The last laugh?

This little story caught my eye earlier for all the wrong reasons, because it reads like something from one of my own short stories, or perhaps from Paul Brazill’s wonderful collection of hapless tales The Last Laugh.

Basically a man was convicted of assault and sentenced to carry out unpaid work.  He refused, twice, and was caught boasting about it on social media.

The judge’s response was to jail him – and make the highly appropriate comment in court of ‘LOL’.

Clearly a man after my own heart!

 

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Raising a glass

blade_posterI’m raising a glass today to Caffeine Nights and their CEO Darren Laws because ‘Raise the Blade’ has duly been released on Kindle.

I couldn’t be happier.  This is a great independent publisher, small enough to care about its authors but large enough to get results, and its catalogue is a great fit for my writing.  Dark and gritty, in other words!  ‘Raise the Blade’ is in good hands.

And if you’re into noir, serial killers, twisted psychology, Pink Floyd, or even elephants, then feel free to check it out.  It’s available at Amazon for only £1.99.

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Exciting times

If there’s a sudden pause in this blog post don’t worry, it’s just me conking out because I’ve stopped breathing.  Today has been so exciting I’m not sure I can cope!

First of all, my author copies of ‘Raise the Blade’ arrived in the post.  They look terrific and I’m absolutely delighted with the cover, the overall look and the sheer professionalism of the product.  So much so I laid some of them out on my desk and took a photo:

P1020500

Then, just when I thought I was starting to get over that, I discovered that the Kindle version is now available for pre-order on Amazon – for only £1.99.  More excitement!  Now I’m dashing around trying to update all my social media, websites, blogs and what have you at the same time, and rapidly running out of fingers.

If you’d like to add your name to the pre-order list you can find further details here – and thank you very much!  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Teaser…

Raise the Blade FrontLike a reluctant stripper I’m revealing a little more every few days.  Not skin, you’ll be relieved to hear, but the excerpt of ‘Raise the Blade’, which has just grown by another couple of paragraphs.

Do check it out at the dedicated page over at my website – and don’t forget to check back in another couple of days.  You may not find the full monty,  but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!

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Snippet

I’ve added a brief new excerpt from ‘Raise the Blade’ to my website, so you can get a sense of the book’s style.  I’ll be adding more to the excerpt every couple of days or so until the book is published, so do keep checking back for more.

You can find the current snippet, from the book’s prologue, here.  Given the subject matter I can’t really say ‘happy reading’, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

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Favourite authors

I got tagged on Facebook the other day (as you do) to list my 15 top/favourite/most influential authors, without pausing for too much thought.

Well, I couldn’t comply with the last bit – it took me a couple of days of brow-furrowing and pen-sucking, and even then I forgot one of my all time favourite authors in the final list.  So this is the amended list, with many apologies to Daphne du Maurier, and to Evelyn Waugh who got replaced through no real fault of his own.

I read copiously as a child and many of those on the list are from that time, but it also includes more recent discoveries.  Some have had a direct influence on my writing, others on my life, others are listed for pure enjoyment.  But whatever the reasons, in no particular order, here are my top 15:

  1. Agatha Christie
  2. Ngaio Marsh
  3. Dorothy L Sayers
  4. Georgette Heyer (particularly her crime novels)
  5. Mary Stewart (ditto)
  6. Mary Renault
  7. Dorothy Dunnett
  8. Daphne du Maurier (The House on the Strand quite possibly my all-time favourite book)
  9. J R R Tolkien
  10. Joanne Harris
  11. Ann Cleeves
  12. C S Lewis
  13. Patrick Gale
  14. Douglas Adams
  15. Arthur Ransome

There are loads of other authors I’ve loved over the years, far too many to mention here.  The list would go on for days!  But all of those have had quite an impact.  I leave it up to you to decide if you can see their influences in my work…

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Raising the… profile

Raise the Blade FrontIt’s now less than two weeks until my book ‘Raise the Blade’ is due out from Caffeine Nights Publishing, so I thought it was about time I doled out some more information on it.

For starters, it’s a darkly humorous psychological noir novella featuring a serial killer and the idea that people may inadvertently contribute to their own fate.  Phew.  Once you’ve digested all of that, it was inspired partly by a news report of someone finding a dead body in a Birmingham canal, and partly by the wonderful Pink Floyd track ‘Brain Damage’, from their Wish You Were Here album.

Floyd have long been a firm favourite of mine and the Roger Waters lyrics on that particular track grabbed me by the throat years ago and have never really let go.

You can find out more about the book, including the blurb, on a brand new page at my website.  Over the next week or so I’ll be adding other snippets, including pre-ordering information and a decent excerpt, so do keep checking back.

Oh – and don’t forget the elephants.

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Dogs visible and invisible

5138DIydzwLSaturday saw me in sunny Scotland (and yes, it really was sunny for once, and quite hot!) for the Happily Never After event.  I’m not quite sure if it was a book signing, a book launch, or a little of both, but it really doesn’t matter what I call it since it was a thoroughly enjoyable event.

The venue, the Buccleuch Arms in Moffat, was friendly, welcoming, and by chance just the right size for the number of people who turned up.  This included many of the authors involved with the anthology, including LP Mennock, May Rinaldi, Christine Huntley, Les Morris, Mike Craven, John S Langley, Gillean Arjat, Angela King, Jackie Baldwin and myself, plus guests, hangers-on and other interested parties, and crime author Michael J Malone who popped in and took lots of photographs.

Most of the authors read from their work – either an excerpt from their story in the anthology, or from one of their other books or stories.  In my own case it was a short extract from ‘Raise the Blade’, my psychological noir novella which is due out in less than two weeks now.  Brian, his cigarette lighter and his invisible dog seemed to go down well with the audience.

Less invisible was Bea (Bee?) – a genuine Hearing Dogs charity dog, who was there with her owner Chas, who gave a moving and insightful talk into the benefits of Hearing Dogs generally and the impact Bea had made on his life.  Bea herself enjoyed proceedings from her vantage point flat out on the floor, and stole all of our hearts in the process!

If you’d like to buy the book (all profit goes to Hearing Dogs) then pop over to Amazon now.  It’s available as either Kindle or paperback, with over twenty great stories from 18 different authors – great value for the money.

 

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Book signing Moffat

happily_signingCalling all fans of Crime & Publishment, and our brand new anthology Happily Never After.  Author LP Mennock has organised a book signing for the anthology at the Buccleuch Arms hotel in Moffat on Saturday 13 August at 2pm.

Come along to meet a selection of the authors involved including LP herself, Les Morris, May Rinaldi, and yours truly.  You’ll be able to buy copies of the book, get them signed by your favourite author (or even by all of us!) and hear readings from both the stories in the anthology and from other work.

The full address for the event is: Buccleuch Arms Hotel, High Street, Moffat, DG10 9ET.  We hope to see as many of you as possible there.

 

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Bar room bestie

Ed from Byker Books posed an intriguing question earlier today – which of your fictional characters would you most want by your side during a bar room brawl?

I had a good think about this one.  Although I write about lots of nefarious characters, many of them are deeply flawed and would probably run for the hills (or the nearest dark alley) at the first sign of real, you know, actual violence.

But there are a handful who are made of sterner stuff.  Interestingly, several of them are women.  Tina from ‘Going Off the Deep End’ (Betty Fedora #1) likes getting her own way and wouldn’t be fazed by a broken finger nail or two on route.  The nameless ‘heroine’ in ‘Last Chance Saloon’ (Betty Fedora #2) is ruthless when faced with a cheating boyfriend and wouldn’t let a few drunken thugs stand in her way.  And Jo the probation officer in ‘Raise the Blade’ (due from Caffeine Nights very soon) is brave, resourceful and sensible enough to know when to call someone else for help.

But the stand-out candidate from all my stories to date has to be the main character in ‘Singing From the Same Sheet’ in the Rogue anthology from Near to the Knuckle.  He’s a law unto himself, violent and uncompromising, and not all that different to the baddies.  And as he himself says, it’s amazing what he can hide under that robe.

So how about your own characters?  Anyone in particular you’d like fighting at your side, for all the right reasons – or even all the wrong ones?

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The Peter Pan effect

170px-peter_pan_1915_coverThere’s a marvellous piece in the Guardian today, where various children’s authors share their thoughts on whether characters in children’s books should grow up or not.

Every author has a different view point and the vote is split roughly 50-50; you can read the various comments here, and very interesting they are too.

For myself, I mind less now that I’m (allegedly) grown up myself.  Seeing the last bit of the ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ film, for instance, where the main characters are all adults with jobs and kids of their own, didn’t really bother me, although I’m still in two minds whether it added anything to the story arc or not.

However, as a kid, I absolutely loathed anything that smacked of too much change.  Books where the characters I loved grew up or even worse, died, upset me so much that it could be years before I went back to that author again.  Even something as inoffensive as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was difficult; there I was ensconced firmly in the story, feeling the characters’ emotions, being there in their world with them, and then I turned to the first Appendix, which virtually says ‘oh, don’t bother about them, all that stuff happened centuries ago’.  It pulled me out of the story so fast you couldn’t see the smoke.  And as for C S Lewis’s ‘The Last Battle’, I cried for what seemed like days.

I think as much as anything that books were a means of escape for me, from a fairly unhappy childhood.  I enveloped myself in another world, a better world than my own (at least some of the time), and anything that intruded on that world, or made me realise it was all just a figment of my (and the author’s) imagination, was deeply unsettling.

In the end I guess different people react in different ways, and some kids will enjoy seeing their favourite characters mirror their own development, their own triumphs and problems in the journey from child to adult.  And as one or two of the authors mentioned in the Guardian point out, the idea of being a child for ever (like Peter Pan) can be every bit as difficult in a different way.

So what does everyone think?  Do you, or did you, like your characters to grow up, or go on living in some kind of Neverland where nothing changed?  I’d love to know.

 

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All of a twitter

The post title sums it up, really, because I’ve just launched myself into the world of Twitterdom.  Or should that be Tweetdom?

Anyhoo, after months of sheer terror about the whole Twitter thing, I’ve finally plucked up courage and joined.  And found that like most things, it’s nowhere near as scary as you might think.  In fact, it’s fun.  If a little addictive.

There are benefits to having such an unusual name, one of which is that I get first choice of user name.  So I’m on there as @tessmakovesky.  I do hope you’ll drop by, find me and perhaps even follow me.  If you do, thanks, and see you there.  Once I’ve stopped twittering on, that is.

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