Anything is possible

Anything, literally anything is possible… when you write!! In your writing you can be anything you want to be, an astronaut, a channel swimmer, the head of a royal family, a maintenance worker on the Forth Road Bridge – you can go back in time and be a housecarl fighting in the battle of Hastings, or a Roman wife on Hadrian’s Wall inviting her friends to a dinner party, a sweeper on the streets of nineteenth century London, or you can go forward in time, or travel to distant places, travel beyond our solar system beyond our galaxy – you can be anything, be anywhere, do whatever you want… when you write!

You can be more modest and write about a different life in today’s world, but even then you can change your age, your gender, your talents and abilities, your character – you can make yourself ‘better’ than you are, or infinitely worse!

My characters in my books are just ordinary people who just live pretty ordinary lives. Although i don’t write in the first person for all my novels, I do try and ‘become my characters to properly understand why they do and say the things they do and say. I write far more than ever appears in my stories because I’m filling in these people’s lives so they are there as rounded characters and I hope believable characters before they ever land there on the page!

For example, in ‘night vision’, the story of a couple whose marriage is on the brink of disaster, some of the husband’s actions and behaviour seems inexplicable (as it does with real people in real life) but I know why he is as he is, and even though by the end when I hope the reader will accept him as believable, and even though not all his behaviours have been explained, I will know in my omniscient author way! We met people in real life and don’t know why they are as they are, do as they do, say what they say, so I want it to be the same in my books (without being frustrating r annoying!!)

So going back to my original thought of being able to be whatever and whoever you like when you write, I guess the most extreme example for me might be Rudi in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’, and of course Thomas Radwinter, whose life and adventures I’ve chronicled over several books!

Here are links to my e-books:

night vision – https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – https://www.amazon.co.uk/STALKING-ROSA-CZEKOV-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B008D29O5Y/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-11&keywords=lois+elsden

The Radwinter stories – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

and my first paperback so far, Radwinter – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

Borrowing an expression

The word ‘expression’ has several different meanings including –

  • The action of making known one’s thoughts or feelings
  • The conveying of feeling in a work of art or in the performance of a piece of music
  • A look on someone’s face that conveys a particular emotion
  • A word or phrase, especially an idiomatic one, used to convey an idea
  • A collection of symbols that jointly express a quantity
  • The production of something by pressing it out.
  • The appearance in a phenotype of a characteristic or effect attributed to a particular gene

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/expression

However the meaning I’m using is the expression on someone’s face, and ‘borrowing’ an expression is what I sometimes do as a writer! I don’t just mean the way someone has arranged their features, eyebrows down, eyebrows raised, quirky eyebrows, surprised eyebrows etc, or the type of smile, or what someone is doing with their eyes – although that is all part of the way a writer observes things and uses them.

I confess, I borrow whole faces – for example in my Radwinter stories, the inspiration for my characters. appearances came from:

  • Thomas – a Danish actor
  • Marcus – a well-known chef and restaurateur
  • Paul – a TV personality and baker
  • John – someone who works in my local bookshop
  • Kylie – a contestant on a cookery show
  • Justyna – someone who I used to teach English
  • Kim – a flower shop owner

It’s just their faces, you understand, which were the original inspiration, but those faces have changed as the characters develop in my stories.

To get back to expressions – sometimes I observe an expression on someone’s face which seems unexpected… unexpected in the situation or circumstances, unexpected because it seems different from their usual character, unexpected because it was private and I’ve glimpsed it accidentally… This makes me sound like a weird stalker type – honestly I’m not! I’ll give you some examples –

  • a happy family occasion, but a couple look tense and nervous – they assume jolly expressions when anyone else talks to them, but sitting at their table as the celebration goes on around them, their faces assume a different look
  • someone shakes hands with an acquaintance, a serious but pleasant greeting seems to follow; however as they turn away a look of malicious glee flashes across their face, just for a second
  • someone in a bar, comfortable, at ease, leaning on the counter and talking to friends, totally relaxed, laughing, joking, chatting; ever so often, when the conversation is with others, or while waiting for service, their gaze is directed into the other bar at two men talking together… then the face becomes still, the humour gone, a very focused look comes over their face
  • there’s someone in a café, just having a coffee and a sandwich, a pleasant, amiable look on their face as they look at their phone, glance through the menu or round the room at the pictures and photos on the walls. Their gaze comes to rest on something, whether it’s actually being looked at or another thought has come into their head, nothing to do with anything will never be known, but a surprised look seems to come over their features – they have thought of something, remembered something, realised something… so deep in thought that when someone comes to clear the table they hardly notice
  • the ceramic plaque in my featured image, what is the character looking at, is his mouth dropped open in surprise (pleasant or unpleasant) amazement, has he just thought of something or is he looking at something, is it a malign or benign expression?

These are just a few examples – it isn’t the person as such, or what they look like, it’s that look on their face, that expression which triggers some inspiration for me!

 

if you want to read about Thomas and his brothers, family and friends, the you can find my books on Amazon; the first in the Radwinter series has just been published as a paperback:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498122900&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

 

In season

My character Thomas Radwinter has just visited a local Bed and Breakfast hotel as part of his latest commission – he hesitates to say ‘case’, but he actually is undertaking an investigation. Who has commissioned him? Strangely it is a local police inspector – and what is the commission? Not on this occasion to find a missing person, but to discover who a found person is. A young woman was found washed up on the local beach with no memory of how she got there, where she is from, or even who she is! The young woman is now living with the person who found her, Sylvie the hotel owner and her dog, Busby.

Thomas visits, ostensibly to discuss organic fruit and vegetables – his brother John has an organic allotment and sells his spare produce to supplement his income. The hotel owner is hoping to start serving evening meals as well as breakfasts and light lunches, but she wants everything she cooks and serves to be organic, ethically produced, locally sourced and in season.

I was investigating myself, to see what might be available to my fictitious landlady, and came across the vegetarian Society’s page, listing seasonal fruit and vegetables:

vegetables which John might grow:

  • asparagus
  • beetroot
  • broad beans
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • chicory
  • courgettes
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • marrow
  • new potatoes
  • peas
  •  radishes
  • rocket
  • runner beans
  • spring greens
  • spring onions
  • summer squash
  • swiss chard
  • turnips

fruit which John might grow:

  • blackcurrants
  • gooseberries
  • cherries
  • raspberries
  • redcurrants
  • rhubarb
  • strawberries
  • tayberries

items which Sylvie might forage:

  • elderflowers
  • samphire
  • sorrel
  • watercress

All these things are in season right now! I’m not sure which of these John is actually growing, this will be revealed when Thomas goes back to meet him!

Here is a link to the Vegetarian Society:

https://www.vegsoc.org/page.aspx?pid=525

and her is a link to my Thomas Radwinter series, and my other e-books:

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

Another little except… Earthquake!

I mentioned yesterday how kind people have been in their response to my latest e-book, ‘Earthquake’, and how readers have been quite excited to find out what happens next to my main character Thomas Radwinter. Thomas is just an ordinary person with an ordinary life, but he has a knack of finding things out and solving problems… it started (for him and my readers) when he began to delve into his own family history, and then discovered he was quite good at finding missing people and solving little mysteries.

Over the five books he has discovered his own family’s secrets, found a woman who disappeared and who the police thought didn’t really exist anyway, worked out the identity of a Tibetan lama who had sinister control over a teacher, found out who laid lilies on the grave of a young Danish resistance fighter who died during the war, and exposed the secrets of a haunted hotel.

The books have followed Thomas’s personal life too, his brothers, and his own little family. His character develops and changes over the five books (and four years of his life) and he is quite a different person in many ways from ‘the bumbling, wittering idiot’ as he describes himself!

In this excerpt he is going to visit a new client, who speaks so quietly Thomas can’t decipher his name when the old gentleman rings him to make an appointment… all Thomas can hear is ‘Shshsher’

Thomas goes to meet his client, but first of all he has to sort out childcare:

 I have learned that small children are exceptionally speedy, in fact they can possibly teleport themselves from place to place and are really adept at pulling things down on top of themselves, specialise in sitting on or in something which does neither it nor them any good, and generally wreak havoc on items left lying about. Children are the greatest motivator for being tidy I can tell you!
Occasionally, very occasionally I have taken one of them with me on business appointments, always asking the client first and only if there is absolutely no other alternative – sometimes I’ve had to rearrange meetings because of childcare difficulties. Kenneil is fine to take anywhere, he can entertain himself without a fuss; it used to be cars, now it’s more likely to be little construction sets or drawing or sums.
My appointment with Mr. Shshsher was not an appointment I could take any babies whatsoever, so Cassie went to spend the morning with our friends Geoff and Daph, the twins went to the nursery and of course, Kenneil is at school.

Mr. Shshsher, I still hadn’t been able to decipher his name, lived over the other side of Strand, not far from where I lived in my former life. Where he lives is in small posh 1900’s development; each detached property is set in its own grounds, not huge, but big enough and has a detached garage and a good sized garden at the back. The developer had wanted to get away from straight lines, much as  modern housing developments, and like the new estates, Gracelands would you believe, was easy to get lost in and difficult to get out of. Judging by the expensive large cars parked on the drives this was a very affluent place.

My client lived down a little curling road called Solveig… just that, Solveig. I hadn’t believed it when he told, me, and thought it was another of his slurred utterances, but I looked it up and here it was, a little avenue with maybe a dozen houses and it was called Solveig. Then I had a vague memory of having to drop off some papers here when I worked for the solicitor’s firm. All the roads had strange, Scandinavian names, and I confess I diverted to find out more.
The architect and builder, one and the same, was Ingar Bond, an extraordinary citizen of Strand, and quite famous in a small way. He was a bit of a speculator but he had a dream of establishing a community based on some vaguely Viking ideal… which sort of went out of the window with the spread of Nazism. He was fascinated by Ingar Silverskin, the Viking who raided along this coast and he named his estate after him and the warriors who were supposed to have come with him; I read all this on someone’s blog.
The estate was originally called Ingarhjem, apparently, but then it was changed to Norville, then changed to Ingarville and now Gracelands …
I have to confess I did get properly side-tracked into reading about it; there are fourteen roads Arne Gunnarsson, Håkon Geirsson, Trygve, Yngre, Snorresson, Steinar, Torstein, Valdemar and Vidar named after Ingar’s warriors, and another five named after women associated with the stories, according to Ingar Bond (I wonder if his name was really Ian and he changed it to something more in keeping with his obsession).

Solveig was where my client lived, and the other ‘female’ roads were Brynhild, Ragnhild, Swanhild and Yngvild… Imagine saying you lived at number 33 Yngvild, or 27 Arne Gunnarsson… Good grief!!

If you want to find out more about Mr Shshsher and how an earthquake comes into the story, and the mystery of the haunted hotel, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492680988&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

…and if you want to catch up with the previous books about Thomas Radwinter, or any of my other e-novels, here’s another link:

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

My name is Thomas Radwinter…

I’ve had lots of positive feedback on my latest novel, Earthquake… it’s the fifth in my series of Radwinter novels, and I guess the best way to tell you more is to share the beginning, where the main character, Thomas fills in the background and introduces himself:

My name is Thomas Marcus Pemberton Radwinter; I was born in 1980, so I’m thirty-six. I’m about five foot nine and I have brown hair and grey-hazel eyes and dark reddish sort of hair and a beard.
I live in Easthope which is a small old-fashioned seaside town, with my wife Kylie who’s half-Tobagan, and our four children, Kenneil, Casimira, and our twins Vitalija and Marko. Kylie works full-time for my sister-in-law to be, Ruthie in her food business, Radwinter@The India Inn and I’m a stay-at-home dad. I don’t just do housework and take Kenneil to school and look after Cassie and the twins; I’m a solicitor and I work independently, doing conveyancing and will-writing and stuff like that.  I also do genealogical research for other people.
Recently, I’ve been asked to do other things … like finding people, a woman who jumped out of a car at a junction and vanished, and the Moroccan friend an elderly lady brought back from a Mediterranean cruise, and the mysterious Lama who had such power over a hard-working teacher and dad…

There are four of us Radwinter boys, Marcus who’s fifty-seven and a vicar, Paul who has a wine business and has just passed the big 5 0, and John who’s forty-three and is manager of a bookshop and about to publish his first book, ‘The Young Duke and the Little Prince in the Bearskin Cloak’. And then there’s me, the youngest.
In 2013, Paul asked me to find out about our family history and I followed the story of the Radwinters, and discovered where we came from… and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally.

I use a genealogical site, MyTimeMachine, and when I looked into us Radwinters, I went about it in a sort of back-to-front way. I guess most people would start with their parents, and find their birth details, and their marriage record, and then move back to their grandparents and so on. It’s not too difficult, especially if you have an unusual name like we have, but even if it isn’t unusual, you can still soon become a real genealogical detective and find your way back into the past.
I did it the other way round; I found my namesake Thomas Radwinter in the 1841 census and worked forward.
John has the middle name of Magick, and that’s our maternal line and in 2014 I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you, but eventually I found the truth about my Magick family.
Later, that year I continued to investigate the people who brought us up, Edward Radwinter and Sylvia Magick, Raddy and Syl… This journey into our recent family history laid bare a shocking, horrific story; I discovered what happened to Raddy and Syl, and what caused us to have such traumatic childhoods.

In my Radwinter story I have discovered some amazing truths about myself. The changes in me have been painful and hard, but with Kylie and my children, I really do feel like a different person, a strong and confident person… even though I am still a bit of a bumbling, wittering idiot sometimes…. Well, a lot of the time to be honest!
So… now our history is closed, we can get on with living our lives today, so fortunate that the Radwinter boys are united again!

Here is a link to Earthquake:

Crossing the ‘i’s and dotting the ‘t’s

Apart from a final finishing off chapter, a sort of postscript, I have finished the first draft of my next novel; now I have the editing to do.

There are the obvious checking for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors and peculiar punctuation (I’m an expert in all of these!) and then the more complicated, such as continuity, deleting bits where I (or my main character Thomas who is the narrator) have wandered off into the irrelevant (I blame Thomas), little bits of story line I started which led no-where or might be used in another story. I look for inconsistency, and whether the whole thing makes sense and will carry the reader along. This last one is crucial – even if the events in reality are preposterous, the writer should be able to carry the reader along and make sense of it within the fiction.

‘Earthquake’ is probably the most complex of Thomas’s investigations; It begins in what I hope will be a familiar and comfortable way for the reader, his wife asks him to research her family. Then a client rings him up with a most unusual and seemingly possible commission, to find out what happened at a small private boarding school nearly ninety years ago which resulted in the death of two young girls. A third commission is to do a bit of ghost hunting, an ex-partner asks him to investigate the apparent haunting of a small hotel she has just bought. Interwoven with this is a domestic family problem of his own which Thomas and his wife must come to grips with.

So… Thomas – and I – have worked our way through these different challenges, and all has been resolved, with, I hope an exciting ending – now I am worrying in case the ending seems too far-fetched? But that is the skill of the writer (I hope) to carry the reader along through what in real life would be impossible situations and events, and come through to a satisfactory conclusion.

The ninety year old mystery is a complex story; the way I write is usually just to start at the beginning and work my way through to the end with only a rough idea of where I am going. This might seem horrifying and really stupid to some writers, but for me, I feel that I can properly feel the confusion, surprise, bewilderment, thoughts, ideas, and course of action that my characters will take, just as in real life. We never know what is just around the corner, and nor does Thomas.

Now I have to check on the story lines of the girls from the school, check their names and dates, and relationships with each other, to make sure that when I changed things as the story progressed, the back story is complete and consistent – that, for example, someone’s name doesn’t get inadvertently swapped, that their family background doesn’t alter, and for these girls at school so long ago, that their friendship groups are constant, the ‘houses’ they are in are the same, and that looking back from the conclusion, there is a clear and unmuddled line back to the first event, the Earthquake which seemed to trigger all that followed.

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

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

My featured picture, by the way is our view over Hobart from our hotel room while we were in Tasmania…