How tragic

Here is an extract from the first book I published as an e-reader, Farholm…

Deke walked on from the school, a few steps at a time, stopping to admire the natural abundance, her mind wandering to jellies and jams, cordials and liqueurs. Perhaps she should pretend to be writing a natural cookery book, that would give her an excuse to quiz people, get into conversation with the people who lived here.

She continued slowly up the road. There was another wall, running parallel to the other, and above it was more open woodland between the elder and blackthorn, weighted with berries and sloes. Sloe gin, elderberry wine, elderberry chutney. Recipes slotted through her mind, it was the first time she had thought of cooking for a month, food had become an indifference to her.

The road wound round and the trees gave way to yellow bracken and ling and she could see the church, squat and grey beyond a pair of pink cottages. After maybe half an hour she was above the harbour and could see the roofs of the houses and the pub and social club a couple of hundred foot below her. This must have been the road the girl in pink had taken, the girl Deke had thought might have been Rachel. She stopped and wondered where Rachel was, and shivered at the thought of the sort of things that might have happened to a pretty eighteen year old.

A Land Rover was coming down the road towards her and she stepped onto the grass to let it pass. It slowed and a bearded man looked out, he had been driving last night, he had taken her home.

“Any news?” she called.

“No,” he replied and his tone and face said it all. He lifted his hand and drove on.

The pink cottages were direct onto the road but as Deke approached she could see gardens at the back, curiously urban gardens with sheds and a gazebo in one, and children’s swings and climbing frames. A whirligig washing line spun, laden with clothes.

The church was a normal little parish church, bounded by aged stone walls with mosses and lichens and tiny geraniums growing. At the foot of the wall were clumps of what her aunt called ‘ginger’ although it was a dozen shades of red and pink and purple. The church yard ran down the hill, each grave with plenty of soft bright green grass around it, not huddled together or lined up in impersonal regimented rows.

There was a kissing gate for the litch, a little old roof crouched over it. As Deke manipulated herself through there was a squeak from above and looking up she could just make out a swallow’s nest with a very late brood peeping out. They didn’t have a very rosy future at this time of year. But on the other hand, who did?

There was a bench along the wall by the gate and Deke subsided onto it. She felt sick with anticipation now, she was trembling not just from exertion, sweating not just from the toil a quarter of mile from the harbour. Her teeth began to chatter and she clenched her jaw.

Look at the church, what do you know of ecclesiastical architecture, what can you say about this ancient place of worship, for she remembered that there had been a tiny chapel on this site from before Norman times. She had read the little guide-book now in her pocket with exclusive concentration and odd facts drifted back. The present church was rebuilt about a hundred years ago to replace the previous one which had lost its roof.

Deke got up and hopped up the path and then carefully moved among the graves. Some were very old, some had lost their faces completely. Many of them had flowers, even some anonymous ones had posies in pots against the head stones. The names floated before her, Abigail Burrows, beloved wife…  Daniel Spears…. Marie Togwith… John Togwith… Thomas Thorne… Josiah Hepworth…

Deke stopped before the small white stone in the shape of a heart. There was a cherub leaning on it, one hand beside the name, the other arm arching over the top of the stone, a stubby finger pointing heavenward. Deke blinked her eyes, trying to stop the stinging. She was never going to cry again, not for anything, not for anyone. Especially not here, not here in this graveyard.

Then David Elijah Crewe. The name registered with a shiver. Perhaps this was a relation of the woman on the boat, the woman who lived in the White House. Vera Crewe, née Smythe, wife of the above. There was another Crewe, Alfred, perhaps he was her brother. Then Jonathan Crewe, most beloved husband and dearest father. Deke resolutely turned her eyes to the stone next to it, an older stone, Jabez Crewe, wife Oriana, and another old one, Serena Crew wife of Augustus Crewe. And amidst all his forebears and relations was a newly dug grave, the earth still red and raw, the brightly polished black marble headstone gleaming in the sun, the latest, Mathias Alfred Crewe, born March 13th 1967, beloved son of Brenda and Jonathon, dear brother of Alice, most loving husband of Tamsin, father of Tabitha and Sion, taken from us August 22nd 2000

How tragic. 33 years old.

If you want to find out more about Deke… and why this grave of Mathias Crewe means so much to her,here is a link to my book, Farholm:

http://amzn.eu/8tmqdjl

Who the hell are you?!

I was really thrilled the other day when a friend told me how much she had enjoyed my novel, ‘Farholm’; it was the first one I published as an e-book on Amazon, six years in 2012. It was a story I’d written quite a few years before, which shows now when you read it because of the lack of technology!

Here is an excerpt from the first chapter. The main character s going to Farholm Island for two weeks – not a holiday but a mission, a mission which is revealed as the story progresses. She has recently broken her ankle so is hobbling along from the ferry to her accommodation, a holiday cottage, with two island lads carrying her bags.

They were near the castle when they stopped at a pink cottage. One of the boys knocked on the door, the other sat on a post supporting a low chain link fence. The door opened, a hand came out giving the boy the key; Vicky, the pirate’s sister no doubt. Deke had no chance to rest because the boys set off, following a narrow recently tarmacked road between a hedge and the old stone walls of the castle.

And then the boys were waiting for her, watching her as she laboriously limped towards them.

“Open the door for me,” she commanded.

They trooped in without a word and deposited her bags in the middle of the large living room. Exhausted now, Deke followed but before she could find a couple of quid they had gone, the door shutting quietly behind them.

She hobbled to the nearest chair and collapsed into it, shutting her eyes and drifting, letting her heart rate return to normal. There was a hissing sound; perhaps Vicky had put the immersion heater on. The good sized room was sparely but sufficiently furnished with a settee and a couple of cottage chairs and above the fireplace a picture of Venice. Behind the settee by the window on the other side of the room, was a table and chairs and an open door opposite led into the kitchen. It sounded as if the shower was running now as the immersion hissed and hummed; she’d shower later but too weary to investigate now Deke hooked her backpack over. With trembling hands she opened it and pulled out the bottle of scotch.

She sat for a while staring at it. The hissing sound stopped, as the thermostat switched itself off, at least there would be plenty of hot water.

Deke unscrewed the whisky and took a good pull straight from the bottle. Cheers to anaesthesia, and she raised the bottle again.

One of the doors opened and a naked man stepped into the room. Whisky flooded down Deke’s chin. It was only the look of utter astonishment on his face that stopped her hurling the bottle at him and tried to escape.

“Who the hell are you?” he exclaimed angrily making no attempt to cover himself.

“Who the hell are you and what the hell are you doing here?” Deke was outraged.

“What am I doing here? What are you doing here, cheeky – ?”

“How dare you!” Deke interrupted him, struggling to her feet, with a single crutch. “Go and get dressed and get out!”

The man seemed only then aware of his natural state but was still unconcerned.

“Right I’ll get dressed and when I get back I want you gone!”

He marched across the room and into one of the other rooms, slamming the door behind him. It was only his swift angry stride which identified him, he was the guy on the boat, the one who had stripped off his vomit soaked jeans. What an exhibitionist! He had obviously been in the shower, that must have been the running water she’d heard.

She slumped back into the chair and took another gulp of whisky.

The man reappeared, in combat trousers and a black t-shirt. She was beginning to realise what had happened, beginning to see the funny side though she doubted he would. He was staying on the island too, and somehow had got the address of his accommodation wrong.

“Look, you’ve made a mistake,” Deke was so tired now, she didn’t need this. “I’ve rented this cottage for two weeks.”

I’ve made a mistake? Your mistake – I’ve rented this place.”

“No mistake, I assure you. Wellihole Cottage, six hundred quid, my accommodation.”

“You’ve got the dates wrong then – I’m here until October 13th.”

“I assure you -”

“Just quit assuring me of anything. There’s been a cock up, you’ve made it,” he was quite threatening now.

Deke took another swig of scotch, then held the bottle out.

“Want one, John? Have a drink and then you can get lost. I’m here and I’m not shifting,” she was damned if she was going to be intimidated. “No? Well piss off then.”

He went back into the bedroom and returned with boots, socks and a jacket. He stared at her stone-faced as he pulled them on and tied the laces.

“Right, come on,” he said forcefully but less aggressively. “We’ll go down to the pub and get this sorted.”

