Category Archives: Research Tips

7 Sites for Historical Writers and Readers

Have you ever wondered just what is out there on the web for your own personal interests? Of course you have! And, no doubt, you’ve done what I did yesterday–taken a flyer with nimble fingers and flicking eyes. Just to check it out.

I have just one question: did you manage to stay on track? Or did the multitude of swishing colours and beckoning keywords pull you ever and further away from the designated task at hand?

Luckily my keywords sourced up some pretty interesting stuff which all kept me on task and I’ve compiled just a little of what I found.

7 Super Sites for Historical Writers (and Readers!)

Historical Map on My Wall

Historical Map on My Wall


  1. If you want to read or write about American history, this edtechteacher site lists dozens of excellent historical sites on subjects from Lewis and Clark to the Chicago Fire. Clicking on its links allows you to delve deeper and deeper into fascinating topics.

  2. Likewise this list of history websites can just take you away and you’ll have a tough time finding your way back to the task at hand. I was just looking at a bunch of letters written home in WWI. So interesting to read the actual words of the soldiers and wonder what happened to each of them.

  3. Another way to find details is to visit one of the mapping sites which specialize in historical maps. This one has a map of South Africa which looks suspiciously like the world map up on the wall in my school room many moons ago. Surely it’s not an ‘historical’ map???

  4. Another thing you can do is look for historic sites by country. Take a look at the map of Great Britain here, so filled with push pins you can’t read any of them. Nevertheless these show all the hundreds of historical sites there.

  5. Part of my research for my Loyalist series has been delving into aboriginal backgrounds. Although I didn’t find this site until now Canada’s first peoples are well represented in this list of books. From art to lifestyle, history to daily diet, these books inform.  I am particularly intrigued by The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.

  6. Many sites offer beautifully rendered historical maps for sale and these are useful for study as well, right on the screen. This sample is pretty cool as the whole northwest of Canada, including Alaska is just not there. It hadn’t been mapped yet.

  7. This last is an example of the excellent blogs that are out there which can be so helpful. This one is exciting for readers and writers alike as several different authors write pieces relating to their fields of research. Writing Historical Novels encompasses  a huge topic but one with loads of room for specialization according to interest. I liked the continuously moving band of titles and related photos streaming across the top of the site. Very much an eye-catcher which puts this blog into the well done category.

In the Comments below try listing one site you’ve found which has made a difference to your writing and reading.

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.







Posted by on January 29, 2015 in General, Research Tips


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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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Blog Tour and FAQ’s I Get as a Published Author

This week and next you can find me on a Historical Fiction blog tour.This means people read my book and review it and/or interview me and/or ask me to write a guest post. Please join me each day. The schedule is below.

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FAQ’s For This Author

1.  How long did it take you to write The Loyalist’s Wife?

The first draft took me a year with lots of research, learning, and time off for downsizing to a condo. Then I wanted help with the next steps and found writing workshops, conferences, and other writers with whom to share critiques. That stage lasted almost five years with lots of twists and wrong turns in the journey. I needed time and experience to develop the ability to choose my own style and my own path.

2.  What is the attraction of historical fiction?

For me historical fiction has an extra layer to it. The plot can have not only the protagonist and antagonist and their various raisons d’être, but also the grounding feature of actual people and events. This makes the story very real for me and I do love learning about history against the backdrop of a really great story.

3What types of books do you like to read?

Ah, that’s a good one. I always answer historical fiction but if someone I trust suggests a great book, that title will find its way into my TBR pile. My sister has pointed me to wonderful stories such as The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. Now that I think of it, they each have an historical quality to them, too!

4.  Does your reading influence your writing?

Absolutely! At times I forgo reading books similar to mine so that I won’t find those stories or characters poking their heads up in my own work. That being said I find I am a more discerning reader now that I’m writing novels myself as I can see the novelist’s plan and structure behind the story. And I love, just love, to find a tightly written bit which jumps out to my writer’s mind. I just want to e-mail that writer and applaud him or her.

5.  Are conferences and workshops important to a writer?

You hear all the time that writing is a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. In this Internet world opportunities are there for grabbing but you have to reach out. I’ve flown across the country on more than one occasion to find what I need. One of the best conferences was in Vancouver about three years ago where I got turned on to social media as a way to learn more and to find an audience. Pitch conferences are eye-opening and every writer should take that plunge. Just now I’m planning how to get to the Historical Novel Society conference in England next September. It will be amazing, truly amazing!

6.  How much do you think about your reader when you are writing?

In the beginning I didn’t think much about my readers. I just knew what I loved as a lifelong HF reader and that style came naturally to me. A lot of people talk about identifying your audience which is a great idea and very necessary. I know exactly the type of person who likes my work and I now write for them. It helps that I write in a genre which I personally adore reading.

7.  If you had known when you started what the journey would be, would you have set out to write, publish and sell books?

That question has had different answers over the six years it took me to publish The Loyalist’s Wife but now the answer is definitely I would do this again; in fact, I am working on the second book of The Loyalist Trilogy!

8.  What is your daily writing regimen?

I always work best in the morning and that’s how I wrote the first book. Three hours of losing myself in words and wonderful concentration and the afternoon was free. Now I’ve trained myself to write my three pages whenever I have a couple of hours in the day. I never write at night but I often think about my writing and read writing magazines, both of which things give me ideas for the next day. To get myself started each day, I write notes and questions at the end of the previous day’s writing. These provide the key to getting my brain back in gear on a new day.

9.  How do you pick which writing help books to use and which to pass by?

Over the last few years I’ve bought a lot of writing books and gleaned amazing things from each one. I should confess, however, that I am under no compulsion to finish reading them! Some I do, some I don’t. As far as how to pick them, I just go for those that promise to show me something I need to know at that particular time. I’ve done posts on many books which I’ll link here. The bottom line for me is that books can help enormously but ultimately a writer has to sift through all the how-to information and just write, write, write. One of my writing friends told me that. Pretty sage advice. And knowing how hard it is to write, we must beware of using the how-to books as crutches and excuses not to put fingers on keyboard and glide off down the hill, hanging on for the ride of our life.

10.  Is self publishing for everyone?

This is a thorny question in some circles but I can only talk about my own case. I never wanted to self publish. I wanted to have an agent and a publisher. When I started to query and to listen to the state of the publishing world, eventually I changed my mind and took control of my book again. The numbers here in Canada were not favorable for my HF books. Besides, I’m a control freak. After much dithering and dickering I set up my own publishing company and took the plunge. I’ve never regretted that move. I had my manuscript professionally edited twice, my book interior designed by an amazing detail person in Paris, France, and my cover and actual printing done in Victoria, B.C. For the second book, I’m using the same people so that shows how happy I am with my choices. Of course if a famous publisher decides to pick up my work, I’ll have to rethink the whole subject again!

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, October 7
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 8
Review at West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, October 9
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, October 10
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, October 11
Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook

Monday, October 14
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, October 15
Review at A Bookish Affair
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise

Thursday, October 17
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, October 18
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Monday, October 21
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Find The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler

on Amazon and in many other fine bookstores.



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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A Tip About a Revealing Book: Mrs. Simcoe’s Diary

Today’s post is a revisit to a marvelous book I found while researching, Mrs. Simcoe’s Diary.  If you want to learn about North America two hundred and some years ago, check this out.  I was astounded and thought I’d resurrect this post from another blog I run.  Enjoy!

Mrs. Simcoe’s Diary Day

For the last week of my holiday and up till today, I have been reading very early Canadian history. During that time I met Mrs. Simcoe. She was the wife of Governor Simcoe of Upper Canada whose time in this province (present-day Ontario) has left so many marks. (I grew up a mile north of the Governor’s Road, built by and named for Governor John Graves Simcoe.
Amazingly his wife came with him to this untamed country and Read the rest of this entry »


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6 Ways to Make Your Research Pay

So there I was digging about in dusty files and dingy books looking for information on Loyalists during the American Revolutionary War.  And what did I find?  Soldiers of African origin crudely inoculated themselves against smallpox. This can’t be true, I thought.  But further research verified it.  Immediately I knew that fact had to go into my upcoming historical novel, The Loyalist’s Wife.

And it did.  But then I got to thinking about what else I could Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Authors, Research Tips, Writing Tips


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