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If You Build It, Will They Come?

I think we’re all a little like Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams.

“How could authors be like a baseball player with a besmirched name?” you ask.

Remember the plot of that great movie with Kevin Costner and Ray Liota, Amy Madigan and the incomparable James Earl Jones? That cornfield and those car lights stretching for miles will stay in my head forever and so will that voice Costner kept hearing. “If you build it, they will come.”

But Shoeless Joe waited until everything was perfect before he stepped out of the corn and brought his team with him. Luckily for him, Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner’s character, was driven to sabotage his own corn crop and complete a perfect ball diamond. Jackson, however, didn’t come when the corn was plowed under. Or when the grass started to grow. Or at the building of the screens, the pitcher’s mound, the bases or the bleachers at the side. He came when everything was ready.

Are you like that? With your writing? Do you wait until everything is perfect before you write a word?

Last night I sat at a writers’ group meeting in a large city here in Ontario. I’ve belonged for a few years but my attendance has been spotty. When I first started to look at myself as a serious author, I traveled far and farther to learn what I needed to know. I flew across the country, drove hundreds of miles, started critique groups, crossed borders a few times and just went wherever I knew I could learn. And those travels led me to write books of which I am proud. I wanted to make them as perfect as they could be.

But back to last night. This group has not progressed; in fact, it has lost a lot of the people who were shakers and movers when my attendance was more regular a couple of years ago. As we did self introductions I was most interested to hear how many of those present (about 30) had never been there before. We went around the table telling a little about ourselves. Two things stood out. I was the only person who used her full name; the others just used their first name. And people seemed so apologetic and shy about what they were doing, even those who have been writing for years.

Members and visitors have in common a desire to write and, one assumes, to get published and known as writers. They should, therefore, introduce themselves with their full names. There is no place for bashfulness here. We must step up to the plate before the corn has reached full height or the cheering section is in place. A writer’s name is the shining light on the cover of her books or the byline of his articles. It’s marketing, people.

I belong to a second writing group whose meetings I travel miles to attend in snow, sleet and threat of flood. Well, not really. If the weather is horrid, I don’t drive the almost two hours to attend the Saturday morning breakfasts but usually it’s fine. This group has about 300 members, a vibrant executive, stunning guest speakers, a monthly breakfast meeting, workshops, courses in writing topics, its own magazine…the list goes on and on. I don’t attend everything and, because of the distance, some of the events are not possible for me to attend. When I go there, though, I see large groups of happy people delighted to be in a banquet room filled with others whose writing dreams are as magical as their own. Those people get what I’m doing and many of them help me, whether they know it or not.

And they are not apologetic!

The Writers’ Community of Durham Region has built a fine playing field. People are coming. In droves and flocks and buses. They even have an associate membership available so that those who are too far away can use the resources on their website. The current board members of this amazing group and those who came before have followed their own dreams and created something for the rest of us to use and enjoy. And, like Shoeless Joe, I’m stepping out of the cornfield and playing in a great game.

As for the first group, I’ve decided to try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. So many people have helped me and I’m thankful. It’s time to give back. Do you belong to a writing group? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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.

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Authors

 

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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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Do You Have the Right Writing Team?

Team of 4-yr.-olds on stage

Team of 4-yr.-olds on stage

We hear it all the time: You’ve got to be a team player. Take one for the team. Come on, team. Let’s win this.

And it starts young. At summer camp my wee grandson is on stage performing with his group. (Read team.)  We applaud their cute antics as they learn to work together and perform a song or act out a skit.

“All you ever need to know you learned in kindergarten.” So goes the saying. Of course I never went to kindergarten but you get the idea. We all have to learn to coexist with the other people on the planet and most of what we do is with, for, or instigated by others.

So it goes with writing. Yes, I know. The actual putting words on screen is usually a solitary process but after that loads of people are crucial to me.

This graphic from last year’s Ontario Writers’ Conference demonstrates how together we make something beautiful. The organizers took the last names of all of those registered who had published a book that year and made this lovely picture. Each of us has our name up there several times, large and small. I was delighted to be a part of the larger whole.

On front wall at writers' conference.
On front wall at Ontario Writers’ Conference.

In a similar way I am surrounded by amazing people who help me achieve publication. For the first two books in my trilogy I used an interior designer from Paris, France for helping to choose the typeface, the setup of chapters, and generally the whole look of the interior of the books. Her knowledge and helpful suggestions saved me hours and hours of learning all this myself.

Even more so, my cover designer, a suggestion from my awesome printer in Victoria, British Columbia, was, and continues to be, a ready and reachable source of knowledge on everything from just what the purpose of the cover is to formatting my manuscript for the different e-book platforms. And she is a dream to work with, always sunny and excited about the project at hand.

So, too, my printer, who does rush orders for me with nary a whimper, smooths out any little bump in the printing road, and is just generally a pleasure to work with.

But what about before those people get their hands on my work?

I get to bounce ideas off my friend, author and poet Robyn Marie Butt, and various others of my friends who are writers and readers. Luckily my inner circle allow me to natter on about my work in progress and offer ideas and suggestions when I ask. My family does this all the time, especially my daughter and my husband. My son, with his question to me when I confided my writing dreams, got me thinking large enough to write a novel. He asked “If not now, when?”.

