Dec. 29—By Katina Zentz
As the soft diffused light of late morning streamed through the windows of his home office, Charlie Ross stood up and walked over to his bookshelf. The wooden unit held dozens of books, all carefully aligned in delicate rows. He ran his fingers over the various covers and stopped at the title he was searching for.
It was a book about his family's genealogy.
Ross smiled as he flipped through the pages. Ross was born in Frederick and was deeply interested in this research. He later published his findings in several volumes after spending 25 years studying his family genealogy.
But although Ross researched many family members, one relative's story specifically piqued his interest. The details of her life captivated Ross, and he decided to research her background further.
Based on the true story of his sixth-great-grandmother, Ross, 88, has published a series of four historical fiction novels that explore the life of Tamsen Meserve Ham Tibbetts. The books, "Tamsen's Quest," "Tamsen's Dilemma," "Tamsen's Fateful Journey" and "Tamsen's False Accusers," are part of Tamsen's Chronicle, in that order. All of the novels were published in late October 2021 through Ross' self-publishing company, Ring Gold Publishing.
The series delves into the world of Tamsen, a mother living in New Hampshire in the 1720s. Her life takes a turn when her husband is killed and two of her daughters are abducted by the Abenaki tribe, an indigenous group located in parts of northeastern North America. The series follows Tamsen's journey to find her family, while the two daughters, Rachel and Anne, must adapt to the new challenges they face.
Ross explains Tamsen was a bold and determined woman. She dealt with many life-changing events at a young age and continued to persevere. At 22 years old, she was scalped, causing her to wear her vibrant auburn hair in a combed-over braid, as seen on the books' covers. Living on the open New Hampshire land, Tamsen was an excellent horse-woman and a "crack shot," according to Ross.
"I ran across [Tamsen], and I've always wanted to write fiction," said Ross. "She was a woman way ahead of her time."
Tamsen's story offered a gateway to a new form of writing for Ross. Although this is his first fiction series, he has decades of experience writing nonfiction and conducting research for his books. Along with his published volumes on his family's genealogy, Ross' published nonfiction books include "Computer Systems for Occupational Safety and Health Management" and "Making Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles."
"I've always been a writer," Ross said.
Ross utilized many of these same researching skills while writing Tamsen's Chronicle. He analyzed historical documents and family records to clearly understand the timeline of major events throughout the series.
And his research did not end there. In 2017, Ross ventured to the archives in Concord, New Hampshire, to uncover records regarding a court case involved in the series. The legal document, written in Old English, required more time to decipher, but Ross knew the accuracy was essential and researched a spelling guide to help him translate the record.
"Investigation is part of my DNA by this time, so researching stuff is what I always do," he said.
}Although the chronicle is based on true events, Ross explains that the novels are classified as fiction when speaking parts are included. After gathering the information he needed from the historical documents, he then added conversations and descriptions to tie the scenes together.
This task was not always easy. Ross had to extend his research and study intricate details about everyday life in the 1700s. But as he continued to gather more elements, Ross started to truly connect with his characters. Sometimes, he felt like they were almost speaking back to him. Occasionally this would cause his writing to take an unexpected turn from his original outline.
"One character would ask another character a question, and my story would take a different direction," he said. "And I'm saying 'Wait a minute, I didn't plan that.' It's an interesting process."
Ross started writing the chronicle in 2017, after finishing his genealogy books in 2015. As part of his writing process, Ross would strive to write 1,000 words a day. He would start his day after breakfast and begin by editing pages completed from the day before.
By the time he had finished the book, Ross realized the novel would reach 1,600 pages if published. He then decided to split his writing into separate novels, each containing around 400-500 pages. This led to the creation of the four books in Tamsen's Chronicle, which are all available on Amazon.
Although creative fiction is different from his previous works, Ross explains that he thoroughly enjoyed writing this series. He was drawn to historical fiction as a "trained investigator," and appreciates the different directions the genre can take.
"When you get into fiction, you're freer," said Ross.