Blurb

I’m getting ready to publish my next e-book, Earthquake; I’ve got another couple of re-reads, plus some last-minute spell-checking… then maybe within a couple of weeks it will be out there! in the world!

one important thing which has to happen is to write a blurb, so when people see it on Amazon they get an idea of what might be in store. It’s difficult to make it intriguing enough without giving too much away.

This is my first draft blurb:

Thomas Radwinter’s life seems settled and content as he juggles working as a free-lance solicitor, genealogist and house husband. However a new arrival in the family puts extra pressure on him as he has to balance looking after them and earning some money. A commission from an elderly gentleman to investigate a mysterious death at a little boarding school in 1931 seems intriguing and harmless; a haunted hotel he’s asked to visit seems just to be over-imaginative guests and maybe a less than honest manager. However, during his investigations he has to confront a violent verger, an unbalanced conchologist and a very strange friend from the past…

Thomas takes on his commissions, little  realising when he begins his investigation that he will be putting his life and that of a friend in serious danger… “I tried to work out what was going on, and what to do, and what might happen to us – trying my hardest to keep my thoughts well away from a terminal conclusion to events… “

Exciting news! Nearly there!

It’s getting to those last few days, weeks of editing, sorting, checking, working on Earthquake, my next Thomas Radwinter story. I’m not completely sure the ending is quite right, those last few paragraphs and sentences are crucial, and it seems a bit flabby somehow… so I’m getting the feeling  I’ll need to think a bit more on how to actually write those last few words.

I’ve come across silly little errors, ‘gate’ instead of ‘gait’, those sort of things as well as words missed out or repeated… just typos really. There are other things I have had to change too. Because this is the fifth novel about Thomas Radwinter, there is a balance between making sure new readers understand the history to the family situation, and why Thomas is as he is, but not boring people who have followed his story from the beginning.  I also have to make sure I don’t give too much away to new readers about previous novels so it won’t spoil the excitement for them when they go back and read them – which I hope they do!

Right from the first book, the plots have been a mixture of Thomas’s personal life, genealogical mysteries, and other story-lines – and that too is a balance. Because I’m writing in the first person as Thomas, in the first drafts there is a lot of detail about his personal and family life, which actually is quite tedious. I need to write it so I have it clear in my head what is going on – but then it needs to be excised and the waffle slashed out, and just the outline of it. Having said that, there is a personal crisis in this story, so there needs to be a proper context for it – a tricky balance!

This may be the last Thomas book, but if it isn’t, I really think his home and family life needs to recede into the background a little – otherwise it will be more of a family saga than a mystery!

If you haven’t yet read any of my Radwinter books, or my other books, here is a link:

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

 

Covering it

It’s so nearly got to the time I can be thinking about a publication date for my next book, Earthquake, that it is about now that I should begin to seriously think about a cover for it… I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that although an earthquake does feature in my new Thomas Radwinter novel, it is as much about a metaphorical earthquake as a real one.

I did once experience an earthquake – a very minor one; I was teaching in Oldham, head of department and I had a student teacher. He was a very nice lad but really he was not that good – I can’t remember why now. I took him to my office to review his lessons and he was sitting rather dispiritedly as I – as gently as I could, went through what had gone wrong. Suddenly there was a most curious sensation, as if I was on a giant jelly and being wobbled. It was an earthquake!! Good grief! as Thomas Radwinter would say.

So trying to think of an image for the cover of my book, I’m wondering about fallen masonry, tumbled bricks and blocks, maybe in a faded sort of colour, with perhaps another picture on top. This other picture would have a relevance once the book has been read – I hope.

Even when I have the images I have to think of the font, and then whether to add anything else apart from title and author…

I’ll keep you up to date!

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read any of my Thomas Radwinter novels, or any of my other e-books, here is a link:

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

 

Just, actually…

I’m working on my mainly finished story, the next Radwinter e-novel to be published, doing what I suppose you could call housework, or housekeeping. I’m not changing the structure or reconfiguring the chapters/rooms, but I am dusting the window ledges/sentences and shelves/paragraphs, and hoovering the carpets/ eliminating repetitions.

When I write, I seem to have favourite words which I keep using over and over again – once it was ‘utter’ and ‘utterly’, another time it was ‘wow’, another time people kept sighing… this time, so far it’s the little words, ‘just’ and ‘actually’.

This is where spellchecks are so useful – imagine what it was like for Charles Dickens, or Tolstoy! I  used  search to find every time I used ‘just’… in fact it also called up ‘justified’, ‘justification’, ‘adjust’ and ‘Justyna’. I did keep quite a few ‘justs’, and some I changed to ‘only’ or ‘nearly’ or another word, but over three hundred (yes 300) were eliminated altogether. Although not nearly as tiring as reading the whole thing to find those repeats, it is still time-consuming and wearying – each one has to be weighed and considered before being kept, altered or cut.

I am now going on to ‘actually’…

My Radwinter stories are written as a first person narrative, and Thomas who recounts them does have a particular style of speaking as we all do; I want the reader to ‘hear’ his voice and get a sense of his character, but I don’t want the reader to be come fed-up with him because he does go on at such lengths about things. It is a very difficult balance…

back to actually…

Here is a link to where you can find my novels if you haven’t already read them!

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

By the way, the featured photo is of a knitted balaclava with earflaps

The mumbling has stopped!

I am in the process of editing my next novel, called Earthquake; I just have a summing up sort of chapter to do, the cover, all the bits and pieces, and then I will send it to my proof-reader (my husband) then edit it myself again… and then… and then it might be ready, ready to swim out into the world!

It’s difficult to be objective about something you’ve been writing for so long, and thinking about it, and dreaming about it for even longer! I have different ways of checking and rechecking – and with this book in particular it is really complex, an abandoned child, a ghost story, and maybe a murder with twelve suspects (yes twelve, I must be mad!) I have finished the main body of the novel – just the last chapter when all is explained and all the loose ends tied up.

I have read it through once, and then I have read it through again – out loud! Yes, I sit here in my work room and read the whole story out loud, not murmuring but aloud as if I was reading to an audience. It is a really good way to spot errors and inconsistencies, boring and waffly bits, nonsense bits, and just plain silly or pretentious bits. This story is told in the first person so it is also a good way of making sure the ‘voice’ is consistent too.

My husband is working downstairs, and all he can here is a mumble from me up here. Well, the mumbling has stopped! Now back to work  correcting all the things I noted were wrong as I was reading. Simple spellings or errors I correct as I go, but where there are major mistakes, I just jot them down and come back to them so as not to break the flow.

Mumbling over, now back to work!

The shepherd boy’s grave

I wrote this for my writing group; I had set them the task of looking at the endings of a variety of novels, poems, stories etc, and then using the ending as an inspiration to work towards – not to end with the particular situation or lines, but just as a stimulus… I thought since I had set them such a tricky task, I ought to have a go. I had the last stanza of a poem by Martín Espada, ‘Ezequiel’, and here is what i wrote:

“Oh look, look at this!”
Russell walked on a few paces and then stopped with exaggerated weariness and turned and plodded back to her. Why was he being like this? What was wrong? When she’d asked, he’d said in an offhand way ‘nothing, why should there be?’ … which meant something was wrong.
She was looking at a small limestone block with a grey metal plate attached.
In loving memory of Ezekiel, our son, cruelly torn from our embrace; “I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance” Lev 26:23
“Who was he?” she asked.
“Some kid, mucking about with his mates…” Russell stared at it and his face, which had once been so easy to read, every expression familiar and understood, was closed, his thoughts private and far away.
“Did you know him?” Ronnie asked trying to make conversation… her words felt dry and forced on her tongue, words which used to come so easily and flow without thought.
“Not particularly…” and he turned and continued his tramp up the hill.
How can you not particularly know someone? It was so hot on this bare hillside, she wanted to sit down and admire the view or sit down and talk, talk about things… But she roused herself to follow him, with a big sigh and a sense of foreboding.  This was, if not the end, the beginning of the end…
“Hello, there! Wonderful day, isn’t it!”
She turned back and a man with a walking pole was climbing steadily towards her up the slope.
“Perfect,” she answered, not sure whether to slow to converse, or hurry on to catch up with Russell.
“I see you were looking at Zeek’s place,” he said coming up to her. Before she could make any comment he went on, “Is that Russ walking on ahead? Russell Broome?”
“Yes…”
“I’m John, Russ and I were at school together, way back in prehistoric times.”
He glanced up the path and lifted his pole in salute; Russell, further up the dusty, chalky trail was looking down at them. He didn’t wave back but turned and continued to tramp up the track, quickly as if he was in a hurry.
How awkward.
“I was looking at this… this memorial but actually I was pausing to catch my breath.” Ronnie hoped the man, John would continue his walk but he stood, looking down at the memorial.
“Zeek was helping his dad with the sheep, he came up here and it’s thought he met rustlers, he was shot and the sheep were taken.”
Ronnie looked around; she’d heard the sound of sheep but there was no sign of any.
“How old was he?”
“Seventeen.”
How tragic… a seventeen year-old shot and killed on this peaceful hillside. She asked the man if he’d known the boy, yes, her replied, they’d been at school together.
She wanted to say – the three of them, Russell, this John and Zeek, they’d been friends… but she didn’t and after a moment of silence, he said cheerio and began to follow the path.
“Oh, another thing, if you’re interested in history – it was in all the papers at the time when Zeek died here, that this was already known as the shepherd boy’s grave – some lad way back in ancient history was killed here too… people used to leave flowers…”
“How interesting,” and she was annoyed at repeating his word.
“There used to be a white wooden cross here, just a small one, I’m never sure whether I actually remember it or just think I do! Cheerio!” and he turned and continued his walk.
She was hot and fed up, Russell had disappeared completely behind a rocky outcrop and she sat down on a big stone, more of a boulder with a smooth indentation as if many people had sat here over the years.
In the sheltered side of the stone was a burst of yellow and she’d thought it might be some rubbish, a plastic bag perhaps, but it was a clump of yellow flowers with black centres… black-eyed Susans maybe? But up here on this hillside?
She stood up and looked up the pathway. She could see Russell half a mile ahead now, stumping along, head down, not admiring the view or looking where he was going. The other man, John was not far behind and she watched as he caught up with Russell and passed him.
There may have been an exchange of words, she couldn’t tell, the man had slowed but didn’t stop, and soon was striding away. Russel walked a few more paces then turned and looked round, presumably to check where she was. He was looking back along the path, then glanced down the hill and saw her.
She waved. He flailed his arms to beckon her, come on, hurry up, what the hell are you doing down there, he was clearly saying.
“Hello! Stopped for breath?” this time it was a friendly couple of middle-aged ladies, in khaki shorts, big boots, and woolly socks. “Shepherd boy’s grave!”
Ronnie took a deep breath and walked on with them, their friendly, hearty chat, raising her spirits.

