Farholm Island again

Most of my books are set in an imaginary location; they centre round the small seaside of town of Easthope, which is quite old-fashioned and doesn’t have that many visitors, a little backwater really where the residents just carry on their own lives. nearby is the small city of Strand which has a new marina, an old harbour, and an old old harbour at the small neglected suburb of Hamwich. There are other villages around and about, a forest, some hills, and another post-industrial town, which is falling into neglected decline. Off the coast is an island called Farholm.

The first novel I published as an e-book on Amazon through KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing, was set on Farholm Island and called just that ‘Farholm’!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1493885514&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

I have been editing a book I wrote many years ago; it isn’t finished, and I’m in two minds whether to finish it now, or once edited, put it aside for a while – there needs more work on it than I intended. I will finish it and publish it one day, but maybe not just yet.

The plot follows the main character Frederico Milan, whose wife, Susannah, left him three years ago and has never been heard of since. He thought she left him for another man, her parents think he killed her. His  mother-in-law is about to have a very serious operation, and his father-in-law is sent off the rails a bit by this. He threatens to hurt Frederico’s friends if he doesn’t either say where Susannah is, or find her! There are various reasons why Frederico can’t go to the police, so off he sets on Susannah’s trail, helped by his friend Erin, who he calls ‘E’. They’ve heard that Susannah maybe on Farholm Island… So they go to see if they can find her…

Here is a little extract:

Erin was secretly amused at the childish side of Frederico. They’d bought their tickets and parked up in the ferry terminal carpark and were now they waiting by the slipway. He kept wandering off, down the pier to look across the channel to Farholm, to peer over the end as if hoping to see fish, back to Erin then away again to look at what the notice said above the ancient sea-mine painted red and with a slot to take money in aid of bereft mariners.
“The ferry’s coming!” he exclaimed, excited.  He looked better than he had for weeks, the bruises fading, shaved and having slept well. And he was off on an adventure.
“But it’s so small,” Erin looked in alarm at the small vessel slowing to dock.
“What did you expect? A cross-channel ferry?”
“Well, I thought we could have a coffee to pass the time,” she said.
“And do some duty-free shopping while we were there?”
To Erin the ferry wasn’t just small but tiny! The back end came down with a crash and two vans reversed slowly even as the couple of dozen foot passengers swarmed busily off the ferry.
Frederico saw her expression and hugged her.
The small group waiting to board the ferry moved forward in a gaggle; Erin had bullied Frederico into planning and insisted he brought an overnight bag, just in case. He seemed to think they would go to the hippy village, ask if Susannah was there, receive a ‘no’ and come straight back. His overnight bag was a plastic bag with a toothbrush and clean underwear.
“Oh God, I don’t like this,” said Erin, feeling the boat move beneath her.
Frederico laughed; they found seats, stacking chairs reminiscent of the classroom but he guided her to the side of the boat and began to point out features along the coast.
“It’s ok, Ferdy,  he’s just being a pain in the arse  – Hey! Look!  Is that a seal? Look Ferdy, over there?” she was distracted and excited as she pointed out the small grey head with inquisitive eyes watching the boat.
The engine revved and there was a grinding and groaning as the back end closed and a shuddering clang and then the small ferry lurched off the slipway with a grinding squeal of metal against concrete.
“Oh shit, I don’t like this,” Erin grabbed Frederico’s arm as the boat rocked and the colour fled her face leaving her grey.
“Oh dear, E, you don’t like this, do you?” Frederico was trying to be sympathetic but he was laughing. “We haven’t even left the harbour,” he chuckled. “Look you can see the island!  Can you see the cliffs at the west end? That’s where the bird sanctuary is, there are fantastic views and the birds are just wonderful. I wonder if it’s the right time of year for puffins? They are so cute –  and can you see the humpy bit that looks like a whale’s back? Can you see it E? Look, look at the island, can you see the cliffs and the humpy bit?”
Erin dragged her gaze from the churning grey sea and stared at where Frederico was pointing.
“Well, it’s about there that the Community is.”
“Do you really think Susannah is there?” Erin asked distracted from the sea.
“I don’t know E, I was thinking about that last night. Trying to remember what she said… But it’s no good. You’re right on one thing though, something I’d sort of forgotten, she was really into all this new age stuff. She’d taken to casting her runes each night. I tried not to be sceptical but it just seemed so silly.”
“Well, lots of people cast runes or read their horoscopes…”
“Yeah…  I thought it was just an interest, but looking back now…  whenever either of us was ill, it was flower remedies, shiatsu massage, crystals… I mean crystals… I lay there starkers with semi-precious stones all over me!”
Erin burst out laughing but the boat turned as it came to a current, yawed and rolled and Erin’s face lost any remaining colour as she hung over the side. The boat settled into a more regular roll and ride, and after a while she stood upright.
“Keep talking,” she muttered.
“I didn’t think it was weird at the time, it didn’t happen overnight, but at the end, she was different.”
The boat bucked and quivered as the engine vibrated and Erin leaned over the rail and was sick. All Frederico could do was to stand with her and commiserate, a slight smile on his cherubic features.
To Frederico the crossing was quick; to Erin it was endless, and all the time she was aware that there would be a return journey. The crossing took fifty minutes until, to Erin’s  enormous relief, the boat grounded on the slipway of Farholm harbour.

