In need of a rethink

There’s an awful lot of thinking that has to happen before I can get writing… Sometimes it is a sort of subliminal thinking, a sort of mental playing about with a few scraps of ideas, the sort of things I mention when I’m writing here – a ragbag of odd names, unexpected facial expressions, ‘what if’ moments, fleeting glimpses of things, overheard scraps of conversation, vague and tenuous drifts of leftover dream on waking, misunderstood or misheard comments, graffiti, juxtaposed images, memories, odd news items, strange weather, rivers and seas and rivers meeting seas…

Then, for me, there’s a gradual coming together and the beginning of some form, and then I start – and usually when I start (which may not necessarily be at the beginning of the story) words come out in a stupendous rush, and ideas coalesce and form and reform, and strange branches of thought go off in all sort of directions. Sometimes I’m taken up with an idea – sometimes it needs a lot of research and I plunge into that in a fury, and write and write.

Then comes the more staid workmanlike work (is that tautology?) All the other things continue – the mental playing about, the coalescing, the sudden spurts of enthusiasm and inspiration, but it’s more formed now, following the pattern of the narrative.

And then… and then sometimes comes a realisation that there has been an error – maybe it’s something simple like a character’s name or description isn’t right, or that two characters have become confused, or there is a gap where a crucial explanation is missing, or something is written so badly it just has to come out and be rewritten, or there is a whole thread which doesn’t fit at all and needs to be extracted and maybe saved for another story. These things are a bit annoying, but only a bit… lots of work, but it’s all OK.

And then… and then and then there is the major blunder. I am about thirty thousand words into a new story so it’s not a disaster – at least I haven’t finished the first draft and suddenly seen the major blunder!  I have several story lines, a family history, a stalker, the looking for/finding/buying a new house, a jealous ex-husband, not a missing but a found person – a found person who is also amnesiac, and then there are all the general plotlines around characters – their lives and loves etc.

As I was doing some extra research for my imagined family history, it suddenly came to me that I had made a fundamental error of judgement and would need to rethink the whole story of this family’s genealogy. Not a disaster, of course, I can do that… but it’s just irritating that I spent so much time working it out and researching it in the first place, and now not only do I need to unpick it, but also create a new history for them!

Here’s a link to my books which did make it through to being published – they all had a lot of rewriting in them, I hope you can’t see the joins! My novels are all e-readers, except ‘Radwinter’ which is also published as a paperback:

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

What a journey to Radwinter!

It’s a week since I announced the publication of my first paperback!! I am still very excited, and I would like to thank everyone for their kind and positive comments about ‘Radwinter’, and thank you to everyone who has bought a copy!

The adventures of Thomas Radwinter are described as a journey – as he says “I followed the story of the Radwinters … and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”. My adventures in publishing my book are also a journey!

I’ve always written, and since being grown-up (if I actually am!) I have tried again and again, times without number to find a publisher or an agent. Maybe I wasn’t lucky, maybe I hadn’t the right connections (actually I have no connections in the media/publishing world!) or maybe it was just one of those things, but I had no success… No success until I was able to write full-time and heard that it’s possible to publish e-books through Amazon… which is what I did:

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

That was in 2011… for a while I’d had the idea of writing a story about four brothers, and had even found a family name, Radwinter… in the autumn of 2013 I took part in the on-line challenge, the National Novel Writing Month, the aim of which is to try to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November. I had my characters, I had a vague notion of writing about genealogical research, and the two things came together on November 1st… thirty days and over seventy thousand (70,000+ !!) words later and I was well on my way to my first Radwinter novel.

It was published in 2014, and unexpectedly it was followed by a sequel, and then three more in the series (the latest, Earthquake, published two months ago) I then discovered that I could self-publish my novels as paperbacks!!

To cut a not very long story short, a week ago I was thrilled to announce that a paperback edition of Radwinter is now available!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498553716&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Please let me know what you think of it and how you enjoy it… and here’s a secret, Thomas Radwinter is sorting out Radwinter VI at this very moment!

Anything is possible

Anything, literally anything is possible… when you write!! In your writing you can be anything you want to be, an astronaut, a channel swimmer, the head of a royal family, a maintenance worker on the Forth Road Bridge – you can go back in time and be a housecarl fighting in the battle of Hastings, or a Roman wife on Hadrian’s Wall inviting her friends to a dinner party, a sweeper on the streets of nineteenth century London, or you can go forward in time, or travel to distant places, travel beyond our solar system beyond our galaxy – you can be anything, be anywhere, do whatever you want… when you write!

You can be more modest and write about a different life in today’s world, but even then you can change your age, your gender, your talents and abilities, your character – you can make yourself ‘better’ than you are, or infinitely worse!

My characters in my books are just ordinary people who just live pretty ordinary lives. Although i don’t write in the first person for all my novels, I do try and ‘become my characters to properly understand why they do and say the things they do and say. I write far more than ever appears in my stories because I’m filling in these people’s lives so they are there as rounded characters and I hope believable characters before they ever land there on the page!

For example, in ‘night vision’, the story of a couple whose marriage is on the brink of disaster, some of the husband’s actions and behaviour seems inexplicable (as it does with real people in real life) but I know why he is as he is, and even though by the end when I hope the reader will accept him as believable, and even though not all his behaviours have been explained, I will know in my omniscient author way! We met people in real life and don’t know why they are as they are, do as they do, say what they say, so I want it to be the same in my books (without being frustrating r annoying!!)

So going back to my original thought of being able to be whatever and whoever you like when you write, I guess the most extreme example for me might be Rudi in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’, and of course Thomas Radwinter, whose life and adventures I’ve chronicled over several books!

Here are links to my e-books:

night vision – https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – https://www.amazon.co.uk/STALKING-ROSA-CZEKOV-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B008D29O5Y/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-11&keywords=lois+elsden

The Radwinter stories – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

and my first paperback so far, Radwinter – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

Borrowing an expression

The word ‘expression’ has several different meanings including –

  • The action of making known one’s thoughts or feelings
  • The conveying of feeling in a work of art or in the performance of a piece of music
  • A look on someone’s face that conveys a particular emotion
  • A word or phrase, especially an idiomatic one, used to convey an idea
  • A collection of symbols that jointly express a quantity
  • The production of something by pressing it out.
  • The appearance in a phenotype of a characteristic or effect attributed to a particular gene

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/expression

However the meaning I’m using is the expression on someone’s face, and ‘borrowing’ an expression is what I sometimes do as a writer! I don’t just mean the way someone has arranged their features, eyebrows down, eyebrows raised, quirky eyebrows, surprised eyebrows etc, or the type of smile, or what someone is doing with their eyes – although that is all part of the way a writer observes things and uses them.

I confess, I borrow whole faces – for example in my Radwinter stories, the inspiration for my characters. appearances came from:

  • Thomas – a Danish actor
  • Marcus – a well-known chef and restaurateur
  • Paul – a TV personality and baker
  • John – someone who works in my local bookshop
  • Kylie – a contestant on a cookery show
  • Justyna – someone who I used to teach English
  • Kim – a flower shop owner

It’s just their faces, you understand, which were the original inspiration, but those faces have changed as the characters develop in my stories.

