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:

Farholm…

Over the last two weeks I have shared excerpts from my novels about Thomas Radwinter who traces his  family history, and then later investigates other people’s stories, and not just genealogical ones, but mysteries in their everyday lives.

For the next month I am going to share excerpts from my other novels, starting with the opening chapter of ‘Farholm’, the first novel I published:

Friday 27th September

If this bloody boat hits one more bloody wave then I am going to throw up.
It hit a wave. She held on….
Which is more than the woman next to her did.
With a groan of despair, the green faced woman vomited all over the legs and feet of the man sitting beside her.
Ignoring the potential danger of such a move, Deke hoisted herself on her crutches and lurched to the side, shoving a fat boy out of the way. She hung over the rail, clinging onto the slippery edge, staring down into the slick sliding grey green water.
A half-remembered line from childhood sang in her mind ‘the great grey green greasy Limpopo.’ Oh my God, and her stomach churned and heaved. She retched and her mouth flooded with saliva, and sweat stood up on her top lip.
Deke held on and stared towards the horizon and the island.
She shut her eyes.
She was beneath water looking up and there was someone between her and the sun, holding her down, holding her down.
She opened her eyes and opened her mouth to gulp air.
She was on the ferry to Farholm Island.
I could swim there, it’s so near I could swim there. Keep looking at the bird shit stained cliffs, keep your eye on a fixed point.
The island was maybe a half dozen miles long humped up at one end like the shoulders of a beast and dropping down towards the east where the crested tail twisted round enclosing the harbour.
She could hear the angry voices of the spew soaked man and the green-faced woman’s husband.
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” one of them yelled, interspersing his words with expletives.
“I don’t bloody know and I don’t bloody care!” yelled the other.
Deke risked looking over her shoulder. A half-naked man was striding barefoot towards the back of the boat where the toilets were. The woman’s husband was holding out a pair of jeans at arm’s length, his wife still puking into a pair of trainers she held in her lap. It was so bizarre that Deke laughed, and then the port side rose up towards her on a huge wave then smacked back down and Deke gagged and turned away to hang over the gunwale, her crutches, heavy, awkward wooden props, slipping from her.
Her throat constricted and her stomach churned. She closed her eyes again and the vision flashed, under the water, under the water, holding her breath and under the water as she was held down.
“No, bugger it no,” and she opened her eyes, controlling the desire to throw up and clung on, staring at the rocky cliffs which hardly looked any closer.
“Want a mint?” said someone.
“Thanks,” she replied through gritted teeth, not daring to shift her gaze from the land ahead.
“Nearly there, only twenty minutes,” the man who had handed her the mint restored the crutches to her. He was big and blond and had a red scarf tied round his head. He looked like a pirate. He walked off and up the companionway to the bridge.
The rolling stopped as the boat turned and headed straight at the little harbour. Deke stared at the huddle of buildings beyond the harbour and the single storey cottages spaced around the bay towards the end of the island where the castle was. Above the clustered buildings was the church, its graveyard spilling down the hillside, the gravestones like a congregation standing waiting for a sermon to commence. On the western side of the harbour the land gradually rose into steep cliffs and there were only a couple of buildings, the last appeared to be a Swiss Chalet with brightly coloured flags hanging limply over the balustrade.
Her eyes filled and she sucked hard on the mint, thinking of the dozens of times she had crossed the English Channel or had been sailing and never once felt as awful as she did now in this forty minute crossing. She had vomited this morning at the thought of coming here, throwing up with nervous dread; now was trying not to be sick again.
Her view was blocked as someone pushed between her and the fat boy. It was the man who had been spewed on. His legs and feet were bare, the blond hairs snaking over them glistening where he had washed. His face was set and angry, he was not amused.
“Watch where you’re putting your feet, you little get,” he snapped at the fat boy.
“Don’t you speak to my son like that,” the boy’s mother snapped back.
The boat turned again and rolled as it hit a large wave and spray flew over them and the line at the gunwale staggered, mother, boy, man and Deke and her crutches went again and she couldn’t keep upright and she slipped and fell onto the swimming deck.
Oh let this end, let this end or let me die.
The man heaved her to her feet and the boy retrieved her crutches and then they were into the harbour and chugging peacefully across still water.
“Oh thank God we’re here!” Deke exclaimed to the man as she thanked him.
He didn’t reply but marched back to the seats and picked up his backpack and swung it onto his shoulder.
“What the hell do you want me to do with these jeans and trainers?” asked the green woman’s husband angrily.
There was a grinding screech as the boat drove up onto the slipway and a shudder as the ramp crashed down.
Deke waited for the first rush of passengers to pass before she hobbled her way to the chair where she had left her bags. There were no fixed seats, only metal and plastic chairs, reminiscent of school. She looked round for the young woman who had helped her board. She caught sight of a bright pink top and shining silver blond hair as the girl walked up the slipway beside the bare-legged man who’d pushed himself to the front. Women and children first? He didn’t care, what a pig.
Everyone was shoving to get off, most of them holiday makers, eager to get onto firm land. Deke let them go, there was no point in trying to negotiate her way until there was room to manoeuvre. She watched the families gather their children, the seasick to gather themselves. Now she felt reluctant; coming here was stupid, the whole scheme, conceived in anger, planned with revenge in mind seemed a bitter and futile gesture.
She sunk into a trance, staring back across the channel towards the mainland, and when she blinked the boat was empty.
She couldn’t manage her two bags at the same time. The taxi driver had carried them from the flat and then to the station where a guard took over. At the other end he had helped her to another taxi and the driver had organized her at the ferry terminal.
She took her bag and held it awkwardly, trying to grasp the crutch. She couldn’t do it so she tried to manage with one crutch like Long John Silver. The bag was too big and it unbalanced her. Why had she not realised this? It had been so easy when taxi drivers and railway guards and the silver haired girl who had helped her. She would have to leave the bag, get ashore and try to find someone she could send back for it. She stood on one leg to get her backpack over her shoulders.  The straps interfered with the crutches but she would have to put up with the pain.
The tip of one of the crutches skidded in a pool of sick. She swore obscenely. Right, god damn it, she would leave both bags, get off this sodding boat and send someone to get her things. She slid the pack off her shoulder onto one of the seats.
“You still here?” it was the blond sailor who had given her a mint just in time to save her from projectile vomiting into the water. “I’ll give you a hand, m’dear. I’ve just got to wash down the deck then I’ll be with you.”
She sat where he directed and watched him with the hose and brush. He whistled as he sluiced the deck, glancing up at her every so often. He finished, reeled the hose, stowed the brush and then ran up the companionway.
He was back in a few minutes with a couple of men.
“See you in a couple of hours!” he cried to the other two and slung Deke’s backpack over one shoulder and picked up the bag.
With his free hand he grasped Deke’s elbow firmly and helped her towards the open front of the boat. She staggered as the boat rocked and the ferrule of her crutch slipped on the deck.
Her companion stopped as she steadied herself. Deke staggered again and bit off an exclamation as she put weight on her left foot. The man slid the backpack onto the deck and dropped her bag. Without warning he swung Deke into his arms, her crutches, still wedged under her arms, sticking out preposterously. There were shouts of laughter from the other men and ribald comments.
Deke was carried off the boat and set down on the concrete slipway.
“I’ll get your bags,” and he strolled back onto the boat grinning at the catcalls and insinuations.
Deke was embarrassed and angry. How dare he make a fool of her! On the other hand, at least she was off the boat.

Here is a link to Farholm:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1482493049&sr=8-6&keywords=lois+elsden

… and 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

Haar-haar!

Living by the sea at this time of year the haar is a common presence; November is renowned as the season of ‘Mists and mellow fruitfulness’, but along the coast we have more of it. The word haar is interesting, for some reason I thought it was Scandinavian, but it probably isn’t: haar is used along the coast of the North Sea, and mainly in eastern Scotland, and  north-east  England. Variants include har, hare, harl, harr and hoar which may have come from the Saxon or Low German and Middle Dutch word ‘hare’ ; elsewhere it is usually called a sea fret.

I have used fog a couple of times in my novels, in ‘The Double Act’ and also in my first published e-book, Farholm. Deke is the main character, and she has gone to the island of Farholm to find out about her dead husband who came from there; she becomes friendly with Micheal who is on his own pilgrimage and they become trapped in a hippy commune in the hills when the fog comes down.

The fog was thicker than anything Deke had ever experienced, it was quite frightening, like a disembodied entity pushing up against her face, its cold breath chilling her skin and dewing her hair. She wanted to hold onto Michael but he stayed close by her, his arm against her elbow. Dawnstar lead them as surely as if she could see clearly. Perhaps she is an alien, perhaps she has infrared vision, thought Deke. It was an utterly silent world apart from the sound of her own breathing, the tap of her crutches on the cobbled path and the light thud of the man’s boots. She sensed the presence of buildings rather than saw them…

Deke becomes upset and rushes out of one of the buildings and then gets lost:

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 someone 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 café. Michael was still calling her name and then she heard other voices. Quite close at hand a woman said, “Who is it?”
“Its 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 she 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.
“Which side? Can you see across it?”
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.

Here is a link to Farholm:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1479216432&sr=8-6&keywords=lois+elsden

… and to ‘The Double Act’

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Act-think-romance-story-ebook/dp/B01349UBHA/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1479221511&sr=8-11&keywords=lois+elsden

Settings and sets

At the weekend we visited Montecute House in south Somerset; this magnificent Tudor mansion which many people will know without realising it, as it’s been the setting for so many films. This beautiful old place built from honey-golden Ham stone and still with much of the original glass in the windows (four hundred year old glass!) was built in 1598 by Sir Edward Phelips; his family had lived in the area for nearly a hundred and fifty years. They were farmers, yeomen farmers, but Edward became a lawyer, then a member of parliament, then the king’s serjeant and  he was knighted in 1603.  He played an important part in the politics of the time and in fact he was a prosecutor during the trial of those involved in the Gunpowder Plot. His great-grandfather had bought the site of the grand house so it had been in the family for decades before the first foundation was dug or brick laid.

MONTACUTE AUGUST 14 2016 (17)

You might have seen it in the following films:

  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (2000)
  • The Libertine (2004)
  • The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Tottington Hall in the film was based on the house, 2005)
  • A Jubilee Bunt-A-Thon (Wallace and Gromit short film, 2012)
  •  Wolf Hall (2014)

I sometimes wonder about my own novels and stories… supposing they were ever by some miracle made into  films or TV series? Who would star in them, where would they be set? Only one of my novels, ‘Flipside’ is set in a real location, Oldham in Lancashire. it was set a bout twenty years ago, so much of the town centre has changed or vanished through redevelopment; however most of the action takes place in the village of Lees, and that is pretty unchanged, and Saddleworth Moor where other scenes take place is as beautiful as ever!

Another novel is loosely based on Yorkshire Pennine towns and villages, Holmfirth and Marsden mainly and so I’m sure any filming could take place there – I know often completely different locations are used pretending to be somewhere else, but even so, there are places just ready in case anyone should ever take up my novel ‘Loving Judah’.

All my other novels are set in my fictitious coastal area and the city of Strand and the towns of Easthope and Castair, and Camel Wood, an ancient woodland. Strand is completely made up but it has a promenade, an old harbour which is unused except by a few fishermen, and a new harbour which is where the ferry to Farholm Island docks. Farholm is very loosely based on Rathlin Island off the Antrim Coast. The seaside near my town of Easthope is similar to Portballintrae, also in Antrim, but Castair which is up on the moors, has more in common with some of the Pennine hill towns.

I’m sure if anyone ever should want to film my books, I would be so delighted and thrilled I would accept wherever they set them!

If you haven’t read my novels, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Lois+elsden

 

 

 

Something moved in the fog

Living by the sea we often have sea mist in the mornings, and occasionally we have fog which might last all day; however we very rarely have a thick enough fog to cause us any problems. When I was a child before the clean air acts, and before car engines were as efficient as they are now, fog would become smog and it would be so dense you literally could barely see your hand in front of your face. later when I went to Manchester, there would be dense, blinding fog; I remember walking to college, my hand against the wall beside me because otherwise I might have stepped into the road and got lost. I heard a noise behind me but there was nothing there except a faint glimmer, and then the glimmer became lights, a pair of lights inching their way forward… a bus… How grateful I was to get on it, but I think it might have been quicker to walk!

In the first novel I published, Deke is staying on Farholm Island and she goes exploring; she reaches a village up on the top of the hills and then the fog comes down:

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 someone, anyone to rescue her, to take her back to her cottage and she would pack and run away. The fog was thicker than anything Deke had ever experienced, it was quite frightening, like a disembodied entity pushing up against her face, its cold breath chilling her skin and dewing her hair.
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?”
“Its 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 unexpectedly 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 she 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.
“Which side? Can you see across it?”
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 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.

If you haven’t read my book, Farholm, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FARHOLM-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B007JMDAFO/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1464093893&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden