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

 

 

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

Where they live…

I have such a clear and vivid idea of where my stories take place but sometimes I forget to properly describe the locations, forgetting that my readers don’t know. In ‘Lucky Portbraddon’, I made a conscious effort to describe the settings and where my characters lived. The novel starts with the family, five cousins and their families, meeting at their grandmother’s big country home, Slake Hall. The first park of the story takes place her, and I try to weave descriptions into the narrative by words and phrases and odd sentences here and there, not one big chunk of writing.

however, when the story moves away from Slake Hall as the characters go home after Christmas, their homes need to be described. I tried not to have any other big chunks, so a short description was followed in the rest of the scene in a  more subtle way – I hope!

Slake House, where the grandmother actually lives:

Slake House, Grandma’s home, was not big or grand. It was rather sturdy, square and squat on the corner of a road on the outskirts of Easthope where the town became country. There was a terrace of smallish Edwardian villas beside it, but Slake House was white with a blue tiled roof overhanging the upstairs windows. It had a garden at the back, stretching down to a rather wild and overgrown hedge leaning over the wall.

Ismène’s flat:

Her flat was in the first of two blocks, built among a stand of trees, looking out over the sea. It was on the site of a Victorian hotel which had been pulled down among great controversy over its heritage status a dozen years ago. The flats on the north side looked out over the sea, the flats to the south looked towards the town over a small parking area.
Ismène was glad she lived among the trees. In the spring the ground was carpeted in a succession of flowers, snowdrops, aconites, primroses and bluebells… it was probably a crime that the block had been built in the bluebell wood but it was a lovely setting for those who lived there.

Nick’s house:

There was a place to park directly outside his little terraced house in Coldharbour Lane. As usual the bottle green velvet curtains of the front room were pulled to, even though it wasn’t yet dark; there had been a time when they seemed never to be closed even at night, and Ruby had often looked in the window, seen Nick watching TV, a pad on his knee as he drew something, and knocked on the glass to be let in.

Tyrone’s house:

Alex stepped into the tiny hall with its familiar smell of apricots; the walls were painted cream with a hint of some inoffensive colour, and there was a family joke that the house was getting smaller because it was so often redecorated that the paint was inches thick on the walls… The kitchen was almost clinical in its cleanliness, pure, someone had said… Carla was obsessive about cleaning and Alex and Nick secretly called it the OT, the operating theatre.

Noah’s house

He wandered into the little shower room converted from the old outside toilet. In keeping with the rest of the house it was simply decorated, plain tiles with a randomly wavy blue line running at waist height. There was a dimpled window and a Velux light so the room was bright and seemed bigger than it was. What a pleasant and restful house this was, a comfortable house…

Alex’s new house:

“12, Dark Fort Drive. Let’s go and look.”
The house was on its own, pre-war, stone clad and with a Dutch style roof. Virginia creeper covered part of it, with clematis twining through, pink blossoms nodding against the green. The high walls contained a pleasant lawned garden with shrubs and rose beds around the edge. There were double gates which could be closed to ensure privacy.
“Very pretty,” Alex commented as they walked up the drive lined by crab apple trees and silver birch.

If you haven’t yet read Lucky Portbraddon, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476291320&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Thinking about blurbs…

Apparently, and I may have mentioned this before, the word blurb dates from 1906 and was invented by Brander Matthews – meaning the notes on the inside of a book jacket. Well, sadly, as yet, I have had no books actually published as real actual tree-books with jackets – only self-published as e-books. However, I am not complaining, I have been very pleased, delighted and somewhat surprised at the success I have had in my own way! I am in control (which may be a good or not so good thing) and do the covers and write the blurbs.

Blurb writing for your own work is really difficult – it sounds a bit big-headed to say how wonderful your own work is, how exciting, interesting and the best thing a prospective reader should choose… but on the other hand, sometimes one should look at what one’s achieved and be proud of all the effort, and look objectively and see that it has merit.

This is what I wrote for my first published book, Farholm:

Devastated by the death of her young husband, Deke Colefox is determined to find out all she can about the man she married, Niko Nicolaides and decides to go to his family home on Farholm Island. Dr Michael Cabus has his own secret reason for visiting the island; he too wants to find the truth about a beloved stranger.
Deke and Dr Cabus arrive on the same ferry as a beautiful girl who then disappears. The islanders fear the worst as two other young women were horrifically murdered the previous year.
Deke and Michael each have a personal interest in finding the missing girl, and finding her before she meets the same fate as the other two. Their desire for answers leads them to face uncomfortable truths and their lives are put at risk in an unexpected and terrifying way.

Because the two main characters I was anxious that people shouldn’t think it was going to be a romance; it isn’t – Deke and Michael become friends, but no more. There is a romance in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov‘, but it is very much a subsidiary story-line, so I didn’t mention or even hint at it:

Rosa Czekov is an ordinary person who, through an extraordinary act of courage, brings herself to public attention. Rosa is modest and private, and this unwelcome publicity attracts a stalker who makes her life a misery and brings her to the verge of a breakdown.
Her cousin, Tyche Kane, has a mission to discover who is tormenting Rosa and bring him or her to retribution. In the course of her pursuit, Tyche uncovers many secrets in an effort to prove Rosa was not just imagining her persecutor.However, her quest not only puts her own life at risk, but endangers Rosa’s friends and family and leads to the murder of someone very close to her.

The title of ‘Loving Judah‘ might lead a reader to think it is a love story – well that is a strong part of the book, but Judah is the main character’s step-son, who dies before the book even starts:

The tragic death of Aislin McManus’s adored step-son Judah is a catastrophe; the fact that his father, Peter, blames Aislin almost breaks her heart.
Her attempts to mend the breach between her and her husband are failing and when Aislin meets someone else who is blamed for the death of his best friend she resolves to do everything she can to reconcile him with his family, even though she puts herself in danger by doing so.

night vision‘ is about relationships – between Beulah and her husband, and the childhood relationship of him and his brother:

Beulah and Neil Cameron return to his childhood home of Easthope to try and repair their damaged marriage. Neil is profoundly and wrongly jealous of Beulah’s best friend; however Beulah discovers that Neil has his own secrets which may damage their marriage more permanently. The disappearance of his fifteen year-old brother Patrick thirty years ago, casts a long shadow, and despite Neil’s opposition, Beulah is determined to find out what happened to him.

Flipside‘ is set in the 1990’s and is about PTSD; I had to write a blurb which didn’t give away too much, but yet had something which would entice the reader to read it:

Jaz has moved from Bristol to be with her recently widowed brother; she is a teacher and she has moved from a high-flying head of faculty post in a top school to take a lowly temporary position in a challenging school in the north of England. She is up to the challenge, but she does not expect to find her life is in danger from a man who has already butchered three women; she has met the love of her life, but is he, could he possibly be, the murderer?
She discovers some brutal truths about her beloved brother, he seems on the verge of a breakdown, convinced there is a conspiracy surrounding his wife’s death… but where does he go on Fridays, and what does he do?
“I was alone, utterly alone. I thought I’d been brave running away from my life in Bristol, my friends and familiar places; I was pleased to be so daring and impetuous, and so certain of my love for David when our eyes had met in the Lees Spa Hotel. But I hadn’t taken him home and made love to him in order to enter a violent world of fear and hate and danger.”

Then came my Radwinter series; I had never intended to write a sequel, let alone a whole series, but after the first book about Thomas Radwinter, his story just seemed to continue naturally:

  1. Radwinter: 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.
  2. Magick: 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…
  3. Raddy and Syl: 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.
  4. 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.

The blurbs are getting longer… is that a good thing? My other book is ‘The Double Act:

Easthope is a quiet, slightly old-fashioned seaside town; nothing ever seems to happen, and Genet McCauley and her friends lead lives almost unchanged since they left school. Genet, married to mercurial Lance and running their small hotel, sometimes feels trapped and often feels bored, but she loves Lance and in most ways is content. Their friends call them the great double act; Genet without Lance? Lance without Genet? Impossible!
But then the McCauleys take on new tenants in a bungalow they own; is it a coincidence that as the enigmatic Dr Herrick and his disabled wife arrive in the small town, a series of acts of vandalism and arson is committed? At first they are, small, petty events, which seem to centre on the group of friends; however, before long they escalate to violence and attempted murder.
When the Herricks come to Easthope, Genet’s life and that of those closest to her, changes for ever. Don’t think ‘The Double Act’ is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love.

… and my most recently published book, Lucky Portbraddon:

“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!”

If you have any thoughts, comments or kindly criticism of my blurbs I would welcome them – if you read my books, I would really love to have your opinion of them!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_11?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsden%2Caps%2C150&crid=LWT3KKEA48CN&rh=n%3A341677031%2Ck%3Alois+elsden

 

Into the snow

Here is an excerpt from my latest novel, Lucky Portbraddon. It’s after Christmas and the Portbraddon family and their guest, Ismène Verany, are cut off by snow in the big old house up on the moors that belongs to their grandmother. One of the little children, five-year old Bella is missing and her sister says she has gone out to look for Father Christmas’s reindeer. Ismène, Bella’s brother Noah and a cousin, Carla, set off to look for the child.

It was actually quite warm outside; there was no wind and the clouds hung heavy and full, a sinister green colour now. They crossed what must have been a lawn, Carla striding away in front. The snow in places was knee-deep and Ismène struggled through with deepening dread as she thought that however far they went they would have to come that far back. The children had played here earlier and a lopsided snowman grinned at them, an old hat at a jaunty angle. There were too many footprints to pick out the track of a little girl in search of Santa’s reindeer.

They climbed over a wall and Ismène slipped and fell into a soft cushion of snow. It was a childishly pleasant thing, funny and painless. Carla heaved her up and they continued on, climbing up a field. The wind had blown the snow into deep drifts against the hedges like berms in a desert.

“Would Bella really have come all this way?”  Ismène puffed. She had lost her fear of the snow. Within a few minutes of being out in the reality of it, her terror had subsided. It wasn’t so much the snow as the feeling of powerlessness, of not being able to do anything to save herself and James.

“It wouldn’t seem far,” Carla was striding out. “We go for walks in the wood all the time, there are fabulous spring flowers, and then later the bluebells. We go there for picnics in the summer, the children have their favourite climbing trees. No, the wood wouldn’t seem so far away.”

They struggled on, Noah, a dark, silent presence behind them. The sinking sun was peeping though a single rift in the mounting banks of cloud on the horizon, casting long sinister shadows and looking ahead, the etiolated shadows of the women seemed pursued by the dark blot of Noah. Glancing back at him he was a featureless bulk against the sliver of brightness on the western horizon.

“You alright, Ismène?” his voice instantly transformed him into a reassuring buttress.

They were approaching the trees, bounded by a snow-covered wall and the two women went one way and Noah the other. He’d hardly gone a couple of dozen yards when he called to them and they clambered over the wall following the small footprints he’d found. An obvious thought struck Ismène; Bella was Noah’s sister, no wonder he’d come with them, no wonder he’d carried Cressie so easily.

They spread out as they searched, calling her name as they wandered. It was very quiet under the trees and their voices echoed. Occasionally there was the snap of something breaking; it spooked Ismène and she remembered her sinister hallucination, and was filled with a sense of foreboding.

In the snow deadened silence, broken only by unidentifiable cracks and splintering noises, the thud and thump of a mass of snow falling, the wood seemed creepy and dangerous.

They called Bella’s name as they moved apart; the cold had seeped through her clothes in this sunless place, but the worst cold was in Ismène’s heart.

The wood dropped away steeply down into a little gully; it was as if night had come early, or as if blackness was seeping out of its depth. But in the deepest gloom there seemed to be a spot of blue.

“Carla, I think I see her!”  Ismène cried “Call Noah!”

“Careful, Ismène it’s very wet down there, there’s a stream at the bottom and a pool!”

Water! Water and snow! This was too reminiscent of the pond. She slithered down and noticed flecks of snow, white against the evening gloom. If there was a pool, a pool of icy water, if there was a pool and the child was in the pool….

With a jolt she hit a massive rock and toppled sideways and in a panicky memory of slithering into water, she jumped back onto her feet.

“Watch out there’s a big rock!”

But too late, Carla gave a scream of pain.

“Oh shit, my ankle!” Carla shouted. “Don’t worry about me, Ismène go and find Bella!”

 Ismène clambered down the slope; the bottom of the gully was in darkness and she could only just remember where she’d seen the smudge of blue. The incline flattened and she was on a muddy path by the stream; on the other side of the water was the little girl, her face a blob in the shadow.

“I didn’t see the reindeer,” a little voice came. “And now I’m stuck.” The child was unconcerned and slightly cross. “The water is there and I’m here and there’s a big bit I can’t get up.”

Trying to keep calm, Ismène asked how she’d got there.

“I walked on the ice but then it broke. I got water in my boot. Only one boot though.”

“Can you come back across the stream to me if you have your boots on?”

The child gave a defiant ‘no’; she didn’t want to, she hadn’t seen the reindeer yet. She was hidden in the gloom and seemed to be sitting on a rock.

Tentatively, against her instincts, Ismène put her foot into the water; it wasn’t deep but the bottom seemed slippy and she feared she’d fall over. There was nothing to hold onto, no hanging branch, nothing.

She was wading across to Bella when her foot plunged into a sudden hole.  Ismène clenched her teeth on a rude word, Bella was only yards away; the bank was sheer but somehow the child had found a small ledge to perch on.

“Come to me Bella, your mummy is very worried about you,” she said, stretching out her hand, but the child drew away from her. “Come along, we’re all getting cold and it’s very dark now.”

”No, I’m staying here till I see the reindeer.”

Oh for god’s sake you stupid brat, get the hell over here and let’s go home. But of course Ismène only said this in her head.

“Well you won’t be able to see the reindeer for two reasons. It’s dark, too dark to see them.”

Bella thought about this. “That’s one reason. What’s the other?”

“Well Father Christmas doesn’t let them out at night except on Christmas Eve. They’re back in their stable eating carrots.”  Ismène’s teeth were chattering now. “So we’d better go home, hadn’t we?”

“Bella!” a voice bellowed.

“Daddy!” Bella shouted back and Ismène grabbed her and the little girl put her arms around her neck and wrapped her legs about her waist.

I hope I don’t bloody fall over now and Ismène waded across the pool.

“Bella? You all right sweetpea?” it was Noah not Alex, his roar in the dark had sounded just like his father.

“Where’s Daddy? I want Daddy!” squealed the child.

Noah took Bella even though the girl was screaming she wanted her daddy; she was cold and tired and there were no reindeer. Carla tried to stand but couldn’t put any weight on her foot; there was only one option; Noah piggy-backed her up through the woods as  Ismène  squelched along beside him carrying Bella who was crying tediously now, a whining, irritating grizzle.

They stopped at the wall for Noah to catch his breath, he was puffing with the effort of carrying Carla up the slope between the trees. He hoisted Carla onto his back again and with Ismène, carrying Bella, her frozen feet squelching in the borrowed boots, they walked across the moonlit fields.

 https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481845301&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

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Luck and being lucky

My most recently published book is ‘Lucky Portbraddon’; as you might guess Lucky Portbraddon is the name of a character, however, he doesn’t actually appear in the novel except as a portrait hanging in the family home up on the moors. As old Mrs Portbraddon explains to the new girlfriend of one of her grandsons: “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…

The family does in fact seem ‘lucky’ – as they get together for Christmas they reflect that each is more or less successful in his career, and they all have happy marriages with kindly wives and lovely children.

This is the rest of the ‘blurb’:

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!”

man_18_2 (2)

So the idea of luck and being lucky has been on my mind since I have been so immersed in writing the book and the story of this family. A couple of days ago there was an interesting interview on a radio programme called ‘Thinking Aloud’ with  Laurie Taylor; he was talking to Robert H. Frank, Professor of Economics at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management, in a feature called ‘Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy’. They talked about the role luck in life’s successes and failures. Professor Frank argued that chance is much more significant than people give it credit for. Lynsey Hanley, a writer and the Visiting Fellow at the Research Centre for Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University also joined the discussion, and if you are able, try to listen to the podcast:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b084bp81

It was a very intellectual argument put quite clearly in this programme, and I’m interesting in getting the Professor’s book. He was discussing whether some people are ‘lucky’, or whether success is attributed to hard work, perseverance etc. If I understand it, he was saying that few really ‘lucky’ i.e. successful people, have achieved their eminence without really hard work, but there is an element of chance which allows one hard-working person to succeed more than an other equally hard-working person. He interviewed many successful people, and if he asked them if their attainment was due to luck, they mostly said no quite strongly and said it was because they worked hard. However, if he went through their different steps to success, then they might admit that a lucky chance had sent the to a certain school, succeeded at a particular interview, met the right person at the right time, and so looking back in that way, then yes, they were lucky.

As the golfer Gary Player said: ‘People ask if I’m lucky, well, yes I am, but do you know what is very strange, the harder I practice, the luckier I get!

Here is a link to ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ and you can read about the changing fortunes of the Portbraddons:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1481302885&sr=1-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Here is a link to Professor Frank:

http://www.robert-h-frank.com/

… and his book:

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10663.html#evendors