“No thanks, I’ve got this,” and she held up the whisky.

“I’m not asking you to go for a bloody drink!” his anger fired again “The landlord holds the key – that’s where I got it – he’ll tell you you’ve made a mistake – with any luck he’ll have a room for you.”

He stood and picked up her bag.

“I’m not shifting, and you can put that bloody bag down!” Deke wanted to cry. Bugger, bugger, bugger. Why did her grief have to ambush her like this? Any tears and this guy would think he’d won. “Look put the bag down. I got the key from the woman in a cottage down the lane, Vicky, she cleans here – she’ll tell you.”

The man stared at her and then with a tightening of his mouth he dropped the bag.

http://amzn.eu/eGTewbO

Then the stars were lost

Here is another excerpt from my novel Farholm… Deke is walking by the sea late at night…

She thought at first it must be seals, and then perhaps divers, or lovers in the waves edge.

And then she was almost running, limping along, the pain lost in the adrenal surge. Her breath was taken or she would have shouted, cried out.

She splashed into the water, towards where the two figures rolled and wrestled.

“No!” and she grabbed at the upper body and heaved it back.

She fell backwards and the other turned and struck out and a fist connected with Deke’s face and she thudded onto the sand and her head thumped back and for a moment she saw nearer stars. She was completely winded and lay with the sea lapping over her. Minutes passed as she tried to gather her thoughts and her strength, staring up at a spinning sky.

And then the stars were lost, blotted out by a dark shape. Deke swung her crutch and caught the figure across the knees and then she was rolling over and scrambling to get to her feet. She managed several yards before she was felled by a body falling upon her and they wrestled in the sea. Deke tried to shout, tried to scream but a hand was under her chin pushing her head backwards.

Deke poked straight fingers into her assailant’s ribs and heaved her attacker off.

“Help!” she screamed and she got to her feet and was hobbling along. Too late she realised she was heading the wrong way along the shore line towards the castle rocks. There was a blow upon her shoulder as something was thrown.

She screamed again as she tried to hold her arm over her head and duck away from the rocks that were flying. She crashed over a boulder and fell, an excruciating pain shooting up her leg. She began to crawl, clambering over rocks, making strange guttural noises, hideous animal sounds as her murderer followed her. Her hand slipped and went down into a pool slimy with weed and someone was on her back, sitting on her back, forcing her head into the water. It was only inches deep, little more than a puddle, but enough to drown in. Deke tried to hold her breath as she struggled and squirmed but one arm was pinned beneath a knee, the other knee dug into her armpit and she could find no purchase for her thrashing legs.

Lights flashed before her eyes, closed against the sand and mud and weed and water. There was a howling in her ears, her limbs no longer belonged to her, her strength was going and she could feel the water flowing up her nose and into her mouth, pouring down her throat, into her lungs, stinging and salty and acrid. She was getting weaker, drawn down a tunnel, knowing that she would not find Niko at the end, and then… nothing.

Here is a link to Farholm:

http://amzn.eu/1I7oLix

 

The fog’s cold breath

Here’s an excerpt from my ebook Farholm… Deke and Michael have ended up sharing a cottage on Farholm Island because of a slip up with booking. They visit the Community, a hippy village up in the hills and become trapped by fog:

The fog was thicker than anything Deke had ever experienced, like a disembodied entity pushing up against her face, its cold breath chilling her skin and dewing her hair. Frightened, she wanted to hold onto Michael but he stayed close by her, his arm against her elbow. Dawnstar led them as surely as if she could see clearly. Perhaps she is an alien, perhaps she has infrared vision, thought Deke. It was an utterly silent world apart from the tap of her crutches on the cobbled path and the light thud of the man’s boots. She sensed the presence of buildings rather than saw them but no other person was visible, perhaps they were having another picnic in the chapel.

Then Dawnstar was opening a door; golden light flooded into the granular miasma and they hurried into the welcoming warmth. A woman was sitting knitting in a rocking chair by a large wood burning stove which threw out heat to greet them. She looked up smiling.

“I will leave you here with Lark, I hope you find what pleases you, Michael,” and Dawnstar left them.

Lark put her knitting aside; she was wearing a yellow and purple sari with a tartan blanket round her shoulders, similar to what Frost had been wearing.

“We have photos down here. The paintings are displayed upstairs.”

It must have been a stable once, there were stalls and at the far end beyond was an open stone staircase which Michael climbed, he had told Dawnstar he wanted something for his wife. So much for Sean’s suggestion that they were separating.

Deke wandered around and looked at the photos, many similar to those in the café and she remarked on it to Lark. They were by two of the sisters, Lily and Daisy. There were more pictures by a different photographer, scenes from Community life: people dancing, two men weaving, a potter, some women making jewellery, children skipping in a ring around a pond. They too were black and white but they were more appealing, less artificial.

Lark commented that the photographer was a visitor and her tone was reserved. There were more earnest ‘arty’ photos by Lily and Daisy and then another set of smaller pictures all of children by ‘the visitor’. Deke stared at a group of small girls, clambering over rocks by the sea. They had turned towards the camera but the wind had caught their hair so their faces were hidden except for their laughing mouths.

“I like this.” Deke would buy it for Blaine.

Lark unhooked it and took it away to wrap it. Deke stared at a picture of Christine Anemone; she was with other children hauling sacks of potatoes. They were all grimy and hot but every one of the five was laughing, except for Christine who scowled her defiant scowl.

“You poor child,” Deke whispered.

If you want to find out more… here’s a link:

http://amzn.eu/1I7oLix

Went the day well? NaNo day 1

In case you’re wondering, my title, ‘Went the day well?’ was from a 1942 film based on a story by Graham Greene, which was a quote from a poem:

Went the day well?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.

John Maxwell Edmonds.

I’m using it about something far less important or significant, the first day of the 1917 National Novel Writing Month – the online challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November.

This is my fifth year of attempting it, and in the last four attempts I was successful, although with a couple it was a close-run thing, completing the challenge a few minutes before midnight on November 30th!

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!!

I will try to keep you up to date with my progress… and will maybe share more about my idea later today… but definitely tomorrow!!

Here are links to ‘Farholm‘ and ‘Rosa‘:

http://amzn.eu/6YAke3w

http://amzn.eu/0KjhkE4

… and here is a clue about what I’m writing about:

https://loiselden.com/2017/10/10/the-bowman-the-tusked-creature-and-the-three-diamonds/

PS my featured image has nothing to do with what I’m writing, it’s just a picture I like!

On the edge of a pond,

Today I’m going to share an excerpt from the first e-book I published, Farholm. The story takes place over two weeks – Deke goes to Farholm Island where her late husband lived as a boy to try and find out more about the man she married; when he was killed in a road accident she discovered he had secrets which affected her after his death. When she gets to Farholm, she meets Michael who also has a particular reason for staying on the island.

In this excerpt, Michael and Deke have travelled up to an old village up in the hills which has become an alternative community, the members adopting new names and following a seemingly harmless ecological/Mother Natural/Earth religion. Deke and Michael have a terrible row and she storms out of the little studio where they have been looking at paintings and photographs, into a dense fog. As Deke is on crutches because she has a broken ankle, it is possibly not the most sensible thing to do…

Deke hobbled swiftly down the stable, flung open the door and rushed out into the fog, she would go back to the cafe and phone Tom or Barbara Crewe or Sean, anyone to rescue her, to take her back to her cottage and she would pack and run away. She blundered on and she heard Michael somewhere calling her, his voice oddly directionless in the obscurity. She came up against a wall and followed it, passing an unlit window and came to a door. She banged but there was no response, it wasn’t the cafe. Michael was still calling her name and then she heard other voices. Quite close at hand a woman said

“Who is it?”

“It’s me, Deke,” she answered because the voice sounded familiar.

“Where are you?”

Deke stumbled on to where the woman seemed to be. There was grass beneath her feet, she had strayed out of the confines of the village. She was very frightened. Something moved in the fog in front of her and thankfully she hurried towards it only to collide with a startled cow. She turned and tried to go back the way she had come. She had no idea which way she was facing, towards the village or away and into the hidden wilderness.

“Where are you?” said the woman again.

“Here.”

She stumbled on and suddenly her crutch sunk into mud. She was on the edge of a pond, the pond she had seen in the photo of the children. She had staggered into the cow trampled ooze and  slithered and stuck, her crutches pushing down into the smelly slime.

“I’m by the pond,” she called, her voice sharp with panic and fear. Deke looked across the dull grey water and could just make out a clump of reeds.

She was shoved violently and she slipped and fell with a great splash. She floundered and thrashed desperately as a foot pressed down on her back, between her shoulder blades. Then suddenly it was gone and she turned onto her back, hacking and coughing as she tried to sit up. Then the pond seemed full of other people and she was pulled up, hawking and spitting.

“Oh stars and moon! Are you alright?” Lark was wrapping her tartan around Deke  and there was a chorus of concern from the others who had appeared. Michael had pulled her out. Had he pushed her in?

If you want to find out why Deke and Michael were in the village, who pushed her into the pond and tried to drown her, and what happened next, here is a link to Farholm:

When nothing happens

Like many people I’m on Linkedin (which for a quite a while, for no reason, I thought was called Lindlekin ) I rarely use it at all but occasionally I get notifications and today it was from a writing group, and it was a question “When nothing happens – Do you like stories that have ambiguous endings or stories in which not much happens? For example, instead of being plot-driven, a story can be character-driven?”

Now that’s a very good question! I actually don’t like stories where nothing much happens… I’ve written before about my reading habits, and how I think in some ways I am not as good a reader as I used to be – although recently I’ve had string of successful ‘reads’, so maybe I’m improving! I used to be able to wade through anything and persevere to the end… now ‘when nothing happens‘ I tend to give up! A friend in our reading group loves beautifully written books, loves the language of them… but I’m afraid I want some story line, I want some sort of action! I don’t mean that there has to be a punch up on every page or a chase or a romantic development, but I want to feel as if there is some sort of progression.

It’s the same in my writing, I like to have some sort of progression, people change, relationships begin or end, events occur – unexpected, unlooked-for, sometimes unwanted! I guess I like plots! Characters are everything, and setting, but there must be a plot… and endings… satisfactory endings are vital! A satisfactory ending is not necessarily a closed, completed ending, it can be open or ambiguous – but it must conclude the proceedings! I have a very good friend who very kindly tells me honestly what she thinks of my stories, and I always take great heed of her suggestions and advice; on one occasion she commented that an ending (of Flipside) was too brief – everything was wrapped up and concluded too hastily and although the mystery was solved, the characters were left sort of hanging about! So in the next book I worked very hard on the ending – and I’m delighted to say she approved!

Just to briefly look at the endings of my novels…

  • Farholm – the puzzle is solved, the mystery revealed, but for the characters there will continue to be difficulties after the conclusion – grieving will continue, an unhappy relationship struggles on, and another relationship will never even start
  • The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – the stalker is revealed, but  a new relationship based on a rather precarious foundation begins on almost the last page
  • Loving Judah – a resolved ending, but I hope I have pointed the reader towards realising there will be a rocky road ahead for two of the characters
  • The Double Act – a complete conclusion – but when I came to do the final edit, I had to add an extra bit – an epilogue I guess you could call it. The dramatic action had ended in a flourish, but the reader needed a come-down, so I added a final piece when the two main characters are visited by the investigating police officer some months later; readers can imagine an optimistic onward journey, I hope
  • night vision – all the secrets are revealed, and the main character is overwhelmed with happiness and relief, but I hope the reader will see that in actual fact, her optimism might be misguided
  • Lucky Portbraddon – for some of the Portbraddon family, their lives seem settled and hopeful at the end of the book; for others there are unresolved issues, but I hope it is a satisfactory ending since the characters all seem in a position to deal with an unsettled future
  • The Radwinter stories – the first novel, Radwinter, was supposed to be a stand-alone story with a complete conclusion and a short epilogue to pull everything together; it could have remained like that but I realised only half the story was told, and so a sequel appeared… and then it seemed somehow a series emerged. I hope each one is also stand-alone, and I try to tie up the different narrative strands satisfactorily

So to answer the original question – I don’t like books where nothing happens, I don’t mind an ambiguous ending, but it must be a satisfactory ending!

Here is a link to my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden