My name is Thomas Radwinter…

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to Earthquake:

Radwinter… 1-4, book 2

Over the next two weeks I am going to share excerpts from my novels about Thomas Radwinter; he starts by tracing his own family history, and then later investigates other people’s stories, and not just genealogical ones, but mysteries in their everyday lives.

Each of the four novels starts with an introduction from Thomas which is amended in each novel as his personal life changes.

His story starts in the autumn of 2013, but continues the following year; this part opens when he is looking into the maternal side of his family, the Magicks. He uses a genealogical site, MyTimeMachine, and here he is ploughing through all he can find out about the Magick family, but being Thomas he works in a back to front way, starting with the 1841 census, rather than with more recent generations:

I got a bit of a shock, I can tell you because there were no Magicks in 1841. I thought there might have been at least one of us. I soon got over my shock though as I remembered the way the Radwinters had seemed to disappear and reappear, so I changed the setting on the search of the 1841 census to allow variations in spelling.
I came up with fourteen different names which had an approximate similarity to Magick; there were Macks and Moggs in Cornwall which I had already discarded, and now, from my fourteen names I also got rid of Migus, Mogus, Mugus and Mugack straight away. They seemed too much like a firm of small town solicitors… and that was too uncomfortably close to my former life.
Then I also got rid of Mages, Magus, Maguss and Mayguss… maybe they were a firm of accountants… Stop it! Concentrate!  These seemed names related to each other, as did Magos and Maguss and Meggis, so I discounted them too.
That leaves me with Magwick, Megicks and Megwick and I can see that maybe a name something like one of these might have changed into Magick. I might have to go back to the discards, but I’ll have a little look at these three names and see where they lead. I worked so hard on the Radwinter trail that now I’m quite adept at finding my way through the records on MyTimeMachine.
It’s a good site, but I haven’t properly tapped into all its resources; I want to look at maps at some point to see exactly where my ancestors lived; I want to look at newspapers, I’m sure there’s plenty of reports about the Radwinters in Easthope.
Back to the 1841 census. The Magwicks all come from the south-east, Sussex and Surrey: Chichester, Worthing, Midhurst, Chailey, West Firle & Newhaven, Farnham and Hambledon. I’ll look them up on a map in a minute. The Megicks all come from Lampeter in Wales, and the Megwicks come from the north-east, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
I side-track, looking at names… It’s so interesting the waves of popularity of different names and in this small selection there are a few unusual ones too, Jenat and Clement…
Back to the task in hand, back to MyTimeMachine, and I’ve lost the page; I call it up again, and I do one of those funny things I sometimes do, and I typed Hagick instead of Magick… and up pops a family of Hagis’s, including Horatio Hagis. What a name!
I’ve seen before that sometimes whoever transcribes the census returns (and I’ve read somewhere that prisoners in jail do it) – makes errors; it’s understandable because to be frank, sometimes the writing is pretty illegible. I just have a feeling about Horatio, I mean what a splendid name, Horatio Hagis!  There are six Hagis’s, John and Ann who are adults, and their children Charlotte, 9, Elizabeth, 3, William, 0, and Horatio 11.
I’m supposing Hagis was mis-transcribed from Magic; I hesitated to look for some reason and I took my cup through to the little kitchen at the back of the house and washed it up, dried it, and put it away. Rebecca trained me well… Rebecca, my ex-wife…
I always feel guilty that I think about her. I mentioned it in a mumbly way to my brother Paul who was married and had four boys with his ex-wife; he said it was normal; I’d been married to Rebecca for nearly ten years and had been with her before that, not exactly half my life but a long time. It was to be expected, he said. I still don’t like it… I don’t like remembering the last horrible year of our marriage, and maybe don’t like to remember even more the previous not horrible and sometimes quite happy years…
I went upstairs to check on Kenneil; he looked so sweet, I was overwhelmed with love for this little boy and stood smiling down at him in a soppy way. He’s a little rascal sometimes, not surprising really; but he’s a good little chap and when he gets used to this new life with me and his Mama I’m sure he’ll be fine.
Back to Horatio; I have such a strong feeling about him. I look again at the transcription; John and Ann and the younger three, Charlotte, Elizabeth and baby William are all in Bedminster, I have no idea where that is. Horatio is in North Witchford and I have no idea where that is either.
John and Ann live in Watery Lane in Nailsea, in the registration district of Bedminster in Somerset, and when I go onto the copy of the census page I can see that their name really is Hagis, not a misreading of Magic. The writing is so extremely faint that I have to zoom right in and squint at the screen. I can’t make out what occupation John has, I think it might be boat something, boat builder maybe? But it looks more like boat liner and then I realise it’s not a B but a very curly C and he is a coalminer. Coalmining, in Somerset? Really? But that’s where all the farmland was flooded; it looked flat and farmy and not a bit like a coalmining area, but this was a hundred and seventy years ago.  He has three children, and he is definitely Hagis not Magic.
So, to young Horatio Hagis and here he is on his own in North Witchford, and my heart sinks… he is in a workhouse…
But however sorry I feel for young Horatio, I have to check and see if really he’s Magic not Hagis; even if he is, it doesn’t mean that he’s anything to do with us. I’m getting the feeling that, just as Radwinter was adopted by my namesake Thomas, Magick too might be a name which has muddled itself into existence at some time in the nineteenth century.
I sit back from looking at the facsimile of the census return for Horatio in the North Witchford workhouse and wonder if perhaps this time my back to front way of working is a bit stupid; maybe I should start with my parents, Sylvia Magick who married Edward Radwinter, known as Raddy, then find her parents and work backwards as far as I can. I’ve begun to think of him as Raddy, not Edward, it’s easier, not as painful…

If you would like to find out what happens to Thomas, here is a link to my book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/MAGICK-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00OHV4MR0/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1482493049&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

… and here is a link to my other e-books:

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

Telling tales

I sometimes think my head is too full of words – I think this when I forget where I’m going and go somewhere else by mistake because something interesting is going on inside my head, I think this when I forget to be where I’m supposed to be, or forget to do something I’m supposed to do, and I think this as the hours flash by as I write – at the moment it’s my next Radwinter story, my ‘And the river…‘ piece for the National Novel Writing Month Challenge (50, 000 words of a new novel in November – I’m only a third of the way to that target which means a heck of a lot of words between now and the 30th!) it’s my blog here and the blog I have with two friends The Moving Dragon Writes, and something each month for my writing group (yesterday it was something about the cosmos, cosmology and/or humour) and preparation for the two writing groups I actually lead… which you must admit all involves an awful lot of words.

However, I have an idea, which I have mentioned here before about starting another writing group,. this time for people to think of how they might write their own life stories and how they might tell the stories of their family, and the ancestors – some of whom some people might have found through their interest in genealogy and family history.

Genealogy is very exciting, and utterly absorbing to those who are doing it, finding out an ancestor might have been a fellmonger, or had a deaf and dumb brother who died in prison (or maybe an asylum) because he was supposed to have murdered the village school mistress, nearly hacking off her head… But when you come to tell someone, a son or daughter, a cousin’s grandchild, or any one else in the family, then the answer is often a slightly polite ‘oh, mmm, interesting...’ and a glazed look. But creating a story, imagining what the woman who fell through the ice while skating was wearing, or the conversation between two grandparents who met for the first time – maybe sitting next to each other at a concert, or walking in the park, or strolling along a promenade (we’ll never know but we can imagine) suddenly makes the story more interesting and can put over the facts as well – embroidered maybe, but the facts all the same.

Maybe next spring I will see if there is any interest from people to write their history, tell their stories – I wouldn’t poaching people from other interest groups, I wouldn’t be telling or helping people how to find out about their ancestors, but to suggest ways to present what they’ve found out… Maybe next spring!

PS a fellmonger used to work with and deal in furs and skins

If you haven’t read my actual sotirs,here is a link to my e-novels:

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%2C140&crid=2PRKT8K657YP7

…and here is a link to our writer’s blog – if you have a story, poem or any piece of writing you want to share, get in touch:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com/

NaNoWriMo changed my life!

We are approaching November, and for many writers it means the challenge National Novel Writing Month; for those who don’t know what this is, it’s an on-line ‘competition’ to write fifty thousand words of a new novel in the month of November – 50,000 words in 30 days! There are no actual prizes apart from the satisfaction of completing, although you can download a certificate, and there are various ‘goodies’ offered if you complete.

I have done it over the last three years, and from it came three novels, however this year I really am not sure I can add another writing task to what I already do. I am finishing off my next Thomas Radwinter book, I am blogging here and on our other writing blog, https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com , and I’m working on other things too! Oh, and my two creative writing groups I lead, and the one I attend, and the Moving Dragon writing group as well… oh and of course there is my life outside writing!

So I am not sure… however I did come across something I wrote three years ago before embarking on my first NaNo experience! I have added notes to my original post:

National Novel Writing Month… November… I have signed up to the challenge of writing 50,00 words in a month… my novels are usually longer than that so I have no expectation to actually write a whole novel… but can I even write a decent chunk of a novel? 50,000 whole words…

  • I need to get to grips with my story about the Radwinter family and what happens when they try to find out where their family comes from – combining my interest in genealogy, my love of mysteries, and plenty of characters. Little did I know this would lead to five novels about the family!
  • There is the mysterious beginning of a story I found which I have no memory of writing, or even any idea of where it might be going… a lonely man is wandering around a river estuary then goes to the pub… that’s it. This still hasn’t gone anywhere, but I do go back to it from time to time!
  • There is a recent idea I have of two friends driving along a motorway when suddenly the driver sees something, swings over to the hard shoulder and jumps out and runs back along the carriageway and vanishes… This story-line was used in my Radwinter novel ‘Raddy and Syl’
  • I’m wondering whether to use this as an opportunity to write in a different genre… dare I try something historical, would I get bogged down with  panic about being accurate or anachronistic? Could I wrote a fictional account of the mysterious love affair of my great-grandparents, Louis and Lois? This is still an idea… I am hoping to visit Tasmania where Louis was born and lived; maybe that will inspire me!
  • … or a more recent historical novel could be set in the seventies based on my own life but made much more exciting! Maybe this will happen, but it’s a long way off… unless it becomes this year’s NaNo – hey, that’s not a bad idea!!
  • … a truly different genre would be steam punk which I have only discovered about two weeks ago but have never read (it’s a type of science fiction featuring steam-driven machines…) No, just no.
  • Fantasy seems to be fashionable, and I have read some I enjoyed, but there is such a lot of it out there, and some of it, sub-Tolkien is really rather awful and very clichéed Another big no
  • …or should I just wait until November 1st and see what happens? Well, this worked the last three times, so maybe…

I will keep you up to date… success, or failure, I’ll let you know! Yes, indeed I will!

So how did NaNo change my life? Well, it wasn’t just that it showed me I could do it, and was a good and much-needed discipline, it also launched my Radwinter stories, and the main character Thomas has become a big part of my writing life. As I mentioned I am just completing Radwinter V, and have ideas for Radwinter VI too! Oh and there is all my other writing as well… so many ideas!

Here is a link to my Amazon page where you can find all four Radwinter novels, plus my other novels too:

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

…and if you feel inspired to have a go at the National Novel Writing Month challenge, here is a link:

http://nanowrimo.org/

 

Buzz

We’ve had a lovely weekend away with cousins, they live in a very old village not far from Swindon, and as well as being excellent company, they always  find interesting places to take us and things to do and see. So it was this weekend, a walk to an ancient stone barrow grave, continuing round an ancient and mysterious monument, to a canal with a very long flight of locks, a beer museum, a bronze age hill fort, a writer’s house… oh and picnics, barbecues, curry and cake!

Because harmful pesticides are no longer used as much, the countryside was full of the most wonderful array of flowers, and even though the weekend was rather cloudy and grey it was lit up by the colour of these plants growing naturally across meadows, fields and hillsides. Where there are flowers the are bees, and as we walked along all we could hear was the sound of skylarks and the hum of bees busily searching for nectar.

As usual, my mind was buzzing with thoughts, images storing in my mind, words and phrases, ideas, for the things I am writing now and new ideas too… I have my long novel to finish editing, I have my latest Radwinter novel to finish writing, plus my other thoughts and ideas… the grim house by the river, the forgotten poet, the Neolithic chambered tomb with the flowers and fossils arranged in a little pattern on a stony ledge deep inside…

I was thinking just now that my thoughts were like bees buzzing – which is a recurring image in my long story…

‘In her dream James and Jaco were playing chess and becoming increasingly annoyed with each other What they didn’t seem to realise was the pieces were actually alive and were moving from square to square of their own accord.
“Let music soothe the savage bees,” she said and began to play the mandolin. The chess pieces had become bees and they flew to the window.’

… and…

She was dreaming of bees again. Even as she dreamt she thought she ought to find out if there was any significance in the image. They were golden and precious and maybe made of metal, maybe their wings were studied with sparkling gems… but it was a dream and the buzzing was her phone, vibrating on the table beside her bed.

This somehow led me to think about a more famous poem by Isaac Watts; I’m sure many people know this poem, but few would know who wrote it. Isaac Watts was born in Southampton into an extremely religious family and in fact hos father was imprisoned twice for his beliefs. Isaac was born in 1674 and he too became a minister; he wrote many hymns and other religious works, his most famous hymns are probably ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’, ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun’, ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’  and ‘Joy to the world’. He died in 1748 and although few people might know him, many people will know this short poem:

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

Why might so many people know this? Because of Lewis Carroll’s parody in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
If you haven’t read any of my Radwinter genealogical mysteries, here is a link:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden