There was only one thing I could do…

While I was teaching I had students who were perfectly capable of reading and were fluent readers… however, they were totally disengaged and had got out of the habit. As they were approaching public exams, it was important to get back into the way of reading – especially in English when they had to read set texts.

I started to write pieces for them, always with a cliff-hanger ending to get them back into it, and eventually these pieces became stories, and eventually, I published them! My three stories are available as paperbacks, and also as e-readers.

This is an extract from ‘Screaming King Harry’; Jo-Jo who tells the story lives with her parents in a pub, and one night observes her English teacher Henry King – known as King Harry, exchanging something for a wad of money. He realises he’s been see and then things begin to become dangerous for Jo-Jo and her family. The pub is set on fire in an arson attack…

There was only one thing I could do.
The brewery had fixed us up, Dad and Mum would manage a pub on the other side of town. We had to pack our bags and move out because although the smoke and water damage had been worse than the actual fire, we couldn’t live there for a while.
I told Mum and Dad it was too far to travel to school and that I was staying with a mate; I gave them a name and made up the address. I gave the school the name and address of a made up pub.
Then I camped out while I thought of what to do. I didn’t literally camp outside, although I had been in the Scouts when I was a kid and knew all about camping. The Scouts met in a church hall and I knew a way into it. It was dry and not too cold and there was a toilet and kitchen and as long as I wasn’t there when other people were using it all would be OK. In the evenings, if the hall was in use I sat in the church doing my homework – yeah I know it sounds boring, but I hadn’t anything else to do.
You see, the arson attack at the pub was aimed at me; I was putting everyone in danger. I couldn’t stay with my mates, or even be with them, just I case, and I definitely couldn’t stay with Mum and Dad, we could have died in the fire.
So, why didn’t I tell the Old Bill? Would they have believed me, or would they have believed King Harry? What do you think?

It worked fine for three days while I thought of what to do. On the morning of the fourth day, cold and not really feeling very clean, I decided on a course of action. It was the only thing.
I had to talk to King Harry; I would give in to his threats and bribes and blackmail. I would do anything if he’d leave me and my mum and dad alone – especially my mum and dad.
Sounds soft, but it’s only when someone’s in danger that your realise how important they are to you – and yeah, how much you love them.

I caught him on the corridor.
“Sir, can I see you?”
He looked surprised then wary.
“I hear you’ve had trouble at the pub,” he said.
The cheeky so-and-so! Too right we’d had trouble at the pub, trouble at the pub thanks to his majesty King Harry!
“We’re ok, sir,” I replied casually. “But I wondered if I could talk to you?”
He stared at me for a moment, his blue eyes dangerously blue. “I’m not free today and I’ve got a meeting after school.”
“I’m going to be working in the library, got a project to catch up on,” I said; also the library was warmer and cosier than the church hall.
“Come and find me when you’ve finished, then, or I can come and find you?”
My skin crawled.
“Fine sir, just fine.”

Day 12… NaNo update…

I was going to preface my update by saying it’s been such a busy time in my life… well, it seems these days all the time is a busy time! 2016 was the year of throwing things away – not into the rubbish (although some things did go there) but to charity shops, given to others, recycled… I cleared the decks of much clutter and our usually untidy home had some sort of order restored.  As with many families these days, children who fled the nest have, or are in the process of, returning – so suddenly all our lovely space is being filled up with … things! We are delighted to have them home but it just takes a little organising, to cram three households of stuff in together.

On the writing front I and my fellow bloggers on our Moving Dragons blog have been putting an anthology together, which is now published and available (and we would welcome your comments and reviews on Amazon), and I have at last made my reluctant readers books available on Etsy as actual books, and on Amazon as Kindle e-readers.

As well as my blog here, the Moving Dragons blog and the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, which I shall tell you about in a minute, I am continuing to try to finish my next Radwinter book, in time to be published spring 2018… I am also hoping to produce my second Radwinter book as a paperback.

Oh, and there’s the rest of my life, including the creative writing classes I lead, the writing groups I go to, the French class and the Saxish class I attend… oh and meeting friends, going places… the usual stuff!

So… how has NaNo been going? I’ve mentioned that I intended to write about a long-standing character in search of a story… however he has wandered off, and instead I am writing about Milla who has come to my imaginary town of Easthope. She is a woman with a mystery past, which has not yet been revealed to the reader. Over the twelve days I have been writing about her, her character is gradually developing, especially as she is coming into contact with other people – the other people who live in the house where she’s renting a room, people in a café where she’s been working part-time, other people from around the town.

She has created what amounts a set of runes, which she is ‘reading’ each day, by taking one at random and bearing it in mind as the day progresses. In order to do this I do have a made up set of images which I am randomly picking out – so in a way the writing of the story is guided by chance. I have got to a point now, where I feel as if something has to happen… there has to be some action and movement to keep the reader engaged because otherwise this will just seem like the diary of an uneventful life – and even if there is some strange secret in Milla’s past, by the time it is revealed the reader won’t be reading any more!

