A sneaky little peep

Yesterday I shared an excerpt from my latest e-novel, Earthquake; four years ago I began to write a genealogical mystery “starring” Thomas Radwinter, and somehow, Thomas hasn’t let go and I have followed his story. ‘Earthquake’, which I published earlier this week, follows his adventures, and his life.

Here, just for you, is another excerpt:

I have to be very strict with myself, which is much more difficult than you might think, because particularly when I’m doing someone’s family tree I get terribly side-tracked by interesting names and strange occupations. I have such a busy life, housework, cooking, washing, shopping, John’s allotment, looking after our garden, taking Cassie and Kenneil swimming, seeing my brothers and their families…
So I was concentrating completely on the ins and outs of some legal papers for a client and didn’t register my phone was ringing. I answered it rather more loudly than I meant to and there was silence then the sound of laboured breathing…
Good grief, don’t say I’ve got a heavy-breather… Hello? I said rather firmly and sternly ready to finish the call and block the number.
“Good morning… is that Mr. Radwinter….” And the voice, man or woman I couldn’t tell, faded away, then started again. “My name is Shsh Shshsher…”
“I’m sorry, you are?”
“Shsh Shshsher… A friend at the golf club suggested you might be able to help me…”
When I was working as a proper solicitor in a practice in Strand, I had a dear old gentleman who always asked for me to assist in his matters and business, usually changing his will which was a bit of a hobby of his. When our firm amalgamated with another and moved their head office to Castair, I was effectively given the sack; however my kindly old gentleman insisted I continue to handle his affairs and more than that, recommended me to a lot of his friends at the golf club. The golf club gang, as I call them, are my best clients, and are nearly all nice people and also quite wealthy.
As well as the usual conveyancing, enduring powers of attorney, wills and even a couple of divorces, they have asked me to help them on several intriguing ‘investigations’ as I mentioned above, the missing woman, the Moroccan and the Tibetan Lama.
“I will try my best Mr. Shshsher…” I couldn’t ask him again for his name, having tried to work it out three times. “Perhaps we could arrange a time where we could meet, or maybe I could call on you… what sort of business do you wish to conduct?”
There was another yawning pause before Mr. Shshsher replied that he would have to discuss that with me…  He wasn’t sure I could help, he wasn’t sure anyone could help, but his friends had recommended me highly…

If you want to find out what Thomas gets up to in Earthquake, and find out about that seismic event, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491552516&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

and to Thomas’s other adventures, and my other novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_0?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=%2Caps%2C227

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

 

A test for Thomas Radwinter

I mentioned that I am now working on my next Radwinter story, provisionally called ‘Earthquake’; I am about three-quarters way through writing the first draft… and I thought you might like to have a little preview.

The main character, Thomas Radwinter is meeting a new client for the first time; the old gentleman rang him but had such a whispery voice that Thomas couldn’t work out his name even though he asked him to repeat it three times.

The house was quite gloomy with dark red bricks and dark wooden beams; there was a great big chimney on the tiled roof, almost out of proportion with the size of the house and I remembered reading about Tudorbethan when I was looking up about this area. Something to do with the Arts and Crafts Movement… and as I was thinking this I pulled on the bell which was like a metal rod thing and there was a clang inside. The door was large and studded with nails and had black iron hinges…

It was actually a bit creepy; the bay windows were heavily netted and there seemed to be no lights on to illuminate the dimness… what was I letting myself in for? I expected the door to open with a creak and a wrinkled retainer to be standing there… well, the old chap was certainly wrinkly but I guess he was Mr. Shshsher, because he said ‘Ah, Mr. Radwinter do come mumblemumblemumble…”

We shook hands and I was relieved his skin was normal and not cold and slimy as I’d somehow feared… honestly… I shouldn’t think so much, really I shouldn’t…

He led the way through with a shuffling gate into the back part of the house. This could have been a lovely home and it reminded me a little of my second cousin Lesley’s home, but hers is clean and bright and the pale wood work always gleams with loving polish. Mind you, she’s not often there, she’s spending most of her inheritance from her parents on cruises to almost every corner of the world… I believe she’s in Japan at the moment… no doubt when she returns she will bring another small gift for Kenneil… he has quite an array of little souvenirs from Aunty Lesley…

The old place was very dusty and a bit untidy, but not in a desperate way; I was led into a study which had French windows leading into the garden. It was a room full of light and it looked like something out of a film set for a mad professor; there were piles of books and papers everywhere and the walls were lined with bookcases containing more books and the occasional odd object. A stuffed owl stared at me.

