2017 NaNo update… 50,053…

So the national Novel Writing Month draws to a close, and although I fell behind and at points thought I might never catch up… I did!! I managed to write 50,053 words during the month of November.

I am now going to put my story to one side for a while , and finish off some other things, but I will come back to it and I will finish it!

Here is something to celebrate with:

A spoonful of malt

It’s not just these days that people are conscious of their health and want to stay fit and well – I’m sure it has always been the case and there are so many sayings like ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ which reflect this. I’m not sure when taking malt as a health supplement first started but when my dad Donald was at school children took in a penny a day and a spoon and they had that spoon dipped into a big stone pitcher of malt, which was twiddled to catch the drips so it looked like a big fat shiny brown lollipop.

Donald was not a fussy eater as a child – he once pinched some eggs from the kitchen larder and ate them to see what raw eggs tasted like – he was amazed that his mother knew that he was the one who had done. His mum, my grandma Maudie would have known that neither of Donald’s siblings who were older would have done it, and also she found the empty egg shells bobbing about in the lavatory where he had tried to flush away the evidence, not realising that the shells would float. Unfortunately for Donald he always had a violent reaction to the malt his school friends enjoyed; he tried on so many occasions, taking in his spoon and his penny, but it actually made him physically sick…

When i was a child we didn’t have malt in school but we did have it at home; it was mixed with cod liver oil (sounds disgusting doesn’t it) and my sister and I would have a spoonful every morning. Like Donald’s school friends we loved it, however when i remembered this as an adult and bought a jar, thinking it would do me good, the actual smell of it made me gag! We also used to have Soreen malt loaf which was sticky and delicious – luckily it is still available and still sticky and delicious!! … and of course, there is that essential for pickles and pickling, malt vinegar… and another of course, malt whisky!!

So what is malt and is it actually good for you? Well I know there is malt made from roast barley – but is that the same thing? I know that malt is used in milky drinks – or was, and I guess chocolate Maltesers are or were made from it, or have it as an ingredient.

Malt is germinated cereal grains that have been dried in a process known as “malting”. The grains are made to germinate by soaking in water, and are then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air… Malted grain is used to make beer, whisky, malted shakes, malt vinegar, confections such as Maltesers and… flavoured drinks such as Horlicks…and Ovaltine, ,and some baked goods, such as malt loaf…

What a very useful substance it is… but is it actually good for you?

Amount Per 100 grams

  • Calories 85
  • Sodium 60 mg 2%
  • Potassium 172 mg 4%
  • Total Carbohydrate 11 g 3%
  • Dietary fiber 0.5 g 2%
  • Sugar 7 g
  • Protein 3.4 g 6%
  • Caffeine 3 mg
  • Vitamin A 1%
  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Calcium 9%
  • Iron 1%
  • Vitamin B-6 0%
  • Vitamin B-12 6%
  • Magnesium 3%

It does seem however, that the malt we were given as children was actually just there to disguise the taste of cod liver oil!


Day thirty of NaNoWriMo…

The last day is here, the last day of the challenge… the target day which once seemed a distant speck on my writing horizon and then gradually began to loom… On November 1st I took up the online challenge to write 50,000 (yes, fifty thousand words) this month. This is my fifth year of doing it, and to be honest, although my writing has gone well, really well, this year it has been a struggle. It’s been a struggle because November has been a very busy month and lots of quite ordinary but nice things have come between me and my writing.

This is what I wrote here on the first day of the challenge, reporting back under a post tile ‘Went the day well?’

I was all set up with what I was going to do; I have a character called Gus and I’ve written about him several times, and I decided I wanted to pull his story together and NaNoWriMo seemed the ideal vehicle for my attempt. So… I had a busy day yesterday, lots of things happened, some planned some unexpected, some good, some really not good at all.
I sat down first thing and opened a new document… and blank… Gus had wandered off… he obviously didn’t think he was ready to share his story. There would be no point in forcing it I knew, that way difficulty lies! I have so many other things I am doing at the moment, probably too many, that I knew Gus would prove recalcitrant and reluctant.
I did have a back-up plan; after I finish writing my novels quite often the characters’ stories continue in my head and I sometimes actually write down what happens next – this doesn’t develop into a sequel, but some of the ideas might lead to something new (what happened to the characters in ‘Farholm’ resulted in an idea which developed into ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov‘) However, when I tried to find a couple of these ideas I wanted to pursue I couldn’t locate them; I have an awful feeling that when I was doing my mass clear out and tidy that they went into the recycling bin)
So at eleven o’clock last night, I addressed the empty page. I started something completely new, something which had just been a vague idea floating around… I don’t know whether it will work, but it’s started and I managed to write 1076 words before midnight!!

Well, I’m thankful that the vague idea took off with a mind of its own! So by Day 3 I was into the swing of it, but still very much feeling my way and not really knowing where it would all go… This is what I wrote here:

This is the gist of it so far:
A mystery woman with an undisclosed past has got a tiny flat in a small seaside town (my imaginary Easthope) it’s told from her point of view at the moment and I hope the reader (well, if it gets that far) will be wondering ‘why is she here?’, ‘why is she living in such a tiny place?’, ‘what’s she running away/hiding from’?, ‘is she escaping an unhappy relationship?’ etc, and then the reasons are gradually revealed. The woman is doing a lot of writing which is shared with the reader, and it’s about her past, but she talks about ‘the city’ rather than naming it, and ‘the river’ etc so even in her writing she is circumspect…
On day 1 she didn’t have a name – that’s how new the whole idea is! Day 2 and I knew her name was going to begin with a B or an M… and in the end it is M – Milla. I am a little behind – not quite making the 1667 per day = 3,334 words in two days – I am up to 3,152, so not too far off target, especially so early on in the challenge when I haven’t got into my stride yet.
Today which is Day 3 I am going to write some of her writing, which I think will be a memoir of when she was a student in the anonymous city…

By day 4 (in Milla’s story as well as mine) things were moving on, but slowly… This is what I wrote here about my progress:

On the first day a mysterious woman appeared, recently moved into a bedsit – or what is now called a flatlet apparently, and it was only on day two that her name was revealed, Milla. It has become apparent that she is trying to build a new life… and yesterday, day four, she became involved with someone who might later become a friend.
This makes it sound as if I am reading a story, rather than writing one… well, sometimes it is almost like that! A surprise on every page, a new character, a new scene, a new difficulty!
The new character takes a tumble…
She set off back to the steps to leave the beach. An elderly man had crossed the road, pulled by his dog, maybe the old man and dog she had exchanged greetings with a couple of days ago.
It happened almost in slow motion – whether the pulled, eager to run on the beach, whether the man tottered or slipped on the sandy steps, whether he had some sort of seizure but he fell, lurching towards her and she sprang to try and catch him but he went sideways. The dog dragged him, and then the man’s hand released the lead and he went down, the side of his head hitting the stone with an audible ‘crack’!
Milla went down on her knees beside him, calling out something to him, something silly, inane, panicky are you alright? Are you ok? Don’t worry, I’m here!

I thought I would write a daily update here… I haven’t had time for that! It wasn’t until Day 12 that I managed to write another NaNo blog:

So… how has NaNo been going? I’ve mentioned that I intended to write about a long-standing character in search of a story… however he has wandered off, and instead I am writing about Milla who has come to my imaginary town of Easthope. She is a woman with a mystery past, which has not yet been revealed to the reader. Over the twelve days I have been writing about her, her character is gradually developing, especially as she is coming into contact with other people – the other people who live in the house where she’s renting a room, people in a café where she’s been working part-time, other people from around the town.
She has created what amounts a set of runes, which she is ‘reading’ each day, by taking one at random and bearing it in mind as the day progresses. In order to do this I do have a made up set of images which I am randomly picking out – so in a way the writing of the story is guided by chance. I have got to a point now, where I feel as if something has to happen… there has to be some action and movement to keep the reader engaged because otherwise this will just seem like the diary of an uneventful life – and even if there is some strange secret in Milla’s past, by the time it is revealed the reader won’t be reading any more!
Another thing has struck me which I must have a good think about – if I have time to think as I pound away trying to reach my target… Milla’s character. To be sure she is mysterious, but she is gradually changing into a stock female character without an actual character – she has no personality!
So that’s my task for the next few days, to discover her character, and make sure she is interesting and different!

So day 30… the last day… and 2,938 words to write… I’d better get going!

Three of my last four NaNo journeys made it into print… here is a link to all of my books:


A bitingly cold day needs… treacle tart!

Here is my friend Judith’s treacle tart:

Judith’s treacle tart


  • 6 oz gr plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 3 oz unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cold water

(You need to make the pastry first and put it in the dish then bake it ‘blind’ this means you put foil or greaseproof paper in the pastry case, put dried beans on it and bake it in the oven for 15 minutes, at 200◦C/ gas mark 6; take out the foil/paper and beans and put it back in the oven for another five minutes)

  1. Mix icing sugar and flour together in a bowl,
  2. Add butter and rub it in with your fingertips so it looks like breadcrumbs (or use a mixer)
  3. Mix egg yolk, lemon juice and water and put into flour and butter, pull it together gently into a ball (if it is too dry add a tiny amount of water)
  4. Put it in the fridge wrapped in cling film for at least 15mins
  5. Roll out pastry and put into greased tin and bake blind (see above)


  • 14 oz golden syrup (treacle)
  • 2 oz  melted  butter
  • 3 tablespoons double cream
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 oz stale  bread made into breadcrumbs
  • zest of lemon
  1. Put syrup in a pan and heat gently over low heat
  2. Take it off the heat and stir in melted butter
  3. Beat the cream and eggs together then stir into the syrup and butter
  4. Stir in salt breadcrumbs and lemon zest
  5. Pour into pastry case
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes until it is golden and set
  7. Leave it to get cold in the tin
  8. Serve with cream or yoghurt

A quick one-two and some nifty footwork

Here is another excerpt from my novel Lucky Portbraddon. Ismène has been given a lift home after Christmas by her friend Nick and his nephew Noah; she has spent Christmas with the Portbraddon family and they became trapped by snow in the family home high up on the moors .

They got out of Nick’s rickety car, stepping into slush. The night was damp and had a fusty town smell after the clear air up on the tops. The thaw had set in but there were still mounds of snow, semi-frozen piles of mush, speckled with dirty grey and black.

Noah stayed in the back and she waved at him through the side window; he managed a weak smile but looked away shiftily.

“You will stay in touch, won’t you Ismène?” Nick asked as she keyed in the code on the security pad.

“I sure will, as long as you want me to,” she held the door with her shoulder so he could come in with her bags.

He made a facetious response and she replied with a joke but she had the tiniest suspicion that Nick might want to do a little more than flirt. He was lovely but she had not the slightest interest in him even if she’d wanted another relationship.

Someone grabbed her and shoved her to the floor and a man jumped at Nick and began hitting him in the face. Nick was unable to defend himself, encumbered by her bags.

 Ismène jumped up and grabbed the attacker’s arm, he spun round and it was Jaco.

 “You leave her alone, you bastard, she’s my wife!” Jaco bellowed and shoved her aside to continue his attack on Nick.

 Ismène tumbled backwards, falling over one of her bags, and sprawled across the floor again – And then there was a figure in black between Nick and Jaco. It was Noah and he grabbed Jaco, punched him straight in the face, before pushing him out of the door. He hurled him down the couple of steps then stood blocking the doorway.

Nick was on his knees, blood streaming through his fingers cupped over his face and Ismène tried to get him upright, appalled by the sudden violence.

“I’m so sorry, Nick, I’m really sorry.”

“What are you apologising for?” Nick staggered as if dizzy.

He called a muffled thank you to Noah, who cast a baleful look over his shoulder and went out, the door banging shut behind him.

Nick was wiping his arm on his sleeve, his moustache and beard a gory mess. The light in the hall was garish, Nick’s face was grey and he was certainly in pain. There were splashes of blood on the blue and green floor tiles, as if the seascape they showed had been the place of a dreadful battle.

“I didn’t realise he knew where I lived – I guess he thought you were James.”

She gathered her bags and other things, and hoping Noah was safe, she pushed Nick to the lift.  It pinged open and they hurried into its apple-scented interior.

“Long time since I’ve been in a fight,” Nick looked at himself in the mirror, touching his nose experimentally. “I don’t think it’s broken.”

“Well, it wasn’t really a fight. He hit you then Noah threw him out.”

“Oh, that’s right, spoil my moment of fantasy! In my mind I decked him with a quick one-two and some nifty footwork!”

As they stepped out of the lift Ismène’s neighbour was waiting; he cast a horrified look at Nick and hurried down the corridor to the stairs.

© Lois Elsden 2017

If you want to find out the background to this, and what happened next, here is a link:


More from the dragons –

It’s a couple of months since two friends and I published an anthology of prose, poetry and other writing.It’s called The Moving Dragons Write and it’s available on Amazon.

Here is the introduction:

For a couple of years, the three of us,  Lois, John and Richard, have successfully shared our thoughts with the world through our blog; The Moving Dragon Writes is a medley of stories, poems and articles, a whole kaleidoscope of different writing. Our name came from the symbol of the county where we live, the Somerset dragon, and the well-known words ‘the moving finger having writ…’
Since we started The Moving Dragon Writes, we have collected readers and followers from around the world – especially from North America, and we have opened our blog to others. We have supported and encouraged new writers of all genres, promoting and sharing their work too, giving a platform for many people who have never had the confidence or opportunity to do so before. We continue to do this and welcome new writers.
As well as the blog, we have pursued our own writing goals, individually publishing our novels, short stories and poetry. It was at one of our dragonmeets, on a spring afternoon, when it occurred to us… we could publish an anthology together, “our own Dragon Writes book which can include some of the best of our work from the blog!” This anthology is, we hope, only the first, and we are tentatively planning volume II – Earth, Fire, Water.

… and here are our biographies:

Richard – I joined the Royal Navy from school, following this with an engineering career in industry. I studied geology and creative writing with the Open University from 2008 until I graduated with a BSc in July 2014. I found my writing voice during my time with the OU. There was a pause in the Earth Science courses so I filled it with two short writing courses. I was hooked and now find that I have to write, every day and anything. The odd day that I don’t write, I spend thinking about writing, usually out on the hills. I live in Somerset, where I enjoy writing, hill walking, researching and writing about geology and practical geology, trying to understand the geological history of the local area.

Lois – I have written all my life but it was only when I was able to give up the day job of teaching that I was able to write full-time. Writing is my passion; I write every day, I write from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed. When I am not writing, I am still thinking about it and following my stories in my head. I live in a small village by the sea in Somerset, and when I’m not writing I like relaxing in my local, watching the world go by, and going to live music events.

John – I was born and bred in Somerset and had a fairly extrovert life working in insurance; it was only on retirement that I started to write poetry. It then seemed to me that here, as in other arts of our age, uncertainty and complication, rather than classical spontaneity was now the norm. My aspirations in writing certainly veer towards the latter, which, I believe, still has a large following. I hope you will find my work enjoyable, or at least easily understood.

28:11:54 – South Goodwin Lightship lost on Goodwin Sands’.

Here is something I wrote a couple of years ago, about evens which happened on this very day over sixty years ago, in 1954:


The owner of this Prayer Book made diary entries of significant events; you may just be able to make out the bottom entry ‘Southerly gale 28:11:54, South Goodwin Lightship lost on Goodwin Sands’.

The Goodwin Sands is a treacherous sandbank off the east coast of Kent, in the Straits of Dover and ever since people first crossed the English Channel in boats, there have been shipwrecks here, including Viking longboats, galleons and liners. However on the night of Saturday, November 27th 1954,   gales of 80 mph raged up the Channel and the South Goodwin Lightship, LV 90, broke from her anchors and became stranded on the Goodwin Sands. The lightship, as you can guess was like a floating lighthouse, positioned to warn shipping in the busiest strait in the world, of the very danger that the South Goodwin Lightship met herself.

The captain was Tom Skipp, and no doubt on that dreadful night, he and his crew were doing all they could to keep the lightship steady and themselves safe. At about 1 o’clock in the morning the cable snapped and the ship broke free; nearby was its sister ship the East Goodwin  Lightship LV12 and the crew saw LV90 had detached itself from its cable and was being swept away. There was nothing they could do.  The LV90 foundered on the sands and fell on its side, trapping the crew beneath decks, all except one man who managed to get out of a skylight and hang on.

Lifeboats from Dover and Ramsgate were launched into the foul night, and a helicopter from  Manston tried to find the stricken vessel, and by some miracle it found the capsized lightship as dawn rose. The helicopter crew managed to rescue Ronald Murton, the sole survivor, but sadly the rest of the crew was lost and were never seen again. It must have been traumatic beyond imagining for Ronald as he knew that when he was lifted to safety, the crew were still alive and trapped inside.  There are still traces of the lightship on the Goodwin Sands which can be seen when the tide is low enough.

The ghastly news must have been broadcast on the radio and the owner of the Prayer Book, living so close to the sea and knowing what havoc bad weather could cause must have noted down the details. 

Photo0298The diary entry at the bottom of this page just says ‘Flood East Coast 31.1.53’. On January 31st 1953 there was a horrific sea surge which affected the countries along the North Sea causing huge loss of life. 2,551 people are known to have drowned, 1836 in the Netherlands, 307 in England, 28 in Belgium, 19 in Scotland and others at sea. In England 30,000 people had to leave their homes and 24,000 homes were damaged. The owner of this Prayer Book lived in Kingston Seymour on the west coast of England, a little village which had suffered many floods over the hundreds of years of its existence; there is a plaque in the church commemorating the devastating tsunami of 1607 which I am sure the owner of the Prayer Book would have looked at many times, particularly after the events on the last day of January in 1953