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.

Visit Tamera online:, Amazon:

Enter to win Soldier's Heart

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!