Whistling in the dark


The other morning I ended up getting up earlier than usual start. I had to be in Penrith for not long after 9am. So this meant that I was doing various things an hour before I normally do them. So 6am found me feeding a small group of three heifers. They’re still outside so I take some dairy cake to them to supplement the last of the grass. As I floundered through the mud of the gateway, in the dark and driving rain, I suddenly realised I was whistling. So I metaphorically at least stopped to listen. For reasons I do not understand I was whistling, ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas.’

It has to be admitted that everything is distinctly un-Christmassy. Everything is sodden. Even Sal looks askance when I venture into a field. She picks her way rather daintily, heading in roughly the same direction, but ostentatiously avoiding the worst of the mud and trying to keep to the bits under barbed wire fences that only she can walk on. Admittedly it’s not as bad as the photo. Still we’re getting there.

Still, I’m inside now, there’s a good fire going, and it’s not long to coffee arrives. So I thought I’d write my blog. Which is handy because I can mention in passing that I’ve been put forward for Blogger Recognition Award. This has rules, but then everything has rules. As far as I’m concerned it’s a way of letting people discover new blogs.




  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.


Well that’s easy, it was Stevie at https://steviet3.wordpress.com/ who nominated me.


  1. Write a post to show your award.


Yep, doing that one.


  1. Give a brief story of how your blog started.


Well I wrote a book. And once you write a book, you’re doomed to a lifetime of trying to convince people to buy it. So I had to do facebook. I tried doing twitter but because I only access the internet on a desktop computer, twitter doesn’t work because I wasn’t looking at it often enough. Now I just set the automatics to post stuff to twitter and don’t look at it every month. If anybody asks me about it, I merely reply, “I have my people to do twitter.” You have to admit this is one up on just saying, “Life is too short to spend my life chained to my computer.”
But at the same time, back in 2012, I realised I had to have a blog, to tell people how wonderful my book was.
But frankly it’s a very limited subject. At the end of the first blog post I’d got bored of the topic, and I suspect the readers had given up on it before I did. So I just started blogging about what I know, which is why cattle, sheep, Border Collies and quadbikes make regular appearances.




  1. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.


Try and stick to one blog post a week. Any less and people will forget you. Any more often and you’ll never get anything else done.


Write about life, what you know, and stuff that interests you. Then at least you’re enjoying it. If you enjoy your blog, there’s at least half a chance that others might as well.


  1. Select up to fifteen bloggers you want to give this award to.


In no particular order, I’d mention

Sue Vincent   https://scvincent.com/

M T Mcguire   https://mtmcguire.co.uk/

Robbie Cheadle   https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

The writers’ Co-op   https://writercoop.wordpress.com/

Colleen Chesebro   https://colleenchesebro.com/

Chris Graham    https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/

Ashlynn Waterstone   https://waterstoneway.wordpress.com/

Ken Gierke   https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/

Willow Willers    https://willowdot21.wordpress.com/

Ritu Bhathal    https://butismileanyway.com/

Anita and Jaye      https://jenanita01.com/

I’d advise anybody to check these blogs out. I’ve just done a blog tour with them, during which I released a novella, and each blog had one chapter. It was a lot of fun and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.


  1. Comment (or pingback) on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to the post you’ve created.


Must remember to do this one.


And if you were wondering about the novella we published together, it’s available here


Life for a jobbing poet is difficult. You have to be flexible with regard to your art. One day you’re organising an elegant soiree, the next a pie eating contest. Yet all the while you are striving to raise the tone and to ensure that decency, dignity, and an appreciation of the fine arts prevails.
And sadly it appears that the more honest your attempts, the more noble your endeavours, the more likely it is that you end up making enemies. Tallis helps out the family of an old friend, obliges a patron, and does his best to aid the authorities in the administration of justice. Each time he merely manages to upset the powerful, the petty, and the vindictive.

What happens in school stays in school?

what happens in school stays in school

Teaching is my families other profession. My mother, sister and various cousins all taught for a living. So by adding their memories to mine I’ve seen schools evolve from 1948 to now. The world my mother entered is probably unrecognisable now. At teacher training college after the war, the college held one dance per term. The RAF officer cadets from a nearby training school were invited.

Young ladies sat along one wall of the dance floor, young gentlemen sat down the opposite wall. The RAF officer commanding and the Lady College Principal sat on the stage, each with their second in command to act as a runner. Should a gentleman wish to dance with a lady, he would go up onto the stage, ask his officer commanding, who would in turn ask the principal, who would send her second in command to collect the young lady in question. They would be formally introduced and thus were allowed to dance together.

The college also has a small number of sitting rooms. If a young gentleman arrived and was either the brother of the student, or came armed with a strongly worded letter from the young lady’s parents, she was allowed to entertain him to afternoon tea. The sitting rooms of course had no doors.

My mother and one other teacher (neither over twenty) with the assistance of an elderly single lady who was the ‘infant help’ used to take two classes of the youngest children on a farm visit. They walked the three-quarters of a mile. One hundred children, three adults, children in column of twos, holding hands with a teacher at the front, another at the back and the help in the middle.

Obviously time moves on. One of the ladies of our family taught at a school where there was a ‘safeguarding incident’. Both the union and the local education authority closed ranks to blame it on the headmaster who had a nervous breakdown and had to take early retirement. Apparently (and remember I was not there at the time) in the meeting after to formally smooth over any cracks, my kinswoman told them what she thought of them. In short sentences. One can see the influence of my maternal grandparents at times. In our family we rarely take prisoners and if we do it’s not for peaceful purposes.

My own schooldays lacked drama. I always felt semi-detached from the classroom, almost like an anthropologist who is studying a strange indigenous people that has recently been brought to his attention. I think one of the few times I attracted attention was when it was discovered I had no idea about the rules of soccer. I was perhaps six or seven at this time, and the only sport I’d really seen was rugby on the TV, because there was a spell of televising evening games. These happened to be at a time when my father had finished milking and so could get to see them.

But the reason for all these reminiscences is that a friend and fellow blogger has published a book set in the world of education. Given she comes well recommended (and not just by me,) I thought I’d mention it.


It’s called, “Examining Kitchen Cupboards” by Stevie Turner. Buy it today because it’s on offer at just £0.99/$0.99 for the day of launch.





As a reviewer commented, “Stevie Turner never disappoints. From her fictional family sagas to her nonfiction, and mystery/thrillers, she knows how to keep a reader engaged. In this telling book, Turner takes us into a story, which begins with Jill Hayes – a college examinations admin whose curiosity leads to her discovery that something is awry with the exams given to high school students for their college entrance exams – the questions are much too junior for the high school age level students, making it a cinch for them to get accepted to college. As Jill delves deeper into the basis for such juvenile questions, her life becomes threatened and we’re taken into a whole other world of corporate greed at the expense of students’ education and government funding.

Jill’s personal investigations lead right to the higher ups involved in the ring, and through the unveiling of her findings, we are led into the private lives of these criminals and colourful characters, spreading beyond the discoveries into international crime, lies, affairs and ultimately, murder.


Based on a factual occurrence of the exam findings, this book had me engrossed on the topic itself, but Turner takes the situation to a whole new level with the plot and intrigue created in this story. A fun, short and engrossing read for a cosy thriller reading escape.



Headbutting a rock, and other hobbies

I love his stories, but I’m never going hang gliding with him 🙂


Headbutting Rocks is a strange hobby

Both my publicist (doesn’t that make me sound upmarket?) and several former publishers have encouraged me to write blog posts in which I ‘interview’ the main character, and perhaps a few other characters, from a forthcoming book. With Galactic Fugitive launched, and Star Spy -the final planned book in this first Space Opera collection – now in editing, I have been reminded by them again that this would be a brilliant idea.

There is a problem. A big problem. You see, and I haven’t admitted this before: there is something about the main character, the hapless Frank Eric Russell. Now the name may be vaguely familiar to some of you. I make no apology for thoroughly enjoying the 1950s and 1960s sci fi scene. One of the writers then was Eric Frank Russell, and I would commend all his works to you. If you…

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You cannot get the staff


A young city couple are driving down a country lane on their way to visit some friends. They suddenly came to a muddy patch in the road and didn’t stop in time, so the car got bogged down and stuck. After a few minutes of trying to get the car out by themselves, they saw a young farmer coming down the lane, driving some oxen in front of him.  The young farmer stopped when he saw the couple in trouble and offered to use the oxen to pull the car out of the mud for £100.  (It’s cheaper using a tractor but oxen are more culturally appropriate.) The couple accepted and a few minutes later the car was free.

Afterward, the farmer said to them, “You know, you’re the tenth car I’ve helped out of the mud today.”

The husband looks around at the fields and asked the farmer, “When do you have time to plough your land? At night?”

The young farmer says, “Oh no. Night is when I put the water in the hole.”

Nowadays we call that diversification. But still over the years there have been trends in farming that have been paralleled in life around us. I remember back in the late 1960s my father commented that we’d build the herd up to thirty milk cows and it would support us both. Now ninety milk cows on the same farm would struggle to support one family. At the same time, the number of people employed in farming has fallen. Indeed looking back to the early 60s, my Grandfather, on this farm and the next, had three men and a lad. He was supporting four families at least. Now the same land would struggle to support two.

There are two reasons. One is that food prices have been driven down over the years. Cheap imports and government policy have combined to ensure that the proportion of their income a family spends on food has fallen. Back in 1957 a family spent 33% of the family budget on food, by 2006 it was 15%.

In agriculture it’s been interesting to watch. Rather than mechanisation driving people away, it looks as if it was a case of mechanisation coming in to replace the men who’d left. First during the war, but then when they came home, a large proportion of men who had worked on the land decided that they’d move into the towns and enjoy the far higher standard of living.
The problem with mechanisation is that it lacks flexibility. The robotic milking stall can replace a cowman, but it cannot drive a silage trailer which the cowman used to do when he wasn’t milking. It cannot put in a couple of hours a day hedging or fencing. So the tasks which ought to be done for the look of the thing and the good of the environment don’t get done because there’s nobody to do them.

Generally it looks as if fuel and clothes have got comparatively cheaper whilst housing, transport and ‘leisure goods and services’ have become more expensive.
The problem is that money has been sucked out of other sectors to fund housing.




But the effect of housing costs has had an impact on the rest of society. When I was at school some of my friends had mothers who worked, mine did, she was a teacher. But the proportion of families with two people working has increased massively.

This has advantages. Some men and women now in the workforce have fulfilling jobs or careers they enjoy and they get immense job satisfaction. Unfortunately for a fair proportion, the job is just a way to earn money to ensure that they can pay the mortgage and feed the family, and roll on weekend.

Capture 2


What society did was totally undervalue the contribution of those who decided to prioritise child-rearing instead of employment. The ‘stay at home’ parent rarely ‘stayed at home.’ These people were the ones who brought the new blood and enthusiasm to so many village and community institutions.


So now in village communities we see communities struggling to survive. Ignore those blighted by second homes where the house could stand empty for months at a time, we now have the villages which are reduced to dormitory status. Both parents leave first thing in a morning and return late at night. By the time they’ve managed a little family time with the children there genuinely isn’t the time (or energy) left to take part in planning the village Christmas party or concert.


There again what do I know? Tell you what, cheer yourself up with a good book.

As a reviewer commented, “Benor Dorfinngil learns new skills in this story. He sets out to help a friend and he definitely gets into deep water. I always enjoy these little tales which sometimes take a surprising turn. If you’ve not read any before I think you could just dive straight in.”

Funny way to write a book!


As the late, great Samuel Johnson once said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” It’s all well and good writing a book, how the dickens are you going to get anybody to read it? More to the point how are you going to get them to pay for the undoubted privilege?

At this point I confess that if I was forced to live on my earnings as a writer, I would be writing this from shanty made from pallets and cardboard, situated nicely overlooking a rubbish tip. This is not the blog of somebody who is offering to show you how I made my first million. Indeed looking at my sales, it might well be worth reading this blog only to know what not to do.

Strangely enough I have tended to avoid spending money on promoting my books. This is not merely because I am congenitally mean, but because I do my research. When I see a website offering to ensure I sell thousands of books, I just go onto Amazon and look at one of the books they are promoting. On Amazon every book has an “Amazon Bestsellers Rank.” I merely watch that rank. To be brutal about it, on Amazon.co.uk it takes one book sale to lift the book from 220,000 up to 60,000. So if the book the website claims to be promoting doesn’t have a rank above 10,000, they’re a waste of time.

I went down another track, I decided to blog. Now this blog, the Jim Webster, books and stuff one, started off as somewhere to promote books. I will tell you something for free here, nobody cares. But if I write about my experiences with cattle, sheep and border collies, people are interesting. So actually I rarely do book stuff here. On the other hand, I accidentally created a character, Tallis Steelyard, a poet. As he is a writer, then obviously he has to have a blog. His blog I do differently, each blog post is a Tallis Steelyard short story/anecdote.

Now there’s a lot of writing there, so every so often I collect up blog posts and publish them. So far there are three novella sized ebooks about dogs, quads and livestock. With the Tallis Steelyard blog, there are eight novella sized collections. These always have, ‘and other stories’ in the title so you can recognise them. This way I can just about justify the sheer amount of writing time that goes into blogging.


But what about promoting these books when they’re published? Well obviously I mention them on Goodreads and Facebook. You might have noticed me, one of the tens if not hundreds of thousands of writers trying to get noticed. I decided this wasn’t a particularly successful strategy.

Then I discovered the blog tour. I did a couple in a conventional format, where you as the writer answer a number of questions so the person reading the blog feels they know you. But to be honest, if I do too many of these, I get bored. I shudder to think how the reader must feel. So I decided to do something different.

Because with the Tallis Steelyard blog I had a number of bloggers who liked my work, (I knew this because they would comment on the various stories, reblogged them on their blogs, and bought the books.) I decided it might be fun to work with them.

So I contacted each of them and offered to write a Tallis story for their blog. Quite a lot of bloggers jumped at this opportunity. As any blogger knows, the blog is a maw you are doomed to feed for all eternity, and if somebody offers to feed it for a day, then that’s an offer you struggle to refuse. As an aside, even when I’m not running a blog tour, I’m always happy to write a story for a blogger. Obviously two or three years later the story will inevitably wash up in one of the collections of stories, but it’s for their blog, and whilst I’ll reblog it, I do it from their blog to give them the publicity. Indeed for those bloggers who do like to give writers questions, answering as Tallis Steelyard can be fun, because I can always have him work one of his stories into the conversation.

So I did a few tours like this and they went pretty well. Normally a tour is somewhere from a dozen to fifteen blogs. What I realised is that one of the Tallis Steelyard story collections normally contains somewhere from twenty-four to thirty stories. So every two blog tours I do in effect writes another story collection.

Once things were going well, obviously I had to tinker with it. One or two of the blog tours had a theme. In one, the stories followed Tallis as he was temporarily exiled from the city of Port Naain. Each was a standalone story but they were in some sort of order. Actually it didn’t matter if you missed one or read them out of order, but the theme brought the tour a sense of unity.

Then being grossly overambitious it struck me that actually a novella has about a dozen chapters. So why not write a novella and use it as a blog tour (to promote another novella) and at the end of the tour, you’ve published two books.

Trust me, this way madness lies. But fortunately I was very lucky in my bloggers. I asked people, not because they were ‘important’ (although some of them have an awful lot of readers, whilst others are just starting out) but because they loved Tallis.

So they’re willing to put up with the fact I’m not the most organised of people. In spite of me, we managed to put out a novella and all the chapters came out in the right order!

Since then I’ve done it a couple of times, and people have asked me how I do it. Well the writing of the book is different. You’ve got to tackle it differently. Each chapter will be a blog post. So each chapter has to make sense if read on its own. Not only that but each chapter has to have a natural ending. I know a lot of people who feel cheated by stories ending in cliff-hangers, which mean you have to buy the next exciting episode. So I try to avoid cliff-hanger endings, but somehow want to ensure that whilst the reader is satisfied with the chapter, they do want to read the next bit.

