Author Archives: cthomson

My German, yes German, Ancestors

Ancestry Connections

I remember my father talking about his grandmother, Mary Ellen Myers Peters, being German. He did not remember her. He was only 2 when she died. I think he was going entirely by her surname. If you follow my blog or read my books, you know my interest has mostly been in my Irish, Scottish, and very recently Welsh roots–all from my father’s side of the family, by the way.

But by following one of those green leaf hints on Ancestry.com I uncovered this photograph of this Myers family. I contacted the man who posted it (his name is Mike) and discovered that we are distant cousins and my great grandmother Mary Ellen is in this photograph (number 11), as is her husband seated in front of her. Because it was taken circa 1902, I realized that the child sitting on my great grandfather’s lap is my grandfather when he was about a year old.

Researching German Roots

So, I’m off on a new adventure. Mike will be sending me his files and photos on this family. (By the way, he does not know the identity of the man whose portrait is being held up by my great great grandfather. A mystery I’d love to solve!) Mike knows from where in Germany the family came, and that they
immigrated in the 18th century. It seems all of my lines I know of thus far have lived in this country before we were a country. I’m a deeply rooted American!

Where are they from? Voerstetten, Freiberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. I’m shaking my head. I know so little about that country and culture!

Who else is on a German ancestry quest? Click To Tweet

3 Things I Wish I’d Said at the Book Festival

Cindy Thomson and Karen Harper

With author Karen Harper at Ohioana 2017

Yesterday I enjoyed appearing at the Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus, Ohio, a festival I’ve appeared at for several years now. It’s a great time to meet new readers, reconnect with those who have read my books, and mingle with other authors, bookstore owners, librarians, and book lovers. This year I was asked to be on a panel with other authors who have published both traditionally and independently. There was a lot of discussion, but there were a few things that didn’t get said.

 

If you are AN AUTHOR WHO WANTS SOME ADVICE ABOUT THE PROCESS, this post is for you!

What I Wish I'd Said about Self-publishing at the book festival panel. #indiepublishing… Click To Tweet

1. Don’t Rush to Publication

flickr by Ann Arbor District Library

I get it. It’s discouraging when you learn how long a publisher takes to get a book out. You just want your book to be launched to the world, and you don’t want it to take sooooo loooong! While doing it yourself will most likely get your book to the marketplace quicker than a traditional publisher would, don’t rush the process. Take the time needed to polish your book, to send it to critique partners and early readers, to get it to an editor, to make changes, to perfect the book cover and title, to get some reviews and endorsements prior to publishing, and to create some pre-publication buzz. You will also need time to review proof copies, make any necessary changes, and wait for the first copies to be printed and shipped to you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a self-published author say something like, “I need to get my next book out by September and it’s already July and I only have half of it written.” No, no, no! Stop it! That’s just not enough time to do all the things I’ve listed above. Remember, you are in charge. Not having a deadline forced on you is one of the advantages of doing it yourself. No one is insisting you have your book out by a certain date. You may be shooting for something like launching it at a book festival or getting it out before you have knee surgery, but plan for that way in advance. Rushing never produces anything good. I’m sure your parents told you that when you were younger. That advice never goes out of style.

2. Carefully Consider the Title and Cover

flickr by Karen

Get second opinions, lots of them. I have seen (I’m sure you have too) many terrible covers done by indie authors on their own computers. The fact is, we do judge books by their covers. If you are not an accomplished artist, don’t do it. You don’t want to risk having your cover show up on one of these sites. There are stock images sites, and photo sharing sites where you can get images for low cost or for free that are high resolution. For print books your image must be high resolution. But even if you use a quality image, choosing the best font type, size, and color requires a practiced eye. You may think you know what looks good, but obviously many people are getting it wrong. You will also need to consider how it will look online as a thumbnail and how the spine will look. The genre of your book should be considered. Look at others that sell well and study them.

I worked with an artist and saved money by bartering some writing services. I have gotten many compliments on my covers. Most people don’t realize that this cover:

Sofia's Tune by Cindy Thomson

Book Three, Ellis Island Series

was not created by the publisher who did these two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most important thing I wish I’d had time to talk about….

3. Get a Professional Editor

During the panel discussion it was mentioned that you’d need to either hire someone or get friends who are really good at it to edit your manuscript. No, no, no! Stop it! Please don’t think your friends, even avid readers and college professors, can edit your books. They may make it better and serve a valuable role in the process, but you need to finish with a pro in order to produce a professional product, one in which the reader doesn’t even notice the editing. Yes, that costs money. Again, planning ahead is critical. Having had some wonderful editors with my traditional books, I knew how valuable that process is. You do need to pay people for the work they do for you. Save your money. Do some freelance magazine writing, take on an extra job, Some people are using crowd funding. I did a little of that with Sofia’s Tune (thank you, contributors!) For my next book I won a grant I applied for to pay for one of the best editors out there.

Flickr by Seth Sawyers

Anything less than a professional editor will result in a book that is less than it could have been. Who wants that? Even if your book is free from typos and grammatical errors, an editor will have feedback about flow, about the organization, clarity, and word choice. Once you’ve worked with a professional editor, you will understand that a good editor will make you look smarter, and just generally help you be a better writer than you ever thought you could be. Don’t skip it. Don’t skimp. Just don’t.

But here’s an advantage you will have by publishing on your own. You will most likely use a publishing platform like Create Space. Your print books will be print on demand. If you find a mistake you can temporary take that title down, fix the mistakes, and re-post it. Your changes can also be made to your ebooks. By not having thousands printed like a traditional publisher would do, you will not have thousands of books with your name out there with errors.

I should say a word here about copy editors. If you don’t know the difference between a copy editor and a substantive editor, that’s enough to tell you you need a pro. I had a great edit for Sofia’s Tune. I put the book out there. And then I kept finding typos and misspellings that we’d both missed. Not the editor’s fault. She was not doing a copy edit. I happen to have a friend named John who is great at finding those things. He even found mistakes when I was re-publishing a traditionally published book that went out of print that the original editors had not caught. John now goes over all my self-published books at the very end, right before I send them to a formatter (which is another service I hired out. Not expensive and so worth it since ebooks and print books have to be formatted differently.) Try as you might, you WILL miss things in your manuscript. So will your mother and best friend (unless John is your best friend.) Trust me on this.

So Now I Said It

Those are the things I wish I’d said to the room full of writers who came to the panel. They might not read it here, but just in case, I wanted to try. And I hope others stop by to learn a little of what I’ve learned along the way. (And I’m still learning!) Let me know if you have any questions!

 

The Naming of a Character

Getting It Right

It’s one of the tricky things about writing historical novels. While contemporary novelists probably devote plenty of time in choosing a novel’s characters’ names, when you are

via Flickr by Jack Dorsey

via Flickr by Jack Dorsey

writing historical, particularly in the ancient time frame I’m using now, you sometimes have to choose between names a reader can pronounce in his/her head and names that were actually in use at the time.

I was in the middle of this task when I decided to run my proposed names by the people who follow my Facebook page. Here is what I said:

Readers: Please help! In the novel I’m working on I have to name some children. Always hard to strike a balance with names readers are familiar with and those that have somewhat of an ancient Irish feel. In this case I’m trying to keep them somewhat similar to the actual names in history. How do you feel about these: Egan, Keeva, Meredit, Shona. I’ve tried to use a spelling that helps the reader hear the correct sound. In order they are boy, girl, girl, girl.

The feedback on that post was very helpful. If you offered your opinion, thank you! If you did not, but would like to, feel free to comment below.

Names in My Past Novels

I thought you might like to hear how I came up with other character names. Some of them were quite simple, but here was my thinking:

For Brigid of Ireland, I obviously already had the main character. The original publisher of that book included a pronunciation guide at the front. For instance, Aine is AWN-ya. (Some readers of Pages of Ireland have asked about that one.) My rule for that book was that the names that were fairly easy to pronounce were fictional, and many others that were not were historical.

Grace's Pictures by Cindy ThomsonFor Grace’s Pictures, I thought of Grace O’Malley, the sixteenth-century Irish pirate. I don’t know why. The characters aren’t really alike, but the name stayed with me, and it’s a beautiful name that taken literally reminds one that there by the grace we go. Owen is a name of Celtic origin, and I was influenced by a former youth pastor my son was mentored by. The Parker family was explained in the book: the children were named after trees, which Grace thought was funny…trees in the park? But their mother was an avid gardner. Reverend Clarke got his name because I once knew a Reverend Clark. The other names in the book came to me for no particular reason.

 

For Annie’s Stories I named Annie for Annie Moore, the first immigrant to come through Ellis Island.

The mark used by Annie's father, explained in the novel.

The mark used by Annie’s father, explained in the novel.

For her counterpart, I wanted a name that sounded very American. What’s more American than a president? So, I used Adams. I thought Stephen sounded appropriate for the early twentieth-century and quite American. Speaking of names, I explain in the novel about Annie’s father’s name and his pen name. Annie’s father is the source of “Annie’s stories.”

I held a contest for the naming rights for two characters in this book, but then most of the characters were already in Grace’s Pictures. So the two Eastern European sisters in the book were named that way.

For Sofia’s Tune, I had originally used Sophia, but the publisher (who later opted not to publish

Sofia's Tune by Cindy Thomson

Book Three, Ellis Island Series

this book) changed it to Sofia, which I think is more of an Italian spelling. Sofia means wisdom, and I hoped that throughout the story my character would grow in wisdom, which only comes from God. That is why I was so happy to be able to use Sophia Sing to Me, written by Irish singer/songwriter Andy Rogers. You can hear it on the book trailer found here. I believe the other characters came out of my imagination, if I remember right. But, oh, the dog? Nothing earth-shattering, but I think it was a name I heard in high school and thought it was Italian but not overly common.

I often consult baby name web sites when searching for a name. I love these because they often give the meaning of the name. If you look some of my character names up, you might understand why I gave a certain character a specific name. For instance, in Brigid of Ireland there is a druid named Bram. This is a derivative of Abraham, the father of many. While we don’t specifically know if Bram’s heart was changed in the story, he represented the old beliefs that were about to change for many of the Irish people. Another example. Back to Aine. Her name means “splendor, radiance, brilliance.” As you might remember from Brigid of Ireland, she had leprosy and was healed.

Names Are Hard/Names Are Fun

That pretty much sums it up for me. I spend maybe too much time deciding on character names, but I do love the process. Let me know what you think!

 

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

On the Hill of Slane ©Cindy Thomson

On the Hill of Slane ©Cindy Thomson

Remembering the Patron Saint

Yes, there are three patron saints of Ireland. You’ve probably heard me say that before: St. Patrick, St. Brigid, and St. Columba. But most people associate St. Patrick with Ireland, and legends extoll his bravery and evangelical spirit. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and while he was not the first Christian there—pockets of Christianity may have existed on the island for decades prior to Patrick’s arrival—he probably did the most to give the religion a firm stronghold. If you’d like a short history on Patrick and all the ancient Irish saints, please pick up a copy of my book, The Roots of Irish Wisdom.

One Important Lesson

Why St. Patrick's own words should be read today. Click To TweetIf you don’t learn anything else about the saint, this one lesson is enough. From his own words in his Confession:

…daily I expect to be murdered or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises.

Why? Because after Patrick was enslaved in Ireland, escaped back to Britain, and educated in the religious order as a bishop, he returned to Ireland, the place of his captivity. Why? Because in a dream an angel came to him and delivered a letter. The letter said, “The Voice of the Irish.” And he heard the Irish people calling to him, “Come, holy boy, and walk among us again.” He felt he had to go. Those people needed the God he knew.

“But I fear nothing because of the promise of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hand of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere…

Oh, to have such faith and trust!

Following Patrick’s Footsteps

From The Roots of Irish Wisdom: “It was in Saul that Patrick is said to have first preached in Ireland. At the summit of nearby Slieve Patrick stands a statue of the saint erected in the 1930’s. Visitors can make a pilgrimage there…A reconstructed church with round tower stands in Saul on the site where it is believed Patrick founded a church in a barn. (See picture below.)

When I went to Ireland I visited many of the sites associated with St. Patrick. Saul is my favorite, a thin place where you can sense the worship of so many souls who were there before you.

Church at Saul

But you do not have to go to Ireland to follow Patrick’s way, although I hope you do. Reading his words, hearing his story, and thinking about your own legacy and how it can be shared is all that is necessary. To read his Confession: go here. To read the other writing we know is from his hand, go here.

A Blessing to Take With You

As he brought new faith to Ireland so may he bring to you a touch of Irish happiness in everything you do; and like the good St. Patrick, may your home and life be blessed, with all God’s special favors which make you happiest.

Irish shamrock photo by Genese Blomquist Sweeney

Irish shamrock photo by Genese Blomquist Sweeney

The Other Celtic Country

photo by plumandjello via Flikr

photo by plumandjello via Flikr

Learning About Wales

Here in America, we hear little about this other Celtic country. We are all about Ireland, which makes sense when you consider the number of Americans who have Irish roots, nearly a quarter according to some sources. And Scotland? We have Braveheart and tartans, just to name a few Scottish influences. There are numerous novels set in these two countries. There are also some novels set in Wales, but not nearly as many. We have the legend of King Arthur, which may come from Wales, but even that is debated.

Today is St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. I wrote a little about this saint here on Celtic Voices.

My Ancestry

'Knuckles' - White Beach, Anglesey photo by Kris Williams via Flickr

‘Knuckles’ – White Beach, Anglesey photo by Kris Williams via Flickr

I have ancestors from the border region of Scotland, from Northern Ireland, from Cornwall, and from Wales. Cornwall and Wales are new discoveries for me, and my ancestors came from those areas very long ago—the first half of the seventeenth century. I will save Cornwall for another post, but my Welsh ancestors came from Anglesey, Wales. Anglesey is actually an island that stretches into the Irish Sea toward the Irish capital of Dublin. Anglesey has a rich Celtic history, which of course fascinates me. I have much to learn about its history still. I don’t know if in the 1500s and 1600s, Anglesey was involved in whaling. But my Anglesey ancestors certainly were people of the sea and fishermen. When they came to Massachusetts, they remained sailors and soon moved to Nantucket and became whalers. My Myrick family is most definitely rooted in Wales.

The Search Begins

My genealogy searches extend beyond names and dates. I want to know about places and about the history of those places. And of course, I want to go there. On my bucket list!

In future posts I’ll look at some novels set in my places of origin and share some of the history as I learn more.

Do you have anything to share about Wales? Please comment! And Happy St. David’s Day!

Update on My One Word

My One Word for 2017

I thought I’d give you an update since my post on My One Word. I have had some confirmation that I wanted to show you. First, if you didn’t read that other post (that’s okay, I won’t make you!) the word I chose, or the word I felt compelled to choose, is BELOVED. I don’t know if that sounds a little self-absorbed, so let me explain. I need to be reminded that God loves me. If I can keep that in the front of my mind as I go about my daily life, I should be able to feel less sorry for myself, less like a failure, and impose less negative self-talk. As I said in that linked post, on the show Touched By An Angel, the angels always proclaimed to the humans: God loves you.

It’s powerful to think about.

Beloved

I made my own “One Word” jewelry this year. But there are lots of good options on Etsy.

Little Hints

There have been some confirmations that I have the right word. The book pictured below was a Christmas gift from a friend. And see that little sticker? At church last Sunday a cute little girl named Bailey stuck it on my back. I didn’t know at the time why she was patting me on the back, but when I saw other random people with them, I started to figure it out. (Must have been a Sunday school project.) My son’s mother-in-law discovered it on my back when we went up for communion. Not everyone had one, mind you. A sign! So I stuck it on my book. I was not about to part with it!

66 Ways God Loves You

Why I Chose My Word

A big part of why I chose Beloved was a book I read. (No surprise if you know anything about me!) Let me know what words are inspiring you in 2017!

Deeply Loved

Buy Link: http://amzn.to/2iXzDfA

99 Cent Books to Start the New Year!

Great Savings on Ebooks!

Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson

Book One, Ellis Island Series

What better way to start 2017 than with a great deal on some ebooks? My publisher has Grace’s Pictures on sale all month, along with some other great reads. Only 99 cents in January! Click here for the deal.

Grace’s Pictures is the first book of the Ellis Island series, so if you haven’t gotten started, now’s a great time.

But Wait, There’s More!

Sofia's Tune by Cindy Thomson

Book Three, Ellis Island Series

There is also a sale on Sofia’s Tune (book 3 in the Ellis Island series.) But you have to hurry with this one. The price is 99 cents for a couple of days, then goes up to 1.99 for a few days, and then back to its regular price of 2.99, which seriously is still a good deal.

Sofia’s Tune (Ellis Island Book 3) <<<Click this link for the deal.

 

That’s Not All!

a-house-for-agnes-cover-free-tag-picDid you know there is a sequel to the series? It’s short, but helps to explain how Mrs. Hawkins came to open Hawkins House, the setting of all three novels. And it’s FREE! You can’t do better than free. All you need to do is sign up for newsletter. You probably saw a pop-up, but if not, click here.

Happy Reading!

photo by Paul Bence

photo by Paul Bence

Better Than a New Year’s Resolution

2017My New Year’s Tradition

I’ve been picking a word each year, something that I think I’m supposed to learn. Usually, it means something different than I thought it would. Last year’s word, meant to me that I should do more of it: “Create” but it also meant I needed some re-creating of my heart and mind. There were so many ups and downs in 2016, that I had to be flexible and look at things differently sometimes.

My One Word

This year I have been hearing the message, a very good message, that God loves me. It’s an important message that I think I and many other people tend to forget. It’s way too easy to have a pity party. I don’t need to do that to myself. I feel more blessed with how my life is than perhaps any other time in my life. But still…we always want more, don’t we? And when we think our prayers are going unheard, especially when those prayers are for others, not ourselves…well, it’s easy to forget who loves us. So, #myoneword for 2017 is BELOVED.

I hope it reminds me daily that God loves me. Remember the popular TV show, Touched by An Angel? The characters were angels with orders to do things on earth to help people. And when they revealed themselves they announced, “God loves you.”

Chose #myoneword for 2017. Find out what my word is. Click To Tweet

A Good Book

I’ve mentioned this in past years, but just in case you’re interested in picking a word and want to know more about it, pick up this book. And if you’ve chose a word, let me know in the comments.

My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word

 

My One Word

Which Story Are You Telling This Christmas?

Cyber Monday Shop for books

photo by Mike McCune

Truth

I’m reading a book right now (listening to it, actually) titled The Truth According to Us. This post has nothing to do with that novel, however. Just the title. It intrigues me.  From what I’ve observed, we may uphold truth, but only the truth as we understand it. And when you think about it, that makes some sense. We are leaning on our own understanding. But, as sometimes happens in the aging process,  the time comes when you realize you might not have an open mind when you lean on your own understanding. If you look, observe, take plenty of time, you might just see something you hadn’t seen before.

The Christmas Story

Take the Christmas story for example. The birth of Jesus.  I’ve been seeing some posts on social media claiming that we’ve gotten it all wrong our whole lives. Jesus was not born in a stable. Houses had a level where they kept the animals, and it’s likely Joseph and Mary stayed with one of his relatives on the bottom level of the house. There was no inn nor any innkeeper to turn them away, not according to the Bible.

What's True About the Christmas story? #whatsimportant Click To Tweet

When I was teaching kindergarten, and in charge of the Christmas pageant, I needed an innkeeper. There were not enough parts for all the children, and there was always one child who wanted a speaking part, but didn’t want to be an angel. And if we did not have the drama of Mary and Joseph being turned away on that cold night, with the birth of the baby drawing near, there wouldn’t be enough drama for the play. I’m sure the innkeeper was invented by a bedraggled Kindergarten teacher probably sometime in the 2nd century.

photo: Crosswinds Community

photo: Crosswinds Community

Wherever they stayed, it was probably awkward, and not Mary’s first choice of birthing locations. We are given the story of a homeless family, although temporarily homeless. We are given a story that tugs at our hearts. The son of God coming without any earthly fan fare. If it weren’t for the angels speaking to the shepherds, or the star leading the wise men from the East, no one would have noticed, save for Mary and Joseph. The lack of the people’s understanding of what had happened could make a series of sermons, and probably has now that I think about it.

The Truth According to God

But that’s not the whole story. When I took the time to step away from the pageant (I haven’t taught Kindergarten for many years now) I began to see another story entirely. The one I think is the point of the whole thing. In the Book of Matthew 1:23, during the dream that Joseph had where an angel told him what was about to happen, lies a phrase that is so miraculous, so incredible and difficult to understand that it is sometimes washed over.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

I’m not talking about the fact that a virgin was going to give birth, which of course is miraculous, incredible, and difficult to understand. That is part of the Christmas story that we are very familiar with. I’m focused on the second part of that verse: Emmanuel, which means God with us. It’s incredible when you look at history. God had been silent for hundreds of years. And then….with us, in the flesh, to walk with people, eat with them, teach them, heal them, die, and rise from the grave. That is God being personal and intimate with his creation in a way he had not been for many generations.

What I Try to Remember

God is with us. We are his beloved children, members of his family. I ask myself if I have prepared my heart for his arrival. The people of his day had not. But I have the advantage of knowing the story. But then again, they had the prophecy.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.~Isaiah 7:14

They were still not ready. I’m not sure I am either, not the way I should be. But I try. I try to remember all these things like Mary did.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. ~Luke 2:19

Mary and Jesus

photo by PROWaiting For The Word

Merry Christmas!