Frightened, not by what had happened… but at what might have…

Here is an except from my book Night Vision. Neil and Beulah are living temporarily with his cousin Austin who has driven them into town to meet friends for dinner:

Austin was driving and dropped them in the car park at the back of the small plaza where the restaurant was.
“Have a great evening,” he said, eyeing Beulah in a way she’d never noticed him do before.
Was her dress too short, her heels too high?  She’d lost weight with all the visits to the gym and she’d put her hair up. She adjusted Neil’s bow tie and he pulled her to him and gently kissed her.
“Watch my lipstick,” she said with a giggle.
“Hey mister!”
Beulah gave a start and jumped away from Neil. Watching them from the municipal shrubs edging the car park was a filthy man; his hair was long and matted and he seemed to be dressed in rags.
“Got the price of a cuppa?” he growled.
“Give him something, Neil,” Beulah murmured.
The man was crouched like a feral creature, wild-eyed and threatening. Neil handed him some coins and took Beulah’s arm to move away.
Two more men stood between them and the passage through to the plaza.
“Got any change, brother,” said one of them, skeletally thin and with a dirty pony tail hanging over one shoulder.
“Sorry, no,” Neil answered aggressively.
“Let’s go, Neil,” Beulah urged quietly.
“Come on, mate,” said the other man, he had a huge fat face which had lost its muscle tone so the flesh hung down like drapes, his skin wan and seamed.
“Sorry, mate, I’ve no more change,” Neil was holding Beulah firmly by the forearm but he would thrust her away from him and rush at the vagrants if need be.
The men crept towards them and Neil moved past with long strong strides, keeping himself between them and Beulah.
“Come on mate, la-di-dah, you can afford it!” one of them called.
“Keep going, don’t look round,” Neil ordered.
“I’ll be turned into a pillar of salt if I do,” Beulah muttered, clinging to him as she tottered along on her high heels.
She wanted to run, suddenly vulnerable, as if her clothes were too thin, too tight, too short to offer any protection. They entered the passageway and Neil glanced back and slowed. “It’s OK, they’re walking off towards the shops over there.”
“God, Neilly, that was scary,” she was shaking.  “I know they’re pathetic but they look so manic, you can imagine they’d be madly strong,” she shivered.
“Thanks, I’ll remember that next time it looks as if I’m going to be mugged.”
“Or they might have a knife or an axe or something,” Beulah said, frightening herself now.
“Yeah, keep on, scare the pants off me why don’t you,” and Neil laughed weakly. “Oh, Jesus no.”
Coming towards them was another tramp, stocky and roughly bearded. He was wearing a shabby coat, faded jeans and a cap on the back of his head. He stared at Neil wide-eyed as they approached.
“Keep walking, Bee,” Neil muttered. “Don’t look at him. I’ll give him some cash or a bunch of fives.”
Beulah was very frightened. The man’s eyes were piercing, staring unblinking at Neil.
“Keep walking.”
As they got near, the vagrant took a step backwards and opened his mouth as if to speak then thrust his hand out as if he wanted to shake Neil’s.
“Don’t walk by me, brother,” the tramp begged in a low trembling voice.
“Give him some money,” Beulah whispered but her voice hardly emerged from her quivering lips.
Neil pushed past the man, determined not to give into the unspoken threat but the tramp grabbed his arm, yanking him back.
“Don’t walk by me!” he said again.
Neil spun round and swung his fist at him, and the man staggered back, his face screwed up with anger. Beulah screamed and Neil shouted to her to run.
She didn’t want to leave him – she should get help, but running towards them were two more men, one had a wide black moustache, a bandana and sunglasses, the other had a beard almost to his waist and a cap pulled down over his eyes.
Terrified Beulah turned back to Neil as the tramp’s fist connected with his face. The other two men rushed up and grabbed the tramp and dragged him away towards the car park.
“Bloody maniac!” Neil yelled. “Fucking bloody hell!” He held a handkerchief to his mouth but blood had splashed down his shirt.
They hurried out of the alley, both really frightened, not so much at what had happened but at what might have.

Does this intrigue you? Who was the tramp? Who were the men who rescued Beulah and Neil? Here is a link to my book:

http://amzn.eu/0Nv9Cjy

Trapped!

It’s interesting (to me at least!) to remember where inspiration for a story came from – sometimes it’s quite a small thing… like getting into a lift and wondering as it sets off with a shudder whether it might break down and you might be trapped. This thought occasionally occurred when I was working on an upper floor of a tall building, and there was always the next thought – well at least I wouldn’t have to go back to work!

I imagined being in a lift, maybe with a stranger, in the building late at night and it getting stuck, and the maintenance staff not responding to the emergency bell…

She stepped into the lift and it was empty apart from a large fat man standing by the control panel. They smiled politely at each other and, noticing that he’d already pressed for the ground floor Beulah said nothing but leaned against the opposite wall and looked at the floor. She was tired; it had taken longer than usual to clear and tidy her room, put away papers and books, lock cupboards and switch off computers. Her students had completed a piece of work which she’d quickly marked before leaving.

The floor was empty as she left the department. The college was silent, deserted and she thought about going home to the empty house as she waited for the lift. Neil was away with the boys on a rugby tour. She wondered whether to drop in on some friends or go for a glass of wine somewhere, but probably she’d go straight home.

The lift had come at last, humming its way down the shaft, the only sound in the empty building. She got in and stood opposite the dark-haired man standing with his case. The doors hissed shut and the lift began to descend and then there was a lurch, a shudder, a peculiar whining noise and it stopped.

Beulah and the man remained silent, both staring at the floor indicator, illuminated in red then the number 4 winked and went off. The lift trembled and seemed to sigh.

“Is it stuck?” Beulah asked.

“I hope not,” the man gazed hopefully at the blank floor display then pressed the button for the ground floor but the lights on the control panel had died. “Oh, gee, I think it is,” and he pressed the door open button, nothing happened. “Yup, I think it’s stopped.”

Beulah said nothing, stood wondering what to do. He pressed the emergency button but there was no sound of a distant alarm or bell, in fact, there was no sound of anything.

 “Are you going to scream?” he asked.

“No, do you think I should?” she replied and he smiled as if she’d said something amusing.

“This is bloody ridiculous,” he said. “I know I’m laughing but this is bloody ridiculous.”

There was no signal on their phones. He tried to prise the doors open but they remained stubbornly shut; he banged on the door again and again, then bellowed so the noise rang off the metal walls.

“Perhaps you should shout louder,” Beulah joked, her hands over her ears.

 “This really is fucking stupid, excuse my language,” he pressed the buttons at random but the control panel was dead.

“Listen,” said Beulah and they stood without moving. “Nothing, absolutely nothing. I think everyone’s gone home.”

“Blood and hell fire, that can’t be true! What the hell are we going to do?” he banged the doors and shouted again.

Beulah found a screwdriver in her case but they still couldn’t prise the doors apart.

“This is mad,” he said. Was he getting angry? It was difficult to tell. Neil got angry and went white, the rims of his eyes reddening as if he was going to cry.

Beulah’s mind seemed to have gone blank she was passive and uninspired, she could think of nothing to do or say.

“You seem very calm,” the man said.

 “Well, so do you, actually,” she replied, thinking of Neil. He’d have been cursing and yelling by now.

“And people say I’m temperamental… Volatile, someone called me,” he was staring at the floor indicator again as if willing it to display and thumped the control panel violently. “Oh, fucking hell!”

There was silence and it dawned on Beulah that they could be trapped like this until the morning.

“Oh, shit,” she said, her composure cracking. “We’re going to be stuck here all night aren’t we?”

He smiled, trying to reassure her. “Are you going to scream yet?”

She smiled back and shook her head; with a sigh she sank to her heels and squatted, against the wall.

He took his phone out again and looked at it then lowered his bulk to sit opposite her.

“My name’s Rafi,” he said.

“Hi, Rafi, I’m Beulah.”

© Lois Elsden 2017

This is an extract from my novel ‘Night Vision‘… in case you think that Beulah and Rafi have an affair, well, they don’t!

If you want to find out what does happen to them, here’s a link to Night Vision:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1513867365&sr=1-11&keywords=lois+elsden

 

A dangerous place

Imagine being afraid of the dark, so afraid that you’re reduced to a weeping mess if the lights go out. This is the terrible fear that a character in ‘night vision‘ has. Rafi Zamora is described in a review of his Manchester restaurant as ‘a larger than life character’ – a cliché but true. However he has a terrible weakness, he suffers from acute nyctophobia, a morbid and acute fear of the dark.

In the episode I am sharing below, Rafi has gone with his friend Beulah in search of Marcus, her father-in-law, a frail and elderly man who has dementia and has escaped from his care home in the middle of a dreadful storm. The old man has gone back to where his own grandparents lived seventy years before, a deserted and tumbledown water-mill high up on the moors. Marcus has managed to get up into the grain store, and Rafi and Beulah must follow to rescue him from the dangerous old building.

The only place was up, up to the grain store; there was a rickety wooden ladder which had been dangerous the dozen years ago when Beulah had last been. She remembered the loft dimly full of hanging rusty chains and trapdoors and pulleys, a dangerous place, but she grasped the splintery rails and put her foot on the bottom rung.
“I have to come with you,” Rafi said in a low voice.
“I’ll never forget this.”
“You think I will?”
“I mean I’ll never forget you doing this for me,” and she began to climb cautiously.
Some of the steps were missing and Rafi swore as his foot went through the rotten wood. Beulah crawled out onto the floor, on all fours, Rafi squeezing through the trap behind her.
There were tiles missing above and rain showering down but in the corner sitting serenely eating an apple in his sodden pyjamas was Marcus. He looked better than she’d seen him for a long time, almost strong.
“Mum?” he said.
“Come on Dad, let’s get you home.” Beulah crawled over to him, uncertain how safe the floor was.
“Amen to that,” Rafi added fervently.
“Please leave, I’m perfectly alright,” the old man said firmly. He didn’t know her.
“Come on Dad, you’re wet and cold, we have to get you home,” Beulah cajoled,trying to take his hand.
“Please leave me, I wish to stay here,” he took another bite of apple.
“Come on, old man, we’ve got to go,” Rafi spoke roughly.
Beulah put her arm beneath the old man’s and he shoved her violently; she tumbled backwards and there was a crash and the sudden rushing sound of chains shrieking rustily against each other as they ran and the floor went from beneath her shoulders.
Beulah screamed but strong hands held her, Rafi had pounced as she fell backwards, her head dropping into empty space. He hauled her up and wrapped his arms round her, holding her so safe, so secure, his heart racing as fast as hers. The torch had gone and there was noise all around them, the storm taking on a new furore, unseen things falling and crashing.
“Let’s go,” Rafi said, “let’s get out of this hell.”
It was completely dark now, the white of the old man’s pyjamas showed faintly where he was.
“You sit by the trapdoor and I’ll get him, then I’ll go down the ladder first and you can push him after me,” Rafi was suddenly authoritative.
“You’re never going to forgive me for this, are you?” Beulah said meekly.
“Nothing to forgive, mi vida. Now be careful you don’t fall down that hole again.”
“It’s where the grain used to go down into the hopper,” Beulah’s voice trembled as she shuffled across the wooden floor, feeling her way to the trap.
Rafi patiently coaxed the old man, Marcus resisting and Rafi yelped as if he’d been hit.
“Alright, Dad, alright!” Marcus shouted and lunged at Beulah, surprisingly strongly. Desperate not to fall, nor let him fall, she clung onto his soaked pyjamas, his bony old body vigorous beneath the cloth.
“Let it go!” Marcus shouted and grabbed the top of the ladder.
They wrestled him away from the trap and then there was a screeching splintering noise and the ladder disappeared. Marcus scuttled back to his corner and Rafi and Beulah were left on hands and knees staring into the darkness below.
She suggested jumping down but he pulled her away from the gaping hole and held her tightly.
“No you will not!” Rafi exclaimed. “Oh, fuck it, we’re stuck here now. Oh, fuck fuck fuck!”
She apologised dispiritedly. “How do we get in these situations? I’ll ring Austin, he’ll come and rescue us.”
She fumbled in her pockets but her phone had gone, tumbled out in the tussle with Marcus.  Rafi patted his way through his coat till he found his, but had no signal.
Beulah tried to be calm and in control but she was shaking though cold or fear or sheer terror.
“The old fellow is going to die of hypothermia, I’ll put my coat round him,” said Rafi.
No wonder I love you, Beulah thought. Marcus is a mad old stranger to you, he’s nearly killed us both and yet…
Marcus was quiet now and very cold, the manic strength gone. Beulah pulled her damp jacket, and jumper onto him; he was limp and compliant and thanked her in a weak voice. She tried to tell him who she was but he didn’t know her.
Rafi pressed a soft woollen scarf into her hands for him and took off his socks for the old man. “After all we’ve been through I want him to survive.”
He found some old sacks or cloth of some sort which they wrapped round Marcus and laid him against the wall then, wrapped in Rafi’s coat, they lay beside him.

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here is a link to the book so you can find out what led up to this incident, and how it is resolved!

The hanging man

Here is an excerpt from my novel, Night Vision, which I published as an e-book in  2013; this is how the blurb describes it: “Beulah and Neil Cameron return to his childhood home of Easthope to try and repair their damaged marriage. Neil is profoundly and wrongly jealous of Beulah’s best friend; however Beulah discovers that Neil has his own secrets which may damage their marriage more permanently. The disappearance of his fifteen year-old brother Patrick thirty years ago, casts a long shadow, and despite Neil’s opposition, Beulah is determined to find out what happened to him.”

In this except from near the beginning, Neil and Beulah have had a terrible row and she is wandering alone in Camel Wood:

She wandered on, climbing slightly and hit a track and followed it until it disappeared and she was wandering aimlessly once more. The trees were in full leaf, but a sombre and dreary green in the grey afternoon light. There was no wind and fancifully it seemed to Beulah that she was watched. She had no notion of time, and didn’t care.

There were rocky outcrops now as she walked into an ancient and long abandoned quarry, and it was here she saw the tree, the tree she was moved to climb. It had branches at just the right inviting height and she smiled to herself as she reached to catch hold and pull herself up.

She had a rush of excitement, a sort of thrill she hadn’t had for so long that it seemed it was when she was young. But I’m not old! her inner child cried, forty-seven, that’s old, her real self replied.

It was a wonderful tree to climb and soon she was eight foot off the ground and she stopped and smiled and wondered when she’d last done that. She could see the rocky walls of the quarry more clearly, covered with ivy and unfurling ferns and long trails of some sort of vine.

Beulah began to climb again, not looking up, enjoying the feel of the bark, the smell of the leaves. Sun shafted through the branches, the weather clearing at last and she glanced over at the cliff and then back again in disbelief.

There was a sculpture of a hanging man suspended on the rock in an impossible place. It was carved out of wood but she couldn’t quite see it because a branch hung down. It was difficult to climb higher but she had to get a better look at the figure on the rocks.

Beulah reached for the next bough and had to stretch for it, a broken off stump protruding awkwardly. She still couldn’t see the carving and lacing her fingers together, pulled herself up awkwardly, bumping her breast and grazing her face. The discomfort made her feel alive and she smiled as she wedged her foot on the broken stump and pulled herself onto the next branch, swung her legs over and sat peering at the figure.

It was not a carving at all; it was a stunted trunk of a tree growing out of the side of the quarry, she could see that now, but its natural provenance made it even more remarkable. It still looked exactly like a hanging man, the rounded chest straining above the concave belly; a swelling of some canker round the hips suggested he was swathed in cloth, or wearing britches, or as if he had a satyr’s fleecy legs or was Pan himself.

A grooved channel running down the lower part of the twisted trunk marked his legs pressed together and then a splay of aerial roots gave the impression of cords binding the ankles and hiding the feet or cloven hooves.

Above the swelling chest, the head lolled forward, the top of the tree pollarded or deformed by some growth.  The face was hidden but the sun highlighted a bent nose, parted lips and the line of the brow; gnarled protuberances, lumpy and knotted looked like curls of shaggy hair. On either side, twisting branches, like bent arms, came together as if the wrists had been bound, and tangled vines of ivy hid the hands.

It was the most amazing thing and Beulah stared at it, mesmerised. It was strangely moving, a primitive god unexpectedly revealed, sacrificed for some dark magical mystical reason. She looked down; she was nearly thirty foot above the ground. From below the hanging man would look like a twisted and deformed tree, growing out of the rock face. Only from here was the mystery revealed.

© Lois Elsden 2017

More thoughts about pathetic fallacy

I was probably studying Thomas hardy when I first came across the notion of pathetic fallacy; when I was teaching French literature to A-level students, the head of department who taught the language side, asked me what on earth it was because the students were forever going on about it! It’s a literary device where the weather (or sometimes the landscape) reflect the mood, actions, inner thoughts, situation of the characters in the narrative. There are some wonderful and famous examples…

Macbeth

“The night has been unruly. Where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i’ th’ air, strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of dire combustion and confused events
New hatched to the woeful time. The obscure bird
Clamored the livelong night. Some say the Earth
Was feverous and did shake.”

Shakespeare


Frankenstein

The clouds swept across [the moon] swifter than the flight of the vulture and dimmed her rays, while the lake reflected the scene of the busy heavens, rendered still busier by the restless waves…
The storm appeared to approach rapidly… the heavens were clouded, and I soon felt the rain coming slowly in large drops, but its violence quickly increased… the darkness and storm increased every minute, and the thunder burst with a terrific crash over my head. …vivid flashes of lightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake, making it appear like a vast sheet of fire; then for an instant everything seemed of a pitchy darkness…
This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits… I perceived in the gloom a figure… A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon…

Mary Shelley 1818

Wuthering Heights

There was no sound through the house but the moaning wind, which shook the windows every now and then On the morrow one could hardly imagine that there had been three weeks of summer: the primroses and crocuses were hidden under wintry drifts; the larks were silent, the young leaves of the early trees smitten and blackened.
About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building: a huge bough fell across the roof, and knocked down a portion of the east chimney-stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen-fire. We thought a bolt had fallen in the middle of us.

Emily Bronte 1847

Bleak House

Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers… Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city … people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

1853

Great Expectations

Day after day, a vast heavy veil had been driving over London from the East, and it drove still, as if in the East there were an Eternity of cloud and wind. So furious had been the gusts, that high buildings in town had had the lead stripped off their roofs; and in the country, trees had been torn up, and sails of windmills carried away; and gloomy accounts had come in from the coast, of shipwreck and death. Violent blasts of rain had accompanied these rages of wind, and the day just closed as I sat down to read had been the worst of all.”

Charles Dickens 1861

 The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles [jewels]; and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in through the great arteries with a sound as of a mighty wind. But the room was gay with firelight.  It was by this time about nine in the morning, and the first fog of the season.
A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven, but the wind was continually charging and routing these embattled vapours; so that as the cab crawled from street to street, Mr. Utterson beheld a marvellous number of degrees and hues of twilight; for here it would be dark like the back-end of evening; and there would be a glow of a rich, lurid brown, like the light of some strange conflagration; and here, for a moment, the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths… like a district of some city in a nightmare. The thoughts of his mind, besides, were of the gloomiest dye

Robert Louis Stevenson 1886

I’m not for one moment comparing myself to these masters, but like most writers, I do use pathetic fallacy; I guess the best example is from my novel Night Vision; The main character Beualh is struggling to persuade her unreasonably jealous husband, that his belief that she has been unfaithful is totally groundless, she is completely innocent. They arrange to go out for a romantic meal, but on the way home from work he diverts to the rugby club and ‘accidentally’ gets drunk. When she comes to find him, a humiliating scene ensues, and she rushes out and jumps into her car and drives away:

Beulah drove at random, tears streaming down her face as the rain streamed down the windscreen. An oncoming vehicle flashed its lights aggressively and Beulah went to lower hers only to realise that she hadn’t even turned them on. She pulled over to the side of the road and wept, embarrassed, mortified, humiliated.
How could you, Neil, how could you? She wanted to run away, but where to? Her friends were all in Manchester… thank God the boys were thousands of miles away. She wouldn’t go back to the flat, Austin and Annie might see her arrive alone and wonder what was wrong, come to be kind…. She couldn’t face them.
She wiped her face, smearing her carefully applied make-up. She couldn’t help but think of her excitement and anticipation, her optimism and hope. It was an insult, an affront. Bad enough for anyone to do something like that, but for her own husband to make a mockery of her love for him… She was sobbing now, utterly miserable, the future absolutely black, no hope of ever regaining the relationship she’d had with Neil.
How could she ever trust him again? Their problems all came from him. When his jealousy exploded in his attack on Rafi she could honestly say that she was innocent. She blew her nose and got out of the car and walked up and down in the teeming rain. Her feet were wet in her slender strapped sandals, the soles so thin the water pooling on the pavement ran between her toes.
Back in the car, cold, very wet and more controlled but no calmer, she looked at her phone. Nothing from Neil. Should she ring him but what could she possibly say? Even if he’d been sober enough to understand what she meant, what could she say?
Beulah was shivering, as much with emotional trauma as with cold. She needed time to think… or not to think. She drove out of Easthope and through Strand, she didn’t want Neil finding her, even if he came looking. Her phone was on the seat beside her, its silence telling her that he didn’t care.
She pulled into a lay-by as a fresh wave of emotion and despair engulfed her…. but she couldn’t sit snivelling and sorry for herself, alone and lonely; she walked around again, the rain coming down even more heavily. She set off again, crawling along, the rain lashing down so heavily her wipers couldn’t clear the screen. Even with her lights full on she could hardly see where she was going until there was an illuminating blaze of lightning arcing above showing the flooded road, water running like a river. There was a sign to Westope and she drove down to the boatyard and parked against the fence.
The storm unleashed its torrential worst. She had some gloomy satisfaction in the sound of the roaring wind which buffeted the car, screaming and whistling through the boats’ rigging. Deafening thunder cracked and rolled above her and the sheets of viridian lightning matched her despair. She tried to remember Lear’s rage, tried to recall his anguished words, to block out her own thoughts.
The night was full of strange and deafening noises, crashes and bangs as invisible things were tossed about in the boat yard. She should have been frightened but she was beyond fear. She had no idea of the time, didn’t care, it didn’t matter.
She slept.

