Starting with the village of Radwinter…

It’s exactly a week since I galloped my way towards and finally over the finish line of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I have to admit that the week before I was looking at the possibility of not making it… I’d written every day but just not enough and I was very behind… however, I managed it, and completed it with an hour to spare and 53 words over the fifty thousand.

The story I was writing this time was about a mystery woman with a concealed past who starts living in shared accommodation in a small seaside town. This was my fifth year of taking up the challenge, and thank goodness, the fifth year of completing it… and as I finished I thought back to the other challenges.

The first year I did NaNo, 2013, I began a story which had been swirling round in my head for some time about a family of four brothers; I had a name for them, Radwinter, but little more. The story almost wrote itself, and I passed the 50,000 word eleven days early and went on to write over 73,000 words!

It wasn’t just my NaNo success with Radwinter, there was something about the characters, the situations, their dilemmas and difficulties reaching back into the past which intrigued me and if I had known on 30th November 2013 that I would write another five stories about them I would have been amazed, and no t a little disbelieving… Believe it or not, although Book VI is not quite finished yet, I began the opening scene for Book VII last night!

Radwinter is the story of a couple and their marriage, and a man and his family, and the history of that family explored through genealogical research…

Here is an excerpt from that first novel when Thomas Radwinter is finding out the origins of his family name:

I thought I’d start with Radwinter village… yes, I know, there are no Radwinter connections, but it just seems odd that our unique name is the same as a place… or maybe it is just a coincidence, or maybe Radwinter is a corruption of something else…

In Radwinter there is the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and on the history site there are some wonderful photos of the reredos within the church, but it was bought and put there in the 1880’s; the church itself is over seven hundred years old. I’d like to go and visit and see it for myself; I’m not religious but I do like visiting churches… I wonder if Marcus would be interested as he’s a vicar? As well as the church it mentions chapels… are they different? I don’t know much about religion, despite Marcus… Primitive Methodists… what are they? Baptists… I really don’t know.

Looking at the history of the village it seems as if it was a busy place at one time; I really would like to go and see what is there now. According to the website there were blacksmiths, and many different shops including two butchers and two bakers (no mention of candlestick makers… stop it Thomas, don’t be silly… Rebecca is always telling me off for my childish sense of humour) there were sweetie shops, a fish mongers, general stores and even a tobacconist, and many different craftsmen such as cobblers and tailors and lots of other businesses.

No surprise that there are pubs, including the Plough and the Red Lion, and windmills… I guess it’s a farming area… Essex, that’s a farming county, isn’t it, and isn’t it by the sea too? I don’t know anything about Essex, apart from it being an overspill area for London, but it can’t all be like that. I’ve never been there… maybe I should look at a map… There were four windmills, it says… definitely a farming community, and a prosperous one too. Didn’t Constable paint pictures in Essex, or have I imagined that?

I’m onto the history page… Neolithic skeleton, bronze Celtic warrior, Roman roads and coins… medieval tile kiln and fishponds…  once it was Great Radwinter and Little Radwinter, perhaps that’s me, little Radwinter… 1066, Doomsday, a lord of the manor named Frodo… what? Really?

This page also tells me the village is near Saffron Walden and on the road to Haverhill, and on the River Pant… I must look at a map.

Onto the Radwinter Records page… a war memorial with no Radwinters on it, but how sad to see the same names cropping up, three men called Andrews, five men named Halls,  two Potts, two Ruses, three Swans and two Thakes… so sad… I don’t think I’m old but I bet they were younger than me… maybe some of them as young as my nephew Django… it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Radwinter seems an interesting place… I really want to visit… I wonder if Rebecca would like to go for a weekend there… probably not, she likes shopping and going on holiday to somewhere sunny.

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here is a link to my Radwinter stories:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1512639951&sr=8-6&keywords=lois+elsden

Telling tales… family history brought to life!!

New term and new start for my family history writing group; I started this group in about April/May time, and after lots of people being interested it dwindled down to just two people and me… very nice people, but not enough for a writing group! There was an open day for the organisation which runs these interest groups in early September, and following that I have had more interest, and today six lovely people met here and we had a very pleasant and interesting afternoon!

I had a few suggestions:

  1.  some ideas of how to tell your family history:
  • a family newsletter
  • stories told through recipes in a cookbook
  • memoir/narrative: story and personal experiences, specific episodes or times
  • scrapbook or album, including family photos and memorabilia
  • family trees
  1. stories told via the family tree
  • single line of a particular surname.
  • all descendants of
  • the story of a single person and his/her line
  1. my story
  2. plots and themes
  • immigration/migration
  • rags to riches
  • village/town/city life
  • war story
  1. the starting point
  • begin at the beginning? Or not?
  • tell it like a story
  • using what you know
  1. bring them to life – use your imagination! Be creative! You can make things up!
  2. make it personal
  3. index and sources

My new friends had plenty of ideas already; one lady, a wonderful writer,  is writing about her family life, starting with her parents stories. Another lady has a collection of her uncle’s letters from when he was serving in the war… she read us a couple and I can’t wait to find out how she is going to tackle working on them! One chap has a fascinating family, a hawker who ended up owning a travelling menagerie who proclaimed himself Emperor of a town in Cornwall! Another chap and his wife were tracking down a fascinating great-aunt with seemingly a rags to riches life story, from a wheel wright’s daughter, to a woman of substance who married three times. The sixth lady is fascinated by a Victorian lady artist, has written about her, gives talks about her, and has visited many of the local places the artist visited too.

