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What I Found in My Research Today

One of the joys of writing historical fiction is the gob-smacking stories I find while researching. In the second book of the Loyalist trilogy I wrote about a true story found as I researched the burning of Niagara (present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake) when the American troops ended their occupation of Fort George and headed back across the border to the United States. The snippet was about an old woman, too sick to leave her bed that cold December night of heated tempers and hot flames. For me this was a nugget for my own story of Lucy and John’s experiences.

Here is how I integrated the story into The Loyalist’s Luck:

Soldiers ran from one house to the next, their flaming torches setting each and every building alight. The wind blew the flames as they ate up the insides, the roofs, the chimneys, and finally the walls themselves of the little town. Perhaps the cruellest cut of all came with the knowledge of just who was setting the fires. Along with the American militiamen a group of American sympathizers called the Canadian Volunteers tossed torches into their own neighbors’ homes.

People howled in the streets. When the torchers reached the house next door they learned that the old woman who lived there was sick and could not leave her bed. The soldier gave the order to carry her, bed and all, outside into the snow where she lay shivering under her blankets as her house burned to the ground. Lucy ran to the bed and heaped her spare blankets on the woman but they gave no comfort to the woman or to Lucy.

Just now my days are filled with searching for information about the early to mid 1800’s  in Upper Canada (Ontario). Part of that is trying to get a feel for just what was happening at the time with respect to settlers, crown lands, politics both local and across the ocean, escaping slaves, treaties with First Nations people, and especially day-to-day living in this part of the world. Yes, it’s a huge task.

Knowing that I’m studying my own history helps enormously. These are the times my people lived in.

I Came As a StrangerI Came As A Stranger: The Underground Railroad has turned out to be so interesting that I am reading the whole book even though much of it is about times after my field of research. Here are a few of the tidbits I’ve found:

  • Even at the time of the 1837 Rebellions in Upper Canada and Lower Canada the widespread fear that the United States might invade again caused  “coloured people” to come to Niagara by the wagonload and volunteer to fight in order to keep the Americans out of their new country.” (p.42) For us, today, that distinction between Americans and Canadians is just not present. How fearful the times must have been not only for blacks but also for those multitudes of whites on both sides of the border who abhorred slavery and did all they could to fight against it.

  • John Brown was one such white man who gave his life in his fight against slavery. (p.83)

  • Many slave owners resorted to illegal moves to entice their former slaves back across the border. I read of a turnabout. One owner was seized by his former slaves and whipped with the same number of lashes as the former slave brothers had seen their mother’s naked back receive under the owner’s hand. Following that he was sent back across the Detroit River presumably to return home. (p.95)

  • In Niagara a former slave owner trumped up horse theft charges against his former slave so that the slave could be extradited and punished in the United States. A huge crowd of blacks from the Niagara area freed their friend, taking the law into their own hands. Two of the rescuers were killed in the melee. (p. 97)

Wednesday I am lucky enough to be going to hear the author of I Came As a Stranger, Bryan Prince, speak at a library about a half hour away. Coincidentally this library is in the area where my next book takes place so I am doubly excited. I’ll be going early to check out the original documents which pertain to the area and to my own family history. Yes, the next book will have a large fictional component but how exciting for me to be recreating a world where my great great great grandparents first settled north of London, Ontario.

Once I finish Bryan’s book, I’ll be on to another and another and another as I spend the rest of February searching sources and spinning stories in my head for book three, The Loyalist Legacy. Let me know of any pertinent sources I should research and you could find your ideas in the next book!

 

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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How About an Authors and History Tour?

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New York

Do you like holidays? How about a holiday with a purpose? One that not only takes you to glorious locations but stimulates your mind just enough to be exciting?

Well, me, too! I like to learn a little about the destinations and their history. And I especially like to learn about the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 when both Canada and the United States were just beginning. In fact, I’ve written two books on those topics and am working on the third.

My Loyalist trilogy focuses on the beginnings of these two great countries in a time when living here was not so great. Canada and the United States were not such good neighbours and many horrible things happened on both sides. Today we can cross the longest undefended border in the world with ease but it was not always so.

Bill Shaw at Expedia Travel is putting together a group to cruise out of New York in the fall. It’s his second Authors Cruise and he’s asked me to be the author! It’s a regular amazing cruise on a new Princess Cruise Lines ship for a week starting October 10, 2015.

So all the regular ship board stuff goes on plus there will be author events, readings, historical links to the ports of call, and even games, trivia, and fun. More on that later.

I’ve included the flyer Bill has prepared. My husband and I have  already signed up because cruising in early October with the leaves turning and going to Halifax, St. John, Bar Harbor, Boston, Newport, and back to New York will be spectacular. If we were surrounded by a bunch of writers, history buffs, and friends, that would be even better. Note: Amounts on flyer are in Canadian dollars. Note #2: Bookings must go through Bill (TOLL FREE 1-877-436-8333 or www.cruiseshipcenters.com/Woodstock) to be part of the Author and History Tour group.

 

flyer

COME JOIN US! CALL OR EMAIL FOR INFORMATION TODAY.

 

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.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2015 in General, Historical Fiction, History

 

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Three Things I’m Grateful For Today

In spite of the fact that I’ve had the worst cold ever since returning from our winter break time in Hilton Head, yesterday gave me lots to smile about. I should have been posting my blog post. I wasn’t. Instead my husband and I got in the car at about 11:00 a.m. and headed for Niagara Falls.

I was at a point in the rough draft of The Loyalist’s Luck (coming this fall!) where I just needed to see the battlefield for the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, a huge battle in the War of 1812-14. The sun was shining, I had already written three pages and my partner was willing, so off we went.

Three Things I’m Grateful for Today? They all have to do with yesterday:

1. The lovely, finally warming sunshine which shone on us almost the whole time. (We did drive through a rain storm on the way home–quickly over.) I got Ron to stop the car so I could get this shot about three miles from home. Our day was ending and the sun was setting.

Yesterday's Winter Sunset

Yesterday’s Winter Sunset

I was going to take out the snow piled by the side of the highway but then I thought some people might never see this. Left it in for them. :-)

2. We walked a tour of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls under sunny skies but over fast-melting snow-covered sidewalks. Both of us ended with damp feet! And we’ll have to go back to Drummond Hill Cemetery because the snow kept us from studying the names of the soldiers buried there, right where the battle took place. I had just been studying the maneuvers that morning so standing at the top of the hill and looking over the battlefield brought it all to life for me. And in a few minutes I’m going to write that part in The Loyalist’s Luck.

Imagine a foot of snow on the ground and you'll see what we saw.

Imagine a foot of snow on the ground and you’ll see what we saw.

3. As if getting my pages written in the morning and taking this tour in the afternoon wasn’t enough of a thrill, that night my husband found a surprise for me in our alma mater’s alumni magazine which had come in the mail that day. Listed on p. 36 under New Releases From Western Alumni was my novel, The Loyalist’s Wife, among books by seventeen other Western grads. And, of course, with Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and having attended Western as well, we Western people are just a little proud. Imagine being in the same issue as the article about Munro’s Nobel!

I Made It Into My Alumni Magazine!

The moral of the story, so to speak today is that celebratory days come and when they do–

CELEBRATE!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2014 in Historical Fiction, History, Just For Fun

 

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The World of History Buffs: Behind the Scenes of Everyday Life

IMG_0803I went to high school in the days when our curriculum was laid out for us and there was very little choice about what subjects we studied; hence, History was on my timetable for four years!  And I barely endured it. Learning facts such as the number of Roundheads fighting in 1641 England (I had to look them up again!) and spouting them back on foolscap was pure drudgery for me. I preferred perfecting my French accent or writing stories.

Who knew that as I got older my tastes would completely change? My reading of historical fiction led to reading history books themselves which eventually led to writing my first historical novel. Along the way the subculture of history buffs became apparent.

I treasure the conversations with those who love my genre. We share great book titles and spectacular authors, spreading the words like breadcrumbs, each of us anxious to follow the paths of history as we learn more and more. I scrounge for everyday details that show how ordinary people lived. I own cookbooks bought in museums and have used them when deciding just what specific dishes John and Lucy (The Loyalist’s Wife) might be eating or the way to skin a raccoon out in the wilds.

My most interesting discovery has been the world of re-enactors. A couple of weeks ago I signed up to sell my books at a historical museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake. While the number of people through the museum that day was disappointing to say the least, those that I did meet were amazing.

One of the authors used the event for his book launch and he brought in about twenty people in period costume, my period! Many came to my table and some bought my book but more exciting was the feeling of shared interests. With wide eyes we talked about the Loyalists and how they came to be. I even met the author of a book which mentions my Garner ancestors. Gail Woodruff knew immediately the story of my people. I was enthralled.

I have yet to connect with the awesome lady who offered to take me to a re-enactment this fall. Of course we’re into the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812-1814 and The Loyalist’s Luck (book two in the Loyalist Trilogy) covers that period so I am ecstatic about that whole idea. I have to finish this post and send off an email to her.

What intellectual excitement it is to meet these people who, like me, thrill at the discovery of our history. I just wish that History class in high school had held the kind of emotional pull that discovering my Loyalist roots does now.

Find The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler

on Amazon and in many other fine bookstores.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Authors, General, History

 

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Fruitful Hours of Blog Trolling

Do you have trouble checking out all the links, email post announcements and Twitter suggestions which you get in a day or a week?

I certainly do.

And just now, I’m having more trouble than usual what with all the posts I’m creating for my book launch, the reading of proofs for The Loyalist’s Wife, and a zillion other must-do items which are all converging in my brain. That being said I have some great links for my readers today.

Lorrie Porter’s blog post, which I finally got around to reading (having been on a 3-day holiday), is a trove of writing-related blog addresses and blog awards which she has received. She chose to answer them all together to the benefit of all of us who enjoy seeing other writers’ links.

Note: When you start clicking on the links you’ll lose Lorrie’s site as she has forgotten to have each one open in a new page. Not to worry. Just use the back button on your browser to go back to Lorrie’s list.

very inspiring blogger award

Lorrie mentioned my blog here and invited all of us whom she mentioned to pick an award or all of them and participate.

Here, then, are my responses to the Very Inspirational Blogger Award, the name of which sets pretty well in my brain and I’ll refer to it over and over, particularly on those days when I myself need inspiration.

Favourite colour: Blue. Royal blue to be specific.

Favourite animal: The human animal who married me

Favourite number: The ones with dollar signs in front of them on cheques. Just kidding.

Favourite non-alcoholic drink: My own version of hot chocolate: 1/2 tsp. Quik in a mug of steaming skim milk.

Favourite alcoholic drink: Crown Royal, Diet Coke and 2 slices of lime

Facebook or Twitter: LinkedIn writing groups although I do think there are a lot of amazing writing gurus on Twitter. That’s where I found a lot of wonderful web wizards.

My passions: My family, my writing, my jewelry making

Giving or receiving gifts: Giving, although receiving is pretty intoxicating at times, too

Favourite city: Quebec City dans la belle province au Canada

Favourite TV shows: West Wing, anything which is historical and well done, such as Downton Abbey.

Here are some blogs which I follow at the moment:

The Maiden’s Court

Peeking Between the Pages

Let Them Read Books

Passages to the Past

Live Write Thrive

Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

This Craft Called Writing

Market Your Book by Jan Bear

I do tend to change sites I follow based upon what I need to learn about the book business at any given moment.

Consider leaving a comment with favorite sites you’ve found. I do love the sharing aspects of the web, don’t you?

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

Coming Soon!

The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler

 

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Paths of History Lead us to Today

Drumming in circle

I remember very clearly memorizing my speech about Joseph Brant and presenting it to my fellow Grade 8 students. Of course this was before the Internet was even thought of let alone used for research. I did mine in the school library by finding books about this illustrious man so involved in moving his people to, and opening up, present-day Southern Ontario.

That was the first speech I ever gave but the thing I remember most about it was my amazement that this native man had lived so very close to where I lived. Brantford, named for Brant, was about 40 miles from my home and my father often went there on business. For a child, putting a concrete connection to history is vital. This was mine to a man who had walked the trails of many places I knew.

At 13, I am sure my speech covered only the main, easily found points about Brant, but for my historical novel I have dug deeper. His native name, Thayendanagea, means Read the rest of this entry »

 
13 Comments

Posted by on August 16, 2012 in History, Personal History

 

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Who and Why I Am: My Story

My teenaged daughter once castigated me for making a scene and embarrassing her at the drugstore. I had taken in a doctor’s prescription with my name on it and when I got the hand-written receipt for tax purposes, the clerk had written the following:
Mr. Ron Cougler (for Elaine)
as though I were a child and Ron, my parent instead of my husband. It was another in a long list of subtle woman-therefore-inferior experiences I encountered as a young female. A concept which my daughter had to grow up to understand.

I was raised in a loving menagerie of thirteen children, nine of them boys, all of us independent, joyfully embracing the world, and even a bit clever. But when those brothers teased or tried to best me, I beat them at their own games. Tom-boy? Yes. Wimp? Absolutely not. My  self-taught, community-minded parents expected us all, boys and girls, to try our very best.

Society treated boys and girls differently but not my parents. Oh, sure, my brothers did chores in the barn and I helped Mom in the house but I, the oldest girl after four brothers, was the first one who went to university. (I had nervously asked Dad, he said yes, and I said, “but I thought you’d spend the money on the boys.” “None of them has asked to go,” he replied.)

Perhaps that vote of confidence from my dad helped me grow into the person I am today. Certainly my clever, well-organized, independent mother blazed a well-marked trail for me to follow. She always expected me to work at my peak and be a credit to my family.

Those two gave me the confidence to speak up and step out, reaching for my goals, whatever they might be. I am someone who listens hard for my own marching music; I’m not so swayed by group dynamics. My mother used to say, “If the other kids jumped off the third line bridge, would you do it, too?” Think for yourself, she said, and her voice still echoes in the memory corners of my brain.

Dad was famous for sitting quiet in family groups as we fought to voice our adult opinions, often politically oriented, and then, just as the spinning top of our discussion would begin to slow, he would quietly speak the words, his words, of summation, of considered opinion, and of brilliance. I was married and a mother of two children before I learned to appreciate his skill. No wonder he was so revered in local politics. Now I wait till others have spoken, consider their words, and try to be the ‘closer’, just like my father.

Girls are said to learn much from their mothers and I am no different. With all her faults, and she had them, she gave me the greatest gift: the model of her reciprocated love for my father. The youngest in a family where her parents divorced, she saw first-hand not to drag your eight-year-old along as you followed your philandering husband. She once told me about watching me play on  my eighth birthday, her head full of herself at that age, her mother’s hand pulling her along as they trailed her father, and she knew in her innermost parts that she could never do that to me. (Of course my Grandma was a lovely, loving Grandma and I wouldn’t trade her, but people make mistakes.)

My mother, then, knew how to overcome demons. After I grew up and left home, she became my very best friend. She always listened when I carried the tales of my first teaching jobs home or when I looked for advice in raising our two children. When my husband’s mother died suddenly, Mom, not a particularly demonstrative woman, took her son-in-law in her arms and just held him.

With those two parents in my background all my life, even now that they are both gone, I must be true to my own person. A good part of that means never giving up, neither on who I might be nor on what I want for myself, my future, and my legacy. When the final fleeting essence of who I really am floats out into the universe, I want my daughter (and my son, too) to know that I always tried to speak up, to write better, to sing better, to love better, to like more, and to reach, reach, reach for my very own star.

Consider leaving a comment about pivotal moments in your own life, as a writer or as a person. Who is your role model? How much of your personal story are you willing to tell the world?

 
17 Comments

Posted by on August 2, 2012 in General, History, Personal History

 

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