Anything is possible

Anything, literally anything is possible… when you write!! In your writing you can be anything you want to be, an astronaut, a channel swimmer, the head of a royal family, a maintenance worker on the Forth Road Bridge – you can go back in time and be a housecarl fighting in the battle of Hastings, or a Roman wife on Hadrian’s Wall inviting her friends to a dinner party, a sweeper on the streets of nineteenth century London, or you can go forward in time, or travel to distant places, travel beyond our solar system beyond our galaxy – you can be anything, be anywhere, do whatever you want… when you write!

You can be more modest and write about a different life in today’s world, but even then you can change your age, your gender, your talents and abilities, your character – you can make yourself ‘better’ than you are, or infinitely worse!

My characters in my books are just ordinary people who just live pretty ordinary lives. Although i don’t write in the first person for all my novels, I do try and ‘become my characters to properly understand why they do and say the things they do and say. I write far more than ever appears in my stories because I’m filling in these people’s lives so they are there as rounded characters and I hope believable characters before they ever land there on the page!

For example, in ‘night vision’, the story of a couple whose marriage is on the brink of disaster, some of the husband’s actions and behaviour seems inexplicable (as it does with real people in real life) but I know why he is as he is, and even though by the end when I hope the reader will accept him as believable, and even though not all his behaviours have been explained, I will know in my omniscient author way! We met people in real life and don’t know why they are as they are, do as they do, say what they say, so I want it to be the same in my books (without being frustrating r annoying!!)

So going back to my original thought of being able to be whatever and whoever you like when you write, I guess the most extreme example for me might be Rudi in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’, and of course Thomas Radwinter, whose life and adventures I’ve chronicled over several books!

Here are links to my e-books:

night vision – https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – https://www.amazon.co.uk/STALKING-ROSA-CZEKOV-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B008D29O5Y/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-11&keywords=lois+elsden

The Radwinter stories – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

and my first paperback so far, Radwinter – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

Something happened…

Many years ago I wrote a story called ‘A Strong Hand From Above’; I’ve not published and not sure I will – I may completely rewrite it, take the plot, take some of the characters and rewrite the whole thing. The end of the story is – I hoped when I wrote it, quite exciting, escape from death, a shoot up in the depths of a Welsh forest, but there is a misunderstanding between the two main characters, which is eventually righted on the last few pages.

When I finished it, all those years before, I kept on following the characters story in my head… and rather than it be happy ever after, it occurred to me that after such shocking events, and even with the happy ending, in reality the two main people would be quite traumatised, and it would probably effect their relationship. Their lives couldn’t go back to how they had been in the before, because they would always remember the horror.

I didn’t write a sequel to ‘Farholm’, another of my novels and the first I published, but again, the story of my characters, in this case Deke and Michael carried on – and I actually wrote quite a lot of it down. I was tempted to follow their lives – ad maybe I will one day… or maybe I will just take the idea of what happened to them and write about that with new characters.

In ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’ I did write about the afterwards – before the novel begins Rosa is in a hostage situation, and the man who has taken her is shot dead, standing right beside her with a gun to her head – I’m not spoiling anything by revealing this! My story explores the effect of this on Rosa, her husband, her friends, and the person who may be stalking her – or is she imagining it, haunted by what she experienced?

I saw these swans and their cygnets…

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… and seeing them swimming along towards the little bridge was like the action in a story – and look there I am, the shadowy observer!

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… and after they have gone, there is just the merest trace of their trail through the duckweed, the event happened, and it left its trace!

The Story of Rosa Czekov…

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 ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’

The Stalking of Rosa Czekov

1

The first person to arrive at the cemetery stepped cautiously through the gates just after five in the morning. Her trainers left their marks on the path as she hesitantly walked towards the western end. The dew was heavy, the grass beaded and bent as if burdened.
She was very tired, she had been driving all night and she walked slowly but even so she missed her way. She retraced her footsteps and took a side path and found the grave. She looked around as if someone might be here even at this early hour then squatted and read the inscription. She shook her head as if mystified, gave a small sad smile and quickly left the graveyard.
The next person to arrive came nearly an hour later, still early enough to avoid the risk of meeting another. He approached the cemetery, entered and made his way to the grave. He had a single rose and laid it gently at the foot of the marble stone, stood with head bowed for a moment and then thoughtfully made his way back to his car parked in a pub car park beyond a row of nearby shops on Cemetery Drive.
Just before eight o’clock a car stopped across the gates and another man jumped out. He walked quickly into the cemetery and straight along the path, turning left to the grave he sought. He placed the small posy he was clutching on the pea gravel before the stone. He took a deep breath as if he was only just holding onto his composure, his jaw working, his lips pressed hard together. He wanted to say something it was clear but he glanced at his watch, swallowed down his words and his emotions and walked away as rapidly as he had come.
A car drew up behind his. The door opened and a woman stepped onto the pavement and they brushed cheeks in an insincere greeting. They exchanged a few words, the man bending to nod and mouth a greeting to her passenger.
The man drove off as the woman hurried into the graveyard, her heels clicking as she walked. She spent a few minutes tidying the grave, emptying the sunken pot of its murky water and putting in her own bunch of flowers. She primped them, tweaking them into position as she might her hair. She looked around, saw a jar on the next grave, emptied it of its wilting contents and inserted the posy the man had left. She pulled up a few little weeds before leaving swiftly without a backwards glance, as if she might be late.
A distant church struck eight. A third man had been waiting for more than two hours in the shadow of the war memorial on the corner of Cemetery Drive. As the woman and her passenger drove away he walked to the gates and then past them without a glance. At the end of the cemetery wall he turned and walked back again, passing the gate a second time. The third time he entered without checking his purposeful stride.
Although he knew where to go, although he had been many times before he walked straight to the northern wall where he turned and stood beside a tree, looking down the long tarmacced path. He stood, hands in pockets, as if unaware of the tears tracking down his cheeks. The sudden shrieking chatter of a magpie made him look up and he wiped his eyes; he made his slow way down the main path, turning off to his right. He stood still then squatted, one arm along the top of the gravestone, and brushed the face of it with his fingertips. He bent forward, and leant his forehead against the cold marble.

2

The woman who had arrived first at the cemetery was sitting in her silver Peugeot parked by the seawall in Strand. She sat with her head tipped against the headrest seeming too weary to move.  She stirred herself as if with a great effort and took up a file beside her.  She pulled out a plastic wallet, extracted the sheets of writing paper within and began to read, not because she needed to, but as a sort of touchstone.

I’m writing it like this to try and gain some objectivity, to try and distance myself from ‘It’.
‘It’ was a large and beautiful bouquet, addressed to her but without a note; ‘it’ was the bouquet which neither her husband nor her lover admitted to having sent; ‘it’ was the bunch of flowers which seemed to be the first thing.
Maybe there were other things. Her keys went missing and then were in her bag. Her underwear disappeared from the line and then turned up on the bed in the spare room. The biscuit tin which had been empty was full of her favourite biscuits when she opened it to put in a packet of digestives. Maybe these other things were her own forgetfulness, or Luka’s.  So maybe the bouquet was the first thing.

 The woman in the car slipped the page back with the others and drew another file from the folder. She took out the sheaf of news cuttings and leafed through them.

MAN SHOT IN BANK GRAB

POLICE SHOOT ARMED ROBBER

WOMAN HELD HOSTAGE BY GUNMAN

WOMAN SAVES MOTHER FROM HOSTAGE ORDEAL

She read the familiar words and then unfolded a full page article from a broadsheet.

