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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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 
2 Comments

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

 

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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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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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Interview of Elaine Cougler Where Many Probing Questions are Answered

A wonderful thing about being an author is finding other like-minded people who spend their days or nights doing the same crazy thing. They write. And, more importantly for me, they publish. Matt Holmes, author of several books, is one such writer whom I discovered in the last year and interviewed here in January.

Today he is returning the favour over on his site, Kimota94’s Place. When his questions arrived I couldn’t wait to read them and I wasn’t disappointed. He has asked a lot about the writing of The Loyalist’s Wife, how I did my research, whether there is a sequel, and much more.

Click over to Kimota94’s Place where Matt puts me through my paces.

The LoyalistsWife_3D_510x602

The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler is Here!

Kobo version

Amazon.ca Kindle version for Canadians

Amazon.com Kindle version

Amazon.com Paperback

Still available: Your free copy of 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing. Download from the link in the side column!

 
 

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Where Do New Historicals Come From?

attawondaronkJ.R. Montgomery is not a household name. Yet.

His first book, however, is ground-breaking for its telling of the Attawondaronks who lived in Southern Ontario at the beginning of the sixteenth century. And Rick adds to the excitement with his story of a life-long preoccupation with these early peoples, so much so that he is an authority on the topic.

I have known Rick for many years but I never knew about his writing or his interest in history, two interests that we definitely share. Today I take great pleasure in giving my readers the gift of a new historical author about whom we shall definitely hear more.

EC: People often want to know how long the writing of a book takes. Would you discuss that but include all the work and research that went on before you ever started writing, perhaps even telling the story of Read the rest of this entry »

 
13 Comments

Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Authors, General, Publishing

 

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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 »

 
23 Comments

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

 

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