Shelfie of the Week #1

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As promised, here’s the start of my series on writers (or readers, for that matter) and their favourite bookshelves.  First past the post is Richard Hesketh, who submitted ‘not so much a shelf as a Hidden Objects Mystery’ which he explains is in two parts because of reflections on the glass!

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You can find Richard’s eclectic postings about life after psychiatry over at his blog, The At-Homium.

More shelfies coming soon… and if you’d like to take part too, just email a ‘shelfie’ (no more than 500 pixels wide, please, so I don’t frighten my blog), a bit of blurb and a link to your website or blog, to tessDOTmakoveskyATvirginmediaDOTcom.

Coming soon – shelfies!

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Watch this space for a whole new series as authors from around the world and across the genre divide share their favourite bookshelves.

Early shelfers will include Richard Hesketh, K A Laity and Sharon Bidwell.  Each guest post will include a ‘shelfie’ or photo of the shelf, plus a few words from the author on what makes the shelf special.

The first Shelfie of the Week should put in an appearance next week.  I hope it’ll provide an off-the-shelf experience…

 

Troubled Waters

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What do you get if you cross the Pied Piper of Hamelin with the Liverpool riots, with a little bit of Simon & Garfunkel thrown in?  The answer isn’t a joke, it’s my latest short story, ‘Troubled Waters’, which I heard on Saturday had been accepted by Grift magazine for their music-themed third issue.

The story is no joke either, but a dark, even elegiac tale of childhood magic, and the effect it has on a pair of life-long criminals caught up in the aftermath of the inner-city riots of a couple of years ago.  It was inspired partly by the old classic ‘Bridge Over Trouble Water’ and partly by my own experience of living in two of the cities affected by the riots (Birmingham in 2011 and Liverpool during the famous Toxteth riots of 1981).  Oh, and by the famous tale of the Pied Piper, although this doesn’t involve either rats or the mass abduction of children, you’ll be pleased to hear.

I don’t yet know when the magazine is due out but I’ll post further details as soon as I have them.  In the meantime, why not track down ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and sing along to it, for old times’ sake?  It’s a great song!

My Writing Process update

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Just a quickie to say I passed the baton on to Lucy Cameron (without dropping it, I’ll have you know) and you can now read her fascinating responses over at her writing blog.  Her writing sounds like a darker and creepier shade of my own, so I’m particularly interested to see the details of her latest work, Night’s Watching.

Oh – and don’t forget my predecessor on the tour, Sharon Bidwell, still has her own responses available to read.  It never ceases to amaze me just how far these blog tours can get in circling the globe and reaching new authors and even genres, in a relatively short space of time.  Jump on and discover new worlds!

My Writing Process blog tour

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Thanks to friend and fellow-writer Sharon Bidwell for lassoing me and plonking me in the relay race that is the My Writing Process blog tour. I hope I won’t drop the baton half way round.

Q1 What are you currently working on?

I usually have about six things on the go at once, although I don’t physically work on them all at the same time. Currently I’m editing a couple of short stories for submission calls – making sure they fit the guidelines, word count and so on – and actually writing one longer piece. This is a novella partly inspired by a Pink Floyd track, which follows the actions of six or seven different victims of a serial killer, trying to get inside their heads and find out what if anything in their personalities led them to their fate. Light-hearted it ain’t, but I’m hoping it will be something a little different.

Q2 How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Well, there are plenty of crime writers, slightly fewer who concentrate on noir, but I think where I really veer off is that I hardly ever focus on the detective, police officer or other crime-solver, but instead write from the criminals’ point of view. My stories are littered with the has-beens and the “little people”, often challenged or unsuccessful, who make the great criminal world go round without ever really benefiting from it.

On top of that, I weave some fairly dark, “gallows” humour into my stories – think Keystone Cops, Frank Spencer, or (if you want something a little more up to date) the Coen Brothers – yet at the same time all my work has a distinct “Brit-grit” feel to it, which is a fairly unusual combination.

Oh – and then there are the elephants…

Q3 Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always had an interest in what makes people tick, what makes people do the things they do, and go on doing, even if it leads to disaster. I grew up watching the gritty British tv fare of the 70s and 80s – Softly Softly, Z Cars, The Professionals, The Sweeney – so that dark, violence-soaked, rain-soaked, back-alley style of drama is in my blood. And I’ve always enjoyed stories where there is no happy-ever-after, where people veer from one crisis to another or bring about their own very personal downfalls. I guess I’m just weird.

Q4 How does my writing process work?

Quite often, it doesn’t. I can sit and stare at the computer screen for hours, with thoughts jangling round in my head but nothing filtering through with sufficient lucidity to put down on paper. Once I catch hold of the loose thread and give it a tug, though, the ideas unravel, spill out and I can rattle off an entire short story in two days flat. Then I’m back to screen-staring again.

I find it almost impossible to plot, plan or work more methodically. The loose threads come when they will; listing characters or chapter headings in a notebook achieves nothing for me. In fact it can be counter-productive, because if I spend all my creative energy on an outline, I have nothing left to write the actual story. And letting the characters write their own story can lead up some very interesting blind alleys!

