas and ask for my input. I have asked for his ideas and input.

When it comes to writing, we are more like equals. I respect his thoughts, his mind.

But this is actually about ONCE UPON A TIME.

He told me that a teacher once told him that you can never start a story with the words ONCE UPON A TIME.

After giving it some thought, I told him that, as a writer, he can start a story any way he wishes. But I do understand where that teacher was coming from. I guess unless you are writing a fairy tale your story will start differently.

Like his grandma, writing is not a daily occurrence. But I have found a long time can pass while the grey cells think. And produce. I have experienced that particular joy, when it seems I have not been productive, but when I sat to write it all came out like a perfectly baked soufflé.

Some writers set a goal of so many words a day, but I like the way G2 and I do it. Think, wait, think, and let all the ingredients blend in a rhythm. I have tried pushing myself to so many words a day, but the result is a cheap knock-off.

I don’t need to say I am very proud of him. Do I?

Originally posted AWA

A Pleasant Day

Yesterday was – A pleasant day, nothing special, but one one that ranks up right up there.

It started off with our Monday morning group meeting at our Cafe and our usual setting the problems of the world aright. A lovely group with accompanying views, light and serious discussion, and a healthy dose of laughter sprinkled throughout. I always leave feeling a bit lighter.

One of our favourite corners

Then a stimulating chat on FaceTime where the interesting conversation continued about how conversation of a group changes depending on who is taking part. In this case it was about an near nonagenarian who had been a lifelong spinster who was absent and how the discussions were different than when this very interesting lady was present. Not better, but different. A different focus. I guess. Does that make sense? Have you ever observed something similar?

Then an interesting email came in. Yesterday I had purchased a bottle of Chardonnay by a noted Canadian from our Niagara Peninsula..

Our Niagara Wineries are world famous. Anyway, I treated myself to a wine a little more expensive than what I would normally buy and went off home to enjoy. Except I could not open the bottle. The cap and the shield over the cap just spun, right, left, and all around. The photo shows cling wrap I used to maintain the integrity of the wine.

Eventually I got it open, and decided to send a email to alert the winery of my difficulty. In a most pleasant way of course. That always results in the best response. Anyway, a response came in from the nicest lady who asked for a bit more info from the bottle so they could check the rest of that batch, and said she was having a bottle sent directly to me in apology. How very lovely.

Then on Twitter Stephen King said he had just used Track Changes on a manuscript and how you can teach an old dog new tricks. This being of interest to me because lately I had been wondering if successful writers, (like Stephen King) use programs when creating. 

So nothing earth shaking. Just nice.

Transport where?


I have been doing a fun exercise and thought I would share today’s with you.

Today choose a place to which you would like to be transported if you could – and tell us the back-story. How does this specific location affect you?  Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you are aching to explore for the first time?

There is a place I have been to once that claimed my spirit at first sight. Often in my thoughts and always in my heart, it is my first choice, and perhaps the second and third.   The land of my mother, more ancient than the continent on which I currently reside, has a rich history.

 The town, at the heart of the matter, was established about 1160.  In contrast the city in which I dwell was established in 1807.  Apparently back about 1100 we had an assortment of Vikings and Indigenous folk tromping around this country.

Even the age of Canada is considered ‘young’ at 200 million years whereas my land of dreams boasts a hearty age of about 500 million years.  Around the time when it drifted northwest from about 30 degrees south of the equator to its present latitude of about 54 degrees north.

Rocks, stones, green, and of course the sea welcomed this weary traveler.  The city is more that 800 miles further north than Kitchener Ontario, closer to the Arctic than we, but it is warmed by the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic so more protected from the extremes of Canada.  

Being so far north it has glorious longer days in summer, which I got to experience.  Of course the reverse holds true for the winter so my desire to be transported will be in summer please.  Far past midnight there is a light.

Did I embrace a city so rich in history, romance, intrigue, and mystery or did it embrace me? Could it recognize the DNA of far traveled offspring?  Was it the sea air, touring a city under the present one, drinking water so pure it is rated one of the best in the world, and buildings and castles built long ago, or was it something more?

My mini-me resides there, the daughter of my mother’s identical twin and four days younger than I – an important distinction to make believe me.  We speak in face-to-face everyday, sometimes just for a few minutes, sometimes a bit longer, but it ties me even closer to this family and my city of choice – Edinburgh.

Children’s Quarrel

4) Children's Quarrel

Our current picture shows Elanar, a nursery nurse, with her charge, the young Avia Hassenbut. I’m not sure whether our artist knew the significance of the principals in his painting, or whether he merely saw a charming scene but there is a story which is well worth hearing.

Really this is Elanar’s story; when young Avia grows up she will doubtless spark stories of her own, but on this occasion she must take second place to somebody older.

As a child Elanar was raised by a series of aunts. Born in Port Naain, her mother died when she was very young, and she got passed around the family, collecting cousins as she went as various temporary guardians died or remarried or otherwise became unavailable for childcare. Eventually she, and her two boy cousins, Karad and Brance ended up in Avitas with their final aunt, and the fourth cousin, a girl named Bethom.
In Avitas the three children seemed to overcome the trauma caused by their itinerant youth and settled down. The older three were inseparable. Bethom was always slightly detached from them; she was still living with her family and was always constrained to act as the hostess, rather than being an equal co-conspirator in their games.

So when at the age of eighteen, Karad inherited a small estate not far from Mostrain, deep within Partann, it was inevitable that Brance and Elanar went with him. It was equally inevitable that Bethom, who at this point was apprenticed to a ladies hairdresser in Avitas, remained behind.

Once settled near Mostrain, it was to be expected that the three cousins (closer than cousins, I’ve known siblings who were less close) decided to become involved in local society and attempted to provide suitable careers for Brance and Elanar.

Their opportunity came when at a social event in Mostrain, they were introduced to the young Robber Baron who had taken over the Keep on Muster Head. Within a week Elanar had made herself his mistress and within a month Brance and Karad were his trusted lieutenants.

Things would doubtless have proceeded well enough were it not for an Urlan ‘villaging’ expedition.

Villaging is a popular pastime among Urlan, both for sport, experience and to burnish their escutcheons. As you no doubt surmise, the basis is to ride from village to village, offering to slay any particularly irksome fell beasts, even minor demons, although parties have ridden through Partann offering to remove tyrannical local lordlings as well. Indeed if some petty baron has a bad enough reputation the Urlan might merely remove them without being asked. Thus it was that the gaze of a party of Urlan fell upon the Lord of the Muster Head Keep.

To be fair to the young lord, he did not lack courage. He rode out with the best of his horsemen, intending to ambush the Urlan. He felt, not unreasonably, that merely waiting for them to attack him was tantamount to suicide. Because Brance and Karad were his trusted lieutenants, he discussed his strategy with them and with Elanar. Because he was a Partannese robber baron and no fool, he took Brance with him as lieutenant and hostage and left Karad in charge of the Keep.

Both Karad and Elanar waited his return, watching anxiously from the top of the tower which guarded the landward gate of the keep. So when the Urlan ambushed the young Lord, the two cousins could see the shattered remnants of the Muster Head force fleeing towards the keep with the Urlan in close pursuit. Elanar took charge. She gave orders for the gates to be shut, the portcullis to be dropped and the drawbridge to be raised.

Karad protested, pointing out that Brance might be alive and out there. Elanar told him to remain on the walls with a rope and if Brance arrived, to pull him up using the rope. Telling him she was going to rally the garrison she left him.

She picked two dozen men whom she felt she could trust, and with them, emptied the keep’s treasury. This she had loaded onto a twenty oared galley that was kept by the water gate. As the last of the treasure was loaded, she heard the sound of a petard exploding on the main gate, followed by the cheers and war cries of the Urlan as they rode in.

She didn’t hesitate; she gave her men orders to take up their oars, and herself pushed off from the wharf. As she did so, Karad rode out of the water gate and threw himself into the water to swim after them. Judging the galley was already low enough in the water to give cause for nervousness, she held out an oar for him to grasp. As he reached for it, she raised it and brought it down firmly on his head. She then ordered her men to pick up the stroke and the galley headed for the open sea.

To an extent she was lucky. The first Urlan through the gate rescued Karad rather than drawing his bow. Thus by the time he could concentrate on archery, the galley was out of range. On the other hand, she was also unlucky. The Urlan had commenced hanging those of their prisoners who had an unsavoury reputation, but decided it was unfair to hang Karad before he was capable of understanding what was happening, and as Brance volunteered to nurse his cousin, they didn’t hang Brance either.

Next morning, with Karad recovered, both young men were led to the gallows and asked if they’d anything to say. Karad merely commented that he regretted being hanged before he had the chance to avenge himself on the woman who had betrayed them both. The Urlan saw the funny side of this, and not merely released the two men but also released enough of their prisoners to allow them to crew the other, forty oared galley, which was still tied to the wharf.

Late next day, Elanar and her galley were at the mouth of the Dreg estuary, and in the distance behind them they could see a larger and faster galley slowly closing upon them. Elanar rapidly made up her mind and brought her galley into the fishing village of Quaydreg. She had her men stack the treasure in the common room of the local inn, the Boatman. Then she had her men prepare to defend the quayside to repel their pursuers.

As her men were arraying themselves she went back into the Boatman, and with the four warriors who had been left to guard the treasure, she loaded it onto a horse drawn cart which she’d had brought up to the back door. The cart was barely loaded when the sounds of battle could be heard from the quay. Telling her men to follow her, she charged through the inn towards the fray. They followed and overtook her, thus allowing her to return to the inn, bolt the front door and run to the back where she climbed onto the cart and whipped it up.

The problem with horse drawn carts is that whilst they are faster than men on foot, they are rarely faster than angry men on borrowed horses. She arrived in the village of Tithequay just ahead of the horsemen. As she drove through the village she started scattering coin on the road and soon the street was in chaos with people blocking the road trying to recover it. Even so the horsemen were closing, so as she crossed the bridge over the river Dreg she slewed the cart across the road to block it. Then she grabbed a chest from the cart, cut both horses free and rode off at speed on one of them.

Two days later she arrived in Prae Ducis before dawn. She bribed the gate keeper to let her in early. She then took passage to Port Naain, and arrived in the city with little more that the clothes she stood up in and respectable amount of silver. By respectable, I mean that I, as a poet, consider it a lot of money. A usurer on the other hand would doubtless dismiss it as barely worth the effort of investing.

So she needed work. She noticed that the Hassenbut family were advertising for a Nursery Nurse. She spent most of her silver on a suitable wardrobe and at the interview convinced them she was the perfect person to look after their daughter. Thanks to a reference forged in the name of her cousin in Avitas she was taken on. Thus when Brance and Karad arrived in Port Naain to look for her, she was invisible, safe within the bosom of a wealthy family.

In fact, were it not for the fact that she was now nurse to Avia Hassenbut, one might say she had, in some manner of speaking, ‘got away with it.’

Tallis Steelyard, the festival, and other stories_

Tallis Steelyard and Jim Webster proudly present

Tallis Steelyard. The Festival, and other stories.

Available from

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. In here
Tallis touches upon child rearing, politics as a performance art, the joy of
dance and the advantages that come with good manners. Discover why Madam
Dolbart was forced to constantly hire new cooks, marvel at the downfall of
Dash Blont, lecher, libertine, and philanderer . Whatever happens, do not
pass through life without knowing of the advantages to be gained by an early
morning pick-me-up of horse dung spread fine on toast. You too can be
charming and elegant once you know how. For a mere 99p all this and more can
be yours.

Find and follow Tallis (and Jim)

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

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

The Clockwork automaton of Thannial Jett

Rather than his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with one gripping adventure. A tale of adventure, duplicity and gentility.
Why does an otherwise respectable lady have a pair of sedan chair bearers hidden in her spare bedroom? Why was the middle aged usurer brandishing an axe? Can a gangster’s moll be accepted into polite society?

Answer these questions and more as Tallis Steelyard ventures unwillingly into the seedy world of respectable ladies who love of sedan chair racing.

 As with Sue Vincent, I am honoured to open the Tallis’ tour of the blogosphere to promote his new book of a gripping adventure. Episodes published here:

Tuesday 13th,  Lady Edan’s Fan – Anita Dawes and Jaye Marie

Wednesday 14th The Picture of Unter Judd – Annette Rochelle Aben

Thursday 15th The clockwork automaton of Thannial Jett – Bridges Burning

Friday 16th The commode of Falan Birling – Musings On Life & Experience

Finishing on Saturday 17th with The Luck of Bedag Keep – Chris the Story Reading Ape 

Tallis Steelyard and the Sedan chair caper

The Clockwork automaton of Thannial Jett

It has always been assumed that I share the fashionable contempt for mime artists. Frankly I don’t. Indeed I’ve worked with them and once they can bring themselves to get over the ‘trapped in an invisible box’ routine, they can be useful partners. Look at their advantages. Unlike musicians and others I could mention, they are, almost by definition, silent. Not only that but whilst they can be somewhat distracting at times, compared to the lascivious gyrations of some dancers, they are staid and uninteresting.
Finally they are often so pathetically grateful to get any sort of paying work at all, that they can be trusted to follow instructions with almost dog-like devotion to the detail.
Now I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse Virgilio, another of Madam Jeen Snellflort’s gentlemen adventurers of being a mime artist, but it must be said he had studied the art and was modestly accomplished in it. When not following his art, or doing whatever gentlemen adventurers are supposed to do when not actually adventuring, he earned an extremely modest living as an assistant clerk of works to the drains department. This organisation might need some explanation. Some parts of the city do have drains, and of course
the Sump has to be flushed. So there is a small permanent staff of workmen who do the maintenance. Whichever Sinecurist picks up the bill for the department is expected to send their household staff to assist if matters get particularly fraught.
Fate, or his own inspired choice, had given Virgilio the task of acquiring the clockwork automaton of Thannial Jett for Madam Jeen. He spent some time in reconnaissance. Every three days Thannial Jett had his automaton perform in Cross-pein Hammer Square just outside Thacker’s Yard. The automaton, man sized, would arrive in a crate. The crate would initially be screened by a curtain which surrounded it completely, Finally when a crowd had gathered, the curtain was whisked away and the crate was opened to allow the crowd to see the automaton sitting writing at a desk. After a couple of minutes it would put down the pen, stand up and walk out of the crate and perform a range of exercises as if loosening up after being seated for too long.
Finally as the clockwork ran down and the automaton started to move more slowly, Jett would gently catch it. Virgilio noted that at this point Jett always pressed a stud on the neck, which seemed to release any remaining tension in the spring for the automaton always relaxed totally at this point.
Merely acquiring the device wasn’t enough for Virgilio. He wanted to make sure that there was no investigation that might lead to difficult questions being asked. He needed a substitution rather than just a removal.  His first thought was to just produce a crate and substitute his crate for the automaton and crate. This he discarded on the grounds of weight. There was no way he could have lifted it on his own.
He then pondered briefly breaking into Jett’s premises, removing the automaton and taking its place in the crate. This idea he also discarded when casual conversation with one of Jett’s assistants revealed that the automaton was wound up just before it left the premises. The key was pushed unto a hole concealed between the buttocks.
Finally Virgilio hit upon his plan and made his preparations. Firstly, like every assistant clerk of works since the beginning of time, he habitually added the signatures of his superiors to all the work sheets. Hence he invented an entirely new project, ‘The New Drain.’ The first steps in creating the New Drain were to dig six inspection hatches in Cross-pein Hammer Square. These he marked out on the ground and two of the gangs proceeded to dig them, line them with brick, fit ladders, and fit the cast iron hatch covers.
To be fair the gangs did question their work. Normally when you dig a new inspection hatch you dig down six or seven feet until you hit the drain, and that done you work from there. Virgilio’s explanation that this time it had been decided to install the inspection hatches first and then have the drain dug to join them later struck them as typical of the sort of bright ideas you get from university trained civil engineers.
