Category Archives: Annie’s Stories

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!

 

Bonus Unpublished Material!

Get a bonus reading from Annie's Stories!Now subscribers to my newsletter can get a bonus, not published, chapter that was cut from Annie’s Stories. FREE! A bit more insight into what Annie was thinking and hoping for when she first came to America.

Sign up for my newsletter, or remind me that you are already signed up, and I will send it to you. The form is on the right hand side of this page. That’s all there is to it!

 

The Journey to Bring Readers Sofia’s Tune

Cindy Thomson's novel Sofia's Tune is coming!A Canceled Book Contract

It happens far more often in the publishing industry than you might think. At first I was crushed, but it happened a few years ago and I’ve recovered. 😉

It was a business decision, but one that I felt was unfair to readers who liked the series and wanted to see it wrapped up. Grace’s Pictures was hailed by Library Journal as,

GracePicforweb“…a delightful story of overcoming obstacles. Lynn N. Austin fans will savor this historical fiction series debut.”

Grace’s Pictures at this writing has received 143 customer reviews on Amazon, nearly half 5 stars.

 

 

 

 

Annie’s Stories was a 2014 Lime Award Nominee from the Christian Manifesto and Romantic Times gave it a 4-star review. And on Amazon 88% of reviewers gave it four or five stars.

Diane on Amazon wrote:

If you enjoy historical fiction and Christian fiction, Annie’s Stories is a must-read for you. I felt like I was catching up with old friends, and made some new ones that I hope to meet up with again the near future.”

I think readers should be able to catch up with what’s happening in 1903 with these characters and to meet new ones as well.Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson

So Why Was the Book Canceled?

Low sales. That is the bottom line. And in this market it is hard to get noticed. I don’t blame my publisher at all for the low sales. They marketed and got it reviewed all over. In fact, I received the most publisher support with these two books than I’ve ever had in my publishing career. Besides low sales, Christian publishers are publishing fewer historical titles these days, and bigger selling authors have become available when their publishers shut down or cut back.

I don’t blame myself either. I worked really hard to get the word out there. In fact, I don’t blame anyone! It’s just the way it is.

Why This is Not as Bad as it Sounds!

Authors have many more options these days. I’m going to publish Sofia’s Tune myself. BUT, having experienced superior editing and outstanding cover design, I will not be content to do a quick and inferior job. And it takes money to publish a great quality book. So I decided to see if readers would like to help with this effort, and I got a great response on Pubslush. I’m continuing the campaign here on my web site until I send the book off to an editor and a cover designer. Here is how you can be a part for as little as $5.

Why I Can’t Forget 2014

Clonmacnoise High Cross
Always remember to forget the troubles that passed your way.
But never forget to remember the blessings that come each day.
~Irish Saying

And that’s why I chose to count my blessings in 2014. Not that I haven’t learned from mistakes. The true purpose of making mistakes is to learn from them and try not to repeat them. But dwelling on them isn’t helpful. Novelists really do have to protect their minds and spirits in order to focus on writing stories that not only entertain but also inspire.

Now that I’ve written that, I realize that the bad things that happen in life also help to form inspiring stories so long as hope is still visible.

Looking Forward Without Blinders

Author Cindy Thomson's bookcasesComplaining about life only brings you down. Focusing on moving forward, on new opportunities, on the hopeful future is what motivates us to keep on going, don’t you agree? But if that’s all you do, you will miss out on the wonderful experience of counting your blessings. One of my characters (I’m sure it must have been Mrs. Hawkins or perhaps Grace’s mother) taught that no matter how miserable your life seems to you, there is always someone else who has it worse. That perspective is necessary if we’re going to avoid becoming bitter, complaining people no one wants to be around. So I’m taking time to reflect on the blessings that came to me in 2014. I am going to focus on my writing career for this list. I certainly have personal blessings beyond this.

My 2014 Blessings

*I had a second novel published with Tyndale House Publishers! This was a huge blessing. Cindy Thomson Books by the Banks Book FestivalGetting published by a traditional publisher is harder than ever (oops, slipped into a bit of complaining there!) but I was fortunate with this book. It could have very well not happened, but I worked hard, was blessed with fantastic editors and a tremendous cover, and Annie’s Stories was introduced to readers!

*Annie’s Stories was well-received. Sure, there were critics who didn’t like it, but the vast majority of folks who reviewed it, liked it, and most of those liked it a lot. That’s why I wrote the book, for readers. So this was extremely rewarding.

*I did a lot of mentoring in 2014, and I saw many of my students improve vastly. It was a privilege to witness their passion for telling stories. The future is bright with potential when it comes to novels!

*I was able to meet lots of readers this year. I went to many events: book launches, book festivals, multi-author signings, and I saw firsthand how much readers love books. That certainly blessed me.

* I had several media interviews surrounding the launch of Annie’s Stories. That’s a blessing because they are difficult to get for novels.Around Cincinnati radio

*At one of those events (The Dublin Irish Festival–Ohio) I sold a record number of books for me!

Brigid of Ireland by Cindy Thomson, ebook*I was able to re-introduce Brigid of Ireland by making it available on Kindle. There were many blessings involved in that project, including two designer friends who donated their skills: Deirdra Doan who contributed opinions and some of the interior design, and Kim Draper who designed the cover and title page. They really blessed me, and readers too!

*I have learned so much about social media marketing that has helped me connect virtually with readers. My literary agency conducts a yearly marketing seminar, and I was able to go this year. I have also learned a lot from various webinars and newsletters.

*I had another college intern from Denison University this year. Elena did various tasks for me and make some valuable contacts.

*I have some viable ideas and directions for future novels. Woo-hoo! 🙂

Ready Now, Go!

Those were only a few of the blessings. And none about my personal life because I’m trying to stay focused on one topic. Focus, by the way, was My One Word for 2014. For 2015 it is Share.Sharing I’m not sure what I’ll be sharing, or what the whole scope of that word will reveal, but I’m ready to turn toward the New Year without complaining about the publishing industry. I have to make lemonade out of lemons, but that’s a challenge I can only meet if I keep that frame of mind–what I CAN do, not what I can’t. True, the industry has changed. Authors have been left behind in the dust for the most part. But blessings still abound and they will propel me forward in 2015. Ready, set, go!

Win The Wizard of OZ Book!

Win a Free Book!

I’ve heard the comment many times from people who’ve read Annie’s Stories: “I’ve never read the original book.” So I thought I’d run a giveaway for a reprint of the 1900 book by L. Frank Baum. There are several ways to enter (see below.)

Please share with everyone you think might be interested.

Wonderful Wizard of Oz Baum

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Say But Little

Gaelic proverb

On the wall of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh. Photo by Beth

Making Words Count

I came across a photograph of this sign in a book I own and I was thinking it’s a fitting sentiment for lawmakers and politicians. I’m sure it’s the upcoming election that made me realize that. But as is so often the case with things I hear, I tend to think they are for someone else. I remember a minister who used to complain about folks who would come up to him after services and say they wished their son, or uncle, or wife, or husband should have been there to hear that sermon. It drove him nuts because he believed the people who needed to hear it were the ones sitting in the pews and they didn’t even realize it. So, I’m sure this proverb is for me too. Especially since I write. I need to make sure I use the right number of words to “say it well.”

Cindy Thomson's books

Books I’ve written or contributed to.

Consider Your Words Carefully

It’s so easy to say the first thing that comes to mind. I try not to do that. In a moment of high anxiety I often do and regret it later. But mostly I wait before I speak, or before I act, because…you can’t take it back, can you? You can apologize for your words but they remain suspended in that conversation. (Or forever on the Internet!) 😉

Words Have Power

Thomson Family BookI strongly believe that. As a Christian, I believe the words in the Bible are living and filled with power and meaning. But other words, in other kinds of books and publications, have power as well. For instance, think about how the public was persuaded to fight for independence from England. There were many people who did not feel compelled to wage war. They were convinced. With words. Sometimes with words that were exaggerated and emotionally charged, such as how an altercation in Boston became a massacre. Not that the colonies shouldn’t have revolted. I’m glad we won independence. I’m just saying words, more than anything else, got that war started.

Words have power to soothe as well. That’s why we send cards when someone dies or is sick or sad. The words “I love you” and “I’m sorry” are extremely important words in our relationships.

And who doesn’t feel moved by beautifully written words such as these:

“Through the opening of the mouth, we bring out sounds from the mountain beneath our soul. These sounds are words. The world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time, loudly, quietly, in rooms, on streets, on television, on radio, in the paper, in books. The noise of words keeps what we call the world there for us…Yet the uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible.”~From Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue

A Couple of Notes About My Words

Cindy Thomson's Newsletter SignupJust wanted to alert you to a couple of things. One is that my monthly newsletter will be going out soon and if you haven’t signed up look for the form to right of this post. I’ve got a few things to share that subscribers hear first, and sometimes some giveaways as well.

And finally I wanted to alert you that if you have an ereader or know someone who does, or would like to read on your computer via the free Kindle ap, Annie’s Stories is only $2.99 through tomorrow, November 1. Here is the link.Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson

I hope you enjoy some good words this weekend. Are you listening to something or reading something you’d like to share? Please leave a comment. I will be listening to a Yellow Ribbon event held for the families of my son’s National Guard unit, and hopefully reading the books I’ve started. (It’s leaf-racking season too, but I’ll do my best to get a few words in–writing a few too, hopefully!) If you’d like to see what I’m reading on Goodreads, go here.

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!