Free Webinar: How to Structure a Novel into Chapters and Scenes

Do you need to know who many scenes should be in a chapter? Or perhaps how to group scenes in a chapter?

We’ve invited JoEllen Taylor, CEO of First Editing, to talk about the importance of structuring a novel into chapters and scenes and how to do that to ensure a story is powerful.

Join us Friday, May 21, 2021 10:00 AM (EDT).

We’ll cover:

  1. Definition of a draft novel
  2. Target word count for genres
  3. What a scene is
  4. How to structure scenes
  5. What a chapter is
  6. How to structure chapters
  7. Common issues
  8. How is technology impacting structure
  9. Tips to format like a professional

Join us and bring your questions!

StoryTeller is creative editing software for fiction writers. Transform your story, not just your words. Successful stories depend on your ability to edit, improve, and revise your work. Only when you master story editing, can you master storytelling.

Why not check out Fictionary’s StoryTeller free 14-day trial and tell powerful stories?

When you subscribe after your two-week free trial, , you get the Fictionary Story Editing Masterclass for free.


Tension and Conflict. What’s the Difference?

Tension and conflict will keep your reader engaged in every scene. Knowing the difference and when to use each will drive your story forward.


Tension is the threat of something bad happening. This creates suspense.

Tension can be subtle or in-your-face.

Subtle Tension: Imagine one character is hiding a secret that could destroy his life and another character is about to accidentally spill the secret. The reader will feel the tension if you’ve set up the scene so that the reader knows the second character can’t keep a secret.

In-your-face Tension: A woman is thrown off a boat at sea. The tension comes if the reader cares about the character and wants her to survive. Or the tension could be she’s an evil woman who is about to destroy the world, and the reader doesn’t want her to survive.


Conflict is the fight that is actually happening. A physical fight, an argument, a battle to win a race.

Conflict can also be subtle or in-your-face action.

Subtle Conflict: Imagine a couple having dinner with friends. The wife is describing an event that happened in the past. The husband says, “Honey, that’s not what really happened.” The wife grits her teeth and smiles. She re-tells the story the way her husband wanted it told. She’s angry but hides it from others at the table. There is a silent argument going on between the couple.

In-your-face Conflict: Imagine that same couple having dinner in a restaurant. The woman knows her husband is having an affair but hasn’t let on she knows. The husband’s mistress enters the restaurant, and he winks at her. The wife loses control, grabs her drink, runs at the mistress, and throws it in her face. She attacks the woman and knocks her to the ground. That is direct conflict.

Do You Have Tension or Conflict in Every Scene?

Use conflict and/or tension in every scene and keep your reader engaged. You don’t need both in every scene, but you should have one in each scene.

Your challenge is to ask yourself if every scene in your novel has tension or conflict.

How does your manuscript measure up? Are you using tension and conflict to your advantage?

How Fictionary Can Help You

Fictionary is a new interactive web app for self-editing fiction that helps writers turn a first draft into a story readers love.

Below is the opening scene from Look The Other Way (by Kristina Stanley).

The “Conflict” in the scene is between an employer (Veronica) and employee (Shannon). Veronica is getting fired and Shannon argues against it, trying to keep her job.

The “Tension” in the scene occurs when Shannon is in the middle of being fired and she worries about how to tell her fiancé. They are just about to buy a house and need her income. The tension also foreshadows there will be problems between Shannon and her fiancé. A double use of a key element will make your story stronger.

The question marks in Fictionary contain information about each Key Element of Fiction and how to use the elements to make your story better.

Post written by Kristina Stanley, author of Look The Other Way (Imajin Books, Aug 2017).

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and Look The Other Way.

Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT (Imajin Books, July 2015) for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE (Imajin Books, Oct 2015) for the Debut Dagger. Imajin Books published her third novel in the series, AVALANCHE, in June 2016.

Luzifer-Verlag published Abwaerts (Descent) in Germany in the fall of 2017.

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.

Her short story, WHEN A FRIENDSHIP FAILS, won the 2014 Audrey Jessup with Capital Crime Writers.

Kristina is the CEO of Fictionary, and all of her books were edited using Fictionary.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and turn your draft into a story readers love?

Mystery Mondays: Melodie Campbell on First Person

I’m so pleased to host Melodie Campbell on Mystery Mondays today. Melodie was one of the first authors to connect with me when I started out. She’s generous with her advice.  She’s full of encouragement. And she’s an award winning author who also teaches writing.

Check below for Melodie’s newest release, The B-Team. So new, in fact, it just came out this week.

So over to Melodie…

First Person Rocks! Here’s what you need to know about the rules…

By Melodie Campbell

(First published on Sleuthsayers Crime Blog in the U.S., 2017)

The rules, the rules…

Always, in my Sheridan College Crafting a Novel class, beginning students are alarmed to find out there are rules to writing.

I’m not keen on rules in general. After all, I became a writer so I could thumb my nose at reality, right? Control the world of my fiction in a way I can’t control real life.

All that said (and I could make a blog post out of just that line above) there ARE rules to writing. A bunch of middle-aged guys behind a baize-covered door didn’t make them up for no reason (double negative – Ha! Rule-breaker, you.)

The rules are there for a purpose. They’re all about logic. Here is one that is perhaps least understood. You don’t have to follow it (more on that later.) But you do need to understand why it is a rule, so that you know the consequences of breaking it.


Many, many people don’t know the rules of first person viewpoint. So here goes:

The protagonist becomes the narrator. As a writer, you make a promise to the reader. (Remember that phrase: promise to the reader.) In first person, the character that is telling you their story is telling it directly to you. No third party writing it. You are in her head.

I love first person. I *become* the protagonist when reading or writing first person. Studies confirm this. Readers become more involved in the story and protagonist when reading first person. That’s what makes first person rock. In my books <sic> it’s the ultimate escape.

But first person has huge limitations for the writer: the person telling the story must be in every scene. Otherwise, they won’t know what is going on in that scene and can’t convey it to the reader (unless you employ a second person to run back and forth, telling the protagonist. Note the use of the word ‘tell.’ Telling is ho-hum. You won’t want to do that often.)

If your story is in first person, you can’t be switching to another character’s viewpoint. Ever. Nope, not even another viewpoint in first person. Why? Because your reader thinks this: “What the poop is happening here? The book started in first person. The protagonist is supposed to be telling me the story. Now someone else is telling it. What happened to my beloved protagonist? Are the original protagonist and protagonist number two sitting next to each other at twin desks writing the story at the same time and passing it back and forth? This doesn’t make sense.”

In a phrase, you’ve broken your promise to the reader.

So here’s what to do: if you need to write the story in more than one viewpoint in order to show every scene, write the whole story in third person. Then you can change viewpoints as needed.

One more first person restriction: if your protagonist is telling the story directly, then he can’t die at the end of the story. This should be obvious: if he died, who wrote the darn manuscript?

Finally, do NOT write a first person story and have the viewpoint character a surprise murderer at the end! We are supposed to be in his/her head. Logically, we would know.

Okay, those are the rules. You can write what you want, of course. That’s the delight of being an author. I’m sure you’ll be able to name a few crime books that break the rules of viewpoint.

But in my class, you will hear this: The rules are there for a reason. Of course you can break the rules, but if you do, you will lose something (usually reader continuity and engagement.) It’s up to you to decide if you gain more by breaking the rules than you lose by doing so. BUT: If you break them in your first novel, publishers (and readers) will think you don’t KNOW the rules.

So at least go in knowing the rules. And then do what you damn well please.

Final words: Don’t publish too soon. Take the time to learn your craft. And then…be fearless.

About Melodie Campbell

2015 author photo correctedThe Toronto Sun called her Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.” Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich. Melodie Campbell has won the Derringer, the Arthur Ellis Award, and eight more awards for crime fiction. Last year, Melodie made the Top 50 Amazon Bestseller list, sandwiched between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts. She is the past Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. Her 13th book, The B-Team, launches this week. It’s in first person.



B-TeamThey do wrong for all the right reasons…and sometimes it even works.

Perhaps you’ve heard of The A-Team?  Vietnam vets turned vigilantes?  They had a television show a while back.

We’re not them.
But if you’ve been the victim of a scam, give us a call.  We deal in justice, not the law.
We’re the B-Team.






Structural Editing for Characters and Point of View – Fictionary

Top 3 Character Elements To Make The Most Of A Structural Edit. How to revise and edit a novel focussing on characters and structure.


Why Do People Read Fiction?

Structural Edit and CharactersOne reason people read fiction is to escape and experience the world through the thoughts and actions of the characters in the story.

We believe 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 putting the most into your characters? You edit and rewrite until your characters are performing at their best. A little bit of organization will help you quickly complete these revisions…

Source: Structural Editing for Characters and Point of View – Fictionary

Mystery Mondays: Author Carolyn Mulford on 10 Common Mistakes

Today on Mystery Mondays I have the pleasure of hosting Carolyn Mulford. Carolyn writes mysteries and historical novels and has some sage advice on making your first draft better. At the end of this post, you’ll find a giveaway…

Beware 10 Common Mistakes by Carolyn Mulford

Working as a magazine editor, I observed that most of my well-educated contributors made the same types of mistakes in content, structure, and syntax. Then I started my transition from writing short nonfiction to writing novels. By the time my first mystery, Show Me the Murder, came out, experience in rewriting my own novels and in critiquing other writers’ work convinced me that most mystery writers also err in the same ways.

I share 10 errors common in first drafts—and sometimes the second and third. Even a newbie won’t go wrong on all of them, but even a veteran must guard against one or two.

The types of errors differ in the manuscript’s three major sections: the opening (two to four chapters), the middle (twenty to thirty chapters), and the ending (three to five  chapters).

The opening chapters

You have to grab readers fast, preferably on the first page, and keep a firm grip on them through the opening chapters. These set the tone and establish your voice for the entire book. Watch out for these problems.

  1. A lengthy backstory

Reveal only absolute essentials about your protagonist in the first chapter. Details delay the story. Later drop in the necessary backstory in phrases or sentences.

  1. Long descriptions of the setting

Select only telling details that put the reader in the time and place and establish the mood.

  1. A prologue revealing a dramatic point late in the book

Often writers use this kind of prologue, or a flashback, because the beginning lacks excitement. Consider making the prologue part of chapter one or starting the story closer to the murder.

  1. Multiple characters

How many names do you remember after a cocktail party? Readers can’t remember more than that. Introduce your protagonist immediately as readers identify with those they meet first.

 The middle chapters

We agonize over the crucial opening and lose steam in the much longer middle, the heart of the investigation and of character development. Worry about readers putting the book down at the end of a chapter. Each chapter must motivate them to read on, so avoid the following.

  1. A lack of action

Something must happen in every chapter. Check that by writing chapter headlines. Be sure you have a plot point and conflict—in solving the crime, in reaching the protagonist’s goals, in personal and professional interactions.

  1. Clues or characterizations that reveal too much

Drop in little clues here and there rather than big ones bunched together. Present three or four viable suspects and speculate on at least two motives. Draw suspects in gray rather than black and white.

  1.   Indistinguishable characters

Give each named character a memorable characteristic—appearance, mannerism, speech pattern, etc. For me, one of the great challenges and delights is portraying each character through distinctive dialogue, which involves vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and rhythm.

 The final chapters

Readers will condemn the whole book if the ending doesn’t satisfy them. They feel cheated if the solution shocks rather than surprises or characters act out of character. Readers’ frustration often comes from the following mistakes.

  1.   The first indication of the villain and the motive

From the beginning on, insert the character traits and the facts—at minimum the classic motive, means, and opportunity—needed to solve the crime. The last piece of the puzzle, or an interpretation of it, comes near the end, but clues and red herrings pop up all the way through.

  1.   Illogical, coincidental, or incredible solutions

You want readers to say, “Oh, of course. Now I get it.” Mystery readers require the writer to play fair in telling them what they need to know to solve the crime. They also expect justice.

  1. Villain reveals all

If the bad guy has to explain why and how, you need to go back and insert clues. Remember to wrap up all the loose ends, starting with the subplots. If you’re writing a series, readers accept an obvious loose end (often involving a relationship) that propels them into your next book.

Writing a mystery gives us countless opportunities to lose our readers, an intelligent and demanding group. Writing and rewriting with these 10 common mistakes in mind may help retain their attention.

One other thing that years of writing both nonfiction and fiction has taught me: If I become bored or restless in either writing or reading my own work, it’s time to rewrite.

Mulford18csmallWho Is Carolyn Mulford?

Carolyn Mulford worked on five continents as a nonfiction writer/editor before turning to fiction. Her award-winning Show Me series features Phoenix Smith, a former CIA covert operative who returns to rural Missouri and adapts her tradecraft to solve crimes with old friends and a K-9 dropout.

You can read the first chapters of her five mysteries and two YA historicals on her website:


Show Me the Sinister Snowman:

perf6.000x9.000.inddNorth Missouri has seldom been snowier and the mysteries more perplexing than in Show Me the Sinister Snowman, the fifth novel in Carolyn Mulford’s Show Me detective series.

Was the ailing congressman’s death an accident, suicide, or perhaps even murder?  And if it was murder, could it be that he was the wrong victim and the murderer might be poised to strike again?  The questions and perils build up, but retired CIA operative Phoenix Smith—with help from her faithful canine assistant, Achilles—is on the case.  We watch as the action zeroes in on a snow-bound estate to provide a new twist on the classic country house mystery.


More on Carolyn:

Go to Goodreads by April 2 to enter a giveaway of Show Me the Sinister Snowman. The giveaway begins March 24th, so be sure to check out Carolyn’s Goodreads page.

Cave Hollow Press, March 31, 2017, $14.95 (trade paperback) and $3.99 (e-book), 290 pp.; ISBN: 978-0-9713497-9-7.

((Five Star published the first four in the series: Show Me the Murder, Show Me the Deadly Deer, Show Me the Gold, Show Me the Ashes.))





Mystery Mondays: Call For Author Guest Blogs

Promoting Reading – Promoting Authors

Mystery Mondays began in July 2015. Authors from many genres who write with a hint of mystery have told you about their books, answered your questions about writing and shared their thoughts with you.

Every Monday, you’ve be introduced to another author and maybe discovered someone you’re not familiar with.

Are you an author interested in guest blogging?

I am now accepting guest blog requests for the next few months of 2017 starting on March 27th so if you’re interested contact me here.

If you’d like to participate, here’s what you need to qualify:

  • you are a published author – traditional or Indie or any other way that I don’t know about,
  • or you are about to publish fairly soon
  • and you want to promote other authors and spread success,
  • you write novels with a hint of mystery,
  • you are willing to engage in the comments section when readers comment on your post.

All I ask from you is that you follow my blog, comment on author’s posts and help share via Twitter and Facebook.  If you’re interested send me a message via my contact page.

The Guidelines:

You’ll have to send me your bio, back text of your novel, author photo and book cover. I’d like you to write something about yourself, your novel, your research, a writing tip or a publishing tip.

Please keep in mind I am a family friendly blog. I do reserve the right to edit anything I think might be inappropriate for my audience, which I will discuss with you first. I think anything under 700 words is great, but it’s your book so up to you.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you and sharing your novel with the Internet world.

Mystery Mondays: Jane Jordan With Advice to Aspiring Writers

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-8-43-04-amMystery Thriller Week is an annual event that celebrates the Mystery, Thriller genre. Welcome to all writers, published or unpublished. The Kickoff begins Feb.12-19, 2017! That’s this week!

Mystery Mondays is helping celebrate by hosting mystery writers leading up to this exciting week.  Today we Jane Jordan, Author of The Beekeeper’s Daughter.

Advice For Aspiring Writers by Jane Jordan.

front-cover-of-the-beekeepers-daughterI started writing in 2004 after I stayed in a remote old house on Exmoor which is located on the South West coast of England. The remote location along with the odd happenings I experienced made a significant impression. The caretaker’s stories of both the resident ghost and other related visitor reports fueled my imagination further, and so began the gothic vampire trilogy that were to be my first three novels.

The Beekeeper’s Daughter, was supposed to be my second novel. I already had completed a couple of chapters and had a basic plot. But that first story grew and grew, and I became absorbed in that saga and the research. I knew I had to finish those three books, before I could move on and concentrate fully on what was to become my fourth novel

In my first three books, I delved into the world of vampire superstition and legend, and combined it with a modern and complex love story. In my fourth book, I gave myself the challenge of writing about witchcraft and another time period. The more research I completed the more fascinated I became to write a historical thriller. It was a story that seemed to have a life of its own, leading me to interesting sub-plots and digressions that took me into realms I could not have imagined.

The Beekeepers Daughter tells the tale of an impossible love triangle, a dark legacy and a dangerous secret stretching back through generations of madness and betrayal. It was challenging to write because the book starts in the year 1698 in England.

The first scene portrays a witch being burnt at the stake. In order for my readers to feel it was authentic, I did a lot of internet research and studied several books. I uncovered old sixteenth century records of witch trials and visited the witchcraft museum in Boscastle, England. This museum houses the most comprehensive collection of artifacts in Europe. The story moves to the Victorian era, and I relied on research from books and the internet to make sure I accurately portrayed all the historical details, right down to the clothing and social etiquette of the times.

Annabel Taylor is a bee charmer and the Beekeeper’s Daughter. She has grown up on wild Exmoor, but when she meets Jevan, the blacksmith son, her life changes forever. They form an unbreakable bond, until they are forced apart when Jevan must leave for London. Annabel is heartbroken, she believes her life is over, and her only solace is her beloved bees. I loved the idea of the bees being a witch’s familiar, because bees are so key to nature and that fitted perfectly with the story.

By chance she meets Alex, the heir to vast estate lands and the foreboding Gothelstone manor house. Socially they are worlds apart, even though Annabel is inexplicably drawn to him, and even if she feels that Alex’s attention is merely a distraction from her true love. Although Alex has other ideas.

When Jevan eventually returns, Annabel realizes just how precarious her situation has become, and when Jevan’s life is threatened, she has to make a heartbreaking choice that could mean she will lose him forever.

It soon becomes apparent that Alex and Annabel are merely pawns in someone else’s sinister plan. Left with no other choice, Annabel must embrace her inherent power and destroy a powerful witch, before she and everyone she loves is destroyed.

My advice to any aspiring writer is to be true to yourself. Write about what interests you and not what you think you should write about, because it is the current trend. The reality is that the publishing process can take a long time and by the time you have finished your novel that market will have left you far behind.

When I first wrote about vampires they were not fashionable, and it was a couple of years before ‘Twilight’ hit the headlines, but I didn’t write that story worrying about that, or even thinking it could sell and make money. I wrote the story because it needed to be written. All my novels are like that, I stay true to myself and my genre, no matter what may or may not be in-vogue.


janeJane was born in England, and grew up exploring the history and culture of London and surrounding counties. In the 1990’s she immigrated to Detroit, USA, eventually settling in South West Florida. She returned to England after a fifteen-year absence, to spend six years in the South West of England living on Exmoor. Here, inspired by the atmosphere, beautiful scenery and the ancient history of the place, she began writing.

Jane’s writes in the dark romance genre. She has four published novels. She also writes short stories and being a trained horticulturist, she has had articles published in a gardening magazine.

Jane Returned to Florida in 2013, and now lives in Sarasota.

Mystery Mondays: Laura Wolfe on Writing Mysteries

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-8-43-04-amMystery Thriller Week is an annual event that celebrates the Mystery, Thriller genre. Welcome to all writers, published or unpublished. The Kickoff begins Feb.12-19, 2017!

Mystery Mondays is helping celebrate by hosting mystery writers leading up to this exciting week.  Today we have Laura Wolfe, author of TRAIL OF SECRETS.

Writing Mysteries: Keep Your Readers Guessing

By Laura Wolfe

Are you thinking about writing a mystery? These tips will help you engage readers from the first page to the last!

  1. Start with an intriguing premise. The central mystery in your work should be one that makes a reader turn the page and want to know more. In other words, the premise should raise multiple questions that beg for answers. “Who robbed the house?” is not as intriguing as “Who stole diamond earrings from five houses on the same day in a quiet neighborhood without anyone seeing?” In the second example the reader automatically wants to know not only Who did it?, but How did the robber hit five houses in one day?, and Why diamond earrings?, and Why didn’t anyone see?, and What’s the real story behind this quiet neighborhood?
  1. Introduce a few seemingly irrelevant clues toward the beginning of your work. Start with a couple of minor clues and build toward more frequent and important clues toward the end. These strategically-placed hints toward the beginning should not be so obvious that they give away the answer to the mystery. Instead, the clue should make the reader think, That’s odd. And then later, Aha! It all makes sense now. For example, in Trail of Secrets, the MC, Brynlei, realizes someone stole her deodorant shortly after she arrives at the riding academy. While Brynlei thinks the occurrence is strange, the reader can sense something more sinister. It isn’t until the central mystery of the missing girl is solved that the reader realizes its significance.
  1. Give the reader plenty of suspects to choose from (but not so many it becomes confusing.) As your MC discovers new information, she should start to view formerly friendly characters in a more suspicious light. For example, maybe your MC is certain the creepy P.E. teacher is the one who strangled her French teacher, but then she sees the nice man next door digging a hole in his backyard in the middle of the night. Or maybe your MC discovers the new transfer student from France lied about an important piece of her past. Anyone can be a suspect! Just don’t go crazy. Keep the viable suspects to less than five, and make sure to explain away any suspicious behavior for people who are not the guilty party.
  1. Raise the stakes to keep readers turning the pages. Mysteries aren’t always page-turners, but they should be! Here are a few ways to raise the stakes and keep readers on the edges of their seats:

Put a timeline on solving the crime (e.g. The MC’s brother will be sentenced to death if the MC can’t find the real murderer in a certain amount of time);

Take away your MC’s friend, helper, or support system;

Have the police accuse the MC of the same crime she is trying to solve; and/or

Make the suspect aware that the MC is onto him, and reverse the chase!

  1. Make sure the answer to the mystery is a good one! When the mystery is solved, keep your promise to the reader. Don’t have the MC discover that everything actually happened exactly the way the police said it did, or that the secret room your MC finally uncovers behind the grandfather clock is really just used as a broom closet. Those are NOT the prizes readers want to find at the end of your book. Give them something scandalous and unexpected. Instead, maybe the police chief stages the crime to cover for his son who is the real murderer, or the secret room behind the clock is used to hide the murder weapon. See the difference?

I hope these tips help you write your next mystery! I can’t wait to guess, “Who dunnit’?”


WHO IS Laura Wolfe?

media-photoLaura Wolfe is a lover of animals and nature. When she is not writing, she can be found playing games with her highly-energetic kids, riding horses, growing vegetables in her garden, or spoiling her rescue dog. She lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and daughter. Laura’s YA mystery, Trail of Secrets (Dark Horse, Book 1), was named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards—First Novel category. Laura holds a BA in English from the University of Michigan and a JD from DePaul University. She is an active member of multiple writing groups, including Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the SCBWI. For more information on her upcoming books, please visit:


tos-cover-2Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched. Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.

Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted Top Rider Award. To make things worse, someone discovers her search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. As Brynlei begins to unravel the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she is faced with an impossible choice. Will she protect a valuable secret? Or save a life?

Thanks for reading…



Mystery Mondays: Elaine Cougler on Linking History and Fiction

When I first started blogging, long before I was published, Elaine Cougler was one of the first author’s I met online. She’s been encouraging me ever since, so it’s a great pleasure to finally have her on Mystery Mondays.


Linking History and Fiction Through Theme

by Elaine Cougler

One of the things I like to do in my books is to show the strengths of ordinary people, fictional though they may be. Putting them in ever more dangerous and extraordinary situations allows me to do just that. In The Loyalist Legacy, for example, Lucy has to find a way to get her husband released from jail where he has been wrongly imprisoned with not so much as a charge against him. Oh, she learns why those in power are holding him. He has helped far too many simple settlers with legal problems over their land in the burgeoning Niagara communities, all too often going against the rich and powerful. In a rough country where democracy is still just an idea, the high-and-mighty rule.

A good shot with her very own rifle, Lucy is the mother of a grown family with grandchildren on both sides of the Niagara River. On more than one occasion she has shown her mettle, but now she yearns for what she had thought would be quiet years with her husband. Instead, she and John are still struggling, this time with their own British government in Upper Canada.

The day John was seized from their mill near Fort Erie, she rushed to Niagara (present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake) thinking John would be released immediately. It didn’t happen. This circumstance gave me, as the author, the chance to have Lucy meet Richard Beasley, the real person who owned the land on Burlington Bay, which the British actually seized as a marshalling station and army camp during the War of 1812.

Beasley’s mostly true story became one of the subplots in this third novel in the trilogy.

Here is the scene where Lucy meets Richard Beasley.

 Lucy lay on the lumpy bed as the snow beat against Aaron’s newly installed glass windowpane and tried to keep the tears from coming again. John had told her to forget about him. He worried that her constant running back and forth from the inn to the jail would aggravate her paining joints. “Go back home, Lucy,” he’d said week in and week out the past three months.

“But I can’t!” Her voice echoed in the bare room. How she ached to have him with her. She rolled over once again, taking care with her right knee. Her latest patchwork quilt at least kept her warm and reminded her of better times.

In the morning she would try to get the jailer to let her bring food to John. His hands were so bony and his trousers so loose, she knew they weren’t feeding him much at all. She would make that jailer listen to reason!

The rebuilt Angel Inn, burned with almost every building in Niagara that December of 1813, this morning bustled with travelers and local hangers-on, all slurping their steaming bowls of porridge and gulping tankards of ale as though they hadn’t eaten or drunk for days. Aaron was back in the kitchen dishing up orders while Lucy rushed as best she could from table to table, side-stepping the boots protruding into the aisles and the arms flung out to emphasize some important point in a customer’s harrowing story.

Her mind was on her plan this morning. That jailer would listen or she would—well, she didn’t know what she would do but she would convince him to let her give John the bowl of porridge she would carry with her. Maybe she’d take two and bribe the jailer with his very own. Ah, that’s a good idea.

“Watch what you’re doing, woman!”

She tripped and fell right into the table, upsetting the bowl of porridge she carried all over the men’s food. “I’m so sorry, gentlemen!” With her cloth she wiped up the mess. “I’ll get more. I wasn’t thinking…Please forgive me.” She couldn’t stop talking and felt the heat spread from her face all down her front, adding to her embarrassment.

“Madam, do not worry.” The well-dressed man’s voice soothed as he spoke. “This is just a trifle. Do not concern yourself.”

She looked up. The speaker was the ruddy-faced, white-haired man she’d noticed when he came in. He smiled at her. He still had most of his teeth. The table put back to rights, she picked up her cloth and curtsied quickly. “Thank you, sir,” she whispered in a voice so soft she wondered if he could even hear it.

But he did. “Landlord! Give this woman a shot of brandy. She’s pale as a ghost.”

The Loyalist Legacy.

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When the War of 1812 is finally over William and Catherine Garner flee the desolation of Niagara and find in the wild heart of Upper Canada their two hundred acres straddling the Thames River. On this valuable land, dense forests, wild beasts, disgruntled 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 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 the children, he hurries along the Governor’s Road toward the turn-off to Fort Erie, hoping to return in time for spring planting.

With realistic insights into the challenging lives of Ontario’s early settlers, Elaine Cougler once again draws readers into the Loyalists’ struggles to build homes, roads, and relationships, and their growing dissension as they move ever closer to another war. The Loyalist Legacy shows us the trials faced by ordinary people who conquer unbelievable hardships and become extraordinary in the process.

Praise for Elaine Cougler’s writing:


“….absolutely fascinating….Cougler doesn’t hold back on the gritty realities of what a couple might have gone through at this time, and gives a unique view of the Revolutionary War that many might never have considered.”

Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.

“….an intriguing story”                                             A Bookish Affair


“I highly recommend this book for any student of history or anyone just looking for a wonderful story.”

Book Lovers Paradise –“Elaine’s storytelling is brave and bold.”                       Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Oh, for the Hook of a Book




Elaine Cougler can be found on Twitter, Facebook Author Page, LinkedIn and on her blog at

Mystery Mondays: Debra Purdy Kong on Starting and Sustaining a Series

This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Debra Purdy Kong. I first came across Debra’s writing when I read Opposite of Dark. I loved the book and reached out to Debra on LinkedIn and was very excited to hear back from her. She’s an author who is generous with her time and her advice, which you’ll get some of below.

As you can imagine, I’m happy to host Debra on Mystery Mondays again.

Starting and Sustaining a Mystery Series by Debra Purdy Kong

Have you started to write a mystery series? With six published books in two series and more in the works, I’ve faced a number of challenges. Hopefully, these five tips will help you start and keep your series on track.

  • Create your protagonist carefully. If you intend to write a lengthy series, do you want to start with a younger character and have her (or him) age a little more with every book, or do you want her to stay static like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marpole? Will your protagonist be complex enough to explore hidden and complex personality traits with each installment? The books in my Casey Holland series cover Casey’s life from ages thirty to forty, which becomes a unique and tumultuous time for her. Based on the feedback I’ve received, readers enjoy following the ups and downs in a protagonist’s personal life.
  • Settings change. I write about Metro Vancouver, where the landscape changes every year. Sure, landmarks like Vancouver’s Stanley Park will always be there, but with infrastructure development (in my case, a new light rapid transit line close to my home in Port Moody), things can look quite different over time. The Port Moody I wrote about in Fatal Encryption eight years ago wasn’t as busy and complex as it is today. If real settings are a crucial part of your story, changes could have an impact on future plots.
  • Pace yourself, and I mean this in two ways. From the get-go, decide how much time will pass between stories. If some of the key characters in your series are children, they’ll grow and change a fair bit from the first to the last book in your series, unless you intend to keep everything static. If you intend to show a passage of time, do you want your main characters to age a few weeks or months between books, or longer?

Secondly, consider pacing yourself as a writer. It’s a good strategy to focus on the first three novels in your series. Once you’re ready to submit your work to publishers, they’ll be happy if you have a long-term plan. Start thinking about the end game early in the process. How would you like to see the series end? How many books might it take to get there? Do you have the discipline and tenacity required to commit to a project that could take years to complete? Now that I’ve started the seventh book and have been working on this series for well over a decade, it’s something I struggle with.

  • To avoid confusion, forgetfulness, and contradictions, keep detailed and accurate records about your series. I use an Excel spread sheet to provide an overview of the entire series. Column one lists the first installment, The Opposite of Dark. Beneath the title, I type the date and time of year the book takes place, Casey’s age, and that of her young ward, Summer. I briefly state the book’s plot and theme. I also note details about the murder. Trust me, it’s far too easy to forget these things over time.

Because my plots blend Casey’s workplace (Mainland Public Transit) with her personal life, I keep a record of every MPT employee mentioned in each book on a second Excel sheet. I like to bring back secondary characters now and then, so it’s important to track when employees appear in the series.

For each book, I maintain a Word document that contains detailed profiles of all main characters, plus those who are only featured in a specific book. The document is copied into every folder I create for each book. New characters are added, along with fresh aspects about ongoing characters. Experiment with recordkeeping ways that work for you.

  • If you’re growing weary of the series, let it go, at least for a while. An author’s best work comes from caring about their characters and plots, and staying solely with the same characters year after year can be tiring. Unless you have deadlines to meet, it’s okay to take a break. I’ve found that launching new writing projects helps stimulate ideas for my Casey series. So, go ahead and stretch your creative wings when you need to. You’ll be surprised at all the good things that can happen.


Promo Photos 009Author of six full-length mysteries, a novella, and over fifty short stories, Debra has won numerous awards for her short fiction. Drawing on her work experiences in security, she’s created transit security cop, Casey Holland in The Opposite of Dark, and campus security cop, Evan Dunstan in her first novella Dead Man Floating When she’s not writing, she’s employed part time at Simon Fraser University and is a facilitator for the Creative Writing program with Port Moody Parks & Recreation. More information about Debra can be found at



Just in case you’re as excited to read Debra’s books as I was, here are the links:











screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-3-07-25-pmDEAD MAN FLOATING: