night vision…

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.

Over the next month I am  sharing excerpts from my other novels; this is the opening chapters of ‘night vision’:

night vision

1

Beulah realised she was lost and had a flash of fantasy about being totally lost and Neil, anxious and concerned, coming to find her… But of course that really was nonsense, she thought unhappily.
She wandered on, climbing slightly and hit a track and followed it until it disappeared and she was wandering aimlessly once more. The trees were in full leaf, but a sombre and dreary green in the grey afternoon light. There was no wind and fancifully it seemed to Beulah that she was watched. She had no notion of time, and didn’t care.
There were rocky outcrops now as she walked into an ancient and long abandoned quarry, and it was here she saw the tree, the tree she was moved to climb. It had branches at just the right inviting height and she smiled to herself as she reached to catch hold and pull herself up.
She had a rush of excitement, a sort of thrill she hadn’t had for so long that it seemed it was when she was young. But I’m not old! her inner child cried, forty-seven, that’s old, her real self replied.
It was a wonderful tree to climb and soon she was eight foot off the ground and she stopped and smiled and wondered when she’d last done that. She could see the rocky walls of the quarry more clearly, covered with ivy and unfurling ferns and long trails of some sort of vine.
Beulah began to climb again, not looking up, enjoying the feel of the bark, the smell of the leaves. Sun shafted through the branches, the weather clearing at last and she glanced over at the cliff and then back again in disbelief.
There was a sculpture of a hanging man suspended on the rock in an impossible place. It was carved out of wood but she couldn’t quite see it because a branch hung down. It was difficult to climb higher but she had to get a better look at the figure on the rocks.
Beulah reached for the next bough and had to stretch for it, a broken off stump protruding awkwardly. She still couldn’t see the carving and lacing her fingers together, pulled herself up awkwardly, bumping her breast and grazing her face. The discomfort made her feel alive and she smiled as she wedged her foot on the broken stump and pulled herself onto the next branch, swung her legs over and sat peering at the figure.
It was not a carving at all; it was a stunted trunk of a tree growing out of the side of the quarry, she could see that now, but its natural provenance made it even more remarkable. It still looked exactly like a hanging man, the rounded chest straining above the concave belly; a swelling of some canker round the hips suggested he was swathed in cloth, or wearing britches, or as if he had a satyr’s fleecy legs or was Pan himself.
A grooved channel running down the lower part of the twisted trunk marked his legs pressed together and then a splay of aerial roots gave the impression of cords binding the ankles and hiding the feet or cloven hooves.
Above the swelling chest, the head lolled forward, the top of the tree pollarded or deformed by some growth.  The face was hidden but the sun highlighted a bent nose, parted lips and the line of the brow; gnarled protuberances, lumpy and knotted looked like curls of shaggy hair. On either side, twisting branches, like bent arms, came together as if the wrists had been bound, and tangled vines of ivy hid the hands.
It was the most amazing thing and Beulah stared at it, mesmerised. It was strangely moving, a primitive god unexpectedly revealed, sacrificed for some dark magical mystical reason. She looked down; she was nearly thirty foot above the ground. From below the hanging man would look like a twisted and deformed tree, growing out of the rock face. Only from here was the mystery revealed.
“You are wonderful,” she said loud enough for the figure to hear. “I could worship you,” and she was amused at her foolishness.
How strange to laugh; it seemed a long time since she’d last laughed at anything. She sat for a while staring at the figure; it was a soft pale taupe, the colour of a person who spent time out of doors all year round, a young person whose skin hadn’t coarsened… Definitely a satyr or Pan.
The camera which they’d almost left in their old house was stuffed in her fleece pocket; wrapping an arm round the trunk of the tree, she struggled with the zip and found her phone not the camera. It spun from her hands and tumbled onto a pile of last autumn’s leaves.
“Bugger you!” she said to her phone. “Well, you’ll have to wait till I come down.”
It was difficult to get to her other pocket and she clung awkwardly onto the branch above.
“Jesus, I hope I don’t fall,” she muttered.
She had somehow lost her confidence; whether it was the phone falling or the realisation that she was higher than she intended, she felt unbalanced. She held the camera, one handed to her eye but the foliage obscured her view so she shuffled from sitting into a crouch. There was an annoying twig with too many leaves but she took a shot anyway then wobbled and clutched at the branch above.
She stood up, trembling and sweaty, scared but determined to get a picture, hanging on with one arm, leaning away from the tree for a perfect view.
She held her camera steady, pressed… And nothing. Suddenly her hand slipped and her foot went and there was a heart-stopping lurch and she was falling –
But her wrist was grabbed and somehow she was swung and heaved up and she grabbed the trunk again.
“Are you OK?” a voice came from above.
“Bloodyfuckingbuggeringshitshitefuck,” she clung to the tree and the hand which had saved her. Her heart was racing, she was almost sick with terror and relief.
She released her hold on the hand and wrapped both arms around the trunk. She was weak and faint with the memory of the lurch and the jerk as she was grabbed and hoisted to safety and she slithered to sit down.
“Yes, yes, I’m OK,” and she giggled with a hysterical realisation of how nearly she’d plummeted to the ground.
“I thought you were gonna take a dive,” he had a soft American voice. “I should have said something, I didn’t think you’d come so high, then I daren’t speak in case I startled you.”
Beulah risked looking up but all she could see was a suede boot hanging down and a faded denim leg.
“I managed to startle myself well enough. Jeez, I thought I was going to kill myself,” and the hysterical giggling bubbled again.  “I was trying to take a photo,” she looked up but couldn’t see her rescuer at all. “I wanted a picture of the hanging man, can you see him?”
“It’s a woman,” said the hidden American. “Look at the swelling hips, it’s definitely a woman.”
“No, it’s a man, a satyr maybe,” Beulah could see Pan perfectly now.
“A what?”
“You know, half man, half goat. Or it’s a man in a loin cloth or britches.”
“It’s definitely a woman,” he argued pleasantly with a smile in his voice.
“Well, I’m not going to get a photo of it, that’s for sure. I’m not climbing down and then back up with my camera.”
“I couldn’t believe you were going to climb up here,” he said softly. “I should’ve said something, but I didn’t want to make you fall.”
“Quite capable of doing that myself, thank you.” He chuckled and Beulah tried to explain her irrational act. “It’s not something I make a habit of.”
“Falling out of trees or climbing them?” he asked.
“I don’t think my husband loves me anymore.”
Who was more surprised at her words? The hidden man couldn’t have been more astonished than Beulah herself. Why on earth had she said it? She’d never consciously thought it; whenever her mind had strayed to thoughts about her relationship with Neil she’d quickly switched off the niggling doubts and anxieties.
“Is he having an affair?” asked the man, a gentle young voice.
“My husband having an affair? No way, no, it’s not him.”
“You’re having an affair?”
Beulah’s denial was slow and unhappy. She’d spoken to no-one about this. The rows, the accusations, the guilt, all had been conducted in private and now, in this bizarre situation, sitting up a tree in the middle of a wood, she was having this conversation with a man who’d saved her life and whose face she couldn’t see. It was like saying confession, entering the little box, the priest’s face hidden by a grill as the man above was screened by the branches and leaves.
“So you didn’t have an affair?” and then as if his mind caught up with his words “Pardon me, this is none of my business.”
“I had a friend… But there was nothing between us, nothing happened. We phoned and e-mailed each other with gossip and jokes…”
“Hmm, gee, it’s tough when things like that happen.”
“But nothing did happen! We met occasionally by accident, never alone, always lots of other people around. Absolutely nothing happened,” she’d begun to cry.
There was a silence from above then, “Do you love your friend?”
“No. Well, yes. As a friend. No, not really.”
“Not really?”
“Except in my heart,” Beulah answered in honest misery.
Still silence, and then he said “That must be the hardest thing. And your husband?”
“He won’t forgive me.”
“But you didn’t do anything,” he said gently.
Beulah shivered. The sky was still bright but the sun had gone; the man above began to whistle, a low sad tune.
“I love my husband,” Beulah wiped her nose on her sleeve. “I’d better go. We’re moving house today but there was some problem with the contracts. I got to the place and the old lady’s still there and says she’s not moving after all. I don’t know where the van has gone and I don’t know where my husband is.”
“Worried about you, I should think.”
“I doubt it; anyway, I’d better go.”
“Can you manage, do you want help?”
Should she say yes so she could see him? But better, maybe to remember his boot and leg and gentle voice.
“I’ll be fine. It’s easier going down.”
“I hope it isn’t quicker. So long.”
She didn’t really think Americans said that and it made her smile as she clambered down the tree without mishap and she called a farewell and his goodbye floated down.

Find ‘night vision’ here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1482529601&sr=8-10&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

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 ti 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 suibsidiary 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

 

Nanowrimo, here I falteringly come…

Today’s the day… Today is the first day of the 2016 National Novel Writing Competition, an on-line challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November. I have done it before, three times, and from it I have published three novels

  • 2013 – ‘Radwinter’, published February 2014, “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.
  • 2014 – ‘Raddy and Syl’, published April 2015, “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.”
  • 2015 – ‘Earthquake’, published as ‘Beyond Hope’ in January 2016 – “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.”

I am using the title ‘Earthquake’ for the next Radwinter novel, so what I am going to write this time… well, I’m not sure I have a real clue, but the title came to me a few days ago, and as I wrote it this morning as I signed up, a few little ideas began to buzz… I’ll keep you updated!

 

The rain came heavily

In our writing group today we shared pieces which had been inspired by a poem or verse – it didn’t have to be an actual poem, it could be any piece of writing. We spent the first part of the afternoon talking about writing, and about Christopher Booker’s theory that all stories came down to seven main plots or narrative, that maybe publishers are looking for books which fit a certain pattern or formula, that a couple of academics have published a book about a scientific analaysis of best sellers and what perhaps makes a ‘best seller’…

And then we read out pieces; because I lead the group I always wait till last to read anything I have written, just in case we run out of time – and in actual fact we did run our of time, so I didn’t read either the poem I had chosen, or what it had inspired.

In actual fact, I didn’t write anything new, but took a passage from my novel ‘Night Vision’ a passage which had been directly inspired by this poem:

Resolution and Independence
 William Wordsworth

There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.

All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning’s birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops;—on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.

I was a Traveller then upon the moor;
I saw the hare that raced about with joy;
I heard the woods and distant waters roar;
Or heard them not, as happy as a boy:
The pleasant season did my heart employ:
My old remembrances went from me wholly;
And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy.

But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joys in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low;
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
Dim sadness—and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.

This is the first four verses of a longer poem; the very vivid image of the rain coming down in floods always comes into my mind when it really is raining heavily, and when i was writing about the main character, Beulah driving through a storm, I had the poem in my mind.

Here is the rainy scene – Beulah has had a terrible argument with her husband Neil who was at a rugby club, drunk, when he should have been taking her out. She runs out into the rain, jumps in her car and drives way:

Beulah drove at random, tears streaming down her face as the rain streamed down the windscreen. An oncoming vehicle flashed its lights aggressively and Beulah went to lower hers only to realise that she hadn’t even turned them on. She pulled over to the side of the road and wept, embarrassed, mortified, humiliated.

How could you, Neil, how could you? She wanted to run away, but where to? Her friends were all in Manchester… thank God the boys were thousands of miles away. She wouldn’t go back to the flat, Austin and Annie might see her arrive alone and wonder what was wrong, come to be kind…. She couldn’t face them.

