All part of the service.


People have taken to asking me, “What do I get when I hire a poet to assist with an elegant soiree I am planning?” It is a good question, and as with all good questions there is not one single answer. Really you have to have to first answer the question, “What do I want.”

I suppose it’s easier if I give you an example of how matters can proceed. Let me run through an affair I organised for Mistress Willen. It was, of course, to be held both inside and outside her rather grand house in Dilbrook.

So what was my part in the most successful event? Well firstly I organised the cloak-room. When a guest arrived they would not merely be announced, but a maid would simultaneously take their coats. Another maid was seated at a table, writing labels, and as the major domo announced the guest, she would put the names on the labels and the maid who was taking the coat would collect the labels on her way to the cloak room.

So what particular expertise is needed to organise this I hear you ask? Well firstly I had the guest bedrooms used as cloakrooms. The bedrooms were designated alphabetically and the maids would place the coats in the appropriate bedrooms. This had many advantages, the guest, upon leaving, would merely mention their name to the maid by the door and she would know which ‘cloakroom’ to go to. So the guest got their garments back far more speedily than is normally the case. (I particularly dislike the events where one has to find one’s own coat, because inevitably somebody else has appropriated the hook you selected and your coat is now part of that drift of garments on the floor that everybody is walking through.)

But this method has added benefits. Even the most dedicated lothario is unlikely to succeed in his plans to seduce your daughters if all the spare bedrooms are full of maids, coats and the bustle that goes with them. Not only that but I also attach one of the boot boys to the enterprise, as they ensure that the maids are not unduly harassed. Note I can supply a suitable small boy, see tariff at the end.

Then there is the matter of your guests and their drinking habits. Provide me a list of elderly bores or drunkards who you feel obliged to invite and I will provide each with a charming lady who will be enchanted to listen to their stories and will ensure that your guest stays reasonably sober. Indeed most hostesses use this facility as the cost of the charming lady is normally less than the cost of the wine the unaccompanied old soak would drink if left to their own devices.

On the other hand, should you feel it necessary I can endeavour to supply any number of louché poets who will be delighted to charm or flatter sundry elderly aunts, and will listen to homilies on the failings of young people today with suitably chastened expressions.

Finally there is the entertainment. If needs be I can provide a list of balladeers, minstrels, troubadours, jongleurs and minnesingers who can be relied upon to remain comparatively sober until at least midnight, and who are almost never violently ill before two in the morning.

And as well as providing all these services I will of course circulate amongst your guests, listening to their witty asides, steering conversations away from dangerous areas, dropping the occasional relevant couplet into the mix and if you want, I can even divert the guests with the occasional recitation.



Hire of principal (Tallis Steelyard)    1 alar

Hire of charming ladies.      5 vintenars per lady.

Note that allowance has to be made for gowns, if you can provide something suitable, a little something your daughter has grown out of or similar, then the price can be adjusted according.

Hire of louché poets.    2 vintenars per poet, 3 if you want me to guarantee to remove them all at the end of the function.

Suitable small boy to watch over the maids.  3 vintenars, and at least one plate of pastries.



Tallis Steelyard is a never-ending source of excellent advice.

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.

As a reviewer commented, “Tallis Steelyard: A Guide for Writers, and Other Stories by Jim Webster is as advertised, a collection of stories with different themes. I will look at only a few of the twenty-six tales. The School for Assassins under the title Tidying Up Loose Ends is remarkable in its tone. In some areas of Tallis Steelyard World, purposeful and planned killing is accepted; it is the casual acceptance portrayed in the story that I find worthy of attention. There are several sections on writing (per the title). Tallis will comment on the associated functions of publishing and promotion. If you are a writer, an avid reader, a reviewer, a publisher, or a person who attends events for the free food and drink, these sections are not to be missed. Readers may find themselves portrayed in one of the groups. The section on writers who write about writing for fun, profit, and financial independence will stick in my mind for a long time. Webster uses humor rather than a direct assault on the commission of scams by charlatans. I believe the author is holding back on “saying what he really thinks.”

The unsurpassed beauty of Tallis Steelyard creations is the elegant language used with precision to separate the occasional absurd from the daily mundane then remixing to produce entertaining stories. I like to select favorite quotes because there is no better way to illustrate what I find to be a unique writing style. This five-star collection reminds me of a quote from a film (possibly paraphrased). “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never quite know what you are going to get.” (Attributed to F. Gump). Readers will find literary candy of many varieties in this “guide.”

The importance of getting home under your own steam ***** Readers might guess by this story’s title that there is alcohol involved. True, but it was Bongo’s birthday. The passing of years brought Bongo to maudlin reflection on a boring life. Tallis and company decided that if Bongo could be transported home on a palanquin carried by a score of naked harlots, at least the birthday party would be a point of interest in Bongo’s otherwise humdrum life.

I will point out one feature of why Tallis Steelyard stories are great. Look at the word “naked;” it is OK to free associate. Then “By the time the wine was finished I was somehow surrounded by nearly three dozen young women dressed much as nature had intended.” (Kindle location 53). Further interesting imagery comes to mind. The narrator is not vulgar or offensive and does not employ “shock” terminology to describe weird situations. Bongo’s wife was not offended; readers should follow her example.

Not perhaps the best location ***** Sneal, a wandering merchant spent a day traveling on his way home through the unfamiliar countryside in the hope of discovering new markets for his goods. He ended the first day by spending the night at an inn located in a tree. After traveling the next day, the same thing happened. Same inn, same customers, same barmaid. The third day was a repeat of the earlier two. Finally, he arrived home. How did this happen? Cue the scary music. What happened when he recounted his adventure to Tallis?

The frantic scribblings of a novelist ***** This chapter is the first of several observations related to the lives of a novelist or a poet. Tallis offers contrasts as he pities the unfortunate novelist. Poets are superior in their social lives and sufficiency of income. Tallis said so. This section and the following five sections explore the world of writing. Quotes that stick in my mind follow.

There in Black and White ***** One of my pet peeves is discovering that after I download a Kindle book, 20% of it is devoted to promotion. Tallis points this out with “There is a feeling amongst publishers that the reader doesn’t really want the book they’ve purchased, but instead in point of fact wishes to peruse an assortment of other books that the publisher has available. Pictures of these and even sample chapters can in extreme cases double the size of the book.” (Kindle location 181).

Learning from others ***** Writing books from the comfort of home while in any state of dress and personal hygiene imaginable can bring instant and immense wealth. All one must do is follow the advice of proven authors. Tallis looks at the advisors as “a community of writers writing books about how to sell books that were bought largely by people who were interested in writing books about selling books.” (Kindle location 244).

Nobody does it like that anymore ***** Tallis does not dismiss time tested good advice. Departing from tongue-in-cheek humor, Tallis notes, “Writing is just another craft like joinery or metalwork, the more you do it, the better you get.” (Kindle location 271).

The uncompromising principles of the successful writer ***** Tallis consults a printer to find out the kind of literature that sells best. “This is what feeds the press Tallis my boy, cheap stories of forbidden vampire love, or demon love, or love with a score of fantastical, imaginary, or hopefully extinct creatures. (Kindle location 331).

A distinct shortage of assets ***** Many authors assure readers that reviews are vital to an author’s success. How can an author get reviews quickly? Tallis would “ instruct (the printer’s) domestic staff and secretary to write glowing reviews of his work under false names” (Kindle location 401).

Subsequent stories address other topics as Tallis leaves the subject of writing out of fear of appearing maudlin. Any would-be writers should continue reading the rest of this collection to pull themselves out of any depression caused by an examination of prospects for fame and riches in their chosen profession.

At the end of this Tallis Steelyard set of musings, I am left with only one question not addressed in this examination of the world of writers. Why does an author choose to sell a novel for USD 1.26?”

6 thoughts on “All part of the service.

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