Q5 What’s new from you?

webDrag NoirI have a short story coming up in the Drag Noir anthology, edited by K A Laity. This is a serious look at drag in all its manifestations: the masks and disguises that people take on, the things they’re hiding from, the events that cause them to turn to such extreme measures. My own story, ‘Wheel Man’, is set in the gender-obsessed world of car theft, which Stephen Fry recently described as “the last bastion of sexism in British crime”, and examines the lengths one woman is prepared to go to, to keep doing what she loves. The book is due from Fox Spirit in October, but if you can’t wait that long you could do worse than seek out Exiles: An Outsider Anthology from Blackwitch Press, which also contains one of my short stories, ‘Dead Man Walking’. It’s available as either a print or e-book, it’s nice and cheap, and all proceeds go to charity (the Marfan Foundation) so you can donate to a good cause in the process.

And now it’s over to the next sacrifical victim, crime-buff Lucy Cameron, for the next step in the blog tour. Thanks for listening!

Drag Noir cover reveal

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Cue music, lights and feather boa. Like a stripper at a high class lap dancing joint, I can now reveal… the cover for the forthcoming ‘Drag Noir’ anthology from Fox Spirit. Like the stripper, it’s worth the wait. Like the stripper, it’s snazzy, stylish, and alluring. Unlike the stripper, it doesn’t promise more than it delivers. In fact, it’s an absolute doozy, as you can see for yourself:

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The book, a whole collection of stories devoted to men and women wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not), is due in October. If, like the stripper’s customers you can’t wait that long, you can find out more at the Fox Spirit website. The list of contents includes my own short story ‘Wheel Man’, a poignant tale set in the gender-obsessed world of car theft. I get the impression the rest of the collection is going to be every bit as good as the cover, and (like the stripper’s customers) I’m struggling to stay patient too. I’ll have to try not to trip over my high heels and feather boa in the rush.

Cover image (c) sljohnsonimages.com, by the talented Stephanie Johnson.

UK’s dumbest criminal #2

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It’s time for another entry in my occasional series on dumb criminals – and this one takes some beating. According to this article in The Guardian, he chose another house in the same street he lives on to burgle. Then he forgot to check whether there was anyone at home. There was; the home-owner was in the property at the time and disturbed the burglar, who ran off empty handed. So empty handed, in fact, that he left behind the can of lager he’d been drinking from when he broke in… complete with his fingerprints and full DNA profile.

If I put that in a story, nobody would believe me!

Exiles review

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exiles-cover-small-2I finally finished reading my paperback copy of Exiles: An Outsider Anthology the other day, and have reviewed it on Goodreads.  Although I have a story in this one, it didn’t stop me being objective about the rest of the contents: it’s a very enjoyable, varied and thought-provoking collection.  You can read my full review at Goodreads.  I hope it will inspire a few more people to cough up for the book and contribute to a very good cause in the process!

Post mortem without the mess

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A note for all you crime writers out there – digital autopsies are about to move off the pages of the latest sci-fi novel and become reality instead. The borough of Sandwell in the West Midlands is planning a centre for autopsies by scanner rather than scalpel, based at one of their crematoria, in the near future.

This makes a lot of sense. There’s a sizeable Asian population in the West Midlands, many of them Muslims for whom the whole concept of post mortem investigations is anathema. This way, the experts will be able to tell the cause of death without that invasive element. And what works for Muslims may also be more acceptable to much of the rest of the population, who don’t like to think about their nearest and dearest being sliced to pieces so soon after death.

This is a great use of modern technology and one I’d like to see catching on. Crime writers, though, may have to re-think any scenes they set in morgues from now on…

Free shipping on Exiles

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exiles-cover-small-2If you’ve been thinking about treating yourself to the paperback version of ‘Exiles: An Outsider Anthology’ but have been put off by the postage charges, now’s your chance. The book is available from Lulu for just a few short days without paying shipping. Just use the code LJSD14 when ordering to take advantage of the offer. It’s available until 6th August so if you order now you should just about still catch it!

Reviews of the anthology are consistently good and I’m thoroughly enjoying the stories myself – review to come in the next few days.

Progress

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The last few weeks have been rather arid in terms of getting writing done: we’ve had trips away, days out, routine appointments and a whole load of other things going on that have made concentrating on work really difficult.

At last, though, this week I’ve been able to settle down at my desk and Get On With Stuff. And I’m really pleased with the results.

Yesterday I gave a final polish to a music-themed crime story I wrote for Grift Magazine’s latest call for submissions, and sent that off. And today, I’ve finally got going on my current work-in-progress, a dark crime novella called ‘Raise the Blade’. Several weeks ago I stalled on a scene in the first section, and haven’t been able to move past that point. This morning, for no apparent reason, I suddenly stopped swimming around in molasses (figuratively speaking, that is) and could see a way to make the scene work. Eight hundred words later, the first section is finished (at least to first draft) and I’m a much happier bunny. Long may the sudden creative burst last.

Zombie apocalypse… Birmingham?

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Here’s another amusing little tale of the sort of bizarre things that go on in Birmingham: West Midlands Police have reported more than 70 calls to their help desks about ghosts, witchcraft and, er, zombies, in the last three years.

Witchcraft I can just about get my head round and ghosts are a whole other matter; whether you believe in them or not there’s no doubting that there are some inexplicable phenomena at times, which you can hardly blame people for associating with the paranormal.  I myself experienced sudden drops in temperature, and being touched in an otherwise empty property – and that was in full daylight in a modern flat.  Imagine the same sort of thing happening after dark in a spooky environment and it’s no wonder folk phone for help.

But… zombies?  In a 21st century city?  Seriously?  I would love to know what activity sparked that particular report.  Was it a rather sick practical joke, or is Birmingham really the location of the next zombie invasion?  Can’t wait to find out!

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