And my beta readers! These people are the ones who keep me honest and searching to improve all the time. Millie, particularly, gives me an excellent critique and is wonderful at discussing the work-in-progress. The others offer insights, too, all from the vantage point of their particular talents and experiences. We writers do not see everything about what we’ve written. We need fresh eyes on the work and I, for one, really treasure those who help me by venturing into the final (?) draft of my novel.

I’ve used two different editors, both excellent and both thorough, for edits large and small. Because I taught senior English for twenty-some years my eyes are pretty good at sourcing out grammar or other errors but these editors are good at looking at the overall novel. I may not use all of their suggestions but I definitely consider them thoroughly.

So there you have them–the people behind my author’s name on the cover. And here’s a great big THANK YOU to all of those on my writing team as I work on the third book in the Loyalist trilogy.

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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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.

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , ,

January’s Gifts to a Writer

Projects boardI love the new year. It’s the chance to start over, to etch my life on a fresh slate. Like the brand spankin’ new whiteboard my husband gave me for Christmas. Notice number one on the list? RESEARCH! That’s because I’m really stepping up the quest for the third book in my Loyalist trilogy and want to make research the first thing I see every morning and all day as I work at my desk. And because it’s a new year I seem to have renewed energy and excitement about finding my story through reading history.

The second thing on the list is Cruise Ideas. You’ll be hearing more about this VERY soon as it includes everyone.

The next things are all Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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7 Lessons Related To Being a Writer

20141019_132341Eight years ago (almost) when I first started my novelist’s journey, I knew I’d be using my love of words, my English teacher knowledge of grammar and spelling, my research abilities, and even my computer knowledge. Piece of cake, I told myself.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Heard that before? The expression refers to being blissfully ignorant of not only the how-to’s but of the fact that the how-to’s even exist. And after those eight years of conferences and workshops, writing groups and editing notes, rejections and suggestions, I am on a totally different piece of ground than when I began.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
10 Comments

Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Marketing Books, Writing Tips

 

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We Had a Book Party!

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.inddIT’S HERE, IT’S HERE, IT’S HERE!

My days are mostly spent in my office sitting at my computer, moving my projects along at what always seems more like the turtle’s pace rather than the hare’s. In fact, the more I’ve sat here over the past seven years, the more I’m even coming to look like that turtle! (Hence my new walking regime!)

In June, 2013, my publishing company launched The Loyalist’s Wife and I was ecstatic. So much work, so many miles traveled, so many people met, places visited, and ideas acted upon. And, finally, a book to hold in my hand.

And before that book was even published I was hard at work on its sequel, The Loyalist’s Luck. This month of October has been crazy busy as we launched number two in the trilogy. In one fell swoop, I went from a mark of 33% to one of 67% for finishing the Loyalist trilogy. (Once a teacher, always a teacher.)

YAY!

Here are some pictures from the formal launch here in beautiful Woodstock, Ontario.

Fellow author and person extraordinaire, Sharon Clare, Helped me out by reading a section from my new novel. David Butler, an amazingly gifted person in his own right–the man can write!–happens to be descended directly from Colonel John Butler of the famous Butler’s Rangers. He figures in both of my Loyalist novels so far. David said a few kind words of welcome and congratulations. You can learn about David’s famous father, the artist Ross Butler, here.

Launch

Laughing at a small slip up I made at the podium.

Laughing at a small slip up I made at the podium.

Sharon Clare expertly reading.

Sharon Clare expertly reading.

Sue Garner hosted and read, her sassy smile flashing throughout.

Sue Garner hosted and read, her sassy smile flashing throughout.

20141019_132341

We had to have cake! Thanks, Ron, for arranging this and all the other details.

This book table had to be refilled several times as people bought a lot of books.

This book table had to be refilled several times as people bought a lot of books.

Joyce and Donna welcomed everyone to the festivities.

Joyce and Donna welcomed everyone to the festivities.

Book club friends going through a copy. So wonderful that they came!

Book club friends going through a copy. So wonderful that they came!

We drew names for two free books. I was so happy to see the winners: Olive, my dear friend, and Keith, one of my many wonderful brothers.

We drew names for two free books. I was so happy to see the winners: Olive, my dear friend, and Keith, one of my many wonderful brothers.

There were many more at my launch, including my 93-year-old aunt and a carload of cousins from as far away as Miami who completely surprised me. They drove all the way from South Carolina. So, as any reader can see, my heart is full. All the hard work has paid off when family, friends, people I’ve met over the last year and a half on speaking gigs all show up for the new book. As well, people I don’t know who joined us just thrilled me.

This is a small word to contain the huge joy I feel but here it is:

THANK YOU!

See you all in two years when The Loyalist Legacy has its debut!

Next week this blog will be back to writing about historical fiction, wonderful readers and tips for writers. Come join us!

The Loyalist’s Luck on Amazon

The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon

also available on Kobo and in many fine bookstores.

PHOTO CREDITS: Sherry Isaac, Brian Jackson

 
8 Comments

Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Marketing Books, Publishing

 

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