The other thing you have to ensure is that something interesting happens in each chapter. It’s a bit unfair to a blogger to give them a story that consists entirely of plot exposition or back story.


Anyway, it’s really up to you to decide if I was successful or not. Here is ‘Tallis Steelyard, enemies and how to make them.’

This appeared, in its entirety, as a blog tour. (Which has just finished.)

Another novella which first appeared as a blog tour was ‘A measured response.’


This novella is interesting in that it had two endings. One where the blog tour ended, and Benor the protagonist has seen the villain arrested. But then I added a couple of extra chapters after the tour was over that appear only in the novella, which take things a little further as it is discovered that they’d arrested the wrong person and Benor has to help catch the right one.

What, another winter!


You have to admit it, Cumbria is so beautiful that even the view from the motorway service stations can be impressive. Before anybody starts talking about their national parks, there are about ten million people who live within a hundred miles of where this photo was taken. Mind you, the motorway service station I took the photo from has become a journey destination with a big farm shop and food counter. It is now possible to organise meetings there because those possible attendees who also organise the family shopping will comment in an environmentally sound manner that ‘it’s central,’ whilst gearing up for the shopping experience.

Still, it has to be said, winter is starting, we’re getting a mixture of days like the one in the photo, where there’s that touch of frost in the morning and there’s mist coming up from the river valleys.

But nearer home it’s obvious that winter is here. Yesterday when I was feeding heifers out in the field I looked north and I could see a dusting of snow on the hills above Langdale, which are about thirty miles north of here. There’s not been anything nearer, but to be fair the rain was damned cold when it came yesterday. There were traces of ice on the puddles in the yard as the sun came up.

So from a farming point of view, we’re pretty much in full winter anyway. The only livestock left out are a handful of dairy heifers who’re just moving round the farm cleaning off the last of the grass. I have no doubt they’ll be in soon because the ground is getting too wet, and there isn’t a lot of grass left.

But when the rain stopped this morning, it actually felt quite mild. We’re lucky in that, unusually, we’ve not had the rain they’ve had further east. So we’ve no sign of flooding, but the ground is definitely wet. After feeding heifers I went for a walk round the bottom land to just see what it was like. It struck me that we’re in a ‘waiting period.’ Autumn is turning into winter, but round here, we’re unlikely to get anything too cold until after Christmas. So we’re in one of those periods where you just get your head down and plod on. November is a month we get through, rather than a month we expect anything special from.

Essentially everything at the moment is in a ‘holding pattern.’ Yes the real enthusiasts are gearing up for Christmas, but as one meme I saw on facebook commented, “Remember, all you over-enthusiastic Christmas decorators, Mary hasn’t told Joseph she’s pregnant yet.”

Then we’ve got a general election as well. Again we’ve got the real enthusiasts who’re all over social media like a bad rash, flogging their particular dead horse. One advantage of social media is that, in reality, it means a lot of people who might otherwise be a damned bore in the real world can just brag of their virtue in a facebook echo chamber. I’ve spent the last week quietly ‘snoozing’ people who really ought to know better than think people cared about the articles they’re posting.

I must confess that during this election I’m getting less news coverage than I normally do. This is because once the news stops being news and becomes election coverage, I just switch it off. So if your home town disappears beneath the waves and I don’t write to commiserate, it’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that the BBC covered it between ‘discussions’ between party spokespersons and I’d already left by that point.
After all, when you stop and think about it, I’ve seen all these politicians and their parties in operation over the years. So why am I going to be impressed by anything they promise to do for me now?
Oh yes, I saw a comment I enjoyed, “a voter is a person being bribed with their own money.”


Because I’m a thoroughly decent chap and don’t want you to suffer from terminal boredom in the election season, I published three novellas.
Thus might I recommend to you


When mages and their suppliers fall out, people tend to die. This becomes a problem when somebody dies before they manage to pass on the important artefact they had stolen. Now a lot of dangerous, violent or merely amoral people are searching, and Benor has got caught up in it all. There are times when you discover that being forced to rely upon a poet for back-up isn’t as reassuring as you might hope.

When he is asked to oversee the performance of the celebrated ‘Ten Speeches’, Tallis Steelyard realises that his unique gifts as a poet have finally been recognised. He may now truly call himself the leading poet of his generation.
Then the past comes back to haunt him, and his immediate future involves too much time in the saddle, being asked to die in a blue silk dress, blackmail and the abuse of unregulated intoxicants. All this is set in delightful countryside as he is invited to be poet in residence at a lichen festival.

And a review! The reviewer commented “A dangerously good author.

This author has created a rich world, filled with interesting characters – of whom Maljie is one of the most colourful. Her life and adventures are presented though the gossip of the poet Tallis Steelyard who has a sharp eye and a sharper tongue. Reminiscent somewhat of Pepys’ diaries about the small and large events of London, Tallis is a better writer. And why is Mr Webster dangerous – too much of my money is being spent on his books.

Lentil Curls


I have undertaken a social survey and fully intend to astound you with the results. But first, I thought I better set out my stall with regard to the current unpleasantness. You might have noticed, but here in the UK we’re going to have a general election. This has several immediate results. The first is that social media is full of memes, faked photos, wild claims and downright lies. Personally I suspect the Russians have pulled out, being unwilling to sink to the level our political party black-ops teams have achieved entirely on their own initiative. Not only that, but the discussions will inevitably get more and more acrimonious as we get nearer to the big day. If somebody came up with a way of ‘fast forwarding’ life so we could get to the 12th December without having to suffer from this deluge, they’d probably make a fortune. Especially if they could also come up with a way to ‘pause’ and ‘replay’ some of the more interesting things we’ve done in the past to help fill in the gap.

Now initially I had wondered whether the election campaigning would at least have had the effect of driving the endless posts about ‘only x more days to Christmas’ off social media. Then I found myself hoping that the Christmas posts might just be able to swamp all the general election nonsense.

So I came up with a cunning plan. I just about managed it during the 2017 election. I’m going to do my bit to keep my facebook page an oasis of gentle humour and tranquillity. Obviously I reserve the right to mock unmercifully any of the more bizarre flights of political fancy. After all, I’m the one who writes fantasy fiction. If they start venturing into my genre I reserve the right to subject them to incisive literary criticism.

But in the interests of good taste, I trust the political pygmies jostling for the lucrative positions in parliament (in crude terms a MP earns four times as much as the median family income in this town. I trust they will explain to us why they think they’re worth it) will remember their manners and will instruct the sundry deniable and expendable minions they use to mount social media campaigns to restrict themselves to posting positive information about their own campaign. After all, if all they can post is knocking copy, they cannot have much positive to tell us about their aspirations.

Still I have some important information to impart. I have undertaken social survey of great depth and I feel the results have the most remarkable implications!

In the past, when walking through the lanes, often following livestock, I’ve made a habit of picking up crisp packets and similar, for proper disposal. As a result of this process I came to the conclusion that the favoured flavour of crisp was salt and vinegar.

Academic rigour insists that I state that the favoured variety for throwing out of the car window when you’d finished eating them was salt and vinegar. It may well be that, for example, more people purchase cheese and onion, but cherish the packets and only discard salt and vinegar.

But still, if I were to stock only one flavour of crisp in my notional emporium, it would be salt and vinegar flavour.

But now, recent researches have shown a major change in crisp buying. The last lot I found and have suitable recycled as energy were’ Lentil Curls, sour cream & onion’ and “Sunbites grainwaves. Sour cream & cracked black pepper.”

It is obvious that amongst litter louts, sour cream has displaced salt and vinegar as the snack of choice for the discerning oaf. Not only that but it is obvious that our sub-sentient discarders of food packaging are becoming more discerning. Either that or our area has been hit by a wave of aspiring middle class pseudo-vegetarian crisp eaters?
Note well the fact that the potato has been cast into the abyss, replaced by grain and lentils. Have we a new generation of hipster snackers? Are we looking at the arrival on the scene of a more woke generation of people who discard their litter in the countryside?
Let us be fair here, there are people who have been awarded doctorates for theories advanced with less evidence. At the very least I should be allowed to mention my books on the strength of it.


Guaranteed to contain no general election coverage

In his own well chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation, and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.