I  WASN’T BRAVE, ROSA CZEKOV TELLS MAISIE BAKER

I expect most of us wonder how we would react when we see news of extraordinary acts of bravery and courage by ordinary people. Certainly I did when the news broke about the woman who had offered herself as a hostage in place of a young mother during a bungled bank raid.  Rosa Czekov is the same age as I am; she’s the sort of person I went to school with, from a happy middle-class back ground, one sister, and happily married to Luka. At the time that Enoch and Ira Chambers were planning to hold up a small branch of their local bank, Rosa was running her own art gallery in Easthope.
I asked Rosa about that time, before her name became synonymous with random acts of courage. She looked slightly perplexed; she raised her eye-brows, rubbed her hand through her close-cropped dark hair and gazed at me with solemn grey eyes.
“Were you different then?” I asked her.
“I suppose I must have been,” she answered with a rueful grin, but I detected a certain sadness hidden in her throw-away admission. “My life was very ordinary, as it is again now.”
“Although you no longer have the gallery.”
“Well, no,” she looked thoughtful. “But things change anyway.”
Things.
Things changed for Rosa Czekov one cold November day. She was standing patiently in a queue at the small branch of Strand Penny Bank, waiting with half a dozen others while the clerk coped single-handed as his manager wrestled with a tap which wouldn’t turn off in the ladies toilet. Behind Rosa stood Charlotte Hyam and her small grizzling daughter Poppy.
Suddenly two brothers, Enoch and Ira Chambers burst into the bank, scarves round their faces, baseball caps pulled low.
I asked Rosa what happened next.
She gave an imperceptible sigh, as if weary of the repetition.
Ira went to the counter while Enoch stood behind them, shouting at them to keep still, shut up, not move.
“He kept yelling he had a gun,” Rosa told me and momentarily something flickered in her expression.
Suddenly, 78 year old Mervin Holt lashed out at Ira with his walking stick, felling him with one blow. There was a terrific explosion as Enoch fired into the ceiling and everyone screamed and crouched on the floor. Enoch grabbed Charlotte Hyam and stood with the gun poked up under her chin.
“She was leaning back against him, trying to get her face away from the gun,” Rosa said calmly. “Her coat opened and I could see she was pregnant. All the time her child was clinging to her legs squealing with fear.”
But what happened next is where I begin to wonder what I would have done. Would I have stayed crouched on the floor with the half dozen others?  Would I have been weeping and wetting myself with fear? Probably.
Rosa stood up slowly and calmly and explained to Enoch that she would be a better hostage than Charlotte. She was a woman but she had no child, the baby clinging to its mother’s legs would be a hindrance rather than an advantage.
“Take me,” she said.
The clerk had hit the panic button as soon as the guns had appeared. The manager, in the back had phoned the police and even as the gunshot rang out, people were being cleared away from outside the bank. As Rosa was talking quietly and calmly to Enoch Chambers, armed police were racing into the centre of Strand.
“But what you did must have taken enormous courage?” I asked.
Rosa shrugged slightly, as if it was a mystery to herself.
“I didn’t think,” she said after a moment. “I didn’t have some internal debate as to whether I should or shouldn’t. The child was screaming; the man was almost hysterical. I just stood up and – well, you know.”
Her eyes became slightly unfocused as she lived those moments again.
Her husband Luka, tall, darkening blond and with film star good looks put a tray of coffee between us.
“Bloody daft,” he said with a grin. But there was a grimness in his eye which told of a different emotion.
“What happened next must have been…” and then I didn’t know what to say. How could I put into words what Rosa had experienced after that?
Enoch Chambers had dragged her out of the door of the bank, one arm round her waist, the other hand holding the gun jammed against her throat. She could feel his arm trembling; she could feel his heart pounding against her as he held her tightly to him.
He shouted a dozen incoherent demands alleging he had already shot someone inside the bank. His brother Ira, still unconscious, was being tied up with garden twine by the ever resourceful Mervin Holt.
A negotiator began a dialogue.
I probed gently; how did she feel, what was going through her mind, what was she thinking of – or whom? She parried my questions with shrugs and non-committal half-comments.
And then something happened.
“I’m going to kill her!” Enoch Chambers had yelled and his elbow lifted and then Rosa was covered in blood as Enoch was killed with a single shot from a marksman.
“I don’t understand it,” said Luka suddenly. “You could have been killed,” he said almost angrily.
“But I wasn’t, my darling,” Rosa answered gently, and took his hand.
I sensed that what had happened to Rosa had as deeply affected her husband. I asked them if this was so.
“Of course it affected us,” said Luka, putting his arms round her, grinning at me flirtatiously. “It affected us then, we’re alright now.”
Later as we walked round their garden I couldn’t shake off the memory of the photos in the papers from that time. Rosa standing painted with a man’s blood, her arms held out in a gesture of entreaty to the marksman standing, gun still held to his shoulder.
I asked Rosa again why she had done it, what had given her the strength? Was she religious? No, not at all.  Was she always brave, did she like risk-taking?
“I wasn’t taking a risk,” she said as if puzzled. “It wasn’t like that, it wasn’t like that at all. I don’t know what prompted me. Sense, I suppose, common sense and perhaps a lack of imagination.”
Was that what her modesty really was, a lack of imagination? I don’t think so. I think if each of us tried to emulate Rosa Czekov in some small way, some small act of bravery, then the world would indeed be a happier and safer place.

The woman in the car looked at the photo of Rosa Czekov. A solemn face, a sad face. The picture said everything the piece had not. I’m changed, I’m different, something happened.
The woman pulled out her phone, and looked in the driving mirror as she waited to be connected.
“Yes, hello, am I speaking with Luka Czekov? Hello, Luka. You may not remember me, I’m Rosa’s cousin from Australia, I’m Tyche Kane.”

Here is a link to ‘Rosa’:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/STALKING-ROSA-CZEKOV-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B008D29O5Y/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1482529425&sr=8-8&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 it was going to be a romance; it isn’t – Deke and Michael become friends, but no more. There is a romance in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov‘, but it is very much a subsidiary story-line, so I didn’t mention or even hint at it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Radwinter: Thomas Radwinter goes in search of his family roots; using the internet he traces his family back to war-torn eastern Europe, and follows their journey from arriving in England in the 1830’s, across southern England. However, the more he finds out about his family’s past, the more he sees his own family, his brothers and his wife differently. His relationship with them changes… and he begins to understand his own character, and to find out as much about his present life as his family’s history.
  2. Magick: Encouraged by his success in discovering his Radwinter ancestors, Thomas Radwinter sets out to investigate his maternal line, starting with the mysterious and alcoholic Sylvia. His life has been somewhat dysfunctional, but now, gaining confidence through his new loving relationship with a beautiful young woman and her son, he is able to confront his own past.
    His genealogical searches take him into the tragic histories of his family and other ordinary people who lived and worked under the appalling conditions of the Victorian age. His skills in finding people from the past encourage a friend to beg him to try and trace her long-lost daughter, a woman, who, it seems does not want to be found. He accepts her request, little realising this will lead him into danger.
    Then the father of his partner’s son arrives; he’s come for his boy…
  3. Raddy and Syl: Thomas Radwinter continues his journey into his ancestor’s history; he has followed his paternal line of the Radwinters, “and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”.
    He traced his maternal ancestry, the Magicks, “I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you”.
    Now he has to find the history of those closest to him, “in my Radwinter story I found some amazing truths about myself. My childhood was difficult to say the least, and when I started to follow the Magick story, I had to begin to face my past, and confront some of my fears and nightmares. To finish my story I have to look at Sylvia Magick and her husband Edward Radwinter, the people who brought me up… sort of… I think of them now as Syl and Raddy, because it’s easier and less painful.”
    During his search Thomas also seeks a woman who vanished seemingly into thin air from a car stopped at a road junction, and he tries to solve the mystery of Badruddin, the Moroccan an elderly female client brought back from a cruise…
    Thomas little thinks that he may be risking his life to find these different truths.
  4. Beyond Hope is the fourth in the series of books following the life and genealogical investigations of Thomas Radwinter; in previous stories he has followed family’s history back several centuries and also found some uncomfortable and very painful truths in more recent times.
    In ‘Beyond Hope’, Thomas decides to share with his three brothers what he has learned about their mother and father… but telling the truth can be damaging, the truth can hurt, and as Thomas later reflects, “I know at first hand, a very, very painful first hand, how old secrets have the power to wound and how sometimes those dogs snoozing away should be left doing exactly that, sleeping dogs should sometimes just be let lie.”
    His revelations cause the close family ties to be tested which doesn’t help Thomas as he struggles with the other commissions he is being paid to undertake; he has been asked by a very elderly lady to find out who leaves lilies on a grave she visits, he has undertaken to investigate a mysterious lama who has a dangerous power over a hard-working teacher and devoted father, and he continues his search for the daughter of a friend who has become involved with a very dangerous man… And all the while his own little family has to face difficult decisions. The fall-out between Thomas and his brothers may only be healed if he can find out what happened to their father who disappeared thirty years ago.

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

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

… and my most recently published book, Lucky Portbraddon:

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

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

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

 

Blurbs… enough but not too much

Blurbs are the most difficult thing to write! To entice your prospective readers, to draw them into your book but without giving anything away! To hint at plot lines and narrative twists without spoiling surprises, it’s a fine balance between saying enough but not too much.

I’ve self published quite a few books now, and it doesn’t get any easier… in fact perhaps I think too much about it now and make it more difficult for myself!

Here are a selection:

  • 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.
  • The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – 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.
  • Loving Judah – 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 – 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 – 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.”

Reading them through now, there are certain little tweaks I would like to make, certain things I would like to emphasise more, or refer to in a more subtle way, and a couple of things I think I should have included… maybe…

If these tempt you, here is a link:

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

 

Old book, new book, old book

Several years ago, OI had just published a new book, The Stalking of Rosa Czekov; in a reference to my all time favourite book, which I must have read dozens of times – literally, I’m not exaggerating, Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. It was published in 1974, but i first read it to accompany the TV series which was broadcast in 1979. it has been a comfort and an inspiration; I was so looking forward to the more recent film starring Gary Oldman, but in my mind it was a disaster, one of the worst films I’ve seen!

The book is a masterpiece, and although in many ways it might see dated, it is a fascinating insight into the world of espionage, and a masterclass in writing:

Anyway…

... and so was he from head to toe...

Tinker

DSCF6007

Tailor…

DSCF6222

Soldier…

ROSA COVER (2)

Spy!

I published The Stalking of Rosa Czekov as an e-book a couple of years ago; there is spying in it, but the spy is a stalker not an espionage agent:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/THE-STALKING-OF-ROSA-CZEKOV-ebook/dp/B008D29O5Y/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1396118362&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden