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

Umbrellas, stories and history

I am investigating the history of umbrellas and umbrella making for a story I am writing; you may have read some of my other stories here set in an imaginary museum housed in an imaginary abandoned umbrella factory. I don’t know how this idea started, or what triggered it – it may have been in one of my Radwinter genealogical mysteries, when my character Thomas Radwinter discovered an ancestor of his worked in one.

Umbrella making is an ancient craft, and started in countries where sun was more of a problem than rain, so I guess they were parasols! Maybe it was in Egypt, maybe in China, for the purposes of my story I will have to investigate further; however I did find a rather lovely story of how umbrella making started in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand; a Buddhist monk went wandering and settled near a village in Burma. One of the villagers gave him the gift of an umbrella having noticed the monk struggling with the elements. The man had made it himself, and the monk discovered it was useful for too much sun and too much rain. The monk was intrigued by this and went farther into Burma to find out more about umbrella making. Having learnt how it was done, a complicated process involving mulberry bark, oil and saa paper (also made from mulberry bark). men and women were involved and had different task in the process. The monk was impressed, and when he returned to his home temple, he started the local people also making umbrellas.

If you want to read more, here is the link – I’m sure you will enjoy it:

http://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/umbrella_making_history.html

Umbrella making is as I mentioned, an ancient craft, maybe as old as three thousand years! Umbrella making in Europe, and in the UK is much more recent, maybe only three hundred years!

Here is a great old video of umbrella making in 1952:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/umbrella-making

If you want to dead about Thomas Radwinter’s connections with umbrella making, then here is a link to my Amazon page – you can now buy the e-books as a bundle:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1496743340&sr=8-13&keywords=Lois+elsden

 

Thinking about characters… and not getting too fond of them!

Sometimes a character arrives unexpectedly, and then becomes almost part of a writer’s life. This happened to me with Thomas Radwinter; I’d wanted to write a bout a family of brothers, and had the surname Radwinter, and had three of ‘the boys’ (all men in their forties and fifties) when suddenly unexpectedly a younger brother, a much younger brother arrived… and he was Thomas.

As a reader I’ve followed many different series of books by different authors, and I really like seeing what happens next to the ‘people’ I’ve been reading about in one book, after that book finishes. However, it can be really disappointing if the character becomes indulged by the author, and authenticity drifts away. There is nothing worse than an author ‘falling in love’ with their character, and becoming indulgent and unrealistic… And I hope I don’t become indulgent with Thomas Radwinter; he has to change, as anyone might… at the beginning he is approaching his thirty-third birthday, now he is heading towards forty… at the beginning he had no children, now he has a whole bunch!

He’ll have a whole load of new challenges and adventures in my next novel – and I hope if i become too indulgent with him, too fond of him, then readers will tell me! here he is in his new office… he can’t work at home any more, it’s just too hectic!

I sat at my desk and twiddled a bit in my chair, clicked the mouse a couple of times, then another couple of times and smiled to myself. I have an office! I have an actual office!
It’s only very small, it’s what used to be the upstairs flat of the veg shop run by my friend Val, but now the small sitting room is where I might meet any clients, three easy chairs but uprightish (some of my clients are a bit elderly) a coffee table and then to one side a desk with a couple of chairs in case we might have to look at some papers. It is very plainly decorated, so it just looks nice and clean and light, and I think it looks quite professional – well, I am a professional! There are a few black and white photos on the wall by a young photographer I know, Niqqi (I’m sure she is really Nicky, but never mind) and there are nice blinds at the window. The small room which used to be the bedroom is now my office, and this is where I was, sitting in splendour. I have bookshelves for my law books, I have a filing cabinet because some things still happen on paper, and I have three computers, yes three, and another big table where I can do my family tree stuff… because as well as being a solicitor I do people’s family trees.
The veg shop down below is very small – it’s the end of a row of other shops and whether the builder ran out of land or whether he wanted a small shop, whatever, it is much smaller than the others, which is why the flat has just one bedroom, a minuscule bathroom, and an even more minuscule kitchen… The kitchen, empty of any cooking stuff, apart from a kettle, microwave and a fridge, is just there to make tea and coffee..
Hmm… my first day in my new office… well, half a day. I have to collect various kids from various places and then I’ll be home getting dinner ready for us all and doing dadly things… perfect!
There was a ‘dong’ and I enquired through the entry phone who it was, feeling rather full of myself – I’d only been here an hour on my first day, I had plenty to do, and wasn’t expecting anyone, but here was a client…
My optimism deflated like a punctured football – I’d been playing footie on the beach with Kenneil and Terri and I confess I rather booted the ball, it hit a rock, bounced off and then sat there deflating…
“Come up, Inspector Graham!” I said with false heartiness. I slapped down a feeling of anxiety, I had nothing to be anxious about, I’d done nothing wrong… well, nothing that anyone apart from my friend David knows about.
Last year I was involved in a rather nasty incident which ended up in two people being dead… I’d spent rather more time with the police than I wanted, and had to go to court – well two courts a coroner’s court and a crown court. I had a few nightmares after that, I can tell you… a period of insomnia, and altogether an unpleasant few months… But I battened it all down, locked it all away and got on with being a dad and a husband…
“Thomas, good to see you, I hope you don’t mind me dropping in without an appointment,” Graham said as we shook hands. I greeted him as enthusiastically and normally as I could and he asked me to call him ‘Charles’ which I took to be a signal that he wasn’t here on police business and my heart rated slowed back to normalish.
He asked after the family and as usual I wittered on too much about how they all were – I still can’t get over how fortunate I am; I had many sad years when I thought I would never be a dad… and now I am, five times over!
“And how are your brothers?” he asked… and this began to be a bit odd… he really is not a friend by any means, and I can’t imagine he has any real interest in the various Radwinters… if it had been anyone other than Inspector Graham, I would think he was flannelling, building himself up to say something unexpected… hmmm…

In case you haven’t yet met Thomas, or read any of my other books, here is a link:

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

Who did it? Did anyone do it?

I wrote this a couple of months ago… I’m repeat it to try to tempt you to buy my book!

Maybe a crime was committed… maybe not… it all happened in 1931… Maybe one of these girls, aged between eleven and sixteen was a victim, maybe one was responsible… They were at the same school in 1931… and it all started with an earthquake:

  1. Cynthia  – Cynthia says she wastes most of her time in class trying to be funny; we think she spends all her time in class being funny! Cynthia is a very kind, helpful girl, and everyone likes her
  2. Florence Eva – little Florence is always trying to be helpful, she likes nothing better than lending a hand!
  3. Rhoda Joyce  – Rhoda’s really good at tennis, everyone wants to be her partner in doubles! Rhoda’s very clever and is always ready to help others with their work.
  4. Lilian Joyce  – Lilian is very independent, she is always ready to go of adventuring on her own
  5. Christiana Myrtle – Christiana is the most beautiful girl in the class, everyone wishes they looked like Christiana!
  6. Freida  – Freida always tries her best! Whatever she does she really tries her hardest
  7. Miriam Blanche  – Miriam is a fighter, she will always strive to do her best and achieve what she wants.
  8. Kathleen Rose – Kathleen  Rose is the strongest girl; she can run faster and farther than any of us; the teachers think she’s ‘cheeky’ we think she’s fun!
  9. Alma Mary – Alma’s motto is ‘if you can’t say something nice about someone then it is better to remain silent’!
  10. Cicely – is the most ambitious girl; the teachers say she will go far!
  11. Bertha Jean – Bertha Jean is the quietest girl; she is the best at keeping secrets!
  12. Frances May– Frances is the bravest girl; she will dive from the top diving board or walk through a field of cows when there is a bull in the field!
  13. Marjorie Violet  – Marjorie is the baby of the girls, and the newest of the girls, we wonder what the future hold for Marjorie!

This is the problem Thomas Radwinter is set in my next book, called ‘Earthquake’ which I hope will be available in May!

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

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

‘Earthquake’ is now published! Find it here, and you will find out who was murdered, how and who by!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1495403715&sr=1-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Strange goings on at the Waterside

I’m a great pub person – although, to be honest we actually don’t visit the pub more than a couple of times a week! However being that pub person, it’s not surprising that pubs feature in many of my books. In my latest genealogical mystery, ‘starring’ Thomas Radwinter (another pub person) he is commissioned to investigate strange goings on at a former pub, now a hotel called the Waterside. Here is an except, where he recounts his first impressions:

The hotel had obviously been an old pub, right on the quay side I think you’d call it, of the old harbour; this isn’t the old harbour in town, this is the old, old harbour in Hamwick – which must have been a separate little place once but is now just part of the outer edges of Strand. I don’t know anything about it, or this area and have never been here before. I shouldn’t think many people have, it’s got a seedy, desolate air, most of the businesses are closed, and look as if they’ve been closed for a long time.
It was sheeting with rain, so I’d literally run from where I’d parked in a supermarket carpark, half a mile away, run between the rather tatty very old houses to the harbour where the hotel was.
I stood looking at it and yes indeed, it had definitely been a pub – I must look it up. I guessed it was maybe a couple of hundred years old, and in the olden days it would have been busy and thriving, all those thirsty, fishermen, all the people coming to buy the fish and maybe other things. I imagined horses and carts and wagons coming to collect the bales and barrels and loads and people shouting and ropes swinging and pulleys – or whatever those things are called which lift things up – not cranes, well, maybe cranes… another something to look up.
In the funny light and with the rain making it all shiny it really did look a bit creepy. I noticed there were four parking places at the front of the hotel, two on either side of the steps which led up to it. It was a double fronted place but quite narrow, the building going back. There was an alley down one side, a very narrow alley, more like a passageway and I had a peer down there and could see that the place was fairly sizable… I’d imagined Rebecca having a small almost bed and breakfast type place… this was big… hmmm… I had a moment’s puzzle about the finances of it all but that’s nothing to do with me, her economic situation is not my concern – thank goodness!
I stood looking at it again, and took a couple of pictures, despite the light not being very good and then I had a bit of a wander.
There was like a broken pier part, the stones all tumbled into the sea, all covered in seaweed and green slime, and then there were some steps leading down to the beach with a hand rail. The beach here, which I’d never been to, looked quite nice, what I could see of it with the pounding waves. There was a bit of a harbour remaining, with some boats, so obviously it was still used to some extent.
There was the usual muddle of old buildings, some which looked as if they had been sheds, maybe for the fish, some of which were small houses, then this big hotel; even though it was bigger, it didn’t look out of place. There were a few closed shops, another pub which also seemed closed… it was all pretty desperate.
I could see how someone coming to stay here might be predisposed to thinking it was creepy, and sort of setting themselves up to find spooky happenings… This all seemed a complete load of bollocks, ‘bollocks’ is one of Paul’s words.
I came back to the hotel… yes, it really didn’t look very inviting. The rain was slackening off and I could imagine maybe on a nice sunny day it would be interesting, and certainly very near the beach. I wandered back to the worn steps leading down to the sand. An image came back to me… night time, and a dead woman lying on a beach as a ferocious storm raged all around, and I was dragged away from her, forcibly dragged away…
I’d got an appointment with Mr. S, and then I had to really dash, on dad-duty again; I’d leave this rather strange place and come again.
“What you up to, mate?” I nearly jumped out of my skin.
A big burly man had materialised behind me… he actually was huge, really tall and hefty, with a big black bushy beard and big black fuzzy hair.
“What you doing here?” he asked again on the verge of being threatening. Well, it was a public place, I was merely looking at stuff, not doing any harm…
“Just looking around, I’ve not been here before, got a bit of time to kill before I see a client,” I tried to sound manly without being aggressive; I used to be such a wimp – for most of my life I grovelled and apologised with no reason to, now I tried to stand up for myself.
“Had a few break-ins… stuff going missing…” he said grudgingly and totally unconvincingly. I really did not look like the sort of person who would break in anywhere or be responsible for ‘stuff going missing’; on my way to see Mr. S. I had my suit on and a tie (I don’t always wear ties these days but most of my elderly clients like it) and a waterproof.
“Tell me about it! Same round our way! Can’t trust anyone, not like it used to be when you could leave your doors unlocked… Huh, what is the world coming to!”
I really did say that. Kylie laughed like anything when I told her later. I said cheerio to the bloke – I actually did say ‘cheerio’ and he grunted, and then, trying not to look as if I was hurrying away, I sauntered back through the neglected and run-down little streets to where I’d left my car.

If you want to find out why Thomas was at the Waterside, what happens next time he visits, and who the big bloke with the bushy beard is, then here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1495492050&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

My featured image is of Fowey, which isn’t the least like Hamwick!

Something’s coming…

As usual I’m working on my next project… I am writing a new novel, but that’s not next on the agenda, I have a plan for a book of short pieces for people whose first language isn’t English, but that isn’t it either… I have long-standing engagement with a piece of autobiographical writing… but once again, no that’s not it….

I will give you a clue:

Front…

… back

Does that give you a clue?

I’ll tell you more as soon as I can! In the meantime…

A bit of an incident with a toy car and cheese sauce

The main character of my Radwinter books is Thomas Radwinter; he does most of the childcare in the family, and because he loves food and cooking he’s the family chef as well. The stories about Thomas are mysteries; there are several puzzles in the books, genealogical and quirky and occasional involve criminals – the previous book, Beyond Hope was about people smuggling, my latest one Earthquake has two dubious characters called Mark and Andy Dune who Thomas has the misfortune to come up against.

My Radwinter stories are also genealogical mysteries, and there is  always a historical puzzle for Thomas to solve. Both these strands are set against the development of Thomas himself as a character, and how he changes as life happens to him.

I’d like to share an extract where Thomas misses a vital piece of information, by being s=distracted by his children’s antics:

I was in the middle of making dinner, pasta and vegetables with cheeses sauce when the phone rang and it was my flower shop friend Kim, my associate who I’d taken to the Waterside Inn.
He was quite excited about something, about the old, old harbour and a shop and something which I missed because at that point Kenneil decided he was going to copy his sister and start throwing things, and caught me quite painfully on the side of the face with a toy car.
I spun round, still trying to talk to Kim, cheese sauce flying off my wooden spoon and glared at Kenneil who was trying to say ‘it was Cassie’, ‘it was only a little car’, ‘Terri pushed  me’, I didn’t meant to’, ‘it was the car’s fault…’
“Sorry Kim, yes fine, speak to you later, the kids are causing ructions!”
Kylie walked into this moment of chaos with Kenneil shouting, Cassie screaming and Terri who, for some reason, had jumped onto the settee and was standing as if she wanted to climb out of the room.
I told Kenneil he wasn’t to throw things, I’d speak to him later, and after trying to be severe, I slipped on a great splodge of cheese sauce and by some acrobatic feat and a great leap, stayed on my feet. Kylie not knowing exactly what had happened burst out laughing at me which got everyone else laughing too.

The point of this incident, which I hope has an amusing aspect, is as a plot device; Thomas misses what Kim was saying and because of that things go rather badly wrong for both Kim and Thomas. I also hope it shows how difficult it is for Thomas juggling all these different things in his life.

If you want to find out more, here is a link to my book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494101312&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden