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Character Author Sharon Clare Comes to Visit

Today, while I’Delve Deepm cruising the waters near Alaska :-), multi-talented author, Sharon Clare, is here to visit. Sharon runs really helpful workshops and is not afraid to delve deep into her writing. She also markets her books and others’ through an online game called Second Life. Her book store within that game is called The Book Nook and my book is for sale in that virtual book store. Truly innovative marketing. Today she discusses writing meaningful and memorable characters whose personalities intrigue readers. Please, readers and authors, feel free to give your thoughts in the Comments section below. And Sharon promises there will be an e-book available after her weekend workshop which she mentions below. (For all of you who can’t make the workshop!) Welcome, Sharon!

She’s Not All Bad, She Has Values!

Are you getting any of the following feedback from beta readers, contest judges, or agents/editors?

  • Flat, predictable or generic characters
  • Characters lack motivation/conflict
  • Characters are inconsistent and ring false
  • Dialogue all sounds the same
  • Can’t connect with, or downright don’t care about characters

Or do you just not know where your story should go next? If so, you may need help with characterization.

When we begin to develop characters to tell our stories, we want to build dynamic characters, real people with values and flaws, histories and dreams, secrets and strengths, characters who will not only change and grow over the course of the novel, but will help lead the way.

The character arc is an evolution. Your protagonist should not be the same person at the end of the story that she was at the beginning. She needs to learn a lesson or two after dealing with all the conflict you’ll send her way, so she may not be her best at the start of the story. She may be painfully shy and come off as arrogant or she may be bitter and have mother issues or she may be insecure with a need to control everything around her. Any of these qualities will make her interesting and may not endear her to the other characters, but you want to endear her to your readers despite her flaws.

So how do you do this?

Sharon Clare

Sharon Clare

In the opening scene, give the reader a glimpse of the heroine’s potential, the person she has the ability to become, (just one core attribute you can use to emotionally engage your readers). Share something she values deeply, something that makes her likeable, and show it early on, preferably in the first chapter.

In Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s, Breathing Room, the heroine, Dr. Isabel Favor, is America’s diva of self-help. Until her life falls apart. She’s accused of being the boss from hell, a total control freak, driven, demanding and difficult, and we see from her behaviour that it’s likely true. But the following short exchange between Isabel and the cleaning lady shows us another side of Isabel, a side that shows she values compassion.

Isabel starts off this dialogue:

“Speaking of hookers, did I tell you those two ladies who hang out by the alley showed up at the new job program yesterday?”

“Those whores’ll be back on the treat by next week. I don’ know why waste your time with them.”

“Because I like them. They’re hard workers.” Isabel kicked back in her chair, forcing herself to concentrate on the positive instead of that humiliating newspaper article.

Even though a few paragraphs earlier, Isabel couldn’t help telling the cleaning woman how to do her job, we see that despite her control issues, Isabel is a good person.

So along with your character’s imperfections, be sure to show what he or she values at the onset of the story.

Here are a few ideas for values taken from the more extensive list in how to use core attributes to emotionally engage your readers in the Delve Deep Into Character workbook:

Sharon's icon.jpg

  • spirituality
  • health
  • generosity
  • independence
  • morality
  • honesty
  • playfulness
  • ecology
  • security
  • cleanliness
  • leisure
  • romance
  • family
  • honesty
  • ambition
  • tidiness
  • compassion
  • diversity
  • self-control
  • freedom

Remember, values can show character flaws as well, but that’s a topic for another day, and an aspect of our weekend workshop!

“Look within—many characters are to some degree a projection of the writer’s own personality.”                                                                                            ~ NYT bestselling author Robert Dugoni

Know Yourself, Know Your Character! We invite you to join us for a unique intensive writing workshop where you will learn a cutting edge technique to delve deep into yourself as a writer, so you can…

Delve Deep Into Character: 7 Steps To Leap From Cliché to Compelling

Please find details of the workshop here on our website.

Sharon’s Bio is here.

Irene Jorgensen, Sharon’s workshop partner, has her Bio here. 

Coming in the fall of 2014–Soon!

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd
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.

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction

Available Now: The Loyalist’s Wife, the first book in The Loyalist Trilogy!

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.indd

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

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I’ve Made Him Not Very Nice

Ross Butler Studio

Courtesy of Tourism Oxford

Have you ever just escaped your day as it wound down? Slipped the seatbelt and jumped out of the car before it stopped?

I have. Not often, it’s true, but I have. And I did just that this past Monday. The sun had slipped behind a spread of white-gray clouds and my muse went on strike. No more proofing, nor writing of guest blog posts, nor answering e-mails.

I did one more thing, though. I looked up the data on the Ross Butler museum to see if it was open and it was. Just for another hour, though.

My guy and I dashed the ten minutes to the turn off, south of Woodstock, found the narrow gravel lane and wound our way past the golf course, wonderful goldenrod and purple thistle ushering us on.

“Did we miss a turn?” my husband asked, but a house appeared and another showed in the background. We parked near it, climbed out of the car and heard a shout.

“Elaine!” It was David, son of the renowned Ross Butler and descendant of famed loyalist, Colonel John Butler.

David and I have become acquainted since my first book, The Loyalist’s Wife, came out a year and a half ago. When he came to my house to pick up a copy he told me that not only are we both descended from members of Butler’s Rangers (which I knew), but we are also related through my mother’s side of the family.

The first thing I did was apologize to him for the way I had characterized his ancestor. “I’ve made him not very nice,” I said, something I needed to do to enhance the story. And I’ve carried that into the sequel, The Loyalist’s Luck, for the same reason. “I needed to create tension,” I told David, “but I hope you understand my personal awe for the man and what he did.” David assured me he knew Butler had two sides to his character and we proceeded into the museum.

Ross Butler’s life as an artist was prolific and varied. A true pioneer he plunged his fingers into many pies. This Wikipedia article, one of many references on the Internet, lists a few of his accomplishments. He was commissioned to do paintings of standard breeds of many farm animals and I remember the paintings in my one-room schoolhouse when I was a child. His contract to do enough for all of the schools in Ontario was halted because of the second world war.

In 1953 he was invited to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation as a recognition of his stature in the Commonwealth and probably partly because of his statue of the Queen on her horse which he fashioned out of butter for the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Even the last painting which he worked on in his eighties shows his amazing ability at rendering wildlife. He wanted to show what his farm looked like back before all the major highways and, indeed, the city of Woodstock. David’s commentary on this and other fascinating artifacts enhanced our visit. It’s always the stories, isn’t it?

So, yes. I’ve made Colonel John Butler not very nice in my books but his descendants are both nice and multi-talented. Thanks for the tour, David!

Should you care to journey to this studio, here is the contact information from Tourism Oxford’s site where you’ll find much more to see in this historic county.

Contact Information
Ross Butler Studio
708 Pattullo Ave., R.R. #4
Woodstock, ON
N4S 7V8
519-456-8155

When the Revolutionary War turns in favor of the Americans, John and Lucy flee across the Niagara River with almost nothing. They begin again in Butlersburg, a badly supplied British outpost surrounded by endless trees and rivers, and the mighty roar of the giant falls not far off. He is off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she is left behind with her 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.

With vivid scenes of heartbreak and betrayal, heroism and shattered hopes, Elaine Cougler takes us into the hearts and homes of Loyalists still fighting for their beliefs, and draws poignant scenes of families split by political borders. The Loyalist’s Luck shows us the courage of ordinary people who, in perilous times, become extraordinary.

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction

Available in October: The Loyalist’s Luck, the second book in The Loyalist Trilogy

Available Now: The Loyalist’s Wife, the first book in The Loyalist Trilogy

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 17, 2014 in General

 

Help an Author: Be a Beta Reader

My Manuscript Awaiting Beta Readers.

My Manuscript Awaiting Beta Readers.

How does that pile of pages become a treasured book?

Every author will tell you a different story, some sad, some happy, many somewhere in between. But all authors will tell you this: It takes a lot of hard work.

And not just the author’s work. Cover designers, interior designers, specialists in e-book format, and of course the marketing mavens–all of these are crucial.

But the ones I most appreciate are those who take a pile of loose pages and work their way through, making notes, thinking of options, and bravely crossing out unnecessary sections before handing the whole thing back to the author. Who is by now trying very hard not to shake in her sexy sandals.

These beta readers look at the book long before it’s had its final polishing. With The Loyalist’s Luck I did two rewrites and then handed the whole thing off to my beautiful beta readers. Long before it was ready, I might add.

And I shocked one of my new readers. He had only seen a book’s finished product before and definitely was not prepared for a book going through its birth canal. Gentle man that he is, though, we talked it all out and I got over my fractured feelings and he realized (I hope) how much he helped me make a better book out of those loose leaf pages.

I’m in the limbo stage just now. And I feel like I’m bending over backwards trying to get under the bar as I wait for my pages to come back so that I can edit them. I think this is the hardest stage. Waiting. And wondering. Will all of those people who loved the first book in the series appreciate this sequel? It’s a different kind of pressure, for sure, from the first book.

Meanwhile, for those who haven’t read The Loyalist’s Wife you still have a few weeks to get it done. And for those who are waiting for the continuation to John and Lucy’s story, The Loyalist’s Luck, I say, “Soon!” In the meantime, here’s a teaser.

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.

Come to the Book Launch!

The Loyalist’s Luck heads out into the world just in time for those early bird shoppers. It will be available in print and e-book formats on Amazon and other places (where the first book is) but the launch is right here in little old Woodstock, Ontario. If any of you are in the area or planning a trip, here are the details. We do throw a good party!

Date:         October 19, 2014

Time:         !:30-4:00 p.m.

Where:      Quality Hotel and Suites, Woodstock Ontario.

See You There!

 

 
7 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Publishing, Readers

 

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How to Make History Live and Breathe Again

The Loyalists' Luck Bookmark1

This past weekend my little part of the world banded together and presented a magnificent slice of our history in a way which quite caught my attention. Two hundred years ago, when the War of 1812 was at its height, Oxford on the Thames suffered two attacks led by the famous American sympathizer, Andrew Westbrook. This disgruntled man led American soldiers right to mills, homes, farms and military leaders to burn out his neighbours, even setting alight his own farm before scurrying back across the border with  his family in tow.

Saturday and Sunday’s events included re-enactments, period displays, free museum tours, a play about the famous Tecumseh, cricket lessons, and even  burnings of buildings to commemorate like activities during the War of 1812. Preacher. Enoch Burdick, played by Rev. Jim Evans, held a Sunday morning church service which was followed by a well-attended replay of Westbrook’s attacks on this area. It was pointed out that the mill, which was the main target of the attacks, stood mere feet away from where we spectators lounged on the grass in the sun and watched the proceedings. If only the ground could tell its stories.

I so enjoyed everything presented but especially the private conversations I shared with many of the re-enacters taking part. Their historical knowledge and their fervour for what they do were thrilling, especially to an historical writer such as myself. They know details about clothing and the way of life back then which fascinate me and I never know when I’ll hear some tidbit which sparks my imagination.

While the marking of the War of 1812 has been going on for two years now, I still found things I haven’t done to commemorate it. In the Route 1812 Map & Guide which I picked up at Beachville Museum, much of Southern Ontario is mapped out with pertinent historical spots to visit and the trails (as they were in the day) to get there. I know my husband and I will be following these in the next few weeks, whenever we can.

You can see some of this on the website, www.westerncorridor1812.com. Just remember that this is our history but by no means is it our present-day situation. Canada and the United States went on to forge a friendly relationship which boasts between our two countries the longest undefended border in the world. We are living proof that differences can be solved and peace attained.

This week, as I put the final touches on the second book in the Loyalist trilogy, The Loyalist’s Luck,  I, too, am revisiting our history of two hundred years ago. Here is the blurb about this novel, scheduled for release in October:

When the Revolutionary War turns in favor of the Americans, John and Lucy flee across the Niagara River with almost nothing. They begin again in Butlersburg, a badly supplied British outpost surrounded by endless trees and rivers, and the mighty roar of the giant falls not far off. He is off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she is left behind with her 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.

 With vivid scenes of heartbreak and betrayal, heroism and shattered hopes, Elaine Cougler takes us into the hearts and homes of Loyalists still fighting for their beliefs, and draws poignant scenes of families split by political borders. The Loyalist’s Luck shows us the courage of ordinary people who, in perilous times, become extraordinary.

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd

 

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction

Available in October: The Loyalist’s Luck, the second book in The Loyalist Trilogy

Available Now: The Loyalist’s Wife, the first book in The Loyalist Trilogy

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 
 

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5 Benefits of Reading a Great Book

One of my Book Journals

One of my Book Journals

Just now I’m getting back into reading wonderful fiction. Last week I finally read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and currently Paris by Edward Rutherfurd is occupying my evenings.

I know, I know. I’m an author and should be reading all the time.  Well, I am. It’s just that much of what I read is books about writing and research books for my novels.

The irony is huge, isn’t it? Before I started turning out novels, I read voraciously. No matter how many essays I marked or lessons I prepared, I always read fiction at night for at least thirty minutes before turning out the light. And now, as often as not, at night I play with my iPad for about ten minutes and then sleep.

So when do I read fiction?

Well, sometimes I don’t. And that saddens me. I’ve even stopped writing comments about all the books I read in my book journal.

This summer I decided to change all that. The tall stack by on my night table just got so large I had to do something about it. And, guess what! I have a new habit. In the afternoon after my computer has lost its appeal and my eyes start to flutter, I find my book and the couch and I read. The world opens up just for me.

5 Benefits of Reading a Great Book

  1. I learn about something or somewhere I never knew before. Rutherfurd’s books on Ireland were wonderful and made my trip there so much richer. I’ll never forget leaning over the case in Trinity College library which held the actual Book of Kells, illuminated by monks in ancient times.
  2. Whatever is happening in my life takes a back seat to the riveting story I find in the pages. A wonderful release that is, especially when kids are hollering or televisions blaring. I just go off by myself and escape into another world.
  3. Reading good books makes for great conversation when socializing. And, of course, now that I’m speaking to so many groups about my own books, the titles of favourite books often come up. Being able to discuss a book I’ve loved with others does two things: it shows me others who like what I like, and it often teaches me something new about a book I’ve read.
  4. As a writer I am always watching to see how another author has worked his/her behind-the-scenes magic to create literature. And this is a learning thing for me, often showing me how I might solve one of my own writing problems. Oh, I don’t mean I plagiarize, but the techniques are there to be learned.
  5. I love to see words or phrases an author has used in an unusual way. These add texture to the story every bit as much as the plot, characters, and setting. Of course the trick is to use my own creativity and do something unique in my own writing without having those phrases interrupt my storytelling.

Now that I’ve reminded you of the glories of reading, I must go and pick up Paris again.

 

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction

Available Now: The Loyalist’s Wife, the first book in The Loyalist Trilogy

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 30, 2014 in General

 

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Another Reason to Write

Our Linda

Our Linda

For the last year and a half my family has borne the sadness of a sister diagnosed with cancer. We’ve all hoped and prayed only to have our best wishes come to a crushing end last week. You can imagine the sadness; it seems not one family can escape this dread disease.

Linda Garner VanWinden fought long and hard from the first diagnosis to the second news that the cancer was back and from the realization that this would be the fight of her life to the final bad news.  Pain was her constant companion, none of the multitude of drugs being enough to free her. But she held her head high, rarely stopped working on her next amazing project, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment she could with the many friends and family who loved her.

Such an outpouring of love, gratitude, and sadness has filled all of our lives over the past week that we all realize just how appreciated Linda was. A gifted soprano who could have had a stunning professional career, she chose instead a loving husband and family. She passed on her great musical knowledge to countless students and choirs and is treasured for all of those gifts and more.

So how does all of this relate to my writing?

Last week I spent as much time as I could pushing forward with revisions to The Loyalist’s Luck for one simple reason: I could lose myself there. I could escape from my wretched heart and work on my second book in the Loyalist trilogy: The Loyalist’s Luck. 

And hours before my sister passed, I had an epiphany. Linda was one who believed in my writing abilities early on. She stored my extra flash drive and swapped it out periodically as I revised. Her home was a safe haven for my backup. When The Loyalist’s Wife came out last summer, she read it and proclaimed far and wide her pride in me and my writing. And that was a very large audience. The church was full for her funeral. Five hundred people came to bid her farewell.

We left the sanctuary listening to a marvellous trio recorded only a year ago at a spontaneous concert for cancer research organized by one of Linda’s students. The trio? My brother, Keith on tenor, my famous sister, Donna, singing alto, and lovely Linda, whose soprano soared with hope and pure joy. Here is an admittedly imperfect video of the girls singing The Lord is My Shepherd a year ago. But listen, just listen.

The Lord is My Shepherd: Linda VanWinden and Donna Garner

Another reason to write? Well, actually, I’ve two: to keep my mind off my aching heart and to finish this novel that I’m so proud to be dedicating to my lovely sister.

 
19 Comments

Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Personal History

 

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On Being a Wordsmith

A Hundred Poems About Flowers by Robyn Marie Butt

A Hundred Poems About Flowers by Robyn Marie Butt

My writing friend and I share teas and talk, through hot days and shivery snow storms. About writing mostly. Sometimes our thoughts are of dreams and ideas and, every once in a while, of a shared passion: words.

Robyn Marie Butt lives about a mile from me. On the farm which was her family’s growing up place, a sweeping, idyllic wonder of willows, old barn wood,  pine needles, summer camp, and a huge pond where herons dip and ducks flip their emerald necks in perfect water.

She is a writer.

Check out her extensive resume here on the Boularderie Island Press website and then come back to wander with me through her latest book, A Hundred Poems About Flowers: The First Twenty-Five.

Now, I am not that girl who slips into poetry willingly. I taught English and, thankfully, came to have a slight understanding of its beauty but that’s all. Words in storied bouquets wrapped up in plot and character are more my thing.

But I bought my friend’s book.

And she took me to places I’d never allowed myself to know. Through the flowers her poems touch, Robyn fingers poignant parts of her life, her loves, her soul. And, along the way, she has touched my own.

Her book is a series of poems and with each a painting of the flowers in the spotlight, each painted by a local artist. To give  you a small sense of the talent of this poet I’ve inserted a portion of my favourite poem, the last one in the book, Lily (apologies to Robyn for the inexact spacing here.)

I have sat in a garden
at Glendower (now overgrown)
I have sat there
slim and bare-legged, sweat dried
from a summer run
alerted by the tenderest of tickles
and watched a bumblebee
landed on my thigh
stretch its pencil-stroke
tongue
to lick my sweat
lick and lick
gathering the taste of me
for her children’s honey

I have been loved
by a garden
and by its keeper.


And I, I have been touched by Robyn Marie Butt’s poetry.

Robyn Marie Butt

Robyn Marie Butt

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Authors

 

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