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

Having a rethink

Since publishing my last e-book, Earthquake, I have been back to work – back to writing I mean because fortunately I no longer have a day job and can spend my time writing! While I was at work, I still wrote, but it had to be squeezed in among everything else, job, family, housework, stuff, but I completed several novels, and since I have been writing full-time, over the last five years, I have been editing and publishing them.

While I was editing, I found that the fact I was writing in odd bits of time really showed, and I had to really work hard at polishing them up, pruning them severely and knocking them into shape, before launching them on KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing. As well as six or so complete novels, there were a couple of unfinished stories; so, since Earthquake, I have gone back to one of these and have set to knocking what there is of it (about 70,000 words) into shape and getting to grips with completing it.

This novel, ‘The Story of Frederico Milan’ is as you might imagine about a man with that name; three years before the beginning of the novel, his wife left him and has not been seen since. Frederico assumed she had gone off with another man, her parents think Frederico has done something to her… The police have investigated and found nothing suspicious. As you might imagine from this starting point, Frederico is manipulated/blackmailed/forced by his parents-in-law into trying to find the truth about his missing wife.

I pulled the virtual manuscript off my virtual shelf and I have begun to edit it before writing the final part. I thought this would be a good way of keeping writing without all it takes to start a completely new novel (which I actually already have in my mind) However… in the eight or so years since I wrote the first part of Frederico, my writing has changed enormously; although the backbone of my style is the same, I guess (difficult to judge objectively) much else has changed – my voice, I guess you might call it.

The editing is really hard with this story, so much has to be changed, so much rewritten, so much excised… There are parts I really like, but a key factor of the plot is not just weak but unbelievable! The characters who start off being quite engaging seem to have become mere cardboard cutouts, with ludicrous too long conversations, and immature behaviour – doing things which might be believable in teenagers but don’t ring true with adults! … and yet, and yet the core is a good novel waiting to develop and emerge!

I had planned to edit the story so far, write the ending, edit it as a complete novel and then see what happens next! I had a bit of a revelation last night and I have come to a new decision:

  • continue editing (very strictly) to the end of the story as it is
  • rewrite the really poor parts (talk severely to the characters and get them to act their age)
  • describe the characters more fully and more objectively
  • excise the unbelievable and inconsistent parts
  • take a mighty scythe of ‘delete’ to much of the conversations
  • have more action and less chat
  • improve the descriptions of the settings – they are so vivid in my mind, but readers can only read words not what’s inside my head
  • put it to one side and write something else

The last point – putting it to one side, will offer the story one last chance; if when I come back to it I still feel despondent about it then maybe it is time to say farewell to Frederico, Erin, the Burnetts, Dr Goodrich and Father Apinski, and maybe leave Frederico’s wife unfound… However, I have a feeling that if I work hard at it now, with this new end in sight, then when I come back to it at the end of the year or next year, maybe I will do so with more enthusiasm!

Watch this space for news on Frederico, and also for news on my actual new novel!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493393195&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Thank you!

I published my most recent book, Earthquake two days ago, and I’ve been overwhelmed with the people who have already acquired it! One friend downloaded it seven minutes after it was published as an e-book on Amazon! Thank you, everyone, thank you!!

I started writing the story over a year ago, but the genesis of it was much earlier; it started with a set of photos I found in a newspaper of thirteen unnamed, unknown Japanese schoolgirls from the 1930’s. They were head and shoulders shots, school photos, of thirteen teenage young women. Their ages seemed to vary, some seemed only about eleven or twelve, some seemed older, sixteen, maybe seventeen even. An artist had found them in a junk shop and had made an exhibition using them… I don’t remember what the exhibition was like now – I didn’t ever see it, I only saw the review in the newspaper with the photos of the  girls. As soon as I saw it, however many years ago, eleven I think, I wanted to write a story about these thirteen.

I knew I couldn’t write a historical novel set in Japan, I didn’t have the resources or the wherewithal to do the research needed; and also it would take a very long time for a writer like me to be able to do it, starting off in total ignorance. Many writers who write historical novels, or work set in different societies, cultures or ages have researchers who can support them, have access to resources and archives which I don’t, so it was clear to me from the beginning that  I had to do something different.

I have written four books about Thomas Radwinter; he started as a character investigating his own family history, but he became someone whose eccentric way of looking at a problem helped solve little mysteries. Quite early on in writing about him, I realised that at some point he would be presented with the thirteen photos of the thirteen girls and would be asked to find out about them…

Another interest I have is in the 1607 tsunami which affected the coastline here where I live in Somerset; it was caused by an earthquake or tremor out in the Irish sea. I once experienced a minor earthquake in Lancashire, and I also knew there had been a severe tremor in 1931 centred on the Dogger Bank… Thomas says:

… the Dogger Bank earthquake! It was so far away, but the earthquake caused the church spire to twist, chimneys to fall in Hull, Beverley and Bridlington, Dr Crippen’s head to tumble from his wax work figure in Madame Tussaud’s…

So I had the photos, I had the earthquake, I added a haunted hotel and some complications to Thomas’s already busy work and family life, and after a lot of thinking and mental planning I began to write what became ‘Earthquake’.

Thanks once again to everyone who has bought my latest novel, and here is a link to it and my other stories:

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

Weird!!

The word ‘weird’ is very old, but it is also very current, people say it all the time, in all sorts of different contexts from meaning unusual, to odd, to crazy, to spooky, to sinister and creepy and even perverted… It’s also a word I have to keep checking I have spelt correctly – I just can’t keep it in mind that it defies the ‘i before e’ rule!

It originally meant to control fate as in Fate/the Fates, and has its origins in the same root as Old Norse, Old Saxon and Old High German. It may have originated from a word meaning to turn or bend – I guess like bending someone’s will, or turning their mind. By the time Shakespeare was writing it also meant supernatural – as we all know from the weird sisters in Macbeth. Weird people were supposed to look different, their magical mystical powers showing through marking them as… well, weird!

Thinking about the ‘i before e’ rule… here are a few more exceptions…

  • beige
  • feign
  • foreign
  • forfeit
  • height
  • neighbour
  • vein
  • weight

Back to weird… Although I know it’s a very old word, I thought its common use these days was just a modern thing. I have been editing my next Radwinter book, Earthquake, and came across this:

“The only thing Cynthia said of any use was about a couple of the other girls; she couldn’t remember their names, but one she remembered her mother saying, was a funny little thing who had a weird side… The actual word wasn’t weird it was something someone would have said fifty or so years ago…”

Just last night, I was reading an Agatha Christie novel, published in 1936, and came across this:

The third photograph was a very old one, now faded and yellow. It represented a young man and woman in somewhat old-fashioned clothes standing arm in arm. The man had a flower in his buttonhole and there was an air of bygone festivity about the whole pose.
“Probably a wedding picture,” said Poirot. “Regard, Hastings, did I not tell you that she had been a beautiful woman.”
He was right. Disfigured by old-fashioned hair-dressing and weird clothes, there was no disguising the handsomeness of the girl in the picture with her clear-cut features and spirited bearing.

So, in 1936, which was the time my character was speaking of, one of Agatha Christie’s characters had used weird in what i had thought was a completely modern way!

In case you haven’t yet read my books, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alois+elsden

Got it covered – again

Gosh it has been difficult! Trying to get the right cover for my new e-book! I publish on Kindle Direct Publishing, and have to upload a cover – I can design it there on Amazon, but I’ve not tried so far… maybe next time.

For various tedious reasons, my usual way of designing didn’t work; fortunately a friend had recommended http://www.canva.com , and although I struggled a little to get exactly what I wanted, in the end I am quite pleased with it.

So here we are… coming soon, EARTHQUAKE,  the latest Thomas Radwinter novel, a genealogical mystery, a haunted hotel, and a cuckoo in the nest!

Here is a link to my already published books, including the previous four in the series:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alois+elsden

How did Tolstoy do it?

I’m working hard on editing my next novel Earthquake – and I think I’m in the last throes. I am on about the fourth complete read-through, plus various other ‘reads’ I did while I was still in the midst of it. Even with the extra help writers get these days from things like spell checkers, I have still found quite a few little errors, typos, not counting the other tweaks I’m doing as I go along.

My book is relatively short, less than 120,000 words… but think of Tolstoy with his monster books, think of Dostoyevsky or Dickens! Even if they had secretaries to write down their immortal prose, and really literate type-setters for printing the books, they must have had to read their works, they must have had to go back and forth to change little inconsistencies, let alone if they suddenly decided to change a character’s name from Igor to Ivan or Bessie to Betsey. I really do wonder how they did it in the past. They must have whole teams of editors and editing staff to check it all – no scrolling through pages on a screen, but rustling through real actual paper pages!

When I looked up long books it seems that some long books are actually several volumes of one narrative – I’m not sure I think that actually counts; something with twenty-seven volumes can’t really be counted as a single novel – in my opinion. The twenty-seven volumes I’m referring to is Men of Goodwill by Jules Roman, written in French and with over a million words.

Here is a really interesting blog about word-counts in books:

https://indefeasible.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/great-novels-and-word-count/

According to this, Tolstoy’s war and peace is over half a million words long and Crime and Punishment a mere couple of hundred thousand words… when you think of all the other published writing both these authors achieve d in their lives, it really is truly remarkable…

Here’s a link to all the books I have managed to edit and publish! Earthquake is the fifth in the Radwinter series, so if you haven’t read any of the others yet, you can catch up now!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

Blurb

I’m getting ready to publish my next e-book, Earthquake; I’ve got another couple of re-reads, plus some last-minute spell-checking… then maybe within a couple of weeks it will be out there! in the world!

one important thing which has to happen is to write a blurb, so when people see it on Amazon they get an idea of what might be in store. It’s difficult to make it intriguing enough without giving too much away.

This is my first draft blurb:

Thomas Radwinter’s life seems settled and content as he juggles working as a free-lance solicitor, genealogist and house husband. However a new arrival in the family puts extra pressure on him as he has to balance looking after them and earning some money. A commission from an elderly gentleman to investigate a mysterious death at a little boarding school in 1931 seems intriguing and harmless; a haunted hotel he’s asked to visit seems just to be over-imaginative guests and maybe a less than honest manager. However, during his investigations he has to confront a violent verger, an unbalanced conchologist and a very strange friend from the past…

Thomas takes on his commissions, little  realising when he begins his investigation that he will be putting his life and that of a friend in serious danger… “I tried to work out what was going on, and what to do, and what might happen to us – trying my hardest to keep my thoughts well away from a terminal conclusion to events… “