A nifty bit of footwork

‘ve mentioned I have a new project about to come to fruition – an anthology of work from two writing friends and me which, we hope, will soon be available!! Exciting!! It has been a busy year; in April I published ‘Earthquake’, my most recent Radwinter story (I’m working on the next which may arrive before Christmas, but is more likely to appear in January) and I also published my little writing guide ‘So You Want To Write’. As well as that this year I have been very involved with my writing groups, leading and being part of, and have had lots of exciting things in my own life, not least a six-week trip to Tasmania, and my daughter coming back to live at home after five years away!!

For some reason I thought I had also published a book which I first started writing about ten years ago or more, Lucky Portbraddon. However, that was just over a yea ago, September 2016! The idea for the Portbraddon story went back much further, had been in my mind for many years, and was inspired by – but definitely not based on, two strands of inspiration:

  • bands – having loved rock music just about all my life, and having seen at close quarters what it’s like to be in a band (my husband has been a drummer and in bands since he was about fourteen) I was fascinated by the dynamic in such groups. There is a closeness because of playing music together, rehearsing and live, and for some bands who go on the road sometimes for months at a time, there is an extra bond. However there are fall-outs and splits, and people leaving and new people arriving
  • family – I am so fortunate to be part of a great, loving and faithful family, and i must say here that the Portraddons are not remotely like my own cousins and are not based on them in any way except one – the one way that there is a similarity is the loyalty a family feel, a bond which can never be broken even if the family is broken. With my fictional Portbraddons there are major upheavals and betrayals, but even so at the end, as they constantly say ‘family is family’ and ‘family first’.

Here is an extract from Lucky Portbraddon. Ismene was the girlfriend and, she hope, fiancée to be, of one of the cousins. She went to meet the rest of the family and to spend Christmas with them in their grandma’s large but isolated  house up on the moors. They were snowed in for several days during which time Isméne’s boyfriend decided he didn’t love her and as soon as escape was possible he left to return to town.

In the following extract, Isméne has been brought home to her flat by a cousin, Nick; he is also giving a lift to his nephew, Noah, who is shy and awkward and always seems on the outside of everything. An unexpected reception awaits  Isméne.

They got out of Nick’s rickety car, stepping into slush. The night was damp and had a fusty town smell after the clear air up on the tops. The thaw had set in but there were still mounds of snow, semi-frozen piles of mush, speckled with dirty grey and black.
Noah stayed in the back and she waved at him through the side window; he managed a weak smile but looked away shiftily.
“You will stay in touch, won’t you Ismène?” Nick asked as she keyed in the code on the security pad.
“I sure will, as long as you want me to,” she held the door with her shoulder so he could come in with her bags.
He made a facetious response and she replied with a joke but she had the tiniest suspicion that Nick might want to do a little more than flirt. He was lovely but she had not the slightest interest in him even if she’d wanted another relationship.
Someone grabbed her and shoved her to the floor and a man jumped at Nick and began hitting him in the face. Nick was unable to defend himself, encumbered by her bags.
Ismène jumped up and grabbed the attacker’s arm, he spun round and it was Jaco.
“You leave her alone, you bastard, she’s my wife!” Jaco bellowed and shoved her aside to continue his attack on Nick.
Ismène tumbled backwards, falling over one of her bags, and sprawled across the floor again – And then there was a figure in black between Nick and Jaco. It was Noah and he grabbed Jaco, punched him straight in the face, before pushing him out of the door. He hurled him down the couple of steps then stood blocking the doorway.
“Fuck off shithead!” he bellowed.
Nick was on his knees, blood streaming through his fingers cupped over his face and Ismène tried to get him upright, appalled by the sudden violence.
“I’m so sorry, Nick, I’m really sorry.”
“What are you apologising for?” Nick staggered as if dizzy.
He called a muffled thank you to Noah, who cast a baleful look over his shoulder and went out, the door banging shut behind him.
Nick was wiping his arm on his sleeve, his moustache and beard a gory mess. The light in the hall was garish, Nick’s face was grey and he was certainly in pain. There were splashes of blood on the blue and green floor tiles, as if the seascape they showed had been the place of a dreadful battle.
“I didn’t realise he knew where I lived – I guess he thought you were James.”
She gathered her bags and other things, and hoping Noah was safe, she pushed Nick to the lift.  It pinged open and they hurried into its apple-scented interior.
“Long time since I’ve been in a fight,” Nick looked at himself in the mirror, touching his nose experimentally. “I don’t think it’s broken.”
“Well, it wasn’t really a fight. He hit you then Noah threw him out.”
“Oh, that’s right, spoil my moment of fantasy! In my mind I decked him with a quick one-two and some nifty footwork!”
As they stepped out of the lift Ismène’s neighbour was waiting; he cast a horrified look at Nick and hurried down the corridor to the stairs.

