Tag Archives: personal story

How My Workspace Fuels My Fires: 12 Points, With Pictures

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

When I step into my sunny office I’m surrounded by objects and remembrances I treasure and that fill my heart (and my head) with joy and thanks. Every morning I put my glass of water on a stone coaster imprinted with Eliot’s quote. This coaster has been a talisman for me for over eight years and each time I read it, I’m refreshed and ready to push on with my writing.

1-3.  The picture on my computer screen is bright and beautiful to me, my light, which I originally bought for beading, bathes my workspace, and a card on the left at the back tells me to Celebrate! I got it from a lovely couple at my first book launch.


4.  A bulletin board to the right of my desk holds pictures of many of my life’s treasures.

bulletin board in office

5-6.  I have a long table attached to my desk where I can assemble the projects I’m working on and, in the foreground, my book selling paraphernalia are stacked ready for the next person who comes to my door for a copy. Yes, they do that and it’s wonderful both for the sales and for the personal visits.

books on office table

7.  One evening my husband and I were dining in a new restaurant on a trip and this painting caught our attention. The local artist (the restaurant was in Orillia) had several of her paintings displayed there but we loved this one. My lovely husband promptly bought it for me and I painted my office  to match it. (My snapshot hasn’t rendered the colour of the paint at all correctly!)

office scene

8-9.  As we circle around the room past the door, my own framed photograph of a spot we found walking one day in Hilton Head, South Carolina hangs above my “imagine” sign. A perfect gift for a writer that sign, and I received it long before I’d published any books. How wonderful for writers to have people believe in us!


10. Here are more family pictures. I’m there at nine and at twelve, I think, posing for a record of our good times. I didn’t think much about it then but now I smile into the memories.


11-12. And on the other side of the window my siblings and I are posing for our last family photograph while we were all still alive. My family is so much a part of who I am. Oh, and on the filing cabinet beside my desk in a pottery dish I myself crafted is my collection of rocks and minerals which I and my wee grandson have rearranged thousands of times.


Things in and of themselves are not all that important I know, but these things glow with the memories they elicit and wonderful memories are worth everything. On a day when I have just a bit of an urge to chuck the revision and go walking or just watch a movie, being surrounded by my things and my people reminds me to keep working at being what I can be. Thanks, George Eliot.

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction, Just Out!

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 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 December 3, 2014 in Authors, Awards, Writing Tips


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Another Reason to Write

Our Linda

Our Linda

For the last year and a half my family has borne the sadness of a sister diagnosed with cancer. We’ve all hoped and prayed only to have our best wishes come to a crushing end last week. You can imagine the sadness; it seems not one family can escape this dread disease.

Linda Garner VanWinden fought long and hard from the first diagnosis to the second news that the cancer was back and from the realization that this would be the fight of her life to the final bad news.  Pain was her constant companion, none of the multitude of drugs being enough to free her. But she held her head high, rarely stopped working on her next amazing project, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment she could with the many friends and family who loved her.

Such an outpouring of love, gratitude, and sadness has filled all of our lives over the past week that we all realize just how appreciated Linda was. A gifted soprano who could have had a stunning professional career, she chose instead a loving husband and family. She passed on her great musical knowledge to countless students and choirs and is treasured for all of those gifts and more.

So how does all of this relate to my writing?

Last week I spent as much time as I could pushing forward with revisions to The Loyalist’s Luck for one simple reason: I could lose myself there. I could escape from my wretched heart and work on my second book in the Loyalist trilogy: The Loyalist’s Luck. 

And hours before my sister passed, I had an epiphany. Linda was one who believed in my writing abilities early on. She stored my extra flash drive and swapped it out periodically as I revised. Her home was a safe haven for my backup. When The Loyalist’s Wife came out last summer, she read it and proclaimed far and wide her pride in me and my writing. And that was a very large audience. The church was full for her funeral. Five hundred people came to bid her farewell.

We left the sanctuary listening to a marvellous trio recorded only a year ago at a spontaneous concert for cancer research organized by one of Linda’s students. The trio? My brother, Keith on tenor, my famous sister, Donna, singing alto, and lovely Linda, whose soprano soared with hope and pure joy. Here is an admittedly imperfect video of the girls singing The Lord is My Shepherd a year ago. But listen, just listen.

The Lord is My Shepherd: Linda VanWinden and Donna Garner

Another reason to write? Well, actually, I’ve two: to keep my mind off my aching heart and to finish this novel that I’m so proud to be dedicating to my lovely sister.


Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Personal History


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How To Publish and Keep Control

IMG_2433_editedSo you write a book, and it takes you a year, and you think the next step is handing it to a publisher. That’s what I thought seven years ago. And then came revision, character arcs, economy of words, and a host of other writing no-no’s and must-do’s.

For five of my six years to publication, traditional publishing was absolutely the way I wanted to go. The marvellous books I’d read were published by the big houses, and I longed to follow that tradition.

Throughout all the conferences, workshops, online searches, critique groups (even one I started myself), and connections with writers, I dreamed of finding a publisher. I pitched, queried, rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. Somewhere along the way, however, I learned something else. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on June 11, 2014 in General, Writing Tips


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3 Reasons I Can’t Seem To Write Today

Did you ever have a day when the topics just wouldn’t come? Ever wonder why?

Today is such a day for me so this post will be short. Here are three things that are keeping me from writing a brilliant blog post.

1. photo (3)photo (2) This is the weak weather outside my front door. Notice my neighbor’s Christmas reindeer are still out there. We haven’t had a break in the snow since Christmas and he can’t get those cute reindeer put away.

2. Across the street you can see the falling snow, a picture that is hard to get. Ordinarily I’d be really excited at this phenomenon but enough is enough this year.

3. My daughter and her family are flying in this evening but as the day goes on, we wonder if we’ll be able to go to the airport 30 miles away and pick them up. Or even if the plane will land. My 6-year-old granddaughter will love the snow and the reindeer even though I’m pretty sure the adults won’t be so enamored.

photoThe positive is that I got three more pages written as I finish off the rough draft of The Loyalist’s Luck, due for release in September. Yay! And I found a great website with lots of information about Governor and Mrs. Simcoe who both appear in this second book of my Loyalist trilogy.

Hope you are enjoying the snow, either in person or through these pictures, better than I am. :-(

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500


Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Historical Fiction, Just For Fun


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How Writers Attract Readers

Bookmarks, front and back, for The Loyalist's Wife

Bookmarks, front and back, for The Loyalist’s Wife. I wish my photography was up to the task of reproducing them for you here!

So now you have it. That book you’ve lived with, sweated over, and suffered birth pangs for is ready for the world. What now?

Many writers give little thought to the selling part of their job, meaning that when their books are finally finished, they must consider how to market them and it’s a daunting task. This applies to traditionally published, self-published and e-books.

Of course all your friends and family want a copy because they know and love you. There may even be a few who don’t but they buy a copy for more nefarious purposes, like proving you don’t know what you’re doing! So you sell a couple of hundred books. Now what do you do?

10 Ways to Find Readers

(I’m going to use historical fiction here but you can easily apply these ideas to your own work.)

  1. Find the history buffs in your area and offer to speak to them. I have been lucky enough to speak to local historical societies, re-enactors, and history groups. I always ask if I can sell books there and they are delighted to accommodate me. Plus, speaking to people who love your subject area is just thrilling for their insightful questions and general love of the topic.
  2. Tell everyone you meet about your new book. People who have known me for years and those I’ve just met tell me how proud they are to know a published author. When I have my hair done my stylist buys a copy of my book. My financial adviser emailed me asking for a copy and prices if he buys enough to give to all of his clients for a Christmas gift. My neighbor, who is an acquaintance, not really a friend, comes to buy two books and, once she sees the quality, buys four for Christmas gifts.
  3. Always have books with you, easily accessible, to show if people ask. If they don’t buy give them a bookmark (mine are awesome!) with your website on so they can find you. This also lets them see what a professional you are, an especially important part of your image with those who’ve known you for ever as well as those who have just met you.
  4. Talk to people. On a bus trip to Toronto I chatted with a woman who turned out to be a librarian. Of course I gave her a bookmark. A couple of months later she emailed me and engaged me to speak to their library book club and even paid me to come. All because we chatted on the bus.
  5. Set up book store signings wherever you can. I agreed to do one in a store an hour from my home and it was disappointing for its lack of promotion and subsequent dearth of attendees. There were four people listening to my reading: 3 were related to me and 1 was a stranger. Well, that stranger, a writer herself, and I chatted a lot and she wants to host me at her writing group. It’s not always about the sales.
  6. Learn to know what about your book will be interesting to the people you’re talking to. My famous The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500faux pas was speaking to a men’s group with my novel cover on screen much of the time and never telling them that The Loyalist’s Wife is both Lucy’s and John’s story. I needed to tell them about the structure of alternating chapters with John off fighting the war and Lucy on her own trying to hold on to their land. I sure wish I could do that talk over again!
  7. Have book launches. So far I’ve had one for this novel but I know of authors who have them in various cities over the space of a year to launch their latest work. The important thing is to make them open to the public, not just your friends and family, and you’ll get all sorts of people interested in the event. I had guest readers and I read myself for a total of about 25 minutes. The rest of the time was for chatting, drinking coffee, eating cake, and book signing. It was great fun. Many people said to me, “I’ve never been to a book launch before!”
  8. Hand out free copies where they will do the most good. I donated a copy to a coffee pub’s library shelf because their whole focus is on creating a place for customers to sip coffee, chat, read, borrow books that are on the shelf, and just relax. I loved the ambiance and if I lived closer, I’d be there a lot. I also attended a Friday night function at a nearby church and donated books for their draw. The hostess kindly asked me to stand and tell the hundred women or so about my book. How awesome was that!
  9. Every day, along with your writing, do a few things to promote your book and yourself. Today, after I finish this blog post and my three pages of The Loyalist’s Luck (book 2 in the series), I’ll be creating a letter for libraries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area here in Ontario. Why that area? My books are about the Loyalists who ultimately settled in Ontario, their continuing ties to the United States, and the forging of two great countries. (Many Loyalists went to Nova Scotia but my books focus on Ontario.)
  10. Just be open to whatever might come along. It helps if you like people and have spent a lifetime teaching and performing, I’ll grant you, but everyone can do these things. Find your comfort level and work from there.

I’ve listed ten ideas here but how writers attract readers is an unending list, isn’t it? Think of your genre and the events and activities that relate to it. How can you be part of those things? For instance, if you write children’s books, link up to the local library and offer to do an event for children and parents and grandparents.

And if you’re one of those treasured readers of historical fiction, contact authors and tell them what you like about their books. Then ask them to speak to your group. After spending years writing we authors love to get out and talk to people who appreciate our work.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Historical Fiction, Marketing Books


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Author Chose Suicide Rather Than Slow Death

James King's Biography

James King’s Biography

I well remember the day many years ago when my morning newspaper told of my favorite author’s death. A confirmed smoker, she died of lung cancer, the article said. And I wept.

Really. Tears in my eyes and a thunk in my chest, I wept.

For Margaret Laurence was the one. When I first read The Fire Dwellers, on loan to me from my reader mother, I related to that housewife who stood in the bedroom, naked before the mirror, bemoaning the decline of her own body. And in A Jest of God, to the old maid school teacher who finally had sex in the grass on a one-night stand and used her mother’s ancient birth control apparatus to try to prevent pregnancy, after the fact.

The Stone Angel had a special part of my heart as I taught it to seniors for several years. There is no joy quite so visceral as delving into the depths of a treasured book with bright students who absolutely get the writer’s skill. Morag Gunn is a character name which I will keep forever as her pain and troubles with her life, her lover, and her recalcitrant daughter made for an award-winning final novel for this amazing author.

I had to realize, that sad morning, that my dream of meeting Laurence and telling her in person just how much her writing had affected my life would never be. But today, I tell the world about this clever and talented writer whose work I treasured so much.

My title, above, is the headline for an article in The Toronto Star which announces James King’s The Life of Margaret Laurence.

And her suicide.

Even at her end, suffering from lung cancer, she made the unspeakably difficult decision to end her own life. I suppose she wanted to save herself and her family the suffering she knew was coming. Courageous and fully aware of how horrifying suicide might be to some of her followers, she took control, herself, the best of the intrepid female characters she created.

Margaret Laurence, (born July 18, 1926, Neepawa, Man., Can.—died Jan. 5, 1987, Lakefield, Ont.), Canadian writer whose novels portray strong women striving for self-realization while immersed in the daily struggle to make a living in a male-dominated world.


Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Authors, General, Personal History


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Matt L. Holmes Talks About Writing and No Brother of Mine

So fNo Brother of Mine Coverar, I only know Matt Holmes through No Brother of Mine, his second novel, but I feel I know him very well. From his amazing wife, Vicki, I bought a copy of Matt’s book and so began my initiation into his writing and his attitude towards his work. Because of the long, well thought out answers Matt has written to my questions, I am dividing this instructive interview into two parts. The concluding segment will be posted next week.

Part I

  1. No Brother of Mine, your second book, among other things tells the story of two brothers who have an abusive father. How did you keep from letting this plot become mundane and ordinary?

What a great question to lead off with, Elaine!  Unwinding the plot of No Brother of Mine a bit, I needed a reason for the two brothers to be estranged, and for it to be dramatic enough that the reader would feel it was both realistic and credible as a catalyst for such a significant rift between brothers.  That led me to the idea that the boys had decided to kill their father Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Authors, Writing Tips


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