The Other Side of the 49th- Elaine Cougler’s Loyalists

The whole point of historical fiction is to tell a story. And every story has two sides, unless it’s your side and then the other side’s uh, side, is apparently invalid. Sometimes this gets contentious (those of you who missed the point of my last post and thought I was a Castro apologist need to breathe.) So let’s take the most calm, polite example I can think of: the Loyalists who built Southern Ontario after the cruel terrorists forced them from their lawful land in America…. oh did that hurt? #sorrynotsorry.

Fact is, that the American revolution didn’t end in 1778, and the “other side” weren’t all animal brutes and Hessians hired to oppress the good people of the colonies. Elaine Cougler has done yeoman service in her “Loyalist Trilogy,” and I interview her here.

So, here’s the Elaine story in a nutshell…

Elaine Cougler is the author of historical novels about the lives of settlers incougler 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: The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck and The Loyalist Legacy came out this month. The Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair selected The Loyalist’s Wife as a finalist in its Self-Publishing Awards. The Middlesex County Library selected the book as its choice for book club suggestions. The Writers Community of Durham Region presented Elaine with a Pay-It-Forward Award.

Alright, so this is the third book in the series. What’s it about?

The Loyalist Legacy plunks the Garner family right in the wild heart of Upper Canada (now southern Ontario) to build a life after their devastating losses in Niagara. They’ve suffered through the American Revolutionary War (The Loyalist’s Wife) and the War of 1812 (The Loyalist’s Luck) and now settle on two hundred acres awarded them by the Crown for military service. All they want is peace and prosperity. Instead they find extreme hardship, back-destroying labor, disgruntled native peoples,  family feuds and a government where they have no say and must watch as the “Family Compact” keeps power and position in the hands of a privileged few. This last becomes the divisive knife that leads the settlers ever closer to rebellion. Perhaps Upper and Lower Canada will take the path their neighbours to the south have taken.

What’s your interest in that time period?

I  have in my possession a book about Butler’s Rangers, a famous group of militia who fought for the King in the Revolutionary War, and in the back are the names of two of my relatives, John Cain and John Garner. That absolutely got my attention even though there is some question about whether the second one is actually my John Garner ancestor. My brain took off on all the possibilities and mapped out a fictional story for John Garner set against the history of the times after the Boston Tea Party, the resettling after the Revolutionary War (where did all those disgruntled people go?) and the War of 1812. Once I was into the initial research more and more nuggets seemed to drop into my head leading to not just one novel but a trilogy. My brother and his wife shared their findings of the family history and took me on a car tour to the actual land where William and Catherine (Cain) Garner settled north of London, Ontario. I could just see the third book as I gazed out at the two hundred acres on either side of the Thames River and the place where the Garners had built their home. How in the world did they do it?

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene?

loyalistI have so many. There is one involving Catherine Garner and her ability to rise up and fight against a lynx that has come right up on her porch and grabbed a papoose from its cradle there. There is another where she is furious with William because of his treatment of his brother and in a flash of insight switches to empathy for the man she loves. I love the strength of Migisi and Kiwidinok, a Chippewa couple who represent the plight of the native peoples at this time in our North American history. And I love the scene from Lucy’s point of view at her granddaughter’s wedding and its subsequent denouement. All of these scenes and many more show the strength of these ordinary people who when circumstances demand become absolutely extraordinary. These are the ancestors of many of us lucky enough to live here now in North America.
While the times I write about often emphasize the division between the United States and Canada I am ever mindful of our united beginnings. Brother against brother in the wars, laws restricting land ownership  based on allegiance which went on for years, the ugly head of slavery, the struggles of neighbour against neighbour where had been staunch allies—all of these show the difficult times my characters and our ancestors lived in, no matter which side of the border they were on. Still today most of us have relatives on the other side of the US-Canada border. Imagine if our two countries went to war not as allies but as enemies. When governments and those in power make decisions, we the little people must find ways to survive. This is the backbone of the Loyalist trilogy.
You can learn more about Elaine and her work here:

Her blog

Her Amazon author page

Twitter @ElaineCougler

Her Facebook author page


The Castro Conundrum for Historical Novelists

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.- F Scott Fitzgerald.

Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro's Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro’s Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)

Fidel Castro is dead. That is objectively true. Pretty much everything else is open to interpretation. He was a fighter for oppressed people against Batista and around the world (assuming you felt oppressed and didn’t welcome your oppression in the name of employment) or a torturer and despot with no redeeming features (basically everyone who didn’t fall into category one). The fact that he was both is precisely why I love historical fiction. Two opposing ideas at once might be a bit disorienting, but Sweet Baby Jesus, it makes for fun reading.

Historical novelists tell stories based on the past. In a just world we get both sides of the story- and I suspect over the next couple of years we’ll be buried in an avalanche of novels from the Caribbean Jungles in 1959. Most will tell of noble families driven to Miami by the socialist hordes. Some will travel with Fidel and Che through jungle heat and the rolling decks of the Granma to defeat American gangsters and whatever the Latin version of Oligarchs are. (The underdog is way more romantic, hence white liberal college girls wearing Che tee shirts even though he despised everything they are. After the Revolution there will be no Pumpkin Spice Anything!) Either way I can’t wait. Both sides will have wonderful adventures to tell and characters that we’ll love and hate. If you can’t wait, start with the stories of Leonardo Padura Fuentes.

One of the things I try to do in this blog is find voices on both sides of a story. For example, I am a huge fan of Washington, Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. As a Canadian, though, I am also aware of the other side of the story. After a couple of pints, I love telling the story of the American Revolution from the “other side.” Those poor patriotic, god-fearing British subjects driven from their land by godless radical liberal terrorists are wonderful characters that we don’t hear from often enough on this side of the 49th Parallel. Plus Canadians burned down the White House thirty years later. Scoreboard. Yes, I put my Green Card at risk, but it’s soooooo worth it to hear the screams of outrage. And yes, to answer your next question, I’m a bit of an obnoxious drunk.

In my new book, Acre’s Bastard, I try to walk a similar line with the Crusades. ab_cover_frontfinal
Were the Franks godly men, driven by holy purposes or simply a bunch of fourth sons and ne’er-do-wells looking to get rich and establish themselves when Feudal law left them powerless at home? Was Saladin (or Salah-adin) freeing Syria of foreign invaders in the name of Allah, or a rebel Kurd conducting a power grab at the expense of local Muslim warlords? There are plenty of stories on both sides that should be told and enjoyed. I decided to pull most of my research from the Muslim accounts just because readers will be less familiar with them (thus the spelling of Salah-adin) and I hope they enjoy the result. Doubtless I’ll annoy the crap out of other people. Such is life.

I love historical fiction because I can get stories that are both familiar and challenge my beliefs and what I think I know about a given topic. Hopefully you do too.

Was Castro a hero or a villain? Yes. Here’s hoping we get great stories to help us decide for ourselves and still be able to function.




J D R Hawkins Civil War Drama

The US Civil War (actually, given the current mood in this country maybe I need to start referring to it as Civil War 1.0) is a great backdrop for drama. Patriotism, family squabbling, technology-enabled massacre–all come together in one time period.  Today’s author takes all that very seriously.

j-d-r-hawkinsJDR Hawkins is an award-winning author who has written for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, e-zines, and blogs. She is one of only a few female Civil War authors, and uniquely describes the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Her Renegade Series includes A Beautiful Glittering Lie, winner of the John Esten Cooke Fiction Award and the B.R.A.G. Medallion, A Beckoning Hellfire, which is also an award winner, and A Rebel Among Us, which has just been published. These books tell the story of a family from north Alabama who experience immeasurable pain when their lives are dramatically changed by the war. She’s a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, Pikes Peak Writers, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is also an artist and singer/songwriter. (Editor’s note: Showoff.)

What’s the idea behind A Rebel Among Us?

After David Summers enlists with the Confederate cavalry, his delusion of chivalry is soon crushed when he witnesses the horrors of battle. Shot by a Union picket, he winds up at a stranger’s farm. Four girls compassionately nurse him back to health. David learns his comrades have deserted him in Pennsylvania following the Battle of Gettysburg, but his dilemma becomes much worse. He falls in love with the older sister, Anna, who entices him with a proposition. To his dismay, he must make a decision. Should he stay and help Anna with her underhanded plan, or return to the army and risk capture?

So if you’re a Daughter of the Confederacy and all, I’m guessing you’ve got a deep family interest in the war?

I have always been intrigued with the Victorian era. Living in Colorado, I became enthralled with the old mines and mountain towns. When I visited Gettysburg, I saw for myself the enormity of the battlefield, and was inspired to write a novel about it. However, I wanted to write something from a typical Southern soldier’s perspective; something I felt hadn’t really done before. So I wrote A Beckoning Hellfire. I decided the book was too long, so I cut it in half. Thus, A Rebel Among Us was created. The story wasn’t finished, though, so I wrote another sequel (yet to be published). And then I went back and wrote a prequel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. I have enough material to write a fifth book in the Renegade Series as well.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?rebelamong

My favorite scene in the book has to do with a secret. And a wedding. That’s all I can say!

Spoilsport. You’re a social media junkie. How can people reach you (and the rest of us should be making notes. I haven’t even heard of some of these!)

Find the book on Amazon here.

·         Website

·         Facebook

·         Twitter – @jdrhawkins

·         Newsletter

·         Pinterest   

·         Goodreads

·         Instagram

·         Google +

·         YouTube

·         Wattpad

Who Doesn’t Love a Woman Pirate? Mark McMillin Does

Pirate tale? Check. Bad-ass woman protagonist? Check. So I’m a 12 year old boy at heart; sue me. Today’s interview is with Mark McMillin, whose new book,”The Butcher’s Daughter- A Journey Between Worlds,” is ready to buckle swashes and rip yarns.

Mark, what’s your deal?

Lawyer turned author Mark McMillin
Lawyer turned author Mark McMillin

From an early age, I’ve loved to write.  I am an attorney by training (a company counsel, but writing is my passion). I served in the military too, during the Cold War (with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany) and this unique experience has certainly influenced me. The center stage in all my books is one war or another.

Okay, so what’s the book about? Beside’s a butcher’s daughter, I mean…

I was intrigued by how a woman in the Elizabethan Age could command a ship and men when women were regarded as little more than chattel. There were several female pirate captains in the 16th Century. One woman was Grace O’Malley who commanded a whole fleet of pirate ships – but someone had beaten me to her when I thought about writing a book with O’Malley as the lead character.

The Butcher's Daughter
The Butcher’s Daughter

Our story takes place during an age ruled by iron men, in a world of new discovery and Spanish gold, a young Irishwoman named Mary rises from the ashes of her broken childhood with ships and men-at-arms under her command.  She and her loyal crew prowl the Caribbean and prosper in the New World for a time until the ugly past Mary has fled from in the old one finds her.

War is coming. The King of Spain is assembling the most powerful armada the world has ever seen – an enormous beast – to invade England and depose the Protestant “heretic queen.” To have any chance against the wealth and might of Spain, England will need every warship, she will need every able captain.  Queen Elizabeth spares Mary from the headman’s axe for past sins in exchange for her loyalty, her ships and men.

It’s based on true historical events. It’s an epic story about war, adventure, love and betrayal. With a little good old fashioned vengeance thrown in as well.

Great! Any favorite scenes?

There’s a great scene where Grace is betrayed by a crew member, captured, tortured and about to be branded. It’s great bloody, exciting fun.

How can people learn more about you and The Butcher’s Daughter?

My site, has information about me and my other books, all of which deal with one kind of war or another.

My Amazon page, with all my books can be found by clicking here.




Publication Dates for Acre’s Bastard

Okay, deep breath. Here we go:

Acre’s Bastard will be coming out in mid-January (ebook) and mid-February of 2017 (paperback). I’m very excited. This is the first in a series of adventures about Lucca Le Pou, a 10-year-old who becomes an unwilling spy against Salah-adin. It’s NOT YA– it’s the very adult story of the Crusades told through the eyes of it’s most innocent victims–the children. The book is in turns funny, thrilling, sad and exciting.

If you are a reviewer or blogger interested in a pre-publication copy, please let me know. I’d like to get some honest blurbs and reviews in the can to help with a successful launch.

This may or may not be the final cover for my new book, but here’s an update. (Feedback is a gift and all)