Cherry and Glory

This story sprang from nowhere this morning… it’s only the beginning and as usual I have no idea where it might be going… actually I do have a couple of ideas!

I love my sister Cherry, she’s three minutes younger than me so I’m the eldest. I love her but I have to say I feel eclipsed by her, sort of put in the shade… put in the shade is actually is a good way of expressing it since she’s blond and sunny and I’m dark and gloomy… well actually I’m not gloomy, I just have the sort of face where people are forever saying ‘cheer up’ when I’m actually quite happy but just thinking about things

This is an example: we got our reports and our parents friends were staying and they were saying to their friends how brilliantly Cherry had done. So the mum said, and how did Glory do, and mum said oh she always does well… as if always doing well was not as good as doing brilliantly… what she meant was I always get a better report than Cherry… well I get a better report in exam results, not necessarily in the other stuff.

Cherry is so nice and lovely to everyone, and she’s really popular, everyone likes her – and she doesn’t even try to be popular like some people do, she’s just liked by everyone. The only person who doesn’t like her, although she pretends she does, is Glynis who has her own little group of friends, a clique I guess you’d call it,  and has a rich family so she has hangers-on because things like her birthday parties are always much more lavish than the ordinary sort of parties us ordinary sort of children have.

And people say ‘Cherry, what a lovely name… is it spelt Cherie? is it short for Cheryl?’ even though both Cherie and Cheryl are exactly the same number of letters… and no, her name is Cherry. With me they say ‘oh Glory, I guess that’s short for Gloria?’ Well, no actually, my name is Glory… thankfully it’s all due to a mistake either by my dad or the registrar because I was going to be called Gloria, but thankfully there was some sort of muddle and my actual birth certificate, and my baptismal certificate both say Glory – I think the vicar quite liked it.

Cherry is always good, I don’t mean in a goody-two-shoes sort of way, but she just always is – I don’t mean I’m not good, I don’t  try to be naughty or do the wrong thing, but sometimes I’m thinking of something and I sort of forget the other thing I’m supposed to do, or sometimes I’m reading a book and then mum says why haven’t you made your bed, or you’re supposed to be doing your homework, or why did you leave your boots all muddy... as if  I had deliberately thought oh I know, I’ll leave my bed all in a muddle or I actually won’t do my homework  now or what a good idea to leave my boots all covered with mud right where mum is going to trip over them…

Dad gave me a talking to… if your sister can remember to do things, why can’t you… she tries to be helpful to mum and after all mum does for you don’t you think you’re old enough now to be taking responsibility for yourself? It’s not Cherry’s fault that she remembers stuff and does it when she’s supposed to, that’s just the way she is… And like last exam time, Dad got quite cross because I wasn’t revising, but what was the point when  I knew it already. He said I couldn’t possibly… except I did and got really good results. Now this seems as if I’m blaming Cherry but honestly I got a bit fed up when Dad said well done to her, and to be honest she’d flunked her maths (but you really tried hard, Cherry, said Dad) and she’d not done as well as me, and Dad said to me, you got away with it this time, Glory – make sure you do your revision properly next exams…

You see what I mean…

© Lois Elsden 2018

Here’s a link to my completed books… novels I’ve published on Amazon, and they are for grown-ups:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_9?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsd%2Caps%2C710&crid=2F373M560GI5U

 

There was only one thing I could do…

While I was teaching I had students who were perfectly capable of reading and were fluent readers… however, they were totally disengaged and had got out of the habit. As they were approaching public exams, it was important to get back into the way of reading – especially in English when they had to read set texts.

I started to write pieces for them, always with a cliff-hanger ending to get them back into it, and eventually these pieces became stories, and eventually, I published them! My three stories are available as paperbacks, and also as e-readers.

This is an extract from ‘Screaming King Harry’; Jo-Jo who tells the story lives with her parents in a pub, and one night observes her English teacher Henry King – known as King Harry, exchanging something for a wad of money. He realises he’s been see and then things begin to become dangerous for Jo-Jo and her family. The pub is set on fire in an arson attack…

There was only one thing I could do.
The brewery had fixed us up, Dad and Mum would manage a pub on the other side of town. We had to pack our bags and move out because although the smoke and water damage had been worse than the actual fire, we couldn’t live there for a while.
I told Mum and Dad it was too far to travel to school and that I was staying with a mate; I gave them a name and made up the address. I gave the school the name and address of a made up pub.
Then I camped out while I thought of what to do. I didn’t literally camp outside, although I had been in the Scouts when I was a kid and knew all about camping. The Scouts met in a church hall and I knew a way into it. It was dry and not too cold and there was a toilet and kitchen and as long as I wasn’t there when other people were using it all would be OK. In the evenings, if the hall was in use I sat in the church doing my homework – yeah I know it sounds boring, but I hadn’t anything else to do.
You see, the arson attack at the pub was aimed at me; I was putting everyone in danger. I couldn’t stay with my mates, or even be with them, just I case, and I definitely couldn’t stay with Mum and Dad, we could have died in the fire.
So, why didn’t I tell the Old Bill? Would they have believed me, or would they have believed King Harry? What do you think?

It worked fine for three days while I thought of what to do. On the morning of the fourth day, cold and not really feeling very clean, I decided on a course of action. It was the only thing.
I had to talk to King Harry; I would give in to his threats and bribes and blackmail. I would do anything if he’d leave me and my mum and dad alone – especially my mum and dad.
Sounds soft, but it’s only when someone’s in danger that your realise how important they are to you – and yeah, how much you love them.

I caught him on the corridor.
“Sir, can I see you?”
He looked surprised then wary.
“I hear you’ve had trouble at the pub,” he said.
The cheeky so-and-so! Too right we’d had trouble at the pub, trouble at the pub thanks to his majesty King Harry!
“We’re ok, sir,” I replied casually. “But I wondered if I could talk to you?”
He stared at me for a moment, his blue eyes dangerously blue. “I’m not free today and I’ve got a meeting after school.”
“I’m going to be working in the library, got a project to catch up on,” I said; also the library was warmer and cosier than the church hall.
“Come and find me when you’ve finished, then, or I can come and find you?”
My skin crawled.
“Fine sir, just fine.”

http://amzn.eu/amo8N78

A writing list

A writing chum told me has made a 2018 writing list – things he intends to tackle next year… I’ve got some priorities in my head, but as for a list, well, I hadn’t thought of it… so what would be on my list should I make one?

I think it goes without saying that I will continue to write here, sharing my thoughts, ideas, memories and my writing. I must also get back seriously or seriously get back to finishing my next Radwinter novel, which has been marooned three-quarter way through since the beginning of November when I tackled the national Novel Writing challenge of completing 50,000 words in a month. So finish Thomas Radwinter’s next story provisionally entitled ‘Saltpans‘, and I have an idea for another for later on in the year probably called ‘Alone‘. On the Radwinter front, I also want to publish as paperbacks at least two of my e-books, ‘Magick’ and ‘Raddy and Syl‘, and if all goes extremely well, then also ‘Beyond Hope‘.

In January and February I must prepare for a talk and two workshops I’m giving in February; the talk is on writing about family history, as I mentioned yesterday, and the workshops are on the process of writing and blogging.

I also have my unfinished stories – ‘Gus’, ‘Dancing in the Road’, ‘And the River…’, ‘Hamazasb and the Missing Shoe‘, and a couple of other bits of writing I started. There is also the story I began this year for NaNoWriMo, about Milla. Of those, I think there’s only a couple which I might actually tackle, others are very much on the back burner, as well as some I wrote many years ago which would need a total re-write.

I have completed five NaNoWriMo challenges, every year since 2013; they have been a great way to really get to grips with a new story, but they are also a great drain on time… the idea is also quite additive, though, will I be able to resist the challenge? Or maybe should I use it to get to grips with ‘Alone’? That actually is a good idea!!

I mentioned at the start my commitment to writing here; I also share another blog with two writing friends (which is actually open to anyone to contribute to!) From that we published an anthology last year and are hoping to publish a second next year. That is more a case of pulling together already written pieces rather than creating anything new but it still involves work. On our other blog we have challenged ourselves to write about subjects from a list we discovered with seventy-three suggestions of topics. We are doing really well with it, and have had a thought that maybe they could be edited and published – in three volumes!! There would just be too many words for one book!

So that I guess is my writing list… but then of course, something new, a whole new story might bob into my mind!! Inspiration happens in the most unlikely places and with the most unexpected ideas!

So, maybe like my friend I should write a list… should it be a calendar/diary/timetable?

  1. January – finish first draft of ‘Saltpans‘, prepare for family history talk and writing workshops. Begin to edit ‘Magic’ for paperback publication
  2. February – deliver family history talk and writing workshops, work on editing ‘Saltpans‘, also continue to edit ‘Magick‘ as a paperback – this takes much longer than you might think!
  3. March – prepare and publish ‘Saltpans‘, prepare first draft of seventy-three blog anthology, book I.
  4. April – work on ‘seventy-three’ maybe start thinking about next story for me – perhaps ‘Dancing in the Road’, but maybe something new will spring into my mind! Publish ‘Magick’ as a paperback’ and start of paperback editing of ‘Raddy and Syl’.
  5. May – publish ’73’, continue work on whatever new/old thing I’m writing
  6. June – writing, writing, writing, publish ‘Raddy and Syl‘ paperback, start preparing ‘Beyond Hope’ as a paperback
  7. July – more writing, writing, writing, continue with ‘Beyond Hope‘ paperback
  8. August – as for July but publish new paperback
  9. September – complete whatever I started new in April (maybe it will have got to the editing stage by now) Begin to look at second anthology with my two writing friends, to publish November/December
  10. October  – ditto September
  11. November – new Nano challenge, but also some light editing and pulling together of the April book, publish anthology II with friends
  12. December – maybe publish new book? Maybe continue what I started as Nano?

Writing it down like this makes 2018 look a massive challenge – however, a lot of it is editing and working on old things. This year I have felt that creativity has been pushed into the corner by other stuff I’ve been doing; I really want to make sure it isn’t the same in 2018. It’s all about balance.

2017 has been a great year, and I’ll write about in the next few days, but if I have any resolution for next year, it is what I mentioned above – find balance!

Day 12… NaNo update…

I was going to preface my update by saying it’s been such a busy time in my life… well, it seems these days all the time is a busy time! 2016 was the year of throwing things away – not into the rubbish (although some things did go there) but to charity shops, given to others, recycled… I cleared the decks of much clutter and our usually untidy home had some sort of order restored.  As with many families these days, children who fled the nest have, or are in the process of, returning – so suddenly all our lovely space is being filled up with … things! We are delighted to have them home but it just takes a little organising, to cram three households of stuff in together.

On the writing front I and my fellow bloggers on our Moving Dragons blog have been putting an anthology together, which is now published and available (and we would welcome your comments and reviews on Amazon), and I have at last made my reluctant readers books available on Etsy as actual books, and on Amazon as Kindle e-readers.

As well as my blog here, the Moving Dragons blog and the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, which I shall tell you about in a minute, I am continuing to try to finish my next Radwinter book, in time to be published spring 2018… I am also hoping to produce my second Radwinter book as a paperback.

Oh, and there’s the rest of my life, including the creative writing classes I lead, the writing groups I go to, the French class and the Saxish class I attend… oh and meeting friends, going places… the usual stuff!

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!

Here is a link to our anthology:

The Moving Dragons Write:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Moving-Dragons-Write-Dragon-Writes/dp/1549881809/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510513816&sr=8-1&keywords=Lois+elsden

And to my ‘Can read, won’t read series’:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/550200668/lois-elsden-reluctant-readers-collection

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Run-Blue-books-reluctant-readers-ebook/dp/B0771HH6HW/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1510513816&sr=8-16&keywords=Lois+elsden

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Screaming-Harry-books-reluctant-readers-ebook/dp/B0771G968M/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1510513816&sr=8-13&keywords=Lois+elsden

 

More on the black shuck and an Essex serpent

I’ve been reading ‘The Essex Serpent’ by Sarah Perry for my Sunday book club; as you may guess from the title it is about a mythological beast not an actual serpent as in a snake but as in a sort of monstrous wingless dragon (sometimes also confusingly called a worm, confusingly because we thing of worms as small pink eight inch things who live in the earth) There are references to other mythical creatures, including the black shuck – a dog like hound which appears in legends and modern-day sightings across the country, but has that particular name in Essex and east Anglia. We even have local stories published in the newspapers recently about our own Somerset version, seen on the hills of Banwell a village less than ten miles from here.

Here’s something I wrote a while ago:

I came across an article about travel and tourism which mentioned that an app has been developed by the Bram Stoker International Film Festival so visitors to Whitby can follow a trail which features places the Victorian author of Dracula visited which inspired him.
I used to be a great fan of the Dracula myth, and even for a time was a member of the Dracula society; I recently reread Stoker’s novel with my book club and was pleased that I still enjoyed it and thought it stood the test of time. There are many memorable scenes, of course, but one that I think of whenever I visit Whitby is when the ship The Demeter grounded on the beach and a black dog leapt off and disappeared, Dracula in disguise, of course! I didn’t realise that Stoker saw an actual ship called The Dmitri which had come ashore in a storm.

The article mentioned the word barghest, which is a mythical creature in the form of a big black dog-like animal, said to wander the streets of Whitby and York; although that word is given in Yorkshire to the apparition, ghostly black dogs appear all across Britain, and it is thought they originated way back in ancient pre-Roman times, ,maybe even pre-Celtic, who knows. A fear of big animals with sharp teeth and big claws, creeping invisibly in the darkness must resonate in our deepest folk memories.

I didn’t realise, although I come from East Anglia, that my family home ground also has legends of a black dog, the black shuck – sometimes the shuck only has one eye in the middle of his forehead, sometimes he has no head at all, but stories of his prowlings appear in Peterborough (where my grandparents lived for a while) and Littleport, (where a cousin’s family come from) in Cambridgeshire, Bungay and Blytheburgh in Suffolk, and Dereham in Norfolk.

The only time I have written about anything ghostly or spooky is in ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’, a story I wrote for disaffected young readers, those who can read but don’t want to. The beast I created was wolf-like, but walked and fought like a man… a sort of were-wolf. I don’t think the barghest or the black shuck have a were-nature, they seem to foretell doom and death, but the idea of a huge canine-type creature appears in myths across these islands, and in many other countries too.

wolves on the campus 3I used this photo of sculpted wolves on Surrey University campus to create a cover for my most recent novel…
DOUBLE COVER FINAL

If you haven’t read it yet, here is a link:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445780562&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Can read – won’t read?

You would think it would be difficult to concentrate on listening when someone is screaming their head off.
It might be difficult to concentrate when that someone is lying on the floor holding their hand and screaming.
It was Mr King lying on the floor and the reason he was lying on the floor was that he had two broken legs. That was enough to make anyone scream; but Mr King was holding his hand because it had been shot clean through.
I’m not joking now.
Mr King, Head of English at St Finbarr’s High had been shot through the hand. This was after he had his legs broken.

This is the dramatic and violent opening lines to a novel I wrote for young people when I was teaching. I was working with young people who for various reasons were not in school; these young people were in their last year of education and had just that one year to turn themselves round and pass some exams so they could go on and go into further studies, training or get themselves a job.

