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

 

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

A haunted hotel?

In my next Radwinter novel, Earthquake, which I am just editing now, there are several threads of storyline… and one is about a hotel which is supposedly haunted… My main character, Thomas is asked to investigate.

This is what some of the guests have reported:

Thomas writes “I’d made a little list with the salient points… salient… not sure I’ve ever used that before…

  • My wife and I were reading in bed when she said to me in a whisper that the mirror on the dressing table was shaking… we both saw this, and there was no reason for it to be moving because we were the only people in this part of the hotel… it disturbed my wife a great deal and we had to sleep with the light on, but had a very poor night… we didn’t feel the management dealt with this very satisfactorily
  • My boyfriend and I could hardly sleep after we were woken in the night with a lot of noise from the next room in the end my boyfriend went and knocked on the door, and then he went downstairs, but they said no-one was in that room we kept hearing noises though and the next day asked for another room
  • The wardrobe door kept opening by itself, no matter how many times I shut it and there was a knocking in the night
  • I saw an actual ghost standing by my bed staring at me… I screamed so loud the man from the next room came and checked if I was alright. I kept my light on all night and checked out early the next day
  • We are convinced our room was haunted. The wardrobe door kept opening on its own, and when I shut it and stood waiting it was quite secure until I got back in bed.
  • my son woke me up and said there was a woman in his room he said she sat on his bed and watched him
  • There was a ghostly old man with grey hair and a light coloured jacket on
  • I turned out the light and got in bed, no reason to feel any alarm. Then suddenly the speaker button on the room phone turned on and a dial tone filled the room. I immediately felt afraid and turned on the light. I turned the phone off and turned the lights off and it happened again. I prayed out loud for God’s help and then it was alright.
  • I was on my own in a twin room and In the middle of the night, I heard someone in the other bed. I looked over and saw the shadow of a head on the pillow.
  • I was in a double bed and I heard something; I put my hand out on the other pillow and it was as cold as ice. I manged to get to sleep but then I heard footsteps in the bathroom.

If you haven’t read any of Thomas’s other adventures or my other novels, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_10?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsde%2Caps%2C154&crid=28OZLWZM96PWW

Exciting news! I’m nearly there!

It has been a long struggle… a much longer struggle than I expected, but I am delighted to share the news, that apart from a summing up sort of chapter when everything is explained – at a tea party in a Tudorbethan house, the first draft of my next novel Earthquake is finished! Yay! Hurrah!

I first wrote about the Radwinter family in 2013, published as an e-book for Kindle in February 2014; I had intended it as a stand alone novel about a family of four brothers. All my other books are without sequels, and I had no intention of writing one for any of my stories… however the Radwinter tales turned out somewhat differently.

The first novel, the eponymous ‘Radwinter’ followed a genealogical investigation into the paternal line of the Radwinter family and having come to a satisfactory conclusion with the main character tracing their roots back to the beginning of the nineteenth century in what is now the Ukraine, I thought that was the end of that…

Except there was a maternal line… and so it seemed necessary to have follow-up to the story, but this time an exploration of their maternal line, the Magicks. The main character Thomas, was asked by a friend to help find her missing daughter… he had some success in his mission – he found all about the history of the Magick family, and helped his friend too… ‘Magick’ was published in the autumn of 2014 so surely that was it now…

Well it would have been… except Thomas had found all about the distant family, the Radwinters in eastern Europe, the Magicks in Cornwall and Australia but there was a bit of a puzzle about the more recent generations… his friend’s missing daughter had still not been found, other people needed his help to solve odd little non-criminal mysteries… and so ‘Raddy and Syl’ got written and published in spring 2015.

The final part of the Radwinter story, Beyond Hope completed what had been discovered about Raddy and Syl – Edward and Sylvia and that came out in January last year. The final story…

I did a lot of writing last year and completed and published other things, but the Radwinters were still very active… and the next (I daren’t say final) story of their lives has taken up my time for the last few months. I have been very busy with all sorts of other things, including being away in Tasmania and Australia for over six weeks, but now, tonight, I can finally say… the first draft is done! Yes, there is the summing up chapter and the tea party, but I have to go through the rest of the story before I write that. If I am honest, then I think publication day will be in April… possibly before… watch this space!

I hope to have some other exciting news about my books soon too… just looking at the details of a new venture!

If you have missed my Radwinter stories, or any of my others, here is a link:

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

… oh and now I have to think about a cover…

A little excerpt

Here is a little excerpt from my next Radwinter novel, ‘Earthquake’… the main character, Thomas, is working at home when he gets a phone call:

I was concentrating completely on the ins and outs of some legal papers for a client and didn’t register my phone was ringing. I answered it rather more loudly than I meant to and there was silence then the sound of laboured breathing…
Good grief, don’t say I’ve got a heavy-breather… Hello? I said rather firmly and sternly ready to finish the call and block the number.
“Good morning… is that Mr. Radwinter….” And the voice, man or woman I couldn’t tell, faded away, then started again. “My name is Shsh Shshsher…”
“I’m sorry, you are?”
“Shsh Shshsher… A friend at the golf club suggested you might be able to help me…”
When I was working as a proper solicitor in a practice in Strand, I had a dear old gentleman who always asked for me to assist in his matters and business, usually changing his will which was a bit of a hobby of his. When our firm amalgamated with another and moved their head office to Castair,  I was effectively given the sack; however my kindly old gentleman insisted that I continue to handle his affairs and more than that, recommended me to a lot of his friends at the golf club. The golf club gang, as I call them, are my best clients, and are nearly all nice people and also quite wealthy.
As well as the usual conveyancing, enduring powers of attorney, wills and even a couple of divorces, they have asked me to help them on several intriguing ‘investigations’, for example a missing woman, a mysterious Moroccan and a sinister Tibetan Lama.
“I will try my best Mr. Shshsher…” I couldn’t ask him again for his name, having tried to work it out three times. “Perhaps we could arrange a time where we could meet, or maybe I could call on you… what sort of business do you wish to conduct?”
There was another yawning pause before Mr. Shshsher replied that he would have to discuss that with me… he wasn’t sure I could help, he wasn’t sure anyone could help, but his friends had recommended me highly… He gave me his address, a place I didn’t know over on the other side of Strand, and we agreed I should call the next day at eleven.

The house was quite gloomy with dark red bricks and dark wooden beams; there was a great big chimney on the tiled roof, almost out of proportion with the size of the house and I remembered reading about Tudorbethan when I was looking up about this area. Something to do with the Arts and Crafts Movement… and as I was thinking this I pulled on the bell which was like a metal rod thing and there was a clang inside. The door was large and studded with nails and had black iron hinges…
It was actually a bit creepy; the bay windows were heavily netted and there seemed to be no lights on to illuminate the dimness… what was I letting myself in for? I expected the door to open with a creak and a wrinkled retainer to be standing there… well, the old chap was certainly wrinkly but I guess he was Mr. Shshsher, because he said ‘Ah, Mr. Radwinter do come mumblemumblemumble…”
We shook hands and I was relieved his skin was normal and not cold and slimy as I’d somehow feared… honestly… I shouldn’t think so much, really I shouldn’t…
He led the way through with a shuffling gate into the back part of the house. The old place was very dusty and a bit untidy, but not in a desperate way; I was led into a study which had French windows leading into the garden. It was a room full of light and it looked like something out of a film set for a mad professor; there were piles of books and papers everywhere and the walls were lined with bookcases containing more books and the occasional odd object. A stuffed owl stared at me.
“I seem to be in a bit of a muddle here, Mr. Radwinter, I’m afraid murmurmurmurmurmur…”
He was a nice old chap and now we were in a room which was a bit brighter I could see him better. He had long white hair flowing down over his collar which looked as if it was velvet. The jacket itself was buttoned up the front and looked really, really old-fashioned. He looked like someone dressed for a part in the latest TV adaptation of a Dickens’ novel.
He found a chair for me to sit on which seemed a little wobbly, I’d have to keep still, I didn’t want to break what appeared to be an antique piece of furniture.  He sat behind the desk and told me he no longer played golf, his legs had given up, but he often went to the club for lunch, and several of his acquaintances had mentioned me when he had told them about his muttermuttermutter… he was looking in a drawer of the desk, and his voice disappeared into it.
I was going to have to invent a hearing problem if he didn’t speak a little more clearly!
He eventually drew out an old box file very battered and worn. He put it on the desk and then began to look through, all the time giving a sort of burbled conversation which I wasn’t sure was addressed to me so I just gave a hmm-hmm sort of noise every so often.
He pulled out a small scrapbook which he passed to me, opened at a page; I thought at first it was a contact sheet of pictures like we used to get at school when the photographer came in and took pictures of us in our uniform.
Mr. Mumble had passed me this book and there were twelve separate pictures of girls in a school uniform. None of the girls was smiling, although some had a sort of happy expression, or at least a pleasant expression, others of them were totally impassive, one looked slightly cross and a couple looked rather sad…  They all looked the same age, probably about fourteen or fifteen, and they all looked very similar… they were all Chinese or Japanese or Korean… I couldn’t tell, and they all had short black hair with a fringe.
“Who are these girls, sir?”
I didn’t like to turn the page to see what was next in the book and I was definitely a little mystified by it all.
“One of them is my mother, can you guess which?”
Crikey! What a question!

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

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C144

So near the end!

It seems a long time since I began writing my latest Radwinter story, which I’m pretty sure is going to be called ‘Earthquake’. I started writing it last year while I was working on editing the last book I published which was ‘Lucky Portbraddon’. I had finished LP as I called it, about ten years ago, but had never got around to properly editing it – I was still working, my children were still at school, and life was very busy. Once I stopped working and could concentrate on writing full-time, I began to work through what you might call my back catalogue – completed novels which needed re-editing and tidying up so I could publish them as e-books on Kindle.

All was going very well until one autumn, I decided to accept the write-a-novel-in-a-month challenge – the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo; the idea is to start a new novel and write 50,000 words of it in the month of November. I started and wrote the first 70,000 words of a completely new book, Radwinter. I completed and published it, and my first ever sequel began to formulate in my mind, and that is what I moved onto next… to my utter surprise, four books have now been written in the series!

Although I had more Radwinter ideas, I decided I really ought to get ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ off my virtual bookshelf, so I began work on it; it was a monster book, nearly 300,000 words – far, far to long even though it was a complex story. Editing is actually quite tedious, so I began the fifth Radwinter book as a little light relief. LP, much much abreviated and much better for it I hope, was published last autumn and now I am so nearly finishing Earthquake… the first draft… then will come a period of editing, checking, rewriting.

Earthquake is a genealogical mystery, but as well as investigating the past, Thomas Radwinter, my main character also accepts present day mysteries to unravel. This time he is trying to find out who killed a little girl in 1931 – he has twelve suspects, the child’s classmates! he is also trying to explain who or what is responsible for the supposed haunting of his ex-wife’s hotel, as well as having to deal with an unexpected addition to his family. I just have one plot line to finish unravelling, and a few unexpected twists, and then it will be to work getting it ready to publish!

Here is a link to the first Radwinter book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1487631751&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

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.

… and its sequel:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/MAGICK-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00OHV4MR0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1487631751&sr=8-4&keywords=lois+elsden

Encouraged by his success in discovering his Radwinter ancestors, Thomas Radwinter sets out to investigate his maternal line, starting with the mysterious and alcoholic Sylvia. His life has been somewhat dysfunctional, but now, gaining confidence through his new loving relationship with a beautiful young woman and her son, he is able to confront his own past.
His genealogical searches take him into the tragic histories of his family and other ordinary people who lived and worked under the appalling conditions of the Victorian age. His skills in finding people from the past encourage a friend to beg him to try and trace her long-lost daughter, a woman, who, it seems does not want to be found. He accepts her request, little realising this will lead him into danger.  Then the father of his partner’s son arrives; he’s come for his boy…

… book 3:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADDY-SYL-RADWINTER-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00WAN0YD8/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1487631751&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

Thomas Radwinter continues his journey into his ancestor’s history; he has followed his paternal line 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”.
He traced his maternal ancestry, the Magicks, “I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you”. Now he has to find the history of those closest to him, “in my Radwinter story I found some amazing truths about myself. My childhood was difficult to say the least, and when I started to follow the Magick story, I had to begin to face my past, and confront some of my fears and nightmares. To finish my story I have to look at Sylvia Magick and her husband Edward Radwinter, the people who brought me up… sort of… I think of them now as Syl and Raddy, because it’s easier and less painful.” During his search Thomas also seeks a woman who vanished seemingly into thin air from a car stopped at a road junction, and he tries to solve the mystery of Badruddin, the Moroccan an elderly female client brought back from a cruise…  Thomas little thinks that he may be risking his life to find these different truths.

… and book 4:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Hope-Radwinter-Book-4-ebook/dp/B01AKU9XMK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1487631751&sr=8-3&keywords=lois+elsden

Beyond Hope is the fourth in the series of books following the life and genealogical investigations of Thomas Radwinter; in previous stories he has followed family’s history back several centuries and also found some uncomfortable and very painful truths in more recent times. In ‘Beyond Hope’, Thomas decides to share with his three brothers what he has learned about their mother and father… but telling the truth can be damaging, the truth can hurt, and as Thomas later reflects, “I know at first hand, a very, very painful first hand, how old secrets have the power to wound and how sometimes those dogs snoozing away should be left doing exactly that, sleeping dogs should sometimes just be let lie.” His revelations cause the close family ties to be tested which doesn’t help Thomas as he struggles with the other commissions he is being paid to undertake; he has been asked by a very elderly lady to find out who leaves lilies on a grave she visits, he has undertaken to investigate a mysterious lama who has a dangerous power over a hard-working teacher and devoted father, and he continues his search for the daughter of a friend who has become involved with a very dangerous man… And all the while his own little family has to face difficult decisions. The fall-out between Thomas and his brothers may only be healed if he can find out what happened to their father who disappeared thirty years ago.

… and Lucky Portbraddon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487631751&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

“Lucky Portbraddon… a rather rascally ancestor of my late husband, or so family legend has it, was a favourite friend of the Prince Regent, apparently, but Lucky made, not lost, his fortune…”
A few days before Christmas, as the Portbraddon family gathers at their grandmother’s big house up on the moors, the last of the cousins drives through a blizzard to join them:
…There was a severed dog’s head stuck on the gatepost. There’d been a few seconds pause in the driving snow and in those few seconds, lit by their headlights, she glimpsed the wolf-like creature, maw gaping, tongue lolling, teeth bared in one final gory snarl. Then the blizzard obliterated the stone beast and everything else in a seething maelstrom…  A near-death experience does not seem an auspicious start to their family get together, but the cousins determine to celebrate as they always do.  However as the old year ends and the new begins it seems their good fortune is about to run out. An unexpected death, a descent into madness, betrayal… and as the year progresses other things befall them, a stalker, attempted murder, a patently dodgy scheme for selling holiday homes in a dangerous part of the Caucasus… Maybe the Portbraddons are not so lucky… except there is also love, a new home, reconciliation, a spiritual journey, music… One thing remains true, whatever difficulties arise between them, whatever happens, family is family, family first… “They’re like a big bunch of musketeers, all for one and one for all!”

Lucky Portbraddon…

Over the last few weeks I have shared excerpts from my novels about Thomas Radwinter who traces his  family history, and then later investigates other people’s stories, and not just genealogical ones, but mysteries in their everyday lives. I’m now sharing excerpts from my other novels. This excerpt is from my latest novel,  ‘Lucky Portbraddon’:

Lucky Portbraddon

Christmas 2014

1

There was a severed dog’s head stuck on the gatepost.
There’d been a few seconds pause in the driving snow and in those few seconds, lit by their headlights, Ismène glimpsed the wolf-like creature, maw gaping, tongue lolling, teeth bared in one final gory snarl. Then the blizzard obliterated the stone beast and everything else in a seething maelstrom.
“Oh my god, James, I thought for a moment it was a real dog’s head -”
But he was saying something else about the road, about nearly being there and then they were sliding sideways down a steep incline. He was fighting to keep control and Ismène was shouting ‘jesusohjesusohjesus,’ bracing herself against the seat.
The car stalled and stopped and there was only the sound of the CD playing.
“There’s a pond,” and James pointed down the slope into a dizzying maze of swirling clumps of snow dancing in the headlights.
Ismène tried to be calm. She was tired and a little nervous about meeting James’s family at their grandmother’s house, Slake Hall; she was not at all sure that Christmas was the best time to be introduced to all her lover’s relations… And she was seriously spooked by the grotesque sight she’d seen as they turned into the drive.
“Well, be careful, James, it’s too cold for a swim.”
“Obviously I’ll be bloody careful!” James snapped.
Don’t get stroppy with me, it’s not my bloody fault, but she said nothing. He tried to start the car and it lurched a couple of feet further down the slope.
Trying not to panic, she asked how big the pond was but he didn’t reply. He started the car, slamming it roughly into reverse and hit the accelerator. The wheels spun, the engine raced and they slithered towards the invisible pond and Ismène shrieked.
“Oh for God’s sake!” James shouted, as frightened as she was. “Instead of screaming get out and push the fucking car.”
Why don’t you, you’re bigger and stronger than me? Her two hundred quid boots weren’t designed to wade through snowdrifts but she looked for her coat then realised… it was in the boot. This was a nightmare.
“Let’s get our coats and walk.”
“Are you mad?” He was afraid, but bloody hell, so was she!
It struck her that six weeks was not a long time to really know someone; she and James might seem like soul mates but actually…
“James, I can’t push the car. I’m not strong enough and it’s treacherous out there… the car could go right over me.”
“So we’ll just fucking sit here, will we?”
“Don’t get angry with me, darling, this is really dangerous…”
He apologised and gave a tight, scared smile and tried to restart the car more gently. The engine turned over and caught but as he released the brake, trying to hold it on the clutch, the back end slewed and they slid sideways.
The car tipped, righted itself with a bump and stalled.
“We’ll walk, leave the car and walk,” James said, his voice thick with fear. “I’ll get the coats. Stay here.”
Beyond the windows, misted with condensation the snow seemed solid, a physical, malevolent entity driven by the wind. A freezing Siberian blast, howled in as he opened the door bringing the blizzard streaming in.
If only Ismène had dressed in something warmer, something other than silky black trousers and a thin cashmere sweater. She’d dressed to meet James’s family; she knew nothing about them and had imagined stepping from the car straight into the house.
James wrenched her door open; he shouted that the boot was stuck, he was going to… The car moved, the wind shrieked and James disappeared.
Ismène tumbled out into the biting wind; flecks of ice stung like sand and she was almost blind. James was on the ground, struggling in the deep snow and, holding onto the door, she grabbed his hand. The car shifted again and they both fell.
James was shouting something but the wind swallowed his words. On hands and feet they slipped and scrambled up the bank. Creeping along the main roads, Ismène had described it as a white-out, now it was a grey-out, the light leaving what had been the day.
James pulled her upright and for a moment they clung together. He started to say something, but there was a sudden tremendous buffeting gust and they tumbled into a drift. She floundered in the snow, blinded and lost, screaming his name. Her mouth was full of snow but she knew he must have slid down towards the pond! The pond!
Afterwards she wondered how she’d had the courage, but it was pure instinct. She stumbled after him, past the mound that was the car, its door open, the light on.
He was lying face down, arms outstretched above his head as if he’d been trying to save himself as he slithered down the bank. Only his top half was visible, his legs were under the smashed ice of the water.
She grasped him under the arms and tried to heave him out but she only succeeded in nearly toppling herself in. Shouting his name she tried to rouse him; he thrashed his legs as if trying to swim and she heaved again and pulled him a foot from the water.
Later she couldn’t remember how long she’d struggled, it seemed like one long recurring nightmare…
In this bitter cold and in their light clothes there was a real danger of something serious happening, something as serious as… death. Hysteria took hold and she began to giggle uncontrollably – something as serious as death! She was shaking with laughter and James seemed to be laughing too but of course he wasn’t, he was shivering with cold.
Ismène shouted at him, hitting his shoulders, trying to wake him to make more effort to help himself. She struggled and pulled, moving him by mere inches.
“James, I can’t do this! I’m going to the house to get help!”
She didn’t know how far away it was but she began to crawl up towards the road. She glanced back and James was gone. She slithered down and straight into the water; it was only knee deep and warm and he was floating face down.  She grabbed him, adrenalin kicking in and she heaved him onto his back and hauled him up the bank.
She began to cry… She couldn’t leave him, he was unconscious, he’d die, freeze or drown… But if she stayed she’d die too. She lost track of time… a few minutes… hours? It was completely dark now…
In a rage she began to hit him, thumping him with her fists, yelling at him. This is ridiculous! I don’t want to die! It’s Christmas!
“Help!! Someone!! Help!!” she screamed.
She pulled at James again and moved him a few inches but she could no longer feel her hands and feet, her limbs seemed strange attachments no longer belonging to her. Her thoughts were slowing and she couldn’t think of what to do. She tried to be logical, snow piling thickly on her shoulders and head… soon she’d be invisible. The light from the car veiled in snow was fading… Someone passing wouldn’t even see them, see the small mounds in the snow.
If I stay here I’m going to die. James is going to die anyway, but I’ll die with him… If only I can get to the house …
Tears began to trickle, warm, then cold, then icy…
She pulled at James again; if she could just get him out of the water, wedge him safely somehow… but it was hopeless.  Ismène stood and immediately fell over, got to her feet and screamed for help… then sunk back to James who had slipped again.
They’d met on a night out with mutual friends… Instant attraction, instant relationship, instant love? Did she love James? No, actually, but maybe one day…
She was very weak now and becoming sleepy. She tried to take James beneath the arms with the blocks of wood she knew were her hands… She pulled him but could no longer tell whether she was shifting him. The ice on the surface of the pond was covered with snow falling relentlessly in feathery lumps.
Ismène yelled again but her voice was tiny… There was a rabbit in a clown’s costume. But it was a dream, a delusion… A dog wandered around looking for its head, glasses perched on the end of its curly tail.
People were singing… People… There were people.
“Help! Help me!!”
And there were snowmen walking across the pond, they were playing music or maybe they were just singing ‘Last Christmas’… It would be her last Christmas….
Ismène was hallucinating, and she knew it. She bent her face to James but couldn’t feel his skin against hers, her cheeks and nose and mouth numb. Was he unconscious? Was he dead? How could it happen so quickly?
Oh for fuck’s sake if I’m going to die let me die now, don’t drag out this misery! She shouted, or maybe the words were only in her head. If she slid into the water… She was no longer cold, there was no pain… James slipped an inch and somehow she dragged him back.
The snowmen were back, walking through the night towards her, still singing…
One of the snowmen was bending down, brushing snow from her face, lifting her into his arms… But it wasn’t a snowman, it was Orson Welles.
Then more people were with her and lifting her and carrying her up to a warm car. She tried to say something about James, tell them about James, but her voice was frozen in her throat.

Here is a link to ‘Lucky Portbraddon’:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482709142&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

… and here is a link to my other e-books:

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