Tag Archives: writing

Dogs, People and Guests

Once again the lovely, the intrepid, the unique Jessica Aspen is guest posting on my blog. She has written several books and does an amazing job of getting them out for the world to see. Because she writes in paranormal, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but even an historical fiction devotee like me loved her books. They are shorter than HF but very satisfying. Check out the links below for more about this hard working writer.

As happy as I am to have Jessica here, I was a little worried when I read her title. Oh, no! Was this going to be about cleaning house? Rest easy, it’s not. And those of you who love pets will appreciate her lead-in. Enough talking from me.

Here’s Jessica!

Picking Up After Ourselves

10-22-2013 7-18-45 PM_editedI walk my dog nearly every day. Right now my usual walking trail has been flooded out, and so has the sign that says: “Please pick up after your dog.”

The post is held up only by a bundle of roots. The trash can and all the bags are gone, but the sentiment remains. We are expected to clean up after ourselves and our pooches even if the trail is gone. Even if there is no place to deposit the results. Even if we don’t want to clean up the mess.

Dogs don’t care what they do or where they do it. Okay, they have their own doggie rules and requirements but they do not coincide with our ideas of where it’s appropriate to do your business. So we pick up after them. It’s part of dog ownership. It’s part of dog life. We’d prefer they were like cats and use the litter box (or better yet, the potty) but they don’t. So we carry our little plastic bags and pick up after them so that the trails and parks do not become a health hazard.

It’s polite, and it’s the law, even if sometimes it’s inconvenient and we do it all as a matter of course. No stress, no whining, no yelling.

But what happens when I make a mistake?IMG_6120-1

Do I matter of factly clean it up with little to no emotion?

No! If I make a mistake there can be big time stress. Lots of whining. And hopefully no yelling.

I wail and whine and worry. I look at the horror of my mistake and wonder: What will people think? Will anyone notice? How can I hide it?

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how we deal with those mistakes that defines who we are. Okay, that sounds pretentious. (And it’s likely a quote from someone famous; remind me to look it up sometime.) But in every cliché there is a silver lining of truth. In real life we all make mistakes and if we get upset and don’t deal with them that can become a handicap.

Luckily, as a writer, I’ve learned that almost everything can be fixed. I have a handy tool in my computer. I can cut, paste, copy and erase. I can find a back-up file and reload the lost document. It’s all good. I can pick up after myself by picking myself up and starting over.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes… starting over.

Sometimes the only fix is to pull on the big boots and get to shoveling. Clean it all out. And lay down a fresh foundation. So pull out your baggies and clean up after yourselves. No mistakes are bad, they all teach us something and they are almost all fixable in some way.

How do you deal with mistakes in your life? Does it depend on the size of it? Big mistakes don’t go away any sooner than little mistakes, sometimes they simply need more shoveling. How big is your shovel?

10-22-2013 7-28-38 PM_editedBio:

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.


Author web links: (web, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads, etc)



Jessica Aspen’s non-spammy, new release email please go to:

An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch, tangled together in a tale of Snow White…


Desperate to save the last of her family from the murderous Faery Queen, Trina Mac Elvy weaves a spell of entrapment. But instead of a common soldier, the queen has released the Dark Huntsman, a full blooded fae with lethal powers.

Caged for treason, Logan Ni Brennan, is ready to do anything to win free of the manipulative queen, even if it includes running a last errand for her…murdering a witch. The sight of Trina, ready to fight despite the odds, gives him another option: use the witch as a chess piece, put the queen’s son on the throne, and bring down the queen forever.

As the queen slides into insanity and her closest advisor makes plans to succeed to the throne, Logan secrets Trina away in the enchanted forest and makes a decisive move in his dangerous game of manipulation. But the gaming tables of fate turn on him, and when Trina’s life is threatened he discovers he risks more than his freedom…he risks his heart.

Dare to enter Jessica Aspen’s world of steamy, fantasy romance in her new twisted fairy tale trilogy: Tales of the Black Court…


Available now on Amazon.


Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Authors, General, Writing Tips


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Revisiting Barbara Kyle

Barbara Kyle guest posted for me in 2010 with this excellent piece about our main characters making an entrance. While the books she has published have grown as has her reach into the reading and writing world, the point of this excellent post is as valid today as it was three years ago. Visit Barbara’s website (newly updated) to see just where she is with the Thornleigh Saga.

Barbara’s reach has also extended to doing more and more talks at conferences and other places readers throng to hear writers speak. This past summer I heard her at Stratford’s Shakespearean Festival. As usual she wowed her audience.

Barbara Kyle


 by Barbara Kyle

First impressions are crucial. Your initial response when you meet a person gets imprinted on your mind and is hard to alter. This is equally true of a reader’s first impression of a character in fiction. Their response to your story’s protagonist, in particular, is supremely important. Yet new writers often waste this opportunity by introducing their protagonist in idleness or passivity. Be smart – put the visceral impact of the first impression to work for you.

Lights, Camera, Action

Think of your story as a movie, and your protagonist as the star, and give him or her a dynamic and meaningful entrance. Focus on two steps:

1. Determine the character’s defining quality

2. Show that quality through action

Action is the key. Description of a character tells the reader mere facts – it has little visceral effect. Showing the character’s defining quality through action produces an emotional response in the reader, leaving a deep and lasting effect.

Star Roles

Screenwriters do this very consciously. Watch any film that you like and notice how the scene in which the hero/heroine first comes on screen demonstrates their defining quality. In other words, it shows the character’s essence.

When actors first read a script this “essence in action” is the very thing they look for. (I know – I made my living as an actor for twenty years.) As a writer of fiction, you can use this screenwriting technique to good effect. Strive to write an entrance scene for your protagonist which, if your story were made into a film, would attract an A-list actor to the role – a star.

How It’s Done

Here are some examples of the kind of dynamic entrance I mean:

1. Meredith Stephure’s splendid and moving historical novel CIVIL BLOOD opens with Thomas de Chastelain, lawyer and loyalist, about to ride off to war, yet he takes a few minutes to deal with a small family crisis: his two bold young sons have trespassed on the neighbor’s property. We see Thomas take action, being strict but fair, and full of affection for his children. This is the essence of his character.

2. Ian McEwan’s brilliant novel ATONEMENT opens with Briony Tallis, as a precocious child, obsessing about the play she has written, and orchestrating her cousins to take the roles in her fictional world. Her need to control people, and her obsession with storytelling, are the essence of her character.

3. Lee Gowan’s novel CONFESSION shows Dwight Froese, a young janitor at an elementary school, breaking up a schoolyard fight between two boys by lifting up the bully by his shirt and calmly threatening him. Dwight’s action shows us a man who cares about justice but also has an aura of latent brutality.

4. My novel THE QUEEN’S LADY, set in Tudor England, opens with seven-year-old Honor Larke risking her life to try to find her servant-friend amid a May Day riot. When she sees the mob viciously attack a foreigner, Honor’s curiosity and pity drive her to help the dying stranger. This is her essence, shown in action.

Timing the Entrance

The examples above are all of opening scenes, but your opening doesn’t have to feature the protagonist. You may want to kick-start the story with some other event – for example, one featuring the antagonist. What’s important is that when you do bring your protagonist on stage, give them an entrance in which the action they take resonates on a meaningful, emotional level with your reader.

Whether your hero/heroine is a rogue, a lost soul, a killer, or a saint, their entrance is your chance to make them a star.

♦Barbara Kyle is the author of the Tudor-era novels The Queen’s Lady and The King’s Daughter, the latter praised by Publishers Weekly for its “complex and fast-paced plot, mixing history with vibrant characters.” Barbara won acclaim for her contemporary novels written under pen name ‘Stephen Kyle’, including Beyond Recall (a Literary Guild Selection), After Shock and The Experiment. Her historical novel, The Queen’s Captive, will be published in September 2010.

Barbara teaches creative writing courses for the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and has presented workshops for many writers organizations. Before becoming an author she enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.


The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler


Authors: 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing. Download from the link in the side column!



Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Authors, General, Writing Tips


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What is the Backstory When a Writer Publishes?

The Author’s Voice–Time for Some History With Elaine Cougler is the title of Dale Long’s post today on Inkstroke’s Blog. Dale is a happy, funny, loving life kind of guy whom I met almost two years ago at a writing conference. He mentions that in this post where you’ll find out how long it took me to publish The Loyalist’s Wife, and why. He also drew from me that I am a bit …’ll have to read the post to find out this detail. :-)

The LoyalistsWife_3D_510x602

The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler


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

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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Authors, General, Publishing


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What is Your Favorite First Line?

photo (9)-48_editedHave you ever wondered how to start a letter, an essay, a blog post? Or have you struggled with the opening of your novel, that perfect hook eluding you over and over?

When I was a secondary school English teacher periodically professional development days would come up and I  would be anxious for the break from routine even though I hated to lose the day with my classes. Every now and then, however, a day would come which made the break in routine absolutely worthwhile.

One such day began in the cafeteria of our small school with about thirty teachers sprawled at the tables waiting for the guest speaker of the morning. Our principal introduced someone–I can’t remember whether male or female even–and the day began. What I do remember is these two words: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Marketing Books, Writing Tips


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5 Sites or Posts I’ve Found to Help Authors


A shot of green amid the March snow.

It’s March, past the middle, and snow should be gone.

It’s not.

So I put in this lovely picture from a butterfly conservatory visit to help me think of spring. And now on to the news of the day.

I don’t know about you but I’m always having to figure out how to do something else on my writing journey. It might be formatting my draft mss to the specifications needed by publishers. Or finding just how to make that movie thingee that gets people interested in buying my book. Just now my questions are more about publishing and marketing as I stumble along that overgrown path.

Fortunately, the Internet is the home of generous and helpful professionals who usually have the answers to my questions.

Here are five sites or posts I’ve found which have helped me on my quest.

  1. Market Your Book, Jan Bear’s site is jam-packed with helpful tips, so many that I haven’t even had time to read through all the tabs. I have, however, added her to my file of useful articles I find on the web. I keep updating this file and currently have 199 items gleaned from the web about writing and all its linked subjects.
  2. Steal This List is Janis Hubschman’s grabbing title for a ten-point article of pure gold for writers. She also names some of favorite 10-point lists for writers. And don’t you love that she invites us to steal her list? Gotta love it.
  3. Jonathan Gunson’s article about something the CEO of Goodreads said caught my eye. Most of us writers would much rather write than market so this simple idea is like shrimp and lobster on the salad bar to me. And it’s so simple. Sorry, I’m not going to spoil it. Click on the link to read the article.
  4. Brinda Berry, a frequent commenter on this blog, did a guest post on Gloria Richard’s site. I love both these ladies so this is like chocolate and raspberries all done up in a truffle. But I digress. Check out Brinda’s discovery of a unique give-away for contests to promote her books. This is fantastic and she gives all the details on how to get one in your own hot little hands.
  5. Susanne Lakin has a series on Live, Write, Thrive where self-published authors guest on Susanne’s blog about 5 things they’ve learned about self-publishing. If you are thinking of going in this direction, these authors can give you a huge helping hand.

Consider leaving a comment about your greatest Internet find for writers. Or just say hello. It’s all good.

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


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10 Things Writers Wonder About

graphic by Ron Cougler

Graphic by Ron Cougler

We writers are slaves to self-doubt, and why shouldn’t we be? There are about as many gurus out there telling us exactly how to be successful as there are writers hungry for the secret formula.

Along the road to publication are lots of potholes and bumpy stretches. We get passed by transport trucks and smart cars alike as we try to read the map, make the right turn, and keep up with the traffic. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 6, 2013 in General, Publishing, Writing Tips


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Does Life Call You to Have Words, to Use Words?

By chance I saw a short video on Sunday which spoke to me about the aloneness of so many people. More than that, this video immediately made me think of writers and our inevitable periods of frustrating loneliness when we can’t find the next plot point, when we seem to write in a vacuum, when moving forward with a project is mind-boggling.

As I watched and listened to this young woman describe her problem and how she solved it, a wonderful euphoric feeling started deep down in my gut and spread throughout my body and my face relaxed into a broad smile. I knew what my post would be this week.

This young woman mentions her dream of becoming a writer, her searing disappointments, but ends up on a completely unexpected high. She says “to be able to put your words onto a piece of paper…to tell your story…[there is] nothing more powerful…than that.” We writers can all take note.

Consider leaving a comment about your aha! moment as a writer or, indeed, in any of your life’s successes. Have you seen anyone else do a random act of kindness? Have you done one yourself? Apparently the coffee drive through line sees this very often. Has anyone ever bought your coffee order?

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


Posted by on February 27, 2013 in General, Videos, Writing Tips


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