Foggy

It’s foggy today… well, being by the sea we might talk about a sea-fret or haar but I’m not sure technically that is what we have here now… I can’t find the origins of ‘fret’ used in this way, it seems to have arrived in the nineteenth century, so perhaps is a colloquial word from somewhere… a haar is a very specific east coast winter sea fog… although now I think it is used everywhere by the sea; it is of Dutch/Germanic origin, so no doubt Dutch and German traders brought it to the east coast of England and now it has spread across to the east coast, so that any cold nasty fog coming off the sea is a haar!

A few synonyms I came across while looking it up: mist, mistiness, fogginess, haar, smog, murk, murkiness, haze, haziness, gloom, gloominess, sea fret, pea-souper, brume, fume and i am sure there are many more, and many, many more dialect words.

Fog is a useful device for writers, and I think I have used it twice.

In the first novel I published, Deke is staying on Farholm Island and she goes exploring; she reaches a village up on the top of the hills and then the fog comes down:

Deke hobbled swiftly down the stable, flung open the door and rushed out into the fog, she would go back to the cafe and phone someone, anyone to rescue her, to take her back to her cottage and she would pack and run away. The fog was thicker than anything Deke had ever experienced, it was quite frightening, like a disembodied entity pushing up against her face, its cold breath chilling her skin and dewing her hair.
She blundered on and she heard Michael somewhere calling her, his voice oddly directionless in the obscurity. She came up against a wall and followed it, passing an unlit window and came to a door. She banged but there was no response, it wasn’t the cafe. Michael was still calling her name and then she heard other voices. Quite close at hand a woman said
“Who is it?”
“Its me, Deke,” she answered because the voice sounded familiar.
“Where are you?”
Deke stumbled on to where the woman seemed to be. There was grass beneath her feet, she had strayed out of the confines of the village. She was very frightened. Something moved in the fog in front of her and thankfully she hurried towards it only to collide with a startled cow. She turned and tried to go back the way she had come. She had no idea which way she was facing, towards the village or away and into the hidden wilderness.
“Where are you?” said the woman again.
“Here.”
She stumbled on and unexpectedly her crutch sunk into mud. She was on the edge of a pond, the pond she had seen in the photo of the children. She had staggered into the cow trampled ooze and she slithered and stuck, her crutches pushing down into the smelly slime.
“I’m by the pond,” she called, her voice sharp with panic and fear.
“Which side? Can you see across it?”
Deke looked across the dull grey water and could just make out a clump of reeds. She was shoved violently and she slipped and fell with a great splash. She floundered and thrashed desperately as a foot pressed down on her back, between her shoulder blades. Then it was gone and she turned onto her back, hacking and coughing as she tried to sit up. Then the pond seemed full of other people and she was pulled up, hawking and spitting.

If you haven’t read my book, Farholm, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1464093893&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

and In The Double Act, Genet hurries out to find Dr Herrick who she desperately wants to speak to:

Genet stood on the back doorstep smelling the early morning and the salty milky air. She had a peculiar urge to walk out into the wetness and she gave into it and stepped barefoot onto the terrace and onto the lawn. The fog was so dense she couldn’t see the top floor of the hotel.

Her feet were cold but it was perversely pleasant and she had an urge to lie down on the wet grass. Her skin was cold and droplets had formed on strands of auburn hair hanging down her forehead. She remembered standing by the sea wall with Dr Herrick, shivering and pressing herself against him.

Footsteps crunched down the drive; he was going to the sea. She hurried back to the house and ran into the bedroom, then ran out of the hotel and had to follow the hedge and the neighbour’s garden walls, the fog was so dense. She walked along the wire fence of the little park and playground and came to the white walls of the coastguard cottages. She crossed over to the sea wall but could see nothing but the grassy banks leading down to the beach. She followed the wall round until she came to the slope down to the little harbour and the fisherman’s huts.

Through the dense fog came voices.

“Hello,” she called. The bait shop was open and a couple of men sat on the step.

“It’s Genet, isn’t it?” It was Heath’s father, his boat somewhere out in the mist.

“Hello, have you seen someone come down here to swim?” she asked breathlessly.

The two men were wearing waterproofs, two old geezers smoking their pipes and talking fish.

“Yes, he comes every morning. He’s over on the other side, he swims off the end of the point and across the bay to Green Rock. Does it every day. Swims like a fish though I told him not to go out today, too dangerous in this fog,” Heath’s father lit his pipe.

