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… “

Exciting news! Nearly there!

It’s getting to those last few days, weeks of editing, sorting, checking, working on Earthquake, my next Thomas Radwinter story. I’m not completely sure the ending is quite right, those last few paragraphs and sentences are crucial, and it seems a bit flabby somehow… so I’m getting the feeling  I’ll need to think a bit more on how to actually write those last few words.

I’ve come across silly little errors, ‘gate’ instead of ‘gait’, those sort of things as well as words missed out or repeated… just typos really. There are other things I have had to change too. Because this is the fifth novel about Thomas Radwinter, there is a balance between making sure new readers understand the history to the family situation, and why Thomas is as he is, but not boring people who have followed his story from the beginning.  I also have to make sure I don’t give too much away to new readers about previous novels so it won’t spoil the excitement for them when they go back and read them – which I hope they do!

Right from the first book, the plots have been a mixture of Thomas’s personal life, genealogical mysteries, and other story-lines – and that too is a balance. Because I’m writing in the first person as Thomas, in the first drafts there is a lot of detail about his personal and family life, which actually is quite tedious. I need to write it so I have it clear in my head what is going on – but then it needs to be excised and the waffle slashed out, and just the outline of it. Having said that, there is a personal crisis in this story, so there needs to be a proper context for it – a tricky balance!

This may be the last Thomas book, but if it isn’t, I really think his home and family life needs to recede into the background a little – otherwise it will be more of a family saga than a mystery!

If you haven’t yet read any of my Radwinter books, or my other books, here is a link:

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

 

Covering it

It’s so nearly got to the time I can be thinking about a publication date for my next book, Earthquake, that it is about now that I should begin to seriously think about a cover for it… I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that although an earthquake does feature in my new Thomas Radwinter novel, it is as much about a metaphorical earthquake as a real one.

I did once experience an earthquake – a very minor one; I was teaching in Oldham, head of department and I had a student teacher. He was a very nice lad but really he was not that good – I can’t remember why now. I took him to my office to review his lessons and he was sitting rather dispiritedly as I – as gently as I could, went through what had gone wrong. Suddenly there was a most curious sensation, as if I was on a giant jelly and being wobbled. It was an earthquake!! Good grief! as Thomas Radwinter would say.

So trying to think of an image for the cover of my book, I’m wondering about fallen masonry, tumbled bricks and blocks, maybe in a faded sort of colour, with perhaps another picture on top. This other picture would have a relevance once the book has been read – I hope.

Even when I have the images I have to think of the font, and then whether to add anything else apart from title and author…

I’ll keep you up to date!

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read any of my Thomas Radwinter novels, or any of my other e-books, here is a link:

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