21 August, 2020

#GuestPost :: Forging a New Path by @ElaineCougler

About the Author:
Elaine Cougler is the award-winning author of historical novels about the lives of settlers in the Thirteen Colonies who remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution. She uses the backdrop of the conflict for page-turning fictional tales where the main characters face torn loyalties, danger and personal conflicts. Her Loyalist trilogy comprises The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck and The Loyalist Legacy, all available on Amazon.

Her latest work is The Man Behind the Marathons: How Ron Calhoun Helped Terry Fox and Other Heroes Make Millions for Charity. Byron native, Ronald G. Calhoun, was the chair of the Canadian Cancer Society team who managed the Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox’s run in 1980. Ron also managed the Jesse’s Journey walk across Ontario and later across Canada, as well as Steve Fonyo’s Journey For Lives and the blind Ken McColm’s Incredible Journey across Canada. Ron’s honours are many and well deserved. Elaine is delighted and humbled to be the author of this important book, a different kind of Canadian history.

Elaine leads writing workshops and speaks about her books to many groups. Through her website she writes a blog about the writing and reading world and more. She lives in Ontario with her husband. They have two grown children.

Elaine on the Web:
Website * Facebook * Twitter

Forging a New Path

When my adult son asked me if I had anything that I wished I had done so far in my life, my answer was quick and surprising. “Write a novel!” I said.

“If not now, when?” he replied. A week later I went into the Borders store in Hilton Head SC and bought “How to Write and Sell Your First Novel”. And just like that I was off on a new path. That was over thirteen years ago. I have not even glanced back.

I can’t remember just how I decided what my book would be about, but historical fiction called to me. It was and is my favorite genre to read. I knew my roots here in Ontario, Canada were planted in soil that was fertile and full of the stories of my ancestors, those Loyalists who left the Thirteen Colonies because they supported the British in the American Revolutionary War.

What better story for me? I could research just what happened back in the 1770’s and understand why I am a Canadian and not an American and I could imagine what might have happened to my forebears as I wrote about the fictional Garner family.

That first novel took six years; but, oh, the things I learned.

I have been a word person all my life, entering writing contests as a teenager, loving the composition part of English all through school, and reveling in teaching English at the secondary school level so much that I often wrote bits and pieces for my students as part of my lessons and because it was so much fun. Every year at Christmas I would write something creative honoring my home room class. Once I took A Visit from Saint Nicholas by Moore and worked my own version with all the names of my Grade 10 home room into it. We had a lot of fun with that!

I had, however, never considered writing a novel. My life was full—with my great husband, two perfect kids (ha ha), and loads of other hobbies and friends. When my son asked that question, he started me down a path that helped me find so much joy and satisfaction that I wonder what my life might have been otherwise.

During those six years I wrote revised, rewrote, started a critique group, joined writing groups, read dozens of how-to writing books, attended conferences, traveled miles and miles searching for answers to questions that came up as I wrote. Here are some of them:
1. What size should my manuscript margins be in Word?
2. Where on the first page of my chapters should I actually start writing? At the top? Middle? Near the bottom?
3. What font should I use?
4. What is point of view and how should I deal with it?
5. When and how do I end my chapters?
6. Do I have to listen to everything my critique group members say?
7. Does a horror or crime writer understand how a historical fiction novel works?
8. When should I trust my own reader’s gut instinct?
9. What about agents, editors and publishers?
10. What are the best marketing moves for me and my book?

As I wrote that last point, number 10, my MS Word editor suggested I should use “What is” instead of “What are”. Of course, that is a bad grammatical suggestion and I ignored it. I did this because my education and my experience tell me that I am correct.

In the same way, as I traveled along that six-year journey to publication of my first book I had to judge whether to use others’ suggestions or not. With my latest book, The Man Behind the Marathons, I used nine beta readers as part of my editing process. Every one of those people gave me great suggestions but a few also gave me one or two poor suggestions. I had to step up and decide each time whether they were correct or not. That is the pain and the power of being the author. You get to make the decisions. With my background as a word person and my related education I enjoy doing that.

Other writers may not have had the advantages of being taught grammar and spelling as I was. Or they may not enjoy that aspect. They still must take responsibility for publishing a manuscript that is correctly spelled and grammatically perfect.

Professional editors are worth their weight both for line editing and for the overall structure of your book. They are not in love with your every word as you may be. They are dispassionate and will help you produce the best book you can.

My list of 10 things could be 100 things I had to learn but you get the point. Writing books is a journey. Maybe the best parts are the learning that goes on. That list shows you how simple the first things were and how my questions became more complex as I went along.

Today my journey incorporates marketing into it and, yes, I wish I had developed this mindset right from the beginning. In a way I did, because I was into blog writing long before I actually started writing books and my blog posts on Beader Girl Jewels back then garnered lots of comments. (My next blog was On Becoming a Wordsmith and my current main one is Elaine Cougler/Author, Speaker, Workshop Leader. Both have a lot of writing references for a deeper jump into my writing journey.)

As I forged this new writing path, I learned a lot about writing but I also learned a lot about myself. I know what I am good at but also what needs the help of others. My cover designers have been awesome. They are great to work with and full of creative knowledge that I can draw on. Though I have learned a lot of skills in the past thirteen years, I have not been afraid to hire people to do things I cannot do or don’t want to do and that has been crucial. I spend my time writing and let others make the covers and so on.

I hope these paragraphs have given you ideas on how to forge ahead with your own dreams, be they in the writing world or elsewhere. Have the courage to learn what you need to and go where the knowledge is, whether it be online or on the roads of your life. I hope you will give The Loyalist’s Wife, Book 1 of my Loyalist trilogy, a try. I’ve included the first chapter here to give you a taste.

About the Book:

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon