Monthly Archives: November 2019

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 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.