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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Next Week!

  1. Next week I’ll be celebrating my ten year anniversary since I started writing the Loyalist trilogy. On Wednesday, March 29th, I’ll have special prices on my books and a couple of surprises for those who log in and leave a comment or two. Please take a few minutes to celebrate with us! For a notice whenever I post here, click on the right to follow this blog (if you haven’t already done so). I’d love to have your input. And don’t forget to comment next week!

  2. A special welcome today to the wonderful new subscribers who’ve joined us this week for the first time. You are especially appreciated because you love historical fiction. A special invite to you all to come back next week for the celebration!

  3. You’ll notice if you’ve been around since the first book in the Loyalist trilogy came out, The Loyalist’s Wife, that our lovely logo above has the second edition and not the first. Not to worry. You can still order the lovely first cover edition on Amazon and from me personally until I run out of copies. Also Diane at our local bookstore has copies.

  4. Readers or writers, you can always contact me by leaving a comment or by using the Contact tab above. Send me questions, topics for blog posts, great books you’ve read, or anything else related to historical fiction and books.

  5. And help me celebrate next week, please!

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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Julius Caesar on Amazon today.

March 15

Of course we all know about the Ides of March, forever popularized by Shakespeare in his play, Julius Caesar, but there’s much more to think about for us mere mortal writers!

3 Striking Events Which Occurred on this date:

  1. The Ides of March was Caesar’s death day and as such was a turning point in Rome’s history. The Republic was over. Hundreds of years later Shakespeare’s play immortalized both Caesar and “Beware the Ides of March.”

  2. Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his throne in Russia on this date in 1917 bringing about the start of events which led to the Communist takeover in the U.S.S.R.

  3. On this date in 1939, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia as the Second World War began to ramp up.

    We could go on and on with examples of bad things which happened on March 15 (check out the link above for a few), but the point is without the wily William Shakespeare, the Ides of March just wouldn’t be a “thing”. We wouldn’t be making lists of happenings on this date because such an antiquated expression would have passed into near oblivion along with Caesar’s language–Latin–and his death date, too.

    But a writer over four hundred years ago chose to have his whole play revolve around “Beware the Ides of March”. Because his writing was so erudite yet spoke to the people all those years ago and amazingly still does today we know about the word “Ides” and its place in the Roman calendar in Caesar’s time. Pretty cool.

    What a lesson in word choice for us writers! Think about it. If Caesar’s line had been “Beware March 15th!” would it have had the same punch? Would it have pricked our curiosity and made us wonder just what it meant? No. We would have understood immediately and moved from that line to the next.

    Instead, our brains stop and notice that expression. Many of us immediately look for its meaning but even those who don’t realize it’s something different. It’s part of the supernatural aura of a soothsayer or person who understands the supernatural who is warning Caesar. We notice.

    We writers need to chose our words with the same thoughts about just what difference our choices can make to our stories. Even those who are not writers in the professional sense can make the same magic by picking words not just because they’re easy or because everyone else uses them, but rather because they underline our points, they invoke emotional responses and they stick a notion to our readers’ subconscious mind where it can be nurtured and grow. Oh, words can be so powerful!

    As you read through this excerpt from the back cover of The Loyalist Legacy, pick out the words–verbs mostly–that have the most effect in painting the story. I think there are three or four that show the fear and futility of William and Catherine’s uncertain situation.

    After the crushing end of the War of 1812, William and Catherine Garner find their allotted two hundred acres in Nissouri Township by following the Thames River into the wild heart of Upper Canada. On their valuable land straddling the river, dense forest, wild beasts, displaced Natives, and pesky neighbors daily challenge them. The political atmosphere laced with greed and corruption threatens to undermine all of the new settlers’ hopes and plans. William knows he cannot take his family back to Niagara but he longs to check on his parents from whom he has heard nothing for two years. Leaving Catherine and their children, he hurries back along the Governor’s Road toward the turn-off to Fort Erie, hoping to return home in time for spring planting.

    Here is my list. Did you choose them? Others? crushing, allotted, wild, laced, threatens, longs, hoping.

    This isn’t a right or wrong quiz but as writers we must look at each word we use and make sure it has the appropriate connotation for the feelings we are looking to create in our readers. “Fat” has a negative connotation and “plump” is more positive. They both describe the same condition but one is more palatable.

    So today as you go about your busy life, think about Shakespeare and his word choice. Worked for him, why not for the rest of us? And beware the Ides of March!

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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“Is there anything you wish you had done, Mom?”

“Write a novel.” I answered my son’s question immediately surprising myself with my words.

“You’re 60 years old. You’re in perfect health, you have all that English background, you’ve read all your life, you have the time, and you have the computer skills. If not now, when?” My son took his eyes off the road for a moment to fix his blue eyes on me.

I don’t remember exactly what happened then but a week later when my husband and I arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for a holiday, one of my first stops was to the local bookstore where I bought a book about writing and selling a first novel and I was off and running.

And now, here I am almost 10 years later with my historical fiction Loyalist trilogy out there in the world in various formats, an audio book soon to be released, and a book for writers about writing close to being announced. It’s been a tough but rewarding ten years for me who never wanted to retire and play cards every afternoon while wondering what part of my body would next fall apart.

It’s been mostly a terrific experience to spend most of every weekday writing, editing, marketing, and doing all the other necessities which have made my life so interesting. Hundreds of new people have enriched my life, most of them in the writing business themselves, and all of them willing to share and help me along the way.

As I celebrate this milestone I’m very aware that I could not have done this without the help of many people. Of course, my son, Kevin, whom I mentioned in the first lines of this post and my daughter, Beth, who keeps my brain ticking with new ideas and who is a great sounding board for my own ideas, are top of the list. My husband, Ron, joins them there as a ready listener to my ideas, my plans, my troubles and always encourages me to go farther. He has fueled my ambition. My sister, Linda, gone now, always kept my off-site flash drive safely in her kitchen cupboard and my brother Ross whose own achievements and then early death fueled my drive to succeed while I still could.

There have been a few missteps along the way but thanks to great and constant support from my peeps, I’ve found the way to go on. The biggest problem was when I joined an online group of great people whose mission was to help authors get published and editors and agents find worthy clients. For reasons which are not going to be aired here, I gradually sunk lower and lower as I struggled to work in that environment but I finally realized I not only could leave the group and go on but absolutely had to for my own sake. When my husband said to me in the kindest of words that I did not have to continue with my book, I took stock. He did me such a favor because I realized I had to go on for myself. I dumped that group, walked away from three prospective agents and a senior editor with Penguin in New York, and have never looked back.

Writing and finding a measure of success has given this second part of my life more meaning than I could ever have imagined. Because I’m so thankful to so many for helping me, I’ve decided to have a celebration with my online friends and those I’m so fortunate to know in person. I’m picking March 29th for my celebration blog post. I’ll have giveaways, reading suggestions, messages from other author friends about their writing and a grand prize of the whole trilogy, bound and beautiful, for some lucky person. Keep checking back here and on my twice monthly newsletters for more information. And invite your reading and writing friends to join in the fun.

Check back next week for more exciting news about March 29. Help me celebrate!

 

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Photo by Meagan Ashleigh-Moeyaert

As I approach the ten-year anniversary of the beginnings of my writing journey, I can’t help but think of some of the crazy things I’ve had to research. Of course I expected to go digging for first-person accounts of the times and for just the exact details about battles and political chicanery back in the days of the American Revolution and afterwards, but looking up how to bleed a cow or just where Carolinian forest is, well, those were surprises.

Here are some of the things I’ve had to research for my novels:

  1. Tarring and feathering. In the first book of my Loyalist trilogy, Lucy’s father experiences this inhumane method of punishment. Believe me, reading about it does not make it seem any less gruesome; in fact, so gruesome that sometimes people died from it.

  2.  Skinning a raccoon. This description was part of the first draft of The Loyalist’s Wife as Lucy tried to hold on to her land while her husband was off fighting with the British. The account didn’t survive revision but I learned both how to do the skinning and how to write its description in an interesting fashion.

  3. Carolinian forest. Did you know that Carolinian forest grows from the Carolinas right up into Ontario? And that some of the trees in that forest are ash, birch, chestnut, hickory, oak and walnut? I needed those notes to make sure the specific trees I mentioned actually grew where I said they did.

  4. Battles around Niagara in the War of 1812. These were particularly bloody as the Niagara peninsula saw a lot of killing and cannonading as did the whole of Southern Ontario. As a person who grew up in Southern Ontario, I was surprised to learn the facts and wrote about them in both The Loyalist’s Luck and The Loyalist Legacy.

  5. The Portage Road on both sides of the Niagara River. I still have visions of huge oxen pulling wagons loaded with settlers’ supplies up the hills to get to the level of Niagara Falls. Anyone who has seen those Falls or their picture knows that is a huge height and goods had to be portaged around the Falls in order to continue up the lakes on their way to settlers’ destinations.

  6. How to bleed a dead cow. Well, I grew up on a farm so some of this I kind of knew but I still had to research just to make sure I had the facts right about the kill, the hanging of the carcass and the slicing of the neck vein in order to let the blood run out. In “olden days”, that’s where they got the blood for blood pudding and certain sausages. Doesn’t sound that appetizing to today’s readers! Lucy has to do this herself in the first book of the Loyalist Trilogy.

  7. Uniforms for Butler’s Rangers, British soldiers, and Patriots who later became Americans. Believe me this is a huge subject with uniforms ranging from non-existent to very specific for each subsection in fighting units. The uniforms indicate far more than just the country the soldiers are fighting for. The Butler’s Rangers in my first book started out wearing their own clothes but eventually had a green coat and tan trousers. Here’s a sample of the variations.

  8. Muskets and various cannons. There is no end of information on all of the weapons of the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Fascinating read when you consider these soldiers had to master intricate steps in all kinds weather and fighting conditions. I love the bit about the musket firing soldier ripping off the end of the paper tube holding the powder with his teeth, pouring in the powder, ramming it home with the ramrod, attaching the ramrod to the barrel again and finally firing. In the video no one is firing at those demonstrating. Makes a difference to how calm they might be, wouldn’t you say?

  9. Redans and redoubts. Redoubt is the most common word and redoubts represent a fortification where soldiers were somewhat protected from approaching enemies. This is described here. I used this research in the second book of my trilogy, The Loyalist’s Luck.

  10. Cicadas and crickets. Believe me there is a difference in the chirping times between these two but in the eight years since I sourced it out for my first book, I’ve forgotten, and I don’t have the time to do the research again. I did use the correct term in that book. There’s nothing to say that once finding the proper research and using it, you’ll remember it!

No matter what kind of book you’re writing the research will catch or destroy the reader’s interest. Make sure it’s well done.

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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