I’m heading towards finishing the first draft of my next Radwinter novel… here is a little teaser… Be warned, there is a little bad language:

It took a few moments to work out what had happened… like waking up in  a strange place and not quite knowing where you are or how you got there… usually you realise, oh yes I’m at Paul’s house, or oh we’re in the little bed and breakfast on the Isle of Wight… but the realisation which came wasn’t nearly as pleasant or reassuring..

I was face down on a hard floor, it was dark… because I was blind? The lights were off? No there was something over my head and something on my shoulders, something pressing down hard and heavy … and knobbly… knees someone was kneeling on me!

What? What the fuck? What the fuck had happened? I hadn’t been knocked out or anything because the events tumbled back into my mind, it was the shock of being slammed onto the floor, totally winded…

My first instinct was to heave off whoever was on me, my second was just to lie still and wait to see what happened… I wasn’t in a good situation, I didn’t know how many people there were, I could hear the mutter of voices, I was face down… No, lying still was the best option… especially as I was also very frightened and I’m not much of a fighter, in fact I’m not a fighter at all…

I didn’t move, just tried to work out what was going on… there seemed to be some sort of conversation going on, two voices, probably male, but mumbling or whispering….

I had popped into the  a little pub in Strand; I’d had a meeting with a client which had gone on a bit. Kylie was home early so she was looking after the gang, it was her turn she said, so I’d bobbed into the pub for a swift half, and had treated myself to a sandwich,

All had seemed as normal – Inspector Graham been in sitting at the bar, but he had just finished his beer as I came in. We exchanged greetings but nothing more and he tucked his newspaper under his arm and off he went. I sat in his place and chatted on and off to the landlord, finished my beer and sarnie and went out the back way, I had discovered that going out through the yard and tiny carpark at the back took me into a little street which led down to the carpark I was in today… usually I’m in the one near the Orange Tree and go there… but not today.

You go down the street then cut down an alley then go through a covered passageway and it was here I had suddenly found myself face down…

I moved my head slowly as if I was just coming round and managed by shrugging my shoulders slightly at the same time to dislodge a bit of the… coat it was a coat, I could feel the shiny lining, and smell leather… a leather coat… Someone was going through my pockets… not much in there, and my phone was in my inside pocket which I was lying on…

“Fucking ridiculous!” somebody hissed and I had to agree… “What did you bloody do that for?”

“We don’t know what he knows, always snooping about…”

There was a muffled interchange and then suddenly the knees were off my back the coat dragged off my head and as I tried to roll over there was the sound of running footsteps, and struggling to sit up, I found I was alone…

What the hell was that about? I got up, aches and pains making themselves known and gathered the contents of my pockets which were scattered about… loose change, hankies, I always have several cotton handkerchiefs useful for all sorts of things, phone charging cable, keys… everything was there – what had they been looking for… it sounded as if someone had pounced on me unexpectedly – unexpected by me and by his companion – a pointless and spontaneous action, and maybe not only not caring whether he injured me but maybe actually semi-hoping me might hurt me… he was angry with me, me personally that was for sure…

I was thinking these things as I returned to my car, constantly looking over my shoulder alert for the sound of someone behind me…

© Lois Elsden 2018

Here’s a link to my books:

… and here is the link to the first Thomas Radwinter novel, available in paperback and as an e-reader:

Writing about your family history (v) … where were they? And what did they do there?

Another aspect of telling a story is place and location. Maybe you know the places where your ancestors lived – maybe you still live in the same location. If they came from far away, even if you haven’t ever visited, with the internet it’s easy to find pictures and maps, and old pictures and maps too of what it was like when Great-Aunt Jane or a red-headed blacksmith ancestor lived there.  You can go on street view and follow their footsteps from home to where they worked, from their little village to the local town where your farming ancestor might have taken his animals to market.

As for the plot or narrative of your story, you have the outline of someone’s life, fill in the gaps – find pictures or visit the church where they were baptised or married, look up contemporary newspapers and directories to see what happened in those years and who the neighbours and tradespeople were your family might have had dealing with.

Use what you know, and what you can find out, but use your imagination to! Your story can start with a maybe… ‘maybe one bright spring morning Jane looked in the mirror and saw herself as a beautiful bride… today was the day she was to marry her beloved Arthur…’

Another way of making your stories accessible to others is to write the story of your investigation. What were the stories you heard as a child of great-aunt Jane? How did you find her in the records, did she go missing and you couldn’t trace her? Did she travel to somewhere you weren’t expecting? Did she have a first husband you didn’t know about, or children who lived with someone else… how did you track them down, what was the paper-trail? What were the stumbling blocks – how many Jane’s with the same name and birth date did you come across? How did you identify which one was yours? How many and what blind alleys did you go down? Which other interesting ancestors did you unexpectedly come across? The story of your journey through the records can be fascinating.

I have written a series of novels about someone searching for his family history; his non-literal journey follows their actual travels, from the Ukraine to Harwich, to Surrey, to my imaginary town of Easthope. His genealogical research gives him the tools to investigate other things, and people begin to commission him to solve their little mysteries, the woman who vanished from her car at the traffic lights, the mysterious but influential Moroccan an old lady brought back from a Mediterranean cruise, the death of a little girl in 1932… I have written five novels about my character Thomas Radwinter, the sixth should be available in May this year!!

Here is a link to my Radwinter novels:

My featured image shows the Portland Arms Hotel in Cambridge, where my granddad held the license from the mid 1920’s until 1950.

Writing about your family history (iii) … the journeys they made…

It’s a bit of a fallacy that people in the past never travelled further than the nearest market; in fact, as you probably know from your own research, people moved about almost as much as we do, if not more – and probably for the same reasons, work, family, opportunities, marriage, business… Writing a family story from the point of a journey is a way to create a contained narrative, with a beginning – in one homestead/village/town/city and after staying temporarily in other places, the settling in what became the family home.

On my dad’s side of the family, the Elsdens were all ag labs, agricultural labours, working in Suffolk on farms for generations. They may have come from Norfolk, and before that from Scandinavia, but they stayed in the Suffolk area throughout the eighteenth and first part of the nineteenth century, moving from village to village, no doubt finding work on different farms. When the railways came they moved from the land to work initially on the tracks in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, but later into the engine sheds and driving the big steam engines. The sons of the family moved out of labour and into commerce, opening a fruit and vegetable shop in Cambridge, then holding the license of a pub… and so we became a Cambridge family.

On my maternal side, my Jewish forebears left their commercial business in the hands of their brothers and cousins in London, and travelled round the other side of the world to Tasmania where they started an import export agency – they had ships travelling across the Pacific and all round the South China Sea. Eventually they returned to London and settled in a house on Regent’s Park, they were extraordinarily rich… this was an actual journey, but there followed a journey of a different kind… a journey from riches to a more modest way of life.

My character Thomas in my Radwinter stories follows his ancestors lives, tracing his family back to war-torn eastern Europe, and following their journey from their arrival in England in the 1830’s, across southern England to Easthope, where the family still lives… “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”.

Here is a link to the first  book in the series:

Thomas in his new office…

Here is another little excerpt from my next book… Thomas is very proud to have his own office:

My office

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, or whatever, it is much smaller than the others, which is why the flat has just one bedroom, a miniscule bathroom, and an even more miniscule 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.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to read about Thomas Radwinter and his adventures, here is a link, and if you are kind enough to buy any of my books, I would really appreciate you visiting my Amazon page and writing a review!! Thank you in advance, and here is the link:

A sneak preview, and a catch-up with Thomas

I’m working on my next Thomas Radwinter novel, possibly to be called ‘Saltpans’ – although I have a dilemma; the title is perfect except it gives away a crucial element of the plot, so maybe that will be book VII… unless my readers become fed-up with the story of Thomas!

Here is the opening chapter – maybe you could call it a prologue:

My name is Thomas Marcus Pemberton Radwinter; I was born in 1980, so I’m thirty-seven. I’m about five foot nine and I have 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 five children, Terri-Ann who we adopted last year and is eight, Kenneil, six, Casimira, two, and our year-old twins, Vitalija and Marko.
Kylie works full-time and I used to say I’m a stay-at-home dad, but so many things have changed in our lives. I still do lots of stuff at home, and most of the cooking, but I also now have a small office in Easthope, a room above the veg shop. I’m a solicitor and I work independently, doing conveyancing and will-writing and stuff like that, but I also do genealogical research for other people.
Over the last few years, I’ve been commissioned to do other things … like finding people, a vanished woman, a dodgy Moroccan, and a mysterious and manipulative Tibetan Lama … Most recently I was asked to investigate a haunted hotel… yes really… This ‘adventure’ if you want to call it that, nearly cost me my life – it sounds as if I’m exaggerating, I’m not. Fortunately, at the time, everything happened so quickly I didn’t realise, but afterwards, afterwards I had to think about things a great deal.
There are four of us Radwinter boys, Marcus who’s fifty-eight, Paul who is fifty-one, and John who’s forty-four…  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 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.
I continued to investigate the people who brought us up, Edward Radwinter and Sylvia Magick, and through this journey into our recent family history, I discovered what caused us to have such traumatic childhoods. Maybe it’s because of this we’ve had to think about our own lives, Marcus and Paul in particular.
In my Radwinter story I discovered some difficult truths about myself as well, which really changed me in ways I can hardly describe. Looking back to me four years ago, I really do feel like a different person now; I think I’m strong and confident… even though I’m still a bit of a bumbling, wittering idiot sometimes…. Well, a lot of the time to be honest! After last year’s dramatic and traumatic events, I’ve had to reassess the sort of commissions I undertake, I’m Mr. Boring now!
So… now our history is closed, and our lives seem settled, well, as much as anyone’s can be!

If you haven’t yet caught up with Thomas and his adventures, here is a link to my books:

Temperature, balance, heat, pain and seeing in the dark!

I wrote a little while ago about the five senses which are so important to consider when writing – well, I think it is. I still have a slight problem with the sound advice of ‘show don’t tell’ – I still sink into the telling mode rather than the showing mode. However, since I know I’m not good on this, I always go through my stories and without going overboard, see if I can enhance what I’ve written by cutting out one and subtly inserting the other.  When I was waffling on about the five senses, touch, smell, sight, sound, taste, I added another which is rather imposingly called thermoception – temperature!

How can temperature enhance a description, or add  tension and drama to a narrative, or in a sort of pathetic fallacy way reflect (or the opposite) what is happening to the characters. As I wrote this sentence I thought back to the Thomas Hardy novel, Return of the Native which we had to plough through for A-level. I confess I’m not a great fan of Hardy, although I do really love aspects of his novels – it’s the feeling of misery and tragedy which I’m often left with when i close the book. There is enough misery and tragedy in the real world without enduring t in the fictional! back to Return of the Native, in a particularity tragic scene where Eustacia’s innocent actions cause the death of Mrs Yeobright, the part that the summer plays in the events add to the drama. Mrs Yeobright who is not a sympathetic character, decides, on a scorchingly hot day, to try and make amends to her son and walks across across the heath (in all the heavy clothes worn in Victorian times) The older woman arrives at the  house, and knocks – but her son is asleep and Eustacia, his wife, not wanting to meet her mother-in-law, rushes out into the back garden. Mrs Yeobright begins to return home through the overpowering heat; she sits down to take a rest and is bitten by an adder… with fatal consequences. The thing I remember about this tragic scene is the overwhelming weather – summer and sunshine which should be so optimistic and good and health-giving, contribute to the tragic death of a woman who was trying to do her best.

In the article I read which first introduced me to this idea of extra senses there were other ideas which we could use as writers –

  • equillibrioception – the sense of balance. This might be an internal or mental balance, a characters actions altered by some emotional upset or crisis. It could, however also be balance impacting literally on events – for example, a wobbly bridge, a fall, a dizzy spell, a precarious mountain path to be traversed…
  • nociception  – the sense of physical pain or discomfort – I guess this could also be mental or emotional pain – and sometimes emotional pain can be physical! I’m sure this has come into most stories at some point! The effect of pain and discomfort can certainly imapct on a person’s mental or emotional well-being – and in a story this can be a trigger for many different narratives!
  • proprioception – the ability to know where our limbs are, even if we are in the dark or can’t see them; this may not be something used very often, but think of all the psychological thrillers based on people being trapped in dark places!

I’m glad I’ve reminded myself of these… I’m getting to a crucial part of my next Radwinter novel, and some of these senses might well find their way into the story!!

This is where you can find more:

…and here is where you can find all my published stories:

Cheese shortbread – sort of

In the very first Radwinter novel, entitled… Radwinter, Thomas, the main character is chatting with his brother’s fiancée, Ruthie about the range of shortbread she has produced –

I asked her about the millionaire’s strawberry shortbread, she’d tried it again with cherries and some almonds in the biscuit and flaked almonds on top… the olives and wine arrived, Ruthie tasted it and said it was lovely, and so it was…

I have such a sweet tooth I told her I’d liked the strawberry shortbread.

“Perhaps you could do a range, the strawberry one, and the cherry, and then… well the caramel made me think of banoffee… so could you do a banana one?” then I felt stupid because she went glazed.

She pulled out a note-book and began to scribble furiously. “Don’t mind me, I just have to write it down while it’s in my head! Brilliant idea, Thomas, any other thoughts?”

“Well not everyone’s got a sweet tooth… how about a cheese one?” the thought just leapt into my head and out of my mouth and I blushed at how stupid it sounded.

She stared at me as if I was mad. She grabbed her wine and took a swig then went back to her notebook.

“Genius, you are a taste genius,” she said scribbling madly.

Later Thomas writes to her:

I asked about the shortbread and suddenly I found I’d written a whole paragraph about it. I’d become a bit fixated on the idea of a savoury millionaire’s shortbread; the shortbread part was ok, cheese, nuts, mustard, seeds, that was fine… but what about the caramel?

You couldn’t have a savoury caramel, unless you put peanut butter in it which is popular… I’d had some really nice peanut butter ice-cream at a food fair Rebecca and I went to. But supposing you just took the idea of having a sweet layer… maybe quince jelly, maybe a sort of syrupy chutney? Maybe a pomegranate sort of jelly stuff? But then what could you do with the top… it has to be chocolate… but chocolate and cheese? Chocolate and peanut butter and cheese? It doesn’t sound right even if you use chilli chocolate… so I was stumped on the chocolate, but I’d give it some more thought.

I’ve never taken up on Thomas’s idea of either savoury shortbread, or a savoury millionaire’s shortbread… but I did come across this recipe:

Cheese shortbread – sort of


  • 8 oz strong cheddar.
  • 4 oz cold butter,  cubed
  • 7 oz plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp paprika or cayenne
  1. rub the dry ingredients together and then add the egg and pull together very lightly into a soft dough OR/
  2. put everything into a food processor and blend in bursts until it’s like breadcrumbs – don’t over work – then pull together into a soft dough
  3. roll into small balls – you should get about 30-40; flatten them slightly as you put them onto a lined baking tray
  4. bake for 10 minutes, at 400˚F, 220˚C, gas mark 8, until golden brown – they will puff up a little
  5. cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

This doesn’t sound like the shortbread Thomas had in mind, but they do sound tasty!

Here is a link to Radwinter in paperback or for Kindle, and you can find out what other ideas Thomas has: