The old lady was hitting me with a saucepan!

When I first wrote about Thomas Radwinter  he led a very quiet, very boring, and actually a very unhappy life. Things changed for him in the course of the events described in ‘Radwinter‘, and they changed some more in the sequel, ‘Magick‘. He had begun to explore his family tree, and had uncovered a lot of other stories too in the first novel; in the second he was asked by a friend to investigate a little mystery she had, and in the third story in the series, ‘Raddy and Syl‘, he is commissioned to find a missing woman – a missing woman the police don’t believe ever existed.

The extent to which Thomas’s life has changed is demonstrated in the following extract. He has discovered Kashmira imprisoned by her own father Adnan; he isn’t able to break the chain holding her to her bed, but he is able to break the bed – but not completely… He, Kashmira and the bedhead hurry out of the room where she has been kept and down the stairs, to meet her father coming up armed with a meat cleaver:

As my foot connected with Adnan and he fell, tumbling  backwards down the stairs, there was a terrific whack on my shoulder … the old lady was hitting me with a saucepan. Kashmira was screaming at her, I grabbed the bedhead, grabbed Kashmira and dragged her down the stairs. Adnan was lying stunned in the passage, the cleaver in the doorway to the kitchen. I hadn’t time or a free hand to pick it up, so I kicked it and it spun away with a clatter.

I almost dragged Kashmira outside and she collapsed holding her hands over her eyes. I picked up a bit of brick and smashed the bedstead so although she still had the chain round her wrist at least we didn’t have the bedhead as well. I chucked the brick away and saw my phone… I’d dropped it when I slipped on the oil.

I snatched it up but I wasn’t going to waste time – I had to get us away from this horror. Kashmira was just weeping, heart-breaking sobs, collapsed as the rain came down on her.  I pulled her to her feet just as a figure appeared in the door… Adnan and this time he had what looked like a big chopper… I screamed at Kashmira to run and I picked up a brick and chucked it at him, it missed but he had to duck as he came down the steps.

I threw a coping stone which struck him on the shoulder and I rushed after Kashmira. She had got out of the gate, but disoriented had run the wrong way, away from the bridge. I shouted at her and ran after her as she hobbled ahead. I glanced back and Adnan was after us, no time to phone…

Kashmira had reached the lock and to my amazement she began to walk across the top of the lock gate, balancing like a wobbly tight rope walker. She was so desperate to escape, so brave…

There was a pole with a hooked end on the ground and I snatched it up, hoping I could keep her insane father at bay. He was shouting at me, raving… and then, oh thank god, I heard the blues and twos… Maybe Rashid had phoned the police…

Adnan swung his axe towards me and I poked at him with the pole. He took a swing at it and cut the end right off!

I poked at him again, backing away. I daren’t see where Kashmira was, I didn’t know what was on the other side of the lock – I’d never been here before… it must be near the station car park…maybe someone had found her…

I shouted for help, bellowed as loudly as I could ‘Help! Help!! Help!!!’

He suddenly raised the axe and ran at me, fuck! I held out the pole and he ran right into the chopped off end and suddenly I was falling sideways and so was he and I slammed onto the concrete edge of the lock and he tumbled in…

I lay winded, looking down at him as he splashed about in the filthy water about six foot below..

“I hope you drown you mad bastard!” I shouted, except it wasn’t a shout it was more of a wheeze… and then I realised he was drowning and shouting ‘help

I staggered to my feet and looked round for one of those ring things… there was a sort of cabinet with ‘use in case of emergency’ stencilled on it… but it was empty… I looked down at Adnan, paddling about, going under, drowning… where were the police? Where the hell were the police?

I took off my coat, emptied my trouser pockets, took off my shoes, sat on the edge of the lock and then reluctantly launched myself into the water… Shit it was cold… shit it was freezing… It was a terrible, terrible shock, that freezing water…

 I swam over to him and damn me, he lashed out at me! I swam away – the bastard, the mad bastard – I’d jumped in to save him and now he was trying to drown me!

Suddenly something clumped into the water in front of me… a ring, one of those lifebuoys… I grasped it, realising there was shouting above and looking up I have never in all my life been so grateful to see a policewoman looking down at me…

You can find all my Radwinter stories, and my other novels and paperbacks here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C146&crid=2NP3515SOVYKN

Checklist 2 – how to self-publish on Amazon

As I’ve mentioned, a friend and I have picked up the challenge to try and write blogs on seventy-three different subjects. I am just working my way down the list, he is picking his topics at random. Yesterday I wrote about checklists; I produced a checklist for self-editing a book, forgetting completely that I had written about self-editing in another of the 73! Doh!!

So, to be fair, I am going to write about another checklist, this time I am writing about how to self-publish on Amazon

  • set up an Amazon account – this is easy, at the bottom of the Amazon page, under ‘Make money with us’, is a link ‘independently publish with us’
  • you should arrive at a page titled ‘bookshelf’ and there is a box which says ‘create a new book’ with a choice of paperback or kindle – choose which you want (you can always do the other one later!)
  • I am going to follow the set-up for a paperback, but it is equally easy to set-up for Kindle
  • You will be taken to a page where you enter the details
  • Language – the language you are publishing in…  I publish in English but there are plenty of languages to choose from
  • Title and subtitle – you write in your title, if you have a sub-title put that in its own box, if you don’t have a subtitle leave it blank
  • Series – if you think you might write a series, put in the title of the whole series – for example for my Radwinter series I put ‘Radwinter’ and then the volume number and the volume title
  • if you are doing this for the first time where the next box asks for edition number, it will be 1. If you edit or revise your text, then it will be a subsequent number
  • The next box is for author – and that is you; if you are writing with a different name, put your writing name in here
  • under that is another box for contributors – and there is a drop down menu which includes such things as ‘editor’, illustrator’, etc. I am shortly going to publish an anthology with two friends, so their names go in there and they are both credited as ‘author’. You can add as many people as you like
  • the next text box is for a description – this is what the prospective reader will see when s/he comes across your masterpiece on Amazon. You want to make it as intriguing and interesting as possible!
  • the next check is for copyright and publishing rights – tick as appropriate (there are helpful explanations if you’re not sure!)
  • Next you have to think of seven words or phrases to describe your potential best-seller. For our anthology to be we used: poem, short story, creative non-fiction, polemic, geology, science fiction, euphoric writing
  • The next choice is of category, and there is an impressive selection to choose from – you can choose two – these are things like fiction/non-fiction/poetry etc
  • The last question on this first page ass if you have ever used CreateSpace… I haven’t so I didn’t have to answer any further questions
  • The next page continues first of all by checking if you need an ISBN number; Amazon will assign you one if you don’t have your own already
  • Then you can if you wish, set your own publication date
  • for a paperback you have a choice of type of paper, cover and size
  • You then upload your manuscript – it is as easy as attaching a document to an email; it may take some time if it is a very long book! When I say some time, I mean time in minutes not hours! Enough time to make a cup of tea.
  • Once you have manuscript uploaded then you can design your cover – if you already have one, upload that (I’ve not done this, I have just used Amazon’s own formats) This is quite tricky – not in the doing of it, but in the choosing of the right style, colours, pictures, the etc – trying to make sue you have got it right!!
  • The next step is to preview it, where you have a virtual book on the screen in front of you and you are able to edit and adjust… If you change your manuscript, you have to upload it again, but that is no problem
  • The last page you have to do is to decide on price, publication details, various admin details… it is very straightforward, and there are drop-down boxes explaining and guiding you all the way.
  • Good luck!!

Maybe this is not so much a check-list as a guide… well, whatever it is, I hope it is helpful!

Here are my books self-published on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_4_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C419&crid=1RW9VEPBQPRLE

and a direct link to my Radwinter series, including the first paperback (more to follow!)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1507662328&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

The lost brother

Looking back to when I first began my Radwinter stories I had forgotten how much I changed my plans and thoughts… This is what I wrote in 2012:

For quite a while I’ve had a character lurking in my busy writing brain .. now he has been joined by two brothers. I can see them so clearly the three of them, but as yet they have no story, and apart from being related to each other, they have no other connections like wives or parents.

They have no names but one of them, not necessarily the oldest, maybe the middle one, is about forty-five but as yet he doesn’t have a job or profession… although maybe he is a wine merchant… He is quite burly but not fat, quite tall but not a giant, he is always smartly – impeccably dressed but in a casual style… so designer jeans, expensive shirts definitely not off the peg, and shoes from a shoe shop not an outlet. Maybe he shops at Ede and Ravenscroft. He is quite controlled but seems amiable, has a twinkle in his eye and a dimple in his cheek, but people who meet him should beware, he is as hard as nails and quick in a fight. He is prematurely grey, has very blue eyes and is head-turningly handsome.

 

His brother who might actually be a few years older, around fifty, is very obviously his brother although smaller, and less grey and with friendly greenish eyes. He really is totally laid back, so laid back he is almost horizontal; but like his brother he has a core of steel and his enemies would be unwise to underestimate him. He is never short of girlfriends or lovers, but is secretly looking for ‘the one‘ to live with and love for the rest of his life. He’s not bothered about clothes, in fact he sometimes looks eccentrically scruffy. Maybe he’s a teacher, maybe he’s a writer, maybe he makes music… maybe he does all three.

The youngest brother is in his late thirties or about forty. He looks like his silver-haired brother did ten years previously but he is smaller, wiry and busy. His skin is always tanned even in winter, and he has the same cheek-dimpling grin, the same crinkling eyes which are definitely green. He wears jeans or dark trousers  t-shirts and jackets, as if he cares how he looks but can’t afford to dress as his silver-haired brother. He has a wild side to him though, and when he goes out with his oldest brother they can get into mischief even though they are way old enough to know better!

Well that certainly changed! The second brother vanished altogether! Well, he vanished but some aspects of him morphed into the youngest that I wrote about here.  Some time later I wrote about the brothers again:

… and now I not only have some possible names for them, but also a couple of other family members… probably cousins. My stories seem to be full of cousins, maybe because I love my own cousins so much. In fact it was while I was out and about in Essex with one of them that I saw a sign to the village of Radwinter and thought what a splendid name it would make. It then occurred to me that maybe Redwinter would be better… what do you think?

It was suggested by my cousin’s middle son that names beginning with J would go well with such a surname… I tried not to have my children with names beginning with the same name but it suddenly seemed that this family might well do that. So give me your thoughts:

  • oldest brother, wine merchant, prematurely silver-grey, blue eyes, sturdy but deceptively hard… Justin, Jerry (short for Jericho, his mother’s maiden name) or Jack
  • middle brother, greyish, very blue eyes, totally laid-back, slightly scruffy/hippy type… Jules (short for Julian, his father’s name) , Joe or Jimmy
  • youngest brother, teacher or wine-bar owner, brown hair, beard, tanned , green eyes… James, Johnny or Jasper

Cold… does Radwinter sound too cold, would Redwinter be better?

Somehow they have also acquired two cousins… the elder, who is probably the oldest in the family, has longish curly greying hair, piercing blue eyes and an unblinking deadly stare, he is severe and strict, but essentially kind, generous and protective of his younger brother. He is probably a priest or someone who is committed and driven, and has had to take on responsibility from an early age, losing him his young adulthood, and probably friends and girlfriends too.

His younger brother is the baby of the family, chubby, and sweet-faced, he has floppy brown hair in a long fringe, and a reddish short beard; he is always eating, or looking for something to eat. He may appear innocent, but he is probably the most intelligent of them all, and his Bambi eyes belie a shrewd and decisive nature. He is not to be underestimated, although he usually is, even by his family.

As for names for these two… I haven’t a clue!

I didn’t use any of the names i thought about – except Johnny did change to John for that character and there is a cousin Max. The cousin who seemed to be a priest, became a vicar and also joined the family as the eldest. Radwinter didn’t change to Redwinter, and the new youngest brother did not have the grazing habit I originally thought he might have! The oldest one is a wine merchant,…

Another post, and things have changed again…

…suddenly there was Peter Radwinter knocking on the door of his brother, Paul who had asked him over to meet his new fiancée, Ruthie.

I had been thinking about a family of brothers, I’d pondered over names and yet suddenly here they were on the page, with a fiancée and an as yet unseen wife, Rachel, and a cousin called Max. Paul it appears, has four sons, the youngest of which is twelve-year old Will. I have a feeling first names may change, they don’t quite fit what I have in mind…

On looking back at my previous post about the Radwinter family I find that then I had in mind two sets of cousins, Jerry, Jules and Johnny and two others. Somehow they have morphed into one family, and lost a brother in the transition…

Peter Radwinter! I had totally forgotten that my main character was Peter! Rachel became Rebecca but Ruthie remained Ruthie.

And finally…

Something which has happened while I have been writing this,  the narrator of the story has changed name; he was Peter, now he’s Thomas. Thomas has gone to visit a woman (the reason is concealed at the moment) He has arranged to visit her but when he arrives at her beautiful house, no-on answers the door so he wanders round to the back garden, and there she is on a lounger, sun-bathing. Suddenly a man appears and accuses Thomas of being a Peeping Tom and chases him off the property after hitting him in the face. Thomas drives quickly away, a mixture of outrage, embarrassment and humiliation churning within. But who was the woman? And who was the man who attacked Thomas?

So at last Thomas is Thomas… the incident with the sun-bathing woman was excised from ‘Radwinter’, but appeared much, much later, in the fourth novel in the series, ‘Beyond Hope’.

I am writing novel number six, provisionally entitled Saltpans, but already I have ideas for number seven – if that should ever happen!! One of these ideas might have been lurking in my subconscious for a very long time, because as I reread these original posts, there was one thing I wrote many years ago – Somehow they have morphed into one family, and lost a brother in the transition… wait a minute… a lost brother! Hey! How about that…. a lost brother… my mind is bubbling… 

Yes, you read it here first, a lost brother… and maybe he will be called Peter!

Here’s a link to my Radwinter books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1507040972&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

 

A smashing day at the races

Recently a few friends and I have got together for a’write-in’. We meet at someone’s house (usually mine) and just sit and write, fuelled by tea or coffee and biscuits. I’ve found it very productive… I would feel guilty slacking or faffing about with other stuff when my co-writers are busy working away!

It has been very useful for my latest book, another story of Thomas Radwinter…. here is a little extract. He and his wife Kylie have gone to a small hotel so she can discuss some projects with the owner, Sylvie. The hotel which is actually more of a guest house is called Saltern House.

There were four chaps sitting along the bar, definitely chaps not blokes, I could hear their plummy tones and braying laughter. In actual fact they were quite friendly and harmless and Sylvie introduced them as her friends. They had been to the races they explained, in fact they explained several times…  There were other guests sitting by the window, in what must have been a lovely seat to look out across the sea… Saltern House was not quite opposite the pub, so there was a wonderful view – at this time of night with a full moon reflecting of the ripply sea it was just gorgeous! In the distance were the twinkles of the lights on Farholm Island, and the regular sweeping flash of the light house at the end…

I got a bit on the muddle with the names of the men at the bar, it was a rather drunken introduction and there were nick-names and silly names, and other names were mentioned so afterwards I could only think of them as the kindly red-faced bushy bearded doctor (who bore an unfortunate resemblance to the mass murdering Dr Harold Shipman) a very thin bald man with a long lugubrious face who I think was called Weasel, although that obviously was a nick-name… well, I think it was, I must look up Weasel as a surname… unless it was German, something like Wessel, but he was also Stoat – and the old joke about the difference between a weasel and a stoat (weasilly distinguishable and stoatally different) was repeated several times so I ended up very confused. He had no beard at all but a rather long chin which may have been improved by a beard.

There was a very tall guy, (was he really called Syracuse or was that another joke?) – he was younger than the other three, and he looked a bit rackety compare to them, especially since they had been to the races and they were wearing suits. He was wearing black jeans and trainers and a grey jumper without a shirt, and a jacket which looked as if it might belong to someone else. However, he was the poshest, and I know I have a bit of a thing about people wearing glasses – I sometimes find them a bit sinister, well, he had very sinister glasses! Harold Shipman had glasses too, but they were kindly school master glasses (school masters in old films, not any teachers I ever had)

The fourth person was short but very bulky, quite powerful looking with a phenomenal beard, bigger than Harold Shipman’s bushy  face fungus and it turns out he was a yachtie and had a big boat in Strand… He was called Arnold, I think, and he asked  if I was into sailing, well, no, I wasn’t, I was a bit of a fatty for that – he laughed and slapped his own fine belly, and then all the others did too – a sort of juvenile horseplay which was a bit strange for blokes their age. Later in the conversation when I said we had children he said that his yacht club ran classes for kids, from quite a young age  if I thought they might be interested… well, actually that sounded quite a nice idea… they now had wet suits, they could both swim…

They were all very jolly, the yachtie was very drunk, and Syracuse (that can’t be his real name) may also have been, but they were all jovial and there was a lot of banter and storytelling. They bought another round and insisted on buying us another too.

“So, Thomas, what sort of line are you in?” asked Arnold.

I explained I mostly looked after the kids but was a part-time solicitor, which they all seemed to find interesting and funny and there was a lot of banter… I’m used to all the jokes, and as long as no-one is rude about Kylie I don’t really mind. I asked them what sort of line they were in; Harold Shipman was actually a doctor at the hospital, Weasel was an ex-teacher, Syracuse (I must have misheard that, they all called him Sy) had a removals company and yachtie Arnold was in logistics.

They were very friendly, but to be honest not really my type, all seemed a bit posh and ‘old boyish’ and I thought my old boss Gerald would fit in well here. They told me they’d had a smashing day at the races which was why they were all a bit ‘on the squiff’, as yachtie described it.

I suppose I had an OK evening with them, but hearty drunks with in-jokes are a bit wearying, and as some of the jokes might have been about me  which I didn’t quite get, it wasn’t an altogether comfortable way to spend my time…

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here is a link to my other books and you can find all the Thomas Radwinter books there as well as other things I’ve written:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_6?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C159&crid=34JGIWWL3WPQJ

Terribly sorry but something has come up…

I’m about three-quarters of the way through the first go at my next Radwinter novel, which may be called ‘Saltpans‘, or may not…  Thomas Radwinter is on his way to see a client, but en route he is calling in on someone else, Fergs. Fergs has a stalker and Thomas is trying to find out who it is.

I confess as I was tootling off to meet my client, a little early now as I’d walked particularly briskly,  I hardly had any thoughts in my head as I turned into the gate of the place where Fergs lived. It was one of those buildings which was like a large semi-detached house but in actual fact was four flats.
There didn’t seem to be a bell… there was a square of plastic with two wires hanging out as if it had been a bell, but no actual place where I could ring anything. Slightly stumped I pushed at the door and it opened into a small hallway with a door on my left and a staircase in front of me. There was a note above the bell of the door telling me a Mrs O’Mahony lived there.
I glanced at my phone, I had ten minutes so a few minutes chat to Fergs then off up the road to my client’s house…
I was a bit out on the timings… I bounded up the stairs and Fergs’ door was ajar. I knocked and called out, but there was no response. I pushed the door open wider and I should have guessed…
“Fergs! It’s Thomas! I just need a couple of minutes and…”
I’d crossed the small hall, bedroom straight in front of me, the covers thrown back on the unmade bed and turned to the left, past a closed door. The kitchen was to the left and the sitting room on the right…
The stench was overpowering… Fergs hadn’t been in work on Monday, Tuesday or yesterday… he was slumped back in an armchair, his legs splayed out, his head forward resting on his chest, on his bloodstained chest… it was as if he had been standing up when he was attacked and staggered back, collapsing into the chair, and slumping to die there…
I had only seen one dead body before, a drowned woman on a beach… I glanced around… I think actually I was in shock because it wasn’t rational to just stand there and look around… It was a plain sort of a room with wonderful pictures and paintings on the walls. There were book cases full of books, a large TV. Nothing was disturbed or messed up, nothing seemed broken. There was a coffee table and there was a wallet on it, and a watch and mobile… Fergs had been murdered…
Fuck!!!!! I spun round and dashed from the room, my stomach heaving, by chest gripped by an imminent asthma attack, but all I thought was I had to get out and I mustn’t be sick…
I made it outside and virtually collapsed on the low wall round the small front neat garden… I rang the police, 999 and then I rang my client… terribly sorry but something has come up, I’ll have to ring to make another appointment, terribly sorry…
Yes… Fergs was dead…

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here’s a link to my other Radwinter books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506550154&sr=1-15&keywords=lois+elsden

Radwinter is also available in paperback:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506550154&sr=1-1&keywords=lois+elsden

I’ve had a rethink

A couple of days ago I shared a writing dilemma I was trying to sort out – whether I should ‘kill’ a particular character – who is being stalked, or whether he should just disappear for a while (maybe kidnapped, maybe trapped somewhere by accident, maybe deliberately taken ‘time out’)  or whether the character should exit the story altogether and go back to the green room and wait to make an entrance onto another stage – i.e. another story altogether.

The particular character is Darius, who I have written about quit a few times already, a character waiting fr a story… so what could have happened to him?

  • kidnapped – in my previous novel ‘Earthquake’, a character had disappeared man it turned out he was being held against his will, so I definitely didn’t want to have this character ‘disappear’ in that way
  • trapped – no, that just wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the story; he wasn’t a pot-holer, he wasn’t trying to investigate his own mystery, he wouldn’t have gone out walking and fallen down a cliff or into the sea (although maybe in a future story that could happen to someone!)
  • if he was taking time out, it would be either without telling anyone – which would conflict with a different story-line, or he had told people in which case he wouldn’t actually be ‘missing’

I didn’t want to take the character out of the story altogether because then I would have to unpick the whole stalker story-line – I have done that before in another novel, and it is still an option, but it’s quite complicated to check there are no passing references to that person or the situation he’s in… also the final scene in which he appears, he is actually dead, murdered!

When I last wrote about this, I had an idea – I would keep the plot line, but change the character, so Darius has now become Fergus (called Fergs by his friends and colleagues) and the original is back, waiting in the wings for his own story – in which, I think, Darius may be the main character.

So now with my new missing character, Fergs, because he has a different personality – he’s nerdy, introspective, weedy, maybe a little eccentric – it has thrown a completely different light on that plot-line. The original missing person, Darius, was good-looking, a strong but repressed personality, depressed about some unspoken issue, but with a definite quite strong character if only he could get over whatever was troubling him. This means the nature of the stalker has to change – the stalker would feel differently about a strong silent type than they would about a needy, weedy type.

It won’t only be the character who has changed – the attitude to him of the other characters will have to change to. Colleagues would feel differential about a needy bloke from a confidant bloke; also the reader will have different thoughts about him – might they care less about weedy Fergs than they would have about Darius, my strong silent type?

I think I have made the right decision, but this is going to take some work to rewrite everything I’ve written before – this plot-line weaves in and out of the others… Poor Fergs maybe dead, but I have another character still waiting for another story!

If you want to read the other stories in the same series, then here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1505809966&sr=8-14&keywords=lois+elsden

The first in the series, Radwinter, is now available as a paperback:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1505809966&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

 

 

Should I kill him?

First of all, I have to reassure you that I don’t plan or intend to kill anyone! I am a pacifist so killing, wounding or hurting is right out of the window! However, as a fiction writer, sometimes things occur in my books which are just that, fiction. I don’t write thrillers or horror stories so compared to some novels, mine are rather tame – but gripping and engaging all the same!!

Going back to the question in the title… I am writing another Thomas Radwinter story; Thomas is an ordinary bloke, a small town part-time solicitor, part-time stay-at-home dad, and the books chart his  genealogical investigations which started off when he explored his own family history. As the series has progressed he has been asked to ‘investigate’ other things, mostly the sort of things which would not involve the police, a mysterious Moroccan brought back from a cruise by an old lady, a sinister Tibetan lama who has power over an ordinary teacher and father, the suspicious death of a school girl in 1931…

So now in the new story, Thomas has several things going on as well as juggling life with five children… you will have to read the stories to find out how he managed to have a big family so quickly… and an increasingly busy work-life as well as researching his wife’s family tree. One story line which has been poddling along (much like Thomas poddles along trying to cope with his hectic life) is of Darius who works at the local museum at the old Umbrella Factory who is being stalked by someone who regularly visits the place. It is a busy and popular venue for all sorts of activities and has a new and busy café;  and Darius has no idea who the stalker is; at first he pays no attention, but he becomes increasingly irritated and unsettled by it. As Thomas says

the stalker business, although creepy seems unthreatening. I know it can’t be nice to be watched… I mean supposing you accidental scratched your bum, or blew your nose in a not very successful way, or poured coffee down yourself… you wouldn’t want someone watching you, would you?

Darius is someone I have written about a couple of times… a character in search of a story, I guess, and he now has a place in this one… or has he? Sometimes with my writing unexpected things happen, unexpected to me, I mean, not just unexpected to the characters. Thomas was going round in circles a bit with this stalker-business and really not making any progress… and then Darius disappears, he just doesn’t turn up for work. Thomas is passing by his home and decides to knock on his door; knowing Darius had become very depressed, he thinks he might be just sitting at home unhappy and alone. However when Thomas arrives at his house, the door is open, and on going in Thomas finds him dead, and not only dead, but obviously murdered!

This was a terrible shock to Thomas as you might imagine, but it was also a surprise to me! When I sat back to think about what should happen next I became a little unsettled… I’d had Darius as a character for quite a while, and I didn’t really want him dead before he had told his story or had his story told… so I changed him. I took him out of this story and he has gone back in the ‘waiting’ file, to be replaced in this narrative by Fergus, who is a nerdy sort of a weedy chap with a look of Rupert Brooke (if anyone remembers him)

So now Fergus, not Darius is dead and I have had not exactly a crisis, but a sudden thought that maybe this is all getting too complicated. The police would be involved, Thomas’s investigation would be revealed, and it would all be taken out of Thomas’s hands. However, I really felt the story was getting a bit uninteresting, that there needed to be an incident of some sort to liven it up (I know in real life, the death of someone is dreadful, but in fiction it can keep the reader gripped trying to find out the who and why done it!)

Maybe instead of dying, Fergus should disappear – kidnapped/gone missing/run away/ trapped/breakdown –  but wait, in my story this is a plot-line already with another character!! This needs thinking about…

Am I juggling too many balls? Are there too many different things going on? Will the readers be groaning and tearing their hair out and hurling my book across the room or out of the window?

I must ponder on this, as Thomas would say (he does a lot of pondering) I’ve been in similar dilemmas before, lain awake wondering about story-lines and characters, or driven to the wrong destination because I’ve been thinking about the narrative, or got lost because I’m concentrating on the people inside my head not the real people I’m supposed to be meeting… Does this make it sound as if I’m losing my marbles? I’m sure other writers have similar issues… don’t they?