Captured by my grandson. No computers here!

Does this ever happen to you? Your blog post is calling you, CALLING YOU, CALLING YOU and all you want to do is anything but write that post. Here’s a list of suggestions that work well for me at those times:

  1. Clip your toenails…..and then clip them again

  2. Tidy your desk

  3. Upload your audio interview to your computer and send it to be transformed into Word

  4. Get the mail

  5. Pay bills

  6. Go for a walk

  7. Answer all twenty emails in your InBox

  8. Get a glass of water

  9. Throw out the garbage if your husband/wife forgot

  10. Prepare supper early in the day. That’s really good planning!

  11. Have a nap

  12. Do some more research for your work-in-progress even though that phase is done

  13. Call your sister and talk even though you get a busy signal

  14. Organize the sticky notes on your To/In Progress/Done white board. Put them all in the Done column

  15. Check your Facebook Author page. Maybe someone has “liked” it

  16. Get a glass of Diet Coke even though you know it’s terrible for you

  17. Sign up for Tumblr or some other social media site you’re not on yet

  18. Check  your InBox again. Maybe there’s something new and exciting there

  19. Have another nap

  20. Try to change the date of one of your speaking engagements

  21. Enter a contest

  22. Writing contest, that is

  23. Check the oven

  24. Get out your tweezers. Nuff said

  25. Turn off your computer and realize that you need a break.

 And now back to Historical Fiction and my Loyalists. You see? Lots of days I get loads done!

 

 

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Today I am most pleased to welcome to my blog the multi-talented and extremely capable Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. Erin has always been the first out of the gate to help me, another writer, whenever I’ve asked. She has reviewed my books, done interviews with me and used her multitude of talents for my advancement over and over. For a list of those talents just take a look at her email signature:

 

 

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, B.A. English, Journalism, History
Publicist, Editor, Writer, Journalist,
PR and Marketing Professional

Addison’s Compass Public Relations, Owner
Hook of a Book Media and Publicity, Owner
Sinister Grin Press, Marketing and Publicity 
Bloodshot Books, Marketing and Publicity
DarkFuse, Advertising and Publicity
 
Co-Host and #MarketingMorsels Director – 
The Mando Method Podcast on Project Entertainment Network! Download each Wednesday!
Offering freelance editing, publicity services, and marketing consultation! Over 20 years of experience in editing, PR/media, publicity, professional writing, advertising, marketing

Yup! That list is at the bottom of each and every one of her emails to me. And she has one of the most pleasant personalities I’ve ever encountered. Thanks so much, Erin, for joining me here today.

Erin is also a poet and a few months ago put out Breathe. Breathe., a collection of her poems. She says it has been so well received that a more formal edition is planned for the next few months. Meanwhile here is her guest post:

From the Nile to the Victorian Age: Writing History into Poetry

By Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, author of BREATHE. BREATHE.

As a poet in the modern age, I often hear people dismiss poetry as a style of writing they don’t read, or stereotype it as mushy love musings, or even simply that they don’t understand it. I’m glad that readers have thought enough of me as a person and writer to at least tell me they will attempt to read mine, but what I long for is that they will come away with a better appreciation of what poetry can be, which urges them to think outside their box (and that readers who don’t know me will be swayed to pick it up and appreciate it). I can understand the apprehension about some of the poetry that’s out there today. I, too, have a hard time understanding the structure, the meanings, and the feel of some of the mainstream thoughts which seem a little bit of a re-working of older quotations. However, what I’ve tried to do with my own writing is just to put the emotions and feelings I have (stemming from my life experiences) down on the page, or write about what I have been inspired by, to channel the images in my mind to paper. The effect that they would hopefully have on readers is that they’d at least be able to capture the images in their mind too. You know when you read a book and it’s so good you feel as if you’ve watched a movie? That’s what I hope to do through my poetry as well, to create snippets and scenes for readers that are highly visual, and in some cases, visceral.

Recently I had a limited edition poetry and short fiction chapbook published by Unnerving Magazine, a print and online magazine that also publishes a select amount of standalone collections, novellas, and novels. Called BREATHE. BREATHE., it encompasses two sections of poetry—one about breathing through pain; the pain of spousal abuse, rape, illness, anxiety, and more darkness of the human race, and the second, about breathing through fear; the fears that we house from childhood, in our lives, in our blackest nightmares, monsters, serial killers, etc. The two short stories are dark fiction as well, one based on the mire of human nature, which I penned after being inspired by Crayola discontinuing their dandelion yellow crayon, and the other, a story spawned after I had been reading about an Egyptian goddess named Anuket, which I coupled with a recurring nightmare I had in my childhood of being drowned.

For some of the guest articles I am writing in promotion of my book, I have written about the reasons for writing my chapbook, for instance, because some of it was based on my own personal experiences. It was therapy. Since Elaine herself is not only a lovely person and host, but an author of a spectacular series I’ve loved of historical books in her Loyalist series, I’ve decided to switch gears and tell you a little about how history influences my work, even this dark fiction chapbook.

I’ve always been interested in history, reading books of historical basis from a young age, and then getting a bachelor’s in history (as well as journalism and English) mostly just because I enjoyed taking the classes (and maybe had a bit of a dream of writing for National Geographic). So not only does the Goddess of the Nile, Anuket, make her presence known in one of the short stories within this chapbook, I also feature a poem of a Native American tribe’s “spirit of winter” who wreaks havoc when the icy frost appears for its season, which is a real legend. Sometimes my poems, though dark as featuring a serial killer or an unknown creature, are set in various eras, such as the Victorian era or the Gilded Age. I almost prefer, unless using my writing to deal with my own past or present fears, to set my characters in the past.

After the success of my limited edition work, which sold out, the publisher agreed to publish an expanded print and digital version of BREATHE. BREATHE. to enable more readers to enjoy my work. I’ve been busy writing not only stories of various dark fiction genres and styles, but more poetry that has allowed me to play around with time periods and characters from the past. That’s where my forte for history and the Gothic comes in and I have loved every minute of the creation process. It’s fun to imagine me in the mind of a character, whether on the end of giving or receiving evil intentions.

Poetry is much more than about love, though some of mine is about the wrong end of love as you might see if you read my almost gut-wrenching words, but about a slideshow of the past as well. My poems could be the start to a story, as I’ve had readers ask me for more about a character they’ve been given a sneak peek of, or they could seem as a scene from an Agatha Christie novel. I gather my inspiration from mystery and historical fiction books, magazines, from non-fiction reading on Native Americans or myths and legends from various time periods, and from movies. However, I gather a good amount of inspiration from road trips with my partner, Tim, and our three kids to art and historical museums and locations, the shores of Lake Erie—where historical lighthouses, buildings, and shipwrecks abound (oh, and lake monsters?), libraries, and nature. My family is used to hearing all my new ideas for pieces of work as we drive home. You’d think they’d roll their eyes by now, but they don’t, and I appreciate so much all the encouragement they give me to showcase a woman of the 1890s (you know, the one with the dark eyes and with the white gloves in the photo at the museum), a Viking legend read about while looking at an artifact (what did he use that weapon for?), a French spy from the French-Indian War (how did she feel?)….

Poetry gives me a great outlet to practice my sentence skills, to create lyrical phrases, or to condense action. It’s actually good homework and a way to download from your brain to your pen. Emotionally, this is a wonderful therapeutic way to encourage healing in yourself and others. For those non-emotionally driven poems, say with the historical bent or that of a Gothic character or monster, I always say if I think a story deserves more, or the muse hounds me to it, I can always turn that character or scene into a longer story later. But if not, or until then, why not let others enjoy scenes from my head in giving them something to ponder, and if they want more, let it ignite their own thoughts.

In late September, my poetry and short fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., will be publishing in its expanded version with a brand new cover and will be available for order on Amazon in various formats. I hope you’ll take a chance on the stories and the poetry, which readers have told me read more like tiny stories rather than a honeycomb they can’t get through. In all seriousness, reviewers, fellow authors, and readers have called me “brave,” and my writing “emotional and raw” and “action-oriented.” For those that enjoy history, I hope you will enjoy my dark tales and poems featuring historical characters as well and that they will transport you to another time and place. Though these are Gothic and darker in nature, I hope to one day publish a collection of historical poetry too and I plan to keep working on my historical fiction novels and stories that are in the works. I would love for you to follow my writing and connect with me on social media. I always love to hear from readers and fellow writers.

Thanks so much to Elaine for her friendship, support, encouragement, and tireless personality, which serves as such an inspiration to me.

Find me online at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com for news of my writing, author interviews, and reviews of the latest books I’ve enjoyed, most of them historical fiction.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/almehairierin

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ErinAlMehairi

Instagram: www.instagram.com/erinalmehairi

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is the author of BREATHE. BREATHE., a collection of dark poetry and short stories published by Unnerving Magazine. She will also be featured in the upcoming anthology HARDENED HEARTS, also publishing by Unnerving at the end of 2017. Erin has been a writer for over 25 years, knowing she’d never stop writing after winning her local newspaper’s essay contest in high school, moving on to garner degrees in history, journalism, and English. A professional editor and writer for over 20 years, she also works in public relations, marketing, and publicity, currently owning Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, the latter from which she offers editing and marketing and publicity consulting and work for writers, authors, and publishers across many genres. She also is a co-host on The Mando Method Podcast with her Marketing Morsels segment, offered on the Project Entertainment Network and available on iTunes and iHeart Radio. She has a wide range of interests (such as hunting treasure on the shores of Lake Erie and perusing bookstores) she enjoys when not driving her three kids to a myriad of activities or cooking them somewhat healthy dinners. Don’t worry, she balances that out with lots of baking. She tries to squeeze in writing, even if her cat always chooses that time to sit on her lap (or notes). Erin and her family live in rural Ohio. Find Erin on almost all social media outlets and at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com.

 And now back to Historical Fiction and my Loyalists:

 

 

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Author Jim Sellers’ soon-to-be-released latest book, A Death of Cold, is the first of his YA books I’ve read and I’m glad I did. The book takes us to a plane crash in the mountains of British Columbia and shows the heart wrenching details of a Youth bag-pipe band hoping for rescue. Sellers manages to get inside the heads of these adolescents in a meaningful way. Remember they are teenagers, not fully adult, so that this situation is doubly difficult but Sellers never denigrates them as they try to survive.

I was most intrigued by the difficult story of Jacky and his parents. In the interests of not spoiling it for readers I’ll not go into detail except to say Jacky’s growing up has not been easy. He ends up on the crashed plane with no Internet, trying to figure out how to get his secret application off to an educational institution and thereby escape living with his father any more.

The role of one of the accompanying teachers for this group seems real to me, having been in that type of position in my former life. Mr. Stewart has the horrendous job of trying to help all of his charges with their aches and pains but especially with their fears of never getting off the mountain. He does it well.

Sellers’ previous book about Jacky. Click for buy link.

A subplot that I loved was the absolute musical talent of these kids, especially Jacky. Through the bagpipes Jacky finds his way, not only forging a bond with his dad but ultimately–well, you’ll have to read the book.

While you wait for A Death of Cold you might try Jacky the Brave. Here is the cover and Amazon link.

A Death of Cold will be available this Saturday, September 2, 2017 on Amazon and Kobo. Its cover is certainly true to its title!