She wiped her face, smearing her carefully applied make-up. She couldn’t help but think of her excitement and anticipation, her optimism and hope. It was an insult, an affront. Bad enough for anyone to do something like that, but for her own husband to make a mockery of her love for him… She was sobbing now, utterly miserable, the future absolutely black, no hope of ever regaining the relationship she’d had with Neil.

How could she ever trust him again? Their problems all came from him. When his jealousy exploded in his attack on Rafi she could honestly say that she was innocent. She blew her nose and got out of the car and walked up and down in the teeming rain. Her feet were wet in her slender strapped sandals, the soles so thin the water pooling on the pavement ran between her toes.

Back in the car, cold, very wet and more controlled but no calmer, she looked at her phone. Nothing from Neil. Should she ring him but what could she possibly say? Even if he’d been sober enough to understand what she meant, what could she say?

Why hadn’t he rung her? It was nine fifty, she’d arrived at the club a few minutes before nine. Why hadn’t he rung? He was probably stumbling into a taxi, belatedly trying to catch her or make his way to the restaurant. Or maybe he was going back to the flat. Or maybe he’d lurched after her and was staggering around in the dark and rain.

It had been a stupid joke, a stupid hurtful joke. She’d find it hard to forgive, but perhaps he’d not been deliberately malicious or cruel, just grossly insensitive, crass, drunk and stupid. She rang him and after a long while he answered but all she could hear was the same drunken racket, singing, shouting, glasses, music, muffled voices. So, he was still at the rugby club. He’d let her run out into the night, distraught and distressed and he’d stayed drinking and laughing with his friends.

Beulah was shivering, as much with emotional trauma as with cold. Beulah needed time to think… or not to think. She drove out of Easthope and through Strand, she didn’t want Neil finding her, even if he came looking. Her phone was on the seat beside her, its silence telling her that he didn’t care.

Should they go for some sort of counselling, Relate, or whatever it was called? Should they separate for a while? But the thought of not being with Neil, of waking every morning without him beside her, of sitting down to eat without him opposite her… it was too unbearable to contemplate.

She pulled into a lay-by as a fresh wave of emotion and despair engulfed her. It had been so embarrassing. She’d walked in and all those men had looked at her knowing how she’d made love to Neil. What on earth was he thinking? How could he be so obtuse and unfeeling? Was he showing off?  He had demeaned her, and those men, his friends, strangers to her, had become voyeurs at the instigation of her husband.

She couldn’t sit snivelling and sorry for herself, alone and lonely; she walked around again, the rain coming down even more heavily. Back in the car she turned on the radio; by an unfortunate coincidence Percy Sledge was singing ‘When a man loves a woman,’ a song Neil had sung during their early days together. She switched it off, switched off the tender memories …

She set off again, crawling along, the rain lashing down so heavily her wipers couldn’t clear the screen. Even with her lights full on she could hardly see where she was going until there was an illuminating blaze of lightning arcing above showing the flooded road, water running like a river. There was a sign to Westope and she drove down to the boatyard and parked against the fence.

The storm unleashed its torrential worst. She had some gloomy satisfaction in the sound of the roaring wind which buffeted the car, screaming and whistling through the boats’ rigging. Deafening thunder cracked and rolled above her and the sheets of viridian lightning matched her despair. She tried to remember Lear’s rage, tried to recall his anguished words, to block out her own thoughts.

The night was full of strange and deafening noises, crashes and bangs as invisible things were tossed about in the boat yard. She should have been frightened but she was beyond fear. She reclined the seat, slipping off her shoes and drawing her feet up to tuck beneath her dress; she wrapped her jacket around her knees, her eyes on her phone, waiting for Neil to call.

She had no idea of the time, didn’t care, it didn’t matter.

She slept.

If you haven’t yet rad ‘Night Vision’ you can find it here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1476117455&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

Are my heroines me?

I’m thinking of pulling together and publishing a guide I wrote to writing – originally for my students when I was teaching and preparing them for their exams, and more recently for my adult friends in my creative writing groups.

As well my little guide to writing, I am thinking of including some of the posts I have made here on WordPress about writing, and my personal writing.

This is one of the posts I think might be interesting to include:

Are my heroines me?

Sometimes people ask if the main character in my novels is based on me… well no; I might wish I were like some of them, as brave and as fearless, but others of them put up with situations I wouldn’t tolerate. None of them look like me, although some have dark hair as I do, and I’m not really sure I would like to look like them either, even though they are mostly taller and slimmer than I am!

  1. Deke Colefox in Farholm: Deke and her sister Blaine have a book-shop and deli. Deke has been changed by the loss of her husband, and she appears in the book  as someone angry and bitter and wild with grief. She is prickly and aggressive, and yet she is also tenacious and brave.  I don’t think I would have reacted like she did in her situation, when she finds that her husband had lied to her so profoundly; I might have been angry but I don’t think I would have been so wild… although maybe when I was her age, who knows how I would have faced what she did?
  2. ‘Rosa’ Czekov in The Stalking of ‘Rosa’ Czekov: ‘Rosa’ has an art gallery, and is not a particularly noticeable person, although her husband Luka fell in love with her the first time he met her when she was a chubby fourteen year-old. She has brown hair, is plumpish, has no great interest in fashion or style, and likes to fade into the background. She is an observer, a watcher, and may seem passive and accepting, but behind her beautiful grey eyes there is a much more complex person. She shocks everyone, including Luka by her actions when faced by a gunman during a botched bank raid. I’m not passive like she is, although I do sometimes sit back and observe others; I like to be with the crowd, unlike ‘Rosa’, although I’m quite happy on the side-lines too.
  3. Tyche Kane in The Stalking of ‘Rosa’ Czekov: Tyche is not a bit like me, except she is sometimes – well quite often, quite zany. She is slim and blonde and very athletic and strong; she runs miles, she trains at the gym and works out every day. She is the sort of person who everyone would notice, she really would stand out in a crowd by her blond hair, blue eyes and wonderful looks. Just in case someone doesn’t notice her, Tyche is a show-off who does everything she can to draw attention to herself  This is not a bit like me… although I do have my crazy side, it’s on a much lower level than Tyche’s. She is an absolute one-off, but people really have no idea what her real character is and have a tendency to underestimate her. This is a mistake; Tyche is every bit as courageous as her cousin and has a core of steel. I think maybe in the past people have underestimated me, especially when I was a teacher I nearly always achieved what I wanted but by quietness and subtlety.
  4. Aislin McManus in Loving Judah: like me Aislin is a teacher, and some of her experiences in the classroom are similar to mine. I think of all my characters she is most like me, but she is also very different. I don’t think I could have married someone like her husband Peter Whitamore; I think I would have found him frustrating and his hobbies would have driven me mad… on the other hand, the presence of his wonderful son Judah was the clincher when it came to becoming a couple. Superficially Aislin might have looked a little like me, except more athletic, and a different build to me, but she too has dark hair.
  5. Beulah Cameron in Night Vision: Beulah is actually very good-looking, tall, slim, dark hair, flashing eyes, but her real charm is that she doesn’t realise it. Again, like me she is a teacher, but she teaches adults at a college in Manchester. Everyone likes Beulah, she is just a really nice, loving person, full of character. I wouldn’t be so immodest as to say I’m like her, and I am definitely unlike her in the way she has tolerated her husband over the years. He adores her but he is very controlling; I don’t think I could have accepted that, but maybe it just developed as the years of their marriage went by.
  6. Jaz (Jaswanti) Paul in Flipside: another teacher and with a similar career to mine, working in supposedly rough schools. Jaz is half Indian and is stunningly beautiful; she has a tendency to end up with the wrong men and has a terrible history of unfortunate relationships. Jaz tends to subdue her personality as she struggles with accepting who she really is, but she has a stubborn streak which doesn’t allow others to ride over her. She stands up for what she believes, and defends those she loves…  I guess that might be me too, although I don’t think I would be quite as out-spoken as she is.
  7. Genet McCauley in The Double Act: Genet has long rippling red hair and a sprinkle of freckles ‘like pale tea leaves’ across her nose, so physically she is nothing like me at all. She was brought up by an aunt and married her husband Lance when she was eighteen and they have a small seaside guest-house. He is a larger-than-life character and she is in his shade. She is passive, meek, timid, and when her group of friends are talking about each other’s characters, who is the cleverest, who is the funniest etc. she is described as ‘nice’ which secretly horrifies her, ‘nice is nothingy, nice is wishy-washy’. However like my other heroines people are wrong to underestimate her… when things get tough, when horror and mayhem disrupt her life, she proves to be strong, resilient and courageous. I think Genet and I are very dissimilar, although I think she would be a good friend if she really existed!
  8. Mal Stirling in A Strong Hand From Above (unpublished): Mal is an artist and illustrator and is a dreamy but independent person. She is quite happy to love her life with or without attachments, maybe because she was orphaned at an early age and brought up by a kindly step-father. She is maybe a little too trusting and falls into a situation where her life is at risk. I think I’m probably more cynical and hard-headed, and definitely am a person who likes to be with other people and in a steady relationship.
  9. Erin in The Story of Frederico Milan (unpublished): Erin is small with dark hair which shows some premature grey. She lectures at what was Strand Tech, and is the best friend of Frederico. She is a person who keeps her private life very private, even from Frederico. Although she could be described as ‘sensible’ she does make unexpected and perhaps irrational decisions, and has an almost self-destruct mode when it comes to relationships. Erin might seem superficially similar to me, but in fact she is completely different – except perhaps in loyalty to her friends and having a best friend who is a bloke.
  10. Ismène Verany in Lucky Portbaddon: Erin’s father was French/Vietnamese and she has inherited his dark hair, shape of face and features. She was in a difficult marriage for many years and is very tough and resilient, but her divorce and the death of her mother has changed her; now she is full of adventure and fun and ready to live life to the full, catching up on her missed years. I think I may have become like her if my life had been different, but I’m no good at dancing and don’t have lots of men falling in love with me!

The title of this post is ‘Are my heroines me?’ but the person who I write about who is most like me isn’t a heroine at all… he’s a hero – a male character. Just looking at his character, nothing at all to do with gender, Thomas Radwinter really is the most similar to me of all my ‘leads’… so I shall include him on my list:

11. Thomas Radwinter in Radwinter, Magick, Raddy and Syl, Beyond Hope and Earthquake (unpublished): Thomas is fat, ginger, bearded, and a man – so in that sense he is not at all like me! However he has different sides to his character, unbelievably shy and lacking in confidence  (an aspect of myself when I was much younger); he is absent-minded and gets in muddles, but actually through a natural wit and good luck, he succeeds in the end. He’s often laughed at which he works to his own advantage, and is much tougher than anyone would guess. People do tend to underestimate me, and think because I am so forgetful and get in muddles, that I won’t or can’t achieve my purpose. Well, like Thomas, in my muddly way, I do usually get where I want to be and I hope like Thomas I’m loving and kind and generous.

 

Gormless and gorm

Someone… and you know who you are! – someone mentioned ‘gormless’. It’s such a great word, it so perfectly captures in sound what it means! No wonder Mervyn Peake used it in his ‘Gormenghast Trilogy’ – Gormenghast Castle belonged to the Earl of Groan, and the books are full of wonderful and extraordinary names. However, I’m drifting away from ‘gormless’; it’s tempting to wonder whether there is also ‘gorm’, and ‘gormful’, and maybe even ‘gormish’ and ‘gormly’?

I wrote a post some time ago, not just about ‘gorm’ but also ‘reck’ – as in reckless. and ‘ruth’, as in ruthless:

Other people have blogged about this with much more authority than I can, but I just did want to mention these funny English words which have a suffix or prefix as if they had a noun which could stand alone.

In my novel ‘Night Vision’, Beulah and her husband are talking about his brother who he describes as ‘gormless’. Neil hates and loathes his brother, and Beulah tries to diffuse his annoyance by making a play on the word ‘gormless’

“Was there something wrong with him?” Beulah couldn’t help but ask. “What did he look like?” she persisted even though Neil was becoming annoyed.
“Gormless,” Neil’s voice was like ice.
“I wonder what gormful means?” Beulah asked shutting the books firmly. “I wonder if it’s gormful or gormeous.”
“Or whether some people have gormness thrust upon them,” Neil seemed as anxious to forget it as she.
“Or gormship.”
“Or gormworthy.”
“How about ungorm?”

‘Gorm’ is a Scandinavian word and no doubt arrived in England as ‘gaum’ with the Vikings or other Scandi’s who settled here. Gaum meant sense, or having sense and gaumless meant the opposite, a bit like wit and witless. Gormless lingered on in Yorkshire and the north-east before spreading to the rest of the country. Emily Brontë is credited with sending it south in her novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ when the old servant Joseph uses it!

Reckless is another similar word – can you have reckful or unreck? Reck meant care… obviously! And then there is feckless… nothing to do with the Irish ‘feck’ which obviously is very different! Feckless comes from ‘effect’ which was changed by the Scots.

Ruth is a lovely name, I have a beautiful cousin – she is on holiday at the moment so I guess the family are Ruthless.. however the adjective comes from ‘rue’ – as in ‘rue the day’ meaning to regret, so we have ‘rueful’ but not ruthful’.

DSCF1444

My cousin Ruth

I’m fascinated by words and if you are too, have a look at these links:

http://www.rinkworks.com/words/negatives.shtml

… and for more about Mervyn Peake:

http://www.mervynpeake.org/gormenghast/

…and if you haven’t read my novel ‘Night Vision’, here is a link:

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

By the way the castle in my featured image isn’t Gormenghast, it’s Dunluce in County Antrim in Northern Ireland

 

 

I could dwell among that silent people

A couple of days ago I shared a post from another blogger, titled Imagined Spaces, Forests and the Fairytale World which discussed the role of the forest in ‘fairy’ stories and other myths.

In my writing I have a fictional forest called Camel Wood, and several of my novels have been set there or have things happen there; in my children’s novel The Story of Rufus Redmayne, Camel Wood is a dangerous and frightening place, home to wild beasts and other beings, mythical creatures come alive in the modern world. However, in Night Vision, the forest is a benign place, offering safety and protection, dreams and visions; although still mysterious, it is a place where secrets are uncovered and truths revealed. In The Stalking of Rosa Czekov it is just a location, just a forest where various scenes take place.

Here is a short poem by Richard Monckton Milnes, born in 1809, the 1st Baron Houghton:

I love the Forest;–I could dwell among
That silent people, till my thoughts up–grew
In nobly–ordered form, as to my view
Rose the succession of that lofty throng:–
The mellow footstep on a ground of leaves
Formed by the slow decay of nume’rous years,–
The couch of moss, whose growth alone appears,
Beneath the fir’s inhospitable eaves,–
The chirp and flutter of some single bird,–
The rustle in the brake,–what precious store
Of joys have these on Poets’ hearts conferred?
And then at times to send one’s own voice out,
In the full frolic of one startling shout,
Only to feel the after–stillness more!

Here is a link to the Imagined Spaces post

https://witchesandfolklore.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/imagined-spaces-forests-and-the-fairy-tale-world/

… and if you haven’t read my novels and don’t yet know what happens in Camel Wood, here is a link:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden