Ever so good with children

One thing ladies always say to me. “Maurgery Chub is so good with children.” Certainly she is Port Naain’s leading babysitter. Rather than abandon their child to the servants, or to some fourteen year old girl who took the role so she could flirt out of the window with a gentleman admirer of her own age, ladies would insist on hiring Maurgery.

It must be admitted that she has been very successful over the years. Young women whose mother once employed Maurgery to look after them, in turn went to her when they needed somebody to look after their children for an evening.

Now she was not a nursery nurse. She turned down many offers of full employment. She is a babysitter and charges strictly by the hour (hours after midnight double). This in itself seemed to provide reassurance for nervous mothers. She is justly proud of her reputation as the best and most reliable, and to be honest her charges, whilst reflecting her value, are not excessive. As one lady commented to me, almost as an aside, “She costs less than a couple of bottles of decent wine, and a lesser babysitter would doubtless drink more than that.”

Thus she works most evenings, but habitually rises late, then potters quietly in the morning. It is during the afternoon that she will settle down to what she considers her real work. For Maurgery is a writer, a novelist. I confess I have read little of her work, she tends to write long, three volume, novels. These have complicated plots, involving never fewer than five families and inevitably come to a satisfactory resolution, mainly through the redistribution of property and marriage partners in the last chapter.

Now her books are long but follow a strict format. She will write one hundred and eighty thousand words, which is then split up into forty-five chapters, which is fifteen chapters per volume. She can write at least two novels per year. In all candour she could have survived off her literary earnings, but she claims that she loves her babysitting.

Certainly it seems that when working, once the children are asleep she will spend the rest of the evening drafting the next part of her novel. This she will edit and add to her manuscript the following afternoon, thus she has no difficulty in writing over a thousand words a day, every day.

It has to be said that other novelists have asked pointed questions as to how she achieves this. They are forced to admit that her novels are well written with no more spelling or grammatical errors than a printer will put in to avoid the risk of creating perfection and angering the gods. Similarly when talking to those who read her work, her stories are apparently very satisfying. Not only is she somehow close to life, but there are no embarrassing hiccups, such as a character who walks out of the novel on page one hundred and thirty five, expressing a determination to return, and not merely never appears, but is never referred to again by any of the other characters.  

I confess that after the issue of Maurgery’s prolificacy was raised with me for the twentieth time, I rather lost patience and put forward the theory that she is both an excellent writer, and also hard working. Not for her the interminable sitting around bar room tables, drink in hand, complaining that she has writers’ block. She does what writers are supposed to do, she writes.
But for myself I always felt that the really interesting phenomena was not her afternoon writing, but the amount of writing she had managed during the previous evening.

Now I have any number of friends and acquaintances with young children and they all regale me with tales of evenings rendered hideous by having to be spent time entertaining the children, negotiating bedtime with the children, and then the final interminable guerrilla warfare which is the reality of bath and bedtime. Undoubtedly Maurgery is a professional and has inevitably evolved strategies, but still one does have to wonder at her competence.

I have even talked to those who as children were looked after by her. Obviously it was some time ago but there does seem to be a formulae. There is a time of games, sometimes hectic, followed by bath and bed, the latter accompanied by a cup of her celebrated hot chocolate to help them drift off to sleep.

Now I have some of my own theories about Maurgery whose consummate professionalism I cannot help but admire. Her love of babysitting is more explicable when you consider the number of family tales she will hear, the amount of servant gossip. This must surely be invaluable for a writer like her who writes long family sagas. Obviously one has to tweak things to spare the blushes of your clients, but when episodes from one family are taken and added to episodes from the lives of another family and combined with the antics of a third, nobody will recognise the fictional family as themselves.

The fact that the children were so well behaved and drifted off to sleep was a puzzle until I remembered her father was Thalway Chub who was a veterinarian commonly employed by those who kept racehorses. It must be thirty or forty years ago now. But he had a ‘tonic’ which he used with horses if he had to operate on them. He would estimate the weight of the horse and give it a dose of tonic based entirely on its weight. If the dose was exactly right, the horse would stand placidly and let him sew up wounds or trim feet. If he gave slightly too much the horse would drift off to sleep. Which can be a concern as a sleeping horse takes a lot of moving. Small children on the other hand are more easily manoeuvred.



Should you wish to know more about Tallis Steelyard and Port Naain

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?”

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