 

 And now back to Historical Fiction and my Loyalists:

 

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In the writing of my Loyalist trilogy, close to one thousand pages of fiction which delves into the history of Upper Canada, now called Ontario, one of the first Natives I named was Black Bear Claw. Part of a subplot, I called him an Indian as that was the term used at that time of little understanding between those of European descent and the Natives. Black Bear Claw comes to represent some of the things that happened to our first Nations’ People throughout the first and second book.

A severely wounded man, he is dropped off at Lucy’s cabin where she nurses him back to health. In The Loyalist’s Luck, she encounters him again in the forest about four years later, and further on in the book he comes to live with her and John at their mill near the Fort which at present-day Fort Erie across the river from Buffalo. I had the chance to tell some of the horrific history of the Mohawks who were abandoned by both the British and the Americans in their treaty making after the American Revolutionary War.

Here Lucy asks the wounded man lying on her floor what has happened since she saw him last.

“I will tell you,” he said. “But only you.” He tried to sit up but settled for leaning on one elbow, looking at her, his face more animated than she had seen it in a great while.

“I went back. To my old lands.”

“Do you mean to the United States?”

“Yes. My woman was there. And my sons.” His voice echoed his pride and she thought of the man she had known. Black Bear Claw’s words came out softly, at first, as he told Lucy things she already knew about the revolution but soon the voice took on a bereft and barren sound. He told of the savagely reduced numbers of Indians. Their rights and lands had been devastated. The war over, a whole new wave of land-hungry settlers had pushed toward the western reaches of the former colonies, this time with the support of the new states, many of whom could not see beyond their own need for land to the rights of those who had lived there for centuries.

The British were no better. Many of the Five Nations tribes had fought for the British in hopes of being on the winning side and keeping their lands but they were forsaken in the treaty negotiations. Their lands were ceded to the Americans. When Black Bear Claw finally found his people there was no peace for him in that land. He and his brothers and sisters tried to keep their traditions and their ways but instead were bribed with trinkets and alcohol until their old ways were no more.

Black Bear Claw stared beyond Lucy to some imaginary window into the past. She had no words. Presently, under the unbroken glare of the slanting sun and perhaps the kindness in her eyes, he stretched up to sit as tall as he could. “My sons are dead,” he said. “And all of my people.”

“But you came back here,” she whispered.

“I remembered a time…when a white woman,” he looked at her and continued, “when a white woman was kind.” His voice broke. Immediately he lay down again and looked away.

Near the end of The Loyalist’s Luck Black Bear Claw’s story is concluded as the denouement of this novel unfolds.

Another Native I included in my books is Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant as he was known to the white people at the time. Brant easily came to mind as he had been the topic of my Grade Eight speech which I researched, wrote and recited by memory to my class. I loved that assignment and immediately respected Joseph Brant. Somehow he was still in my subconscious when I wrote the first book in the Loyalist trilogy.

Joseph_Brant_painting_by_George_Romney_1776_2.jpg

Brant was a war chief entrusted with fighting for their Confederacy and well versed in dealing with the British and warfare in general. His pact with the British made a relationship between him and my character, John, possible. John is rescued by Brant’s warriors and brought to the Mohawk camp in New York state where the women care for his wounded friend, Frank, and John wrestles with whether to rejoin Butler’s Rangers or go back home to Lucy for the winter. I used these scenes to again look into Native ways such as the different clans within a tribe and their javelin game. Here John meets Brant for the first time.

The boy ahead of him stopped so quickly John almost ran into him. He stepped aside and John met the dark eyes of a chief staring at him. The eyes were set in a broad, determined face with a full nose, thick lips and a dark cleft in the chin. He wore a feathered head­dress, a mark of his rank, but his clothes were not Indian. Rather he wore a tan, collared shirt, and breeches of the white people.

“Who are you?” the chief barked.

“John Garner, sir. I have a farm in New York.”

The Indian stared at him.

“What is your name?” John thought he knew.

Still the Indian was silent.

“Are you Joseph Brant?”

“I am Thayendanegea, chief of the Mohawks.”

“I am honored, sir.” John dipped his head respectfully. “Are you known as Joseph Brant?”

“How do you know the horse in the pen?”

“I beg your pardon?” The topic change had jolted John. He stood tall and swallowed, breathing in the fumes of the fire. “That is my horse. It was stolen from me a few weeks ago a long way from here.” He stopped as the Indian stiffened and glared at him.

“Are you a fighter? A militia man?” The chief looked aside and his voice was soft.

John thought quickly. He didn’t know what the right answer was but he had to take a chance. “Are you Joseph Brant?”

The Indian chuckled. “I am Thayendanegea to all the Mohawk people but, yes, I am also known as Joseph Brant, friend to the great King George in England.” Suddenly his eyes bored right into John and he barked. “Who are you?”

John smiled. “I am John Garner, a cavalry man with Butler’s Rangers. I, too, am a friend to the British.”

“Sit.”

John sat cross-legged by the fire. Its warmth cast a ruddy glow over his face as he stretched his hands to the heat. “Do you know where Butler’s Rangers are now?”

Brant did know and wasted no time sharing with John, who began to trust him.

“But how did you get my horse?” John finally asked.

Brant’s eyes were patient. “We did not steal your horse. One of our hunting parties met a band of the Tuscarora, those that are fighting against the British. Our braves relieved them of the burden of their horses and brought them back here. You may have your animal back.” He nodded at John.

“Thank you, sir. My friend, also with the Rangers, is here wounded. His horse was stolen, too. May I have it back as well?”

“Certainly, if it is here. I trust your friend will soon be well.” Brant made to stand up and John hurried to do the same.

“Thank you, sir.”

Chippewa Indians Genealogy: FamilySearch Wiki

In the third book of the trilogy Chippewas by the name of Migisi and Kiwidinok have a wee child who is left on the porch as his mother sips tea inside the cabin with Catherine Garner. Here is a segment of a story my father used to tell about his ancestors and which works well in The Loyalist Legacy.

Catherine was just about to answer when a terrible cry broke their peace. She and Kiwidinok raced to the porch. A huge yellow cat of an animal crouched beside the wailing baby. It rested a giant paw on the tiny laced-in infant as though not at all sure what it had discovered. Kiwidinok howled and threw herself toward her wailing child but Catherine grabbed her and together they stared at the spiked ears with the telltale black tufts pointing straight up and the long mustard fur darkly spotted. The lynx looked toward the women but didn’t move its paw.

She thought of her rifle, as the animal’s eyes bore into her own in a staring contest the like of which she’d never before experienced. Her fingers tightened on Kiwidinok’s arm, pulling her back ever so slowly. “Shh,” she whispered, thinking to remove the threat and mollify the big cat.

But even though Kiwidinok retreated with her, the screaming went on, both hers and the child’s. Catherine willed calm into those cream and black eyes and forced deep breaths up from her own churning insides. That cat could be on them in the blink of an eye and then how could they help the child? She forced a smile.

And slipped inside. She grabbed the rifle, jerked it down, and shoved Kiwidinok aside. As she sighted along the barrel, the lynx’s eyes narrowed; it turned back to the whimpering baby. Her finger pulled the cold metal trigger but just as the shot fired a crushing blow smashed her left shoulder. She missed. Kiwidinok’s hand rested in mid air. “I thought…the baby.” The woman had destroyed her aim.

The lynx tore the child off its board and leaped off the end of the porch into the long grass around the corner of the cabin. Catherine grabbed up her rifle that had fallen and again pushed past Kiwidinok as she darted inside for bullets, knowing full well she couldn’t stop the lynx now. Outside, she raced after Kiwidinok who was already staggering around the corner.

At the front of the house they stopped and listened. Silence. They crept to the roadway. Nothing. Across the dusty strip. Still listening. Still nothing. Kiwidinok straggled along beside her, quiet at last, as she edged into the woods across the road. An eerie feeling gnawed at her innards. Was someone watching her? Or something?

Kiwidinok caught up to her. Gone was the calm and composed person who had sat across from her sipping tea just moments ago. Her hair tumbled about her face, frowsy and frazzled, her arms criss-crossed her breast, and her hands beat a soft tattoo on her arms. The worst was her eyes. Always beautiful, black, and brimming with joy, they exuded terror. Catherine pushed ahead.

She could see where the animal had dragged its find in the long grass. She dropped to study the ground. Was that blood? She stepped over it quickly, blocking Kiwidinok’s view. Not much farther along, she raised her arm and stopped. A soft crunching sound came from just up ahead in the trees. Her companion heard it, too, but this time kept quiet. They stepped closer, listening and looking.

Catherine checked the rifle but looked up when Kiwidinok strangled a sound. Ahead, partially hidden by the dead bottom branches of a tall pine, the lynx lay on the ground eating. She moved closer. The animal’s wide jaws opened to reveal for a second its terrible bloodied teeth before red paws stuffed the gaping maw once more. Kiwidinok slumped against her and she eased her to the ground.

The gun on her shoulder, she sighted once more, forced concentration, thought of Lucy’s instructive words, didn’t even breathe. This time she’d kill the beast. The trigger moved with a deadly silence until the sound erupted and the head of the lynx split into red bits flying up and floating down to the ground to settle on the already bloodied blanket of the tiny baby.

Kiwidinok groaned. She knelt down and sat on the ground, cushioned by the coppery pine needles, and cradled the woman in her arms.

Of course this is a very sad tale but I wanted to use it to accentuate the plight of this Chippewa couple and all of those First Nations people who had to find a way to live once Europeans settled in North America. My characters, Migisi and Kiwidinok, do not want to stay on the reservation set aside for them after having lived most of their lives with no such restrictions.

Today we have to be aware of all of our North American first Nations people as we celebrate Canada 150 and the beginnings of European settlement in the whole of North America. Many of us are caught in between the horrors of the residential school history which has come to light and the reality of just what constitutes a status Indian and what does not. For some of the history which has led us to this point in Canada, please take a look at Flint and Feather: The Life and Times of Pauline Johnson by Charlotte Gray. Your eyes may be opened as mine were.

These, then, are some of the sub plot themes that interested me as I told the story of the Garner family throughout the American Revolutionary War and afterwards. Of course the main story is that of John and Lucy Garner and their extended family. The books are available on Amazon and many other places. Click on cover for information below. Enjoy!

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Today’s post is reblogged from a post by Jeff Selingo, New York Times bestselling author, Washington Post columnist, higher education strategist, LinkedIn Top 10 Influencer, on August 11, 2017. Let’s jump right in:

Jeff Selingo

A few months ago I was having breakfast in downtown Washington. I couldn’t help but overhear a casual job interview happening at the table next to me. The interviewer owned a government contracting business and was looking to hire a person to help write proposals to federal agencies.

Near the end of the conversation, the interviewer complained about how difficult it was to find good writers these days. The two men talked about their college experiences, majors, and how they learned to write.

“I was a math major,” the interviewer said [to] his companion, “but the biggest differentiator in business now is good writing.”

He’s not alone in his opinion. According to national surveys, employers want to hire college graduates who can write coherently, think creatively, and analyze quantitative data. But the Conference Board has found in its surveys of corporate hiring leaders that writing skills are one of the biggest gaps in workplace readiness.

“The biggest differentiator in business now is good writing.”

That’s why so many employers now explicitly ask for writing and communications skills in their job advertisements. An analysis by Burning Glass Technologies, which studies job trends in real time by mining data from employment ads, found that writing and communications are the most requested job requirement across nearly every industry, even fields such as information technology and engineering.

Good writing takes practice and it seems that many college students, especially outside of writing-intensive liberal-arts majors, are just not being asked to write often enough. In the book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, the authors described a study that tracked more than 2,000 students enrolled at four-year colleges. Among those who graduated on time, exactly half said they took five or fewer courses that required at least 20 pages of writing.

“If students are not being asked to read and write on a regular basis in their course work,” the authors wrote, “it is hard to imagine how they will improve their capacity to master performance tasks that involve critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing.”

Training for any activity in life requires practice that usually exceeds the tasks we will need to handle later on.

Extensive writing is rarely assigned in many college courses because it’s a labor-intensive activity and raises the workload for students and professors. Students don’t understand why they need to write five-page papers, let alone 20 pages, given many of them won’t write much more than PowerPoint slides, e-mails, or one-page memos once in the workplace.

But training for any activity in life requires practice that usually exceeds the tasks we will need to handle later on. Not every college graduate needs to be a novelist, but if college students become competent writers who draft clear prose, then they’ll also be able to compose anything on the job, from PowerPoint slides to reports.

Recently, I asked a few of the best writers I know, including high-school teachers and college professors who taught me how to write, what can be done to improve the communications skills of college graduates. They offered plenty of good advice for how students can develop their writing and approaches teachers and professors can use in the classroom. Among them:

  • Writing takes time, in preparation and in actually writing. Students shortchange the research and organizing necessary to be good writers. “Too often students let their brain spill onto a page and then they submit their masterpiece,” said Leslie Nicholas, my high-school journalism teacher and a former teacher of the year in Pennsylvania. “They need to learn that the writing process is not linear.”

  • Drafting is a critical part of the writing process. Instruction in schools encourages writing on the fly by requiring students to compose essays during class time or to submit only final papers rather than drafts along the way. One problem with a single deadline for writing projects is that it doesn’t introduce students to the idea that self-editing is a critical part of good writing. Art Markman, a prominent author and psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he shares the “awful drafts” of his own papers with students to show them that good writing doesn’t just happen, but rather is the result of multiple iterations.

  • Don’t forget to edit yourself. Barbara Adams, an associate professor of writing at Ithaca College, told me that after every draft, students should print out what they’ve written, wait a while—maybe an hour or a day—to view it with fresh eyes and edit it on the printed page. “Read everything you write aloud to see how it sounds,” she said. “Then cut out the fat, redundancies, repetitions. Let it flow. Don’t worry about sounding elegant or smart or literary, just be clear, direct, purposeful.”

  • Writing is not a solitary experience. The best writers learn from others. Without sharing multiple drafts of their writing with anyone else, students never get the chance to apply feedback to improve their work. But feedback also needs to happen quickly. Too often students hand in a paper only to get it back weeks later, by which time they don’t care or have moved on to something else.

  • Writing is meant to be shared with more than a teacher or professor. Sharing the final product with an audience outside of a classroom is important in engaging students in the writing process, Nicholas said. “It is frustrating for students to put a great deal of effort into a writing assignment and then share it with just one reader, the teacher,” he said. “How many actors would perform for an audience of one?” Technology has allowed students to distribute their writing more widely through blogs and wikis, and even podcasts, Nicholas added. “Because podcasting is audio only, students are forced to convey their message clearly,” he said.

  • Read good writing. Perhaps the best way to improve writing is to read good writing, and not just 140-character tweets or Facebook shares. We develop an ear for language, sentence structure, and pacing by reading others and trying out something we learn from them.

What are some of your tips for improving writing of students coming out of high school or college? How did you learn how to write?

Jeffrey Selingo is author of There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow. You can follow his writing here, on Twitter @jselingo, on Facebook, and sign up for free newsletters about the future of higher education at jeffselingo.com.

He is a regular contributor to the Washington Post’s Grade Point blog, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, and a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.

This post is adapted from the Washington Post’s Grade Point blog.

Elaine Cougler’s historical fiction trilogy:

     

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Behind all those books on store shelves, library databases, home libraries, audio devices, and e-book formats are a zillion authors churning out words in wonderful medleys for your reading and listening pleasure. And we love it. Most of us never reach the big time but we love the writing itself.

Writing is a satisfying reward for me, too. Getting inside the head of one of my characters, feeling what they feel and struggling for just the right words so my readers feel it, too, is most satisfying. On the days when I write a sad scene, I know it’s working when my tears stream as quickly as my fingers type.

I am that rare author bird, though, who loves many of the other author duties that come with having a trilogy out and a new biography on the way. Perhaps my readers will be surprised to know that often I could work 5-6 hours a day on my writing business and never once do any creative fiction or non-fiction writing. That is why I am most diligent at setting aside my two hours writing time in the morning before I let the rest of the job take over. I unplug my landline, turn off my cell, shut down my Outlook and close my office door as a sign for my husband who often works at home, too.

Once the actual writing is done for the day a whole lot of other things flow into the suddenly vacant space like water when we pull a finger out of the glass. Here is a list of some of the main time suckers that haunt me.

Ten Things Authors Must Do To Survive

  1. Write summaries of various lengths to submit with book proposals or to contests, etc. Every avenue of advancement has differing requirements, all of which take up time and if we  don’t follow the rules, our submissions will be ignored.

  2. Read books related to the subject you might be writing about or researching. For a writer of historical fiction, this is huge. Luckily, I love it!

  3. Write queries for agents and/or publishers. Even though I have my own publishing company I’ve done my share of this tedious job and expect to do more of it with my new project. Again each must be personalized for its intended recipient.

  4. Interview other writers and be interviewed yourself. People love to hear what makes a writer tick. I really like doing both sides of this and take time to compose intriguing and thoughtful questions and answers.

  5. Write newsletters to and for those treasured readers who have signed up for your list. I love these people and will go to great lengths to give them interesting stories twice a month. They are the best. Oh, and my weekly blog followers are on that list of fabulous people, too.

  6. Support fellow authors by interviewing them, reading their work, following them on social media, and writing reviews for them, not to mention actually attending their book launches as they attend mine. We are a kind community.

  7. Sign up with Google Alert and check the daily emails. I put certain topics that relate to my books there in order to see what’s related in the news and online. Putting each of my book titles on there brought me a few surprises, not all of them pleasant.

  8. Send threatening letters to thieves of my work. Yup. You read that right. Through Google Alert I found my book titles offered for free in PDF formats. It’s taken me 10 years to produce the Loyalist trilogy so I was not pleased to learn of this insidious practice by unscrupulous people offering my books for free. Another writer yesterday told me most of these people are looking to get email addresses so that they can use them for nefarious practices.

  9. Google Alert also gives me places where I might offer my services as a speaker or to a reporter in connection with a topic they are covering. There are also other places to do that and I must start working to build a list of them.

  10. Prepare speeches and workshop materials for speaking engagements. I like to tailor my talks to a particular group’s interests and that works well. It also takes time.

You will note I said 10 things but there are thousands of other things. I just don’t have time to write them all down.

Oh, one more I must mention. This Canadian author has spent hours trying to get the proper IRS documentation which will make my life a lot easier and my pockets a little fuller. My accountant husband has carried the torch for this but we’re still not out of the red tape.

So all you readers, know we love you all the more because you make our hard work so worth it. Thanks to each and every one of you!

About Elaine Cougler’s Loyalist Trilogy

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This is an exciting summer in so many ways. We Canadians are celebrating Canada 150 and Cryssa Bazos’ Traitor’s Knot has launched to wonderful acclaim. Today Cryssa is my guest author and her intriguing post follows. Welcome, Cryssa. Good luck with the wonderful Traitor’s Knot.

The Hudson’s Bay Company – 17th century multicultural start-up

This year, when Canada recently celebrated her 150th birthday, I thought about how we became a nation and all the long line of diverse people who paved the way. Curiously enough, Canada’s early story revolves a department store—the Hudson’s Bay Company. When you think Hudson’s Bay Company, you’re probably thinking of HBC, Bay Days sales and that iconic point blanket. I think of all that, but I also see an institution with a quintessential Canadian history, that started as a multicultural startup in the 17th century.

Pierre-Esprit Radisson (1637-1710): By Christian Robert de Massy, illustrateur, pour la Fondation Lionel-Groulx. – Moi, Mathieugp, chargé des projets numériques à la Fondation Lionel-Groulx, j’ai téléversé les illustrations du projet Le métro, véhicule de notre histoire, qui appartiennent de droit à la Fondation., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54025457

It started with a dream. Two French Canadian trappers (coureurs de bois), Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers, were looking for the holy grail of beaver furs. They had been trading along the St. Lawrence River and making a decent living, but they had heard that the richest, thickest beaver furs could be found in the far north, and for that they needed financial backing.

There were rules as to where they could trap and licenses had to be secured. Radisson and Médard applied for a trading license from the governor of New France, the Marquis d’Argenson, to explore the upper Great Lakes. The governor declined their request, but that hardly stopped the two intrepid trappers. They gathered their gear and set off in 1659 to explore north of the Great Lakes to Hudson’s Bay.

Arrival of Radisson in an Indian Camp: By Charles William Jefferys – mechanical reproduction of 2D image, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7357040

When they returned to New France, they carried with them the best quality of furs anyone had ever seen. Laden with the equivalent of a king’s ransom, they presented the governor with a sample—likely to rub his nose in the fur, quite literally. Enraged, the governor arrested them and, worse, confiscated their furs.

When they were finally released, the two Radisson and Groseilliers were more determined to prevail. If their country would not seize on the unparalleled resource, then they would have to look elsewhere for backing. So they headed south, to the English colony of Massachusetts.

In Boston, they met a business cartel that agreed to support the venture. A ship set out in 1663 only for it to be broken up by ice sheets. Most would have abandoned the venture, but one Englishman, Colonel George Cartwright, did not let this disaster deter him. Recognizing that they needed additional resources, Cartwright took our French trappers with him to London, where he introduced them to Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the first cousin of King Charles II, and 17th century poster boy.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine: By Anonymous – CherylHingley.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5022018

Prince Rupert long had the reputation of an adventurer. He had cut his baby teeth fighting in his home of Germany during the Thirty Years’ War. When that wrapped up, he arrived in England to help out his old uncle, King Charles I, who had a nasty civil war on his hand. Rupert’s cavalry prowess had nearly demoralized the Parliamentary side, but in the end, even his tactics couldn’t win this war for the King. After the King’s arrest and subsequent execution, Rupert led a squadron of ships and harassed the Parliamentarians in the Azores and the Caribbean. The moment he heard about this new venture in the New World, he was in.

Rupert introduced Radisson and Groseilliers to his cousin, King Charles II (who was also a bit of an adventurer himself, the scoundrel), and he readily agreed to supply two ships, the Nonsuch and the Eaglet. On June 5, 1668, the two ships left Deptford for Hudson’s Bay. Unfortunately, the Eaglet reached only as far as Ireland before having to turn back.

The Nonsuch continued on to James Bay, the little southern dip of Hudson’s Bay. There they founded the first trading fort, calling it Charles Fort, in modern day Waskaganish in Quebec. Naturally, you name it after the monarch who sponsored the trip if you have any sense. But they didn’t leave Rupert out in the cold, for they named the river that flowed through there Rupert River.

They trapped and traded the winter of 1668 and when fall arrived the following year, the Nonsuch returned to England carrying a prized cargo of beaver furs. The value of the pelts was valued at £1,233, the equivalent (at that time) of a laborer’s lifetime wages.

The Hudson’s Bay Company was officially incorporated on May 2, 1670 by royal charter granted by King Charles II with Prince Rupert named as its first governor. The company had control of the entire area around Hudson’s Bay, known as Rupert’s Land, spanning approximately 1.5 million square miles!

Picture of Rupert’s Lands: By BlankMap-USA-states-Canada-provinces.svg: Lokal_ProfilWpdms_ruperts_land.jpg: en:User:Decumanusderivative work: Themightyquill (talk) – BlankMap-USA-states-Canada-provinces.svgWpdms_ruperts_land.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12853860

 

Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction writer and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, is published by Endeavour Press and placed 3rd in 2016 Romance for the Ages (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance). For more stories, visit her blog cryssabazos.com.

Social Media links:

Website: https://cryssabazos.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cbazos/

Twitter: @CryssaBazos

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cryssabazos/

Buy Links:

Traitor’s Knot is available:

About Traitor’s Knot:

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I. Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman. Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart. The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

Praise for Traitor’s Knot

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story. Five stars.” Elizabeth St. John, bestselling author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife

“Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages.” – Deborah Swift, bestselling author of The Gilded Lily.

Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction writer and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, is published by Endeavour Press and placed 3rd in 2016 Romance for the Ages (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance). For more stories, visit her blog cryssabazos.com.

Social Media links:

Website: https://cryssabazos.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cbazos/

Twitter: @CryssaBazos

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cryssabazos/

Buy Links:

Traitor’s Knot is available:

About Traitor’s Knot:

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

Praise for Traitor’s Knot

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story. Five stars.” Elizabeth St. John, bestselling author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife

“Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages.” – Deborah Swift, bestselling author of The Gilded Lily.

 

Come take a look at the Loyalist trilogy. Click here.

Yay! Book 2 of the Loyalist Trilogy earned a new award!

 

 

 

 

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A few years ago I was lucky enough to attend a conference for writers in Vancouver, British Columbia.  The event took place at a perfect time for me in my writing journey and spurred me on to step up my Internet activities specifically around my writing life.

Already I’d spent a few years writing a blog on blogger.com which was called Beader Girl Jewels and celebrated my life both creative and personal. After attending the Vancouver conference I mentioned above, though, I stepped up my social media footprint to start a new writing blog (On Becoming a Wordsmith), get active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and build my list. I even joined Pinterest when it became a thing. The promise was that all of this activity would help me get known for my writing.

Today I’d like to spend some time telling just what I’ve learned about the value and uses of the various social media platforms I’ve used.

Twitter: In the beginning this was really useful. I went on the Twitter Feed and narrowed my search for sites to follow according to my writing and marketing needs. I was interested in seeing sites which taught me about these topics and I learned a lot. At this stage I would run down the Twitter feed and see what people were publishing. Then I’d follow the sites that interested me and I found some fabulous people and information this way. As the years went on and I built my list and my needs changed so did the time I spent reading the Twitter feed. Now my Twitter time is spent liking and retweeting friends’ stuff as well as checking out new people whose work I want to follow. I rarely take any time to just run down the Twitter feed.

Pinterest: I do a little here but have certainly not used it to its potential. I’ve enjoyed seeing amazing libraries and books pictures but, truthfully, most of the emails Pinterest sends me do not catch my attention. My current goal is to create my own Pinterest poster about my Loyalist books and see if I can get some traction in book sales that way. Always looking for new and interesting ways to market.

LinkedIn: In the beginning I used LinkedIn’s groups to connect to a lot of writing/book related groups. I joined quite a few of them and used them to gain a wider market for my regular blog posts. It was fun and instructive to connect with other writers. One problem began to occur, though. Many of the groups did not want me to post links to my latest blog posts even though those posts had loads of pertinent information for other writers. One even told me I could not use any links in my posts. Gradually I realized I didn’t have time to tailor my group submissions and I opted out of several. The thing that I learned is that a writer’s needs change along the way, going from specific writing questions, to publishing, to marketing, and a LinkedIn member needs to keep abreast of help groups for whatever is the particular need at a specific time. I realized I had to use my social media time as it best helped me. Now I am a member of two marketing type groups and that’s all.

Facebook: My most useful SM time has been spent on Facebook. I have a personal page which helps me keep up to date with family and friends as well as a number of writing friends. Then I have my writer’s page at ElaineCouglerAuthor which is more tuned to the writing world which is so important to me. If you haven’t liked my page, come visit me. Here I post my weekly blog post and any other interesting writing-related things I find along the way. I am most appreciative of those who share and like my articles on this page. I have also done some Facebook advertising which worked pretty well although it takes a few months to actually see the results in sales. You can hone your marketing reach for these ads in several ways which all makes knowing exactly who your audience is absolutely crucial. The FB stats on this are good and the procedure itself is well-documented and easy to follow. Also my audience for my books coincides with the main audience for FaceBook which works out well for me.

I do find sometimes that the world works in mysterious ways. Today as I was writing this blog post, I received a newsletter in my InBox from The Writer Magazine with an article by fellow Canadian Brent van Staalduinen entitled “Stepping away from social media (and back into what matters.)”  Interesting because I felt it was kind of serendipitous. How did The Writer Magazine pick that moment to send me that article? Anyhow, I hope you’ll click on the link and read what Brent says.

Over the years I’ve really learned to limit my time on social media. The writing and the marketing are what matter the most to me. Every person on social media must decide where to spend time to get the most value. I think that we must also consider which platforms are the most pleasurable for us. I am much more likely to prepare articles to post in places that are fun. Aren’t you?

A final note to consider when deciding how much social media to do is its effect on getting your message out. I often get comments about my high level of visibility as I market my work. A lot of that is because of my social media time. One final thing I really try to do is make a FB event out of most of my speaking and workshop events. Even if people can’t get to these events they see the notice and are reminded about my writing life. Many people do come because of those ads as well. Life is good for me as long as I don’t let social media take over!

Come take a look at the Loyalist trilogy. Click here.

Yay! Book 2 of the Loyalist Trilogy earned a new award!

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Today I’m giving my readers a second look at a post from a year and a half ago which gives suggestions on how to increase sales of our books. A few things have changed since then but the basic advice is still very timely. Click here to go directly to the post. Enjoy!

 

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For today’s post I bring you a little bit of history and a little bit of real people’s stories. I’ve chosen to give personalities to William and Catherine (Cain) Garner, my great great great grandparents and to interview them. I’ve given them the ability to see into the future, you’ll notice, for I think these stalwart Loyalists who settled in Upper Canada have a lot to say about how we Canadians got here today, having just celebrated our sesquicentennial (150 years).

I’ve come to know William and Catherine having used their names, their situation, family tales, and the characteristics of my own father in writing my trilogy, especially in the second and third books. In the picture at left William is seated with Catherine to his right. The other two are their son, William, and his wife, Rosabella (Cass) Garner. The first William never got to see Confederation in 1867 when Canada was formed but Catherine did. This family settled in Nissouri township on a 200 acre farm which straddled the Thames River.

William and Catherine were there when most people traveled by an old Indian trail which crisscrossed their land.  Why? The roads marked out on the township maps were in varying states of disrepair relying as they did on the settlers to maintain the road along their acreages. There were just not enough settlers to have this be a viable way to keep up the roads. I wonder how we would like this system today? Aren’t we glad we have public works organizations? Makes you think taxes actually help us.

Ouch! Catherine just pinched me and William is glowering as he must have when he saw the condition of the so-called roads in Nissouri Township. We had better get started.

Elaine: I am most pleased to meet both of you even though the situation is very strange for all of us. What was it like moving away from Niagara and all of your family after the war was over in 1812?

William: Tough, it was. We both suffered a lot. I was part of the militia for about nine months during the war. Did you know that?

E: I did. I’ve read about some of those battles you must have been in. Can you tell me any details?

Catherine: First I need to say how sick I felt at leaving my parents’ graves and my little Catt’s. No one to say a prayer over them, pull the weeds around the piles of stones.

W: Hush, Catherine. Think of more pleasant times. Remember that barn raising on the lot south of us? We danced all night on the pounded earth. There’s a good girl. A smile.

E: Did you have a lot of times like that? I mean the dancing and partying.

C: No, not really. Mostly we worked from sunup to sundown and sometimes into the wee hours.

W: Sundays, though. We tried to rest on Sundays.

E: I heard about the Chippewa Indians. We call them Natives or First Nations people now, by the way. Do you have any stories about them?

W: The British conquered them. Put them on reserved lands and expected them to stay there. Not just the Chippewas. Mohawks and the others, what you now call Six Nations. All of them were given lands of their own.

E: We’re facing the consequences of that now.

C: I should tell her about that Indian woman, do you think, William?

W: That was a terrible thing.

C: It was a fine spring day. She came to visit with her little one–papoose–she called him. All wrapped up and tied on a board to sleep…..Oh, this part is hard. We left him on the front veranda. In the fresh air, you see.

E: What happened?

C: We were inside, my two china teacups on the table….smiling, talking. As women do.

Chippewa Indians Genealogy: FamilySearch Wiki

W: You’ll have to tell it, Catherine.

C: The baby. Screaming. So loud I can hear it now….we ran out and watched a lynx jump off the porch and run away…looked for the baby. Only the board and the broken strings. Blood. Lots of blood. On the porch, the grass. And silence. No baby screams now.

W: Here now. Don’t cry. It’s all in the past.

E: Um, I…William, what did you think of the Family Compact?

W: The what?….Oh, I remember. A bunch of privileged sons of–

C: William!

W. They had all the power and used it to feather their own nests. Gave the perks to their sons and cousins. Kept it all to their families. Made us so angry…some talked about overthrowing the government. The British! Others tried going to England and pleading. No good. Finally, rebellion. That was after I was gone but Catherine told me about it. Robert was part of it.

E: Who is Robert? Your son?

C: One of them. A good boy, too. Didn’t deserve to be hounded after that fiasco in Norwich. Those rebels never even got further than 10 miles before they turned back.

E: What do you mean, hounded?

W: Terrorized the little village looking for those whose names they found on a list. Most escaped. Others stood trial. A few died because of it.

C: That was such a bad business. Robert made it home but spent the rest of his days looking behind him.

E: What do you think when you look at us now a hundred and fifty years since Canada was born. Do you have any feelings?

C: I’m glad Canada turned out so well. For everyone. But especially for our family. William, we started something, didn’t we?

W: Yes, my dear. We surely did….and it was good.

E: Well, this has been fabulous, meeting my relatives, getting to know you–you’re real people. And, William, I can see my Dad in you. You would have liked him. Thank you both.

W: Just remember we’re looking down on you all.

C: No nasty tricks, no drinking or missing church. We’ll be watching.

E: So, there we have it. Two stalwart people. My relatives. I hope I get to meet them again.

 

The whole trilogy with these and many other characters is available on Amazon. Just double click on the book cover below.

“…ordinary people somehow finding the inner resources to shape new lives and a new country.”

 

 

 

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