Raise the Blade ebook available now!

bladecoverGreat news today. After a brief delay while Amazon checked my rights, my darkly humorous psychological noir ‘Raise the Blade’ has gone live on both Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

I designed the cover art myself, using a wonderful photograph by Twilightzone on Pixabay.com. The rest of the book has had a quick spruce up but is otherwise unchanged from the version published several years ago now by Caffeine Nights.

So if you missed it first time round, or were put off by the paperback price, or just fancy the ebook to add to your collection, now’s your chance. The Kindle version is available for only £2.99 (or the equivalent in your currency) whilst the book is completely free on Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s a couple of handy links for you to buy on Amazon UK or Amazon US. And if you do take the plunge then thank you, and I hope you enjoy the read.

Cover reveal: Raise the Blade

I promised this a few days ago but things have been getting in the way ever since. However, at last I’ve knuckled down and got everything updated and I’m now all set to say…

*drum roll*

*fanfare*

Here it is, in all its gory glory! The new cover for ‘Raise the Blade’. I hope you like it – and don’t forget, the re-badged, re-published book is coming very soon! So keep checking back for more news.

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Sad news – and good

Publishing giveth and publishing taketh away, quite often on the same day. And that’s been the case today.

On the one hand I’ve had the sad news that my first ever book, ‘Raise the Blade’, is no longer available for sale. It happens; contracts come up on their sell-by date. I think what makes this sad for me is the fact that it was my first book, which makes it feel that little bit more special. However, I will be mulling over the possibilities of re-publishing it in the next few months, so keep checking back for further updates.

And the good news? Well, I’ve had a short story accepted in the latest (fourth) Shotgun Honey anthology. This is still very much in the early stages of preparation so I can’t reveal too much – but again, if you check back in a week or two I’ll have all the details of who’s in it, what it looks like, what my story’s about, and when it’ll be available. Don’t go anywhere in the meantime!

Head to Fred’s

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Just a quick update today, with some news I forgot to mention a couple of weeks ago. This is that signed copies of both ‘Raise the Blade’ and ‘Gravy Train’ are now available to buy at Fred’s Bookshop (formerly Fred Holdsworth Books) in Ambleside. So if you’re in the Lake District over the coming weeks/months, on holiday or just visiting, you can pop in and pick up a copy to read in your hotel/guest house/tent.

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The bookshop is well worth a visit anyway. It may be tiny, but it’s in a nice old building and is absolutely crammed with books. Many of these have a local connection (local authors, Cumbrian settings, walk books, cycling books, books about sheep etc etc) but there’s also a good range of more general stuff, both fiction and non-fiction, to browse. And manager Steve is both friendly and knowledgeable, and always ready to help with queries or recommendations.

 

Where the heck Wednesday: Tess Makovesky

Great news everyone, the semi-regular Wednesday feature is back, with some fascinating guests planned over the next few months. And I’m kick-starting it with a quick look at myself, because I realised I never took that opportunity last time round. So, without further ado, let’s stoke the engines, release the brakes, and let the ‘Gravy Train’ steam into town…

Book Title: Gravy Train

Setting: Birmingham (UK)

Author: Tess Makovesky

http://www.tessmakovesky.com / Facebook / Twitter

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So, why pick Birmingham as a location, I hear you ask? After all, it’s the dullest place on earth – nothing but Spaghetti Junction, motorways, factories, and endless 1960s concrete.

Well, no, actually. Birmingham is the UK’s second city – and quite probably the one with the least-deserved reputation. There is concrete (show me a British city without the stuff), but there’s also so much more. The tightly-packed city centre is a wonderful assortment of old and new, with everything from the gleamingly modern Grand Central station/shopping mall to the Town Hall, designed by the same bloke who came up with the Hansom cab.

Beyond that there are swathes of Victorian and Edwardian suburbs, scattered with gems from earlier times: churches, medieval manor houses, a mill that made it into The Lord of the Rings, even an ancient pub or two. And then – pure joy for crime writers like myself – there are the maze-like back streets, the vast parks, and best of all the canals. Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice; they stitch the industrial towns of the Black Country together and form their own pasta-like sprawl across the landscape. There are canal-feeder reservoirs, bridges, tunnels; there are places where one whole canal system goes over or under another; there are entire sections in the city centre that are almost lost, and only reappear as ghostly imprints in the canyons between office blocks every now and again.

When I lived in Birmingham I found it hard to write about the city. There was a sense of it being a comfortable place to call home, rather like an old pair of slippers, and it was hard to see past that to view the place objectively. However, once I moved away the over-familiarity wore off and I began to set more of my stories and books there. ‘Wheel Man’ in the Drag Noir anthology from Fox Spirit Books uses the suburb of Acocks Green. My novella ‘Raise the Blade’ is set in various locations including the well-hidden Edgbaston Reservoir and Highgate park. ‘Gravy Train’ starts and terminates in the inner city district of Hockley (home of the world famous Jewellery Quarter) but stops off at Cannon Hill Park, the leafy suburb of Moseley, and Broad Street’s “entertainment quarter” along the way.

And, oh, those canals. The Worcester & Birmingham branch has a body fished out of it in ‘Raise the Blade’. And ‘Gravy Train’ makes equally good use of them, for all sorts of nefarious purposes. The old Gas Street basin, originally used for turning narrowboats around, gains a new function as a handy dumping ground for incriminating evidence. And when crime bosses George Leary and Vernon Ball set up a meeting to hand over some stolen cash, it’s the basin they choose, with all sorts of unexpected consequences.

I had a lot of fun writing about the various locations, and more fun re-visiting them recently to take lots of photographs. I’ll be posting those on my blog over the next few weeks and months, but in the meantime if you’d like to find out more about Birmingham, then take the train. Just please make sure it’s the ‘Gravy Train’!

Fantastically creepy…

Raise the Blade FrontI’ve only just spotted this super new review of ‘Raise the Blade’ on Amazon, but it certainly made my day.

Many thanks to the lovely Kerry Parsons for posting it. It’s always a bonus when readers enjoy a book I’ve written this much.

Do pop along and check out the review for yourselves – and don’t forget that the book is available for as little as 99p (Kindle version) or £4.99 (paperback) if you’d like to try it too.

Raise the Blade locations: 2 – City Centre Gardens

This is a really dull name for a surprising little space tucked away behind some of Birmingham’s most well-known buildings.

Follow an unprepossessing alley-way between the new city library and the white bulk of Baskerville House and you come to an unappealing (if useful) multi-storey car park on the corner of Cambridge Street. So far, so ordinary, as are the high-rise blocks of flats beyond.

But just across the road from the car park is a small, but surprisingly attractive, city park. It must only measure around a quarter of an acre, if that, but it includes shrubs, trees, manicured lawns, flowerbeds, and a circular pillar-thing in the middle with more flowers inside.

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Annoyingly, I can’t find out a single thing online about the gardens or their history. How big are they? Who designed them? When were they opened? Are they on the site of a special building, landmark, or former park? I have no idea, which is quite frustrating. If anyone knows anything about them, please pass it on in the comments here because I’d love to know.

The paths are lined with benches and in good weather it’s a favourite lunchtime hang-out for office workers and staff from the nearby International Convention Centre/Symphony Hall complex, as well as locals and a scatter of visitors who’ve tripped over it.

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And it’s a lunchtime sandwich that proves pivotal for Nigel, the second victim in ‘Raise the Blade’. Noticing a foul smell, and realising it doesn’t come from his sarnie, he and colleague Vannie track it down to the space between their bench and the encircling wall.

‘Over there’ proved to be behind them, in the narrow space between bench and road, bounded by thick bushes and a low stone wall. At first, craning over the back of the bench, he couldn’t see anything that might be causing the niff. Then, behind a thicket of twiggy stems he caught a glimpse: black plastic, something spilling out.

When I visited last year to take some photos, the bench that best illustrates this was occupied by a couple of teenagers making out. Not wanting to look like I was taking an unhealthy interest in them, I snapped the benches further along instead. They don’t match the description in the book quite as well, but hopefully it gives some idea of the scene…

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As for hiding the body in the first place, well, this is an out-of-the-way corner but with main roads only yards away. After dark there’s probably not many people about, and there’s that multi-storey car park just across the road… Perfect for offloading, and either dragging the body in through the nearest entrance, or for someone strong, even lobbing it straight over the wall.

It put Nigel off his lunch, and caused him a bit of bother afterwards. But if you’re in this area of Birmingham with a few minutes to kill, make the effort to track the gardens down. And head to my website if you want to find out more about Nigel, the bodies, and ‘Raise the Blade’.

“Brilliantly dark humour”

Raise the Blade FrontI’m extra happy today, because the wonderful Jen of JenMed’s Book Reviews has tackled ‘Raise the Blade’ – and loved it!

She’s been particularly complimentary about the book’s ultra-dark humour, and also about the Birmingham locations, which I’d only just started to blog about in detail on here.

If you’d like to see more about what she liked and why, then head over to the review. (And have a good rootle around her site while you’re at it, because it’s simply stuffed with books.)

If you’d like a bit more information on those settings, then check out my most recent post, and keep your eyes peeled because I’ll be adding more in the next few weeks.

Raise the Blade locations: 1 – Edgbaston Reservoir

It occurred to me recently that I’d never really blogged in depth about the Birmingham settings in ‘Raise the Blade’, which is a shame for two reasons. One, Birmingham is full of amazing – and often surprising – locations, and two, they’re really important to the book. So, to set the record straight, and hopefully provide something of a guided tour around the city’s less-well-known nooks and crannies, I’ll be writing about various locations over the next few weeks.

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The first is Edgbaston Reservoir, which forms the backdrop to the discovery of the very first body in ‘Raise the Blade’. I first came across the reservoir in the mid-1980s, soon after I’d moved to Brum, when a couple of friends took me there for a walk. I was pretty cynical at first; the suburb it’s set in is leafy enough, but tends towards streets lined with houses rather than huge open spaces that you can use for long walks. Just how much of a lake could there be in such a relentlessly urban location, I naively thought. Well, it just shows how wrong you can be. A short stroll down a path between two properties took me to a whole new world. A world of wide open vistas stretching out all the way to the city centre skyscrapers and beyond; a world of yachts and ducks and great-crested grebes; a world of trees that feels a million miles from the busy, traffic-choked streets just a few hundred yards away.

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The reservoir was built (or at least commissioned – I don’t suppose he lifted a shovel himself) by Thomas Telford, the great canal engineer, in the early nineteenth century, and it was built for one purpose – to provide water for Birmingham’s vast network of canals. A small stream was dammed, and water was also piped from another reservoir around three miles away, and together they formed a lake covering some 58 acres – although the overall site including a round-the-lake footpath, grassland, woodland, and the dam, covers as much as 70 acres.

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Although the reservoir itself is open to the cross-city views and skies, the surrounding trees give it an enclosed, secluded feel, particularly in summer when the leaves are fully out. At the end furthest from the dam, large houses back onto the site, their gardens barely visible over high fences, often topped with wire. It was this location in particular that I used in ‘Raise the Blade’. Rotton Park Road, with on-street parking, is only a few hundred yards away, and the path from there slopes downhill, so it would be easy enough for a strong murderer to drag a body into the undergrowth. In the book, one of the fences has been damaged – enough for the foxes to get through – and this is presumably where the murderer gains access to Mrs Rai’s garden, and where hapless victim Brian finds the body and decides to hide it, setting the book’s characters off on a chain reaction of their own.

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This is just one of Birmingham’s many hidden gems. Dashing past on the surrounding streets you’d barely know it was there, which is another reason why it might be useful for disposing of unwanted evidence. All that nice deep water (40 feet, apparently); all those trees. And when the leaves are out, it’s barely overlooked. Of course, I’m not condoning leaving dead bodies there myself, but all things considered you can see why Duncan did!

You can find out more about the reservoir, its facilities, and the various events it hosts at the Birmingham City Council webpage here. And to find out more about ‘Raise the Blade’, its victims, and the other locations I used, head for my webpage here.

All photos in this article are my own. Thanks for reading – there’ll be another unusual location along soon.

Allergy to Amazon?

Raise the Blade FrontWant to buy books but not keen on the universe-swallowing internet giants? Well, now there’s a new way to get your hands on titles from Caffeine Nights – direct from the publisher.

This includes my own book ‘Raise the Blade’, which is gory enough to qualify as a Halloween read. So to get your sticky mitts on a copy in time, head to my author page on the Caffeine Nights website, scroll down, and click the big friendly ‘buy here’ button at the bottom.

While you’re there, why not browse some of the other great books and authors Caffeine Nights has published? Shaun Hutson, Mike Craven, Graham Smith, Lucy Cameron, Paul Brazill… just some of the names you might want to check out. Just head for the ‘authors’ section for more information on all of them.

Getting to grips with html5

You may remember a short(ish) time ago I revamped my website using spiffy new html5 coding. Well, it looked very stylish, but I was such a Coding Doofus that I didn’t understand enough to get more than a single page up and running. This meant I couldn’t have nearly as much content as I really wanted – not least, a whole page for my book ‘Raise the Blade’.

I spray references to the book around on social media and even in real life, and it’s always good to have somewhere to direct people, to where they can find out more. Top of the list in this respect is a nice, easy to remember web link. Bottom of the list is the suggestion that they just go to your web page and rummage around until they find what they’re looking for.

I’ve been managing on that last arrangement for far too long, but I’m delighted to say that I’ve now learned enough about html5 coding to expand my website, so it consists of six separate pages. There’s one for my bio, one for all my books and stories, one for works in progress, and most importantly, one for ‘Raise the Blade’. This includes more details about the book including quotes, blurb, an excerpt, a wonderfully creepy video courtesy of my publisher Caffeine Nights, and links to various articles and blog posts about the book.

Huge thanks are due to those nice folk at Html5-Up, a web design company who provide stylish, idiot-proof and above all, free, templates for lesser-trained users like me. I couldn’t have done it without all their hard work.

You can find the generic web page at http://www.tessmakovesky.com, and the ‘Raise the Blade’ page here.  I hope you’ll find it useful and a bit more informative than the last version!

A brand new interview

I’m delighted to say I’ve been interviewed by the ever-supportive Fiona McVie, who runs a blog devoted to finding out more about authors both established and less-well-known. Answering her questions was almost as much work as my latest novel, and really made me think! I hope you’ll enjoy the results, which include a scattering of details about Raise the Blade (inspiration for the plot and characters; cover art) together with all sorts of information on me, my life, my hobbies and interests, my favourite authors, and a great deal else besides.

I almost missed it, but the interview went live on Saturday – so apologies for the delay in posting about it.  Better late than never, and you can read the whole thing here.