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’!

In season

My character Thomas Radwinter has just visited a local Bed and Breakfast hotel as part of his latest commission – he hesitates to say ‘case’, but he actually is undertaking an investigation. Who has commissioned him? Strangely it is a local police inspector – and what is the commission? Not on this occasion to find a missing person, but to discover who a found person is. A young woman was found washed up on the local beach with no memory of how she got there, where she is from, or even who she is! The young woman is now living with the person who found her, Sylvie the hotel owner and her dog, Busby.

Thomas visits, ostensibly to discuss organic fruit and vegetables – his brother John has an organic allotment and sells his spare produce to supplement his income. The hotel owner is hoping to start serving evening meals as well as breakfasts and light lunches, but she wants everything she cooks and serves to be organic, ethically produced, locally sourced and in season.

I was investigating myself, to see what might be available to my fictitious landlady, and came across the vegetarian Society’s page, listing seasonal fruit and vegetables:

vegetables which John might grow:

  • asparagus
  • beetroot
  • broad beans
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • chicory
  • courgettes
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • marrow
  • new potatoes
  • peas
  •  radishes
  • rocket
  • runner beans
  • spring greens
  • spring onions
  • summer squash
  • swiss chard
  • turnips

fruit which John might grow:

  • blackcurrants
  • gooseberries
  • cherries
  • raspberries
  • redcurrants
  • rhubarb
  • strawberries
  • tayberries

items which Sylvie might forage:

  • elderflowers
  • samphire
  • sorrel
  • watercress

All these things are in season right now! I’m not sure which of these John is actually growing, this will be revealed when Thomas goes back to meet him!

Here is a link to the Vegetarian Society:

https://www.vegsoc.org/page.aspx?pid=525

and her is a link to my Thomas Radwinter series, and my other e-books:

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

Umbrellas, stories and history

I am investigating the history of umbrellas and umbrella making for a story I am writing; you may have read some of my other stories here set in an imaginary museum housed in an imaginary abandoned umbrella factory. I don’t know how this idea started, or what triggered it – it may have been in one of my Radwinter genealogical mysteries, when my character Thomas Radwinter discovered an ancestor of his worked in one.

Umbrella making is an ancient craft, and started in countries where sun was more of a problem than rain, so I guess they were parasols! Maybe it was in Egypt, maybe in China, for the purposes of my story I will have to investigate further; however I did find a rather lovely story of how umbrella making started in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand; a Buddhist monk went wandering and settled near a village in Burma. One of the villagers gave him the gift of an umbrella having noticed the monk struggling with the elements. The man had made it himself, and the monk discovered it was useful for too much sun and too much rain. The monk was intrigued by this and went farther into Burma to find out more about umbrella making. Having learnt how it was done, a complicated process involving mulberry bark, oil and saa paper (also made from mulberry bark). men and women were involved and had different task in the process. The monk was impressed, and when he returned to his home temple, he started the local people also making umbrellas.

If you want to read more, here is the link – I’m sure you will enjoy it:

http://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/umbrella_making_history.html

Umbrella making is as I mentioned, an ancient craft, maybe as old as three thousand years! Umbrella making in Europe, and in the UK is much more recent, maybe only three hundred years!

Here is a great old video of umbrella making in 1952:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/umbrella-making

If you want to dead about Thomas Radwinter’s connections with umbrella making, then here is a link to my Amazon page – you can now buy the e-books as a bundle:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1496743340&sr=8-13&keywords=Lois+elsden

 

Thinking about characters… and not getting too fond of them!

Sometimes a character arrives unexpectedly, and then becomes almost part of a writer’s life. This happened to me with Thomas Radwinter; I’d wanted to write a bout a family of brothers, and had the surname Radwinter, and had three of ‘the boys’ (all men in their forties and fifties) when suddenly unexpectedly a younger brother, a much younger brother arrived… and he was Thomas.

As a reader I’ve followed many different series of books by different authors, and I really like seeing what happens next to the ‘people’ I’ve been reading about in one book, after that book finishes. However, it can be really disappointing if the character becomes indulged by the author, and authenticity drifts away. There is nothing worse than an author ‘falling in love’ with their character, and becoming indulgent and unrealistic… And I hope I don’t become indulgent with Thomas Radwinter; he has to change, as anyone might… at the beginning he is approaching his thirty-third birthday, now he is heading towards forty… at the beginning he had no children, now he has a whole bunch!

He’ll have a whole load of new challenges and adventures in my next novel – and I hope if i become too indulgent with him, too fond of him, then readers will tell me! here he is in his new office… he can’t work at home any more, it’s just too hectic!

I sat at my desk and twiddled a bit in my chair, clicked the mouse a couple of times, then another couple of times and smiled to myself. I have an office! I have an actual office!
It’s only very small, it’s what used to be the upstairs flat of the veg shop run by my friend Val, but now the small sitting room is where I might meet any clients, three easy chairs but uprightish (some of my clients are a bit elderly) a coffee table and then to one side a desk with a couple of chairs in case we might have to look at some papers. It is very plainly decorated, so it just looks nice and clean and light, and I think it looks quite professional – well, I am a professional! There are a few black and white photos on the wall by a young photographer I know, Niqqi (I’m sure she is really Nicky, but never mind) and there are nice blinds at the window. The small room which used to be the bedroom is now my office, and this is where I was, sitting in splendour. I have bookshelves for my law books, I have a filing cabinet because some things still happen on paper, and I have three computers, yes three, and another big table where I can do my family tree stuff… because as well as being a solicitor I do people’s family trees.
The veg shop down below is very small – it’s the end of a row of other shops and whether the builder ran out of land or whether he wanted a small shop, whatever, it is much smaller than the others, which is why the flat has just one bedroom, a minuscule bathroom, and an even more minuscule kitchen… The kitchen, empty of any cooking stuff, apart from a kettle, microwave and a fridge, is just there to make tea and coffee..
Hmm… my first day in my new office… well, half a day. I have to collect various kids from various places and then I’ll be home getting dinner ready for us all and doing dadly things… perfect!
There was a ‘dong’ and I enquired through the entry phone who it was, feeling rather full of myself – I’d only been here an hour on my first day, I had plenty to do, and wasn’t expecting anyone, but here was a client…
My optimism deflated like a punctured football – I’d been playing footie on the beach with Kenneil and Terri and I confess I rather booted the ball, it hit a rock, bounced off and then sat there deflating…
“Come up, Inspector Graham!” I said with false heartiness. I slapped down a feeling of anxiety, I had nothing to be anxious about, I’d done nothing wrong… well, nothing that anyone apart from my friend David knows about.
Last year I was involved in a rather nasty incident which ended up in two people being dead… I’d spent rather more time with the police than I wanted, and had to go to court – well two courts a coroner’s court and a crown court. I had a few nightmares after that, I can tell you… a period of insomnia, and altogether an unpleasant few months… But I battened it all down, locked it all away and got on with being a dad and a husband…
“Thomas, good to see you, I hope you don’t mind me dropping in without an appointment,” Graham said as we shook hands. I greeted him as enthusiastically and normally as I could and he asked me to call him ‘Charles’ which I took to be a signal that he wasn’t here on police business and my heart rated slowed back to normalish.
He asked after the family and as usual I wittered on too much about how they all were – I still can’t get over how fortunate I am; I had many sad years when I thought I would never be a dad… and now I am, five times over!
“And how are your brothers?” he asked… and this began to be a bit odd… he really is not a friend by any means, and I can’t imagine he has any real interest in the various Radwinters… if it had been anyone other than Inspector Graham, I would think he was flannelling, building himself up to say something unexpected… hmmm…

In case you haven’t yet met Thomas, or read any of 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

Piecing it together

I guess each writer has their own way of working, and what seems the most obvious and straightforward and sensible thing to do for one person, seems eccentric to say the least for someone else. Some people like lists  and flow charts, tick sheets and filing cards and have planned the whole thing meticulously before they even start writing the introduction, others just plunge in completely randomly and make it up as they go along… I am not exactly a plunge right in at random person – but neither am I a plans and lists person.

I guess I do a lot of planning before I actually start (most of the time – but there have been stories which I just randomly started writing!)  but my planning is mental, I spend car journeys, or waiting in queues, or pondering as I drift into sleep, I think of characters, and situations, and puzzles and coincidences, and weird things which happen to ordinary people. During this period I might do a little bit of prospective writing, maybe a few pages, maybe a few chapters; usually these embryonic starts are abandoned, sometimes they get rewritten, sometimes they become something else completely, sometimes they are included almost as they were first written.

As my writing proceeds I do occasionally do jottings on paper – when I wrote my first Radwinter novel I had huge sheets of paper with family trees, because it was so complicated – for me, not the reader, I hope! I had tried to follow the pattern of a lot of families, with recurring names – names from parents, grandparents, ancestral and maternal surnames included, but I had to make sure it was clear in my mind, in order for it to be clear to the reader!

In the sequel to ‘Radwinter’, ‘Magick’ – the maternal line of the family, I also had mighty sheets of paper with family trees, because at one point a family changed its name, there were several branches of the family which interwove, there were all sorts of complications – for me – once again, I hoped the story was clear and uncomplicated for people reading it!

In the new, as yet untitled Radwinter novel, which I’m getting into, there is a genealogical investigation, but it is quite linear and so not too complicated (although there are mysteries, of course!) but I have another task which needs to be sorted out before I get full-on with the actual writing. You see, in my previous book in the series, ‘Earthquake’, there were as usual several story lines – but a couple too many! I had done a lot of writing, so, with the wonders of modern technology, I was able to cut out the extra storylines, and save them for another time.

This is what Earthquake was originally:

  • a family tree/history/genealogy
  • the mystery of a school girl who died in 1931, and her twelve classmates
  • an earthquake (of course, since it’s the title of the novel!)
  • a new arrival in the Radwinter family, a new arrival who has an unhappy history
  • two of the four Radwinter brothers struggling in different ways with what I guess you could call ‘personal issues’
  • a young woman with amnesia
  • a haunted hotel
  • the everyday story of Thomas Radwinter and his family
  • an old cake-making gentleman

… so you can see it would have been far too long and far too complicated! The main stories I cut out were the family history  story, and the girl who had lost her memory. I had written nearly forty thousand words on these, so you can see it would have been a very long book indeed.

Now, in my new Radwinter story, there is plenty of room, to use these story-lines, much slimmed down I have to say, but there are also other new ‘adventures’ too!

  • one, if not two stalkers (of different characters)
  • house-hunting
  • obsessive jealousy/possessiveness

Because most of my stories are set in the small imaginary seaside town of Easthope, it has struck me that characters from different novels must ‘know’ each other. The manager of the bookshop (owned by a character from ‘The Double Act’) in the town, must know or at least know of, the most famous local writer who was a main character in my 2016 novel, ‘Lucky Portbraddon’… and somehow in this new novel, characters from ‘Night Vision’ have started to appear! I don’t know how they sneaked in!!

So… back to my weaving!

Here are links to my books:

Radwinter:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1496132827&sr=8-3&keywords=lois+elsden

Magick:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00OHV4MR0/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

night vision:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1496132827&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

The Double Act

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1496132827&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

Lucky Portbraddon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=pd_sim_351_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=H7BX6ANG1G2CJJHPG62N

…and all my stories:

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