Category Archives: Grace’s Pictures

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!

 

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

Ebook Sale on Grace’s Pictures!

Grace's Pictures by Cindy ThomsonMy publisher is offering the ebook version of Grace’s Pictures for just .99 for a limited time!

It’s the first book in the Ellis Island series, so if you haven’t started the series, or you missed this one, this is a great time to grab a copy.

Hurry First book in Ellis Island Series only .99! #ebookdeal http://cindyswriting.com/graces-pictures/ Click To Tweet

You can find buy links on this page: Grace’s Pictures by Cindy Thomson and also read the first chapter for free!

Christmas at Hawkins House (Ellis Island Series)

Creative Commons, Paul Townsend

Creative Commons, Paul Townsend

Christmas Past

As most people who enjoy learning about the past, I am intrigued by past Christmas traditions.  The Christmases of our ancestors were varied depending on the culture they came from. In book one of my Ellis Island series, Grace McCaffery, a recent immigrant from Ireland, must learn to prepare Christmas dinner for her American employees. Here is a excerpt from the book:

Grace muttered under her breath later in the day as she polished crystal glasses and placed them back in the dining room sideboard. Christmas Eve and she was expected to create such fancy dishes as she’d never seen before. “Spiced chutney and turtle soup and butter crème pie. How am I supposed to make those things? And why would anyone want to eat them?”

Thomson, Cindy (2013-05-17). Grace’s Pictures (Ellis Island Book 1) (p. 165). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Turtle soup BBC photo

Turtle soup BBC photo

Grace grew up in a poor house in Ireland. Her experience with Christmas traditions was limited.

“…We didn’t much celebrate Christmas in Ireland.” She stretched the truth a bit. Some Irish folks would expect visits from Father Christmas, but Grace held few memories of holiday traditions herself. Even before the workhouse, they’d had no time for it. They went to church and roasted whatever portion of lamb their neighbors could spare. Nothing more.

Thomson, Cindy (2013-05-17). Grace’s Pictures (Ellis Island Book 1) (p. 204). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

“Nothing more.” Observing Christmas was simpler in the olden days.

Is Christmas Different Today?

Christmas is certainly commercialized today, but even back in the early 1900s, people complained. They thought too much emphasis was put on toys, too many of them in store windows. Too many? Still to come was the Christmas catalogue and lines to sit on Santa’s lap and give him our wish list. But even so, those complaints seemed to sense what was to come. It’s easy to romanticize the past, but despite how different our versions of Christmas might be, people are not all that different. We still want peace–on earth and in our homes. All the rest is just glitter and wrapping.

Christmas Lights

Families still gather together. People go to church for candlelight services. Most people who don’t work in service essential jobs like fire fighting or nursing still have the day off because it is a special day, a sacred day. That was true back in the early 1900s. It is still true today.

Mary and Jesus

photo by PROWaiting For The Word

Grace, like the characters that follow in the next books of the series, learns that although people are different in their customs, their economic status, and social interactions, everyone wants the same thing: to be loved. As the Grinch learned in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, perhaps Christmas is about something more–something more than we tend to think it is. Perhaps, after all, it is about love.

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.

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.)

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?

Grace’s Pictures Finds More Readers!

I love that my publisher’s recent free promotion of the ebook edition of Grace’s Pictures has generated new readers. There have been several new reviews on Amazon on Goodreads, and far and away (so far) they’ve been very positive. On Amazon the book is nearly at 100 reviews! Know anyone who would like to put the book past that mark? Send him/her over!

That’s right, even men are enjoying the book. Here is what a recent reviewer on Amazon had to say:

Entertaining tale. This is a nice, clean, unique historical novel. Well written. Interesting characters. A book I would recommend to others. My husband enjoyed it as well, so not just a girly book.

I love that–not just a girly book! Exactly! 🙂

If you’ve read Grace’s Pictures, and not yet posted a review, I’d love to hear what you thought. And I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Annie’s Stories, releasing soon!

*Click on the books tab above to order!

Goodreads Giveaway!

In anticipation of the release of Annie’s Stories, I’m giving away a copy of book one in the series, Grace’s Pictures. You can enter on Goodreads:

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson

Grace’s Pictures

by Cindy Thomson

Giveaway ends May 21, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Places in My Novel Grace’s Pictures

One of the places in my novel (Grace’s Pictures) where a lot of the action takes place is Battery Park.

Not only is Battery Park a beautiful place to visit where you can watch boats and observe the Statue of Liberty, it is full of history–the very spot many of our ancestors first embarked after leaving Ellis Island.

Immigrants arriving in Battery Park.

When I was there I admired this statue and the old trees surrounding it, imagining that many early immigrants must have sat near it and rested from their journeys. If you read Grace’s Pictures, you’ll remember this statue.

At the edge of Battery Park is Castle Clinton, which at the time of my Ellis Island series was an aquarium.

Today

In 1917

So much history exists on that small stretch of a park. Certainly much has changed. There are many statues now, not just the Ericsson one. The trees have grown large. On the weekends the park is filled with tourists, many who are preparing to take the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Street hawkers rest here, but there were certainly those in the era of my novels. And I noted something else. A rat scurried past me when I was there, and so Grace experiences the same thing in my novel. But don’t let that deter you if you have the chance to visit. Go sit on a bench and watch the sunset and think about our immigrant ancestors arriving in that spot over a hundred years ago. That’s what I was doing when I took this photograph.

©2012 Cindy Thomson