7 ways geology and fiction meet in Jude Tresswell books

One. The whole of the short story, Scar Ghyll Levels resonates with geology. The protagonists are young Yorkshire lead miners and the story is sprinkled with mining words like ‘bouse’. I love the adaptation of the cover that became the splash for the YouTube version.

It speaks of the hellish conditions in a 19th century lead mine, but mining provided a living and there wouldn’t have been any mining if it weren’t for the rocks and the processes they underwent deep underground: hot mineral-rich brines rising through fissures and faults and, as far as the lead veins were concerned, often threaded through layers of limestone. You can see relics of the mines on the dozens of photographs I’ve put on YouTube. They’re the background to the audio version of the story.

Two. Over to Weardale in North-East England, the setting of the County Durham Quad tales. More lead (similar geology) in Book 5, A Share in a Secret. Nick has fallen down a bell pit and Ross and Raith have to try to hoist him out. Miners would often dig a shaft, then open it out at the base so that the mine resembled a long-handled bell. A lot of the early mines were unregulated. They’re not always on maps but they’re recognised by the depressions they leave on the ground and a grass-covered ring of debris. The shafts can be capped and back-filled, but, sometimes, the capping gives way. It’s usually hares or walkers’ dogs that take a tumble. In Book 5, it’s Nick.

Footage by Andy Ditchfield: the YouTube splash for Book 5. Video link below.

Three. And still in Weardale, grouse moors. Those upper slopes of the Durham hills – just heather on the grits that lie on top of the cycles of limestone, sandstone and shales. Nothing else will grow, but the heather is great for nesting grouse, and grouse shooting is profitable. So, the moors are well-managed by the owners of the large estates. Fire is one of the ways they do that. The patchwork appearance that results is beautifully shown on the Body Parts and Mind Games video. In the extract, Mike commits arson – to flush out the men who have kidnapped Ross, not to flush out the grouse. It works.

Four and Five. This cyclicity… repeating sequences of limestones, sandstones and shales. They’re called Yoredale cycles after the old name for the R. Ure in Yorkshire. There, they are seen to perfection. The cycles are probably caused by periodic changes in the Earth’s tilt and orbital radius with respect to the Sun. The changes affect insolation and, hence, relative water depth and river profiles as well as temperature more directly. Those affect the kinds of sediment deposited in, on or near the rivers, lakes and huge deltas that, millions of years in the past, dominated this area of northern England. (You could check out Milankovitch Cycles to find out more.) The sediments, buried, solidified, exhumed… gave rise to the quarrying industries that feature in the Quad tales, Ace in the Picture and Body Parts and Mind Games in particular.

The quad live in a fictitious abandoned quarry village, Tunhead, at the head of Tun Beck, an imaginary tributary of the River Wear. Tunhead Quarry (also fictitious) is where Raith nearly lost his life at gunpoint, and where Ross suffered burns when a carelessly discarded cigarette set dry, overgrown vegetation on fire. Those burns have ramifications: they set the story going. There’s a lot about the quarry in the stories – its history, its modern use – and there are a lot of quarries in Weardale, although, like Tunhead, nearly all of them are abandoned now. Smallish ones, overgrown hollows on the hill sides and near the river banks, and much larger ones that clearly show up from the air. Andy Ditchfield, who lives in Weardale and filmed all my videos, used drone footage of two, the quarries at Stanhope and Eastgate. Eastgate’s enormous quarry is the backdrop to the scene in which Raith is in danger but I think that Andy included Stanhope’s because he knew I would love to see it.

Andy’s shot of Stanhope Quarry. The video link is below.

Six. As you travel eastwards through Co. Durham, these Weardale strata dip below the younger deposits and what you get is coal. Or, did get. The Durham coalfields were some of the UK’s most important, and towns and villages developed to supply the fuel that helped turn iron into steel in towns like Consett, or, literally, heat the nation. Whatever I might think about fossil fuels, I totally and absolutely empathise with Mike’s anger in A Share in a Secret. The region (not unlike my own) has never really recovered from the political decisions made in the seventies and eighties to get rid of the unions and the industries they represented. The resulting continual unemployment is part of the background to the story and helps to explain why Mike is determined to make the bad guys pay.

Seven. Waterfalls. Not Weardale, Teesdale, the valley of Co. Durham’s other major river, the Tees. The Whin Sill outcrops in Teesdale. It’s an igneous rock (dolerite) that extends for miles within and atop parts of northern England. Hadrian’s Wall, the old barrier between England and Scotland, takes advantage of it, and so do geologists and tourists when they visit Teesdale and gaze at High Force.

Weardale doesn’t have anything quite as wonderful, but I pretend that it does and call it Harnell Force. It’s Raith’s ‘special place’ – where he goes when he’s upset. His husband, Phil, has a limp, caused by a landslide there, but Khaled, the boy at the centre of Polyamory on Trial, well, he suffers far more than Phil does when he climbs it. High Force is spectacular. It’s also dangerous. It’s also privately owned and aerial photography isn’t allowed so, when Andy wanted to film a waterfall to go with the relevant Poly on T extract, he travelled over the Co. Durham border into Northumberland and filmed Ashgill Force instead.

On previous blogs, I’ve mentioned that I find it really difficult to describe the setting of the tales in terms of their scenery, even though the hills and rivers and quarries are firmly in my head. So, the stories are very stripped down into what I see as essentials: dialogue, introspective reflection and narrative. Weardale, Teesdale, Arkengarthdale…they are stunning, though, and, obviously, although their landscapes have been much modified, the geology shines through. Here is the link to my YouTube channel. There are some stunning videos, all shot by Andy over me reading extracts from the Quad tales, and Scar Ghyll Levels is there too.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKhPb-WpyW3fUXnqjvTnCqA

Buy link:  https://amazon.com/-/e/B07PDGWWPG

Video footage by Andy Ditchfield : http://www.skywardaerial.co.uk

Aces and Anonymity

Life has changed from access to broad open spaces and meeting friends in person to access to broadband and meeting them solely online. It’s almost a year since my last irl ace meeting was cancelled, due to Covid of course. I live in South East England, but I’d booked a week’s break in County Durham, several hours away by train. As I’ve posted elsewhere, part of my reason for going was that I wanted to take photos to upload to YouTube along with extracts from my stories, but I was also intending to join in an AVEN meet – the date coincided. My plans were scuppered. The book extracts benefitted: instead of photos, I’ve been uploading stunning videos shot professionally. (There’s a link below.) In other ways, I lost out though.

I’m a regular poster on AVEN, a sometimes poster on Reddit’s Aegosexual sub, an occasional poster on the Asexual Agenda, and I do truly appreciate the interaction that online forums offer. I can talk to people from far-flung places, share their sadnesses and happy times. I’ve seen pictures of other people’s homes, their pets, their cars. I know where they take their walks and what they grow in their gardens. I’ve discussed politics and social norms and lifestyle differences… skewed, it’s true, to comments from Europe and North America, but with a sprinkling of input from elsewhere. And, as I’m a curious person, I really enjoy such exchanges. I can’t think of anything that isn’t discussed on a forum somewhere. Sex too. There’s a lot of discussion of sex considering that most of us are aces. It’s not the same as meeting in real life though.

When you meet people in person, you lose your anonymity. This can be such a disadvantage. It’s only natural, I suppose: people tend to gravitate to those who are, perhaps, similar in age or towards those whom they like the look of, or the sound of (pitch and accent) or, in a class-ridden society like mine, to those who seem to have a background that resembles their own. Et cetera. And that is so exclusive! It locks people out. It ignores them. The reason I miss irl ace meetings so much is that the commonality – the being ace – overrides all those reasons for not talking to someone, not sharing a meal with them, not going on a walk together, not giving them a second look. Age, class, background and all the other stupid divisions and barriers to interaction become irrelevant. All that matters is that you’re either an ace or someone who is supportive of asexuality. And the weird thing is, being ace has never been discussed at any of the meets I’ve been on! It’s just there, floating around in the background yet, like glue, sticking everyone together.

It amazes me that I can meet up in person with a group of people and feel a part of the group instead of apart from a group. I don’t get that feeling as much when I’m just online perhaps because, online, it isn’t necessary to dispense with anonymity. Online, I’m part of the general group, no questions asked. In person, because that anonymity is lost, questions can be asked and, if you don’t fit in with people’s expectations, tough luck: you can’t join in. Ace meets, however, are inclusive. At least, the ones that I’ve attended have been. So, I’m waiting for these awful times to change and for a resumption of something like the old normality. I miss the real meetings. And, thinking of the differences between things online and in real life, here is the link to this month’s drone-shot video. It’s for Ace in the Picture, the third of the County Durham Quad books (There are 6 books in total) and the one in which I introduced Nick, who is ace. He definitely feels apart. (You’d have to read the subsequent books to see how that all changes!) Not County Durham in the flesh, but, even online, you can see that the scenery (Weardale) is simply beautiful! Many, many thanks to Andy Ditchfield of Skyward Aerial for filming it. https://youtu.be/l7BoHSr8NeU

PR for M/M books and videos

Happy New Year and hello. I’m really pleased to tell you that the new book has had lovely reviews on dedicated M/M sites like Crucify My Love and Love Bytes Reviews, even though the story contains nothing hotter than a very chaste kiss! I know that the folk on the Gay Mystery Podcast turn to Becca’s Love Bytes Reviews to check that, as they like to call it, ‘Crime is Prime’ – they told me so when I guested on their show. I suppose, though, in my books, crime vies with relationships, and with Nick being ace, those relationships don’t necessarily have much sex. Crucify My Love reviews far fewer books, but what they write (in English and in Polish!) is so thoughtful… and there are little add-ons like ‘Fan Girl Zone’ that make me smile.

For me, getting reviews is a problem. I’m self-published. I don’t have a big social media presence. I don’t have contacts within the PR or publishing businesses. There are many online outfits who are pay-for-review. Not directly so: it would, for example, be against Amazon policies to engage directly in pay-for-review. Instead, these outfits offer readers the option of reviewing; readers can do so if they want to. The reviewers could be anyone and anything, though, including homophobic – which wouldn’t suit me, would it? Not when I write about a polyamorous gay quad! (Plus Nick) So, I don’t like to go down that road, but I do promote the books through Lily Blunt’s Gay Book Promotions, and hope that the publicity generated will gain at least some readers’ interest. Thanks to Lily, well over a dozen bloggers and Facebook-folk and Instagrammers etc displayed the book’s cover, blurb, links and first chapter to their followers. (https://gaybookpromotions.wordpress.com)

And talking of links and first chapters, here, as promised last time, is the link to some stunning aerial footage of Weardale , the setting of the County Durham Quad tales, and my reading of Fast, Free and Flying‘s Chapter One. https://youtu.be/LqIg4P5uvQc I know the words off by heart now! I can mute the video, watch it on my own files so’s not to artificially skew the number of views and recite it perfectly. I was hoping to release the second vid a day or two ago but the North-East weather and the UK’s strict Covid restrictions got in the way. I’ve one ready for this week, though. (Goes public on 21st January). The footage is wonderful. It’s the vid for Book 4, Body Parts and Mind Games. The extract involves setting a patch of grouse moor alight after a drive through country lanes. To do it, Andy combined aerial shots and road trip ones. Great dedication: he got stuck in the mud. There’s a WOW! bit at five minutes when he flips from one type of footage to the other. I guess if you click on the other link and hit subscribe, YouTube will send a notification. I’ll edit and update this post too.

Buy/read inside link for Fast Free and Flying by Jude Tresswell is https://amazon.com/dp/B08Q79JPZ8. I hope you all stay safe and well; I really do.

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