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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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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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 

 
6 Comments

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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
12 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2014 in General

 

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7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

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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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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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

 
4 Comments

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

 

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