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.

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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

satans-sorority

“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.

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:

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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…

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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…

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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…

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

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“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.

 

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.

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

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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…?

Aha!

As a quick update to my previous post, the Birmingham Evening Mail have run an article on the locations used in The Game, and sure enough, they’re in and around the city.  We missed a few they picked up on, and picked up on a few they missed, but it’s always nice to be proved right!  And it made a great series even more enjoyable.

Sad to hear they’re actually knocking the old library down now.  It might be hideously ugly but it was one of the first buildings I got to know when I first moved to the city so it harbours some nice memories.  Plus it’s pretty much ‘one of a kind’ and I can’t help thinking there’ll come a day when people will regret sweeping it away just because it wasn’t instantly fashionable.

New game

We’re still enjoying every second of the new BBC drama The Game on Thursday evenings – and spotting the Birmingham locations is turning into something of a drinking game.  Well, okay, chocolate biscuit game.

Every episode so far has had its share of familiar nooks, crannies, streets, corners, doorways, buildings and even, I suspect, the odd interior – and whenever we spot a new one, we award ourselves a treat.  I can feel my waistline expanding a little more each week.

In the first episode (and as I’d already mentioned) we had Key Hill Cemetery, Spaghetti Junction and the old library.  Subsequently I’ve added the Victorian splendour of Moor Street station, the Edwardian splendour of the Moseley Road swimming baths, and quite blatantly last week, the entire length of Newhall Street, filmed street-sign and all behind a convenient telephone box.

Sadly there’s only one more episode to go.  I can’t wait to find out whodunnit, and I can’t wait to see if there are any more wonderful settings along the way.  It’s been great fun and quite a treat.

Cumbria to Cornwall #2

In a neat little update to my blog the other week, a Cornish councillor has criticised the BBC for not filming scenes for Jamaica Inn in Cornwall. She makes the valid point that Launceston, the town around which du Maurier’s original book is set, has all the attributes for filming including quaint streets surrounding a Norman castle, and would have made an ideal location.

I’m sure the argument will rumble on, but the BBC’s response did at least answer my cynical questions about this whole film location malarkey:

A BBC spokeswoman said that Cornwall was used for “the key locations, as well as Yorkshire, following investment from Screen Yorkshire”.

Sure enough, this isn’t about the ‘rich variety of locations’ quoted earlier in the article. It’s about… money. How very twenty-first century, and how very depressing.

Cornwall moves to… Cumbria

I’ve been posting, on and off, about the settings for the BBC drama Peaky Blinders, which moved Edwardian Birmingham to Liverpool, amongst other locations.

Now there’s an even more bonkers one. According to this article in the Westmorland Gazette, the BBC have chosen to film new drama Jamaica Inn, based on the famous Daphne du Maurier novel, in Cumbria. This is really odd. The whole point of du Maurier’s writing is that it’s grounded in Cornwall. The moors, the sea, the smuggling, the stormy weather, all form an integral part of her books. The locations she used are real places, which can still be visited today. And Cornwall has to be one of the least spoiled counties in England, with plenty of ‘historical’ atmosphere left in its towns, villages and countryside. And yet the good old Beeb have moved the whole thing to Kirkby Lonsdale.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to Kirkby Lonsdale several times and it’s a pretty little place, with plenty of historical atmosphere of its own. Cumbria is every bit as scenic as Cornwall, and the weather is often just as bad. It’s just… it’s different. The stone for the buildings is different. The style of local architecture is just that bit different. The scenery is different – high fells rather than rolling moorland. Even the weather is different, with fewer of those Atlantic storms Cornwall is so famous for. You feel the film crew will spend as much time covering up the bits that don’t fit as they will filming the action.

In the end, it just seems unnecessary to film something so far away when you have all the constituent parts on the doorstep. It’s a bit like moving the Jack the Ripper stories to Scotland, or Beatrix Potter to Stoke-on-Trent. But I’ve a feeling I’ll be grumbling about this whole subject again, because it seems to be happening more and more often. The programme directors talk about ‘finding the perfect location’ or try to claim that nothing historical remains in the original location. That’s clearly nonsense. I’d love to know what the real reason is for moving settings lock, stock and market-place to a different part of the country. Answers on a postcard please.