“I don’t think he cared, he looked suicidal. If he doesn’t come back I won’t be surprised,” added the other man gloomily. “One of those moody types if you ask me. What is it, manic-depressive is it?” He puffed on his pipe. “First he used to come down he hardly said a word, nodded and that was it. Then we’ve had a sunny couple of months, him whistling as he walked and chatty as anything. Now the last few weeks his face has been as black as sin.”

If you haven’t read, The Double Act, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1489055000&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

The Double Act…

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 ‘The Double Act’ with the subtitle: “Don’t think ‘The Double Act’ is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love.”

This chapter from later in the book is not a spoiler; on the first page the first scene describes how, unexpectedly and completely out of character Genet McCauley has a romantic encounter with the new tenant of the bungalow she and her husband are renting out. She loves her husband, has never ever been unfaithful before, nor even thought about it; Dr Herrick, the new tenant lives with his disabled wife and has asked Genet’s cousin Lyndsey if she might be a companion for her.

The Double Act

Lance and Genet

Chapter 5

Although Genet had so much to do in case some casual visitors responded to the ‘Vacancies’ sign in the window, she stayed with Gawain after breakfast, pouring coffee for the guests before they left, and taking money for her biscuits and cakes. She wrapped Viennese shortcake, golden oaties, a couple of cakes and a couple of jars of jam and marmalade. Pauline had gone home and Lance had mysteriously disappeared so Genet helped carry the cases and put them in the minibus.
Gawain drove his writers away to the station and Genet was alone and able to collapse on the settee. She was utterly drained; she would sit for five minutes before hoovering the guests’ lounge, changing the bedrooms. The sheets, pillowcases and towels would soon be flapping on the line, drying in the bright March sunshine.
The bell rang… it might be guests. It might be Herrick.
The bell rang again. It was Lyndsey.
“Why ring the bell? Why not come in the back, for heaven’s sake,” snapped Genet, sick with the ebbing tide of emotions which had flooded as she’d rushed to the door.
“Oh… er… I’ll go away if you’re busy, Gen, I thought your people would be gone,” Lyndsey grinned, flushing and bright-eyed with embarrassment.
She was wearing one of her more luminous shell suits under a camel duffel coat and the fluorescent pink seemed to reflect off her broad face. Her dark curly hair was wild as if she had forgotten to brush it, tufts and wisps standing up at odd angles.
Genet’s mother had died shortly after giving birth to her only child, her father was unknown and a kindly aunt had brought her up with her cousin Lyndsey; no-one knew anything of Lyndsey’s parents, and no-one had ever liked to ask the big, good-hearted,  bumbling woman about it.
“I’m sorry, Lyndsey, come in. You can make me a cup of tea, I’m absolutely shattered, and then you can help me do the rooms.”
Lyndsey stuttered as she followed Genet into the kitchen. “I say, Gen, Chrissie has been talking to me…”
“Oh, about Pamela? Money for old rope if you ask me,” Genet had automatically put the kettle on and found the tea bags.
She tried to keep her mind on Lyndsey and what she was saying. Concentration was a problem for her all the time now, her mind would wander away and when she returned to reality she had no idea where she’d been, only who she’d been with.
“So will you, Gen?” pleaded Lyndsey, as if repeating herself. “Will you speak to Dr Herrick for me?”
“Oh, Lyndsey, you’re hopeless!” she was exasperated. “It’s nothing to do with me. Look, they’re only at the end of the garden, why don’t you go and see if they’re at home?”
“Oh, I couldn’t, I might be interrupting something, oh, I couldn’t. Please, Gen, couldn’t you…” Lyndsey was so keen but as usual, had no confidence.
After much encouragement, she agreed to go and see the Herricks, if Genet rang them first. In the end it was easier, and kinder. Perhaps Herrick wouldn’t be at home. She dialed the number, surprised she knew it and he answered on the second ring, giving his name.
She had convinced herself Pamela would answer and was taken aback at the sound of his voice.
“Mrs. McCauley. Good morning,” his voice smiled.
She began to explain that Lyndsey would come down and see him and Pamela but stopped as Lyndsey gesticulated violently. “Excuse me a minute. What’s the matter, Lyndsey?” she hissed.
“No, no, I don’t want to talk to him!” Lyndsey looked alarmed.
Genet raised her eyes to heaven. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ she mouthed.
She apologized to Herrick, and flushed with a strange sensation as she said his name.  He and Pamela would be pleased to see them, he said, the smile still there.
“If it’s convenient, but otherwise we could arrange another time.”
“Really,” and he laughed as he had done when Chrissie was flirting with him and rang off without another word
Genet leant against the table, on the verge of fainting and murmured to Lyndsey that they’d go in a minute.
“Oh, no, Gen, no. I don’t like him, I thought I’d see Pamela, really, I’m sorry, ring him and tell him I’ve changed my mind,” Lyndsey looked close to tears.
“Lyndsey, don’t be such an idiot!” Genet was more than irritated; this was ridiculous. “Pamela will be there, and anyway, he’s perfectly pleasant.”
But Lyndsey was terrified. She was five foot ten, as broad as a door and as timorous and shy as a mouse. Whenever Genet thought of herself as timid or gauche she only had to think of her cousin to know she wasn’t. They had grown up together and Lyndsey had always been like this, so, reluctantly, Genet agreed to walk down with her.
“You knock at the door, Gen,” she whispered as they approached.
Herrick was at the front of the bungalow with the boot of his car open, unloading large ceramic pots and a huge bale of compost. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but even so informal, his jeans were immaculately pressed, the t-shirt spotless, his trainers as clean as if he was wearing them for the first time.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. McCauley,” he was as courteously as usual. “Hello, Lyndsey. Pamela is in the sunroom with the doors open, having a breath of fresh air, she’s all wrapped up and enjoying the sun. Why don’t you go round?”
Lyndsey squeaked a nervous greeting.
“I don’t know where it is, Gen,” she whispered.
“I’ll say hello to Pamela, if that’s alright,” Genet was looking at the pots and not at him.
“Pamela wants me to plant some things for the patio,” he lifted the compost easily.
Genet stared at his arms, mesmerized by the contrast between his tanned skin and the white sleeve. This is stupid, get a grip for heaven’s sake.
“Do you want a hand?” she asked briskly, and mentally giving herself a shake, she picked up a large square container, Prussian blue with Chinese characters etched into the glaze.
Pamela was sitting in the warm spring sunshine, a fine lacy shawl round her shoulders over the sheepskin coat and a soft pale blue blanket across her knees. Her long blond hair was loose and rippled over the back of her chair.
She greeted them with delight, glad to have company. Genet put down the blue pot and replied with a mix of emotions, guilt, and pity. The more she liked Pamela the worse she felt and the greater was her intention to be a good friend to her, if that was what Pamela wanted.
“I’m sorry, Pamela, I really can’t stay, I have so much to do,” and she promised to come another time.
“Poor Genet, always so busy, not a lady of leisure like little me,” Pamela’s laugh tinkled. “But I think I will relax on the lounger, this perambulator is comfortable enough but no good for enjoying the sun! Darling,” she called to her husband who was on the patio. “Genet has to dash but I will take advantage of the lounger. If you could…” and she held her arms up to him.She glanced at Genet as her husband came to her, smiling sweetly as if mocking her own predicament. He squatted to take her feet from the footplates and fold and twist the rests out the way. He took Pamela’s hands and pulled her upright from the chair. She wound her arms around his neck embracing him as he lifted her, her beautiful hair shimmering like a silken sheaf hanging over his brown forearm.
“Thank you, my darling,” her voice was small and apologetic.
He said nothing but carried her to the lounger and laid her gently down. She thanked him again looking appealingly up at him but he turned and left the sunroom, disappearing round the side of the bungalow.
“My poor husband,” she whispered. “It’s so unfair on him; he hates any kind of sickness. God’s will. You see, it’s something I’ve done, or something he’s done and he suffers for it,” she spoke regretfully.
“So unfair on him? It’s so unfair on you!” exclaimed Lyndsey, her voice unusually strong and forceful with indignation. “He isn’t suffering! He’s a doctor; he should be used to helping people!”
Genet winced at her blunt words, but Pamela wasn’t offended.
“He’s not that sort of doctor, but that’s so sweet of you, Lyndsey, it’s so nice to hear sympathetic words,” she didn’t add ‘for once’ but it was there.
Genet suddenly didn’t like her as much.
“Well, God is loving and kind, Jesus helped the sick; if he’s so religious he should try and emulate our Lord,” Lyndsey was still indignant.
“I’m afraid my husband is more of an Old Testament man, Lyndsey; Gentle Jesus sweet and mild isn’t his cup of tea. Come and sit by me, Lyndsey dear, and talk. My husband will make us a drink, come, sit down.”
Genet was effectively dismissed; she was going anyway, slightly nauseous, whether at Pamela’s words or the sight of her held tightly in her husband’s embrace. She turned and bumped into Herrick.
She had no desire to stay; she’d come to a sudden conclusion that she didn’t like either of the Herricks, neither was what they seemed.
And he’d lied to her; something had happened between him and Monique. Genet was hot and embarrassed for all her silly thoughts. She never wanted to see him again. He’d taken a craft knife from his pocket, slid out the blade and squatting, cut into the bale of compost.
“Oh Genet, Genet,” Pamela called her back “I think I left my reticule in your sitting room when I was there the other day.”
“Your what?”
“A little bag, I think I left it in your sitting room, it’s not important…”
“I’ll have a look for it, Pamela, if I find it I’ll bring it back.”
“My husband will come with you and see if he can find it. Darling, go with Genet, won’t you?”
Herrick was frowning blackly at his wife.
“Please, darling, it has some of my things, you know… Please?” Pamela pleaded.
Herrick closed the knife and slipped it into his pocket, brushing the compost from his hands. Genet wanted to protest, she didn’t want to be manipulated by Pamela, but it was such a little thing to make a fuss about; so accompanied by Herrick she walked back to the hotel.

You can find ‘The Double Act’ here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1482709142&sr=8-11&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

 

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.

 

Hello again!

Most of my novels are set in a fictitious area of the country, a city called Strand, a nearby town called Easthope and another called Castair, and various villages including Little Oak, Westope and Lebanon; there’s an ancient woodland, several rivers, moors, the coast, Farholm Island… it’s all quite clear in my imagination, and I hope I make it clear to my readers too.

Each of my books was written as a stand-alone novel, even though the story of my characters continued in my head beyond the conclusion; sometimes they would re-emerge as different people in different situations, but the plot I had imagined them being involved with would be realised. I always said I would never write a sequel or series, but this changed after I finished my first Radwinter novel… somehow it only seemed half-told, and another novel about the Radwinters emerged, and another, and now number five should be out about Christmas time!

Despite my novels being stand-alone apart from the Radwinter stories, there are recurring characters, minor ones; there are a couple of taxi drivers, one an elderly man who has a hairstyle like Elvis Presley and is always whistling cheerfully, another has long hair tied back, and is calm and slightly mysterious… there is always quiet jazz playing in his cab.

A pair of characters who again first appeared in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’ and have appeared in several novels since, are Marg an elderly transvestite who runs a small bar down by the old harbour in Easthope, and her partner Geoffrey. Marg is very eccentric and is usually attired in a ball-gown and various wigs of various colours, sometimes reminiscent of Marg Simpson. Geoffrey is silent, and as well as barman, doorman and cellarman, he fixes things – he may have been a carpenter or painter and decorator in a previous life!

Elgard Books, a shop in Strand with a branch in Easthope, first appears in ‘The Double Act’, then in the Radwinter series, and now it features in my next novel Lucky Portbraddon –  several times, culminating in a rather dramatic scene involving guns, ram-raiding and murder! Another place is Moon River, a gallery owned by Sapphire Moon (named Sophia but she changed it to be more dramatic!) and there is a restaurant various characters visit in various novels, Honour’s in Easthope.

I feel that these recurring minor characters and places give a continuity to the stories; only one person features in any real way in one of the novels, but I’m not sure if my readers will realise as he is never subsequently given a name.

Here is a link to my Rosa Czekov novel:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/STALKING-ROSA-CZEKOV-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B008D29O5Y/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1470930017&sr=8-10&keywords=lois+elsden

… and to The Double Act:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1470930017&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

… and to my other novels:

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

Misty morning

Living near the sea we quite often have mist and fog where there is none just a few miles inland. So it was this morning… I quite like it, I quite like the world hidden and mysterious. It’s nothing like the fogs there used to be which I remember from being a child, and particularly when I was a student in Manchester; then it was more of a smog, yellow and horrible smelling and tasting, all the smoke from domestic and industrial chimneys.

I’ve used mist and fog a few times in my novels… here is an extract from ‘The Double Act’ on a very foggy morning…

Genet stood on the back doorstep smelling the early morning and the salty milky air. She had a peculiar urge to walk out into the wetness and she gave into it and stepped barefoot onto the terrace and onto the lawn. The fog was so dense she couldn’t see the top floor of the hotel.

Her feet were cold but it was perversely pleasant and she had an urge to lie down on the wet grass. Her skin was cold and droplets had formed on strands of auburn hair hanging down her forehead. She remembered standing by the sea wall with Herrick, shivering and pressing herself against him.

Footsteps crunched down the drive; he was going to the sea. She hurried back to the house and ran into the bedroom. She automatically pulled on jeans then had to change because they wouldn’t do up. She ran out of the hotel and had to follow the hedge and the neighbour’s garden walls, the fog was so dense. She walked along the wire fence of the little park and playground and came to the white walls of the coastguard cottages. She crossed over to the sea wall but could see nothing but the grassy banks leading down to the beach. She followed the wall round until she came to the slope down to the little harbour and the fisherman’s huts.

Through the dense fog came voices.

“Hello,” she called. The bait shop was open and a couple of men sat on the step.

“It’s Genet, isn’t it?” It was Heath’s father, his boat somewhere out in the mist.

“Hello, have you seen someone come down here to swim?” she asked breathlessly.

The two men were wearing waterproofs, two old geezers smoking their pipes and talking fish.

“Yes, he comes every morning. He’s over on the other side, he swims off the end of the point and across the bay to Green Rock. Does it every day. Swims like a fish though I told him not to go out today, too dangerous in this fog,” Heath’s father lit his pipe.

“I don’t think he cared, he looked suicidal. If he doesn’t come back I won’t be surprised,” added the other man gloomily. “One of those moody types if you ask me. What is it, manic depressive is it?” He puffed on his pipe. “First he used to come down he hardly said a word, nodded and that was it. Then we’ve had a sunny couple of months, him whistling as he walked and chatty as anything. Now the last few weeks his face has been as black as sin.”

“Anyway, he leaves his things on the beach over there,” and Heath’s father pointed over his shoulder with his pipe.

“Thanks,” and Genet walked past them, between the huts and clambered over the rocks.

The little bay here was perhaps a few hundred metres wide although she couldn’t see across to the other circling arm of rock. The coastline was like a milkmaid’s yoke, two wide sweeping bays and one smaller one between.

She took off her sandals and walked down to the sea. It was low tide, and the water was still, only very small waves lolloping along the tide mark. She looked out but nothing was visible and her heart was filled with dread. She began to walk along the water’s edge.

She found his footprints where he’d walked across the damp sand and into the water.

If you haven’t read ‘The Double Act’, here is a link – and don’t think it’s a romance, it is much darker than that!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1462908077&sr=8-4&keywords=lois+elsden

Ghostly beasts

I came across an article about travel and tourism which mentioned that an app has been developed by the Bram Stoker International Film Festival so visitors to Whitby can follow a trail which features places the Victorian author of Dracula visited which inspired him.
I used to be a great fan of the Dracula myth, and even for a time was a member of the Dracula society; I recently reread Stoker’s novel with my book club and was pleased that I still enjoyed it and thought it stood the test of time. There are many memorable scenes, of course, but one that I think of whenever I visit Whitby is when the ship The Demeter grounded on the beach and a black dog leapt off and disappeared, Dracula in disguise, of course! I didn’t realise that Stoker saw an actual ship called The Dmitri which had come ashore in a storm.

The article mentioned the word barghest, which is a mythical creature in the form of a big black dog-like animal, said to wander the streets of Whitby and York; although that word is given in Yorkshire to the apparition, ghostly black dogs appear all across Britain, and it is thought they originated way back in ancient pre-Roman times, ,maybe even pre-Celtic, who knows. A fear of big animals with sharp teeth and big claws, creeping invisibly in the darkness must resonate in our deepest folk memories.

I didn’t realise, although I come from East Anglia, that my family home ground also has legends of a black dog, the black shuck – sometimes the shuck only has one eye in the middle of his forehead, sometimes he has no head at all, but stories of his prowlings appear in Peterborough (where my grandparents lived for a while) and Littleport, (where a cousin’s family come from) in Cambridgeshire, Bungay and Blytheburgh in Suffolk, and Dereham in Norfolk.

The only time I have written about anything ghostly or spooky is in ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’, a story I wrote for disaffected young readers, those who can read but don’t want to. The beast I created was wolf-like, but walked and fought like a man… a sort of were-wolf. I don’t think the barghest or the black shuck have a were-nature, they seem to foretell doom and death, but the idea of a huge canine-type creature appears in myths across these islands, and in many other countries too.

wolves on the campus 3I used this photo of sculpted wolves on Surrey University campus to create a cover for my most recent novel…
DOUBLE COVER FINALIf you haven’t read it yet, here is a link:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445780562&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

 

If you want to know more about the Whitby app:

http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2015/10/22/national-trail-apps-bring-bram-stokers-dracula-to-life-for-whitby-walkers