Category Archives: Book Reviews

Reading, Writing and Reading Again!

My Reading Journal

My Reading Journal

I’ve always been a reader. Have you? From the time I let the vacuum run and run while I read one of my mother’s books from the shelf in the upstairs bedroom, books have fascinated me. The covers–usually glossy papers rife with colour–and the weighty textured inside paper full of words wild and wonderful took me from childhood to adulthood and still lure me today.

Early on the wonderful Canadian writer, Margaret Laurence, took my fancy and I read every one of her books, waiting none too patiently for each new one to appear. She wrote about women of all kinds and I, a young mother, teacher, wife and imaginer, lapped up her words. Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour opened another door into historical fiction about Henry VIII and has led me along her starred path for many years. So many other writers shine in my memories of travels taken in my mind that I cannot possibly list them here. Reading was such a focal point in my life.

A few years ago, however, I stepped up my own writing game and gradually my reading time was usurped by Julia Cameron, Maureen Jennings, Natalie Goldberg, Steven King, and Anne Lamott, to name a very few whose books taught me about writing. As I learned valuable lessons from experts, my time for reading fiction just for fun decreased. Either I didn’t have the time or by night time, my usual reading time, I was too tired. My journals of personal reviews and comments on all the books I read didn’t make it off the shelf very often at all.

Oh, my life was, and is, full but somewhere inside me I’d lost that little bit of sweetness where I could just lose myself in someone else’s words. Something had to change.

I’ve been a member of Goodreads for a few years and have my own two novels listed there along with books read since I started using it. But last January I took a tiny step which turned into a giant leap (no, I wasn’t on the moon!) and signed up for the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge, hoping it would encourage me to read more for fun again.

Today we’re just over half way through November of 2015 and I’ve long since completed my self-imposed challenge (24 books) and have already finished 30 books! Yay! By the end of the year I’ll most likely have 33 or 34. That’s great but along the way something else happened.

I began to see my reading as something more than fun. I read a whole whack of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series and really started to get a sense of his style and what makes him so readable. The same thing happened with Elizabeth Chadwick’s work about the Marshalls. Just now I’m reading a book by Anne Easter Smith and my inner author is digesting her style and her techniques as I read. So now I see the painting from both sides and it is ever so much more colourful. In the Comments section below feel free to tell me what reading means to you.

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction!

The Loyalist’s Luck, Book Two in The Loyalist Trilogy!

Purchase The Loyalist’s Luck Here.

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.

The Loyalist’s Wife, Book One in The Loyalist Trilogy!

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

 Short-listed for Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair’s Canada Self-Published Book Awards

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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 here.





Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Book Reviews, Personal History, Readers


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The (Writing) Beat Goes On. And On. And On.

Here’s  the view outside my writing room last week. Vibrant blue sky setting off the sun and shadows on pristine snow. But it was cold. 35-40 degrees Celsius below zero overnight (with the wind chill factored in). Even in Ontario that’s unusual and some records were broken. Made me glad to be inside at my computer.

home snow

 This week I’m writing my blog on the other side of the country and outside my window the morning sun streaks across the parking lot to encourage spring’s flowers to push out of the bushes. Everywhere I look as we drive around Victoria, colour brightens my day–violet heathers, yellow daffodils, and bountiful budding trees. The whole city is alive and greening up. I particularly like the pink flowering trees and the rich rose shades of the camellias.

This is the view outside my daughter’s window, temporary though it is while she and her family wait a few months for their house to be finished. But even here it’s sweater and/or coat weather.

Beth Rich appt


No matter the weather, no matter the location, this writer’s life goes on. Isn’t that great?

It’s as simple as bringing a laptop or an iPad and keeping up with email, checking the latest posts of other writers, and moving book 3 of the Loyalist trilogy ahead. This month I’m working on plot outlines centred around the various characters and story lines that are converging in my head after months of research about the period 1815-1837. Whatever did we do before we had computers and computer technology? I love my devices.

Confession Time

For the last five days I’ve been leaving off the bit about working on my novel. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been playing with my 7-year-old granddaughter, helping my daughter and family with their move, and finally getting outside to walk. I needed to get my walking legs going as lately Ontario has just been too cold for leisurely exercising outside.

But today I’m back at writing. I’ve decided to write out the plot lines for various characters in the new novel as a start. As soon as I finish this blog post and go for a walk with my husband. And because I’m on the west coast of Canada it’s still early here so I have the whole day to fit in my walking and my writing. I can hardly wait to get started.

Oh, and I’ll be saving to the Cloud and to Dropbox, both platforms easily accessible either here or in Ontario. Don’t you just love technology? Leave me a comment to say how you keep up when you’re traveling.

Writers need reviews on their books. If you haven’t already done so, how about writing a review of the first two Loyalist books on Amazon or Goodreads? I’d do my happy dance…






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What’s a Blog Tour and Why Do Writers Use Them?

04_The Loyalist's Luck_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

This week and next, my second book in the Loyalist trilogy is touring on the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour. A few writers in my LinkedIn group wanted to know more about blog tours.

What’s a Blog Tour?

Loads of bloggers cover the Internet with amazing blog posts on their blogs. This is my blog, On Becoming a Wordsmith. Through it I have met lots of writers, readers, and other publishing world people. If you want to start an online presence for your writing, a blog is a vehicle you might use. Of course the ultimate goal is to find a following for your writing.

If you don’t have a blog yet, now is a good time to start one. Mine is hosted by WordPress and I quite like that platform. It has lots of great templates and widgets so each person’s site can be personalized. My first blog was on Blogger and it worked quite well, too, especially for a beginner. Both of these are free versions.

Look at all the blogs other people have, especially in areas like yours. I’m a writer of historical fiction so I gravitated to blogs who talked about that. If you look at the tour list below, you’ll see that a lot of them are historical fiction blogs. Having my posts there helps me find READERS of my genre. This is why Amy Bruno’s Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour was my choice for this tour. Take a moment and click on the link to check out the list of blogs.

Once you have your own blog and are ready to promote your book you can set up your own blog tour. It’s just a matter of organizing sites to host you over a week, two weeks, whatever you like. Or you can pay someone who already has a huge list of appropriate sites to do it for you. With two historical novels out, I chose the latter as marketing, speaking, promoting, and researching book three take up all my time. Amy makes my life much easier. There are a few things you can do on these blogs. I mentioned four briefly in a previous post, The Loyalist’s Luck is on Tour!

Four Ways to Showcase Your Book/Writing on a Blog Tour.

  1. The blogger reviews your book and hopefully posts the review on Goodreads and maybe Amazon or wherever your books are for sale. This allows readers to easily buy your books. You wish for 5-star reviews but 4 is good, too. It’s important here to pick bloggers whose style and personality you like. You want to be sure they’ll like your work.

  2. The blogger interviews you and posts both the questions and the answers on their site. Of course all of these bloggers will post links to your website, your books on Amazon, your picture, your book cover, and many other links.

  3. You write a guest blog post for the bloggers who choose that. I always use a topic which somehow relates to something in my novel, and then I include a segment from the book which relates. (I’ve included a template below you might use to set this all up, putting in your own information.)

  4. Some bloggers use the term spotlight which just means they use all the information you give them about you and your book and put a spotlight on you.

With most of these different types of blog tour exposure, having a template already made up with all your links, pictures, etc. will save you hours. For my present tour I’m doing 6 guest blog posts and I set up a template for them. Notice I’ve put everything I want in each post and only have to change the novel quote and the post itself.

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Loyalist’s Luck by Elaine Cougler

[blogger intro here]

Post Title

Quote from The Loyalist’s Luck

Blog Post

Goodreads Button

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 nearby. 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 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.

Praise for book one, The Loyalist’s Wife:

“….absolutely fascinating….Cougler doesn’t hold back on the gritty realities of what a couple might have gone through at this time, and gives a unique view of the Revolutionary War that many might never have considered.”  Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.

“….an intriguing story”                                             A Bookish Affair

“I highly recommend this book for any student of history or anyone just looking for a wonderful story.”       Book Lovers Paradise

“Elaine’s storytelling is brave and bold.”                 Oh, for the Hook of a Book


Book 1: The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon

Book 2: The Loyalist’s Luck on Amazon


 A lifelong reader and high school teacher, Elaine found her passion for writing once her family was grown. She loves to read history for the stories of real people reacting to their world. Bringing to life the tales of Loyalists in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 is very natural as Elaine’s personal roots are in those struggles, out of which arose both Canada and the United States.

Elaine Cougler, summer 2011







GIVEAWAY— US AND CANADA, The Loyalist’s Luck in e-book format, Kindle or Kobo.

I hope this helps everyone but especially those new to this format and these procedures. Feel free to borrow my template but make it your own with your links, your data. Use it to increase your online presence and hopefully further book sales. And please leave a comment!



Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Authors, Book Reviews, FAQ's, Marketing Books


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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.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500


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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 or The Loyalist’s Luck, both 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.

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.indd

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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