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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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A Lick and a Promise: The Loyalist’s Luck New Cover

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd

Today’s post is a promise of things to come for those who love a great historical novel. Following on the tail of last year’s The Loyalist’s Wife,

The Loyalist’s Luck

is scheduled for release this fall.

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 upcoming news on this and other writing events. And if you haven’t  yet purchased the first in the Loyalist trilogy, here’s the link. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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

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.

 

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How Can You Justify Spending Money on a Writing Conference?

Last Friday I braved the drive to Ajax along the busy 401 past Toronto to attend the Ontario Writers’ Conference.

Should I go or should I give pass it by? I wondered. Especially since last year I paid my money but spent the weekend in the hospital. Nevertheless I signed up. I wondered about the wisdom of my decision the whole three hours and twenty-five minutes that it took me to drive the normally hour and a half route. Grrr. But I went and I met my friend, Sally, and we carried on.  Here are some of the things I learned in the full sessions and workshops I chose:

  1. Character, plot, setting. You can’t have one without the others. Of course we knew that but being reminded of the intricacies of each is always good.
  2. Authenticity. People want to know that the author knows what she is talking about.
  3. Whether to wiki or not depends on how crucial to the story the detail is. If it’s really important, go further than Wikipedia.
  4. Regarding research, you need to know ten times more about your subject than you actually use in fiction.
  5. Put setting details sparingly throughout the novel and not all at once.
  6. Pace revelation of detail throughout the book and only as needed to drive the plot or character development.
  7. Writing a good pitch before you start writing helps the writer consolidate just what the book is about. It’s also useful for that elevator pitch.
  8. Make sure the stakes are crucial. Why would anyone care about what is happening to your characters?
  9. For writers to write about what hurts allows readers into the story in an engaging way which captivates them.
  10. When you decide to write you are joining the human condition.

Of course meeting other attendees and reconnecting with those I’ve met before is always a terrific experience and luckily a lot of that happened. I connected with Terry Fallis who gave me great cover quote for The Loyalist’s Wife last year. He was the final speaker and once again connected on a professional level and on a more personal level with everyone there. The lunch speaker was Wayson Choy whom I had never met before. That afternoon I came upon him by himself in the anteroom and had a chance to express my appreciation for his knowledgeable and empathetic remarks to the crowd. Both of these writers have not let their great successes ruin them. They are most generous to those of us who haven’t scaled the heights yet.

While the conference did cost me quite a lot for its length I found it absolutely worthwhile. And the fact that every time we sat down again in the large hall my name was up on the screens overhead as one of the authors who published a book in the last year, well, that just was the icing on the cake. Oh. And a number of people knew my name when I introduced myself. That was fabulous. All in all the Ontario Writers Conference 2014 was a great break from editing and revision and gives me new energy to forge ahead on The Loyalist’s Luck.

 

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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
 

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A Writer’s Day

Sentinel article pictureHave you ever stamped your feet and pulled at your untidy locks, so frustrated that you can’t get your writing done? Well, many of us have, maybe not in quite so graphic a manner but in some way.

And we’ve been through a lot of versions of a writer’s perfect day, too. We’ve tried out a lot of routines and roadways, all with one goal: to get that book or short story or blog post or whatever completed along with all the other things writers need to do.

Here is my day from yesterday. It was one of my better ones. Perhaps it will help you decide what your perfect writing day is.

7:00-9:00 a.m.  Rose, ate breakfast at computer checking email and playing a little FreeCell. Showered, dressed, put on makeup so I was ready for the world. (It’s my work day!)

9:00-9:30 a.m. Erased crap emails and those which require nothing further.

9:30-11:30 a.m.Sat at computer making revisions to my work in progress. This is where I look up things like whether ‘nail’ was used in 1790 or how men dressed their hair at that time. I also rewrite bits I’ve noted in the fifty pages I’ve marked up in preparation for this computer session.

11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m  Made and ate lunch while watching some mind-numbing TV which gave me a rest from my WIP.

12:00-2:00 p.m. More revisions as above. (I stopped when I had three pages left in a chapter because my shoulders had had enough!)

2:00-2:30 p.m.Set up my laptop and projector to test my PowerPoint presentation for the night’s speaking gig. Packed up everything I would need: computer, video projector, extension cord, books to sell, bookmarks, signs, sign-up sheets for my quarterly newsletter, and sheets of lovely quotes from readers.

2:30-3:00 p.m. Washed large window and blinds in my office, a great way to relax those computer-aching muscles and get some housecleaning done!

3:00-4:00 p.m. Read a few pages out of The Writer Magazine. Got dressed for the evening gig. Added sparkly bits but declined the heels as it was to be a small room. (I opted for comfort.)

4:00-4:40 p.m. Relaxed while waiting for my driver, a friend who had arranged this event.

4:40-6:00 p.m. Rode to near Hamilton the scenic way through small villages, winding roads, and greening fields. Followed the Grand River and saw where it had overflowed in the last few days.

6:00-7:00 p.m. Had a light supper at an amazing little bistro next to our venue.

7:00-7:30 p.m. Set up my equipment and got myself a glass of water. Lots of people to meet and chat with as I worked with my friend’s wonderful help.

7:30-8:30 p.m. Show time! Lovely introduction, great audience, good comments and questions. This was one of those appreciative groups who really were interested in my talk. Yay!

8:30-9:00 p.m. Sold books, talked to audience members, had them fill out slips for my newsletter, packed up, and said our good-byes.

9:00-10:00 p.m. We took the short way home, chatting all the way. There’s nothing better than being with a good friend whose brain functions on superior levels. She is a treasure.

10:00 p.m. Bed-time! Trying to turn off my mind and get some sleep.

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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
8 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Authors, General, Marketing Books

 

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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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Authors, Readers

 

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7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

IMG_0768

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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
6 Comments

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

 

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My Writing Process

Today is a bonus post, my writing and reading friends. The author Marta Merajver-Kurlat (http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/index.php/blogroll), author of Just Toss the Ashes and Why Can’t I Make Money? among other works, invited me to participate in this blog hop tour and answer four questions about my writing process.

ALL ABOUT MY WRITING PROCESS

1) What am I working on?
The project nearest and dearest to me these days is The Loyalist’s Luck, the second in the Loyalist Trilogy. It carries on with the theme of seemingly ordinary people being forced to live in an extraordinary manner because of decisions made by those who govern them. Specifically John and Lucy Garner continue the story started in 1778 New York State when he decides to join Butler’s Rangers and fight for the King, leaving Lucy behind to try to hold on to the isolated farm in the wilds of New York State. This second book takes their story across the border and introduces several other characters who all start in a new land with nothing. The book leads up to and includes their family’s struggles in the next war, the War of 1812.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Historical fiction takes fictional characters and tells their story against the backdrop of history, sometimes using actual historical figures who interact with those of the author’s imagination. That being said there are many, many books on the American Revolution but very few from the point of view of the Loyalists. This makes the Loyalist Trilogy unique.
3) Why do I write what I do?
First of all I love to read historical fiction. Then the fact that I am of Loyalist descent myself makes this topic thrilling for me to research and write about. Finally I love playing with words all the while learning more and more about my craft. And the days that a new idea pops into my head as my fingers fondle the keys, those days are the absolute best. The time flies and I delight in what has appeared on my screen as I let my brain go on a wild and wondrous rampage.
4) How does your writing process work?
I’ve tried to write an outline, a plan, sample paragraphs, etc., but my brain always takes off on its own. In my research I may find a unique thought or detail from the past and suddenly my characters grab it and run. I always thought that writers’ thing about wondering who will be on the other side of the door was just so much claptrap. But, guess what? It happens and it’s unbelievably cool when it does. So my first draft is a huge eye opener for me. Following that, I revise and look up details I’ve put in red on the first draft, and I just keep revising until I love to read what I’ve written and don’t get stopped by some bit which needs tweaking. Once I’m happy with it, I enlist my editor and my beta readers to see what they pick up. I look at their suggestions and decide to use or not until, finally, I have the book I’m proud of. This all takes forever but it’s worth it. I strive for perfect. :-)

Next step along the Blog Hop:

Sharon Clare is an author of paranormal romantic novels and lives in Ontario with her husband and three wonderful grown-up kids who come and go from the nest. She fell in love with writing at the University of Toronto where she graduated with a science degree in psychology and professional writing. She has also published short stories, art reviews, newsletter and magazine articles. Her favourite place to write is outside under the maple trees beside the trickling pond and blooming lilies. You can find her at the following links:

http://romancebeyond.com/author/sharonclare/      
sharonclare.com 

 
14 Comments

Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Authors, FAQ's, Historical Fiction

 

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