County Durham, drones and a publishing first?

Coronavirus has enabled me to achieve what I think is a publishing first: a series of author readings uploaded over stunning aerial footage of the setting of the stories. Six videos on YouTube.

The new addition to the County Durham Quad gay mystery series.

My latest gay mystery is now live and that’s exciting, but I’m just as excited about the videos! Last April, I was all set to travel to County Durham to take dozens of photographs to place behind extracts of the tales. Their focus is Weardale in the hilly western part of the county. Trains booked, hotel booked, bus timetables saved on my phone, and then we had lockdown and I couldn’t go. I busied myself with writing Fast, Free and Flying, the sixth book in the series. The plot revolves around drones and that gave me an idea. If I couldn’t get to the mountains (well, hills), perhaps I could get them to come to me. Perhaps there was a Durham-based company who would be willing to take some footage for me – their moving pictures behind the extracts instead of my static ones. I searched online and discovered Skyward Aerial. Not only were Skyward based in County Durham, but they were based in Weardale itself. Brilliant! I sent off an email to head honcho, Andy Ditchfield, had one back, and the result is the series of stunningly beautiful videos that I’m in the process of uploading.

The thing is, I dislike reading descriptions. I never seem to ‘see’ what an author is describing; I just see a list of words and I end up skipping them. I write the sort of content that I like to read and so I’ve few descriptive passages in the books. The scenery’s there in my head, though: the hills, the dales, the moors, the old quarries, the innumerable sheep, the deserted buildings and, in places, the scarred landscape that speaks of a lead mining past. They all feature in the stories and sometimes they dictate the plot. To have the setting on film like this… admittedly, I’m biased, but I think the footage is wonderful!

I can’t thank Andy, enough. We’ve exchanged dozens of emails and had phone chats… it’s been a real joint effort. (More his than mine, though. For a start, he froze and got wet. I stayed warm and dry at home.) I sent Andy outlines of the plots and references to some of the localities that I’d like to feature. Andy came back with “That one’s out; the landowner won’t give permission” or “Yes, we can do that”, and he’s shivered his way through November/December filming. Not only that. He designed the thumbnails for the videos, created the music intros, helped to improve the quality of my audio recordings…  and he drinks tea, which has to be good!

The first video (which, in a sense, is the last because it’s connected with the new book) is scheduled for release on January 7. I’ll blog again then and provide the link. The others will be published at weekly intervals. Meanwhile, I hope you like the cover of the new book. It’s available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08Q79JPZ8 . The Goodreads link is https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56248046-fast-free-and-flying and, as regards the wonderful Skyward Aerial, the website is http://www.skywardaerial.co.uk .

Thanks for reading – Jude

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