Read, Read, and Read some More: The Best Advice

photo by Elaine Cougler

My Bookshelf of Treasures

What is the one piece of advice we hear over and over? The one that annoys quite a few people out there in the real world?

No, it’s not “get eight hours sleep every night” or “eat healthy all your life” although variations of those suggestions fill bookstores. Our friends, relatives, and especially our parents iterate those maxims again and again.

The advice I’ve been given all my life is simple. When you want to learn, read. When you want to relax, read. When you want to write, read.

Yes, I slipped that last one in because I’ve seen it time and again. And it’s true. There is a magical process that happens in our brains when we read. We take in the story, the language, the length and variety of sentences, the way to effectively draw characters, and any number of other writing lessons which we just seem to learn. Like sponges we soak up such a wealth of knowledge both in the how-to sphere and in the enjoyment realm, that when we write our own works, those lessons make themselves known.

I’ve written all my life. And I’ve read even longer. Well, only if you believe I took in the lessons of my mother’s reading in the womb. :-)

All the lessons I taught my English students, and there were a lot, are not nearly so effective as the simple practice of reading, especially good writers. When I sit down to write every day, my own style comes pouring onto the pages, whether I’m writing a blog post, an email to my distant friends, or my daily pages of my historical novels.

Where did that style come from? Well, some of it came from me being a talker. Another portion finds its roots in what I’ve learned on my writing journey. But the bulk of it comes from the reading I’ve done my whole life, whether it be lessons from great writers on how to write well or from not-so-great writers on what not to do.

I’ve laughed and cried, shaken my head and even stopped reading, but I’ve always learned from my reading. My shelves of books are treasured friends and I hope I live long enough to reread them over and over. Would that some of my readers might one day feel the same about my books.

Coming May 14, 2014!

The Loyalist’s Luck Cover Reveal

book two in The Loyalist Trilogy, coming in September, 2014

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Authors, Readers


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How To Titillate Your Readers While Marketing Your Book

Sentinel article picture

Photo by Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

We’ve all had times when we’ve wanted to slam the door in the sales person’s face, especially if our memory stretches back to those ‘good old days’ when traveling salesmen knocked on many a door and we were torn between being polite and ending the sales pitch. We may even have been a little curious even though we knew we weren’t buying.

For let’s face it. Those people had interesting and even exciting wares to offer us. And if we didn’t allow the sales pitch to continue we might miss out.

Writers have a quandary. We want to tell people about our work but we abhor selling. One of the things we can do is get others to present our work and there are many ways to do this.

Newspaper Article

A week ago I went on the Internet, found the editor of the local paper, sent him an email with informative attachments asking if one of his reporters would like to interview me. By Friday, an efficient reporter sat opposite me in my living room and asked pertinent questions. She did a good job of keeping me on track and of searching my words for what we would call good sound bites if video were involved. Afterwards I gave some thought to how the article would shape up and just what I should have, could have said. You know how that goes.

I needn’t have worried. The article was fair and honest and, aside from its announcing to the world how old I am, pleased me. Heather Rivers portrayed me and my journey in her own words without misshaping my personal or writing story. You can see for yourself here. Second Career in Historical Fiction for Former Teacher Elaine Cougler.

As for titillating, when I’m giving my ‘elevator pitch’ about The Loyalist’s Wife, I always mention John leaving Lucy behind in the wilds of New York state in the midst of the American Revolution, expecting her to keep up and hold on to their remote farm. This gets my prospective readers’ attention whether they be men or women. The men often look just a little shamed and the women vary from excited to annoyed with John. I then go on to explain that I wanted to show what happens to the ordinary people like us when those in power make decisions such as going to war.

In very few words I’ve given my prospective readers something that interests them and often it is enough to sell the book. You see, I’ve struck a nerve and even though the historical fiction audience is primarily women, many men buy a book when I explain the novel’s dual point of view–John’s and Lucy’s. My neighbor came running after me on my early morning walk to tell me how much he enjoyed the book even though he freely admitted he had bought it mainly to support me, his friend.

So, readers, look for something that starts your engine running when you choose a book. Something that titillates. And writers, give it to them!

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

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Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here



Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Marketing Books, Readers


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How to Sell Your Novel Without Annoying Your Friends

Launch 3Did you ever ask your brother for a favor only to see his eyes glaze over as he tried to look at anything but you?

Maybe it was just a tiny thing you asked him for like lending you $20 or signing your mother’s name on a note to get you out of class. Of course those examples are face-to-face encounters so you can see the reaction and feel it in your gut.

What about e-mail? Did you ever ask your sister to babysit your bratty kid while you took a holiday for a week? Over e-mail?

If you whisper yes to any of these examples then you know the feeling writers sometimes get when talking about their books to their family.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of my family have bowled me over with support but one or two, not so much. Here’s a list of ways to sell your book without hassling your friends and family.

7 Ways to Sell Your Novel Without Annoying Your Friends

  1. Realize that all writers have people in their circles both those who love to read or those who would rather have total body waxing in public than read a book.
  2. Don’t give free copies to anyone, friend or family, unless they have proof-read or helped with the actual work in some way. This eliminates the jealousy of sibling rivalry.
  3. Accept those who never once bring up the subject of your newly published book. They just can’t tell you their reasons for ignoring your accomplishments and sometimes that is a good thing.
  4. Send only one notice to friends, family, and acquaintances about your new book and ask them to sign up for your business-oriented newsletter. That way you’ll know who wants to hear about future book or announcements and who doesn’t. And you can respect their wishes.
  5. Now that you’re becoming more of a public persona, never, never do, say, tell anything that will embarrass your personal circle. They will bless you for respecting their privacy.
  6. When out with your folks remember that talking all night about your journey is guaranteed to bore 98% of people. Just let the conversation flow and, if someone asks, tell your story. Then find out what they are doing. The most flattering conversational gambit is to ask about someone else’s life. It’s surprising how seldom people realize this but that can work well as you’ll shine if you become the one person who shows an interest.
  7. You can only sell so many books to those close to you. Find ways to broaden your scope. I’ve had a ball speaking to groups up to an hour and a half away just because I let people know what I do, always in a friendly, non-threatening way. And I continually work on selling to people out there in the wide world.

Yesterday I was delighted to open the door to my brother and his wife who dropped in for a visit. He has been teasing me ever since The Loyalist’s Wife came out last June about giving him a copy and also a copy of a family history photo book I did last year, too. We have had a lot of good laughs over it and I figured he was never going to buy either book. His choice. And while it rankled just a smidgen, I laughed and moved on. After a great catching up conversation full of occasional jokes about me giving him the books, he passed me a $100 bill. “You probably won’t have change.” He laughed uproariously. I snatched, yes, snatched that bill from him, handed him the books and went to my purse. I handed him the exact change. She who laughs last, I figured.

And I gave him back only enough change from buying the two books. I didn’t ask. He laughed and laughed and went away with his books to read on his visit to his daughter’s this weekend. I’m glad he finally bought the books but I am going to miss that little gambit whenever I see him.

I was born into a large family, very large, and I love them all. Most of them bought my book immediately. For those who didn’t, I’m not angry. I just realize their lack of foresight! I could be writing their eulogies!

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

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Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here


Posted by on April 2, 2014 in General


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7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day


A Big Job Well Done!

Today I feel like the spider who has finally completed this huge undertaking. You know what I mean.

We all have those large tasks which seem to take forever and which gnaw at our innards until we finish them. Writing a book is such a task. Oh, sure, it’s a rewarding job overall, especially when it’s finally published, but many days the hill seems just too high.

Last week I neared the summit of another book project, or at least one of several hills. And I felt like the industrious spider at left who toiled and spun until this fabulous web was done. What was my milestone?

I finished the rough draft of The Loyalist’s Luck!

Just like the spider and her web, though, I still have lots of holes to fill before the final draft gets sent. So I got to thinking about other ways to brighten a writer’s day because finishing a draft takes months and months and we need more high points along the way.

7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

  1. Finish a chapter on your work in progress.
  2. Find an amazing bit of research.
  3. Write a wonderful sentence.
  4. Read another great comment about your first book.
  5. Check your book sales and find they’ve doubled from last month.
  6. Speak at an event and sell lots of books.
  7. Finish writing your first draft of a new project. (This is so rewarding it bears repeating.)

Coming Soon!  Book Two in the Loyalist series:  The Loyalist’s Luck

John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

Watch for the cover reveal for The Loyalist’s Luck, coming very soon! And if you haven’t read the first in the series, here are links where you may purchase it.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

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Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here


Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips


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3 Reasons I Can’t Seem To Write Today

Did you ever have a day when the topics just wouldn’t come? Ever wonder why?

Today is such a day for me so this post will be short. Here are three things that are keeping me from writing a brilliant blog post.

1. photo (3)photo (2) This is the weak weather outside my front door. Notice my neighbor’s Christmas reindeer are still out there. We haven’t had a break in the snow since Christmas and he can’t get those cute reindeer put away.

2. Across the street you can see the falling snow, a picture that is hard to get. Ordinarily I’d be really excited at this phenomenon but enough is enough this year.

3. My daughter and her family are flying in this evening but as the day goes on, we wonder if we’ll be able to go to the airport 30 miles away and pick them up. Or even if the plane will land. My 6-year-old granddaughter will love the snow and the reindeer even though I’m pretty sure the adults won’t be so enamored.

photoThe positive is that I got three more pages written as I finish off the rough draft of The Loyalist’s Luck, due for release in September. Yay! And I found a great website with lots of information about Governor and Mrs. Simcoe who both appear in this second book of my Loyalist trilogy.

Hope you are enjoying the snow, either in person or through these pictures, better than I am. :-(

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Historical Fiction, Just For Fun


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Why I Read Historical Novels Review

HNReview FebI may not get to it the day it comes in my mailbox, or even the month it comes. I may not read it all. I may even have contemplated dropping my subscription. But as I’ve grown in my historical fiction writing so has the value I see in the Historical Novels Review.

The February issue is a case in point. It starts out with the Publisher’s Message which I always read. I like to hear what this creator of a magazine for a genre I’ve loved forever has to say. In this month’s bit, Richard Lee talks about the mind-yeast he gets from reading non-fiction books. Isn’t that a great word?

Next are a number of short but provocative and insightful articles where the author’s name is highlighted as much as the title. More actually, as there is usually a picture. These authors are a veritable who’s who of historical fiction.

I liked Dr. Jerome De Groot’s aritcle discussing the links between history and historical fiction. Author Nancy Horan says “Writing historical fiction about real people allows me to explore the ‘why’ questions that arise out of the facts of the subjects’ lives’, a perspective that mirrors my own. In writing The Loyalist’s Wife, I was interested in exploring the ways that decisions made by kings and presidents, the higher-ups, affect ordinary people like you and me.

The article which really caught my eye was a tribute to Elizabeth Jane Howard and The Cazalet Chronicle. Lucinda Byatt praises this author of The Light Years, a book I read and loved several years ago, and mentioning others by Howard. I’ll be looking for those titles you may be sure. Sadly, in a footnote, Byatt tells of Howard’s death so there will be no more. I was delighted to read this article about an author who had brought to life for me a family from about 1937-1947. Such a turbulent time. I remember those characters even now and The Light Years is one of the books that made the cut when I downsized my huge library and moved to a smaller space. Reading this article was like going to a party full of strangers and finding a long-lost friend.

After the articles come pages of new historical fiction releases, a wonderful garden of books, divided into centuries. Short reviews of each make picking my next read easy. The only problem is finding the time to read all of the ones I want. Historical fiction is definitely alive and well.

Now I just want to find out how to get The Loyalist’s Wife and its soon-to-be-released sequel, The Loyalist’s Luck, into this quality magazine!

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

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7 Types of Readers of My Books

book shelves in Norwich

As a newly published author, I have been hearing from many people who have read The Loyalist’s Wife and tell me they enjoyed it. That’s akin to hearing what a wonderful son or daughter you have, especially if this writing/publishing thing is all new to you.

Just this morning I received an email which prompted me to choose this topic for today’s post. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t have a similar response to my work from some kind person.

7 Types of Readers of My Books

  1. My friend, Sue, the first person to buy my book as we stood at the local market in glorious sunlight, is a voracious and clever reader. She was emailing to me within hours with wonderful comments and encouragement. Of course she also wants me to stay home and work on the sequel! I’m like that, too. If I love a book I just want to read and read until it’s finished and then I want the next one that author has written.
  2. Equally as treasured are those family members who support us by buying our book. Lucky for me my family is LARGE and their support has been fabulous. That’s not to say they’ve all bought a book but then they’re not all readers and I accept that. One of my sisters has bought several to give as gifts and, though she has yet to finish the book herself, never misses a chance to support me.
  3. Those who buy a book after hearing me speak, even if it’s not their usual reading fare, can be fun. A lovely man and his wife stood before my table a few weeks after I had spoken at a club where he is a member. When I asked what he thought of the book, he hesitated. With my well-practiced teacher smile, I encouraged him to tell me. Well, he thought there was too much description. I was surprised as I am a lover of plot and move things along without a lot of description. His wife touched his arm, smiled, and told me he only ever reads thrillers. We all laughed and they moved on to the next table. Wasn’t it wonderful that he, a total thriller reader, read my book?
  4. I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t heard comments from a few people, readers all of them. One of my brothers brought it into perspective for me. He likes to read slowly, savoring every morsel, stopping to cogitate, remember, and consider so that it takes him quite a while to read a book. When he’s done, however, he has a thorough understanding of all the nuances and his questions are full of insight.
  5. I like to read one book at a time mostly because my brain is too small to keep details from a lot of books straight. Nevertheless, I know a number of smart people, excellent thinkers and readers, who read several books at once. One will be by the bed, one in the bathroom, one in the car, by their favorite chair, at the office, or in their purse or briefcase. Can you imagine how many books they get through in a year?
  6. I have been known to underline, to write in the margins or to use my yellow marker, but only for a certain type of how-to or informational book. Never for fiction. Readers abound who love to write notes in the margins about the sisters in Little Women or do their own spider messages like Charlotte. Their books are thoroughly used and not the ones you’d want to buy in lieu of a new book on Amazon. And how about the coffee drinkers who spill on the pristine pages? A fellow teacher once borrowed a new hard cover book from me. It came back with so much more added to it: coffee stains, two-year-old scribblings throughout, and the cover irreparably torn. Heartbreak for me.
  7. I am a book mark baby. Are you? Do you have a favorite that allows you to mark your way through a glorious read without ever leaving traces behind? If so, I would like to borrow your books and I promise you’ll get them back in the same pristine condition I received them. Oh, I know that’s a little anal but I do like things nice. I want to experience the read as the author intended without anything to detract from the message. And when that book goes on my shelf, it’s beautiful, both for its story, now held in my heart, and for its outer package.

Yesterday my quarterly newsletter went out and this morning one of those who had signed up at my book launch last fall, a stranger, sent me a message:

“The book was surprisingly good. It was only purchased because you live [here] and curiosity about local talent prompted the purchase. It actually took a while to get around to reading it, but I’m glad I did. Congratulations on the book which was both enlightening and fun to read. Looking forward to the next one…”

I chuckled at the word “surprisingly” but am most appreciative that this reader took the time to contact me. And I don’t seem to care what kind of reader he is, as long as he reads!<!–

What kind of reader are you?


Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Readers, Readers' Wants


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