After Christmas this year I felt the need to do something other than sit at my computer all day so I was elated when I found this unopened jigsaw puzzle in my basement. It had been there so long its source was no longer known but I hauled it out and spread it across my dining room table. There would be no dinners there for a while!

Undaunted by the number of pieces–500 or was it 10,000?–I searched for the border to give the scene a shape, first and foremost. The colours called me and I started to see similar tones, grouping them together in bunches wherever I could find a clear spot on the table.

My husband soon abandoned the project.

I was diligent about sitting down to the task but counted myself lucky if I placed 5 pieces properly in a 20-minute session. The task seemed impossible and I soon wondered if I had bitten off more than I could comfortably chew; nevertheless, I found myself drawn to sit at that table four or five times a day or even just stand and stare at it until I saw something. Rarely did I walk away having found nothing.

The picture grew on my table but certain parts just wouldn’t come together. I couldn’t find the right pieces to complete them so I just worked on what did make sense. And I loved the struggle. Beautiful windows full of books and wine glasses and artwork fit together in one extended scene, like a bunch of comparative words filling in the subjects of a grand metaphor.

I took pictures, realizing that this was a work of art in progress and I would do well to record its birth as I do the rough drafts of my novels. By now February had whistled in with cold drafts that made sitting in the warmth at my table just a little more pleasant. And, of course, the puzzle began to reveal itself more clearly to me. I had to push on, excited at the thought of a finished work.

Finishing the puzzle lured me even more. My husband came back and put in the odd piece.

Back at my computer not much was happening with my writing. I had several ideas that went nowhere; I tried to decide just what project might excite both me and my readers; I consoled myself in my indecision by sitting at my dining room table and solving at least one puzzle. If I couldn’t decide on my next writing project I could certainly find the solution to that mass of pieces on my table.

And it calmed me. My need to be creative was sidetracked into that by now very beautiful work of art in my dining room. I felt anxious to finish it. Besides, I wanted to have a dinner party. It was time!

Near the end of my puzzle odyssey I invited my sister and her husband for dinner and actually laid newspapers across the almost finished puzzle and then placed my tablecloth over the top. They might have been just a little intimidated because I cautioned them against any spills!

By now the third month of the year had marched in and I longed to finish. Like a horse putting on that last burst of speed before the finish line, I sat longer at the table and actually laughed out loud at each piece that found its resting place.

Finally the day came. I grabbed my phone and recorded the finished puzzle just to prove I had done it. I’m sorry now I didn’t take a shot from the bottom of the scene but you get the idea. Notice how many extra pieces are on the table. None!

The finished work of art.

This is so like our journeys as writers. I learned to set myself a goal each day (3 pages) and watch the word count rise and the printed chapter pile get higher and higher. Putting finish to my novels took about two years for each one. My biggest accomplishment, I think, was to keep going little by little until I reached my goal.  I certainly remember the day my first box of books arrived in my home. The Loyalist’s Wife was no longer a dream but something I could hold in my hand. For some reason I can’t find that photo but, believe me, it’s engraved on my heart. Patience, persistence and perseverance paid off beautifully. I wish that feeling for each hard working writer out there.

 

The Loyalist Trilogy

The Loyalist's Wife 2nd edition

The Loyalist’s Wife 2nd edition Chill With a Book Award winner!

Second in The Loyalist Trilogy

Second in the Loyalist Trilogy Discovering Diamonds Award Winner

Third in The Loyalist Trilogy

Third in The Loyalist Trilogy Released November, 2016

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Author Maaja Wentz

Today I have the distinct pleasure of entertaining here on my historical fiction blog an author from a different genre. Maaja Wentz is a Toronto writer whose joyous smile shown at left is heightened in her lively guest post below. Welcome to Maaja! Enjoy, Everyone! And don’t forget to enter Maaja’s contest.

Just before you begin Maaja’s guest post I have to mention that last week my website let me down and even though I wrote my usual Wednesday blog post it didn’t send properly. Consequently my readers didn’t get their notification. After you finish reading Maaja’s interesting words below please consider checking out last week’s post, War on Our Doorstep! It’s got loads of photos in it. Ah, technology! And now read about inspiration—

How Do You Keep Your Inspiration?

Guest post by Maaja Wentz

When authors speak in public, readers and newbie writers alike ask the same question: Where do you get your inspiration? This weekend I attended Toronto’s Ad Astra science fiction and fantasy convention where I listened to authors such as Brandon Sanderson, Robert J. Sawyer, Julie Czerneda, and Diana Whiting. None of them expressed difficulty getting ideas. In fact, Sanderson read us a story which he had written on the plane and in the airport on his way to Toronto.

There’s a little secret writers share. Most, myself included, have more story ideas then they have time to develop. Between life events, the news, and new discoveries in science and history, there will never be a dearth of story sparks. The challenge is to stay inspired through early drafts, revisions based on beta reader feedback, and multiple revisions after editorial review. For traditionally published authors this process often takes a year, leaving sequel-hungry fans waiting.

At least traditionally published authors have editors with deadlines to goad them into action. As an indie author, seeing things through to the end is lonelier because editors are freelance and deadlines are self-imposed. I love the exhilaration of writing a first draft. The blank page holds limitless possibilities and new scenes come quickly, but editing is a slow slog.

What is the secret to persevering from idea to polished book? For many, it’s the same element that drives actors, singers, and dancers — the joy of performing. Doing public readings where I can see the audience laugh or hold its breath is its own reward. On the Wattpad reading app my novel, Feeding Frenzy, has received over 124 000 reads to date. Winning a Watty Award and interacting with Wattpad readers online keeps me going because I know real people are enjoying my characters and their adventures.

When I can’t share my work, reading keeps me motivated. Writers get inspiration from the same source readers get entertainment and food for thought. We need to see what other writers are capable of, the creative challenges they set themselves, their differing voices and styles, and their solutions to technical puzzles. Reading fiction also helps us remember the pure pleasure of books from the reader’s point of view.

There is a danger inherent in this kind of inspiration according to Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer. At Ad Astra on Sunday, he read from his work-in-progress about the Manhattan project and the inventors of the atomic bomb. Sawyer said he wouldn’t read anything fictional featuring Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, or Richard Feynman. He worried fictional depictions of historical figures might overlap with his own research-based ideas. For fear of accidental plagiarism, or of having to limit his imagination to avoid it, he is sticking to non-fiction for now.

Unlike Robert J. Sawyer, I’m still learning the craft and business of writing. My inspiration comes from reading my favourite genres: fantasy and science fiction. To stay current, and for the pleasure of reading, I purchased ten of the top fantasy and science fiction novels on the Amazon ebook charts. The idea is not that I will be inspired to write like these authors, but that their books will motivate me to keep revising, editing, and polishing to the end. If I never wrote another story, I would still have over seven novel drafts on my computer, waiting to be edited and published. All I need is sufficient motivation.

Want to win the chart-topping fantasy and science fiction novels I chose to inspire me?

Click on this link to enter the contest, but act now. Contest ends May 30, 2017.

Maaja Wentz is the award-winning author of poems, short stories, and her lighthearted supernatural thriller, Feeding Frenzy, coming soon. To find out more and get free stories, visit: maajawentz.com

 

The Loyalist Trilogy

The Loyalist's Wife 2nd edition

The Loyalist’s Wife 2nd edition Chill With a Book Award winner!

Second in The Loyalist Trilogy

Second in the Loyalist Trilogy Discovering Diamonds Award Winner

Third in The Loyalist Trilogy

Third in The Loyalist Trilogy Released November, 2016

 

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Have you ever heard a cannon boom into the stillness? Or seen soldiers drop on a battlefield as it was in the War of 1812?

The roar of the three-pounder cannon and the white smoke clouding vision and stinging eyes are all pretty effective as you watch another re-enactment of a battle.

One of the cabins on the site had beautiful spring buds blooming.

This time the subject was the Battle of the Longwoods between the British and the Americans in the War of 1812. If you follow the link you’ll get a longer version of this battle which took place just west of London, Ontario, on March 4, 1814. From what we saw in the re-enactment this past Sunday, the British far outnumbered the Americans but were out in the open. Many of the American soldiers were firing from the protection of the woods.

 

 

Before the reenactment costumed participants answered loads of questions for the visitors.

 

Look closely. This tent had ladies’ unmentionables for sale!

 

Here’s a three-pounder cannon with my grandson. By the position of the tools against the wheels the soldiers know the cannon is not loaded and therefore safe.

 

This heavily bearded re-enactor regaled the three of us with his tales about the cannon. He was awesome. Ben sat right up on the bronze coloured piece.

 

Before the battle these ladies were singing a spirited song about Kentucky.

 

Eventually the soldiers moved toward the battle field. The British red coats headed for the fight.

 

From their more protected position the Americans began firing. In a few moments they moved back into the trees for safety.

 

With the smoke from the muskets seeing became difficult.

 

The British were unprotected out in the open as they tried to advance on the Americans. As one group loaded, an involved process, the others fired and then they would switch.

 

This old fellow eventually fell under the fire from the Americans. He was very near us.

 

More British soldiers marched up to take aim at the Americans.

 

Americans covered the retreat to the woods by their American compatriots.

 

The ranks thinned as the British took more fire.

 

At times the smoke obscured almost everyone. Most of the American soldiers were protected in the trees behind these few brave ones out in front.

 

Eventually the battle was over leaving the British defeated. The announcer asked everyone watching to remove their hats as we honoured those soldiers who died in this battle. Very moving.

This battle didn’t last very long at all, similar to the one the re-enactors were portraying. I especially liked the announcer’s voice throughout the whole event. He explained what was happening. History came alive, especially at the end where he had us remember those who died in this battle.

My Loyalist books don’t really talk about this particular battle but I still find it enlightening and entertaining to see these past events acted out. This is so much better than memorizing the six reasons for blah, blah, blah and the list of 10 battles in blankety-blank war as I had to do in school. Audiences are surprised when I, the author of The Loyalist Trilogy about the American Revolution, The War of 1812, and the Rebellion of 1837 here in Ontario, tell them now that I absolutely hated History in school.

The difference is that I write about what happens to the ordinary people when those in power make decisions. You’ll see that in my blurb for each book here. People are the exciting part. We can all relate to them as we feel their pain in the circumstances. Here’s the cabin again, peaceful and serene.

One of the cabins on the site with beautiful spring buds blooming.

The Loyalist Trilogy

The Loyalist's Wife 2nd edition

The Loyalist’s Wife 2nd edition Chill With a Book Award winner!

Second in The Loyalist Trilogy

Second in the Loyalist Trilogy Discovering Diamonds Award Winner

Third in The Loyalist Trilogy

Third in The Loyalist Trilogy Released November, 2016

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One of the people from whom I’ve learned a lot on my own writing journey is the very successful historical fiction author, Barbara Kyle, whose Thornleigh books just grab the reader and won’t let go. A former actress whose talents there helped her achieve success as an author, Barbara joins us today with an important tip for writers. For readers, I give you many hours engrossed in the books of this talented lady.

A few weeks ago Barbara put her years of writing, editing and teaching excellent workshops (I’ve been to two of them!) into a new publication. Page Turner is sure to help all writers and I’m pleased to help Barbara let people know about this new book.

Thanks so much for visiting, Barbara!

Making an Entrance

by Barbara Kyle

First impressions are crucial. We all know that about “real life.” It’s equally true of a reader’s first impression of a fictional character. Their response to your story’s protagonist is especially important.

Yet new writers often waste this opportunity by introducing their protagonist in idleness or passivity. Be smart – put the visceral impact of the 1st impression to work for you.

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 and has little visceral effect, whereas showing the character’s defining quality through action produces an emotional response in the reader, leaving a deep and lasting effect.

Screenwriters do this very consciously. Watch any film you admire and notice how the scene in which the hero or 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 powerful 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.

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

  1. In A.S. Byatt’s POSSESSION, the young scholar Roland Mitchell, researching a Victorian poet, opens an old book in the London Library and out fall two unsigned love letters written by the poet. Roland impulsively steals the letters – and thus begins his audacious quest for the truth about his subject. Roland’s essence is his ambition to excel as the foremost expert in his field.

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

  3. My novel THE QUEEN’S LADY, set in London, England in the reign of Henry VIII, 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, then move on, Honor’s curiosity and pity drive her to help the dying stranger. This is her essence, shown in action.

The examples above are all opening scenes with a protagonist, 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 or heroine is a rogue, a lost soul, a killer, or a saint, their entrance is your opportunity make them a star.

Barbara Kyle’s Bio

Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels (“Riveting Tudor drama” – USA Today) and thrillers, with sales of over half a million books. The latest in the Thornleigh Saga is The Traitor’s Daughter.

Barbara is a popular presenter at international writers’ conferences. As a mentor, she has launched scores of writers on the path toward published success. Her latest book is Page-Turner: Your Path to Writing a Novel that Publishers Want and Readers Buy. See www.BarbaraKyle.com

 

 The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy

by Elaine Cougler

Available at Amazon.com and many other places.

 

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One of the things I loved about teaching both French and English was the opportunities I had to delve into each subject and create imaginative bulletin boards for my students. Back in the day I collected many many bits and pieces sure to attract those amazing teenagers and help them develop the same love for my subjects as I had.

One of the bulletin boards centered around the bard in preparation for my grade eleven class beginning Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or the Scottish play as those superstitious actors always call it. I had large posters and personal pictures of my visit to Stratford-on-Avon with my husband. We had walked in Shakespeare’s actual house so that on my wall play covers and actors danced around the Globe Theatre recreating Shakespeare’s time.

Our classes were 75 minutes long. On the first day studying Macbeth I announced a witch contest. I got the usual groans and resigned looks but I acted out the whole scene for them complete with three different witch voices and the students got into the mood. Fun to laugh at your teacher! They divided into groups of 3 and began to plan their presentations of the opening scene. You remember it:

Macbeth

ACT I  SCENE I  A desert place.
[Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches]
First Witch When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Second Witch When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
Third Witch That will be ere the set of sun. 5
First Witch Where the place?
Second Witch Upon the heath.
Third Witch There to meet with Macbeth.
First Witch I come, graymalkin!
Second Witch Paddock calls. 10
Third Witch Anon!
ALL Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
[Exeunt]

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It was great fun and the kids had a ball. From there jumping into the rest of the play was easy. Already the kids had memorized their witch parts complete with their individual witch cackles and crackly voices which they loved to use out of the blue. Sometimes I’d even hear them in the hall.

In Grade 9 we studied Merchant of Venice with our classes. That was the first Shakespearean play I taught and I assigned my students Portia’s speech, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d”, to memorize. The hard task of memorizing that strange language helped them to understand it better and the more the students practised in groups the more I heard that understanding in their voices. And I could ask them more interesting test questions based on those few lines they knew.

That first year of teaching my dad asked me what play I was doing with the kids. Immediately my 55-year-old father, whose days in school had long since faded to distant memories, recited flawlessly Portia’s magnificent speech. What a gift! To me, certainly, but also to him that his schooling allowed him to do that and still know it all those years later.

King Lear was the play I studied in Grade 13 (back when we still had grade 13!) and I loved it. Those three daughters just came alive as did Lear’s ridiculous idea of equating empty words with actual love. Cordelia was such a strong character.

And then I took an extra English credit to increase my teaching qualifications. Fourteen Shakespearean plays. Not the way to study them. To this day I know all the titles and most of the plots but the rest is a blur. Hamlet, though, just shone. The thing that most surprised me was all the lines I already knew from that play without even realizing where they originated. I guess a few others thought it was fabulous, too! Here’s a list of famous quotations from Hamlet.

If you were vigilant you probably saw references to Shakespeare’s birthday and death day over the last few days. They are reported to be April 23 but only the death day is known for certain. His baptism was April 26, 1564 leaving scholars to assume he was born three days earlier but no one knows for sure. Of course he died April 23, 1616, having lived and written through the Elizabethan age with Elizabeth I and her defeat of the Spanish Armada.

What I most adore about Shakespeare’s story and those of countless other writers is their contributions to their world and to the worlds forever after. Here we are all these years later still learning from Shakespeare, Hemingway, Twain, Potter (Beatrix), Dickens, Austen, Christie, Angelou, Poe, Rand and thousands of others. As I do my daily writing I pledge to remember how important our writing is, not just for today but for all the days to come. Won’t you join me in that thought?

 The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy

by Elaine Cougler

Available at Amazon.com and many other places.

 

 

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So you think that all a writer has to do is write that magical tome and then sit back and reap the rewards. You know the writing is sometimes tedious, often frustrating and even a little difficult, but, really–authors have nothing else to do. You can hardly wait to sign the copies, accept the accolades, and cash the cheques.

Now that all my writers are clawing the ceiling, let me tell the truth. Being a published author today is a full time job. We write, edit, rewrite, get critiques, rewrite–well, you know all that. But at the same time as an author is polishing her work, she needs to be doing a host of other things, a large part of which is preparing the world for the impending birth of her baby.

Indeed there is so much to do that I have struggled over and over to find a way to keep stuff from slipping into oblivion in my file drawers and out of my mind until I realize a deadline has passed or I’ve missed applying for another award.

A few weeks ago my very clever and well organized daughter who is a minimalist of the first order told me about something she discovered. Prior to her wonderful suggestion I used:

  1. a small white board,

  2. countless To Do sheets,

  3. multi-coloured sticky notes,

  4. my computer desktop to put current items, and

  5. my iPad and iPhone for countless lists which could be easily transferred.

File folders didn’t really work because of the old adage out of sight, out of mind, plus my curious mind has spent a lifetime collecting valuable and extremely important bits of knowledge, so much so that I fear it is just running out of space. Things slip away.

Along came Beth with #6. My KanBanFlow chart.

from the KanBanFlow website at https://kanbanflow.com/.

On KanBanFlow’s site they have 4 columns but I chose to just use 3: I left out Do Today as most of my projects take a few days and In Progress seems to make better sense for me. Also they have shown how to use the board with several different teams which I did not need. Would be nice to have a staff, though!

Here’s yesterday’s version of my KanBanFlow chart and you can see the progress I’ve made. That is why I love this system. Tasks stay on the board for me to keep track of. The Done column has changed considerably. Yay!

I learned to use marker on the later notes so that I can read them from my desk.

Of course I still use the earlier methods but this latest one is a keeper. It’s helping me get caught up and organize my new ideas which are percolating a lot these days.

 The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy

by Elaine Cougler

Available at Amazon.com and many other places.

 

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My cupboard holds various teas.

I hate coffee. In my first year of university I sat in the cafeteria with a bunch of friends who were convinced I could learn to like it if only they fixed it the right way for me. They brought me black coffee, weak coffee, strong coffee, sugared coffee, coffee with cream, coffee with milk–you get the picture! I didn’t like any of it and the cafeteria staff didn’t like all the extra dishes they had to wash because of our testing.

Instead I’ve pretty much spent my life drinking weak tea a couple of times a month,–to be sociable, don’t you know?–lots of water, and way more Diet Coke than I ever should have. Still, I like tea a lot more than coffee.

What can coffee drinking possibly have to do with writing? Well, here’s the thing. All my life I’ve played with different writing forms. I’ve written narrative poetry and sonnets, short stories and novellas, descriptive paragraphs and song lyrics. I’ve even tried my hand at plays although I never got beyond the second page. Of course, love poems were a rite of passage for any girl in her teen years back in my day and probably still are although I’m a little old to speak for teenagers!

The point is, never did I contemplate writing a novel. I didn’t even know that idea was lurking in my overcrowded brain until my son asked if there was anything I wished I’d done so far in my life. “Write a novel,” I blurted, and the rest as they say is herstory.

A week later I started down my novel writing journey and haven’t actually looked back for ten years. In the beginning many new writers alongside me were writing short stories and forming critique groups to improve their work, all of them sure these were the right steps. I tried to follow along and have about fifteen pieces in my filing cabinet that were great fun to write but which didn’t begin to thrill me. I sent a few out into oblivion.

And that’s what it seemed like. Short stories just weren’t my thing. You see, I left my heart out of that writing and just as a soulless person is dull and lifeless so also were my stories. At the same time I reveled in researching my historical subject and writing my three pages a day for a year until I finally finished my first draft. I loved it. I thought it was great but my saner self knew about that little thing called revision. I did that for another four or five years.

How could I keep at that first book for the six years it took to bring it to publication?

Finally I had unearthed the thing that touched my joy spot deep inside. Writing those words about my character babies and their part in creating the country I live in today just seemed real. And worthwhile. Important, even. I learned so much that my conversation became peppered with exciting facts I’d dug up about our history as a country but also my own family history. Finding references to my great great great grandparents and using some of that in my novels has been a thrilling and enlightening experience not only for my readers (so they tell me) but also for me.

Were those early writing attempts of any use? Absolutely. I learned so much about cadence and word choice, rhythm and the lilt of my sentences, showing not telling, allowing my reader to fill in the blanks, and above all about listening to my varied characters for their individual truths. Were they like real people? Or were they flat?

Yesterday I was working with someone who is going to do a media sheet for me and my books. She left our Skype conversation for five minutes with instructions for me to write her some ideas about what I might talk about when interviewed. When she came back I’d written a couple of lovely (if I do say so myself!) paragraphs. I wasn’t exactly sure if she could use the points but she did! Every one of them. (I’ll be putting that sheet up on my website when we’re finished.)

I had to swallow my nervousness about being put on the spot like that and just write. And I could! All of those courses and conferences and critiques and rewrites made their mark.

Reading informs so much of our writing. As I get longer in the tooth (well, actually my dentist has shortened my front teeth, much to my dismay!) I’m more choosy about what books I keep reading through to the end. I now give a book about 50 pages and if it hasn’t hooked me by then, I toss it. Life is too short to read stuff that bores or confuses me. (My latest bugaboo is starting a new book and all the characters have similar sounding names: Ellen, Eleanor, Eileen, for example. I can’t keep them straight. Note to self: Name your characters with different sounding names: Ellen, Charmaine, Sue.)

Sticking to genres that I enjoy works for me, too. I have a good writer friend who writes horror/sci-fi/mystery mashup books and his audience loves them. Bravo, John! I didn’t want to review them, though, as I’m not a lover of that stuff so wouldn’t be able to do his books justice. Give me a great Sharon Kay Penman or even Bernard Cornwell and I’ll read right through to the end in no time.

In both reading and writing, then, I hope you’ll consider sticking to books and stories that work well for you. Your soul will thank you for it!

 

 The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy

by Elaine Cougler

Available at Amazon.com and many other places.

 

Try it all but stick to your fav both in reading and writing.

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Today is special because fellow Canadian author, Kristina Stanley, is here to talk about her fabulous app for writers. I first noticed Kristina in the blog world as she wrote her posts about and during her sailing journey with her husband. It just sounded so romantic and so “out there”! She loves dogs and writes tirelessly. And now she’s going to tell us about her app. Take it away, Kristina!

I’m very pleased to be invited onto Elaine’s blog to share my writing and editing journey. I’m an author who loves to edit, and I believe today’s author must also be their own structural editor.

The difficulty with editing is the time it takes and the cost of an editor. So what if I could speed up the process, spend less money, AND write better fiction?

This is the story of how I’m developing an app to help writers edit faster, for less money, and create a novel readers love.

What is the Feedback app?

 The Feedback app will help writers turn a first draft into a great story by becoming their own big-picture editor.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on the overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first and guide you through the rewriting process.

Why a big-picture editing app for writers?

Creating Feedback began when I finished the first draft of my first novel. By then I’d read over 50 how-to-write and how-to-self-edit books. I’d taken writing courses and workshops, and had 100s of writing and rewriting tips swirling about in my head.

I knew I had to begin the editing process and improve the quality of my draft before sharing my work, but I didn’t know how to go about it.

My Worries:

How was I supposed to remember the torrent of advice and apply it to each scene? A spreadsheet, that’s how!

I created a spreadsheet with a chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene structure. Then I listed the different writing advice I needed to consider for EVERY scene. I ended up with over 75 “key elements of fiction”. I used the reports from the spreadsheet to visualize my novel.

Did Feedback Work For Me?            

 After the hard work of self-editing and rewriting my drafts, the high quality of my fiction was validated when my first two novels were shortlisted for prestigious crime writing awards and I landed my publisher (Imajin Books).

My first editor said: “If every manuscript was this good, my job would be so easy!”

The next exciting moment came when DESCENT, my first novel, hit #1 on Amazon’s hot new releases. I’ve since sold the German rights to Luzifer-Verlag for publication in Germany, and the audio rights to Auspicious Apparatus Press. Imajin Books also published BLAZE and AVALANCHE.

Building The Feedback App

 I wanted to share my process, so other writers could benefit from an immediate approach to self-editing and rewriting first drafts. But who would want to use a spreadsheet? Perhaps a fun, fast, app that helps writers visualize and self-edit their novels would be better.

I formed a company called Feedback Innovations just to build this app. The prototype is being developed. We’re currently testing the app on my novels. Then we’ll reach out to beta testers in April.

You can find out more about the app at www.FeedbackForFiction.com

Download our free eBook  BIG-PICTURE Editing And 13 Key Elements Of Fiction and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

At Feedback Innovations, we believe the app will help authors turn their first draft into a great story.

Kristina’s Bio:

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series.

Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES.

She is the co-founder and CEO of Feedback Innovations, a company started to help writers rewrite better fiction. She loves the self-editing process and wants to help other writers learn how to do a structural edit on their own work.

If you’d like more self-editing tips, you can find out more about her and Feedback at www.FeedbackForFiction.com. Connect with her @FictionRewrite.

 Descent Blurb:

When Kalin Thompson is promoted to Director of Security at Stone Mountain Resort, she soon becomes entangled in the high-profile murder investigation of an up-and-coming Olympic-caliber skier. There are more suspects with motives than there are gates on the super-G course, and danger mounts with every turn.

Kalin’s boss orders her to investigate. Her boyfriend wants her to stay safe and let the cops do their job. Torn between loyalty to friends and professional duty, Kalin must look within her isolated community to unearth the killer’s identity.

 

 The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy

by Elaine Cougler

Available at Amazon.com and many other places.

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It’s Ten Years!!! Since Day One of My Loyalist Trilogy Writing Journey.

The time seems to have sprouted little white wings and just flown. From that day when my son said to me “If not now, when?” and gave me the oomph I needed to start writing the trilogy, I’ve never had to wonder what to do next. Always more ideas of my own and more suggestions from others made my days way too short to get it all done.

Please join with me and celebrate!

Look Back:

Over that ten years a trilogy came to life, one that touches the history of my family and the families of other Loyalists here in Canada. The books are in print format, e-book format, and even an audio book of the first one is almost ready to made its debut. I learned how to do so many things connected with writing and publishing, all of it fun and all of it from really helpful and knowledgeable people. I am so grateful for all those along the way, many of whom are still in my Contact list, thank goodness. A special thanks to all those who’ve invited me to speak at events where I could sell my books. You are the best!

Look Ahead:

Everyone has been wondering what is in the works for me now and I’ve been a little cagey about my answer. I could write more about the Loyalists, perhaps down East either where my husband’s family originated or further East in the Atlantic provinces where most of the Loyalists escaping during the American Revolution landed. I will be getting my audio book of The Loyalist’s Wife, 2nd ed., out very soon. I am currently learning more about writing a screen treatment and script for my Loyalist trilogy. (Wouldn’t it be fun to see John and Lucy on the big screen?) And I am definitely exploring writing a book about my writing journey with a view to helping other writers. I have in mind that this will be an e-book only, at this point, but you never know.

The really big news? I’m currently working with a coach to extend my reach as a writer and speaker beyond where I have taken these things on my own. This is huge and I had to do a lot of soul-searching before shelling out the money.

Giveaway:

To thank my readers, today I am offering a free e-copy of the second edition of The Loyalist’s Wife, complete with new cover and a few changes, to all who comment below. I’ll contact you and ask for your email. Then I’ll send you the epub or pdf copy of that beautiful book. You can read it on your computer, your iPad or perhaps other reader (not sure about that). So make sure you write a nice comment below!

Also I’ve reduced the price of that book in e-book format on Amazon where you can order it for $2.99 and it will go right to your Kindle. Their rules wouldn’t let me put the price any lower. Sorry.

Both of these specials are only available until April 5 when my next post goes up. Take action! Send your friends to my site. This is a limited time offer. Afterwards it’ll be back to $4.99 US$ on Amazon.

Don’t forget to sign up for both my twice monthly newsletter and to receive notice in your InBox of my weekly blog posts. And if you’re a writer or a reader, don’t forget to write reviews, especially for my latest book, The Loyalist Legacy, on Goodreads and Amazon. You can put the same review in both places.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. My writing friends, my beta readers, my lifelong friends and family–all of you are part of what makes me who I am so that I can write. You are a joy which touches my very soul.

Okay. Now the mushy stuff is over!

So after somewhere around 3650 days of writing professionally and this small celebration, I’m still moving forward and I hope you’ll all come with me. Don’t forget to write a comment and win a free e-book!

 The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy

by Elaine Cougler

Available at Amazon.com and many other places.

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Author Elaine Cougler. A 9-minute tv interview on Rogers TV’s program “Oxford County Living”. Thanks to John Payne for filming this at my home. Click on the image to watch.

 

 The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck, The Loyalist Legacy

by Elaine Cougler

Available at Amazon.com and many other places.

 

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