© Lois Elsden 2017

If you want to find out what led up to this, and to what happened next, here is a link to my boo, Night Vision:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1500384431&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

 

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

Promoting my stuff

If you’re just an ordinary person, bragging about yourself is totally alien… If you’re an ordinary British person, it’s even more so. We’re not good at receiving compliments, modesty and self-deprecation are qualities ingrained, so now for me, when I want to reach an audience for my books, it’s tricky to balance overcome my natural unwillingness to blow my own trumpet. I guess that’s where agents come in, agents can promote work, and get it out there in an expert way. However, I don’t have an agent, and in a funny sort of way, now I have been self-publishing and self-promoting for five years, I sort of like it – every success is down to me! Oops, am I blowing my own trumpet?

Why do I want people to read my stories? Why do musicians want an audience? Why do artists want the world to see their work? Why do actors get up on a stage rather than prancing around in front of a mirror? For me, being a story-teller is natural, it’s what I am, in my every day life I’m for ever going on about something or another, something that happened to me, something I saw/did/heard/learnt/took part in. When I was a professional teacher, the kids would always say ‘oh no, not another story’, when I launched into something – I think (hope) they actually liked my ramblings… I did it almost without thought, my mind leaping from the subject in hand to something which happened to me or a friend or a cousin, or something I just randomly made up to entertain.

An example of the ‘made-up’ stories I told my students, apart from ‘the ghost of the fourth floor’ which became a college legend, was about my teaching assistant, Sally. I can’t even now remember how I got onto talking about what we had done in our lives apart from working in schools, when I went into a lengthy description of Sally’s past life growing up in a circus, being a trapeze artist with spangly tights and revealing costume, how in her free time she was exceedingly modest ad wore long dresses, and her future husband fell in love with her when she was looking after the coconut shy and he caught a glimpse of her ankle as she bent down to pick up a fallen coconut…

So back to my trumpet blowing… Yes, I want people to read my stories! yes I actually think they are not too bad – self-deprecation alert – they are quite good! So… if you haven’t read any yet – here is a really brief fanfare for each:

  • Radwinter – Thomas finds out more about himself and his own family than about his ancestors… who actually had quite a dramatic time, fleeing 1830’s war-torn Warsaw and jumping ship in Harwich
  • Magick (Radwinter 2) – the rather terrifying father of Thomas’s step-son comes in search of ‘his boy’
  • Raddy and Syl (Radwinter 3) – mysterious Moroccans preying on an old woman, a disappeared woman who may not have even existed, and shocking truths about his own family – Thomas has quite a difficult series of event to deal with
  • Beyond Hope (Radwinter 4) – Thomas meets a dangerous psychopath, and somehow gets involved in people smuggling
  • Earthquake -(Radwinter 5) – a haunted hotel, an eighty year old mystery which brings danger to the present… Thomas is really under pressure
  • Farholm – who  killed young girls on the island of Farholm? Is he still on the loose, or was a recently widowed woman’s dead husband responsible?
  • The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – who stalked Rosa to her death… and has s/he moved on to a new victim?
  • Loving Judah – can Aislin and her husband Peter ever get over the death of his son Judah?
  • night vision – a thirty year old murder is discovered
  • Flipside – is a war damaged veteran responsible for a series of dreadful murders… or is he a victim pf more than his war service?
  • The Double Act – Don’t think this novel is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love
  • Lucky Portbraddon – perhaps the Portbraddons are not so lucky, murder, drugs, madness, modern slavery… but also unexpected love

Are you tempted? They are all available as e-readers, Radwinter is also available as a paperback

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alois+elsden&keywords=lois+elsden&ie=UTF8&qid=1499501921