I think we are going to have some interesting stories being written in the months to come! i certainly had lots of inspiration from what I heard and learned about today!

 

Vanishing Act

It’s happened to me, and I guess it happens to most people who are looking into their family history, that the ancestor they are seeking seems to vanish. I was following my family, census by census until suddenly in 1871, there they weren’t… I checked death records, I tried spelling their names in alternative ways, I tried ignoring the father and looking for the mother and then the children. None of them appear in the 1871 census. What a mystery… but there they were, back again in 1881.

There may be reasons why people are not on the census; maybe they were travelling, maybe some of the records are not complete for some reason. I haven’t yet found where my family went, but in my novel about a family in search of their roots, ‘Radwinter’, they do find an answer to the mystery.

My fictional character Thomas Radwinter is searching for a relative who had been living in the seaport of Portsmouth in the 1840’s and then disappears. It occurs to Thomas that maybe his ancestor boarded a ship and went somewhere, and an obvious destination at that time was half-way round the world to Australia.

Most people know that thousands and thousands of people, men women and children were transported to Australia as convicts. The prisons had become full and containment of criminals was becoming a major problem in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain. Running out of space for all those sentenced to imprisonment, many were housed in chains, in hulks, old rotting ships moored along the banks of the Thames. Previously, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries North America received those transported from the British Isles, sent to work on the plantations. The American War of Independence, 1775-1782, put a stop to that.

At the same time, Australia and the antipodes offered vast, seemingly limitless opportunities for farming, forestry, whaling and mining, and sending ne’er-do-wells far away not only got rid of them, but also ensured there was a labour force which needed minimal if any payment. It was a primitive and brutal life for all concerned. More than 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia

However, not all the travellers to these far off lands went because they were forced to; my family went to Tasmania in 1839 as merchants and traders, importing fine wines from Europe, porcelain and silk from China, and tea from India to their warehouses in Hobart. They exported wool, whale products, timber and minerals in their ship, the Lady Denison, until it sunk… or maybe the convicts on board overwhelmed the captain and crew, threw them overboard and sailed for San Francisco!

My character Thomas discovers that his family also went on the long voyage, round the Cape of Good Hope across the Southern Ocean to a new life. Thomas investigated his history as I did. He, and I, had a successful outcome to our research, thanks to the internet! The many very good genealogical web-sites make it possible to do in-depth research from home!

So, if your family seems to have disappeared, try looking up shipping lists and manifests, and records of passengers travelling from British ports… There are a lot of lists with a lot of ports, a lot of ships and lots of passengers – in fact in 1852 alone nearly half a million people emigrated to Australia!  However, playing the genealogical detective and with a little determination you might very well find your missing ancestor!

 

In need of a rethink

There’s an awful lot of thinking that has to happen before I can get writing… Sometimes it is a sort of subliminal thinking, a sort of mental playing about with a few scraps of ideas, the sort of things I mention when I’m writing here – a ragbag of odd names, unexpected facial expressions, ‘what if’ moments, fleeting glimpses of things, overheard scraps of conversation, vague and tenuous drifts of leftover dream on waking, misunderstood or misheard comments, graffiti, juxtaposed images, memories, odd news items, strange weather, rivers and seas and rivers meeting seas…

Then, for me, there’s a gradual coming together and the beginning of some form, and then I start – and usually when I start (which may not necessarily be at the beginning of the story) words come out in a stupendous rush, and ideas coalesce and form and reform, and strange branches of thought go off in all sort of directions. Sometimes I’m taken up with an idea – sometimes it needs a lot of research and I plunge into that in a fury, and write and write.

Then comes the more staid workmanlike work (is that tautology?) All the other things continue – the mental playing about, the coalescing, the sudden spurts of enthusiasm and inspiration, but it’s more formed now, following the pattern of the narrative.

And then… and then sometimes comes a realisation that there has been an error – maybe it’s something simple like a character’s name or description isn’t right, or that two characters have become confused, or there is a gap where a crucial explanation is missing, or something is written so badly it just has to come out and be rewritten, or there is a whole thread which doesn’t fit at all and needs to be extracted and maybe saved for another story. These things are a bit annoying, but only a bit… lots of work, but it’s all OK.

And then… and then and then there is the major blunder. I am about thirty thousand words into a new story so it’s not a disaster – at least I haven’t finished the first draft and suddenly seen the major blunder!  I have several story lines, a family history, a stalker, the looking for/finding/buying a new house, a jealous ex-husband, not a missing but a found person – a found person who is also amnesiac, and then there are all the general plotlines around characters – their lives and loves etc.

As I was doing some extra research for my imagined family history, it suddenly came to me that I had made a fundamental error of judgement and would need to rethink the whole story of this family’s genealogy. Not a disaster, of course, I can do that… but it’s just irritating that I spent so much time working it out and researching it in the first place, and now not only do I need to unpick it, but also create a new history for them!

Here’s a link to my books which did make it through to being published – they all had a lot of rewriting in them, I hope you can’t see the joins! My novels are all e-readers, except ‘Radwinter’ which is also published as a paperback:

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

The call came down the line

I’ve been editing – in the sense of rechecking spelling, grammar, punctuation – oh and repetitive vocabulary, of my first Thomas Radwinter novel… entitled ‘Radwinter’. I wrote it and it is set in 2013 but it was published in 2014 as an e-book for Kindle.

You may wonder why I’m looking at it again… well, I hope to publish it as an actual book, a paperback on Amazon! Although a lot of people have Kindles, many people don’t and many people like to have an actual book in their hands – I do! Kindles, and other similar readers, are so useful, especially when travelling, but there is nothing like a real book – a tree-book as I’ve heard them called!

In Radwinter, the main character, Thomas begins to explore his family history, and just as he finds the story of his ancestors, his own life begins to unravel. At one point, as he’s travelling home with his wife from a party at his brother’s house,he begins to sing ‘Human’ by The Killers – it somehow seems to be right for his life at the moment – ‘I’m on my knees looking for the answer’….

If you want to read about what happens to Thomas, here is a link to that very first book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1494681189&sr=8-3&keywords=lois+elsden

If, by the way you are wondering about my featured image, he is Nicolas Bro, who was in ‘The Killing II’ – he was my inspiration for Thomas Radwinter!

A sneaky little peep

Yesterday I shared an excerpt from my latest e-novel, Earthquake; four years ago I began to write a genealogical mystery “starring” Thomas Radwinter, and somehow, Thomas hasn’t let go and I have followed his story. ‘Earthquake’, which I published earlier this week, follows his adventures, and his life.

Here, just for you, is another excerpt:

I have to be very strict with myself, which is much more difficult than you might think, because particularly when I’m doing someone’s family tree I get terribly side-tracked by interesting names and strange occupations. I have such a busy life, housework, cooking, washing, shopping, John’s allotment, looking after our garden, taking Cassie and Kenneil swimming, seeing my brothers and their families…
So I was concentrating completely on the ins and outs of some legal papers for a client and didn’t register my phone was ringing. I answered it rather more loudly than I meant to and there was silence then the sound of laboured breathing…
Good grief, don’t say I’ve got a heavy-breather… Hello? I said rather firmly and sternly ready to finish the call and block the number.
“Good morning… is that Mr. Radwinter….” And the voice, man or woman I couldn’t tell, faded away, then started again. “My name is Shsh Shshsher…”
“I’m sorry, you are?”
“Shsh Shshsher… A friend at the golf club suggested you might be able to help me…”
When I was working as a proper solicitor in a practice in Strand, I had a dear old gentleman who always asked for me to assist in his matters and business, usually changing his will which was a bit of a hobby of his. When our firm amalgamated with another and moved their head office to Castair, I was effectively given the sack; however my kindly old gentleman insisted I continue to handle his affairs and more than that, recommended me to a lot of his friends at the golf club. The golf club gang, as I call them, are my best clients, and are nearly all nice people and also quite wealthy.
As well as the usual conveyancing, enduring powers of attorney, wills and even a couple of divorces, they have asked me to help them on several intriguing ‘investigations’ as I mentioned above, the missing woman, the Moroccan and the Tibetan Lama.
“I will try my best Mr. Shshsher…” I couldn’t ask him again for his name, having tried to work it out three times. “Perhaps we could arrange a time where we could meet, or maybe I could call on you… what sort of business do you wish to conduct?”
There was another yawning pause before Mr. Shshsher replied that he would have to discuss that with me…  He wasn’t sure I could help, he wasn’t sure anyone could help, but his friends had recommended me highly…

If you want to find out what Thomas gets up to in Earthquake, and find out about that seismic event, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491552516&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

and to Thomas’s other adventures, and my other novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_0?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=%2Caps%2C227

An introduction… to Thomas Radwinter

I’ve been so thrilled and excited by the reception of my latest e-novel, Earthquake, which I published just the beginning of this week. Thanks to everyone who has bought it!

When I first started writing about Thomas Radwinter and his genealogical adventures, I had absolutely no idea that there would be more than one book about him… I didn’t even imagine a sequel, let alone four more books, so yes, Earthquake is the fifth in the series. When I began that first book, I started by Thomas introducing himself, and I have followed that pattern.

So here is a sneak excerpt… this is how Thomas introduces himself in Earthquake:

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.

If you want to find out what Thomas gets up to in Earthquake, and find out about that seismic event, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491552516&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

and to Thomas’s other adventures, and my other novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_0?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=%2Caps%2C227