Another thing has struck me which I must have a good think about – if I have time to think as I pound away trying to reach my target… Milla’s character. To be sure she is mysterious, but she is gradually changing into a stock female character without an actual character – she has no personality!

So that’s my task for the next few days, to discover her character, and make sure she is interesting and different!

Here is a link to our anthology:

The Moving Dragons Write:

And to my ‘Can read, won’t read series’:


Reluctant readers

I mentioned yesterday that my three short novels for reluctant readers (can read, won’t read) are now available on Etsy.

I didn’t write them to with any idea of them being seen anywhere other than in a classroom; it started as a comprehension with a cliff-hanger ending – a young lad finds the caravan where he lives with his alcoholic father wrecked, and three big men all dressed in black with baseball bats in their hands are knocking on the door – and my students wanted to know what happened next. I wrote another comprehension, which became another chapter – and within half a term I had a complete twelve chapter story!

My students had loved the story, and “forced” me to write a second, and then a third. I used these same exercises over the next few years, editing, tweaking, modifying… and once I had left teaching to write full-time I had these stories published – and they are now available to buy as paperbacks! They will also be available as e-readers by the end of the year.

Here is an excerpt from chapter one of that first story of the lad who lied in the caravan, Blue:

I was so pissed off I stamped all the way back home. Home. A mobile home. A bloody caravan.
As I went through the gate Earl came out. He ran the site, he was a little thin whippy guy and he always smelt of cat’s pee.
“Hey, Blue!” he called to me. The wind was up and it lifted his long greasy hair and he had to keep his hand on it to cover his bald head.
“See you, Earle,” I said trying to walk more quickly. I knew what he wanted and I didn’t want to hear it. I’d had enough shit today and my legs and back were killing me.
“Hey Blue,” and he caught up with me and took my arm. “Look I need the money. You’re two months late with the rent and you’ve got to give me the money.”
“You’ll have to see my old man,” I said, trying to pull away.
“Yeah, well, he’s indisposed isn’t he? Look I’ve got to have the money. I understand, and it’s not me, but Mr Goode, he’s the boss and he wants his rent. It’s not up to me, I only work here.”
“I haven’t got any money, you’ll have to see my Dad,” I said, getting really angry now. The fat bastard I’d worked for all day – if he had paid me I could have given Earl something. As it was I had worked all day for sod all and now –
“Yeah well, Blue if Mr Goode isn’t paid he’ll have to take action, won’t he?”
“Well, he can take a jump,” I pulled my arm away and started to walk up towards the caravan. It was beginning to rain and I was hungry and sore and angry.
“Look Blue – “
I turned round and socked him in the face. There was no power in it but he fell over all the same.
“I’m calling the police!” he scrambled away on all fours. “You scum won’t be here much longer – “
I managed a hobbling run and kicked his arse so he toppled into the puddle by the overflowing rubbish bin.
Without a backwards glance I marched up the road to the van. I got there and the door was open and swinging in the wind, banging against the side of the van. With a sinking heart I climbed the steps and went in.
The place was always a tip, piles of stuff, clothes, dirty dishes, fag ends.  As I looked into the lounge I saw that the telly and video were gone. I went into the kitchen and all the cupboards were open and everything pulled out and the drawers tipped on the floor.
Was it dad? Had Dad done this? I went into his bedroom. It stunk as much as usual but he wasn’t there. His cupboard was open and the clothes scattered everywhere. Not that unusual. I went through to my room, my tiny little room. Even before I looked I knew. I knew I would not find my Gameboy, my Walkman, all my tapes, and my best trainers were gone.
Jesus. Oh Jesus.
I picked up my tin. The bastard had taken the silver chain and locket that had been Mum’s. It wasn’t worth anything to anyone but me but he’d taken it. And the necklace I had made at primary school. It was rubbish, it was only cheap glass beads but I’d kept it all these years.
I sat on the bed and if I’d felt like crying earlier, I sure felt like it now.
Had Dad done this? Had some other drunk broken in and taken the few things we’d had.
I sat and stared at Bob Marley and he stared back at me.
“Well, Bob,” I said. “I shot the sheriff but I didn’t shoot the deputy down.”
I pulled out the drawing pins and took down the poster. Taped onto the wall behind it was an envelope. I took it down and stuffed it in my pocket. Then I folded Bob and took him too. I found the sports bag I’d used when I’d bothered going to school. I stuffed in a few of the old clothes I had.
As I went back through Dad’s room I happened to glance out of the window.
Earl hadn’t bothered ringing the police. Walking up on either side of him was Timmy and Tommy Goode, Mr Goode’s twin brothers. They had baseball bats in their hands, Tommy was swinging his backwards and forwards as he walked. Timmy was thwacking his bat against the palm of his massive hand. God, they were evil.
I went back into my room, kicked out the window, jumped out and legged it.

© Lois Elsden 2017

Find ‘Run, Blue, Run!’ here on Etsy: