Reenactments For the Novelist

Since I write historical fiction, I’m really interested in reenactments. There are plenty of Civil War and pioneer reenactments around here, but that’s not the era I’m currently writing in. So you can imagine how excited I was to find this video. It may not completely describe my setting—this one claims to be pre-historic to early Christian, which is a huge range—but overall it gives you a very good feel of the word of Columcille and his mother Eithne (Enya.)

 

 

 

Book Review: Second Guessing God

Second Guessing God: Hanging On When You Can’t See His Plan by Brian Jones

From Amazon:

“Why does God allow bad things to happen?” This book is Jones’s response to that question. Like a good friend, Brian comes alongside those seeking help in trials of life to help them find meaning and strength.

 

While there is nothing shockingly new in this book, it’s a wonderful testimony of what Brian Jones has learned in his life. He writes in a relatable voice that feels as though you are having a conversation in his study.

There were a couple of places that really spoke to me. The chapter on Doubt is honest and impactful. Jones says, “At the heart of a life filled with unanswered questions lies the very nature of Christianity. Our faith is about a relationship with Jesus, not an adherence to a set of intellectual ideas we can memorize and master. Doubt reminds us of this.”

Another part that stood out to me was the chapter on Church. “We’ve become a nation of church shoppers…If the preaching gets boring at our church, we pull out the yellow pages. If the worship style changes, we go to First Church’s early service. If our Sunday School class starts to get too impersonal, we don’t sweat it; we try the hot new church in town..I can’t help but think this must make God sad….If you jump ship when things get tough, you’ll condemn yourself to one long journey of spiritual superficiality.” He goes on to give the example of his parents who have attended the same church for decades. He says, “…they’ll look back and savor the memories a lifetime of faithful participation in one congregation brings. They’ll look back and relish the dangerous conversations they didn’t avoid, sins they were encouraged to confront, and authentic Christian friendships it took a lifetime to develop.”

Just a few examples of the kind of personal, heartfelt conversations that this book makes you feel like you are having.

Response to “Get Rid of Your Guns”

This is a departure from my usual blogging. We read to escape reality sometimes, but the truth is, we do have to live in the present. I promise after this I’ll go back to my usual topics.

America Gets Advice From Europe

I read a tweet this morning that prompted me to write this. It wasn’t from someone I follow, but was a RT from someone I follow. This person is probably European, I would guess, because I have read similar things from non Americans in Europe. The writer was referring to the shooting on a baseball field in Alexandria, VA, and a shooting at a UPS facility in San Francisco that happened on the same day.

This is basically what it said:

Dear America, Shooting elected officials. Shooting co-workers. Always shooting. Get rid of your guns. There is a better way.

via Flickr jiejun tan

Dear Europeans, Learn the Truth

Via Flickr Michael Dougherty

People who don’t live in America and haven’t traveled here have been misled to think that Americans are all armed, walking around with rifles and hand guns, engaging in gun fights like the old Wild West. But think about that. If that were true dozens of people yesterday would not have had to run for shelter. Those there that day would not have reason to say what Representative Rand Paul said: “Our lives were saved by Capitol Police. Had they
not been there, I think it would have been a massacre.”

Get rid of our guns? Who exactly are you addressing with that statement?

Better Advice

Dear America, improve your justice system. Improve your mental health programs. Report suspicious behavior. Be vigilant. Pray for peace.

But whatever you believe, know that Americans are not always shooting each other. We don’t condone this stuff.

Of course we agree there is a better way. There is no need to tell us that. Of course we don’t believe the way to influence politics is to shoot those who disagree. (That country does exist, but it’s not us!) These shootings are the work of mentally unstable people who got their hands on guns. That is what needs to be addressed. That is not America. If you believe that, you’ve been misled.

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The Irish Saint in my Novel

via flikr

The One I’m Currently Writing Anyway

Today, June 9, is the Feast of St. Columba. In Irish his name is Columcille, meaning “Dove of the Church.”

His mother was like Hannah of the Bible in that she prayed desperately for a child. When he was born, she fostered him to the church much like Hannah did for her son Samuel. There was probably an intent by the monks who wrote the story down to make that comparison, but it fascinates me true or not. And that’s all it takes sometimes to get my novelist mind turning.

Read More

If you’d like to know more about Saint Columcille, I’ve written a blog post that links to a previous one. Go here.

Let me know what you think!

Books on Sale For June!

The ebook edition of Grace’s Pictures is on sale this month for just 99 cents! It’s a great time to get started on the series with book one. All ebook formats of this title are available for less than a buck!

You can find lots of good books at special prices on my publisher’s web site but hurry. These prices are only in effect during the month of June.

Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson

Go here to get your deals: http://ebookdeals.net

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!