Category Archives: Book Reviews

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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Move on Over Writers, the Next Generation is on the Way!

From time to time I meet writers. Not surprising because there are a lot of us around these days. That’s amazing in itself.

Because of the world I grew up in, where being inside the box was mandatory if we wanted to succeed, my creative side has mostly bloomed since three things happened:

  1. My children grew into their own lives and their own homes.
  2. I retired from teaching.
  3. Computers took over from telephones and televisions as the next lifestyle changing revolution.

That third one is the most interesting. Did you know writers used to actually write? On paper, with pens (or quills), and without ergonomically correct work spaces? And that meant hours of painstaking toil, especially in revising and rewriting the whole thing out over and over again. My brain hurts and my writing hand is locked in a permanent claw just thinking about it.

Certainly today many more people follow their need for self-expression and take the writing plunge. Just look at the number of blogs which stream by on Blogger or WordPress or any of the other user-friendly (there’s a word from the past!) blogging sites. Hundreds of thousands seek self-expression where two hundred years ago you would have seen a lot fewer zeroes in those numbers.

With the plethora of writers flexing their fingers and their brains it seems self-evident that a huge number of them would be young. I don’t just mean twenty or thirty somethings, I mean teenagers or even younger. In my volunteer job in an eight-hundred-strong group who gather to hear speakers and youth speakers every month, I had the pleasure of securing and introducing an eight-year-old author who was selling her book to help children in Ghana. Imagine! And she was already planning her next book and where its proceeds would go.


Last week I had the distinct pleasure of reading a column written by a fourteen-year-old about my book, The Loyalist’s Wife. He loved it. Even though he does not fit my intended audience Nassem Al-Mehairi enjoyed my book enough to review it and, a few days later, to interview me on his blog. Take a look at his links for a taste of what a young teenager can do.

I started my formal writing career only a few years ago. I am awed by the thought of what Nassem will do by the time he is my age. Consider leaving a comment on my blog or on Nassem’s or even tweet, Facebook, or whatever other social media thing you want to let the world know about Nassem. He’s coming!


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Two Places to Toot Your Horn

photo (9)-25_editedHave you ever finished a book just bubbling over with enthusiasm for it? And did you want to tell everyone just why you loved the book?

Today’s post is about just that. Of course you can tell your friends and the guy you meet on the subway but to reach a wider audience, you might try posting a review on Amazon and on Goodreads. (Caveat: Some of you have written many reviews and need no help from me. Feel free to add your suggestions in the Comments section.)

First we’ll do Amazon: Go to or .ca and search for the book you want to review by title. When you get it up to its own page, scroll down past the book’s description and the product details to Customer Reviews. You can click on the number of stars you want to award and then go to the box entitled Write a Customer Review. (It might be down a bit after other reviews that have been posted.)

Then follow the prompts to fill in your review. Remember to preview your review in case some little word or spelling gremlin has sabotaged your work and then hit publish. It’s as simple as that.

For Goodreads, go to your Goodreads account and pull up the book you wish to review. I recently read Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

review from Goodreads_editedI haven’t written a review yet which means there is still a button to press to do that, add a review. Clicking on that will take you to a simple template to fill in. Ignore the things you don’t want to do, such as html or who you would recommend the book to, unless you want to fill those in.

What Goes in a Review?

  1.  Why you liked the book.
  2. A little bit about the book with no ‘spoilers’ added. (Remember others may not have finished it yet.)
  3. Maybe something about the structure, such as rotating stories of more than one character, or judicious use of description that enhances your experience rather than taking you away from the action, or you may love a particular character because you identify with her in some way. Maybe the suspense keeps you reading long after your usual bedtime. Each book will dictate exactly what you wish to discuss.
  4. Anything else? Is there something this book said to you, did you learn something, or was the book a joy to read? This is the place to wrap up your review.

Now go right to Amazon and Goodreads and write a review. And, if you are so inclined, (here’s the shameless part!) write it for The Loyalist’s Wife, available on Amazon and Kobo.


Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Book Reviews, Writing Tips


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Christmas in July For Writers

Last Christmas I was wandering through a lovely bookstore in Victoria, B.C. and I turned a corner to see the long wall of magazines. Of course I always look to see what is there for writers which usually entails pushing aside dozens of knitting, mechanics, numismatics publications to find maybe one or two writing selections.

What did I find? What I always find in Victoria, a city which embraces creativity like a cat does a ball of yarn. So many mags of the writing persuasion called to me that I actually had to browse to see which ones I would buy as I couldn’t possibly take them all. I decided on the Writer’s Yearbook 2013, a special issue of Writer’s Digest.

And then that yearbook sat in a pile until a month ago. (Do other writers have so much reading they just can’t get to it all?)

I am so glad I finally picked up this issue as it is fantastic. Here are the cover headlines:

  1. 100 Best Book & Magazine Markets for Writers, Want to get Published? Start Here!
  2. How to Get an Agent: Insider Tips for Writing Query Letters That Work
  3. The Top 101 Websites for Writers
  4. The Year in Publishing: Is the Industry Finally on the Rebound?
  5. Blog Your Way to a Book Deal
  6. Freelancing Secrets: How to Sell More Articles
  7. 50 Easy Ways to Build Your Platform One Step at a Time
  8. Book Contracts: What You Need to Know

No wonder the tag at the top calls this issue “Your Annual Handbook for Writing Success.” There is so much information that I had to limit myself. Can you guess which articles got my attention?

At the time I was working pretty hard on query letters so that headline grabbed me right away. And I love to look for other writers and writer-friendly websites so number 3 was a sure thing.

But the one which surprised me and which held my attention the longest was number 7. I loved reading about author platform on the web. Christina Katz had about nine categories under which she gave instructions which were clear, concise and useful. Even though I’ve been on the web for years there were still many things for me to learn. Some of the things that I feel I need to work on are: my page, recycling content, holding an online event, putting my best blog content forward, and shaking things up a bit in my online presence.

This magazine is still listed for sale for just over $5 on their site which I’ve linked here. Treat yourself to a summer Christmas gift. You’ll be glad you did.

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The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler


Authors: Your free copy of 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing. Download from the link in the side column!

Consider leaving a comment below with your best writing magazine find. A lot of writers will be glad you did!



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Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul is Yummy

What is my best home remedy when I’m feeling a little low? I take it myself, I make it for my family, I’ve even been known to make up a batch and drive it across town to my son (sort of like the Mom in Love You Forever.) Of course it’s chicken soup.

What better title for Jack Canfield’s long line of books which sum up all the feel good, touchy-feely stuff in the world? And just like the famed chicken soup eases your flu symptoms, Canfield’s books, full of the best, the homiest, the most true-sounding stories you’ll find anywhere make you feel good.

I’ve read a few, mostly when people who love me have bought them for me. And I’ve loved self-dosing my soul with their wisdom and goodness. If garbage-in, garbage-out is a truism, and I believe it is, then Canfield’s Chicken Soup series brings the opposite homily to mind. Goodness in, goodness out.

Writers must be a hardy lot as their lives are fraught with upsets, downturns and disappointments. Ask any writer about their rejection pile and you’ll open a conversation which will take you way past lunch, dinner, and even bedtime. My own story is similar.

So what does this have to do with Chicken Soup? I bought myself Chicken Soup For The Writer’s Soul for my iPad and have just finished reading it.

And it’s so good.

Famous and not-so-famous writers have contributed bits of the blood of their writing lives to this reassuring volume. From incidents and people whose connections have been pivotal for burgeoning writers to books and blessings which seem to have been serendipitous, these vignettes are magical. I was most impressed with the time each author took to develop his/her piece, building to a climax which was all the more effective since the author’s name is not given until the end.

Reading this book took me a while as I wanted to greet each new course in this veritable cordon bleu menu with a clean palate, the better to savour each essay. I am glad I did that for this book is worth treasuring.

Do you have a favorite collection of feel-good stories or essays for writers? Consider leaving a comment below to tell us what they might be.

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The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler is Here!

Kobo version Kindle version for Canadians Kindle version Paperback

Still available: Your free copy of 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing. Download from the link in the side column!


Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Authors, Book Reviews, Writing Tips


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What Do Writers Read?

Do you ever wonder what book you should pick up and read next?

Does your to-be-read pile threaten to topple the lamp on your night table?

Or do  you think that if you only read what your favorite author reads you’ll be as successful as she is?

This morning my email included a post from a writer to whose posts I Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Authors, Book Reviews, General


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How Can Writers Find Their Own Voice?

Iowa Stubborn Freeze

Ever Been in a Freeze?

Did anyone or anything cause you to just stop and be still?  Say nothing, do nothing? Remain motionless until your eyes twitch and your extended finger is ready to drop off?

In the photo above the ‘Pick-a-Little’ ladies are part of a stopped moment in time. (I am second from the left at this Music Man rehearsal this past fall.) We had to remember to adopt a stance, a look, a pose and hold it until the up tempo in the music.

Well, first of all we didn’t know what to do. Then when Janet got the idea to frown, we all did. Next we realized we needed to be individual in our look. I picked kind of a bossy, know-it-all stance, Lisa chose finger-pointing, and the others chose their separate looks, too. When we put on our elaborate costumes, 1912 era hats and all, we were the essence of gossipy ladies doing the pick a little, talk a little thing.

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A group of the ladies in costume.

This is a little like my journey as a writer. First, I didn’t know what to do so I bought a book. Well, about thirty books, so far. My writing took on dozens of looks as I tried out the suggestions I found in each book.

My epiphany was ongoing, but the day I finally realized I had to be me in my writing, my show went a lot better. Oh, I had learned many clever and useful tidbits and some huge meaty pieces along the way, but my writing has settled into my very own style.

Books that help with all of this abound,  but some of my favorites are found in this post and in this earlier one. Read the annotated lists and crack open whatever appeals to you.

Consider leaving comments below with book titles you’ve found that will help writers move past the freeze.


Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Book Reviews, Writing Tips


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