“I seem to be in a bit of a muddle here, Mr. Radwinter, I’m afraid murmurmurmurmurmur…”

He was a nice old chap and now we were in a room which was a bit brighter I could see him better. He had long white hair flowing down over his collar which looked as if it was velvet. The jacket itself was buttoned up the front and looked really, really old-fashioned. He looked like someone dressed for a part in the latest TV adaptation of a Dickens’ novel.

He found a chair for me to sit on which seemed a little wobbly, I’d have to keep still, I didn’t want to break what appeared to be an antique piece of furniture.  He sat behind the desk and told me he no longer played golf, his legs had given up, but he often went to the club for lunch, and several of his acquaintances had mentioned me when he had told them about his muttermuttermutter… he was looking in a drawer of the desk, and his voice disappeared into it.

I was going to have to invent a hearing problem if he didn’t speak a little more clearly!

He eventually drew out an old box file very battered and worn. He put it on the desk and then began to look through, all the time giving a sort of burbled conversation which I wasn’t sure was addressed to me so I just gave a hmm-hmm sort of noise every so often.

He pulled out a small scrapbook which he passed to me, opened at a page; I thought at first it was a contact sheet of pictures like we used to get at school when the photographer came in and took pictures of us in our uniform. I hated it… I hated having my picture taken, hated the pictures that were taken. In junior school when I was mostly living with Sylvia I’d bring the wretched package home then take it back unopened; however once I was at secondary and Marcus was more involved, the nightmare started. I took the stupid thing back to him and he insisted on ordering a set of me looking like a red-faced, red-haired hamster with both cheeks stuffed with food – my cheeks weren’t really stuffed, they were just fat. In year eight one of my tormentors took the thing off me and my photo was passed around with everyone laughing at me… after that I made sure I was either away for the photographer or I ‘lost’ the blasted pictures…

But anyway… Mr. Mumble had passed me this book and there were twelve separate pictures of girls in a school uniform. None of the girls was smiling, although some had a sort of happy expression, or at least a pleasant expression, others of them were totally impassive, one looked slightly cross and a couple looked rather sad…  They all looked the same age, probably about fourteen or fifteen, and they all looked very similar… they were all Chinese or Japanese or Korean… I couldn’t tell, and they all had short black hair with a fringe.

“Who are these girls, sir?”

I didn’t like to turn the page to see what was next in the book and I was definitely a little mystified by it all.

“One of them is my mother, can you guess which?”

Crikey! What a question! Twelve similar looking teenage girls and a very elderly gentleman who was now sitting back in his chair, his fingers steepled together beneath his chin and what can only be described as a mischievous look on his face. I could see now that his face wasn’t totally European, something about the shape of his eyes and his nose… I wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t told me that one of these twelve lovely girls was his mother.

Was this some sort of test? Had he heard things about me from the golf club gang which made him think I might be able to help him in some other matter and he was testing me?

He made a funny squeaking noise and I realised he was laughing… OK… I gazed at the pictures…

©Lois Elsden 2016

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

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_6?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C138

Are my heroines me?

I’m thinking of pulling together and publishing a guide I wrote to writing – originally for my students when I was teaching and preparing them for their exams, and more recently for my adult friends in my creative writing groups.

As well my little guide to writing, I am thinking of including some of the posts I have made here on WordPress about writing, and my personal writing.

This is one of the posts I think might be interesting to include:

Are my heroines me?

Sometimes people ask if the main character in my novels is based on me… well no; I might wish I were like some of them, as brave and as fearless, but others of them put up with situations I wouldn’t tolerate. None of them look like me, although some have dark hair as I do, and I’m not really sure I would like to look like them either, even though they are mostly taller and slimmer than I am!

  1. Deke Colefox in Farholm: Deke and her sister Blaine have a book-shop and deli. Deke has been changed by the loss of her husband, and she appears in the book  as someone angry and bitter and wild with grief. She is prickly and aggressive, and yet she is also tenacious and brave.  I don’t think I would have reacted like she did in her situation, when she finds that her husband had lied to her so profoundly; I might have been angry but I don’t think I would have been so wild… although maybe when I was her age, who knows how I would have faced what she did?
  2. ‘Rosa’ Czekov in The Stalking of ‘Rosa’ Czekov: ‘Rosa’ has an art gallery, and is not a particularly noticeable person, although her husband Luka fell in love with her the first time he met her when she was a chubby fourteen year-old. She has brown hair, is plumpish, has no great interest in fashion or style, and likes to fade into the background. She is an observer, a watcher, and may seem passive and accepting, but behind her beautiful grey eyes there is a much more complex person. She shocks everyone, including Luka by her actions when faced by a gunman during a botched bank raid. I’m not passive like she is, although I do sometimes sit back and observe others; I like to be with the crowd, unlike ‘Rosa’, although I’m quite happy on the side-lines too.
  3. Tyche Kane in The Stalking of ‘Rosa’ Czekov: Tyche is not a bit like me, except she is sometimes – well quite often, quite zany. She is slim and blonde and very athletic and strong; she runs miles, she trains at the gym and works out every day. She is the sort of person who everyone would notice, she really would stand out in a crowd by her blond hair, blue eyes and wonderful looks. Just in case someone doesn’t notice her, Tyche is a show-off who does everything she can to draw attention to herself  This is not a bit like me… although I do have my crazy side, it’s on a much lower level than Tyche’s. She is an absolute one-off, but people really have no idea what her real character is and have a tendency to underestimate her. This is a mistake; Tyche is every bit as courageous as her cousin and has a core of steel. I think maybe in the past people have underestimated me, especially when I was a teacher I nearly always achieved what I wanted but by quietness and subtlety.
  4. Aislin McManus in Loving Judah: like me Aislin is a teacher, and some of her experiences in the classroom are similar to mine. I think of all my characters she is most like me, but she is also very different. I don’t think I could have married someone like her husband Peter Whitamore; I think I would have found him frustrating and his hobbies would have driven me mad… on the other hand, the presence of his wonderful son Judah was the clincher when it came to becoming a couple. Superficially Aislin might have looked a little like me, except more athletic, and a different build to me, but she too has dark hair.
  5. Beulah Cameron in Night Vision: Beulah is actually very good-looking, tall, slim, dark hair, flashing eyes, but her real charm is that she doesn’t realise it. Again, like me she is a teacher, but she teaches adults at a college in Manchester. Everyone likes Beulah, she is just a really nice, loving person, full of character. I wouldn’t be so immodest as to say I’m like her, and I am definitely unlike her in the way she has tolerated her husband over the years. He adores her but he is very controlling; I don’t think I could have accepted that, but maybe it just developed as the years of their marriage went by.
  6. Jaz (Jaswanti) Paul in Flipside: another teacher and with a similar career to mine, working in supposedly rough schools. Jaz is half Indian and is stunningly beautiful; she has a tendency to end up with the wrong men and has a terrible history of unfortunate relationships. Jaz tends to subdue her personality as she struggles with accepting who she really is, but she has a stubborn streak which doesn’t allow others to ride over her. She stands up for what she believes, and defends those she loves…  I guess that might be me too, although I don’t think I would be quite as out-spoken as she is.
  7. Genet McCauley in The Double Act: Genet has long rippling red hair and a sprinkle of freckles ‘like pale tea leaves’ across her nose, so physically she is nothing like me at all. She was brought up by an aunt and married her husband Lance when she was eighteen and they have a small seaside guest-house. He is a larger-than-life character and she is in his shade. She is passive, meek, timid, and when her group of friends are talking about each other’s characters, who is the cleverest, who is the funniest etc. she is described as ‘nice’ which secretly horrifies her, ‘nice is nothingy, nice is wishy-washy’. However like my other heroines people are wrong to underestimate her… when things get tough, when horror and mayhem disrupt her life, she proves to be strong, resilient and courageous. I think Genet and I are very dissimilar, although I think she would be a good friend if she really existed!
  8. Mal Stirling in A Strong Hand From Above (unpublished): Mal is an artist and illustrator and is a dreamy but independent person. She is quite happy to love her life with or without attachments, maybe because she was orphaned at an early age and brought up by a kindly step-father. She is maybe a little too trusting and falls into a situation where her life is at risk. I think I’m probably more cynical and hard-headed, and definitely am a person who likes to be with other people and in a steady relationship.
  9. Erin in The Story of Frederico Milan (unpublished): Erin is small with dark hair which shows some premature grey. She lectures at what was Strand Tech, and is the best friend of Frederico. She is a person who keeps her private life very private, even from Frederico. Although she could be described as ‘sensible’ she does make unexpected and perhaps irrational decisions, and has an almost self-destruct mode when it comes to relationships. Erin might seem superficially similar to me, but in fact she is completely different – except perhaps in loyalty to her friends and having a best friend who is a bloke.
  10. Ismène Verany in Lucky Portbaddon: Erin’s father was French/Vietnamese and she has inherited his dark hair, shape of face and features. She was in a difficult marriage for many years and is very tough and resilient, but her divorce and the death of her mother has changed her; now she is full of adventure and fun and ready to live life to the full, catching up on her missed years. I think I may have become like her if my life had been different, but I’m no good at dancing and don’t have lots of men falling in love with me!

The title of this post is ‘Are my heroines me?’ but the person who I write about who is most like me isn’t a heroine at all… he’s a hero – a male character. Just looking at his character, nothing at all to do with gender, Thomas Radwinter really is the most similar to me of all my ‘leads’… so I shall include him on my list:

11. Thomas Radwinter in Radwinter, Magick, Raddy and Syl, Beyond Hope and Earthquake (unpublished): Thomas is fat, ginger, bearded, and a man – so in that sense he is not at all like me! However he has different sides to his character, unbelievably shy and lacking in confidence  (an aspect of myself when I was much younger); he is absent-minded and gets in muddles, but actually through a natural wit and good luck, he succeeds in the end. He’s often laughed at which he works to his own advantage, and is much tougher than anyone would guess. People do tend to underestimate me, and think because I am so forgetful and get in muddles, that I won’t or can’t achieve my purpose. Well, like Thomas, in my muddly way, I do usually get where I want to be and I hope like Thomas I’m loving and kind and generous.

 

Order! Order!

I knew when I started writing my latest Radwinter book that one of the story lines would be very complicated. There’s the haunted hotel plot, the girl with amnesia found washed up on a beach, the ongoing background story of the different characters, the Radwinters and their families, and there is the complicated mystery; it goes back to 1931 and it is a murder mystery.

The main character, Thomas, has been commissioned to try and find out whether the story an elderly man’s mother told him is true; the old chap’s mother, who was at school in 1931, believed that some of her school friends were murdered. Thomas is very doubtful whether he can untangle the truth in all this but he undertakes the challenge and begins his research using the old man’s papers, and archive material such as news papers, coroners’ reports etc.

Here is an article Thomas found in the local newspaper:

CHILD KILLED BY FALLING WINDOW.

Friday. – Florence Baxter, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Benjamin Baxter, a school girl at the Beauchamp Academy, met her death in an extraordinary accident on Wednesday afternoon. It is surmised that for some reason, after studying in the academy grounds, she attempted to climb in through the refectory window; she had placed her bag containing her school books within the room and it is thought that as she did so she knocked out a stick which had been holding up the window. The window down fell across her neck, and when found by a fellow pupil, she was dead. Miss Baxter was fourteen years old. An inquest will be announced, but no doubt the verdict returned will be of accidental death.

There wasn’t a whole school of hundreds of girls, but a summer school of just thirteen, ranging in age from eleven to sixteen. The inspiration for this story came from something I came across:

img046These are the girls at the school… I’ve ‘borrowed’ their faces…

Because there are several story lines, they interweave with each other, and this is where I’ve got myself a little muddled… as Thomas proceeds with his investigation he gradually finds out more and more about each girl.  In my story they were all adopted through a dubious agency by well-meaning families so there is no record of where they were born; however Thomas is able through his genealogical investigation to find a little more about them, marriages, children, and when they died… and he discovers the shocking truth that there was more than one girl whose death seemed ‘suspicious’…

I have these ideas, I know where I’m going, but I have realised that I am getting very muddled about the order in which Thomas discovers things… When I write, unlike some other writers, I keep everything in my head – I do sometimes make timelines or family trees, but on the whole it is all filed away somewhere in my brain. I have to confess, with this story I am going to have to have notes, timelines and some sort of on-paper sequencing chart. A friend suggested a roll of wall-paper… that is actually a very good idea!

What has made it more complicated – the writing not the story, is that I had an extra strand of narrative which I’ve now removed and may use later, and also a different plot line, a haunted hotel has had to be rewritten and changed… more checking and double checking to make sure continuity is preserved.

In order to make sure everything is clear and contiguous, I have copied every scene relating to his investigation and discoveries and created a separate document, just to check… I have such eagle-eyed readers that any error will be picked up straight away! Luckily I also have very kind readers who point these mistakes out in a helpful and friendly way so they can be corrected…

OK, back to 1931 and the earthquake… yes there was an earthquake here in 1931… and it is another character in the story!

If you haven’t read my Radwinter novels they are e-books and here is a link to them and my other stories:

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

Dilemma nearly solved… nearly…

I mentioned the other day that I had a writing dilemma – a sort of self-inflicted dilemma; I’m editing a very long novel I wrote and ‘finished’ several years ago, and to keep my creative side going I’m writing a new novel too. Editing is such a grapple, and sometimes quite boring, going though and trying to spot all the mistakes… and writing something new is exciting and stimulating.

My dilemma is that I have realised that my ‘finished’ novel needs much more work on it than I had supposed – not just slashing away all the unwanted verbiage, and pruning it into a lean and readable shape, there are parts which need reworking, reorganising, sequencing etc and it’s a massive undertaking.

Last night, at about midnight, I had a sudden breakthrough… I suddenly felt as if I was really getting to grips with the long novel, I felt as if a shape was arising out of the muddle, a shape that worked and I felt more confident – and I also realised I had to give myself a more realistic time-frame… I think if I continue working hard and consistently, it should be ready by Christmas, this Christmas, Christmas 2016.

At the same time, the same midnight, a problem I’d had with my new book resolved itself… a hotel I was having trouble writing about relocated itself to an old harbour and a plot problem was solved. I feel I can confidently move ahead with this too, and i even have a name for it – Earthquake! This new novel, the fifth in the Radwinter series, should be ready by about July.

I feel full of energy now, I can see which way I’m going! So, back to work! …Earthquake! should be published in July, Lucky Portbraddon in December!

In case you haven’t read my novels yet, they are pblished as e-books and here is a link:

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

 

Earthquake

I mentioned previously that in my current novel – as yet unnamed, my main character is investigating a murder which occurred in 1931; one of the people involved makes a mysterious reference to an earthquake in 1931, so my main character, Thomas looks up what he can find out about earthquakes in 1931, and is amazed at not only the amount of earthquake activity there was in that year, and in every year, but an earhtquake affected England in his key year, 1931; the quake took place many miles offshore in the North sea, centred on the Dogger bank. I found out a great deal – but obviously my readers won’t want to read reams and reams of facts and figures, but I have had Thomas write a little about his general findings. There are other mentions and other facts about the topic elsewhere, but this is what Thomas says as he’s working:

Earthquakes in 1931… It seems there were quite a lot all across the world, and not just the headline ones I’d read about in New Zealand, Nicaragua, the Panama Canal and the Dogger Bank…   nearly deviate to find out more about the Dogger Bank, I gather it’s a sort of area of the North Sea but I don’t know why it has its own name… but stick to earthquakes. I discover that there is quite a lot of volcanic activity, not just the appalling Xinjiang disaster… but they are all over the world including Mexico, Chile, Pakistan, and in Europe Greece, Russia and Albania… and Pacific islands I’ve never heard of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Loyalty Islands… The list I’ve found are only the main ones, the Dogger Bank doesn’t even feature…

I knew the magnitude of earthquakes is measured on the Richter scale, named after Mr. Richter of course, Charles Francis, which apparently isn’t called the Richter scale any more, and the Chinese quake scored 7, and seven meant there was damage to most buildings and the effects could be felt up to two hundred and fifty kilometres from the epicentre… Dogger Bank was about 6…