Ezequiel, you are buried in the valley of dry bone,
There is thirst in the wood of your white cross
Heat in the tyre planted with sunflowers by your grave,
Prophecy in the bones. When your voice booms
Over the desert, all the bones will rise knocking,
Skulls snapping hard onto spines, sinews roping around shoulders,
Flesh swelling like bread on sinew, and the four winds
Gusting breath into the lungs of the dead. Ezequiel,
You will walk again with your grandfather of the .22 rifle.
You will walk again with your goats.

 

Although this was supposed to be a contained short story, as I wrote it other ideas came into my mind, and it maybe that it will become part of something much longer – not necessarily the beginning, although I think I want to start with the memorial on the hillside. It isn’t a mistake that there are two different stories about Zeek – one that he was mucking about with friends, the other that he was shot by sheep rustlers… and the mystery of why, if Russell had known him, did he bring Ronnie up the hill past the memorial… hmmm, lots of thoughts for me!

 

Foggy

It’s foggy today… well, being by the sea we might talk about a sea-fret or haar but I’m not sure technically that is what we have here now… I can’t find the origins of ‘fret’ used in this way, it seems to have arrived in the nineteenth century, so perhaps is a colloquial word from somewhere… a haar is a very specific east coast winter sea fog… although now I think it is used everywhere by the sea; it is of Dutch/Germanic origin, so no doubt Dutch and German traders brought it to the east coast of England and now it has spread across to the east coast, so that any cold nasty fog coming off the sea is a haar!

A few synonyms I came across while looking it up: mist, mistiness, fogginess, haar, smog, murk, murkiness, haze, haziness, gloom, gloominess, sea fret, pea-souper, brume, fume and i am sure there are many more, and many, many more dialect words.

Fog is a useful device for writers, and I think I have used it twice.

In the first novel I published, Deke is staying on Farholm Island and she goes exploring; she reaches a village up on the top of the hills and then the fog comes down:

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 someone, anyone to rescue her, to take her back to her cottage and she would pack and run away. The fog was thicker than anything Deke had ever experienced, it was quite frightening, like a disembodied entity pushing up against her face, its cold breath chilling her skin and dewing her hair.
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?”
“Its 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 unexpectedly 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 she 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.
“Which side? Can you see across it?”
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 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.

If you haven’t read my book, Farholm, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1464093893&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

and In The Double Act, Genet hurries out to find Dr Herrick who she desperately wants to speak to:

Genet stood on the back doorstep smelling the early morning and the salty milky air. She had a peculiar urge to walk out into the wetness and she gave into it and stepped barefoot onto the terrace and onto the lawn. The fog was so dense she couldn’t see the top floor of the hotel.

Her feet were cold but it was perversely pleasant and she had an urge to lie down on the wet grass. Her skin was cold and droplets had formed on strands of auburn hair hanging down her forehead. She remembered standing by the sea wall with Dr Herrick, shivering and pressing herself against him.

Footsteps crunched down the drive; he was going to the sea. She hurried back to the house and ran into the bedroom, then ran out of the hotel and had to follow the hedge and the neighbour’s garden walls, the fog was so dense. She walked along the wire fence of the little park and playground and came to the white walls of the coastguard cottages. She crossed over to the sea wall but could see nothing but the grassy banks leading down to the beach. She followed the wall round until she came to the slope down to the little harbour and the fisherman’s huts.

Through the dense fog came voices.

“Hello,” she called. The bait shop was open and a couple of men sat on the step.

“It’s Genet, isn’t it?” It was Heath’s father, his boat somewhere out in the mist.

“Hello, have you seen someone come down here to swim?” she asked breathlessly.

The two men were wearing waterproofs, two old geezers smoking their pipes and talking fish.

“Yes, he comes every morning. He’s over on the other side, he swims off the end of the point and across the bay to Green Rock. Does it every day. Swims like a fish though I told him not to go out today, too dangerous in this fog,” Heath’s father lit his pipe.

“I don’t think he cared, he looked suicidal. If he doesn’t come back I won’t be surprised,” added the other man gloomily. “One of those moody types if you ask me. What is it, manic-depressive is it?” He puffed on his pipe. “First he used to come down he hardly said a word, nodded and that was it. Then we’ve had a sunny couple of months, him whistling as he walked and chatty as anything. Now the last few weeks his face has been as black as sin.”

If you haven’t read, The Double Act, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1489055000&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden