On the edge of a pond,

Today I’m going to share an excerpt from the first e-book I published, Farholm. The story takes place over two weeks – Deke goes to Farholm Island where her late husband lived as a boy to try and find out more about the man she married; when he was killed in a road accident she discovered he had secrets which affected her after his death. When she gets to Farholm, she meets Michael who also has a particular reason for staying on the island.

In this excerpt, Michael and Deke have travelled up to an old village up in the hills which has become an alternative community, the members adopting new names and following a seemingly harmless ecological/Mother Natural/Earth religion. Deke and Michael have a terrible row and she storms out of the little studio where they have been looking at paintings and photographs, into a dense fog. As Deke is on crutches because she has a broken ankle, it is possibly not the most sensible thing to do…

Deke hobbled swiftly down the stable, flung open the door and rushed out into the fog, she would go back to the cafe and phone Tom or Barbara Crewe or Sean, anyone to rescue her, to take her back to her cottage and she would pack and run away. She blundered on and she heard Michael somewhere calling her, his voice oddly directionless in the obscurity. She came up against a wall and followed it, passing an unlit window and came to a door. She banged but there was no response, it wasn’t the cafe. Michael was still calling her name and then she heard other voices. Quite close at hand a woman said

“Who is it?”

“It’s me, Deke,” she answered because the voice sounded familiar.

“Where are you?”

Deke stumbled on to where the woman seemed to be. There was grass beneath her feet, she had strayed out of the confines of the village. She was very frightened. Something moved in the fog in front of her and thankfully she hurried towards it only to collide with a startled cow. She turned and tried to go back the way she had come. She had no idea which way she was facing, towards the village or away and into the hidden wilderness.

“Where are you?” said the woman again.

“Here.”

She stumbled on and suddenly her crutch sunk into mud. She was on the edge of a pond, the pond she had seen in the photo of the children. She had staggered into the cow trampled ooze and  slithered and stuck, her crutches pushing down into the smelly slime.

“I’m by the pond,” she called, her voice sharp with panic and fear. Deke looked across the dull grey water and could just make out a clump of reeds.

She was shoved violently and she slipped and fell with a great splash. She floundered and thrashed desperately as a foot pressed down on her back, between her shoulder blades. Then suddenly it was gone and she turned onto her back, hacking and coughing as she tried to sit up. Then the pond seemed full of other people and she was pulled up, hawking and spitting.

“Oh stars and moon! Are you alright?” Lark was wrapping her tartan around Deke  and there was a chorus of concern from the others who had appeared. Michael had pulled her out. Had he pushed her in?

If you want to find out why Deke and Michael were in the village, who pushed her into the pond and tried to drown her, and what happened next, here is a link to Farholm:

When nothing happens

Like many people I’m on Linkedin (which for a quite a while, for no reason, I thought was called Lindlekin ) I rarely use it at all but occasionally I get notifications and today it was from a writing group, and it was a question “When nothing happens – Do you like stories that have ambiguous endings or stories in which not much happens? For example, instead of being plot-driven, a story can be character-driven?”

Now that’s a very good question! I actually don’t like stories where nothing much happens… I’ve written before about my reading habits, and how I think in some ways I am not as good a reader as I used to be – although recently I’ve had string of successful ‘reads’, so maybe I’m improving! I used to be able to wade through anything and persevere to the end… now ‘when nothing happens‘ I tend to give up! A friend in our reading group loves beautifully written books, loves the language of them… but I’m afraid I want some story line, I want some sort of action! I don’t mean that there has to be a punch up on every page or a chase or a romantic development, but I want to feel as if there is some sort of progression.

It’s the same in my writing, I like to have some sort of progression, people change, relationships begin or end, events occur – unexpected, unlooked-for, sometimes unwanted! I guess I like plots! Characters are everything, and setting, but there must be a plot… and endings… satisfactory endings are vital! A satisfactory ending is not necessarily a closed, completed ending, it can be open or ambiguous – but it must conclude the proceedings! I have a very good friend who very kindly tells me honestly what she thinks of my stories, and I always take great heed of her suggestions and advice; on one occasion she commented that an ending (of Flipside) was too brief – everything was wrapped up and concluded too hastily and although the mystery was solved, the characters were left sort of hanging about! So in the next book I worked very hard on the ending – and I’m delighted to say she approved!

Just to briefly look at the endings of my novels…

  • Farholm – the puzzle is solved, the mystery revealed, but for the characters there will continue to be difficulties after the conclusion – grieving will continue, an unhappy relationship struggles on, and another relationship will never even start
  • The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – the stalker is revealed, but  a new relationship based on a rather precarious foundation begins on almost the last page
  • Loving Judah – a resolved ending, but I hope I have pointed the reader towards realising there will be a rocky road ahead for two of the characters
  • The Double Act – a complete conclusion – but when I came to do the final edit, I had to add an extra bit – an epilogue I guess you could call it. The dramatic action had ended in a flourish, but the reader needed a come-down, so I added a final piece when the two main characters are visited by the investigating police officer some months later; readers can imagine an optimistic onward journey, I hope
  • night vision – all the secrets are revealed, and the main character is overwhelmed with happiness and relief, but I hope the reader will see that in actual fact, her optimism might be misguided
  • Lucky Portbraddon – for some of the Portbraddon family, their lives seem settled and hopeful at the end of the book; for others there are unresolved issues, but I hope it is a satisfactory ending since the characters all seem in a position to deal with an unsettled future
  • The Radwinter stories – the first novel, Radwinter, was supposed to be a stand-alone story with a complete conclusion and a short epilogue to pull everything together; it could have remained like that but I realised only half the story was told, and so a sequel appeared… and then it seemed somehow a series emerged. I hope each one is also stand-alone, and I try to tie up the different narrative strands satisfactorily

So to answer the original question – I don’t like books where nothing happens, I don’t mind an ambiguous ending, but it must be a satisfactory ending!

Here is a link to my books:

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

Promoting my stuff

If you’re just an ordinary person, bragging about yourself is totally alien… If you’re an ordinary British person, it’s even more so. We’re not good at receiving compliments, modesty and self-deprecation are qualities ingrained, so now for me, when I want to reach an audience for my books, it’s tricky to balance overcome my natural unwillingness to blow my own trumpet. I guess that’s where agents come in, agents can promote work, and get it out there in an expert way. However, I don’t have an agent, and in a funny sort of way, now I have been self-publishing and self-promoting for five years, I sort of like it – every success is down to me! Oops, am I blowing my own trumpet?

Why do I want people to read my stories? Why do musicians want an audience? Why do artists want the world to see their work? Why do actors get up on a stage rather than prancing around in front of a mirror? For me, being a story-teller is natural, it’s what I am, in my every day life I’m for ever going on about something or another, something that happened to me, something I saw/did/heard/learnt/took part in. When I was a professional teacher, the kids would always say ‘oh no, not another story’, when I launched into something – I think (hope) they actually liked my ramblings… I did it almost without thought, my mind leaping from the subject in hand to something which happened to me or a friend or a cousin, or something I just randomly made up to entertain.

An example of the ‘made-up’ stories I told my students, apart from ‘the ghost of the fourth floor’ which became a college legend, was about my teaching assistant, Sally. I can’t even now remember how I got onto talking about what we had done in our lives apart from working in schools, when I went into a lengthy description of Sally’s past life growing up in a circus, being a trapeze artist with spangly tights and revealing costume, how in her free time she was exceedingly modest ad wore long dresses, and her future husband fell in love with her when she was looking after the coconut shy and he caught a glimpse of her ankle as she bent down to pick up a fallen coconut…

So back to my trumpet blowing… Yes, I want people to read my stories! yes I actually think they are not too bad – self-deprecation alert – they are quite good! So… if you haven’t read any yet – here is a really brief fanfare for each:

  • Radwinter – Thomas finds out more about himself and his own family than about his ancestors… who actually had quite a dramatic time, fleeing 1830’s war-torn Warsaw and jumping ship in Harwich
  • Magick (Radwinter 2) – the rather terrifying father of Thomas’s step-son comes in search of ‘his boy’
  • Raddy and Syl (Radwinter 3) – mysterious Moroccans preying on an old woman, a disappeared woman who may not have even existed, and shocking truths about his own family – Thomas has quite a difficult series of event to deal with
  • Beyond Hope (Radwinter 4) – Thomas meets a dangerous psychopath, and somehow gets involved in people smuggling
  • Earthquake -(Radwinter 5) – a haunted hotel, an eighty year old mystery which brings danger to the present… Thomas is really under pressure
  • Farholm – who  killed young girls on the island of Farholm? Is he still on the loose, or was a recently widowed woman’s dead husband responsible?
  • The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – who stalked Rosa to her death… and has s/he moved on to a new victim?
  • Loving Judah – can Aislin and her husband Peter ever get over the death of his son Judah?
  • night vision – a thirty year old murder is discovered
  • Flipside – is a war damaged veteran responsible for a series of dreadful murders… or is he a victim pf more than his war service?
  • The Double Act – Don’t think this novel is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love
  • Lucky Portbraddon – perhaps the Portbraddons are not so lucky, murder, drugs, madness, modern slavery… but also unexpected love

Are you tempted? They are all available as e-readers, Radwinter is also available as a paperback

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alois+elsden&keywords=lois+elsden&ie=UTF8&qid=1499501921

 

Exciting news tomorrow!!!

I’m just getting ready now, preparing for a very exciting announcement tomorrow! I don’t want to spoil the surprise but I will tell you it is something about my novels, something about my Radwinter series. Like all my published novels, the series is available as e-books on Amazon.

When I wrote the original ‘Radwinter’ it was as a stand alone novel; I had never wanted or been tempted to write sequels to any of my books, although readers had asked me to – particularly with ‘Farholm’. ‘Radwinter‘ had several story-lines but the main one was about Thomas Radwinter exploring his family history, following the Radwinters back to 1841 in Essex, and beyond to the first Warsaw uprising which started in 1830. However, once I had finished the book, it struck me that Thomas only knew about his paternal line, so a second novel emerged tracing back the maternal line, following the name of Magick, which was also the title of the novel. Thomas’s story didn’t end… ‘Raddy and Syl’, ‘Beyond Hope‘ and ‘Earthquake‘ have followed his life.

So that is the hint… my exciting announcement tomorrow will be something about ‘Radwinter’!

Self-publishing on Kindle… again… for anyone who missed it!

I had one of my writing groups this afternoon, and we rather went away from what I had planned and veered off into self-publish on Amazon for Kindle – KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing. I shared something I wrote a while back, and then thought I might share it again here:

I have always written, and before I could write I told little stories to my sister and I continued to write, first of all short stories, and then longer novellas and novels. My first three complete novels are embarrassing to look back on, apart from one where there is a enough to maybe use and rewrite… we shall see. I wrote a couple more novels which were okayish… and then I stepped up a gear and began to write properly. During this time I sent off my work to agents, publishers, entered it for competitions, and all without any success at all… I had many empty promises, I had my hopes raised so many times… but it came to nothing. It didn’t stop me writing.
In 2011 I was able to give up my day job, and what joy to be able to write full-time… and in a casual conversation, someone mentioned that it was possible to publish for Kindle through Amazon. What? Really? And How much does it cost? Nothing? Nothing??!!
I went on the site:

https://kdp.amazon.com/

…and I found it very accessible and it seemed as if it would be easy to use. I decided I would try and see how I got on, and chose my shortest novel, Farholm, as it was my first venture into this new world, and I wanted a manageable book to work on.
Suddenly the editorial process became much more focused; there was no-one but me to check the story, to look for spelling mistakes, grammatical and punctuation errors, to spot inaccuracies and inconsistencies, continuity glitches… and boring bits!  Knowing I was going to have an audience (I hoped) I had to look at my novel in a whole new way. I worked really hard and spent hour after hour, day after day for a couple of months trying to make this, my first published novel the best I could make it.
Ready to rock, I went back to the site and signed up and began the process; it was all so easy I wondered if I had somehow made a dreadful mistake. There are a series of pieces of information you have to submit (but there is an easily understandable guide to everything you have to do, bit by bit, not all in one massive document)
You have to

  • submit the book name (title)
  • subtitle if there is one,
  • edition number if there is one (if it’s part of a series)
  • publisher (that’s you)
  • description (I’ll write more about this later)
  • contributors (you and anyone else such as illustrator)
  • language,
  • ISBN (there’s information on this)
  • publishing rights (whether it is in the public domain or not, and if not that you have the rights)
  • target audience for your book (a drop down list gives you suggestions)
  • age-range (optional)
  • key words (really important so people can find your sort of novel – for my Radwinter series I put in ‘genealogical mystery for example).
  • You can upload your own cover, or KDP will help you create one – I’ve never done this so I don’t know how the process works.

You can save all this at any time; you don’t need to do it all at once and then publish; in fact it’s better to spend a while doing it to make sure you have the right description and keywords. Finally, and this is the exciting bit, you upload your file and if you’re sure you can press publish, if not, press save and think about it!
Once you have done all that there is a more complicated page about rights, and price and various other things, but again there is very clear support through drop-down boxes. I will write about this next time.
Description: it is really, really, really important to get a description – a blurb, which will intrigue and interest people, it needs to be specific and despite feeling modest you have to get over it and blow your own trumpet, and really try and promote and sell your book. Look at other blurbs to get ideas if your brain is empty! You might like to quote some lines from your masterpiece just to give people a taste.
There is something called Author Central where you can write about yourself and your writing, with an inviting photo – this to my mind is quite important to, so your readers engage with you and then want to read more things by you.
My author central page
Lois Elsden was born and brought up in Cambridge, but spent most of her life in Manchester; she now lives in a small Somerset village by the sea.
Having worked at Manchester Airport, as a white-van woman, in a pickle onion factory and as a waitress, Lois taught English as a second language in Manchester and Oldham, before working with young people not in school.
Lois writes full time and has just published her twelfth novel through Kindle Direct Publishing. Her most recent novels have been in her Radwinter series; Thomas Radwinter not only unravels genealogical mysteries, but is commissioned to find missing people and investigate kidnappings and abduction, attempted murder and secret sects. In his latest adventures he investigates a supposedly haunted hotel and tries to discover the truth about the death of a schoolgirl… which happened in 1931.
Lois now leads two creative writing groups, travels round the country to live music events, and watches the world go by in her local pub

Here is a link to that first ever book I published, Farholm:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_7?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1497284799&sr=1-7&keywords=lois+elsden

… and to all my other books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_8?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+els%2Caps%2C147&crid=OD5VNC8DJ076

 

Back to the Far Distant Oxus

I’d forgotten about this book, and this poem:

As a child I was a great reader, and as a child I was a great story-teller, even before I could write any of my tales down. I haunted the library, reading my way through all the books in the children’s section before borrowing my mum’s ticket and starting on the adult books. I was often influenced by what I read and would try to write similar stories.

I came across a book called ‘The Far Distant Oxus’ and was immediately struck by the title – I have a feeling it was recommended to me, either by my friend Frankie,or my cousin Gill, but I borrowed it from the library. The title comes from the poem ‘Sohrab and Rustum’ by Matthew Arnold; it was a poem I had read many times, marvelling at the terrible story of a father’s unwitting slaying of his son:

And he saw that Youth,
Of age and looks to be his own dear so
Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand,
Like some rich hyacinth, which by the scythe
Of an unskillful gardener has been cut,
Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
On the mown, dying grass; — so Sohrab lay,
Lovely in death, upon the common sand.
And Rustum gazed on him with grief

The idea of hidden identity fascinates me, and emerges in some of my novels now, it is central to ‘Farholm’ and is an important theme in ‘Night Vision’. (Reading Arnold’s poem I always giggled at the thought of this boy looking like a hyacinth, even though I was moved by the tragedy!)

Back to ‘The Far Distant Oxus’; when I read it I certainly enjoyed it but when I discovered that the authors, Katharine Hull and Pamela Whitlock were only fourteen and fifteen I was struck with a mixture of amazement, admiration and envy. The two girls who were only slightly older than I was when I read it, had met in an almost fictitious way – sheltering during a storm, becoming friends through their love of books and ponies. Their favourite author was Arthur Ransome, who wrote ‘Swallows and Amazons’, their favourite book. They decided to write a story together which they did, writing alternate chapters about girls and ponies and Exmoor. They sent the finished story to Ransome who was so impressed that he had it published, illustrated by Pamela. It was published in 1937, by which time, Katharine was sixteen and Pamela seventeen. How excited and thrilled they must have been! What a wonderful thing for two young girls! I might have been envious of them at the time, but now I can look at their success and be delighted for them.

They went on to write other books, ‘Escape to Persia’ published the following year, ‘The Oxus in Summer’ published the year after that, and finally ‘Crowns’ published after the war in 1947. Katherine wrote some short stories but I don’t think Pamela pursued her early love of writing, or if she did maybe nothing was published. Sadly they both died relatively young, Katharine when she was fifty-six, and Pamela six years later when she was sixty-two.

Here’s a link to ‘Farholm’ and ‘Night Vision’:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1495217119&sr=8-6&keywords=lois+elsden

https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1495217119&sr=8-10&keywords=lois+elsden

Farholm Island again

Most of my books are set in an imaginary location; they centre round the small seaside of town of Easthope, which is quite old-fashioned and doesn’t have that many visitors, a little backwater really where the residents just carry on their own lives. nearby is the small city of Strand which has a new marina, an old harbour, and an old old harbour at the small neglected suburb of Hamwich. There are other villages around and about, a forest, some hills, and another post-industrial town, which is falling into neglected decline. Off the coast is an island called Farholm.

The first novel I published as an e-book on Amazon through KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing, was set on Farholm Island and called just that ‘Farholm’!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1493885514&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

I have been editing a book I wrote many years ago; it isn’t finished, and I’m in two minds whether to finish it now, or once edited, put it aside for a while – there needs more work on it than I intended. I will finish it and publish it one day, but maybe not just yet.

The plot follows the main character Frederico Milan, whose wife, Susannah, left him three years ago and has never been heard of since. He thought she left him for another man, her parents think he killed her. His  mother-in-law is about to have a very serious operation, and his father-in-law is sent off the rails a bit by this. He threatens to hurt Frederico’s friends if he doesn’t either say where Susannah is, or find her! There are various reasons why Frederico can’t go to the police, so off he sets on Susannah’s trail, helped by his friend Erin, who he calls ‘E’. They’ve heard that Susannah maybe on Farholm Island… So they go to see if they can find her…

Here is a little extract:

Erin was secretly amused at the childish side of Frederico. They’d bought their tickets and parked up in the ferry terminal carpark and were now they waiting by the slipway. He kept wandering off, down the pier to look across the channel to Farholm, to peer over the end as if hoping to see fish, back to Erin then away again to look at what the notice said above the ancient sea-mine painted red and with a slot to take money in aid of bereft mariners.
“The ferry’s coming!” he exclaimed, excited.  He looked better than he had for weeks, the bruises fading, shaved and having slept well. And he was off on an adventure.
“But it’s so small,” Erin looked in alarm at the small vessel slowing to dock.
“What did you expect? A cross-channel ferry?”
“Well, I thought we could have a coffee to pass the time,” she said.
“And do some duty-free shopping while we were there?”
To Erin the ferry wasn’t just small but tiny! The back end came down with a crash and two vans reversed slowly even as the couple of dozen foot passengers swarmed busily off the ferry.
Frederico saw her expression and hugged her.
The small group waiting to board the ferry moved forward in a gaggle; Erin had bullied Frederico into planning and insisted he brought an overnight bag, just in case. He seemed to think they would go to the hippy village, ask if Susannah was there, receive a ‘no’ and come straight back. His overnight bag was a plastic bag with a toothbrush and clean underwear.
“Oh God, I don’t like this,” said Erin, feeling the boat move beneath her.
Frederico laughed; they found seats, stacking chairs reminiscent of the classroom but he guided her to the side of the boat and began to point out features along the coast.
“It’s ok, Ferdy,  he’s just being a pain in the arse  – Hey! Look!  Is that a seal? Look Ferdy, over there?” she was distracted and excited as she pointed out the small grey head with inquisitive eyes watching the boat.
The engine revved and there was a grinding and groaning as the back end closed and a shuddering clang and then the small ferry lurched off the slipway with a grinding squeal of metal against concrete.
“Oh shit, I don’t like this,” Erin grabbed Frederico’s arm as the boat rocked and the colour fled her face leaving her grey.
“Oh dear, E, you don’t like this, do you?” Frederico was trying to be sympathetic but he was laughing. “We haven’t even left the harbour,” he chuckled. “Look you can see the island!  Can you see the cliffs at the west end? That’s where the bird sanctuary is, there are fantastic views and the birds are just wonderful. I wonder if it’s the right time of year for puffins? They are so cute –  and can you see the humpy bit that looks like a whale’s back? Can you see it E? Look, look at the island, can you see the cliffs and the humpy bit?”
Erin dragged her gaze from the churning grey sea and stared at where Frederico was pointing.
“Well, it’s about there that the Community is.”
“Do you really think Susannah is there?” Erin asked distracted from the sea.
“I don’t know E, I was thinking about that last night. Trying to remember what she said… But it’s no good. You’re right on one thing though, something I’d sort of forgotten, she was really into all this new age stuff. She’d taken to casting her runes each night. I tried not to be sceptical but it just seemed so silly.”
“Well, lots of people cast runes or read their horoscopes…”
“Yeah…  I thought it was just an interest, but looking back now…  whenever either of us was ill, it was flower remedies, shiatsu massage, crystals… I mean crystals… I lay there starkers with semi-precious stones all over me!”
Erin burst out laughing but the boat turned as it came to a current, yawed and rolled and Erin’s face lost any remaining colour as she hung over the side. The boat settled into a more regular roll and ride, and after a while she stood upright.
“Keep talking,” she muttered.
“I didn’t think it was weird at the time, it didn’t happen overnight, but at the end, she was different.”
The boat bucked and quivered as the engine vibrated and Erin leaned over the rail and was sick. All Frederico could do was to stand with her and commiserate, a slight smile on his cherubic features.
To Frederico the crossing was quick; to Erin it was endless, and all the time she was aware that there would be a return journey. The crossing took fifty minutes until, to Erin’s  enormous relief, the boat grounded on the slipway of Farholm harbour.

Here is a link to my other e-books:

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