Where the heck Wednesday: Graham Wynd

I’m delighted to announce the start of a brand new feature of guest posts on my blog, featuring authors talking about the locations of their books.  Called ‘Where the heck Wednesday’, it will run semi-regularly on Wednesdays (now there’s a surprise) and I’m hoping to include as many locations, near at hand and far flung, as possible.

I was going to start the ball rolling in mid-November, but I’ve had such a good response to the idea from fellow authors that I’m kicking it off early, and my first victim, er, guest, is noir writer Graham Wynd who writes dark, even bleak stories and novels with an added blend of humour and erotica.  Over to you, Graham, and thanks for taking part!

Book Title: Satan’s Sorority

Setting: Connecticut, USA

Author: Graham Wynd

http://grahamwynd.com | Facebook | Twitter


“I set my novella about the devilish girls of Sigma Tau Nu at a mythical Connecticut college because I thought it fit the story well: Sandra Delites comes from New York City, but she’s clearly been exiled to the wilds of Connecticut as a punishment. I know the place well because I went to grad school at the University of Connecticut. After living in Cambridge I found it a bit…rustic.

There are a lot of cows. I mean a lot.

When people think of Connecticut it’s mostly the ‘gold coast’—the rich suburbs just a train ride away from Manhattan. The north east’s ‘Quiet Corner’ is worlds away from that rich life even in such a small state. It’s mostly farms and former mill towns, both struggling to stay afloat these days. For a city girl, it’s the middle of nowhere, so Sandra feels quite marooned.

The undergraduates I taught were oddly complacent. The chief advantage as far as I could tell about the location was that it was easy to get to Boston or NYC. I was amazed to find that most of my students had never been to either place. They really lived sheltered lives. They felt a bit like the kids from Village of the Damned grown up a bit.

But in the spring, these quiet kids tended to turn a little wild. There was a patch of time that riots broke out on the normally tranquil green fields of the campus, and a few times even cars were set on fire. The fraternities and sororities seemed to provide a good training ground for that on many weekends. I was glad to be living off campus most of the time. I didn’t actually hear of any of the greeks turning satanic, but I wouldn’t have been much surprised (joke). I grew up watching a lot of 60s and 70s movies that were all afraid of Satanists, so it was a fun bit of nostalgia for me.

I did cheat on one thing: Satan’s Sorority is set in 1959. I have Sandra and her sorority sister Trixie steal a book from the library, The Munich Handbook, which has a ritual to summon Lilith. It’s true the Yale Library has the Paul Mellon collection of alchemical books and manuscripts, but they didn’t receive that gift until 1967, and the Beinecke Rare Book Collection didn’t exist until 1963. I have the library doing a little conservation work on the book they’ll eventually have, which seems fair enough.

Admittedly I was probably far more interested in keeping the occult bits reasonably accurate than readers will be. You don’t have to believe that anything the least bit supernatural happens in the story—of course the sisters of Sigma Tau Nu think the devil made them do it, but it could all be in their heads. I guess when you’re spilling a lot of blood, you always have a reason—right?”


A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub, including SATAN’S SORORITY from Number Thirteen Press and EXTRICATE from Fox Spirit Books, as well as tales in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Murder Under the Oaks and the Anthony Award-nominated Protectors 2: Heroes. See a full list of stories (including free reads) here.

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Comings and goings

I had to laugh at this BBC news story about the prosecution of two men who ran a brothel in Birmingham.

Not, I hasten to add, that I find prostitution amusing.  Quite the opposite; the sex trade is often a front for unpleasant and/or criminal behaviour, and the way women are seduced or forced into selling their own bodies is shocking.

What did amuse me, though, was the sheer brazen scale of this place.  It made its owners a colossal £1 million every year and turned over an average of 200 customers every single day.  Which is amazing when you think about it.  All those comings (*cough* pun quite possibly intended) and goings, hundreds of people traipsing in and out, cars parking and driving away again… and yet nobody seems to have noticed!

Fair enough the place advertised itself as a massage parlour, but 200 clients a day?  That’s a staggering number of people wanting massages.  Enough to ring alarm bells for neighbouring businesses, locals and the authorities.  Makes you wonder how they got away with it for quite so long!

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Flying in…

…with a quick update today: Caffeine Nights have created a smart new author page for me over at their updated website.

You can find pics (of me and my book), info, and a link to a sample chapter of ‘Raise the Blade’, in case you’d like to try the book out before buying it.

Head over to Tess Makovesky c/o Caffeine Nights to see more.

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Eggsceedingly good news

darkmindsThere’s been so much going on the last few days I haven’t had a chance to mention my latest good news, which is that I’ve had a short story accepted for a charity anthology.

The book, Dark Minds, is edited by Betsy Reavley of Bloodhound Books (although being published independently) and all proceeds will benefit the world-renowned Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.  It’s a terrific cause and one I’m delighted to be associated with.*

The book is due out on 13th December (barring accidents and emergencies) and there’s a launch party in London a few days later to celebrate.  Sadly, I probably won’t be able to get there – train tickets plus overnight accommodation plus tickets make it a wee bit too expensive for me.  But loads of the other authors involved in the project should be going along so I’m sure it will be a blast.

And the story?  Well, it has the rather awful title of ‘My Own Eggsecutioner’ and features a man, a missing Faberge egg, an antiques shop and a pair of scissors.  I’ll leave you to imagine the rest… but pretty it ain’t!

I’ll post a reminder or two once the anthology is available so do keep watching this space.  (And I apologise here and now for the horrible pun in the post title.  I couldn’t resist.)

*edited to add: GOSH have since declined to be associated with this project.  More details on the charity to benefit coming soon.

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Best of 3

Today I get to reverse the roles and mention some books by other authors that I’ve read and enjoyed recently – rather than banging on endlessly about my own!

Specifically, this is my three favourite recent crime reads, as featured by author Lucy Hay on her ‘Best of 3’ blog series.

Two of the books included on my list probably won’t come as any great surprise to frequent readers of my blog, but to see exactly what’s on the list – and more importantly, why – head over to today’s ‘Best of 3’ on Lucy’s blog.  And if it inspires anyone to buy the books, I’m glad, because I loved all three of them.

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Scary stuff!

And it isn’t even Halloween yet…

However, I’m delighted to share the brand new book trailer/video for ‘Raise the Blade’, courtesy of Darren Laws at Caffeine Nights Publishing.

It’s a creepy little offering which perfectly captures the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of the book.  It gave me a shiver or two whilst watching it – and I knew roughly what to expect!  Even the music is suitably scary.

Pop along to either Animoto or my very first YouTube video to see the clip for yourself.  Happy viewing, preferably from behind a cushion or underneath the sofa.

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Raise the Blade in Ambleside

fredbookshopToday is Bookshop Day, apparently, when readers everywhere celebrate their favourite/local bookshops.  Sadly, independent ‘real life’ bookshops are a dying breed, but there are still a few brightly-burning stars out there.  In my area that includes Bookends at both Carlisle and Keswick, and Fred Holdsworth in Ambleside.

The latter is tiny, but a typical old-fashioned store simply stuffed with books from floor to ceiling.  They stock everything from local maps and guides to the Lakeland fells, to fiction, to Buddhism for Sheep.  And from today, they’re stocking signed copies of ‘Raise the Blade’ too.

Ambleside is a stunningly beautiful small town set amid some of the most picturesque scenery in England.  So if you want a good excuse to visit, and to get your sticky mitts on one of my books while you’re at it, now’s your chance!  “Fred’s” is located right on the main street, in between an art gallery and a specialist deli selling a range of delicious home-made foods, so there’s something for everyone!

And if you do go along and buy my book – thanks, and please tell them I sent you!

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Football, dead priests and nail guns

That’s a typical night out in Carlisle.

Or at least, it is if you’re going along to a book launch by crime writer Graham Smith.  I did, yesterday, and had a great time.  First I met a couple of friends for a meal at Nandos, then we headed for Waterstones for the launch itself.  And what fun!

secretNot content with launching the usual single book, Graham had gone for two.  His latest novel, ‘I Know Your Secret’, and a novella which fits between the events of that and his first novel ‘Snatched From Home’.  The novella is called ‘Matching the Evidence’ and there’s a pun involved in the title since the plot revolves around football.  However Graham was at pains to point out that you don’t need to be a fan of the beautiful game, or even know much about it, to read/enjoy the book.  I might just take him up on that, since it sounded quite intriguing.

The launch featured an interview by fellow author Matt Hilton, and various hilarious and/or hair-raising stories involving crucifying people to the floor with a nail gun and getting thrown out of churches.  It was all thoroughly entertaining and I was really sorry I had to leave early to run for a train as I was enjoying it immensely, dammit!  There wasn’t even time to buy a book, something I hope to put right very soon.

If you like crime, or books set in Carlisle, or football and dead priests, then be sure to pay Graham a visit at his Amazon author page here.  Just watch out for the nail gun!

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Gillian in the Spotlight

Raise the Blade FrontThe process of creating characters is one of those things, along with ‘where do you get your ideas from’, which fascinates readers most about writing.  Now, thanks to Joseph at Relax and Read Reviews, I have the chance to describe some of that creation process.  Who is Gillian?  What motivates her?  Was she influenced by people I know?  What does she even look like?

Some of these questions are easier to answer than others.  I knew, for instance, who the character was loosely based on.  Like many of my characters she’s an amalgamation of bits of at least two real-life people, with a few extra characteristics of her own.  Her appearance, though, was harder to explain.  I rarely describe my characters in any great detail and although I have a reasonable idea what they look like, I didn’t want to give too much away in case readers had already formed their own ‘picture’ of her in their minds.

And then there’s her personality, and the thorny question of what I actually like about her.  Quick answer, like most of my characters, not much!  But as you’ll see, there’s so much more to it than that.

Gillian is just one of eight major characters in the book.  Although she’s the one who has stayed with me longest, I had almost as much fun creating all of them, and honing them so they would fit the required circumstances but still be believable.  Hopefully I succeeded, and if you like the sound of Gillian (or any of her equally impossible counterparts!) then the book is available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon, or by ordering from your local book shop.

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Computer blues

I’m worried about my website (www.tessmakovesky.com).

This might sound odd.  It exists, it’s paid for, I remember to renew both the domain registration and the hosting every year (if, usually, rather at the last minute).  I enjoy fiddling around  and coming up with new designs, some of which get used, most not.  And I update the thing regularly with my latest news, book releases, events, works in progress and so on.

And it’s those last two items on the list that may be under threat.  Because my software is hopelessly outdated and (I suspect) rapidly coming to the end of its life.  I’ve used that old stalwart, Frontpage Express, for donkeys years and it’s served me well.  It doesn’t do all the bells and whistles of a ‘proper’ web authoring program, but it does the basics easily and well, and is a dream to actually use.  But it’s been unsupported for over a decade, and looking increasingly flaky under Windows 10.  Every time Win 10 updates itself another piece of older software bites the dust, and it can only be a matter of time before Frontpage Express joins the list.

I’ve been caught out by some of those deaths (including Wordperfect on my laptop) so this time I was determined to get ahead of the game and switch to something that was more up to date.  Other Half has mentioned Bluegriffon as a good alternative so yesterday I downloaded the free version and settled down to get my head round it.

It wasn’t easy.  Bear in mind that I’ve been using computers for over 20 years, and web authoring software for most of that time.  I’m well used to dipping in, finding out how the basics work (open/close, print, save) and generally finding my way around.  But not with this.  It was hopelessly non-intuitive and I couldn’t see how to do the most simple tasks: change the page background, re-size an image, use larger fonts for headings.  Every step required a search on the internet, because Bluegriffon’s own user manual and help facility is… wait for it… disabled unless you pay for it.

Luckily there are some helpful people out there and after searching and reading various blog posts and forum entries I stumbled my way to a poor copy of my existing webpage.  It had hardly any of the same features, looked thoroughly amateurish, and had taken me the best part of two hours to produce.  And then I found that there is no way to position a table horizontally on the page, or to assign different attributes to individual cells in the same table.  At that point, I metaphorically threw the whole thing out of the window and spent the rest of the day in a massive sulk.

Once I’d calmed down I turned to Google for alternatives.  After all, millions of people still operate their own personal web sites; there must be a means to design and update them.  Mustn’t there?  Well, I was surprisingly wrong.  There is one hugely expensive, complex program out there in the shape of Dreamweaver.  It does far more than I need and I question the point of paying several hundred pounds for software that I will only ever scratch the surface of.  But after that, there really isn’t much else.  A few html coding packages which don’t have “wysiwyg” capabilities (a must for me since my html programming is pretty basic); a handful of other programs which don’t do half of what Frontpage Express did and cost twice as much.  And Linux, but I can’t use that anyway since it won’t run half the software I do use (Word, Wordperfect) and seems to screw with Windows 10.

I may be being weird here but it strikes me that computers are getting ever more powerful, but actually doing less thanks to software that’s becoming ever more ‘nailed down’.  The cynic in me suspects that Microsoft is rapidly heading in Apple’s direction, with operating systems that will only accept MS software, or software that’s licensed to run on MS, at huge end-user cost.  And everything else is simply too small to be useful, or doesn’t work very well, or is gradually ceasing to exist.

In the meantime, I’ll keep on using Frontpage Express every last second that I possibly can.  But it’s not impossible that within the next few months I may have a website, bought, paid for, and nicely designed, which is impossible to actually use.  And that seems like a really silly state of affairs.

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Crime series peeves

I watch quite a lot of crime series on tv these days; I particularly enjoy most of the Scandi-noir that turns up on BBC4 but will also settle down with home-grown fodder such as Ann Cleeves’ Vera and Shetland series, plus new kids on the block (Harlen Coben’s recent The Five; Broadchurch; the Beeb’s jazzy entrant New Blood).

Most of the time I’m happy to suspend disbelief in the name of good drama.  However, there are a few things which crop up so regularly, on tv and in the movies too, that they start to scream ‘device’, ‘formula’ and ‘lazy writing’ at me.  Here are my top five, in no particular order – let’s see if you agree with them!

  1. Photophobics.  They must have a genuine fear of light, mustn’t they?  And photophobia must be one of the most common phobias out there.  Because characters do this all the flipping time.  What am I talking about?  Walking into their home, after dark, and not switching the blinking lights on, that’s what.  I mean, would you?  I sure as hell wouldn’t, and I’m not that bothered about the sort of ‘psychopath lying in wait behind the kitchen door’ scenario that tv characters have to contend with.  In my case, it’s more the furniture.  Go blundering around in pitch darkness and I’m bound to collide with something heavy, and end up hopping up and down on one leg swearing.  So why do so many characters do it?  Presumably, because the plot needs them to in order to provide a scare.  But there are loads of less formulaic, more original ways to do that.
  2. Characters who find an open door at the home of a friend/neighbour/family member/witness/complete stranger, and instead of phoning the person to check if they’re okay, or calling in the authorities, just walk on in.  Usually while bleating something inane like “Hello?  Is anyone here?”  No, just a dead body and that mad axe murderer behind the kitchen door…  I don’t know about other countries but here in the UK it’s considered trespass; even the authorities need permission before entering someone’s home, unless they suspect someone’s life is genuinely in danger.  And while I can swallow the occasional outbreak of rule-bending to get into a target property, this happens with monotonous regularity and often involves characters who aren’t even police.
  3. “Everything will be all right, darling, I promise you.”  Quite possibly the most overused piece of dialogue ever, in films and tv series in all genres – but because of the implied tension, it seems to be particularly prevalent in crime and action dramas.  And it sucks.  Because here in the UK at least, people just don’t say that sort of thing.  Not even to their kids.  They’re far more likely to say something tactless, which creates a tension of its own and is far more interesting than endless stock platitudes.  (A great example being a recent Peter Kaye advert where he tells a child they shouldn’t worry about monsters in the wardrobe, they should worry about the burglars trying to break in through the window – and then wonders what he’s done!  Now that’s real life for you.)
  4. Dialogue that becomes nothing more than a series of thinly-disguised stage directions.  “You go the market and see if you can head him off.  I’ll drive to Mo’s and get him out of bed.”  The worst cases of this are often US tv series that are in their third or fourth season and running out of ideas.  It’s horribly stilted, and surely there are better ways of getting that information across to the viewer.  Whatever happened to show not tell?
  5. Back-up.  This really is my pet peeve at the moment, because it’s turning up everywhere, from silly populist shows that might expect to get away with it, to more intellectual, ‘serious’ programmes that really should know better.  Nobody waits for back-up.  It doesn’t matter what country they’re from, whether they’re police or civil crime fighters, or how dangerous the situation is.  They simply grab a gun (even in countries where the authorities aren’t routinely armed) and dash in.  Usually through a handily-open door, and without bothering to switch the lights on.  It’s hardly rocket science knowing what’s going to happen next, is it?  And that in itself takes away most of the tension, because the key to genuine shock is not expecting it.  Which doesn’t happen if you’re watching the same damn scene for the fiftieth time, yawning, and saying “Any minute now the killer’s going to jump out from behind the kitchen door.”

So go on.  What are your worst offenders in the peeve department?  I’d love to know!

Posted in Crime, Reviews, TV | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Location shots

Several months ago, you may remember I shot off to Birmingham to take some photos of the locations I’d used in ‘Raise the Blade’.  They came out remarkably well and I was able to use some of them for a display at the book launch, which seemed to be quite popular.

Now, for those of you who couldn’t be at the launch, I’m posting some of them on here, complete with appropriate snippets from the book itself.  Hopefully it’ll give a better idea of the various settings I used, and the atmosphere.  Although I have to say it’s very hard to drum up spooky evening atmosphere in Highbury Park on a gloriously sunny morning… but you’ll just have to blame the weather for that!  Best laid plans…

Anyway, here, in no particular order, are the shots:


Edgbaston Reservoir: The property backed onto the reservoir, so presumably that fence in the distance, beyond the clump of conifers, was where Brian had got in…


City Centre Gardens: ‘Over there’ proved to be behind them, in the narrow space between bench and road, bounded by thick bushes and a low brick wall…


Birmingham & Worcester canal: …stuck on the towpath with nothing but trees for miles.  Or at least that’s what it looked like, although in reality they were only a mile or so from the centre of town…


Highbury Park: It was quiet tonight.  A duck quacked, and out in the water something plopped, but there was nobody else about…


“Floyd Road, Hall Green” (not a real location, but might look something like this): The house looked ordinary enough – one neat semi in among all the rest.


Posted in Birmingham, Books, Noir | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments