Mystery Mondays: Elaine Cougler with 7 Reasons Why Writers Need To Be Speakers

This week on Mystery Mondays, it is my great pleasure to host author Elaine Cougler. Elaine was one of the very first authors to connect with me when I first started writing a blog. Years have gone by, and we still support each other in our work. It’s a wonderful thing to have a friend I’ve never met but feel like I know.

Elaine first appeared on Mystery Mondays in November 2016 with a post about Linking History and Fiction.

Today, she’s here with another topic.

7 Reasons Writers Need To Be Speakers by Elaine Cougler

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 4.46.58 PMWhen I first talked to Kristina about appearing on her Monday Mystery blog, we discussed a new book I was working to finish and that this would be a lovely place to write about it. As sometimes happens in this writing life my muse took a holiday and left me to click clack on the keyboard alone; hence, I have no new book to announce just yet.

What I do have, though, is the voice of experience—my experience with my first three books, my Loyalist trilogy, and their marketing.

I made the mistake most new writers make in not paying attention to marketing until after I had the book published. I was busy enough I thought. Then three weeks into my new life as a published author receiving book orders from friends and family—all so supportive—I got the call to speak at a meeting in my city. And I could take my books to sell.

Coming into that event I had twenty-five years experience as a high school teacher and many more years as a singer, both “on-stage” pursuits that helped me battle the nerves and just have fun with my audience. Well that particular meeting changed my life.

I took my place at the podium with the mic and the electronic pointer for my slides. I’d barely begun when one of the men—the audience was all men—walked to the front of the room close to where I was. Distraction. I ignored it. In a moment he was up there again and this time my teacher voice kicked in. “There’s one in every class.” I laughed and pointed at the offender. The all male audience roared. I relaxed and so did they. And the man stayed in his seat from then on.

This incident shows that even though they all knew each other and most certainly knew this man, they shared a characteristic of all audiences. They wanted me, their guest speaker, to succeed. And they could see this man’s distraction. They loved it when I took over the stage and made it my own. As author-speakers we need to remember the audience is with us. They are most comfortable when we speakers succeed.

Here are a few other points that might convince all of us writers to be ready to talk about our books:

  1. Our books compete with literally millions of other new titles published in the world each year. We have to try to stand out in order to even be noticed. We can do that on stage.
  2. There’s nothing like personal contact where potential readers can hear about our stories right from the author’s lips. A smile goes a long way.
  3. A speaker has a captive audience. What a great way to engage potential readers who may want to give your book a try.
  4. We get to read excerpts from our books and if we’re smart we’ll pick parts that end with a cliffhanger. I have one chapter that ends with Lucy having a nightmare. I ended it with her sitting up in bed and the last line is “Someone was in the room.” My audience wants to know what happens and I sell books.
  5. If you publicize your event, you get publicity even if not everyone who reads the ad comes to your event. I do this on Facebook a lot. That reminds me that I’ve got to put an event for this Saturday up there! (I’m helping my friend who has a recording studio do a workshop on recording books. He did mine.)
  6. You meet others who can add to your own knowledge about your subject. This happens to me because I write historical fiction and it also leads me to other gigs. Check your own area for clubs such as reading clubs, historical groups, book clubs, library clubs, church groups, Women’s Institute or similar groups, ancestry groups, schools and any other organizations whose purpose relates to your book. Because I’ve written about the Loyalists, many of those Canadian groups have contacted me, eager to engage about our common loyalist ancestry.
  7. People will introduce you to their friends as a writer. You need to have your 15-second elevator pitch down cold because they will ask what you write about. And be excited, not apologetic. Let your eyes shine. You’ll see soon enough who wants to hear more and who is not the slightest bit interested. It’s okay. Not everyone is a reader. At book selling events I often ask people who are kind enough to stop at my table if they are readers. If they say no, that’s fine. They may buy books for someone who is a reader. The trick is to find out. And not to be pushy!

The audience does want you to succeed. And you want to give them what they want. Take the time to practice your talk. Get comfortable with it. If you go for a prepared speech, make sure you don’t just read it. Mark places to look up, engage your audience with questions, let them see you’re a person. You can even do self-deprecating humour where you laugh at yourself.

I often mention the catalyst for this journey of mine, my son, who asked me if there was anything I wished I had done in my life that I hadn’t yet tackled. I answered, “Write a novel.” He replied with a long list of my accomplishments, which I tell them, and then I interject “I think he wanted money or something.” They laugh. And I go on with his final bit “If not now, when?” It really was the catalyst. The next week I bought How to Write and Sell Your First Novel and I was off on this great self-defining adventure.

All three books in the Loyalist trilogy are available on Amazon.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 4.45.25 PMAfter 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.

With spectacular scenes of settlers recovering from the wartime catastophes in early Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 4.46.11 PMOntario, Elaine Cougler shows a different kind of battle, one of ordinary people somehow finding the inner resources to shape new lives and a new country. The Loyalist Legacy delves further into the history of the Loyalists as they begin to disagree on how to deal with the injustices of the powerful “Family Compact” and on just how loyal to Britain they want to remain.


Elaine low

Elaine Cougler is on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube













Farley’s Friday: My Predecessor Is In The News!

Farley here,

Kristina had a dog before me, and I’m just a little bit jealous. Chica was a Yellow Lab, and when Kristina talks about her, she gets this wistful look in her eye.

I know she loves me, but I think she loved Chica, too. I guess that’s ok.

Today, Chica appears in a blog by Judy Penz Sheluk and she’s talking about some funny things she did a work with Kristina.

You can check out the interview if you want. I won’t mind…

Find Chica at: Before They Were Authors: Kristina Stanley | Judy Penz Sheluk

Kristina Stanley is the author of the bestselling Stone Mountain Mystery series, published by Imajin Books (who also happens to be the publisher of my Marketville Mystery series). The series is set…


Mystery Mondays: Lucinda E Clarke On Becoming an Author

Today on Mystery Mondays, we welcome Lucinda E. Clarke, author of Amie African Adventure.

Becoming an Author by Lucinda E. Clarke

I was first published at the age of seventeen – for the church magazine. I had fraudulently volunteered to be the Sunday School teacher in order to gain brownie points for the CV I submitted to teacher training college. I have no idea what I wrote but it got little exposure, as I swiped most of them from the table at the back of the church and took them home to read.

I knew at the age of five that I wanted to be a writer, but life gets in the way, so in between I washed up in kitchens, made pies in factories and dug up dead Romans. I taught children, bred animals for pet shops, cairn terriers and a couple of daughters. Moving to Libya I presented on radio, moved further south and ran the worst riding school in the world in Botswana while teaching and developing photographs. I constructed giant teddy bears, until, in my mid forties I fell into my dream career after an appalling audition in the drama department of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. “You are no great shakes as an actress,” I was told, “but you can write. Go home and write.”

I did, and bombarded every branch of media south of the equator with articles, plays, short stories, reports until I was offered my first contract writing for radio. I graduated to scripting for television, freelancing for a variety of production houses, major corporations, banks, government departments, tourism, covering a vast range of subjects. I was the guest at the party who knew a little about everything and could bore you to tears with my scant knowledge.

Before retiring in 2008, I was running my own video production company in South Africa, supporting children mentioned about, a husband, a St Bernard and the family who kept house for us.

On moving to Spain I discovered an old manuscript under the bed and decided to self publish. I’d been commissioned by two of the Big 5 to write educational books in the 1990’s and decided that self publishing was the way forward for me.

Since then I have scribbled three memoirs, a satirical comedy set in Fairyland and three mystery novels set in Africa (#4 due out in July).

I seldom watch a film or read a book a second time. I like to be surprised at the end, I adore those last minute twists that leave me breathless and that’s the kind of books I like to write. The memoirs were easy, I knew the content and how the story ended. Writing fiction is very different. I start with a basic idea and then my major character Amie takes over and I just write what she tells me to. Often the villain is not who you think it is, and I have a nasty habit of killing people off.

Back in the days when I was scripting for radio I owned four sets of encyclopaedias, today most of my research is on the internet, but since my stories are set in Africa, and I lived there for forty years, I draw on my own experiences.

When I began self publishing I made every mistake in the book. To begin with I didn’t realize you had to market, or even tell anyone I’d written a book – a very different genre to media writing. I made an appalling cover off CreateSpace, self edited (I’d been paid to edit a national magazine, so of course I know how to do it), and sat back and waited to order the super yacht for sale in the nearby harbour.

It didn’t happen.

However I’m self published from choice. I don’t have to prove I can earn my living from writing, I already have, and I’ve turned down offers from small publishing houses. I’m not a control freak but I want to choose my covers and editors, lower my prices when I want to, decide which platforms in which to sell, and retain copyright. I also want as large a slice of the royalties I can get my greedy hands on.

If I was to advise a new writer I can do that in two words. Write. Read.

Today I write for myself. I have no clients to answer to, no propaganda to spin, and if action / adventure, page-turning stories (where no one drinks blood and lives in a dystopian world with elves and dragons) are not in vogue, I don’t care.

Finally, if I can glance at a shelf of books in the old age home with my name on them which will live on long after I’m gone, that is all I ask.

Who Is Lucinda E. Clarke?

LUCINDA 3 APRIL 2016Born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds, matured and finished off in Liverpool. Family not wildly enthusiastic
about following grandfather into Fleet Street (unfeminine, unreliable and dangerous), so she was packed off to dockland Liverpool to get teaching qualifications (safe, respectable and pensionable).

Lucinda returned south extremely good at self defence. She married and went crofting in Scotland, a disaster, and bred dogs among other things, less of a disaster. She moved to Kenya with 3 week old daughter, abandoned in the bush, then on to Libya, surviving riots, public hangings, imprisoned husband and eventual deportation. Moved to Botswana – still teaching – opened and ran horse riding school with ‘How to…’ book in hand.

Emigrated to South Africa taught for four years, but since 1984, she wrote freelance full time, for major corporations, UNESCO, UNICEF and the SABC for both radio and television. Moving into television production in 1986, she has received over 20 awards, specializing in the fields of education, documentaries, municipal and government.

She has also worked on radio in both Libya and South Africa, had a newspaper column, and was commissioned to write two educational text books. In 1996 she set up her own video production company, and retired to Spain in 2008. Well that was the plan…


AMIE 1 NEW COVER KINDLE HIGHER RESJust an ordinary girl, living in an ordinary town, with nothing but ordinary ambitions, Amie Fish is plunged into hot water when her husband gets posted to a country she’s never heard of. Amie’s ability to adapt and make a life for herself in equatorial Togodo, lands her in more trouble than she could have imagined, her life is threatened and everything she holds dear is ripped away from her. If Amie could have seen that one day she would be totally lost, fighting for her life, and enduring untold horrors, she would never have stepped foot on that plane.


African Adventure is the first book in the ‘Amie’ series – international multi award winning #1 bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic. From naive, newly-married housewife, Amie faces challenges and dangers that change her beliefs and behaviour beyond all recognition.









Farley’s Friday: The Creeks Are Running, And So Are The Dogs

Farley here,

The snow melted, and it seems to have gone into the creeks.  The water level is almost at my tummy. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. It’s above my paws. But that’s deep enough for me.

I don’t like to go in water over my head so this is perfect.

Yesterday, I played hard with my pal, Flint.

Farley Flint

And the reward…drinks in the creek. Cold water. Sticks to chase. What could be better?

Woof Woof.


Learn How To Self-Edit #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. Today is the second post of this new series, and I’m very excited to be part of it.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

I’ll focus this entire series on self-editing. The first blog in my series covers Why Learn To Self-Edit.



Today, let’s talk about characters in the context of editing. 

Why do people read novels?

I think it’s to find out what happens next. But what happens next is only interesting if it the “what happens next” involves characters or something that is important to a character.

Characters ARE your story. They act and react. They create emotion. They show motivation. Without any of this, you don’t have a story. That’s a tall order for your characters. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of them?

You rewrite and revise until your characters are performing at their best.

Taking on the task of rewriting your first draft doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A little bit of organization will help you complete your rewrite without it taking forever.

Characters and Novel Structure

You’ve finished your first draft, so most likely you know who your characters are, what they look like, where they work and so on. But what about how they fit into your story structure? To understand this and make the most of it, you must evaluate your characters in the context of the structure of your novel.

By this point, you’ll also know if you’re writing from first person point of view (POV) or third person. You’ve also decided if you are writing from multiple points of view. In essence, you know who is telling your story. Feedback will help you keep track of POV and how you balance your POV scenes throughout the novel.

When thinking about the POV character for each scene, ask yourself:

  • What is the POV goal for the scene?
  • How does the goal relate to the plot?
  • What or who is working against the POV goal?
  • What happens if your POV doesn’t achieve the goal?
  • How does scene affect your POV character?

Once you’ve answered the questions, check each scene to ensure the reader will understand the answers. You can show, tell, or imply the answers. It’s up to you to find the right balance. The more important the event, the more you should show the reader what’s happening. The less important could be told quickly, so the reader can move on to the good stuff.


More Self-Editing Advice

BIG-PICTURE EditingIf you’re looking for more help on self-editing download the free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing And The 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.

Interested In An Automated Approach To Big-Picture Self-Editing?

Feedback Innovations (which I happen to be the CEO of) is building the Feedback app .

Feedback is the first web app to help fiction writers evaluate their own work with a focus on story, not words.

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

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Happy editing and thanks for reading…

Mystery Mondays: C.T. Collier on Critique Groups

Every week is a mystery on Mystery Mondays. You never know what writing topic we’ll cover. This week, I am trilled to have author C.T. Collier here to talk about critique groups.

The Benefits of Critiques with a Variety of Readers and Writers

by C. T. Collier

Nothing improves my writing so much as critique sessions with a variety of writers. That’s one reason I’m an active member of three face-to-face writers groups and one online group, all of whom offer critiques of one kind or another. My local writer’s group is a community of people who love language. My nearby-city group is a mix of published and aspiring writers, fiction and non-fiction. My regional group, which is a mix of readers and writers, is all about mysteries. And my online group is set up for mystery authors focused on publication. Each group in its own way is helpful to my writing, and I believe my contributions are helpful to theirs as well.

How do those language lovers around the table at my local library benefit me as a published author? Every time we meet, I’m reminded of what drew me to writing in the first place. It wasn’t the desire to have my words in print. It was the desire to use language effectively to bring to life my thoughts, hopes, dreams, and stories. All of us in the local writers group share that. Whether I’m reading a five-minute clip of my work-in-progress or listening to others, the experience rekindles my respect for and passion for the written word.

My close-by-city writers group schedules three critique meetings each year into its regular monthly schedule. The procedure is simple: each submission goes out to participants a few days ahead of the meeting; each participant prepares written comments for each submission. On critique day, we go round robin, one submission at a time, sharing our (always constructive) feedback and offering encouragement. With such a variety of input, my work-in-progress improves in ways I could not accomplish on my own. And I learn from and help all the participants, always a good feeling.

My mystery-only group is still in the formation stage and has not yet integrated critiques with meetings. However, three other members are writers with whom I critique one-on-one. Check back in a year to see how this evolves. There are many models to consider and an exciting variety of members interested in participating.

My online publication-focused group offers a variety of critique modes—subgroups that focus by subgenre; full-manuscript swaps; feedback for partial work in progress; and other types. I participate in several, and I always learn from the critical feedback. Just as important, I learn by reading another author’s work and offering feedback. I spot better ways of phrasing. I see tight plotting and weak plotting and get a sense of how my own can improve. I see another writer’s “darlings” and, from the experience, get the courage to eliminate my own.

Just as important—and this is true for all the critique sessions, regardless of the type of group—is ongoing community with writers. Writing can be a lonely business. And, since my intention in writing novels is threefold—to communicate, to inform, and to entertain—getting candid reader feedback and constructive editorial feedback are essential in making my book the best it can be before sending it to my editor. Finally, some critiquers become invested in my work, and I in theirs, and we become eager readers and good ambassadors for each other.

The benefits of critiques are many, and the only costs are the courage to put my work out there and the time to prepare thoughtful helpful responses to my fellow writers. If you haven’t ventured into critiques, I strongly encourage it. Please share your comments and questions about critiques with us below.

Who is C.T. Collier?

 CT-Collier-authorC. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting is entirely fictional: Tompkins College is no college and every college, and Tompkins Falls is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY

STUCK by C.T. Collier

Stuck_Meet the Penningtons—Lyssa, Ph.D. Economics, and her husband “the handsome Brit” Kyle, Ph.D. Computer Science—in their second investigation, Stuck.

Murder never entered the picture until Fritz Van Derzee decided, at long last, to clear his name. Who stuck a jeweled stiletto into his desktop after stabbing him to death? Fritz’s daughter, Emma, recruits her former professor Lyssa Pennington to find the killer.

And where’s the ten million Fritz was falsely accused of embezzling? Tompkins College President, Justin Cushman, hires his old friend Kyle Pennington to trace the missing money.

While Lyssa uses charm and tenacity on the long list of suspects, Kyle reconstructs the college’s old homegrown finance system. As they converge on the killer, Lyssa and Kyle may be the next two casualties.

The Story Arc Automated by Feedback! – Feedback For Fiction

As a writer, it’s important to be two people. One of you is the creative writer. The other is the analytical, big-picture editor. Visualizing your story as a whole will help you edit like a professional.

This is why the Story Arc is so important. It provides an immediate visual of your manuscript. But Story Arcs were always tricky to draw.  Until now…

The Story Arc by Feedback

First, a recommended story arc is drawn based on the word count of your novel. Next, your story arc is drawn based on an automatic analysis of your scenes.

The app estimates which scenes are the inciting incident, plot point 1, the middle, plot point 2, and the climax of your novel.

You can then confirm if the correct scenes were identified. If not, with a couple clicks, you can redraw the story arc with the scenes you selected. Then you can decide if you’ve put your key story events in the right place.

Remember, a great novel contains key story events. A story arc will help you visualize your manuscript to ensure you’ve considered these events and their timing in your story.


The inciting incident is a major turning event halfway through the 1st act.  It’s the moment the protagonist’s world changes in a dramatic way and you hook your reader into the story. This should happen before 10% of your novel. Readers are impatient, so don’t wait too long.


Plot is how the events in your story impact your protagonist. Plot points force your protagonist to change behavior.

Plot Point One (PP1) forces your protagonist to react to an event. She now has a story goal.

The Middle is different from PP1 in that the protagonist moves from a reactionary mode to taking deliberate action.

Plot Point Two (PP2) will be a low point for your protagonist. Her actions since the middle have caused disaster. At PP2, she becomes more determined to reach her goal.

Plot point one (PP1) typically occurs at the end of Act I. Try to place this around 25% into your novel. The Middle is 50% into your novel. Plot Point two (PP2) will occur at the end of Act II.  This should happen around 75% into your novel.


The climax (highest dramatic tension) of your novel happens somewhere around 90% into your novel. This is a guide so you can check you’re not writing too much after the climax.

But wait, there’s more…

You can also view characters on the Story Arc and see when they enter and exit your novel.

Feedback: For Writers By Writers

Feedback is being developed by fiction writers for fiction writers. Just as important, the app is now being tested by other writers to ensure it becomes an indispensable tool for everyone with a first draft. Last week, James Osborne, former senior editor at Canadian Press and bestselling author, tried the app and said:

I’ve been privileged with a sneak preview of Feedback. It’s brilliant! Hands down the most innovative structural editing app for writers you’re going to see anywhere anytime soon!

His latest novel is Encounters With Life: Tales of Living, Loving and Laughter. You can find out more about James’s novels at his amazon author page.

If you’re interested in early access to Feedback and testing some of the features, let me know by email or sign up for early access.


Coming Summer 2017

You heard that right. Summer 2017! We are targeting to make Feedback available to everyone later this summer. There is so much more to come, and I’ll keep sharing as more features are added.

Source: The Story Arc Automated by Feedback! – Feedback For Fiction