Category Archives: Writing

Tallying up the weekend

It’s time to wrap things up. I count today as part of my weekend, because it’s my flex day. I tried to keep my task list small, but items that made the list are large.

Saturday was dedicated to Lisa Burton Radio. I managed to assemble and schedule two posts, which covers scheduling for a couple of weeks. I also wrote and sent out multiple shticks for future interviews. Two of those came back complete, and I could schedule ahead for a month now.

Thing is, I don’t have to. I have some other things to do. I noticed during all this scheduling that there have been 100 episodes of Lisa Burton Radio. That led to the post on Saturday night.

Sunday, I moved on to advance blog posts. If I save up some pennies, I want to get Yak Guy out the door before summer. I sketched out a pair of posts to take it on a blog tour, but I need about eight more. It counts as progress, so I’ll take it. Some of these are easier to write with a few distractions around, so I may get another one during the work week on an evening.

Today is calmer to a degree, so I opened my current project. My characters dug up a graveyard, bought a crappy ship, and left their original project behind. I introduced some minor characters who make up the crew. This is a giant change in their task, but it symbolizes them taking control. There is another huge change coming soon, and it will mark another point of no return.

I’m feeling the presence of the Research Sirens once more. There are terms and locations on a sailing vessel that need to be correct. This is where I could disappear for weeks, but I usually manage to get enough data to fake my way through it.

A background character spent a page to give us an idea of his makeup. (Former hangman.) The basic idea is that all of the crew members come from a place of loss and have a colorful history. I may have to make that point more bluntly.

Under different circumstances, I would make this a writing cabin post, and have the Sirens show up in pirate costume. I had so much to do, I just didn’t take the extra effort that would require.

Maybe if I get those advance blog posts written, I can dedicate some time to making these posts more fun. I enjoy the writing cabin posts, and need to get back to them.

It was a weekend. It was productive. I’ll take it. Back to the office tomorrow for me.

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It’s a Milestone

I was brought up to keep quiet about accomplishments. I’ve done that all my life, but it’s kind of counter-productive to all the promotion that comes with being an author.

We all work hard, and it seems like progress is slow. It is there, and it’s harder to observe, but it happens. I’ll walk you into my announcement.

Today was largely dedicated to Lisa Burton Radio. In fact, I accomplished nothing else. I assembled and scheduled two interviews. At one per week, I’m keeping ahead of the game. This is because I know what it feels like to fall behind.

I also sent another shtick out, with one more to go out tomorrow. This is the mid-point of the process. This is how I keep the line moving.

Somewhere along the way I spotted a number in my editor. Remember, this is WordPress we’re talking about here, so there is a bit of uncertainty. The number was 100. From what I can tell, there have been one-hundred episodes of Lisa Burton Radio.

I know it’s possible the number refers to one of the episodes I have scheduled, but that poses the question: When is it appropriate to celebrate?

I choose now.

Lisa Burton

I’ve worked hard to make these interviews into a going concern. The kind of place someone might seek out when promoting their fiction. I kind of feel like I’ve accomplished that.

This isn’t discounting the partnership with all of you. You folks have been wonderful to participate, to use the sharing buttons, and to actually buy the books being showcased. Thank you for all of that, and Lisa thanks you too.

I’ve gotten to work with some amazing authors, and I’ve learned a lot from you.

Thanks also to Sean Harrington, who revamped this image for me on very short notice. He’s been a godsend to me, and I look forward to many more years of working with him.

I’m not going to slack off, but for one night, maybe it’s time to have a glass of whiskey and take some small pleasure in one of the little things. Here’s to the next 100.

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Filed under Blogging, Lisa Burton Radio, Writing

The Festival and other Stories

We return to a culinary theme with this picture that our artist painted of Blinia Crole. The picture is from Blinia’s own collection and is displayed with grateful thanks to her. Andeal chose to paint her seated in her old home working as she always had.

Chicken Legs

Blinia drifted into being a cook, but was handicapped by lack of capital. Her family home was in the more run-down part of Ropewalk. Some would even write it off as being part of the Warrens. So to have anything to cook she was reduced to purchasing worn out domestic fowl sold for a pittance for their feathers. She would pluck the fowl, sort the feathers, wash them, dry them and then sell them on to those who would use them to stuff pillows with.

With regard to cooking the fowl she was lucky that her mother had taught her well. Once plucked she would keep the carcass covered and chilled in a meat-safe for as long as possible to allow the meat to relax, up to a week in winter. Then she would leave it for a day in brine, and after that she’d rinse it off, cover it with clean water and allow it to simmer for anything up to twenty-four hours. Finally she’d allow it to cool, remove the bones (because the meat just falls away from them if you’ve cooked it properly,) and then add vegetables and all the other necessary ingredients for a stew. This would be cooked until the vegetables were ready.

The advantage of this system was she didn’t need to advertise. The smell of cooking chicken hung around her house because there was always chicken cooking! Then each day, just before noon, a queue would form of people clutching their own bowls and spoons. For twenty dregs you got a good ladle full of her thick broth. The local baker sent his son round with a tray of bread rolls and for a few dregs more he would sell you bread to go with your meal.

So far so good, Blinia’s customers were loyal and as old Mister Mumster would have said, her business was ‘steady away’. But she was wise enough to sit back and look at how she might improve things. One issue was fishing out the bones. She decided that given the amount of meat that there was on the legs and wings, they were more effort than they were worth. Still, properly brought up, she was loathe to throw them away. So as an experiment, while the chickens were cooking she experimented, leaving the legs and wings to marinate in various sauces and then roasting them. Much to her surprise they were a great success, especially those with the sweet and bitter herbs. Men would buy a couple of them to put in a pocket to chew while they worked.

The problem is that there are only two legs and two wings to each carcass. It was nowhere near enough. So she experimented. She peeled the skin off the carcass, rolled it tightly and cut the roll into several pieces. These she fried, then marinated and roasted with the other chicken legs. Customers snapped them up and demanded more.

Finally in desperation she went down to a slaughterhouse and bought a full mott skin. This she cut up into pieces that were about the same size as a chicken leg, fried them and then added them to the marinade. Finally she managed to produce enough to satisfy demand.

Now let us be clear. There was no attempt at deception. Blinia was selling these to sober people in the middle of the day. This was not late night catering where you’re merely selling ‘food’ to drunks. People knew that Blinia’s chicken legs might contain no chicken. Indeed some preferred the mott hide ones because there was more chewing. Other aficionados claimed that the chicken skin ‘legs’ were a better bet, being slightly more crunchy. On the other hand there were still some who preferred the traditional leg on the grounds that they enjoyed sucking the last of the meat off the bone.

Her highest accolade came when the chief cook of the Flensers, peckish on his way home, purchased a ‘chicken leg’ to chew on. He returned next day and bought a dozen, praising her touch with spices. Indeed he became one of her regulars and eventually it dawned on Blinia that he was starting to court her. This came as a surprise, but he was merely the first of many. The baker’s son, whom now had to use a handcart to carry his trays of rolls, was also remarkably attentive. She had regarded him as friendly, even charming, but it seems that spotting a potential rival for her affections, he felt the need to step up to the mark.

Then there was her vegetable supplier. Because they were all served chopped up and cooked, she merely needed vegetables that tasted good, not that looked pretty. So her order a valuable one, every greengrocer knows that there’s excellent eating in vegetables that will never pass as pretty. Hence Sopwin, a purveyor of root vegetables and a man with a dry sense of humour, used to drop round every evening with anything that was beginning to look a little tired. She got a good price and enjoyed the banter they shared as she would mock his wilted parsnips and drooping carrots and he would praise them to the skies, claiming that merely dropping them into her broth would perk them up. Now it seemed that he too was trying to woo her.

Blinia, in desperation, turned to her friend and employee Nila. Nila was a smiling, thickset, buxom lady of middle years with a husband who worked on the wharves and a number of children who managed to amuse themselves during the day.

Blinia, catching Nila sitting eating her lunch, (inevitably a bowl of broth) sat down besides her.

“They’re all after me!”

Nila looked at her in surprise. “But I saw you pay for the fowl only yesterday.”

“Not creditors Nila, suitors. It’s getting ridiculous.”

“Well I know that cook seems sweet on you.”

“And then there’s the baker, and Sopwin the veg.”

“So what’s the problem, surely it’s better for a young woman like you to have too many suitors than too few?”

Blinia sounded almost desperate, “But all they’re interesting in is my cooking!”

Nila looked at her sternly. “What do you want them interested in? Your body?

Well in forty years your cooking will be better than it is now, the less said about the rest of you the better!

Blinia subsided briefly then asked, “So what do I do?”

“What the rest of us do, see who works the hardest, really puts the effort in. Then just wed the one you like best anyway.”

***

Tallis Steelyard and Jim Webster proudly present

Tallis Steelyard. The Festival, and other stories.

Available from

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tallis-Steelyard-Festival-other-stories-ebook/dp/B07BT9LWRP

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.

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Mediocre Wednesday

This is my first flex day since my trip to New Orleans. I got one day off, when I returned home, then had to return to the office. This means I had high hopes for today.

There were three goals: Work on Lisa Burton interviews, add back material to a novel, work on my current novel.

I accomplished that, but it was a stretch to call it productive. I tried to do the writing in the early hours. The dogs are usually quiet, and my daughter is still in bed. I got up about 5:30 and got started.

These two usually crawl up in my oversized chair and conk out for a while. Some days they jockey for position, and today was one of those. Frankie tries to get Otto interested in anything else, so he will get down and she can steal the sweet spot.

This led to Frankie wanting outside about a hundred times, but Otto wasn’t biting. She brought toys up and stuck them in his face. Nope.

I added to the problem, because old guys have to get up and pee frequently. I still added to my WIP, but it was only around 1500 words. It feels disappointing, but my characters dealt with an attack by the assassins, a swivel gun (small cannon) blew the crap out of a bunch of people, and they left town under cover of darkness. My main character has made a sea change in how he’s going about his business.

This means, he’s decided he isn’t his father and his skills are in a different field, and that field is the sea. I’ll have to wait until next weekend to dig up some graves and launch the first ship in this tale.

My daughter got up and brought this to an end. She talked my ears off until it was time for her to go to work. I love her, but this was a loss of hours of possibility.

The next thing that happens is my wife returning from work. In the small gap in between, I tackled the other projects.

I managed one shtick for a Lisa Burton interview and sent it out.

I added a title page and copyright data to the MS of The Yak Guy Project. I also wrote some end material to the book — twice. I have no idea what happened there. I added it, and it was gone. This is a major freak out point for me, because I wonder what else happened to the MS. It’s completely edited, and ready to go. Now I’ll probably have to read it again to make sure something isn’t plunked into the center of the book that doesn’t belong there.

No rush, because I don’t have the cash for formatting right now, but it’s not what I wanted to happen.

New Orleans earned me some comp time. I may have to take a day and use it selfishly for my projects. This is a tough time to take from work, but I might wrangle a day. After May, I could probably take a week, but I want Yak Guy out before Summer.

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How about some free days?

Once upon a time, I wrote this book called The Enhanced League. It’s my take on a baseball league where performance enhancing drugs are not banned. It’s a little bit science fiction, and a bit human drama.

I wrote it as a collection of short stories and micros. My personal growth plan was to have these stories all set in the same environment, and to tell an overarching story from cover to cover.

It seems like I’m always trying something new, and this book has a few pieces that I called Anthems. These are short bits in second person point of view. They were well received by the reviewers, so I wrote a new one for this post. (Personal theory: second person is best in small segments.)

I thought it deserved a bit of music, and video clips seem to be the simple way to add that in WordPress. This may be my favorite movie scene of all time.

Spring is in the Air

It’s been a long winter. The series ended in spectacular fashion, but that was back in November. Sure, you tried to get into football, maybe checked out the Winter Olympics, but it wasn’t the same.

You listened to the Hot Stove reports on the radio. There were some good free agents this year, and you earmarked a couple for your team. You knew they were long shots, but like all baseball fans, you live on hope and faith.

This year was different. Teams refused to pony up those ridiculous contracts like in the past. Guess they finally figured out super-stars aren’t so super, seven years into a contract for mega-millions.

Passive fans always want the team to spend money and buy all the free agents, but you know better. This is because the business side is every bit as interesting as the game on the field. There’s only so much money, and you have to keep an eye on the future. It’s hard to extend the contract of your ace pitcher next year when you spent it all on some hotshot this year.

When it all shook out, your team settled for an import pitcher from Japan, and a few minor league guys that might come up late this year. For the most part, you’re fielding the same team.

That isn’t bad in some ways. They made a run and got into the playoffs. They might have done better if it weren’t for the injuries. All you need is just a bit of luck and… we’re back to hope once more. Maybe those minor league guys can cover the spots if an injured player has to take some time off. There’s always hope.

You watched the trucks pulling in to the stadium. You imagined they delivered sports apparel and the newest bobble-head dolls of the popular players. It’s too early for hotdogs and other perishables. Still, it’s getting close.

The grass is green, not like it will be in May or June, but all the dead thatch is gone. You watched them testing the lights over the stadium, and Spring Training is underway five states away.

Kids always put a lot of faith in Spring games. You know they don’t mean a thing, and you’re just hoping to get through without somebody getting hurt. Players get their work in and get ready for the big show, that’s what it’s all about.

The radio guys are looking for stories, so they come up with things for you to worry about. So-and-so seems to have lost some velocity on his fastball, or such-and-such seems to be swinging and missing more. You know they’re trying things out in Spring Training, and working up to their full skill set. They’ll be ready, have a little faith.

Hope and faith, they fuel the baseball fan’s world. It’s almost time to take the field and welcome summer in the best way possible. Grab your cap, ice the beer, turn on the game, and let’s watch some baseball.

***

Those who read Enhanced League seemed to like it. It never seemed to get enough readers to make a splash. Now here we are at the end of Spring Training, and the beginning of the Major League Baseball season. What better time to trot it back out and do a small push.

Today through Saturday I’m holding free days for The Enhanced League. I’d appreciate it if you’d pick up a copy, maybe add it on Goodreads. In it’s debut, I had Lisa making the rounds. Here is the poster that came out the best from her promotional efforts.

Lisa Burton

I added it, because images draw attention, but also for some of you to use. I’m not going to spend a lot of money on a free promotion. If you want to reblog this one, I’d be grateful. Some of you may prefer to assemble your own post. You can clip the Anthem, cover, umpire Lisa, however much or little you want. And thanks for considering The Enhanced League.

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Working away here

I intended to update last night, but with a great new review I felt like that served me better. Actually, I got three new reviews over the weekend, but Robbie blogged about it and that means a lot to me. (Thanks, Robbie.)

Over the course of the last two days, I’ve managed about 5000 new words on my project. My characters made it to their destination city and are researching their options. In the mean time, another assassin is lurking about. There is a bit of small monster mayhem going on too. My main character, James, has been approached by a man with a shady plan. The new guy calls himself Johnny Jump Up. This little encounter led to James going missing.

Johnny has a past, and I’ll weave a bit of that into the story later. Particularly how he came by the name.

This one is tentatively called Voyage of the Lanternfish, and it’s pirate themed. I made a general piracy board on Pinterest, and it’s good for inspiration. There are some great angler fish images there. I chose the term Lanternfish for my fantasy story. I’d love to share one, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s copyright. You may want to check it out on Pinterest.

In author terms, I’m fast approaching the end of Act One. This is where the plan fails and the bottom falls out. I’m really looking forward to getting there. The section I’ve been writing involves a bit of deep tension. I like to jump ahead and get to the action, but some scenes like this are necessary.

One of the tough decisions I made was to set this in a fantasy world. This was an attempt to distance myself from a certain popular franchise. This means I need alternatives to places like Tortuga. It also requires me to include a few fantasy creatures, like the owlcats I referenced a couple of times. I plan to glance off some of this, just to give the world some flavor. Things like saltwater bay frogs, and pelicanfish. I’ll come up with a few more, but may not use them all.

What I need to be doing is chipping away at some blog tour posts. I have another book ready to go, and I want to release it before summer, because summer has been pretty dismal in my experience. I need ten posts, and really need to start on them.

In other news, I wrote and scheduled my next Story Empire post. It’s up on Wednesday. I also exchanged enough material to complete another of Lisa’s interviews. I admit to pecking away at these. I’m a bit ahead of the game, so I’m using that time to work on my story.

My wife and I are both off tomorrow, and that usually doesn’t lead to new fiction. This may be a good time to start working on those promotional posts.

I’ve also neglected blog reading, Twitter, and the rest. Maybe I’ll spend some time catching those up.

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Wednesday, I’ll take it

I got to sleep in until about 6:30 today. It felt great. I should mention that my work alarm goes off at 4:00, so this was my version of sleeping in. Did all the morning stuff, and wound up covered with bulldogs.

That’s where my writing day began. Like all writing days, I started with my last chapter. It helps me get into the flow, and gives me a chance to fix typos and such. I usually have something cool I’m trying to do, and that leads to some tweaks to things I already wrote. Today it was minimal and I got right into it.

My characters crossed paths with an assassin, and we got a glimpse of what the tiny monsters are capable of in groups. There was gunplay, some sneaking about, and sinking a body into a duck pond.

One character was fascinated by a glop of apple pie that landed on another character’s cleavage and slowly moved downward until she wiped it and licked her finger. There is something going on there, but she’s pretty broken and it might take a while to develop.

My characters got to the big city, so we’re done with the camping part of the tale. They have plenty of gold, but not in a format they can spend. They are running low on coinage, and only one of them has a head for money.

Not to fear. There are some tiny monsters about to try scavenging for any gold that might be untended around town. Oh, what’s better than eight tiny monsters… eighteen tiny monsters. I’m finding these guys are adding a bit of color to the story. They’re freaky, scary, but funny to a degree too. I might have to have a scene where the characters discuss having too many of them.

My main character has been staring at the ships along the river port. He’s there to do some research with the goal of starting a war, but those ships are sure appealing. Starting the war will free his lady love from the bad guy. We all know that isn’t going to happen, but it’s his current goal.

Things I need to consider before my next writing day. (Saturday) There has been a surprising lack of swordplay in this story. My MC needs to go through a melancholy phase and come up with a partial new plan. I’m going to have to count on the other characters to carry me through this phase. He has issues living up to his father’s reputation, and avoiding it all at the same time. I think he’ll start out manic about all the things he is learning, then depressed that he can’t formulate a decent plan, then he’s going to say screw this and do something completely different.

All told it feels like about 3500 words. It could be as high as 4000, but it was a good writing day. It would have been more, but my daughter is working some kind of swing shift. She likes to talk, and I’m okay with that. Yeah, it cuts into writing time, but I don’t want to give up father/daughter time either.

That’s it until the weekend. Back to the office tomorrow where I have multiple projects I want to work on. I’d like to have 80% of those finished before the weekend starts. If it’s not one goal it’s another in my life.

Bonus points, I have commute time to daydream about my main character’s phases and how I’m going to get through them. Hopefully, I’ll have a plan prior to Saturday morning.

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