To get back to expressions – sometimes I observe an expression on someone’s face which seems unexpected… unexpected in the situation or circumstances, unexpected because it seems different from their usual character, unexpected because it was private and I’ve glimpsed it accidentally… This makes me sound like a weird stalker type – honestly I’m not! I’ll give you some examples –

  • a happy family occasion, but a couple look tense and nervous – they assume jolly expressions when anyone else talks to them, but sitting at their table as the celebration goes on around them, their faces assume a different look
  • someone shakes hands with an acquaintance, a serious but pleasant greeting seems to follow; however as they turn away a look of malicious glee flashes across their face, just for a second
  • someone in a bar, comfortable, at ease, leaning on the counter and talking to friends, totally relaxed, laughing, joking, chatting; ever so often, when the conversation is with others, or while waiting for service, their gaze is directed into the other bar at two men talking together… then the face becomes still, the humour gone, a very focused look comes over their face
  • there’s someone in a café, just having a coffee and a sandwich, a pleasant, amiable look on their face as they look at their phone, glance through the menu or round the room at the pictures and photos on the walls. Their gaze comes to rest on something, whether it’s actually being looked at or another thought has come into their head, nothing to do with anything will never be known, but a surprised look seems to come over their features – they have thought of something, remembered something, realised something… so deep in thought that when someone comes to clear the table they hardly notice
  • the ceramic plaque in my featured image, what is the character looking at, is his mouth dropped open in surprise (pleasant or unpleasant) amazement, has he just thought of something or is he looking at something, is it a malign or benign expression?

These are just a few examples – it isn’t the person as such, or what they look like, it’s that look on their face, that expression which triggers some inspiration for me!

If you want to read about Thomas and his brothers, family and friends, the you can find my books on Amazon; the first in the Radwinter series has just been published as a paperback:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498122900&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

 

Radwinter – the paperback!!

I wrote yesterday that I had a surprise, some exciting news… maybe you guessed what it is… Well my exciting news is that my novel Radwinter is now available as a paperback, an actual book, a real book you can hold in your hands!!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497946489&sr=1-1&keywords=lois+elsden

To fill you in on the background to this, in case you don’t know, it has been my ambition for as long as I have known anything, to write books; all my life I have written, it has been my passion, but when I gave up the day job I was able to write full-time. I began to publish my work as e-books through Amazon KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing. Now I can publish my books as paperbacks on Amazon!!!

My first paperback is the first of the Radwinter series, called, of course, Radwinter! It is a genealogical mystery –

Thomas Radwinter goes in search of his family roots; using the internet he traces his family back to war-torn eastern Europe, and follows their journey from arriving in England in the 1830’s, across southern England. However, the more he finds out about his family’s past, the more he sees his own family, his brothers and his wife differently. His relationship with them changes… and he begins to understand his own character, and to find out as much about his present life as his family’s history.

As well as writing my next novel, I am also preparing my other Radwinter stories, and all my other e-books for publication as paperbacks… which is jolly exciting I can tell you (as Thomas might say!)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497946489&sr=1-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Exciting news tomorrow!!!

I’m just getting ready now, preparing for a very exciting announcement tomorrow! I don’t want to spoil the surprise but I will tell you it is something about my novels, something about my Radwinter series. Like all my published novels, the series is available as e-books on Amazon.

When I wrote the original ‘Radwinter’ it was as a stand alone novel; I had never wanted or been tempted to write sequels to any of my books, although readers had asked me to – particularly with ‘Farholm’. ‘Radwinter‘ had several story-lines but the main one was about Thomas Radwinter exploring his family history, following the Radwinters back to 1841 in Essex, and beyond to the first Warsaw uprising which started in 1830. However, once I had finished the book, it struck me that Thomas only knew about his paternal line, so a second novel emerged tracing back the maternal line, following the name of Magick, which was also the title of the novel. Thomas’s story didn’t end… ‘Raddy and Syl’, ‘Beyond Hope‘ and ‘Earthquake‘ have followed his life.

So that is the hint… my exciting announcement tomorrow will be something about ‘Radwinter’!

Should I continue?

