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

What a journey to Radwinter!

It’s a week since I announced the publication of my first paperback!! I am still very excited, and I would like to thank everyone for their kind and positive comments about ‘Radwinter’, and thank you to everyone who has bought a copy!

The adventures of Thomas Radwinter are described as a journey – as he says “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”. My adventures in publishing my book are also a journey!

I’ve always written, and since being grown-up (if I actually am!) I have tried again and again, times without number to find a publisher or an agent. Maybe I wasn’t lucky, maybe I hadn’t the right connections (actually I have no connections in the media/publishing world!) or maybe it was just one of those things, but I had no success… No success until I was able to write full-time and heard that it’s possible to publish e-books through Amazon… which is what I did:

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

That was in 2011… for a while I’d had the idea of writing a story about four brothers, and had even found a family name, Radwinter… in the autumn of 2013 I took part in the on-line challenge, the National Novel Writing Month, the aim of which is to try to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November. I had my characters, I had a vague notion of writing about genealogical research, and the two things came together on November 1st… thirty days and over seventy thousand (70,000+ !!) words later and I was well on my way to my first Radwinter novel.

It was published in 2014, and unexpectedly it was followed by a sequel, and then three more in the series (the latest, Earthquake, published two months ago) I then discovered that I could self-publish my novels as paperbacks!!

To cut a not very long story short, a week ago I was thrilled to announce that a paperback edition of Radwinter is now available!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498553716&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Please let me know what you think of it and how you enjoy it… and here’s a secret, Thomas Radwinter is sorting out Radwinter VI at this very moment!

Anything is possible

Anything, literally anything is possible… when you write!! In your writing you can be anything you want to be, an astronaut, a channel swimmer, the head of a royal family, a maintenance worker on the Forth Road Bridge – you can go back in time and be a housecarl fighting in the battle of Hastings, or a Roman wife on Hadrian’s Wall inviting her friends to a dinner party, a sweeper on the streets of nineteenth century London, or you can go forward in time, or travel to distant places, travel beyond our solar system beyond our galaxy – you can be anything, be anywhere, do whatever you want… when you write!

You can be more modest and write about a different life in today’s world, but even then you can change your age, your gender, your talents and abilities, your character – you can make yourself ‘better’ than you are, or infinitely worse!

My characters in my books are just ordinary people who just live pretty ordinary lives. Although i don’t write in the first person for all my novels, I do try and ‘become my characters to properly understand why they do and say the things they do and say. I write far more than ever appears in my stories because I’m filling in these people’s lives so they are there as rounded characters and I hope believable characters before they ever land there on the page!

For example, in ‘night vision’, the story of a couple whose marriage is on the brink of disaster, some of the husband’s actions and behaviour seems inexplicable (as it does with real people in real life) but I know why he is as he is, and even though by the end when I hope the reader will accept him as believable, and even though not all his behaviours have been explained, I will know in my omniscient author way! We met people in real life and don’t know why they are as they are, do as they do, say what they say, so I want it to be the same in my books (without being frustrating r annoying!!)

So going back to my original thought of being able to be whatever and whoever you like when you write, I guess the most extreme example for me might be Rudi in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’, and of course Thomas Radwinter, whose life and adventures I’ve chronicled over several books!

Here are links to my e-books:

night vision – https://www.amazon.co.uk/night-vision-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00BMZ6UWY/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-8&keywords=lois+elsden

The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – https://www.amazon.co.uk/STALKING-ROSA-CZEKOV-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B008D29O5Y/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-11&keywords=lois+elsden

The Radwinter stories – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-7&keywords=lois+elsden

and my first paperback so far, Radwinter – https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498298842&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

Borrowing an expression

The word ‘expression’ has several different meanings including –

  • The action of making known one’s thoughts or feelings
  • The conveying of feeling in a work of art or in the performance of a piece of music
  • A look on someone’s face that conveys a particular emotion
  • A word or phrase, especially an idiomatic one, used to convey an idea
  • A collection of symbols that jointly express a quantity
  • The production of something by pressing it out.
  • The appearance in a phenotype of a characteristic or effect attributed to a particular gene

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/expression

However the meaning I’m using is the expression on someone’s face, and ‘borrowing’ an expression is what I sometimes do as a writer! I don’t just mean the way someone has arranged their features, eyebrows down, eyebrows raised, quirky eyebrows, surprised eyebrows etc, or the type of smile, or what someone is doing with their eyes – although that is all part of the way a writer observes things and uses them.

I confess, I borrow whole faces – for example in my Radwinter stories, the inspiration for my characters. appearances came from:

  • Thomas – a Danish actor
  • Marcus – a well-known chef and restaurateur
  • Paul – a TV personality and baker
  • John – someone who works in my local bookshop
  • Kylie – a contestant on a cookery show
  • Justyna – someone who I used to teach English
  • Kim – a flower shop owner

It’s just their faces, you understand, which were the original inspiration, but those faces have changed as the characters develop in my stories.

To get back to expressions – sometimes I observe an expression on someone’s face which seems unexpected… unexpected in the situation or circumstances, unexpected because it seems different from their usual character, unexpected because it was private and I’ve glimpsed it accidentally… This makes me sound like a weird stalker type – honestly I’m not! I’ll give you some examples –

  • a happy family occasion, but a couple look tense and nervous – they assume jolly expressions when anyone else talks to them, but sitting at their table as the celebration goes on around them, their faces assume a different look
  • someone shakes hands with an acquaintance, a serious but pleasant greeting seems to follow; however as they turn away a look of malicious glee flashes across their face, just for a second
  • someone in a bar, comfortable, at ease, leaning on the counter and talking to friends, totally relaxed, laughing, joking, chatting; ever so often, when the conversation is with others, or while waiting for service, their gaze is directed into the other bar at two men talking together… then the face becomes still, the humour gone, a very focused look comes over their face
  • there’s someone in a café, just having a coffee and a sandwich, a pleasant, amiable look on their face as they look at their phone, glance through the menu or round the room at the pictures and photos on the walls. Their gaze comes to rest on something, whether it’s actually being looked at or another thought has come into their head, nothing to do with anything will never be known, but a surprised look seems to come over their features – they have thought of something, remembered something, realised something… so deep in thought that when someone comes to clear the table they hardly notice
  • the ceramic plaque in my featured image, what is the character looking at, is his mouth dropped open in surprise (pleasant or unpleasant) amazement, has he just thought of something or is he looking at something, is it a malign or benign expression?

These are just a few examples – it isn’t the person as such, or what they look like, it’s that look on their face, that expression which triggers some inspiration for me!

If you want to read about Thomas and his brothers, family and friends, the you can find my books on Amazon; the first in the Radwinter series has just been published as a paperback:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498122900&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

 

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…

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