Monday, August 25, 2014

Happy 75th Anniversary Wizard of Oz!

Wizard of Oz Turns 75!

If you look around in bookstores, on the Internet, and on television, you're bound to notice sooner or later that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the movie The Wizard of Oz! This is a great time for fans of the movie to pick up memorabilia dedicated to this special birthday.

Annie's Stories Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz Merchandise

What collectables have you seen? 

Wizard of Oz Where is Annie's Stories?

Wizard of Oz for Annie's Stories
My friend Sandy sent me this card as I was working on the manuscript for Annie's Stories

Wizard of Oz trashcan
She later sent me this for St. Patrick's Day!

Wizard of Oz and Annie's Stories

Of course I'd love for folks to include my new book Annie's Stories in their collectables when gathering up items in this special landmark year. Long before the movie there was the book, you know. And I thought it would be interesting to explore what folks at the time thought of L. Frank Baum's tale. From the New York Times, September 8, 1900 (Baum's launch week of his new book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.)

"In 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' the fact is clearly recognized that the young as well as their elders love novelty."
Now isn't that the truth still today!
"There seems to be an inborn love of stories in child minds, and one of the most familiar and pleading requests of children is to be told another story."
I certainly hope that's still true!
" will indeed be strange if there be a normal child who will not enjoy the story."
What an endorsement! :)

Do you love the story still today? If you've read Annie's Stories, what part of what Annie read in the book resonated the most with you?

More Wizard of Oz Memorbilia

Because the cover of my book bears the cover of Baum's book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it makes a great collectable don't you think?

Annie's Stories with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz
My friend Jaime Wright thinks so! :)

Writer's World Blog Tour

The Writer's World Blog Tour Continues!

Fellow Tyndale author Cathy Gohlke invited me to join this blog tour. Several authors around the web will be answering the same questions. Below you'll find my answers, but before I get to that, you should get to know Cathy and check out her books. I recommend them! Besides being a sister author over at Tyndale, she's a wonderful weaver of tales. (At the end you can find out who I invited to continue the tour.)

Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Saving Amelie, Band of Sisters, Promise Me This (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2012), William Henry is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2008), which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award.

When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites in search of a story, Cathy and her husband divide their time between Northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, thrilled with the new-every-morning joys of grandparenting.
Visit her online at and on FB at CathyGohlkeBooks.


And now my part of the Writer's World Blog Tour

What are you working on?

I've been busy promoting my latest release Annie's Stories all summer. But now I'm beginning to get back to writing. I'm hoping to make some major progress on book three of the series (no publication date is set yet.) This book will feature an Italian immigrant who finds herself suddenly in need of a place to live because her Italian family can longer keep her due to a family secret that is threatening to take away her mother's mental well-being. The male protagonist is a vaudeville pianist dreaming of being a concert musician and his sidekick is an adorable mutt everyone thinks looks just like the Victor dog on the record labels.
Photo by: The Sun and Doves via Flickr

After that I'll be working on a different time period--a story with a contemporary line paired with a historical one that involves the Chicago Cubs in 1946.

Here's a hint, something that will be an important part of the story:

Photo by: fourth photography via Flickr

And, if I decide I don't need sleep or a clean house, I hope to put my out-of-print novel Brigid of Ireland out as an ebook along with a sequel I wrote years ago.--I guess these are my long-range plans, God willing!

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

In my Ellis Island series I've focused on a historical element that is well-known today: the Brownie camera, the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the Victor dog and "His Master's Voice." I focus on the stories of our ancestors and what their lives (which I try to portray as appropriate to the times they lived it) have to teach us today.

Why do you write what you do?

I'm passionate about history and history's lessons. I'm always exploring what the past can teach us and I believe God has instructed us to learn from the past and to keep the stories of our ancestors in our hearts as we journey along creating our own life stories.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.~Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

How does your writing process work?

The toughest question saved for the end! It really depends on whether or not I have a deadline. When I do, I'm committed to putting in several hours a day writing. When I don't, no matter what I tell myself, I end up writing less. But basically I write full-time so whenever life events don't get in the way, I'm in my office writing most days.

Learn more about my books on my "books" page tab above or click here.


And next week continue the tour with these authors:

My friend Danica Favorite's debut novel will be out this fall! Danica and I have the same agent and we've gotten to know each other at conferences and other events, and we both love tea so of course we hit it off!

A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun. Her first book with Love Inspired Historical, Rocky Mountain Dreams, is out in November.

Carole Brown and I met at our local Ohio ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) group. She has so much passion for writing and promoting her books in the marketplace that at times it's difficult for me to try to keep up!

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Writing Again!

Really excited about the next few days!

My literary agency is holding its annual marketing seminar this Sat. in Nashville (and if you're not repped by them, you can attend on Sun (same program repeated) for a fee:

So, I thought maybe I'll go down to TN early and get a quiet place to stay and write. My husband liked the idea. He can come and golf and make me dinner--yay! And our anniversary falls during that time, and we get to have dinner when we first arrive with my friend editor Jamie Chavez! What could be better? I'm really planning to knuckle down on my next book so that when I get home I'll be on a roll. Sounds like a plan!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Happy 75th Anniversary Wizard of OZ!

While it's been 75 years since MGM introduced the movie, my readers know the story has been around a lot longer than that. This fall will mark 114 years since L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published.

But most folks are more familiar with the movie, and I have to admit it's one of my all time favorites. Since the theme of Annie's Stories is finding the place where your heart finds a home, I thought I'd celebrate with this clip.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Chance Encounter

I have met the most interesting people at Irish festivals, but at last weekend's Dubin Irish Festival I did not expect this.

Listen, for you never know what wonders you may meet when you do.

It’s a lesson I’m continually learning. It’s way too easy to judge people by their appearance or mannerisms, or to not even notice them at all. When you are signing books in a tent with several other authors, spending hour after hour hoping you sell enough books to justify the time spent there, you notice people but maybe not for the right reasons.

The good reasons, the most valuable way to spend your time no matter where you are, is to look for who God may intend for you to meet and to respond. It’s not an easy thing to do at times. Let’s be honest. Some people go against the grain, grating on your tired nerves. But…listen when you have the opportunity, because if you don’t, you might miss something special.

An elderly couple came to my table, which was squished up against author Brenna Briggs’s books for young girls, mysteries involving an Irish dancer named Liffey Rivers. Brenna is a friend of mine. We’ve done these Irish festivals together before. (If you know of a reader in her target audience you should check out her books.

This particular couple intently studied a couple of my books and then some of Brenna’s. Brenna asked if they had children or grandchildren. They didn’t, but were still interested. The wife decided to buy a book from each of us. Then the husband commented on something he had seen in one of my books, Columcille. At Gethsemani, south of Louisville, Kentucky, the Irish brothers were often given the name Columcille.

Oh, right, that was where Thomas Merton was, Brenna and I remembered. We talked briefly about the man and his writings and soon it became clear that the man at our table knew quite a bit about Merton.

Thomas Merton, known as Father Louis.

“Did you know him?” Brenna asked.

“Oh, yes. He had a serious side, but he was very funny.” And he went on to tell a few stories as we signed books for his wife.

It turned out this man had been a Trappist monk at Gethsemani with Thomas Merton. I believe he said he was there for seven years. He obviously had moved on to other things, including getting married to the woman standing next to him who he said was “older”—by three hours, he joked. They’d been born on the same day.

Photo by Jay Paradis

We never would have imagined this man wearing dark sunglasses, a fishing hat, and a wide smile had been a monk or had met one of the deepest spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century, a man this fellow called “The greatest Catholic writer of the twentieth century.”

I felt blessed by the encounter and deeply honored that this couple planned to read one of my books. Our brief conversation reminded me that even those we look up to and perhaps stand in awe of are in fact ordinary people whose lives touch ordinary people who in turn move through life touching the lives of even more ordinary people, but often in extraordinary ways.

Thomas Merton (Father Louis) at Gethsemani

Gethsemani’s web site states: “Intently and joyfully, we live the mystery of Christ-among-us.” That’s the way to live, don’t you think?

I’ll keep trying to listen. I’m looking forward to the next surprise meeting!

"Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul." ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hear Me Talk About Annie's Stories on This Show!

Always a delight to be on WATD, Boston, with Rob Hakala and Lisa Azizian. You can listen here!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Win an Autographed Copy of Annie's Stories

I've launched this Goodreads giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Annie’s Stories by Cindy Thomson

Annie’s Stories

by Cindy Thomson

Giveaway ends August 30, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Men Read in 1901

One of my favorite parts of researching Annie's Stories involved figuring out what Stephen Adams would have read, besides The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which he read because he knew Annie Gallagher was interested in it. (You can see this on the cover.)

Jules Verne and H.G. Wells came to mind, but I had to pick novels for my character that would have been available in 1901. Wells had only three novels published by that point, but they were popular: The Time Machine, War of the WorldsThe Island of Doctor MoreauThe First Men in the Moon came out in 1901, and my characters are eagerly awaiting it.

For Verne there were plenty to choose from because he had been publishing for decades at that point. I chose Facing the Flag because I imagine most people today would not be familiar with that one. I wasn't. So because my character, Stephen Adams, was reading it and enjoying it, I had to read it along with him.

Verne's visionary outlook is startling when you think about it. In this novel he wrote about a weapon of mass destruction a hundred years or so before that term was even being used. A brilliant, but somewhat demented, scientist invents a weapon that the countries of the world all want, something that actually happened in the WWII era. You can read about the novel here. The novel is in the public domain so you can get it free on Google Books.

Of course there were classics like The Last of the Mohicans that I assume folks re-read. Libraries existed, but access was not widespread, especially for my characters in Lower Manhattan, so I supposed books got passed around, therefore Stephen and his friend Dexter trade books. There were dime store novels certainly, but my character is looking for bigger books. I wouldn’t call him a literary snob, but he is a discerning reader. That’s why his landlord chose him for some moonlighting work for his publishing company. (You’ll understand if you read Annie’s Stories.)

I left some hints in my novel. One is about a book that would soon be published. I'd love if readers would find that and let me know! Another is about something that Stephen, thinking like the novelists he most admired, imagined would be a keen invention, a device you could use to hear someone read a book to you while you worked.

There are other bookish themes in Annie's Stories, not the least of which is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If you haven't read the book by L. Frank Baum, it's also in the public domain. Try it out. It's a bit different than the movie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back to School with Annie Gallagher

Being a former teacher, I like to ponder how readers might be prompted to learn more about history after reading my Ellis Island Series. I've added to my "Teaching History" page. Check it out and let me know if you have more ideas!

If you are on Twitter, you can help let others know about this resource by copying the text below:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Story Behind Annie's Heart Pin

If you've read Annie's Stories, you know in the story she receives a special heart pin. The pin is actually on the cover. It's a little hard to see, so I've pointed it out to you below. If you have a copy of the book, you can see it easily if you know where to look.

I have that pin. It was my inspiration while I wrote the story. I purchased it from an Etsy shop. I told the seller what I was using it for and she actually pre-ordered Annie's Stories! As a shout-out to her, and because I know many of you would be interested in her wares, here is the link to Mrs. C's Vintage Boutique.

So, if I have the pin, how did it get on the cover? I actually asked Mrs. C., the Etsy merchant, if she had any more of these. I thought they might make great giveaways. But unfortunately she doesn't, and she doesn't know where to get another one. If any of you have seen these anywhere, please let me know. It's real silver, but probably not from the era of my story. Although it looks like it could have been, don't you think?

So the pin, as far as I know, is one of a kind. The kind folks at Tyndale agreed to use it on the cover so I sent it to them and when they were done with the cover photo shoot, they mailed it back to me. It's a special little touch readers won't know about unless they read my blog or come to one of my appearances where I'll probably be wearing this pin.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The History Behind the Fictional Author's Mark in Annie's Stories

Annie Gallagher's stories were marked with a symbol. If you've read the novel you know that this symbol held great importance for determining the value of these stories (to everyone but Annie that is. For her they were priceless since her father wrote them.)

You might wonder how I can up with the idea that someone might give his original writings a hallmark so others would know he'd actually written it. In the story the author's pen name is Luther Redmond. I explain where the names came from, but for clarity here I'll tell you that Luther is for Martin Luther. Martin Luther gave his writings a mark. It's called the Luther Rose.

From Wikimedia Commons, Stained glass window with Lutheran rose by CTHOE

From Wikipedia, this is how Luther described his symbol when responding to the man who created it for him:

Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. "For one who believes from the heart will be justified" (Romans 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my compendium theologiae [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.

I was inspired by this and created something for Annie's father use on his stories. I'll let you read the book to find the reasoning behind it, but here is how I imagined it looking:

Image adapted from work of  Jed on Wikimedia Commons
Just as a master's painting could be faked, a writer's manuscript could be mislabeled. In a time when all we had was one's word, I imagine artists used marks, like kings and officials would have.

So that's the story behind that part of the story!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dorothy's Visit to Oz Was Not Just a Dream

Not in the book version, anyway. There are several differences between L. Frank Baum's book and the movie version with Judy Garland. Most people will point out that the slippers were silver not ruby. That's interesting, but I think a more major difference involves the dream.

The author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book had passed away before the movie came out, but Frank J. Baum obviously had an opinion about it. In the 1950s Baum's son wrote an essay about why the Oz books continued to sell. He cited reasons juvenile fantasy readers found the story appealing such as simple language, the fact that it appeals to adults who read it to their children. He says, "Reality and unreality are so entwined that it is often difficult to know where one leaves off and the other begins...." And then Baum says something that might surprise people who have only seen the movie and not read the book.

The story leaves the reader with a feeling that it all could have happened just as it was told. And the end is not spoiled by the author's explanation that these marvelous adventures were a dream or a hallucination. Never attempt to explain fantasy.

 In 1938 the screenwriters working on the film disagreed. They thought audiences were too sophisticated for that kind of thing. In The Making of the Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz one of the screenwriters is quoted as saying, " cannot put fantastical people in strange places in front of an audience unless they have seen them as human beings first." And he meant that literally, believing that you couldn't just introduce a scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion and have audiences identify with them. But Baum did, didn't he? And scores of other film makers have since then if you think about the genre of fantasy...Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Avatar...just to mention a few.

Even so, the movie has survived and continues to entertain audiences, so maybe you can do both or one or the other. I believe it's the quest, the search for home and a place to belong that people identify with. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Story Behind the Magdalene Laundries

If you saw the Oscar nominated movie Philomena staring Judi Dench, you understand the experience my character Annie Gallagher goes through before she comes to America. Unlike Philomena, Annie wasn’t sent to the nun’s laundry to work because she was pregnant, but like her she was there to pay for her perceived sins. Annie was innocent, but it did not take long for her to believe God had abandoned her in that place.

“You are here to cleanse your sins, child. You do know you’re a sinner—and of the worst kind.”She dared to speak. “What is the worst kind, sir?”His fingers slid down her arm to her wrist. “The worst are girls who are so lovely, who have skin soft and smooth…”~From Annie’s Stories

The unfortunate part about these stories is that there was more than one of these institutions and they existed for well over two hundred years in Ireland. Shortly before my most recent visit to Ireland in 2013, the Irish government offered an apology for their part in what was called the Magdalene Laundries. 

Spotted on a Dublin street corner. Photo: ©2013byCindyThomson

This is still in the news as the women still living are awaiting redress. See this article. And here is an update

The women worked in these laundries (and so did children as you can see below), which provided services to hotels, resorts, and other other businesses, for no pay and against their will.

Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Dmitri Lytov using CommonsHelper.
(Original text : Scanned by Eloquence* from Finnegan, F.: Do Penance or Perish. A Study of Magdalen Asylums in Ireland. Congrave Press, Ireland, Piltown, Co. Kilkenny (2001).)

In Annie’s Stories my intent was not to point an accusing finger at a whole institution, such as the Catholic church in Ireland. I cannot say that all the laundries were abusive. But I think it’s clear from what we know today that some were.

Some people who read Annie’s Stories will probably wonder if such a thing really could have happened in Ireland. The answer is yes. Part of my heart lives in Ireland with the landscape and the people. There is so much that is good and beautiful there to celebrate. I feel the same about America and yet there are dark episodes in our history as well—Indian massacres (on both the Indian and the white side), the Civil War, race riots—to name just a few. There have even been institutions very much like Magdalene Laundries in America. In the 19th century both men and women could be admitted to what was referred to as insane asylums for a myriad of reasons, some light years away from being mental health issues. (If you don’t believe me, read this list.

I explain in the author notes of Annie’s Stories, referring to a character in the book, “When Father Weldon tells Annie that the church is not evil, he means that there are caring people within it, and I believe that has been true since the church first began. But a code of secrecy has allowed injustice to continue. History has lessons to teach us, and I pray our society learns from this awful episode.”

I believe stories have the power to change and influence us. If my story, and stories like Philomena, can have a positive impact by encouraging readers to stand up for justice, and have the courage to overcome the code of silence that is most often seen today as apathy, I will be pleased beyond measure.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Early 20th Century Recipes From Annie's Stories

One of the things I enjoy about reading historical fiction is the food. I don't always want to eat it, but I'm curious. What did people enjoy back then? Here are the answers from my novel, Annie's Stories.

Stephen Adams frequents his friend's diner where his wife makes one of Stephen's favorite dishes. It's so popular, it is often sold out. I believe it must have been early 20th century comfort food.

Creamed Cabbage

2 cups cabbage, minced, boiled until tender and drained
• 1 cup hot milk
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 teaspoon flour
• ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
• 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
• Generous dash of sweet paprika
Return the cooked cabbage to the pan. Cream together butter and flour. Add the milk, butter-flour mixture, salt and pepper, parsley and paprika to the cabbage and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to keep from burning. Serve over toast.

Annie did her share of cooking at Hawkins House. Her favorite dish was one Mrs. Hawkins taught her, a British speciality. It was time consuming, but in Annie's opinion, well worth the trouble.

Peas Porridge, sometimes called Pease Pudding

This recipe comes from an 1898 cookbook titled: Mrs. Roundell's Practical Cookery Book: With Many Family Recipes Hitherto Unpublished 

I imagine this was comfort food as well, at least it was for Annie, and a nice contrast to all those sweets she is so fond of.

Speaking of sweets, in one scene Annie and her cousin Aileen are making a Brown Betty. They would have learned this from living in America. The dish first appears in the middle of the 19th century. Maybe I shouldn't say it, but...surely this is comfort food as well. I wonder what my mood must have been while writing this novel. ;-)

It's a fairly simple recipe. I read that it was one of the Reagans' favorites while they were in the White House.

Apple Brown Betty

2 c. finely chopped apples
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter
Place a layer of apples in a greased baking dish. Mix dry ingredients together. Sprinkle apples with the mixture. Alternate layers until all is used, ending with the crumbs on top. Dot with butter. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover to brown. Serve warm or cold with cream.

Annie has a sweet tooth, something Stephen discovers and takes advantage of. His neighbor bakes for several shops and she invites him to come by and taste something she is preparing called rugelach. It's a Jewish pastry/cookie to die for traditionally made for Hanukkah.

I imagine Mrs. Jacobs's looked similar to these from Zabar's in Manhattan. You can even order these online and have them shipped to your house!

Here is a recipe I found at

For pastry:
3 cups unbleached flour
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 pound cream cheese
1/2 pound softened butter or margarine
1 tablespoon vanilla
For the filling:
12 heaping tablespoons canned whole cranberry sauce
2 cups sugar
2 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups raisins
2 tablespoons cinnamon
For topping:
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar, mixed
Blend all pastry ingredients and divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape into balls, cover, and refrigerate until chilled.

Sprinkle a little flour on a flat surface. Take each ball and roll out into a 12-inch circle, dusting with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of cranberry sauce on each pastry round, covering a 6-inch circle at the center of it.

Combine all other filling ingredients and spoon one cup of it on each round, spreading evenly to an inch of the edge.

Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 16 triangles, slicing the dough like a pie.

Starting at the outer edge, roll each triangle toward the center and place on a greased cookie sheet with the small end of the triangle on the bottom.

When all the triangles are rolled, dust the tops with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake in a 325°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are golden-brown.

Are you hungry yet? If you have a recipe you'd like to share, let me know in the comments.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Song from Annie's Stories

I surely did NOT make up the tune Stephen Adams likes to whistle in my novel, Annie's Stories. The song is The Stone Outside Dan Murphy's Door, and it's a nostalgic song about the good old days.

Stephen Adams has never lived anywhere else but Manhattan. He doesn't know what it's like to pine away for one's homeland, but he knows plenty of people who are doing just that. He's curious about the cultures and far away places represented in the face's and lifestyles of the people on his delivery route.

The song was written by John (Johnny) Francis Patterson (1840–1889), who was known as the Irish Singing Clown. He was a circus performer. He was even painted by Jack Yeats, brother of W.B. Yeats.

The lyrics:

The Stone Outside Dan Murphy's Door

There's a sweet garden spot in my memory
'Tis the place I was born in and reared
'Tis long years ago since I left it
But return there I will if I'm spared
To the friends and companions of childhood
Who'd assemble each night by the score
Round Dan Murphy's shop, and there we would stop
At the stone that stood outside his door

Those days in our hearts we will cherish
Contented although we were poor
And the songs that we sung in the days we were young
On the stone outside Dan Murphy's door

When our day's work was over we'd go there
In summer or winter the same
The boys and girls would assemble
And join in some innocent game
Dan Murphy would bring down his fiddle
While his daughter would look after the store
The music would ring and the songs we would sing
On the stone outside Dan Murphy's door

Those days in our hearts we will cherish
Contented although we were poor
And the songs that we sung in the days we were young
On the stone outside Dan Murphy's door
And the songs that we sung in the days we were young
On the stone outside Dan Murphy's door

And yes, if you were wondering, I did listen to it while I wrote those scenes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Financial Schemes of the Early 20th Century

While I was working on Annie’s Stories, and considering what kind of trouble my characters could get in, I thought about Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. If you haven’t read it, and you’re at all interested in the Gilded Age, put it on your must-read list.

I love reading books by authors who are writing about a society they actually lived in. You can’t get better historical detail than that. Take Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for example.

The idea that investing could bring quick money was alluring to both the rich, the rich wannbes like Wharton’s protagonist Lily Bart, and to those who could ill afford to lose a dollar.

(Photo above: Wall Street, 1898.)

And so my character Stephen Adams falls prey to what is called a Bucket Shop. This financial scheme is described as “an operation in which the customer is sold what is supposed to be a derivative interest in a security or commodity future, but there is no transaction made on any exchange. The transaction goes 'in the bucket' and is never executed.” (

Lily Bart is deceived by a friend for personal reasons, rather than by a bucket shop operation, but the idea is the same. My character had noble ambitions, but was lured just the same by the appeal of making quick money.

Sometimes when you study the past, it feels as though you are still in the present. Some things never change.

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. ~1 Timothy 6:10 NLT

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour With Author Tamera Kraft

My friend Cara Putman asked me to participate in this fun blog tour. There are a few short questions to answer, and I've done this over on her blog. Click here.

And now, I'm presenting you the answers to those same questions from my author friend Tamera Kraft. Tamera and I first met at our Ohio ACFW meetings. We both love historical fiction and are history nuts.

Tamera will be giving away a paperback copy of her book Solider's Heart, U.S. entries only, please. (I loved this story, by the way!)

1.    What am I currently working on?

I’m writing a novella set post WW1 in western Ohio. Vivian is left heartbroken and devastated when her fiancé dies in the Great War and her parents die of influenza, leaving her penniless. Henry, best friend of Vivian’s fiancé, returns from the war determined to rescue her from poverty and make her his wife. He promises her it will be a marriage of convenience until she is ready. After a year, Vivian has grown to love Henry, but doesn’t believe he cares for her. Henry has always loved Vivian but doesn’t know how to express it. When a tornado strikes havoc in their lives, they may lose each other before giving their love and marriage a chance.

2.   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write Christian historical fiction. Although a lot of my novels and novellas have a strong element of romance, they always have a stronger element of adventure. History is full of intrigue, turmoil, and adventure, and that’s what I like to show in what I write.

3.   Why do I write what I do?

History is where I get my ideas. I’ve thought of writing other types of novels since my tastes are eclectic, but I always find my stories when I’m researching historic events. I always wonder what it would have been like for people living through these times.

4.   How does my writing process work?

Usually I get an idea by reading about an event in history. After researching the event, I get to know the characters in my stories. Then I do some planning, but I don’t do the typical outline. I use the Lindy Hop plot points created by Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy and insert the main points that need to happen throughout the novel. Then I stew about it for a few weeks until it germinates. After that, I sit down and write the thing. I usually create a playlist of instrumental music that goes with the feeling of the story and play the music while I’m writing. If I get stuck, I’ll go back and edit what I’ve done. Usually I find what is missing or what isn’t working while I do the editing. It will get me back on track.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Health Checks on Ellis Island

Stories have been passed down through the years about the horrors immigrants experienced at Ellis Island. The truth is, most passed through quickly without problems. That had to be the case when you think about how many passengers were processed through the country's largest immigration station at the time. Those who could not pass the health checks were treated, either on the ship or after it was built in the Ellis Island hospital. For an excellent fiction portrayal of the Ellis Island hospital, see Susan Meissner's A Fall of Marigolds.

But this doesn't mean the health checks were pleasant. As my characters in Annie's Stories explain, the eye examination for trachoma, while quick, was traumatic for many. In their hurry to complete inspections as quickly as possible and process thousands of immigrants each day, the Ellis Island doctors peeled back each person's eyelids to examine them. A buttonhook was the instrument of choice to do this. What's a buttonhook? We don't use them today, but during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, buttonhooks were a common tool for fastening shoes.

Trachoma is a highly contagious eye disease that causes scarring under the upper eyelid but another sign is redness of the white part of the eye, which I imagine is also what the doctors looked for. I can only hope the doctors disinfected those buttonhooks after each inspection! Continued exposure to trachoma, or conjunctivitis, can lead to blindness, so it was understandably a dreaded disease at the time. If you saw Bob Costas during last winter's Olympics, can you imagine him being subjected to an inspection with a buttonhook? Yikes!

I doubt many immigrants, however, were traumatized for good because of this inspection. They may not have forgotten it, though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Man Behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

At the turn of the twentieth century society was beginning to change how it perceived children. Moving increasingly away from viewing children as creatures who naturally possessed evil impulses that needed to be removed, society began to see juveniles as developing beings progressing through predictable milestones.

The origin of the genre of children’s literature is usually traced to the eighteenth century and John Newberry, an English publisher who helped make books for children available. You may have heard of the Newberry Medal, which recognizes excellence in children’s literature. Newberry published what is considered the first children’s book in 1744, Little Pretty Pocket-Book (which incidentally contains a very early mention of the game of base-ball, and in England, no less!) The book was meant to delight and entertain children, but its focus was educational rather than to engage the imagination.

The real change in children’s literature came at the end of the nineteenth century with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the works of Lewis Carroll and a few others. Now the imagination and pure enjoyment were primary. This is the world L. Frank Baum entered. He is considered to be the creator of the first American fairytale. Baum seemed to be constantly thinking of how to entertain children.

The following bio is excerpted and condensed from The Literature Network:
Lyman Frank Baum was born 15 May, 1856 in Chittenango, New York. His father was Benjamin Ward Baum, who would make a fortune in Pennsylvania Oil, and his mother Cynthia Stanton. Frank, as he preferred to be called, was born with a weak heart. He was home schooled and having few playmates, he also spent hours reading in his father's library. He developed an aversion to the usual scary creatures and violence of folklore and popular children's fairytales of the time and would end up creating his own adaptations of them in order to give other children, later including his own, delight in stories rather than grim and frightful moral lessons.
In 1869 Baum entered the Peekskill Military School but the atmosphere of harsh discipline and strenuous activity was too much for him physically and he was removed. After his father bought him a printing press, with his younger brother Harry, he started his own newspaper, the Rose Lawn Home Journal, named after the family estate. Baum wrote about the raising and breeding of chickens in The Book of Hamburgs. (1896)
At the age of twenty-five, Baum started studying theatre in New York City. From 1881 to 1882 he managed an opera house in Richburg, New York. He wrote the play The Maid of Arran in 1882 which he acted in. On 9 November, 1882 he married Maud Gage with whom he would have four children [all boys.] After a few different business ventures, Baum encouraged by his mother-in-law, started to write down the nursery rhymes he had improvised and told to his sons over the years. Mother Goose in Prose was published in 1897. It met rave reviews and in 1899 he collaborated with Chicago cartoonist and poster designer W. W. Denslow on yet another success, Father Goose: His Book. It would be the best-selling book for that year with an estimated 175,000 copies sold.
In 1900 the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published to instant success, another collaboration between Baum and Denslow.

Baum was always telling stories, to his own sons and to neighborhood children. He said,
“Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that day dreams with your eyes wide open are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it.”

So Baum’s book was the perfect inspiration for my character Annie Gallagher who was raised on stories and the power of imagination.

Blooming with Books: Annie's Stories ~ Review

Blooming with Books: Annie's Stories ~ Review: Annie's Stories A Ellis Island Novel By Cindy Thomson Annie Gallagher has a problem with trust, but after her father's death h...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Irish Storyteller

If you've read some books like Ireland by Frank Delaney you understand the role of the seanchaí in Ireland. If you haven't, here's a great explanation from author Eve Bunting.

In my upcoming novel Annie's Stories, Annie is mourning the loss of her father, Marty Gallagher, who was a well respected seanchaí. He wrote down some of his stories for her, which she treasures. Stories have great meaning to her.

My favorite historical resource on Ireland is this wee book, a second edition published in 1908. Here is what Joyce had to say about storytellers:

"There were professional shanachies and poets whose duty it was to know by heart numerous old tales, poems, and historical pieces, and to recite them, at festive gatherings, for the entertainment of the chiefs and their guests...for though few could read, the knowledge and recitation of poetry and stories reached the whole body of the people. This ancient institution of story-telling held its ground both in Ireland and Scotland down to a period within living memory."

A man who did that for a living certainly would be important. That is where my inspiration for Marty Gallagher came from.

Storytelling is not a lost art. There are organizations and even festivals. Teachers of young children and children's librarians are storytellers. I found out firsthand that just entering a pub in Ireland will increase your chances of hearing some good tales. Most cultures have their own stories told by storytellers.

If you'd like to know how storytelling is doing today in Ireland, this link will lead you to an Irish TV program about a storytelling festival in County Kerry.

When was the last time you heard a really good story told aloud?

Friday, June 6, 2014

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!