Many years ago I wrote a novel, what I think of as my first ‘proper’ novels; it was called ‘A Strong Hand From Above’ and it was what I guess you’d call a thriller. A young woman who has been estranged from her family for several years returns home. Home is a farm, now a garden centre,  where her stepfather lived, and where her two step-bothers still work. The whole story is about their inheritance, them falling out, attempts on the life of the main character, and her eventual kidnap…

It isn’t very well written, but when I read it I find that I do become immersed in it, and even though I know what the plot is, I still find it fairly gripping. The point is – is it gripping enough, good enough, to be rewritten and for me to publish as one of my books… or would it be not worth the effort? Hmmm… so many other things to write… dilemma… what to do…

here is the beginning:

Sometimes I’m so stupidly stubborn that I end up suffering for it… take mobile phones… I have a prejudice against them and I’ve never had one. I’ve given all sorts of flippant responses to people who as for my number… if I need to get in touch with someone I can ring them on a landline, if I have a phone people will be able to find me, I don’t want to be drawn into being one of those people who spend their whole life staring at a small screen and bumping into things, I don’t want to be a slave to technology…
Occasionally it has been awkward or inconvenient, but it has never been disastrous, being out of contact with the world, until Albert died… and the world I was out of contact with fell apart…

It was the worst possible weather to arrive home and miss a funeral by a day… twenty-four hours…
I’d been sitting at a little café in Eze, happily sketching away, and a couple had asked if I minded them sharing my table, well, of course I didn’t…
They sat with their glasses of wine, she was writing postcards, he was looking at something on his tablet.
“Albert Greer’s funeral tomorrow, I’d have gone if we’d been home,” he said to the woman.
I jerked upright.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry, this must sound very rude, but did you say Albert Greer?”
“Yes, you know, the garden centre… he died a couple of weeks ago… did you know him?”
Know him? Did I know him?…
“He’s my stepfather… was my stepfather…”
People are so kind; the news is full of horror and cruelty and evil, which is why I never listen to it or read it, and yet in reality most people are kind. The couple… and to my shame I didn’t even find out their names, came with me back to the little pension where I was staying to collect my things, and then drove me to Nice Côte d’Azur airport, making sure I had enough money for the first flight back to the UK, coming with me into the airport to make sure I could get on a plane…
I was just about to go through to departures when I realised I hadn’t properly thanked them and did not even have first names. I turned and they made urgent waving movements with their hands and I turned and walked on.

Everything seemed to take forever, even though the flight was in early, and I got the connection to take me into the city and I had no trouble getting to the station – it was quicker going by train than waiting for a flight to the airport at Strand; the first morning train got in before the first flight left …
As I sat on the train I wished I’d bought a phone. I’d rung from a call-box at the airport whenever it was I was there, I was losing track of time, and an unknown woman answered just saying Stefan was out and so were the family, and then she rang off without even a perfunctory goodbye. I was too tired and fraught at the time, I just wanted to get there, to get home…
I was sitting next to a plump woman in a hajib and I suddenly jerked awake and lifted my head from her comfortable shoulder. I apologised but she laughed and was so nice, suddenly a tear trickled down my cheek… I dashed it away… if I started crying now I wouldn’t be able to stop.
Before I knew it she had poured me a drink of sweet milky tea in a bright pink and yellow plastic cup and I was eating something a little like a samosa and babbling out what had happened…
I had become estranged from my family, my step-father and my two step-brothers, I hadn’t seen any of them for a couple of years except once when my younger step-brother and Albert had turned up on my doorstep in Manchester…
I had been away from home for more years than I should have been… and now, now Albert was dead… I hadn’t even known he was ill…
The woman told me that she lived with her husband and children in England, but her parents and sisters were in Bangladesh… she missed them terribly but at least they could phone and Skype…
Skype is a mystery thing to me – I know the principal of it but I’m so technophobic that I’ve no idea how it works… and phoning… I’m not a great one for phones… Stefan used to ring me occasionally on my land line at the studio…
She got off at Castair and insisted on leaving me a bag of food, more samosas, some fruit and some sweet cakes…
How kind, people are so kind… She waved at me through the window as the train pulled out of the station… I hadn’t asked her name either…