Category Archives: Conferences

I Met My Writing Heroes!

HNS2015-logo3This past weekend was the Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver, Colorado and I was there. My fellow writers and I arrived Thursday evening in the mile-high city and that was the last I saw of the outdoors until Sunday night when we left the hotel for a dinner out. The interim was filled with workshops, pitches, meals, speakers, coffee klatsches, and dozens of connecting conversations with authors, wannabes, editors, and agents, all united in their desire to talk about historical fiction. Fantastic.

Right out of the gate I found I had made a mistake by not signing up for the sword-fighting extra session before the conference began. My friends raved about it. I spent the time relaxing and discovered I’m not really that good at it. Live and learn. The conference began in earnest on Friday night with a lovely dinner even though we were all packed in like berries in a box and, yes, there was a bit of smushing going on. The conference had over 450 attendees, the most ever.

SKP and me

Sharon Kay Penman and I after the coffee klatsch.

Saturday morning I was in the conference lobby at 6:40 a.m. to sign up for a coffee klatsch with Sharon Kay Penman (held on Sunday morning.) The next day I got there early, the room was unavailable and SKP and I stood and talked for 15 minutes. Her books have meant so much to me that I had to tell her my joy at reading them all beginning with The Sunne in Splendour. A petite and classy lady, she was delighted with my story and we talked about her other books as well as my writing. Then ten of us sat around a conference table and asked questions of this amazing and prolific writer.

Although I’m very happy being an Indie author, I had signed up to pitch two agents just to investigate the other side. I glanced across the room while I was waiting for my turn to pitch and saw three waiting pitchers sitting side by side outside an agent’s door. Their faces–indeed their whole bodies–were completely frozen in fear. I’m so glad to have reached the stage where I take these things in stride.

My session went well and I’ll have more on that in a later post.

Penman George Smith

Sharon Kay Penman, Margaret George and Anne Easter Smith at conference table.

One of the workshops I attended had Sharon Kay Penman, Margaret George and Anne Easter Smith whose treasured books are all on my shelf as mementos of fabulous reads I’ve enjoyed. Imagine a panel with all three of them discussing Damsels to the Rescue: Reviving the Male Protagonist. Ably hosted by author David Blixt of sword fighting fame (pictured below) the session was quite informative although I don’t really worry about whether my protagonists are male or female, just whether they are compelling.

David Blixt

Sally Karen Cryssa

Hana Samek Norton2

My other Canadian author friends, Sally Moore, Karen Martindale, and Cryssa Bazos were at the conference, too, as well as Hana Samek Norton, who returns frequently to Canada although she now lives in the U.S. Having this group along doubled the fun as we could revel in each other’s success. We were often referred to as the Canadian contingent and one person on the elevator caught me for using the giveaway “eh” phrase. Funny.

Next week’s post will complete the HNS review with more pictures and even Diana Gabaldon. Come back and join me, please. :-)

How About an Authors and History Tour? Click here for details of this amazing cruise. Come join us!

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction!

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

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 here.


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15 Craig Pyette Points to Get Your Novel Accepted by an Editor

Have you ever wanted just to sit down with a senior editor and ask what it is they want? Do your eyes glaze over when yet another query letter is answered with “thanks, but no thanks’?

You’ve worked and worked at your submission, followed all the suggestions given to you and, while you wait for query replies, your non-nails are red and raw with worry.

Self-doubt is your closest companion, so much so that your spouse suggests there isn’t room for all three of you in the marriage bed.

Me, too.

And that’s why I went to a workshop given by Craig Pyette, a senior editor at Random House of Canada Limited, through The Writers’ Community of Durham Region.

I wanted to hear yet another person in the business explain just what is in the elusive pot at the end of the writing rainbow. And more importantly, how writers might reach it. Could I dip in for some goodies? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Conferences, Publishing, Writing Tips


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31 Writing Subjects I’ve Found on Twitter

Twitter on my desktop and via Hootsuite on my iPad2.

“Twitter?  It’s a waste of time.  You’re crazy to even be on it, let alone find anything useful!”

So spoke my friend, who shall remain nameless for protection reasons.  Do you hear this sentiment at all?  What is your Twitter experience?  Mine is great, as I explain over and over in this recurring discussion with people of my generation; in fact, it’s so great that I started cutting and pasting useful articles, links and all, to a Word file.  There I reference the material when I need it.  Here are 31 categories of articles that I’ve collected and the file keeps growing.  Periodically I print out the latest pages because I do have a recurring fear of losing files on my computer.  I guess it’s the Read the rest of this entry »


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Jessica Aspen Details Her Writing Journey

One of the marvelous surprises about becoming an author is the people you meet along the way.  Jessica Aspen is one such wonderful surprise for me.  She has kindly agreed to post here today about her writing and her growth as a writer.  Thanks, Jessica!

Thanks for having me as your guest today Elaine. I enjoyed writing about my transformational journey to author. I’ll be looking forward to responding to comments. Leave a comment today on On Becoming a Wordsmith and tell me about it HERE to enter to win prizes in celebration of the upcoming release of Little Red Riding Wolf.

From Writer to Author, the journey of a year

When Elaine asked me to write about my journey to being an author, I had to stop and think: when did this journey begin. Was it when I first discovered as a tiny girl that these marvelous books had people who wrote them? That was when I first remember saying, “I want to be an author.” What about when I finished my first story in fifth grade and my Language Arts teacher told me I was very creative? Or was it when I took my first Read the rest of this entry »


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Agent Sam Hiyate Gives Great Tips to Writers

I spent a productive day on the weekend at a session put on by the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. Sam Hiyate of The Rights Factory in Toronto spoke to about 21 attentive writers and I’m not sure who had more fun, him or us. Sam’s enthusiasm as he talked about several of the books he represents kept the writers enthralled, each of us hoping to be the next published author whose story he might tell.

Some of the projects he mentioned were Claire Letemendia’s The Best of Men, of particular interest to me as it’s historical fiction, Andrew Kaufman’s The Waterproof Bible, Hothouse Flower by Margot Berwyn, and The Film Club by David Gilmore. Oh, and Skim, by Marika Tamaki, an amazing project using drawings in a novel way.  All sounded great and are unique, very original projects.

Any time I can listen to a writing expert for six hours, I’m there. And, usually, I get a great payback for my trouble. This session made my two-hour drive well worthwhile. Here is a list of just a few of the tidbits Sam mentioned.

1. 90% of books don’t earn back their advance.
2. Pre-emptive offer and option are two types of offers authors might receive.
3. 95% of movies come from books.
4. In Canada authors don’t have to pay back what a book doesn’t earn of the advance. In the US, apparently they do.
5. Within the first 30 pages the book must show what the stakes are, introduce a sympathetic character with a problem, and introduce the central relationship.
6. A query should include the hook, what the book’s position in the market might be, and the author’s bio.
7. Never tell the ending of your book in the query letter.

Participants had the opportunity to have their prepared query critiqued and, naturally, I grabbed the chance. One of my better decisions. Getting personal time from a roomful of writers and a professional agent helped me hone my query letter.

Monday morning I launched it with all the good wishes of a luxury liner setting sail. Bon voyage!

What workshops or conferences have you attended lately?  Were you glad you went? Consider leaving a comment about your experiences.


Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Agents, Authors, Conferences, Publishing


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5 Reasons Why a First Book Takes Years to Publish

It’s almost 5 years and The Loyalists Wife is not on the shelves yet.

Most people don’t ask anymore.  Only a few really know how hard I am working to hone my manuscript and make it perfect.  This post is to inform the others and, more importantly, to give hope to writers on my same journey.

What have I been doing all this time?  Here are 5 categories of book-related activities that have kept me learning and leaping ahead. Read the rest of this entry »


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I Got Shot in Niagara!

The four days of the Algonkian-Niagara Writers Conference were grueling, exciting, frustrating, tiring, and ultimately worthwhile.  Michael Neff worked tirelessly teaching us thirty wanna-be and wanna-be-better writers the ins and out of getting published.  Specifically he helped us hone our pitches via group sessions and one-on-one meetings whenever he could fit us in.

We started at 9 a.m. the first morning, had an hour for lunch around 1:30, and finished for the day at 7:15.  I had no idea I could sit so long.  A group of writers will do anything when the subject is improving our craft and the prize is landing an agent or a publisher.

Friday afternoon, our pitches practiced and polished, we Read the rest of this entry »


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