On the day that he had decided to act, Virgilio arrived at the square very early. He was wearing white satin breeches, red jacket, a wig, and a considerable amount of makeup smeared on his face. He opened the inspection hatch he felt most likely to be nearest the crate when it arrived and climbed down the ladder, replacing the hatch cover after him. He then waited in silence until finally Thannial Jett and his assistants arrived. Virgilio
could hear them stamping about and when everything went quiet he carefully lifted the hatch cover and peered out. He was near the crate and better still, the curtain stopped people from seeing him. He hastily clambered out, opened the back of the crate, pulled out the automaton, pressing the stud on its neck to relax it. He then gently lowered it down the inspection hatch, carefully replacing the hatch cover when he was done. Then he wiggled into the crate, pulling the back closed after him, and took his place on the
He was barely seated there when there was some sort of commotion outside, perhaps the curtain being removed. Then suddenly the front of the case was opened and Virgilio was on display. Mimicking the movements of the automaton he wrote briefly then stood up. Here his training as a mime came into its own. He was apparently very convincing as an automaton, having got the device’s jerky movements off pat.  As far as I can discover, Virgilio is one of those people who tries not to ‘over-plan.’ Up until this point he was not entirely sure how he would end the performance. After all the minute Jett caught hold of him at the end of the performance he’d realise that this was no automaton. Fortunately chance left an opening for him. A small child had wiggled through to the front of the crowd and was watching the performance with scepticism. Finally when Virgilio’s callisthenics brought him near, the child reached out and grabbed Virgilio’s leg.
“Hey, it ain’t real, it’s a man.”
Virgilio didn’t hesitate, he spotted a gap in the crowd and broke free from the grasp and fled through the gap and away. Behind him he could hear shouts as people demanded their money back from Jett and denounced him as a fraud.
When it came to recovering the automaton, Virgilio’s plans had been suitably vague. He had initially intended to go with a handcart and collect it at night. Unfortunately in Port Naain, moving about at night with a handcart merely draws attention to your activities. There is a feeling that no honest man ever trundled a handcart through the streets in the hours of darkness.
But having handled the automaton he came up with a simpler plan. He removed all the makeup and waited until evening. Then, dressed in his own clothes and carrying a cloak he made his way to Cross-pein Hammer Square. When nobody was about he hauled the automaton out of the inspection hatch, threw a cloak round its shoulders and placed the automaton’s arm over his
shoulder. Then, singing raucously like a drunken student trying to get his even drunker friend to bed, he weaved his noisy way home. Next morning, with the automaton bundled in canvas, he pushed it on a handcart to Madam Jeen Snellflort’s abode and she took care of things from then on.
Thannial Jett avoided being charged for fraud, but was instead charged with common assault when he attacked a bystander with the automaton’s key, knocked him down and promised to ‘wind him up.’ The nameless collector who had acquired the automaton was delighted. The knowledge she gained from studying her acquisition pushed forward her own researches. The gratitude was tangible enough to be expressed in the form of three small freehold properties generously donated to the sanatorium.

The clockwork automaton of Thannial Jett_


Tallis Steelyard returns… Schedule below

And as usual I cannot tell if he is an addiction or an itch that just cannot be scratched but I cannot resist him…..

As with Sue Vincent,  I am honoured to open the Tallis’ tour of the blogosphere to promote his new book of a gripping adventure. Episodes published here:

Tuesday 13th,  Lady Edan’s Fan – Anita Dawes and Jaye Marie


Wednesday 14th The Picture of Unter Judd – Annette Rochelle Aben


Thursday 15th The clockwork automaton of Thannial Jett – Bridges Burning


Friday 16th The commode of Falan Birling – Musings On Life & Experience


Finishing on Saturday 17th with The Luck of Bedag Keep – Chris the Story Reading Ape 


Hunkering down and about to do the hardest thing in the world ….for me

Oh I look so forward to a real writing day.  No visits to make.  No chores to do (okay lots of chores just begging for my attention but none that I shall acknowledge.  I believe dust bunnies are my friends.)

A perfect day to write.  I got out for an early morning walk before the heat sets in.  We are facing a five day run, at the END of September of temperatures 29C (84.2F) to 31C (87.8F).  And that is not including the humidity factor which will make the actual temp feel to be in the 40’s.

Back to my real writing day.  I have discovered, rather uncomfortably, that I can sit down at my desk, phone shut off, doors closed, segregation complete, until I start the Beast.  First quick check of emails but don’t respond, too many.  I found out the hard way that just one click and my morning is gone, baby, gone.

I notice there are comments on WordPress to answer,  Well, that has set up a deadly train to Happy Land but also No Production Land.  And I am in severe danger of being lured into doing and an actual post, always pleasant but again not productive for my immediate needs.

World’s Best Selling and World Changing Book of Fiction aside, I have been working on a very special project and it must be done by the end of October so I can have it ready for Christmas.  That’s all I can say about that.

Oh yeah, The Hardest Thing in The World for Me To Do?  TURN THE INTERNET OFF because I have no will power not to peek. 

Not enough to turn the phone off and create arctic conditions of seclusion.  I have friends who are grown up enough to just sit and write.  Not me.

But clicking that icon to ‘off’  is the hardest worst gut wrenching feeling.

See here I am coffee to the left of me, water to the write…I mean right, and instead of just ‘clicking’ I am writing this to you.

Enough – here I go – leaping.  It will only hurt for a nano sec.  Have a good day everyone.  I shall return.  Say in 10 hours. No sooner I say!

Writing about Writing: Those early morning thoughts

Darned if best intentions, scheduled schedules, and even well thought out plans, don’t  just go awry on a whim.

It’s Tuesday and here I am thinking about effective time use and scheduling my week.  I did mention it is Tuesday didn’t I?  And most of the world is already almost half way through their week, you know Wednesday being hump day and all.

Judith, way down under New Zealand way and I spend a fair bit of time, either during our weekly Skype visit, or by email, or Messenger talking about scheduling our days to allow for all we want to do: writing, blogging, reading, socializing, chores and cleaning (rubber gloving as she calls it).  She even has a neat Excel Sheet to schedule our activities and one to track our writing success on a daily basis.

Now Joss, our accomplished Canadian writer, living in Cuenca Ecuador also joins this little group and we chat and discuss and at times solve all the world’s problems, unbeknownst to the world of course.

Aside from Beta reading for Joss, talking about writing and schedules we also talk about writers and their routines and schedules, as we did last week.  I read a lot about successful people, not so much as to try their style, as much as hoping that just the act of reading about it will make it stick to me somehow.  Alas, I have come to the conclusion that if one want’s to be successful, one must work for it.  There is no sticking by association.

Part of last week’s discussion was about writers who go outside their homes to write. (Joss writes this way).

Jeffery Archer: 


Describe the room where you usually write

I have a home in Majorca that has been built into a cliff. The study is separate from the house, and I love its calmness. It has 20 foot-long windows and overlooks the sea. There is just a desk with pens, pencils, a rubber, an hourglass, paper, pictures of my family, and me. (

Oh also Stephen King’s Top 20 rules for Writers (article here) from a Barnes and Noble Blog is just to good to pass up.

Stephen King

Oh yeah, writing outside your home.  Mr. King has written anywhere and everywhere, but once when his children were young he rented an apartment across town for six months.

There are many writers who write outside their home but now I have come across this article about Detroit Nonprofit program for providing homes for writers called

A Room of Their Own: How Write A House Is Putting Writers in Vacant Homes

from, and my mind if off in a few more directions.

Oh yeah, and about writing about writing – it occurs to me that that may be my expertise.  You know, rather than actually writing something.  Time will tell.