I hope you are intrigued and want to find out more! here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507879718&sr=1-6&keywords=lois+elsden

… and here are links to my other books I mentioned:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507879718&sr=1-4&keywords=lois+elsden

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Want-Write-Telling-Tales-Book-ebook/dp/B074W19JK3/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507879718&sr=1-3&keywords=lois+elsden

Checklist 2 – how to self-publish on Amazon

As I’ve mentioned, a friend and I have picked up the challenge to try and write blogs on seventy-three different subjects. I am just working my way down the list, he is picking his topics at random. Yesterday I wrote about checklists; I produced a checklist for self-editing a book, forgetting completely that I had written about self-editing in another of the 73! Doh!!

So, to be fair, I am going to write about another checklist, this time I am writing about how to self-publish on Amazon

  • set up an Amazon account – this is easy, at the bottom of the Amazon page, under ‘Make money with us’, is a link ‘independently publish with us’
  • you should arrive at a page titled ‘bookshelf’ and there is a box which says ‘create a new book’ with a choice of paperback or kindle – choose which you want (you can always do the other one later!)
  • I am going to follow the set-up for a paperback, but it is equally easy to set-up for Kindle
  • You will be taken to a page where you enter the details
  • Language – the language you are publishing in…  I publish in English but there are plenty of languages to choose from
  • Title and subtitle – you write in your title, if you have a sub-title put that in its own box, if you don’t have a subtitle leave it blank
  • Series – if you think you might write a series, put in the title of the whole series – for example for my Radwinter series I put ‘Radwinter’ and then the volume number and the volume title
  • if you are doing this for the first time where the next box asks for edition number, it will be 1. If you edit or revise your text, then it will be a subsequent number
  • The next box is for author – and that is you; if you are writing with a different name, put your writing name in here
  • under that is another box for contributors – and there is a drop down menu which includes such things as ‘editor’, illustrator’, etc. I am shortly going to publish an anthology with two friends, so their names go in there and they are both credited as ‘author’. You can add as many people as you like
  • the next text box is for a description – this is what the prospective reader will see when s/he comes across your masterpiece on Amazon. You want to make it as intriguing and interesting as possible!
  • the next check is for copyright and publishing rights – tick as appropriate (there are helpful explanations if you’re not sure!)
  • Next you have to think of seven words or phrases to describe your potential best-seller. For our anthology to be we used: poem, short story, creative non-fiction, polemic, geology, science fiction, euphoric writing
  • The next choice is of category, and there is an impressive selection to choose from – you can choose two – these are things like fiction/non-fiction/poetry etc
  • The last question on this first page ass if you have ever used CreateSpace… I haven’t so I didn’t have to answer any further questions
  • The next page continues first of all by checking if you need an ISBN number; Amazon will assign you one if you don’t have your own already
  • Then you can if you wish, set your own publication date
  • for a paperback you have a choice of type of paper, cover and size
  • You then upload your manuscript – it is as easy as attaching a document to an email; it may take some time if it is a very long book! When I say some time, I mean time in minutes not hours! Enough time to make a cup of tea.
  • Once you have manuscript uploaded then you can design your cover – if you already have one, upload that (I’ve not done this, I have just used Amazon’s own formats) This is quite tricky – not in the doing of it, but in the choosing of the right style, colours, pictures, the etc – trying to make sue you have got it right!!
  • The next step is to preview it, where you have a virtual book on the screen in front of you and you are able to edit and adjust… If you change your manuscript, you have to upload it again, but that is no problem
  • The last page you have to do is to decide on price, publication details, various admin details… it is very straightforward, and there are drop-down boxes explaining and guiding you all the way.
  • Good luck!!

Maybe this is not so much a check-list as a guide… well, whatever it is, I hope it is helpful!

Here are my books self-published on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_4_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C419&crid=1RW9VEPBQPRLE

and a direct link to my Radwinter series, including the first paperback (more to follow!)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1507662328&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

Your readers…

Here is an excerpt from my little book ‘So You Want To Write‘… and here I’m thinking about audience – even if no-one but you reads what you have written, you are your own audience!!

You have an idea for your story; the next thing to think about is…. your audience!
For a start, who are your readers? Adults, children, teachers, friends…? Be aware of them and how they may read your story and what they may read into your story… or perhaps not understand!
Your audience is not watching a play, film or TV programme. They only have your words there on the page. You have to give them all the information that they will need to understand, enjoy and want to read your story. So use lots of descriptive language.
They do not want to be baffled, bored or bemused.
Don’t think to yourself “I’m never going to share this with anyone else, or even show it to anyone; I am definitely not going to enter it for a competition, send it to an agent or a publisher so there is no audience…”
There is always an audience… even if it is an audience of one, yourself!
If you are writing a story just for yourself, when you read it back you want to be moved and feel some emotion from what your eyes are reading and sending to your brain.
If it’s a long descriptive piece, you don’t want those same eyes to glaze over and skate across the words, you want to be entranced and delighted by what you’ve written.
You are your audience; you might want to be moved, entertained, excited, engaged…
Your story might be for children, even if you never share it with any, your inner child will read it!

© Lois Elsden 2017

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Want-Write-Telling-Tales-Book-ebook/dp/B074W19JK3/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1506620132&sr=8-4&keywords=lois+elsden

Telling stories

Because I love telling stories and writing so much, I have always wanted to share that with other people, and get them writing too! Everyone has a story, everyone has some tale to tell… When I was an English teacher part of the job was to do exactly that, to get young people to write. Yes, in theory it was for their exams, but in practice I wanted it to be much more.

I taught in main stream schools for over fifteen years, then after a brief intermission having my own children and telling them stories, I went back into teaching. In my new line of work I was teaching young people who for various reasons (often not through their own fault) they were not in school and outside the statutory education system. Many of them were totally alienated from even the idea of education, let alone what I was trying to teach which they saw as irrelevant. ‘I can speak English – I don’t need you to teach me!’

However, I needed to teach them; and in the last ‘school’ I worked in, I not only had to teach them, but in one single year prepare them for public exams and get them through those exams! Now most of these young people were intelligent, able, imaginative, literate… and short of time to turn things around to get the qualifications and certification they needed. My colleagues and I had just one year to get them ready!

I created what I suppose was actually a creative writing course… After I finished work to start writing full-time, I looked back at the material I had produced for them, which was in a specific order, and had been refined over years of trial and error with a very critical set of ‘guinea pigs’, and very important reason to get it right.

The upshot of all this is, that a short while ago, I polished up and published this material as a short book ‘So You Want To Write’!

Here is an excerpt:

Some people like to plan their stories, some people like to let their stories unfold almost by themselves or as the characters develop.
If you already have a story, skip the next bit! If you don’t have a story in mind, but really want to write something then you need…

… Inspiration

Where do stories come from? Here are some ideas:

  • an observation of people passing by
  • an incident you observed /a scrap of conversation overheard
  • a strange experience /coincidence
  • a dream/ day-dream
  • a traditional story or legend
  • a what if… moment
  • a found photo… who are those people?
  • the story of a house
  • a picture
  • a song/ music

So off you go and write your story, but once it is complete, then the hard work begins!
However you write your story, there are things common to all story-telling. Some are so obvious you may not have properly considered them. This brief list is expanded in an appendix – but there are plenty of ideas to get anyone writing!!

Here is a link to find ‘So You Want To Write’ – as an e-book or a tree book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Want-Write-Telling-Tales-Book-ebook/dp/B074W19JK3/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1506244566&sr=8-4&keywords=lois+elsden

There he is! Walking down the street!

My subject of my novel ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’ is easy to guess!! I return to the theme of stalkers and being stalked in the book I am working on now, provisionally called ‘Saltpans’; one of the characters is troubled by someone who seems to be stalking him… at present it is harmless, letters, small gifts, other messages. He doesn’t know who it is but it’s troubling.

I came across something I wrote some time ago, and this is from the point of view of someone who becomes intrigued then infatuated and then obsessed about a stranger… Here is an excerpt:

There he is walking down the street in front of me! … There he was just a-walking down the street.. is that a song from the sixties? Or maybe it was something else… there he stood in the street , smiling from his head to his feet

But anyway – there he is! And before I know it I’m walking after him, following him! He walks quite quickly, but then he does everything quickly. I’ve watched him working, and whatever it is, selling tickets, doing stuff behind the counter, making coffee, rearranging chairs, he works quickly… not hurrying, not rushed, not slap-dash, he’s just quick.

I keep up with him as he goes round the corner walking along past the back of the shopping centre. Slim waisted, neat figure… he isn’t very tall, long-bodied rather than long-legged, wearing jeans as usual and a black polo shirt.

Suddenly he stops and I almost stop too but he has met someone and I have to carry on walking, stepping out into the road to go round them.

I get a snatch of conversation, his friend, a taller man, balding and with has short blondy red beard, is saying something about Clacton… Clacton? Isn’t that a seaside town in… in Essex maybe?

I cross over the entrance to the car park, and there’s no traffic to stop me and I’m walking away, wanting to glance over my shoulder… I get to the corner and stop and get out my phone and stare at it hopefully… then I have to cross over, I can’t stand there for ever. But the lights are red so I wait. I glance left and he’s standing beside me, so close that I can see a blue mark on his cheek as if he’s stabbed himself with a pen.

I stare across the road, and it’s only when someone pushes against me, someone behind me that I step out and move, a couple of feet behind him again. He cuts across in front of me and has only gone a few yards beyond the crossing when a car stops, he bends to look in and then opens the door and slips into the passenger seat. There’s a burst of music then the door shuts and they drive away… I stop and stare after them, memorising the number…

“Are you alright, dear?” an elderly gentleman asks me. “Do you need help?”

I gather my sense… no I’m fine, I tell him with a smile, I’ve just remembered something… and thanking him again I set off to find the nearest bar… and when I lift the large glass of Pinot, my hand’s trembling.

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here is a link to my e-books, and my recently published paperbacks, ‘So You Want To Write‘, and ‘Radwinter’:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C136&crid=1Q08W85YOOTFO

So You Want To Write!!

I have some exciting news… but you may already know it…

I have another blog which I co-write with two friends, the Moving Dragon Writes, and yesterday I made the announcement there that I have published a new book!!!! if you regularly meet me here, you may well have read parts of it when I shared different chapters some time ago. It’s called ‘So You Want To Write‘ and as you can imagine it’s some hints which I hope will be helpful to people just beginning to think about writing creatively.

In my last teaching job I was working with young people aged fifteen and sixteen who, in their last year of statutory education were not in school for various reasons; these students were for the most part totally disengaged – clever, literate, interesting – and yet totally turned off education at the very time it was most important for them to do well. Our tiny team of teachers (three of us and two wonderful LSAs) did all we could to re-engage them so they could pass enough exams to give them post-sixteen opportunities in further education, training or work.

I wrote a series of what ended up as chapters on creative writing, and it’s these which I have polished up (although they did not need much changing) amended and added to, to produce ‘So You Want To Write’. This is not just for children – it’s for anyone!

It’s only short, it’s a handbook really and you can find chapters on:

  • Inspiration
  • Your readers
  • Narrator
  • Introduction, opening or beginning
  • Setting
  • Characters
  • Names
  • Plot
  • Language… and Style
  • Research…  and Observation
  • Endings

Here is a link to it…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Want-Write-Telling-Tales-Book-ebook/dp/B074W19JK3/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503388946&sr=1-3&keywords=lois+elsden

PS This is self-published, and although I and others have edited and re-edited it and proof read it, sometimes naughty gremlins insert typos, muddle up the punctuation, tweak the grammar – if you find any errors, please do tell me!!

Still unpicking, not knitting

Actually, I’m not knitting at all… I’m using this to explain that I’m still unravelling some stories I need to work on before I actually begin to properly write. I’ve just published my latest e-book, ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ which I’ve been editing since January; there is a certain amount of creativity in editing, but it’s not the same as writing something fresh. At fist because it was so boring, all the checking, cutting out, rewriting, I began to write a new novel, provisionally entitled ‘Earthquake’, but I got to a stage where I just had to focus on ‘Lucky’. So ‘Earthquake’ needs finishing – I’m about three-quarters of the way through the first draft… but now I’m free to do it, I realise that it is really muddled – three complex story lines, and I need to have it ordered before I can finish it… so effectively, I’m back editing again. I am also going to publish a short book called ‘So You Want To Write’, and that is in its final stages, but it is still passively editing and rearranging…

It soon will be the beginning of October… one month until November and November is the National Novel Writing Month – an on-line challenge to write 50,000 words of a new book… I have done it for the past two years, and it has been really great – and I would like to do it again this year… so I have to sort out my muddles before I do if I want a chance of success. Because the challenge is to write a new novel, I can’t just carry on with what i have started.

So to go back to my knitting, I feel as if I have the jumble of a half-knitted item, which needs to be a little unpicked and reknitted before I take up my needles and ball of wool and crack on with it. I was never a knitter really, although I can knit. I have  a sad memory of knitting a whole jumper for someone I cared about greatly… sadly the jumper was not appreciated, and nor was I! My mum was more of a needle-worker than a knitter, but she did knit, and so did my dad. In the days before we had TV, in the winter evening when it was too dark for him to do his normal activities, rowing, golf, gardening, fishing, in the evenings he would make things – marcasite jewellery, for example, and knitting!

As a child I liked helping wind the wool from skeins into balls, and we would do what we called French knitting,  a cotton reel with four little pins nailed in, and making a long snake of knitting… I would make yards and yards of it but I don’t remember it ever being made into anything else.

… so back to the unpicking and reknitting, then I’ll take up my needles properly and get going on the next books!