Rolling in the road

Here’s an extract from a novel I started writing a while ago… It will be finished one day!

The unnamed narrator, a woman in her late forties, had an unexpected romantic encounter with a Danish singer who was performing in the pub where she worked part-time. She hadn’t expected to see him again…

She didn’t think she had been in the Lark before, or maybe not for a very long time, but she slipped in and pushed through the crowd to get to the bar. There was some sort of announcement being made which meant she had to mouth ‘white wine’ at the girl serving her, and dammit she would have a large one and she indicated large with finger and thumb.
The announcement finished and there was a spatter of applause and then the strum of a guitar. It sounded like Theo! And seconds later, she could hear his deep voice; he sounded nervous but she couldn’t see where he was, she was hemmed in by a group of friends, husbands and wives a similar age to herself but all very tall and the men quite stout.
Coming in from the street, she had noticed an open room to the left and a long area in front with an L-shaped bar to serve both;  she couldn’t at first see where he was, as there was a speaker above her head so she could hear him singing a song she remembered which had the word ‘apocalypse’ in it.
She thought he must be at the back of the pub at the end of the long bar, but when she struggled through the crowd of football fans, she realised they were watching a match on the large TV, so she turned and struggled back as Theo finished his song. There was a vague token patter of applause, and after a mumble he sang a second song which was a bit faster and less gloomy. She came back to the front of the pub and by squeezing past a group of very loud women, she was able to find a place at the end of the short bar, by the fruit machine, where she could see him.
He was singing with his eyes shut which didn’t help him connect with the people sitting round with drinks and bar snacks chatting away to each other. He finished and she applauded enthusiastically, which got a few other people clapping. He went onto another faster song, and she thought how much better it would be here in this noisy pub if he at least had a bass player to give a bit more depth. It was a song she didn’t remember, and when she heard the line ‘and there you were, working in the bar,’ she wondered for a little moment if he had written it about her, but she guessed he probably picked up lots of women in bars… he’d told her he worked in a bar but he hadn’t mentioned where.
He finished with a bit more of a flourish and to a little warmer applause. She put two fingers to her mouth and gave a piercing whistle which encouraged more clapping; he glanced round but didn’t see her. He said something but he spoke so indistinctly that no-one would have the least clue what he had said. Something about ‘dancing’ she thought. It was a country-style song, a waltz, and again, the lyrics she caught reminded her of her brief connection with him, ‘walking home in the rain… in my arms dancing again…
People seemed to like this one and there were a few shouts and whistles, and she whistled again and this time he did see her, and his face split into a delighted grin, and she flushed and clapped more.
“Is he your boyfriend, then, love?” said one of the loud women. “He’s a bit of alright, but his music’s crap.”  It was said it in such a friendly way that it was difficult to know how to reply.
Theo sang a few more songs and then finished. He put his guitar in his case and came over to her.
“You came to hear me?” he kissed her cheek.
“A lucky chance, I just came in for a drink and here you were! Let me buy you a drink,” and she bought him a beer.
“You really like my songs?” he asked, and it mattered to him that she did.
“Yes, I really do! I think you are so amazingly talented!”
“Not everyone thinks so like you.”
They stayed squashed together at the bar, having a rather awkward conversation, because really they knew nothing about each other, a one night stand… is that the way people talk about it now? He was the first person who’d made love to her since she split with Gerry… it seemed rather remarkable somehow, she had always enjoyed, and almost needed the intimate side of their life together, but somehow when she was on her own she had gone off the idea. She had dated a couple of not very interesting men and sex really hadn’t been an option… so quite how she had ended up in bed with Theo was still a mystery… but it had been totally fabulous, and she found herself smiling at him as they spoke, smiling at the memory.
The landlord whose name apparently was Bob came and asked Theo if he would do another set, and as he went to sort the mics and unpack his guitar again, Bob confided in her that he’d only asked him to do one set originally in case he wasn’t any good. But folks had liked him, so he could do another forty minutes. Bob hoped he wouldn’t sing too many of the gloomy songs though, it wouldn’t make people drink more, or at least, not in the Lark!
Theo, however looked more confident and definitely more cheerful, and he looked around as he introduced his next song, and spoke more clearly. He tuned his guitar and then with a glance and a wink at her, he launched into a song about rolling in the road… maybe he meant rolling along the road, his English wasn’t always quite right.
The pub was actually packed now, hardly room to move and people had come in front of her and she was trapped by the bar, perched on her stool, hemmed in by the shrieking women. The noise was phenomenal and she couldn’t properly hear him. She waved at the girl behind the bar who brought her a pint and another wine.
“Blimey!” the girl shouted. “Never known it so packed!” and she took the money and hurried away to serve someone else.
The juke-box began to play again, so Theo must have finished but there was no sign of him. She got off the stool by pushing the woman and she forced herself through the crowd towards the end of the bar by the big fireplace where Theo had been… he was gone…
She was stunned. Gone! But of course, why should he not have done? She stood, buffeted by people, and she felt a crushing disappointment. Stupid, what did she expect?
She would finish her wine and go home, and try and think of how she had enjoyed herself… she had left her bag and phone on the bar which was also stupid, anyone could nick her things. She pushed through the crowd as she heard the bell ring for last orders… she wouldn’t bother, she’d had more than enough, she would be staggering home at this rate. The big woman who had been leaning against her was now sitting on the stool, and when she managed to squeeze round her she saw to her horror that her bag and phone had gone and so had her wine and the pint of lager she had bought him.
Damn, damn bloody damn!
She tried to ask the woman on the stool if she had seen anyone take her things… her bag! Her phone! How could she be so stupid! She stared in disbelief at the place on the bar where her things had been, beside the Lifeboat charity box. The girl behind the bar was trying to shout something at her as she pulled a pint. Maybe she had put her bag and phone safely behind the bar.
“Over there!” The girl nodded  down the long bar. “Gave them to your boyfriend!”
And suddenly she heard Theo’s huh-huh-huh of a deep laugh, and looking along the bar she could see his big shoulders and the blond hair tied back hanging down his back. She squeezed through the press of people pushing to get to the bar for a last drink – where had they all come from? – and  she almost fought her way round to the other bar.

