The Moving Dragon Writes

A couple of months ago, very busy writing months, two friends and I started a writing blog – not just for our own work but for other writers too! Since we all live in Somerset, we called ourselves the Somerset Writers, and the blog is The Moving Dragon Writes. We have been thrilled with the response! We have been able to share some amazing pieces of writing – stories, poems, travel, food, reminiscences, humorous pieces, serious pieces… and many more. Our writers come from all backgrounds, and indeed all ages and places – Somerset has very open boarders! I am reminded of the amazing band Los Super Seven; anyone going to their gigs would see a dozen or more people troop on stage and someone would shout “We may be seven, but we are more!” The Moving Dragons are very much like that!

To see what we have written, and to join us if you would like, here is the link:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

Not content with just our blog, we have reached out on social media, and have a Twitter and Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/TheMovingDragonWrites/

Twitter is building more slowly, but this is where we are:

https://twitter.com/brimdraca

…and lastly… we have a forum! We like to talk about writing as well as writing!

http://somerset-writers.proboards.com/

Trying to cover it

I am so nearly there with my next novel to be published, Lucky Portbraddon… so nearly there! I have been on quite a journey with it I can tell you, these characters, the Portbraddon cousins, their wives, ex-wives, lovers and children, have been with me since about 2006, and the nebulous thoughts about them have been with me even longer.

I was thinking about it today as to what I have done for and with this book – it certainly is not only the longest book, but the book that I have had to toil over most.

  • 2006 – started actually writing the story – I was still working, had both children at home, was a more assiduous housework doer
  • 2011 – finished it
  • 2015 began to think I should get it off my computer and into the world; I had written four Radwinter novels, and had also published another novel which had been with me for even longer than the Portbraddons, The Double Act, which I started writing in the last century!
  • 2016 – resolve to get Lucky Portbraddon out there – I reckoned (foolishly) that it would be published between Easter and early summer
  • cut 100,000 words (yes, one hundred thousand whole words)
  • rewrote sections
  • added new chapters which I had written separately to just finish the back story of one of the characters – then found the back story needed to be in there. This took an enormous amount of juggling, and moving things, and checking continuity
  • sorted out the parts and chapters – some were about seven times longer than others, so I wanted them to have a little more consistency
  • checked through a gazillion times for repeated words, for example, just, hug, embrace, weep, flash, about, into, jaunty… and so many more
  • downloaded it onto my own Kindle and read it, correcting typos and other errors as I went
  • downloaded it again and reread it, ditto above
  • began to think about the cover
  • thought some more about the cover
  • continued to puzzle over the cover
  • wrote out the dedication, copywrite, introduction, end-piece, links etc
  • checked layout in terms of page breaks and chapter breaks – for consistency
  • now I am just about to download it to my Kindle again and reread it for the final time

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I’m getting things together for the cover…

If you haven’t yet read my Radwinter stories, The Double Act, and my other books, Farholm, Loving Judah, The Stalking of Rosa Czekov, Flipside, then here is the link you need:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Lois+elsden

Love without the internet

This is my third true story which I am reposting; it really is completely true, but I have changed the names and locations.

It was the late 60’s and Kate had finished her A-levels and was staying for two weeks in the summer with her aunty who lived in Plymouth where she had used to live. Kate had great fun with all her friends from when she’d lived there – some of them were working and could only get together with her in the evenings, but others were a similar age and either on holiday from university, or waiting to go as Kate was.

One evening they were down wandering round the harbour and stopped at one of the many pubs. Kate was standing with her friends, when she noticed Philip talking to a tall blond young man she didn’t know. The man looked across at her and their eyes met. Minutes later they were talking to each other, as if they had known each other for ever. He wasn’t English but she couldn’t place his accent, Australian, maybe? But no, he was Norwegian and he was here in Plymouth for two weeks to improve his impeccable English at a language school. His name was Óli, he was two years older than her,  and he came from Bergen. Unfortunately he had already been in Plymouth for a week and then he was returning to Bergen.

Kate and Óli spent the evening together, wandering round with the others, and they agreed to met the next day when he had finished his classes. He had a car, which was great because they could drive out of the city and go to little pubs nearby. They spent the next week together, when he wasn’t at the language school; one afternoon when it was not very nice weather, they just went to the room in the house where he was lodging and listened to music… yes, it really was as innocent as that. He was captivated by an American singer  Philip had introduced him to, Leonard Cohen.

Leonard sounded as if he was singing a dirge to Kate, but his lyrics were interesting and witty… and in actual fact, when the LP was played for about the third time – Óli only had one LP and that was Leonard, Kate began to actually quite like the songs. That was the last afternoon Kate was with Óli. He returned to Bergen and she returned home to her family, and to a place at University. Óli and Kate wrote to each other, but they both began to meet new friends at their respective universities in Norway and England. Óli visited her, but it wasn’t a success. He had come over for a friend’s wedding in Plymouth, and Kate had gone down to meet him… but somehow things weren’t right. The following summer he came again, and they went away for a few days together, but he seemed annoyed for some reason. Kate meanwhile had met other friends, not boyfriends although they were boys…

Life took its course and soon it was merely a card at Christmas, until suddenly, one July Kate received a letter telling her that not only was Óli married, but he and his new wife had a baby. Kate wasn’t sure how she felt… she had fallen in love with someone else – not a successful or reciprocal relationship, and she had moved on from her feelings for Óli, but even so it was somehow a shock.

Years passed… there was no internet, no mobile phones, no texting or messaging or emailing until the 90’s. How different things might have been if there had been that instant way to stay in touch. These days if a young woman meets a young man, even if he lives halfway round the world from her they can stay in constant touch with each other. For Kate and Óli they just had to rely on the postman.

Now, whenever Kate hears Leonard Cohen, she is taken back to that wonderful sunny week in Plymouth, so long ago.

Lovely cool slippery gooseberry fool

A couple of days ago I wrote about picnics; I love picnics but my family aren’t so keen so maybe i should just pack one up and set off on my own and go off and solo-picnic! that sounds a great idea! no-one would moan about the damp grass, the nettles and brambles, the squashed and soggy food, the forgotten milk for the tea, or misplaced cutlery…

Ruth Drew who was a well-known writer and broadcaster in the 1940’s and 50’s, was a great one for the outdoor life and loved camping, picnicking, getting out and about and enjoying it whatever the weather or conditions! She would have made a great companion for me!

here are her thoughts on eating outdoors:

As for what to pack into a jar of out-of-doors food… well, the range is as wide as your imagination. A picnic favourite is well-seasoned scrambled egg – made rather creamy – and well forked around while its cooling, with some chopped chives thrown in. (This is excellent mixed with sweetcorn out of a can, by the way. Or chopped stuffed olives, if you’re catering for sophisticated palates.)
Then sometimes you could cook some rice – and stir it up (when it’s cold) with a mayonnaise dressing – and bung in  all sorts of savoury oddments… sliced hard-boiled eggs… tomatoes… spring onions… some diced ham or bacon… or sausage… or shrimps… you’ll think of a dozen possible ingredients. And a very good meal  this kind of food makes, backed up with salad and buttered rolls. It means giving everyone a spoon and a plate, of course. But that’s no great hardship. And you can carry a second course in the same way – a help when there are children to be fed. Fruit purees are splendid on picnics – apple puree, for example – or a lovely cool slippery gooseberry fool, with a few sponge fingers to eat with it. When soft fruit comes along in earnest it’s fine carried in a jar – raspberries – perhaps – sugared when they’re put in.

I’m not sure people would be that keen on scrambled egg, to be honest, but rice salad would be a great favourite. As for dessert, I’m sure these days yoghurt rather than fruit fools would feature!

Here is the simplest recipe for gooseberry fool, should you want to take some in a jar on a picnic:

  • 1½ lbs gooseberries, ahsed, topped and tailed
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 oz sugar
  • ½ pint double cream, lightly whipped
  1. simmer gooseberries and water until they are soft, stirring to stop sticking
  2. reserve a few for decoration, seive, stir in sugar, allow to cool
  3. fold in the cream and chill
  4. serve decorated with remaining gooseberries

We always called them goosegogs… are they common enough these days for children to still call them that? The featured image, by the way is of our gooseberry bush… can you see any gooseberries? No we couldn’t either!

 

An unknown young woman

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This rather fuzzy photo doesn’t do this painting justice… You can find a perfect representation of it if you look; I believe it might be by Sir Joshua Reynolds, painted in about 1755, but she is ‘an unknown young woman’. The painting is quite dull in colour, it looks faded, but maybe that was the angle I was looking at it from; the rooms at Montecute House where she hangs are kept shaded to protect everything from the damaging rays of sunlight, even through glass.

I like this young woman, I like her quirky face, and knowing smile, a confident person, and a happy person. Is she posed in a traditional way for this sort of painting, or has she posed herself? Is she holding something to her, or is it just her wrap? She looks lovely to me, but was she considered pretty or beautiful in 1755? I wonder what her name was? I wonder if she had a happy life? Did she marry? Have children? Did she paint herself, or sketch, or write maybe? Who knows!

Windmill… another true story, or is it?

Recently I shared a true story I had written sometime ago; here is another true story… or maybe it’s not completely true… or maybe part of it’s true… or maybe it was just a story…

My uncle used to tell a story of when he was a boy… or maybe it was when his father was a boy… or maybe it goes back before that, or maybe it was just a local story he heard… He thought it was true, and had much more detail than I now remember.

A man who lived in a village near Cambridge in the early part of the twentieth century, or maybe it was the last years of the nineteenth, or maybe it was even before that… had a windmill… He was a miller, and maybe it was the mill he’d had for a long time, or maybe it was one he had bought to begin a new business. This mill needed its sails replacing and cost a lot of money and time and effort to do so… in fact the miller nearly brought himself to ruin by doing it.

After much hardship, and trouble for him and his family to replace the sails on the windmill, the day came when they could  unlock the sails and let them turn gracefully and beautifully in the east wind. The sails began to gently turn and then disaster! Some miscalculation had been made, something went wrong, but the tip of the sail struck the ground with a juddering blow and became embedded, stuck.

The miller looked in horror at the end of his dreams, his future shattered before his eyes. Distraught he turned away, left the mill, left his family and went away somewhere and then the greatest tragedy of all, he took his life. I don’t know how he died, maybe he hung himself among trees, maybe there was a flourishing watermill nearby and he went and drowned himself in the mill-race, but I imagine his ghost walking, walking back to the mill to see if the sail was still stuck in the ground.

I don’t really know if this is a true, but it  makes a terrific story.

The windmill in the featured image was in Cambridgeshire.