Gold again!

A quick update to my post from Monday: Birmingham scooped that gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, for the fifth year running!

You can read more about the garden (and the medal) and see some nice photos over at the Birmingham Mail website (although you might need to fight your way past the adverts to see it).  The garden looks stunning and the medal is very well deserved.

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In a handbag?

Research on my latest murder scene:

  1. Remove all contents of handbag (purse).
  2. Replace with common-or-garden house brick.
  3. Look around for suitable vict- err, volunteer to whack over head.

Whaddaya mean, ‘No’?

Posted in Crime, Humour, Writing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

In the eye of a needle

hummingbird-150x150We were watching a programme about this year’s Chelsea Flower Show (the biggest and most prestigious in the country) last night when up popped a piece about Birmingham.  Not what you’d normally associate with greenery and gardening, perhaps (although the city boasts lots of green space and some lovely parks) but they seem to do well at the Show year after year.  Last year saw them win their fourth gold medal, and this year they’re at it again with a garden based around a theme of sporting involvement, whilst show-casing the amazing craft of Willard Wigan.

Wigan is a local artist who has won fame around the world for his miniature sculptures.  Often depicting local scenes or famous people (Shakespeare, for example), these fit inside the eye of a needle and are so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see them.  Tiny, but utterly beautiful.

Of course, the garden doesn’t feature microscopic sculptures.  Instead, they’ve gone for a theme involving giant needles, plus some iconic images that have featured in Wigan’s past work.  There’s a magnificent humming bird supping nectar from a giant red flower, together with wicker statues of well-known sporting heroes, water features, and of course, lots and lots of colourful plants.  If I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure what Mo Farrar and Usain Bolt have to do with Birmingham, but the overall effect is striking and I’m delighted to see Wigan given credit for his wonderful work.

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Of crime and cows…

Many weeks ago now I promised to blog about the Noir at the Bar: Carlisle event… and then forgot.  ::headdesk::

I’ve finally dug out the piece I wrote afterwards, and hope it’s not too late to share my thoughts on what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  And don’t forget – if you missed that one but would like to join in, then you can.  Just pop along to the Town Wall bar on Pink Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 7pm on Wednesday 1st June when another collection of crime writers will be strutting their stuff.  But for now… here’s Carlisle, and my apologies for the delay.

The 10th of March seems like ages ago but it’s really less than a month since I, Other Half and a whole heap of authors, friends, relations and interested parties headed to Carlisle for the first ever English ‘Noir at the Bar’ event.

This was held at the Moo Bar on Devonshire Street, a perfect venue in terms of size, facilities, and the sheer friendly welcoming attitude of the staff. Thanks to them for helping to make the evening such a success.

In the end there were nine performing seals, otherwise known as authors reading their work. On the night, Hull-based writer David Mark gatecrashed the party to read a thoroughly entertaining and atmospheric extract from one of his crime novels set in Hull. My Other Half thoroughly enjoyed that because he knows the city reasonably well and could immediately conjure up the locations from David’s words.

After that, in no particular order, it was the turn of Neil White, Zoe Sharp, Lucy Cameron, Jay Stringer, James Hilton, Paul Finch, and yours truly to read bits of our latest or greatest work. My personal favourites were part of a hilarious short story about carp (sorry, Koi) from Jay Stringer, and a slightly surreal offering from Zoe Sharp featuring a bunch of dead celebrities, but all the readings were skilful and entertaining. There’s no beating an author reading their own work out because they know it, and the intonations and intentions, better than anybody.

The final reading of the night came from a willing victim, oops I mean volunteer, plucked from the audience. Hats off to crime writer Linda Wright for having the guts to come out and do her bit with a whole lot less notice and practice time than the rest of us.

My own piece was an excerpt from my forthcoming novella ‘Raise the Blade’ (due from Caffeine Nights in the next few months), where the first of a series of murder victims is discovered… except that as I explained, it may not be the first body after all! I’d been terribly nervous about speaking in public, not least because I’d never used a microphone before, but in the event I needn’t have worried. The mic behaved itself (although the less said about me the better) and the audience were lovely, paying attention and listening to every word.

In that respect the format helped. Four speakers doing around five minutes each, followed by a break of half an hour, followed by the remaining speakers. It meant there were no long gaps and the evening rattled along, with the audience able to get caught up in the action and stay there.

A special thanks goes to the three hosts on the night – Matt Hilton, Graham Smith and Mike Craven – for their organisation, their compering and their general hand-holding and support. And for inviting me to take part in the first place. I know I couldn’t have done it without them and I’m sure most of the other seals would agree.

Finally I leave you with two photos. One of muggins lurking behind a microphone (taken by fellow Caffeine Nights author Lucy Cameron) and one of a cow on the wall. I leave you to decide which is which.

small cow     verysmallnoirgroup1

Posted in Crime, Events, Noir, Reviews, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Brazillian interrogation

lastlaughDon’t be put off by the horrible pun in my post title today.  This has nothing to do with police questioning tactics in Brazil, and everything to do with Paul D Brazill’s latest interview over at The Interrogation Room.

Paul’s latest book, ‘The Last Laugh’, is out now.  I’m (rather smugly) reading what was an advance copy and enjoying it immensely, and will comment in more detail once I’ve finished.  But in the meantime, you can head over to The Interrogation Room for a fun and insightful series of responses to questions about writing, markets and noir in general from the master of Brit-grit.

I’ve been an admirer of Paul’s work since I first came across it in the Radgepacket books from Byker Books, so you can imagine just how bowled over I was by his very kind comment about my own book.  If you haven’t got time to read the entire interview (although you’re missing a treat), here’s the quote: “Tess Makovesky has a sure fire hit on her hands with her forthcoming book, ‘Raise the Blade’.”  Thank you so much, Paul – I’m blushing as I type!

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One step forward…

…and three back.  Yesterday I had a really good writing day, finishing an entire (if brief) chapter on my current work-in-progress and chalking up almost 1,000 words.

This morning, I woke to the slightly grim realisation that although there’s nothing particularly wrong with what I wrote, there’s a better and more dramatic way to structure the scene involving more action and a stronger ‘inciting incident’.  As it’s fairly close to the beginning of the book, the more action the better, so out those 900+ words will have to come.

I’m sure the chapter (and the book) will be better as a result but it can be a little soul destroying having to re-write so much at once.  And anyone who says a writer’s life is an easy one can come round right now and watch me tear out my hair!

Posted in Life, Writing | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Pictures to go

Well, that was a successful trip to Britain’s second city in search of location photos.  Surprisingly so, given the mixed weather, bitter wind, and my usual cack-handedness with cameras.

We spent two whole days dashing round various bits of the city snapping the locations from ‘Raise the Blade’, and I ended up with useful, useable, and attractive photos of almost all of them.  The only one I wimped out on was Winson Green prison.  We could have got there by car easily enough, but I’m always a little uneasy about being caught taking pictures outside a prison in case I spark a major security alert.  Some people may like being rushed by armed guards and hauled off for questioning; I’m not one of them.  So I’ll have to fall back on standard Google images for that one.

The rest, though, worked really well.  I snapped Edgbaston Reservoir, the Worcester Canal, the rather boringly-named City Centre Gardens, and Highbury Park, as well as a typical street scene in Hall Green where the murderer is supposed to live.

All will be revealed in due course, but in the meantime here’s a couple of shots of interesting sculptures near the Cube, on the canal junction at the back of the Mailbox shopping mall.  I have no idea what either of them are as there were no information signs, but once again it’s proof that Birmingham has some surprising and magical things tucked away in corners if you know where to look.

P1020382

P1020385

And this gave us a few bad moments at Edgbaston Reservoir, but at least it doesn’t say ‘no dead bodies’!

P1020360

 

 

 

 

Posted in Birmingham, Books, Tess Makovesky, Visits | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Picture trail

I’m hoping to get into Birmingham over the bank holiday, to take some photos.  Photos of Birmingham? I hear you say.  But one, it’s not that bad (honest!) and two, these are special photos, because they’ll be of some of the locations in ‘Raise the Blade’.

I set the book in various places around the city, including a city centre garden, a suburban park, a canal bank, and even the local prison.  Now what I’m hoping to do is capture those settings on film and develop an interactive map of some sort with photos of each different place.

Birmingham is quite a ‘closed book’ (forgive the pun) to many people, even here in the UK, and I’m hoping it’ll be interesting to show them just what’s out there – even if it is as a backdrop to multiple murders.

Now, where did I put my camera…?

Posted in Birmingham, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

April Skies

aprilskiesIt’s an appropriate time of year to be blogging about this topic.  However in this case April Skies has nothing to do with the weather.

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading ‘Abide With Me’ by Ian Ayris, and thoroughly enjoyed the book, as this brief review on Goodreads shows.  So I was delighted to see that Ian has a sequel to that book out now, and that sequel is ‘April Skies’.

Life has moved on for the protagonist of ‘Abide With Me’, John Sissons, but he’s still haunted by the horrors of his past.  And when his sister goes missing, he realises that running away from his mistakes is no longer an option.

I haven’t read ‘April Skies’ yet but if the tone is anything like as brilliant as ‘Abide With Me’ then it should be firmly on all crime and noir lovers’ reading lists.  It’s available from Caffeine Nights, and you can find it on Amazon as an e-book right now.  Paperback, presumably, to follow.

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Follow the Money

followthemoneyWe finally caught up on our recorded episodes of this latest Danish ‘scandi-drama’ last night and I have to say we really enjoyed it.  The writing was sharp, the characters thoroughly believable and it was great to watch a crime drama that wasn’t completely hung up on murder for a change.

Yes, there were deaths during the 10-episode run, but they were almost incidental to the main storyline of corporate fraud and personal greed.  The two main detectives, Mads and Alf, used their very different approaches (paper trail and rather more ‘hands on’) to chase down the CEO of a green energy company whose wealth was based on little more than air.  Needless to say, because this was close to real life, they didn’t manage to tie up every loose end, but the perpetrators seemed to get their comeuppance in other, sometimes fateful ways.  One killed himself, one was arrested, one was shot by the very fixer he thought he employed himself.  Presumably on the orders of someone further, higher up the chain.

Mads and Alf were engaging characters, just maverick enough to be interesting without being unemployable, and it was also surprisingly nice to see Nicky and Bimse, the two bungling wannabe criminals, coming out of things relatively unscathed.

I’m not sure if there’s potential for further series in due course but I hope so.  ‘Follow the Money’ has been one of the standout new programmes on telly, even amongst a rich selection of other great series for crime and drama fans.

Posted in Crime, Reviews, TV | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Bad Samaritan

badsamaritanI’ve just finished reading ‘Bad Samaritan’ by Michael J Malone and absolutely loved it.  You can see my full review of the book over at Goodreads; as I say there, it’s been a very long time since I read any book so quickly because I just couldn’t put it down.

If you like your fiction dark and slightly challenging you’ll definitely like this one.  I certainly did!

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Raise the Blade cover reveal

I’m jumping up and down with excitement because I can now share the cover artwork for my forthcoming novella ‘Raise the Blade’.  I had quite a struggle with this because the art team at Caffeine Nights sent me two different versions and I liked both so much I couldn’t choose between them!  Eventually, after much dithering in the undergrowth, I selected this one:

Raise the Blade Front

I think it’s amazing, and absolutely ‘right’ for the book.  There’s a reason for all that duct tape, too, but I’m not going to say what it is.  You’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourselves.

‘Raise the Blade’ is due out from Caffeine Nights in the coming months.  You can bet I’ll let everyone know when I have the date!

Posted in Books, News, Noir, Tess Makovesky | Tagged , , | 2 Comments