© Lois Elsden 2017

You can find my ebooks and paperbacks here:

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

All Along the Road

An excerpt from something unfinished… A different sort of story from the ones I usually write. The main character is unnamed – only because I can’t think of her name for the moment, I didn’t decide to have her anonymous – something I first noticed in Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ but there are other nameless protagonists:

  • Roxana – Daniel Defoe
  • The Tell-Tale Heart – Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Aspern Papers – Henry James
  • Boys and Girls – Alice Munro
  • The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
  • Blindness – José Saramago
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  • Surfacing – Margaret Atwood
  • Hideous Kinky – Esther Freud
  • Everyman – Philip Roth
  • Cockroach – Rawi Hage

Anyway… here is an excerpt from a story I may finish next year, it may be called ‘Dancing in the Road’ or ‘All Along the Road’… The main character had an unexpected romantic interlude with a younger man who she met doing a gig in her local pub. She’s on the way to pick up her son from the station:

It was a vile night to be driving to Strand at nearly midnight; the rain was coming down in torrents and she just hoped that Danny was waiting inside the station for her. He had missed the connection and then gone for a drink thinking there was another bus he could catch to Easthope but had missed that too… it was no use getting cross or annoyed, she reflected. It was just as well that she hadn’t had anything to drink and could drive over to collect him.
She had just passed the caravan park when her lights swept over someone struggling along the road, head bowed into the wind. She pulled into the layby where the burger van usually was and swung round and headed back towards Easthope. The man stuck his thumb out in a desperate and rather hopeless way and she pulled over beside him.
He opened the car looking in and then grinned.
“This is good luck,” he said getting in beside her. “I am sorry that I am so very wet.”
He pulled his hood back and despite it his hair was sodden and before the interior light died she saw its blond was darkened with wet.
“I can give you a lift but only if you don’t mind going back to Strand, I have to pick up my son from the bus station.”
He was struggling to organize his guitar case between his knees then fumbling with the seat belt, and no he didn’t mind.
”I have missed seeing you,” he said his unidentifiable accent seemed stronger than she remembered.
His coat was rather smelly, wet wool, old dog and weed, but she actually didn’t mind. She was excited like a teenager who unexpectedly has the guy she really fancies sitting next to her on the school bus.
“You had a gig? How did it go?”
“Ja, I did but it was not so good… they didn’t like me, they didn’t like my songs… no, it was better where you were.”
She commiserated, he sounded sad in his low-voiced mumbly way and she asked him where he had been playing and if he had many gigs.
“I did go to that pub in Easthope but you were not there,” he said, he sniffed but it was with the water dribbling down his face.
His English was very good but she couldn’t get the inflection to know whether  he meant he had just been there or he had gone there to see her.
“Your son, he is how old?”
Daniel was nineteen, she told him, and she had a daughter, Clare who was twenty-five… she wondered how old he was.
“My son he is nine… I do not see him for four years…” his quiet voice drifted away and when she glanced at him he was staring out of the side window, streaked with a fold of rain. What a vile night.
“That’s sad… what’s his name?”
He said a name which sounded like Tice, not a name she knew but then he said it was Dutch. His face was still turned away. So was he Dutch?
The rain came down in such an onslaught now, the wipers hardly coping with it that she had to peer through the windscreen which was misting up despite the heater being on full. His coat was really beginning to smell now, or maybe it was him. She didn’t think he was very clean, but somehow that didn’t matter, it seemed dangerous and daring to be with a younger and rather grubby man.
It was busy round the station, even so late at night, taxis and cars picking up people, a lot of young people she noticed, and parents like her, rescuing their children. She had to drive round twice and was just beginning to think she would have to park up and struggle through the rain to find Daniel when she saw his lanky form waving at her… she somehow always forgot how tall he had grown, somehow she was always looking for a fourteen year-old.
She managed to pull over not far from him, in front of a man struggling to get his daughter’s mountain of bags into a light coloured Clio.
Daniel wrenched the back door open, hurled in his backpack and clambered in greeting her as enthusiastically as he always did.
“Hello, baby, this is Theo, Theo this is my son Daniel.”

Different ways of telling the story

On the writing course I’ve been doing at the American Museum in Bath, run by http://writingeventsbath.co.uk this week we were thinking about other ways of telling our stories – maybe a letter, a diary entry, an email… I have explored these different methods in my short novel for reluctant readers, ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’. Different chapters were written in different ways, newspaper reports, TV news broadcast, dialogue, tourist guide, first person and third person narrative, and diaries. In my Radwinter novels I have used old newspaper and court reports and personal accounts written as if in the nineteenth century – that was quite a challenge!

We were asked to write something on the course, and I was for a moment stumped… then some characters I’ve been playing with came into my mind… It’s an untitled novel at the moment, and maybe an actual romance – I’ve written novels with romantic elements, but never ‘a romance‘.

This is the scene I wrote some time ago:

She didn’t recognise the car parked beside hers at first… it was only when she went into the house and Clare came through with a glass of wine in her hand that she realised her daughter was home.
“Darling! How lovely to see you, you should have told me you here coming… I’ve been at book club, I would have cancelled if I’d realised.”
“That’s OK Mum,” Clare kissed her cheek. She was wearing a different perfume, lemony and light, lovely for this warm weather. “I’ve brought the car.”
Her heart sank.
“You can give it a test drive and I know you’ll love it and then we can sort everything out.”
”Test drive?”
“Yes, come on… I thought we could go out along the coast…”
“What now? I can’t go now, I’ve had best part of a bottle of wine… if you’d told me you were coming… I mean I’m thrilled you’re home, but I just didn’t realise…”
Clare put her glass down. “Well, never mind, I’ll take you out; I know you’ve been in my car before, but just to remind you…”
She had never been in Clare’s car before… but she wasn’t going to say so.
“I hope you’ve only had that one glass…”
Clare gave her a cross look which she quickly smoothed away.
“Only the one glass, Mum, and I’ve only sipped it…”
They went out to the car, Clare chatting brightly and slightly artificially… but maybe it was the wine she had drunk at the book club which made her daughter’s  seem trivial and contrived.
As they set off, it seemed that Clare was driving rather quickly, but maybe that was the drink, which made the houses they flashed by seem blurry.
“You will love how instant it is, how quick… you’ll just love driving it, Mum.”
“Clare, I haven’t changed my mind; I can’t afford to buy this car, and I can’t afford the insurance on it… I’m having to be careful with my money… I work at the Fort just to get extra. My pension isn’t huge and I won’t get my state pension for more than another ten years.”
Clare didn’t answer; she turned out of the small estate and set off along the coast road, past Opal Harbour.
“Look how responsive it is, look how it takes the corners!”
She was actually holding the arm rest because Clare seemed to be driving far too fast for the narrow road.
“Wonderful, Clare, but perhaps you should hang onto it for a while, save your money…”
“I haven’t got any money, that’s why you need to buy it so I can get the other one.”
“I’m really sorry, sweetheart…” No she wasn’t, she wasn’t sorry at all. “I’m really sorry, but you’ll have to ask your dad; he earns much more than I do, and when he does get his pension it will be more than twice what I get.”
Clare didn’t respond but turned so sharply the tyres squealed as she cut up a narrow lane which would lead to the main road from Easthope to Castair.
“See how it handles, honestly you’re going to have such fun!” Clare ignored her completely and was now driving so fast that it as dangerous.
Her daughter was like a stranger to her, and so she said nothing more until they came to a halt back on the drive.
“Come in darling, and I’ll make some coffee… have you eaten, can I make you something?” She opened the door and stood waiting for her daughter to lock the car.
“No thanks Mum; I really need you to just sort out the finances…”
“Clare! I cannot afford to buy your car! I can lend you a small amount of money, sweetheart, but I don’t want it! I don’t need it, it’s not big enough, and the insurance…”
Clare flung open the door of the car and almost dived in. She started the car and swung out of the drive and the door slammed shut as she shot off down the road, her headlights coming on as she came to the slight bend. There was the sound of a car horn, as if she had unexpectedly met someone coming towards her, and sure enough another pair of lights came slowly down the road and turned into one of the neighbour’s drives.

I took this scene and imagine the mother writing an upset letter to Clare her daughter:

She wrote a letter, an actual letter on paper that she would never send. She’d learned her lesson on that one – in the dying days of her marriage she’d written to Gerry in her full fury, an email full of invective and vitriol… as soon as she’d pressed ‘send’ she’d regretted it and it was only because somehow she’d made a mistake with his address that it came back undelivered – and she had deleted it straight away.
So she wrote an actual letter, with a pen, on paper to Clare.
Hi darling, it was lovely to see you but I was very anxious that we parted on such bad terms and you drove off so upset – I was worried you might have an accident.
Darling, you are the most beautiful young woman, you have your father’s dark hair and your grandma’s perfect eyebrows and eyes –
She refrained from making any comment about Gerry or his mother –
– but when you get angry, as you did with me this evening, those eyebrows come down in a furious line, and your blue eyes blaze with rage – and quite honestly darling, it makes you look ugly –
– and here she descended into a torrent of words –
– your nostrils flare and your nose goes red, and tonight all I could see was your pretty mouth distorted with venom –
– 
she scribbled the last lines out, the eyes, the nose, the mouth.
You were such a beautiful baby, people would stop and admire you in your pram, and you grew up into being a stunningly beautiful woman, head-turningly beautiful – and it breaks my heart when you get so angry with me because I can’t, actually, truly can’t, give you what you want.

I’m not sure i will ever finish this story… meanwhile, if you want to look at stories I have finished, here is a link to my e-books:

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

This particualr story was inspired by the music of Jonas Carping, whose picture i have used for my featured image. Here is a link to his page and his music:

http://jonascarping.com/

 

Finding out

When I first started writing, and I mean writing properly as opposed to writing childhood fantasies and adventure stories based on books and comics I’d read, all my work was based on personal experience and observation and imagination.

I used to write short stories and I actually had five of them published in a woman’s magazine called Honey, now defunct. One story was about a relationship between a young woman and the man she loved, who didn’t love her but relied on her in times of crisis… which gave her false hope of a future together; another was about a young couple who moved into a haunted house; a third was about a shy young woman who was asked out by the most popular boy in the school.

Another was based on holidays spent in Menton in the south of France, with that lovely town as the backdrop to the break-up of a relationship, and one story was about a cleaner who worked at an airport. Both of these were based on personal experiences – of being in Menton and of working in an airport – although I wasn’t a cleaner but was on the information desk.

I began to write novels and the first couple were pretty dire. One charted the complicated family relationships of a the step-children of a famous actor (embarrassingly awful!) and a second about a young man who goes back to the family farm of a girl he met in the South of France (Menton again) as the farm is engulfed by devastating floods. This one had a little more merit, but nothing salvageable! The next was set in Manchester where I had lived for a long time, and much of the action (and there was action in this one, rather than people talking and arguing with each other!) Finally… another better novel… one which I may rewrite but with a different and more dramatic and unexpected ending, about a young woman artist who returns to her family home having been estranged from them for many years, and tries to unpick the past relationships with her two step-brothers.

As I mentioned, these short stories and the four novels, were all based on personal experiences and imagination. When I was writing these it was before the internet was the wonderful gift we have since received. I have now written and published five novels which are still based  on my experiences and imagination, but have been enhanced by research I can do from home. (I have also published three children’s novels, based on my experiences teaching!)

Up until recently, while I was writing, I  worked full-time and had a young family; I was not financially free to travel  to research, or to visit archives in different towns and cities. On-line research has been the only possibility. With my three published Radwinter books, my genealogical mysteries, the internet has featured almost as a character, as the story revolves round research done to trace a family history. (I have three other finished but not edited novels, and two unfinished novels – so I have plenty of work to do!)

I am very careful with my research; I read, I think, I digest the information. I look at different resources, I check facts; I don’t copy, I don’t plagiarise, I don’t steal other people’s work. If for some unimaginable reason I no longer had access to the internet for whatever reason, I would still write – I can’t imagine ever not doing so, and once again, my stories would be based on what I remember, what I have experienced and what I can imagine

Here is a link to my published work:

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

Writing a romance

I mentioned some time ago that I had started somehow, and I’m not quite sure how, to write another story simultaneously to me writing my next novel to be published, Magick. I remarked that although it might seem odd to be writing two very different books at the same time, in actual fact when I got stuck on Magick, which was my main project, swapping to the other meant I kept writing, while thoughts were mulling about my difficulties with plot, character, themes etc..

This other story which is about a man called Theo, is really light-weight, and I had never intended it to be anything more than a bit of recreational writing; it’s a romance and although I do have romantic aspects to some of my books, none of them could be described as pure love-stories… However, the Theo story seems to be that. It’s fairly obvious from the beginning what is going to happen, older divorced woman with two teenage children unexpectedly has an ‘interlude’ with a younger very different man, Theo; she also starts to go out with a more suitable boyfriend but obviously the attraction to Theo is stronger… there are difficulties, misunderstandings, confusions etc… You get the picture?

I read through what I had written last night, about 30,000 words, and i must admit, I was drawn into it, and did engage with the different characters, the woman’s friends, the people she works with, the people at the pub, her children and their various problems… and I did wonder whether to take time off from my other writing, and once Magick is published, to finish Theo and maybe see whether that’s worth publishing too. It is lightweight, maybe it is predictable, but maybe it might be an enjoyable read if someone wants those things, romance and predictability?

… I must have a think… but whatever the eventual outcome of the publishing question, I think I will finish Theo’s story!