Loving Books That Read to Me!

Audiobooks to Love

Audiobooks, a blog post by Cindy Thomson

Photo by Sascha Kohlmann

I get my reading done in several ways. I’m not one of those that proclaim ebooks as the only way to go these days or one of those who insist on having a real paper book in their hands. I do it all, including audio, because they each offer their own conveniences. Long car trips call for audiobooks, especially if I’m driving. But I also like to listen while I do the laundry or clean the house or take a walk. You would be surprised how much time there is to read if you take advantage of every opportunity.

Narrators, the Good and the Bad

The quality of audiobooks vary, but I get mine from the library so I don’t mind giving up on them if I don’t care for either the book itself or the narration. Recently I gave up on one because I liked neither. The narrator was so sing-song sweet it made me nauseous. I dislike when the narrator swallows loudly on tape or forgets which character he is voicing and gets it mixed up. Just my own personal pet peeves.

The All-Girl FillingHowever, some are wonderful. Like Fannie Flagg. Oh. My. Goodness. You have to listen to her and her southern drawl. Another author narrator I thought did an excellent job is James Rubart. Some folks just have the voice for it. (Not me!)

I have listened to enough Irish books that I began to recognize the narrator. She has just enough Irish lilt to her voice to add flavor but not so much that we Americans can’t understand her. Her name is Sile Bermingham (Sile is pronounced Sheila.) She narrated Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd and some Maeve Binchy books.

I think Adam Verner does a wonderful job with Stephen Lawhead’s novels. He’s done other work too, but Lawhead is my experience with him. Nice, non irritating voice. Want to have a listen?

Top Honors: My Favorite Narration So Far

Goes to….

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.The Help Different voices for different characters. It was like listening to a play. Of course, it’s a wonderful book as well.

What’s your favorite audiobook?

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3 Books I’ve Read This Year

Why Just Three?

Basically so that I can talk more about books in a later blog post! I’ve read more than these, but I’m behind in my self-imposed Goodreads challenge. The truth is, I’ve given up on several books this year, so if you count partial reads, I’m beyond my challenge. I know that people feel differently on the topic of whether or not to finish a book that you’ve already invested time in, but for me I’m not going to stick with a book that doesn’t grab me–especially if it irritates me. (Another topic for another post!)

So I thought I’d pick a few that I did enjoy and showcase them.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Have I mentioned that I love historical fiction? Since this one was a best-seller, I decided to give it a try. Rich in detail surrounding the Chinese and Japanese communities in Seattle and California both during WWII and in the 1980s, this book had a mystery to be solved and a character’s heart that needed healing. Loved it!Hotel_on_the_Corner_of_Bitter_and_Sweet_cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

My reading list usually contains a few books by Irish authors. I’ve found some really wonderful stories from over the pond. This one is set during the troubles when teenage Fergus and his uncle discover a bog buried in a bog. This happens from time to time in Ireland because bogs preserve history. With the mystery of how this child was murdered back in ancient times, Fergus’s brother protesting his political imprisonment by starvation, and his unlikely friendship with a British boarder guard, the story kept me enthralled. Highly recommended.

bog child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Widow of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green

After visiting Gettysburg I wanted to learn more about how the battles affected the small population of townspeople. This book was just the thing. Not at all easy to read about, but realistic and compelling. As Liberty Holloway endures trial after trial, she also learns something about herself and her ability to care for everyone no matter their race or political conviction. But that is nothing compared to what she learns about the mother she’d never known, and a history she had no idea she was a part of. It’s also a love story, and a story about compassion, which is welcome considering the horrific subject.

The Widow of Gettysburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you read any of these novels? I would love to hear what you thought!

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Reacting to Feedback

Annie's Stories by Cindy ThomsonRight off the top let me say this is not about negative feedback. There will always be people who will not get my work. (Thanks to author Susan Meissner for teaching me that.) Negative reviews are part of the business and to be expected. But that is not to say there isn’t something to be learned from reading reviews, both positive and not so great.

You Can Say That Again

I look for reoccurring statements and think about them. Is there something there I should learn from? Maybe, maybe not so much. But, yeah. Probably there is, whether I want to admit it or not.

For instance. Many reviewers have said my novels are a bit slow. That did not bother some. It did others. Reading is so very subjective. Perhaps there is something I could do in future stories to speed up the action a bit, but only a bit. I’m not going to try to start writing thrillers that hurl you into the action. One of my writer friends noted a trend of writers beginning with an action scene that ultimately had nothing to do with the novel’s plot. I’ve been taught, by wonderful editors, that every single scene needs to matter. The scenes move the story forward.

Not a Kissy-Kissy Story

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Talking about romance in novels

shutterpa via Flickr

What I keep reading over and over again is that the romance in my books unfolds slowly, that the books are low-romance, and that it makes sense that way. Better I let the reviewers express this:

“Thomson’s story development is refreshing in that Thomson knows how to develop relationships slowly while keeping the action moving. The romance feels authentic and the story keeps you hooked with suspense, drama and emotion.”

“The story wasn’t just a love story, but about self discovery, forgiveness, and family. “

“And while this story does include a romance, it is not of the highly emotional variety. The two characters have only brief meetings, and it takes a while for them to forget the mistakes and hurts of their past enough to face the future. Personally, I found it refreshing to read a love story that, while sweet, was also more realistic that most.”

“…sweet story with a very light romantic bent to it.”

“The romance feels authentic and the story keeps you hooked with suspense, drama and emotion.”

“Cindy has a way of writing characters that are totally believable. There is a sweet love story in the novel…”

So, I call it romance “light.”

My Voice, My Stories

When I finished this story my agent said, “Please tell me there is romance in this story.” There is, although it may not be typical. I prefer to call it a love story, and like many of my readers are saying, the romance flows at a rate that is believable for these characters. How can anyone who has trust issues due to what they’ve been through fling themselves into a romantic relationship. I just could not make Annie do that, although she does see something of her father in Stephen, something that is appealing.

So what do you think? You can voice your opinion. Click here!

 

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4 Reasons I Love Book Festivals

Cindy Thomson, Sandy Hart, Books by the Banks

Me with friend and fellow author Sandy Hart who came to see me at Books By The Banks in Cincinnati.

1. A Book Festival is About Readers

It’s not about the authors, regardless of how it might seem. Book festivals are an opportunity for readers to meet authors and ask questions. And boy do readers have questions. I absolutely love that! Everything from why did you write this book to what did you learn while researching this story?

2. It’s a Celebration of Books!

Everyone comes to learn, to gather, to shop for gifts, and they are all there because of books! Children’s books, young adult books, fiction, non fiction, art books, illustrated books, wee books and heavy coffee table books. Librarians, artists, and writers. It’s an atmosphere charged with creativity.

3. I Get Away From My Desk

Cindy Thomson at Books By The Banks in Cincinnati

I was asked to describe myself in one word.

Writing is for the most part a solitary undertaking. Getting out and talking to readers energizes me for the long hours ahead. If I know who I’m writing for, that people are actually enjoying my tales, I feel better about getting writer’s cramp and drinking so much tea while I work. (Well, okay, indulging in so much chocolate too. It’s a necessity.)

4. New Readers are Introduced to My Characters

It’s hard to get noticed these days in the vast ocean of books out there. Going to a book festival enables me to say, hey, here are some new stories you might want to try, to people who might not otherwise run across them. It’s marketing, yes, but for me it’s mostly sharing. Some are not interested, and that’s fine. At least we got to exchange smiles.

What About You? Have you been to a book festival? Which one? What did you like about it? If not, would you consider it sometime? (Just Google book festivals in your area or ask your local librarian where they are.)

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Stepping Into the Past

Deadman's Curve NYC, www.cindyswriting.comHow to Go Back in Time

How many of us have remarked that we wished for a time machine. We have to see and experience things ourselves to truly understand them. But since that’s not possible, we can do the next best thing (something I always try to do when writing historical fiction) and read the words and thoughts of those who lived before us. There are a few ways to accomplish this.

Read Their Words

ThomsonFamilyBook

Thomson Family Book

There is nothing like a diary or journal to get into the mindset of the people of the past. Did you know John Adams kept a diary? Here is a fascinating list of online historical diaries. There are slave narratives (audio believe it or not) on the National Archives web site.

You can find more at local historical societies and libraries. Sometimes they are hard to read but worth the effort. My husband found a hand-written genealogy written in 1888 by one of his relatives. It’s not just a genealogy, though. It has memories and stories that relatives told as well, including one man who was a chaplain in the Union army and accompanied the troops on Sherman’s march to the sea. It has remembrances about how one man’s mother was distressed when he joined a different church until a pastor set the mother straight, and even one interesting story about a trip to a fortune teller.

Live in Their Society

Nothing beats contemporary newspapers for learning about the world our ancestors lived in. Of course you can look for names and dates, but to get a feel for how they lived their lives and what events influenced them, read newspapers and magazines. The magazines often contained serial fiction that later was put into books that you’ve probably heard of. In my novel Annie’s Stories I talk about Harper’s doing this, and you can even read some issues online here. For historical newspapers look here.

Russian Immigrants at Ellis Island, www.cindyswriting.comLook at Photographs

There are many sites where you can find old photographs, and just doing a Google search will bring up many. If you’ve ever seen photographs of immigrants at Ellis Island, you’ve probably seen Augustus Sherman’s photographs. He makes a cameo appearance in my novel Grace’s Pictures. I love to study the expressions, but you can also learn a lot from the clothing (were they rich or poor?) and even from the setting (in a studio, at home, outside?) Those Ellis Island photographs often depict people in their native garb, something they may have quickly discarded once they stepped foot in Battery Park when relatives met them with more American clothing (so they wouldn’t stand out.)

Dutch Immigrant at Ellis Island

These are just a few things that help me go back in time. What other ideas do you have?

Posted in ancestors, Annie's Stories, Ellis Island, families, genealogy, Grace's Pictures, immigrants, photographs, research, true stories | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Civil War Trail of my Ancestor, A Case Study

The Story of A Civil War Solider

So many letters exist detailing the experiences of Civil War soldiers. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any written by Edward B. Myrick, the Civil War ancestor I’ve been trailing. But that didn’t stop me from trying to find out more about him. He was born in Clermont County, Ohio, in July of 1845. He mustered in with the Ohio 89th Volunteer Infantry, Company F, at Camp Dennison in Ohio near Cincinnati. He was 18, 5′ 6″, light complexion, gray eyes, light hair, born in Clermont County, and was a farmer. This I found in his Civil War Pension File from the National Archives.

The Company History

Camp Dennison where author Cindy Thomson's ancestor mustered in.

Camp Dennison depicted in Harper’s Weekly

I was able to find out what the company Edward was attached to was doing when. This became valuable information when I was trying to patch together his own experience, because for nearly two years he was not with his company. He hadn’t gone AWOL, even though the rolls often listed him as absent.

The company was ordered to Covington, KY, shortly after being organized in August of 1862. They participated in the defense of Cincinnati against threatened attack. When I visited the Roebling wall murals in Covington, KY, with friends this summer, I had no idea one of the mural represented something my ancestor did.

Roebling mural depicting ancestor of author Cindy Thomson

Civil War Soldiers crossing over the Ohio River.

From there they went to Point Pleasant, WV, on October 5, and attached to several other units. They advanced to Falls of the Kanawha, VA, October 10-November 3 and then moved on to Fayetteville Court House until January, 1863. From there they went to Nashville, TN; Carthage, TN; Murfreesboro, TN; and the Tullahoma Campaign June 23-July 7. They were part of the Occupation of Middle Tennessee until August. In late July Edward fell sick. This is where the rolls contained at the National Archives helped me out. (Although in one place it says he was sick in June.) He was in “Convalescent Camp Gallatin, TN.” There was a lot of fighting going on in August in and around Gallatin. You can read about it here.

There were 108 beds at this hospital. He first shows up in Hospital Muster Rolls of the Cumberland USA General Hospital in Nashville, TN, July & Aug 1863, and is listed “sick.” There are 900 beds here. He remains listed there as sick through Feb. 1865. Back in Gallatin the muster rolls listed “1st Battalion of Convalescents.” The Nashville rolls don’t list this. I had to look that up.

What Injured and Sick Soldiers Did While Waiting to Rejoin Their Units

This book: The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein, has some interesting information. Look it up if you want more in depth information, but basically soldiers in these hospitals could be called upon for defense if needed, and were often given nursing duties. They could be furloughed if their recovery was expected to take more than 30 days, but there is no evidence Edward ever went home during this time. I’m not sure I’ll ever know what he was doing during this time or how sick he really was.

The Ohio 89th’s History

In the meantime Edward’s Company moved on to Georgia and participated in many campaigns, including the Siege of Atlanta and of Savannah. When they began the Campaign of the Carolinas, which came after Sherman’s march to the sea, Edward rejoined them, probably in March of 1865. He participated in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C., on May 24, and his company was mustered out and paid at Camp Dennison in June. A regiment is normally 1000 men. A company has about 100. Edward’s regiment lost three officers and 47 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded. They lost five officers and 245 men by disease. A total of 300. I’m not a Civil War expert, but I think they fared better than most. Disease was the biggest killer of men during the Civil War. I have another ancestor who died from disease having not fought at all.

 

Great great grandfather of author Cindy Thomson

My great great grandfather Edward B. Myrick

That’s what I have on Edward so far, except to say that right after the war he moved to Indiana, got married, had children, and died in 1907.

If you have any research that crosses any of this, please let me know!

 

There is a really interesting web site dedicated to the Ohio 89th here. Also I’ve contributed Edward’s complete pension file records on this site. You can find it under “Other Information.”

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Old Family Bibles Seek Reunions

Old family Bible in a post by www.cindyswriting.com

From Flickr: Chuck Coker

You Mean We Have a Family Bible?

That’s what Billie Jean King said on an episode of PBS’s Finding Your Roots. I have a family Bible our church gave us as a wedding present, but no ancient family Bible that I know of. However, Bibles were used by our ancestors to record births, deaths, and marriages–just the kinds of details family historians are looking for. So chances are you have a family Bible. You just don’t know about it.

ourBiblepage

Where to Find Old Family Bibles

Ebay. It’s incredible how many old Bibles are out there. Another option is to keep your eyes open when you’re at antique and second-hand shops. But truly the chances of finding your family Bible are slim this way. Fortunately there are web sites and message boards seeking to reunite families with their Bibles. I admit I’ve never been lucky enough to find mine. I recently found a listing for a Myrick family Bible, but alas I could not make any connections with the names in the Bible or the location. But if you’d like to try, here’s the message board: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/ancestors/b-found.html

I haven’t tried this. It requires a membership but will alert you when something shows up with your surname: http://www.justajoy.com Anyone tried it?

Here is a collection of Family Bible web sites: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~familybibles/

Did your family attend a church? Check to see if a Bible was donated there. Chances are they’d be happy to give it to you.

Genealogy centers or historical societies often have surname files that contain photocopies of information from family Bibles.

It’s Not My Family Bible

The most likely scenario is that you’ll be shopping and come across an old family Bible that is not connected to you. If you feel compelled to reunite it with the proper family, buy it and list it on one of these sites. I have never done this, but I think I would if I could afford it. We have several old family Bibles at our church that were donated over the years. Eventually someone in those families is probably going to want them. I think we need to help each other out and patch those connections back the way they belong, don’t you?

Why Family Bibles are Helpful

I recently connected with a distant cousin online. I told her I had never been able to find when my 4x great grandfather died. He is not her line, but she had a family Bible with the date written in, most likely by his sister. Sometimes these records are the only ones that have the information we are looking for.

Tell me the story of your family Bible.

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What Was Here Before?

Getting a Historical Perspective

History geeks like me are always thinking about what a place looked like a hundred or two hundred years ago. For example, ever since I heard that the area around Plain City, Ohio, had been a hunting ground for Indians because it was where the buffalo roamed, I think about that when I’m driving past on I70. It’s so flat there, and I can just imagine it.

I discovered a children’s book years ago when I went to hear the author speak at a library that gives perspective. Perhaps it’s just how writers think, I’m not sure. It’s called Who Came Down That Road by George Ella Lyon. It explores the fact that a road or path has probably been used by people and animals for centuries.

51vgWM6qnXLHistorical Novelists Are Rightful Daydreamers

We live in the past, yet we’re writing for today’s readers. Can you see how that can make us a little bit…conflicted? (You thought I was going to say crazy, didn’t you?) This is why many novelists have “Do Not Disturb the Writer” signs on their doors. It’s a delicate state of sanity requiring much concentration!

Nobody Gets in to See the Wizard Sign

Similar to the sign Jerry Jenkins has outside his office.

Why You Too Should Envision the Past

We’ve all heard the adage, those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat its mistakes–or some version of it. I believe it is usually attributed to Edmund Burke. But whoever said it was correct. We need to know what came before so we can move forward with wisdom and thoughtfulness.

So if you’re convinced, here’s a video I think you’ll enjoy. I have this kind of thing going on in my head every day. Let me know if this makes sense to you. ;-)

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Living in a Land of Immigrants

Immigrants--author Cindy Thomson

Scottish immigrants at Ellis Island

The Melting Pot

Once when I was at a bed and breakfast in Ireland sitting at a table with folks from other countries, a German photographer noted that while both America and Canada are populated by immigrants, America is different. He didn’t quite say what he meant by that because the conversation drifted to 9-11 and Obama and other subjects that non Americans seem to want to hear about from Americans. While I didn’t ponder further at the time about why Canadians and Americans are different (I’ve met many Canadians and don’t consider them THAT different from me, eh?) I did think about living in a land of immigrants. I wonder if that’s why genealogy is such a popular hobby. Everyone seems to want to get back to their “immigrant ancestor”–the one who came over.

How Did We End up in America?

Well, I was born here, but only because my ancestors came over. There is some rumor about a bit of Cherokee blood, but mostly I believe I’m of Celtic descent. Really must do a DNA test sometime. Have you done one? (Please share in the comments.)

There are several reasons our ancestors might have come over, not to mention the different time periods when North America saw waves of immigrants. I’ve written a lot about Ellis Island immigrants because of the setting of my latest novels. My ancestors, however, came over earlier. One branch came from Ireland right before the Revolutionary War. There were several periods of Scots-Irish immigration in the 18th century. I wrote about that here. Of course many people can trace their Irish ancestors to the middle of the 19th century and the Potato Famine. I recently found another branch on my tree that came over

Immigrants--author Cindy Thomson

Irish famine cottage eviction

much, much earlier, in the 1680’s from Wales. Once you know when your ancestors came over, you can probably determine why just by looking at history. They didn’t come over on a fluke. They were driven by famine, crop failures, and political unrest. Some, like many Italian immigrants, came to seek their fortune and then go back home. (Some stayed on even though it wasn’t their initial intent.) Once you hear these stories, you’ll better appreciate how they paved a way for you.

Why Keeping the Culture Alive is so Important to Us

For Americans, it’s always been important to celebrate the culture from our mother country. Festivals and feast days, ethnic neighborhoods, food, dance, song, stories….

I have attended several Irish festivals to promote my books. Groups from Ireland, especially Northern Ireland and the Saint Patrick Centre–say they have nothing quite like this at home. They have attended these festivals and encouraged tourists to come visit them. It worked on me!

Dir of Saint Patrick Centre Tim Campbell with Author Cindy Thomson

With Tim Campbell, Director of the Saint Patrick Centre at Milwaukee Irish Festival in 2007.

Tim Campbell, Dir of Saint Patrick Centre with Author Cindy Thomson

With Tim Campbell at the Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, Co Down, in 2010.

Get Involved in Preserving Culture

There are so many clubs, cultural organizations, genealogical societies, and groups I haven’t even thought of where you can get in touch with your roots. I think that’s mainly an American thing. Correct me if I’m wrong. But our roots are shallow in this country, so I think it’s only natural that we seek our immigrant ancestors.

Celebrating Culture--author Cindy Thomson

San José Library via Flickr

What groups are you involved in?

Posted in ancestors, Ellis Island, families, Family tree, festivals, History, immigrants, Immigration experience, Irish festival | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

If I Won…

awardAnd the Winner is…

Last weekend the annual ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference was held in St. Louis. If you write Christian fiction, you’re probably a member. If you read Christian fiction chances are some of your favorite authors were in attendance. It’s become the premier conference for Christian fiction. I’ve been several times (didn’t go this year) and the gala (which I keep calling the awards banquet because really that’s what it is) is an incredible celebration of Christian fiction.

ACFW Award Categories

The Genesis: Recognizing great unpublished fiction in various categories. (For a list of winners go here.)

Lifetime Achievement Award: This year awarded to novelist Robin Lee Hatcher.

Agent of the Year: This year my very own agent won, Chip MacGregor!

Editor of the Year: Vicki Crumpton, Revell

Mentor of the Year: Martha Rogers

Volunteer of the Year: Julie Klassen

The Carol Awards: Awarded to outstanding novels in various categories.

For the list of winners, go here.

If I Won

Books by Cindy Thomson

Books I’ve written or contributed to.

I’ve never been nominated. By the time I joined ACFW I was already published so not eligible for the Genesis. My novels have not been nominated or even entered. But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about what I might say should one of my books ever be considered for an honor like this. There is usually not time for an Academy Awards-type speech, so this might not even be possible. But…, just for grins, here’s my acceptance speech. (I would probably change it a million times, so consider this a first draft!)

Being Thankful for Words

Like most people who stand up here, I never expected to win. Well, “I” really didn’t win anything. The award is for the book you saw blown up larger than life on the video screen. It’s the words inside the cover that somehow managed to speak to readers, sometimes in ways I never expected. It’s the characters who speak words that readers experienced as either something they would also say or something they need to hear. It’s the fictional dream that I first dreamt and then shared with my fellow authors and early readers. Their feedback turned my fictional dream into something I could then present to my agent and my editors, who dreamt it too, but not exactly in the form I presented to them. They added, changed, and developed it–keeping my original but making it better. What won today is the dream that each reader who opens the book grasps based on his or her own perceptions and experiences. That is not something I could create and make happen. It’s a book miracle that could only come from the hand of God. Not scripture, but story. Everyone has one, everyone can relate to one. I’m thankful for the words that came. Thank you for celebrating the power of story!

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