Doing a Canute on gangs?

p02pm564The latest news report from Birmingham is that 18 members of two rival gangs have been banned from parts of the city for two years.  The gangs, the Johnson Crew and the Burger Bar Boys, have been fighting each other, with frequent collateral damage, for years, and the police and judiciary have clearly had enough.

It’s an interesting solution to the problem, and will give the police somewhere to start: find one of those gang members in the wrong place at the wrong time and they’ll be able to arrest them.  This should be made easier because the 18 will have to register their mobile phones with police as well, presumably making it possible to track their movements at all times.

I do wonder, though, how easy the ban will be to enforce.  What exactly stops one of these people simply wandering down the street one day and ending up in a banned area?  Who will report them if they do?  How will the police know?  Short of placing them under house arrest (expensive) or fitting them with electronic monitors, I can’t see how it will work.  Interesting that the lawyer interviewed in the article I quote above has similar concerns, and thinks it may even encourage the gang members to play ‘chicken’.

I guess in the end the authorities will have to hope that, unlike Canute, they don’t get their feet wet.

A raffle-y good cause

First of all, apologies for the pun.  I couldn’t resist!  But it really is in a good cause… because on Sunday I went along to a charity lunch on the shores of Windermere.  It was in aid of PIES (Partners in Education Swaziland), which raises funds to provide education to desperately poor people in this particular African country, and is supported by, amongst others, the local Rotary Club and Soroptimists.

The lunch is held once a year at a house on the shores of Windermere, with stunning gardens that sweep down to the water’s edge, and views across the lake to the old Claife Viewing Station, a Victorian relic that the National Trust have just finished renovating.  This year, the weather was kind and we were able to sit at tables on the patio.  Luckily the patio is large, because the turnout was really impressive – over 80 people had turned up for their lovely, home-cooked two course Sunday lunch, plus stalls, plus plant sales, plus a raffle.

Looking around for something I could donate, at the last minute I realised I could take a signed copy of my book along.  The organisers fell on it with glee, placed it at the front of the raffle stall, and it was won during the afternoon by… someone, but I didn’t get a chance to see who it was.  So if you are now clutching a copy of ‘Raise the Blade’ then thank you for choosing it – and I really hope you enjoy reading it.

The event was a resounding success and raised over £2,000 in one day for the cause.  And I’m glowing, because although I never win anything, I won first prize in that same raffle – a M&S gift card to the tune of £50!

Instagram here we come…

I’ve finally got with the latest trend and joined Instagram, no doubt months (or even years) too late!

It was a “right fiddle” getting everything installed.  My mobile phone and/or tariff aren’t capable of supporting photo handling, so I set up an account on the computer.  Then I found I needed to download an app before I could post any photos.  What?  I thought Instagram shared pics instantly and virtually automatically.  Shows how wrong you can be.

I don’t use Apple and don’t trust Google so downloaded the Microsoft version of the app.  It took ages.  Checking files.  Restoring data.  Please wait.  Etcetera.  But after much finger-drumming it was finally ready.  I hit ‘launch’ and prepared to upload my photos.

Except that I couldn’t.  It wouldn’t let me.  There was a nice big shiny button labelled ‘share photos and videos’ right there in the middle of the screen, but it didn’t do anything.  At all.  I tried clicking, I tried pressing, I tried clicking again (and again, repeatedly), I tried swearing at it, I tried a special Tess Makovesky Hard Stare.  But even that didn’t work.

Frustrated, I Googled the problem and found I was not alone – the MS app won’t let you upload photos from your computer unless you have a… wait for it… touch screen.  How nice of them to let everyone know this before they download a useless app.  Not.

Fortunately a helpful techie site came to my rescue by recommending InstaPic, which is free to download from the Microsoft store and lets you upload pics to your Instagram account.  It’s not brilliant – I can only load one photo at a time, then have to close the program and re-open before loading another, single, pic.  But at least it’s something, and has let me get started with a few publicity stills for ‘Raise the Blade’, and some shots of interesting statues around Birmingham that I’d snapped over the years.

I’ll obviously be adding more, including other less well-known corners of Birmingham and some location shots for my book.  So to catch these, do feel free to follow me on  https://www.instagram.com/tessmakovesky/.  I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

Stories are like buses

You get none for a while, then three turn up at once!

In other words, I’m delighted to report that I have three new stories coming out in the next few weeks/months.  All three are in charity anthologies; two are completely new and one is a reprint of a story I had in Betty Fedora #2 before that sold out.

rabbitstewFirst off is ‘Rabbit Stew’, a tongue-in-cheek tale based on an old (and terrible) World War 2 joke my Mum told me years ago, which is due out in Kannibal Cookbook from Down & Out Books soon, with proceeds going to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Then I have a rather more thought-provoking story called ‘Bang to Rights’, about animal liberation activists and the sense of belonging, which should be appearing in Paladins 2, in aid of cancer charities.

Lastly, ‘Last Chance Saloon’, featuring a dirty weekend, a clapped-out car, and a deserted country road, will be re-published in the second Crime & Publishment anthology, working title Wish You Weren’t Here, soon.  This is very much a work-in-progress, but donations will be heading to a respite holiday charity, possibly the Calvert Trust.

Do keep checking back for a revised timetable, cancellations, fares and more, which I’ll post as soon as I have them.  Just don’t get run over by the bus…

Betty Fedora updates

In case anyone has been trying to get hold of the first couple of issues of Betty Fedora (including my stories ‘Going Off the Deep End’ and ‘Last Chance Saloon’), I’ve just discovered that both issues have now sold out and aren’t available.

This is great news for the magazine, of course.  And the even better news is that if you missed it, you may be able to catch ‘Last Chance Saloon’ in another publication fairly soon.

I’ll post more details as soon as I have them, so do pop back to check the news.  And in the meantime, why not catch Betty Fedora #3, which is still available?  There’s no Tess, but there are some great stories about kick-ass women!

Body Breaker launch

Thursday was the hottest day of the year so far – 28c and hardly a day I’d choose to go travelling by train.  However, I piled on the sunscreen, wore my coolest clothes and set off for sunny Carlisle (not just a figure of speech for a change) for the launch of Mike Craven’s latest crime novel ‘Body Breaker’.

In spite of the heat, it was a great event.  The evening started with a meal for about 8 of us at the Old Bank pub in Carlisle city centre.  It’s a ‘gourmet’ pub doing a nice line in chops, steaks, grills, fish’n’chips etc; I hadn’t been before but thoroughly enjoyed my whale (sorry, haddock, the portions were huge) and chips.  I’d happily go back.

After that we all piled down the hill to the Old Firestation where Mike was holding his combined book-launch-and-birthday party.  The launch was really well attended – I’m hopeless at counting crowds but would estimate around 100 people had turned out – and was highly entertaining.  Mike’s an amusing speaker anyway, and he’d invited fellow crime writer Michael J Malone along to act as question-master.  The two are great friends, have a neat line in banter, and spent the rest of the evening quietly killing each other with quips.  The audience, myself included, loved it!

Mike answered a wide range of questions on everything from how old he was when he started writing, to researching golf courses in Cumbria.  (The novel opens with a grisly discovery on a golf course.)  And once all that was over, there was cake.  Birthday cake.  Or book launch cake.  Or, well, you decide.  Either way it was delicious. (Apologies for the blurring, by the way.  I wasn’t seeing double, but apparently my phone camera was!)

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The only slight annoyance was getting to Carlisle station at the end of the evening and finding all the trains up sh*t creek, and absolutely nothing open – no shop, no café, no bar, no information desk, nowhere to get even a bottle of water, on a blisteringly warm night.  I thought I might have to book into a hotel in the city for the night, but luckily (and unusually) my train was one of a tiny handful still running, so I made it home after all.  And was really glad I’d gone, melting stickiness (and not just from the cake) or none.

Dark Side of the… cake?

floydcakeA friend of mine sent me this wonderful photo after a recent trip to London.  It’s cake, but not as we know it… from the Victoria & Albert museum, who are currently hosting an exhibition on Pink Floyd.

The exhibition takes in the history of the band, their sound, and their very iconic ‘look’, from their earliest Syd Barrett incarnation right through, presumably, to the present day.  It includes sound, vision, and interactive elements and sounds absolutely fascinating; although it’s not cheap at a minimum of £20 per head to get in, it’s on my list as a ‘must do’ later this year.

The event ends on 1 October, but I’m assuming the cake won’t last anything like as long.  Apparently it was orange cake with chocolate ganache, and quite delicious!  Ten out of ten to the V&A for a bit of additional, tongue in cheek, advertising for the occasion.

If we get there, I’ll try a bit for myself and let you know what it was like.  And many thanks to Andy for letting me use the photo.

Dark Minds success

darkmindsIt’s official – the Dark Minds charity anthology from Bloodhound Books has been a roaring success.

Word is that so many copies have sold, the company have been able to donate almost £5,000 to the two charities the book is supporting – Sophie’s Appeal, and Hospice UK.

This is amazing news, and I’m delighted that my own contribution (in the shape of short story ‘My Own Eggsecutioner’), has helped in however small a way.

The anthology is still very much available to buy, so if you’d like to see what all the fuss is about (as well as reading over 40 great stories in the crime, noir and horror genres) then head to Amazon to order a copy now.  You never know, you might be helping Bloodhound donate another few thousand in due course.

Hipgnosis in pictures

Dark_Side_of_the_MoonTo celebrate the launch of a brand new book about cult design company Hipgnosis, the Guardian is running a picture gallery of some of their album covers.

Their work includes some of the most influential cover designs ever, for a whole range of bands and musicians from the 1970s including Yes, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, 10cc, and of course, Pink Floyd.  In fact, it’s thanks to Pink Floyd that Hipgnosis existed at all, after they asked two college friends, Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, to design a cover for their album ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’.  Thorgerson and Powell went on to found Hipgnosis together, with the addition of Peter Christopher, and became highly sought-after, particularly in the prog-rock community where their ideas chimed with the themes of the time.

Sadly, album covers became more restrained from the late 70s onwards and work gradually dried up for Hipgnosis, but they are still remembered fondly by fans around the world, in particular for their most iconic work, Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.  Unlike some of their other work this is simple, uncluttered and abstract, but strong enough to have survived as a classic, and one of the most-recognised album covers even today.

The book, ‘Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue’ by Aubrey Powell himself, is available from Thames & Hudson.  I might just treat myself to a copy.

Up and running

cropDesktopNexus2Rather to my amazement the new website uploaded like a dream, apart from one image that needed renaming and a few typos.  This was far more by luck than judgement and I still can’t claim to understand most of what I’ve done, but I’m very relieved.  Even better, the site seems to work just fine on a phone screen.  Phew!

I’m taking a few days off before I try any upgrading or tinkering, but for now you can find all the main information on me, my books and my stories at www.tessmakovesky.com.  I hope you like it!

New website?

image_73I realised last week that my concerns about my tessmakovesky.com website have come true.  Either the elderly html coding and/or my ancient html editor are no longer up to scratch and text and pictures aren’t showing up correctly on a mobile (cell) phone.  The site looks fine on a pc or even a tablet, but switch to a phone and the text and pictures have re-sized, apparently at random, so the whole thing looks a complete mess and is quite hard to read.

I tried a couple of quick fixes (simplifying the layout, reducing the number of columns) but nothing worked and I realised that scraping by with Frontpage Express is no longer an option.  So I set to work, installed a more up-to-date editor and began to teach myself Html5 (and by default, CSS).  In a hurry, because the longer my current site is unusable, the more readers I’m likely to annoy.

Luckily I have a reasonable, basic knowledge of html coding but even so it’s been a steep learning curve trying to figure out how to do the simplest things, what the new commands achieve, how to stop the entire site turning purple, and how to rescue it when it does.  Thanks to a couple of stars on the internet (theSiteWizard and HTML5Up! ) I found a simple template, crawled through the instructions on how to customise it, and three days later I have a reasonable, working, and hopefully fully responsive new website.  It’s not as pretty as the old one but it should do for now while I slog through and learn how to re-create what I originally had.

Now comes the interesting part – trying to upload everything in the right order, without losing any folders, images, assets, stylesheets or God knows what else, so that the whole thing still works online the way it did on my pc.  Fun fun fun. #notreally.  And in order to avoid a clash between the old site and the new, I’m going to have to delete the old one first.  So if you’re looking for my usual site (www.tessmakovesky.com) and can’t find it, this will be why.  Don’t worry – like Arnie, it will be back.  I’m just not so sure about me, as I slide, feet first, ever deeper into a heap of broken html code.

Pink Floyd – the shrimp

shrimp

Meet the newest member of Pink Floyd – synalpheus pinkfloydi.  Ahem.  Well, maybe not.  But this isn’t a late April Fools joke, because scientists really have named their latest crustacean discovery after the band, as you’ll see from this BBC science news report.

It’s a nice way of honouring the band, and oddly appropriate given that the new shrimp is pink, and Pink Floyd had an album out called ‘Animals’.  Sadly, it didn’t feature shrimps – that would be too much of a coincidence – but it has inspired some amusing artwork showing a giant shrimp above Battersea power station!  Whether it was inflatable or not I don’t know, but I guess someone had to do it…