Many of these young people were totally turned off anything to do with school and schooling for all sorts of different reasons, and yet most of them were bright, articulate, intelligent and literate… I taught them English and I didn’t have to teach them to read and write, they could do that, and they could do that very well… but they didn’t want to! They could read, but wouldn’t!!

One day I walked into the classroom and told them we were going to do a comprehension – they didn’t mind functional, practical tasks, and we read a piece I had written with some questions at the end… however, we finished the reading and they demanded to know what happened next? I told them I had no idea… it was just a comprehension… However, the next lesson I had a further instalment which they fell on with glee… and so it went ion, they were reading, reading because they wanted to know what happened next.

That first story was ‘Run, Blue, Run!‘ and when it was finished my students wanted more! The extract above is the first lines from the next story ‘Screaming King Harry’. These two stories engaged the students, got them back into reading, the characters they could identify with, the cliff-hanger endings – previously they could read, but wouldn’t – now they wanted to read! It began to get them back into the habit of reading, and it led some of them to rediscover the joy of reading… Of course for some of them it just served a purpose, to get them reading for their exams.

I wrote a further book ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’ which was similar but it also told the story (about missing people and were-wolves) through different writing styles,  diary entries, newspaper reports, one act plays etc which for the purposes of my students were examples of the sort of writing they might employ for their exams.

I’m delighted that these books are now available – you can buy them on Etsy! I wrote them for students about to sit exam, students in a particular situation, but these stories would engage younger people too!

Here is a link:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LoisElsdenBooks

Now what…

Lucky Portbraddon is finished! It is done and it is published by KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) on Amazon. I’ve had five days of doing other writing, blogging mostly, but a few bits and pieces of other stuff too, while I consider what next. It’s a bit of a relief, to be honest, to launch this novel, which has been with me for nearly a dozen years, and as I wave it cheerio I remember some of the things I should have put in its luggage – or taken out, and realise that some of its clothes need a little more attention than I gave them… I guess it must always be the way – I’ve heard it said about painting that it’s important to know when to stop. There is the scene in the film ‘Mr Turner’ about the artist, when a work by him is hung in a gallery, and he strides through, between the crowd, paintbrush in hand, and adds a tiny dot of red to the picture – but Turner was a genius!

So what to do next… possible ideas…

  • despite what I just said, should I go back to Lucky Portbraddon and have one more last go at the manuscript while my thoughts of omissions and unnecessary additions are fresh in my head… I can upload the edited version very simply (the great thing about KDP)
  • complete my next Radwinter novel, ‘Earthquake’ which is about 4/5 finished
  • pull together some of the ideas and do some research for the Radwinter novel after that, maybe called ‘The Cunning Man’
  • work on a small book I’ve written called ‘So you want to write‘ – my ideas and observations on starting writing; I wrote this for my students when I was teaching, I’ve used it in my creative writing groups… should I pull it together and publish it?
  • finish the last few chapters of my old novel ‘The Story of Frederico Milan’ and get it off my virtual writing shelf? I began to write it about ten years ago, like Lucky Portbraddon… and it really does need finishing and publishing… it’s about a man whose wife vanished three years before the story starts and his father-in-law is convinced he murdered her…
  • begin to seriously think about how I could tell the story of my great-grandparents; he was a strict Jew from a very wealthy family, she was the daughter of a middle-class basket making factory owner – and not Jewish
  • I have an idea to write my own history – but not as a conventional biography, but through remembered items we had at home, items which no longer exist like the serrated tomato knife with the red handle… maybe I should start this as a series of blogs…
  • I’m not going to think about my ‘Dancing in the Road’ story which is only about 30,000 words so far, or my ‘Hamazasb and the Missing Shoe’ which only has a couple of chapters, or ‘A Strong Hand From Above’ which needs a complete rewrite – i.e. starting all over again and writing it from the beginning…

Hmmm… I’ll do a bit of mulling, and let you know!

In the meantime, if you haven’t read Lucky Portbraddon, here’s a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1474103793&sr=1-3&keywords=lois+elsden