Monday, March 22, 2021

Seven Things You Can Do with Dialog - Guest blog by Mia Botha

Dialogue is a powerful, but often underutilized, tool in writing. 
Dialogue lets you move away from narration and it allows you to bring your story to life.

TOP TIP: Learn to write better dialogue with The Dialogue Workbook

Good dialogue does the following:

1. Dialogue Advances The Story 

Dialogue forces the writer to make the characters interact. When characters interact you create events and scenarios that bring them closer or further away from achieving their story goal. Get your character off the couch by making them do stuff.


‘We’re out of milk.’ – what happens when you character goes to the store?

1.     Do they run into an old acquaintance?

2.     Is their card declined?

3.     Do they get caught up in a robbery?

2. Dialogue Makes You Show 

When we only use narrative to tell our story we give our readers a secondary version of the events. When we use dialogue the story comes to life and the readers experience the events for themselves. Dialogue is one of the easiest ways to move your story from telling to showing.


Telling: Jonathan didn’t want to enroll for a business degree.

Showing:  Alison upended the third and final draw. ‘You have to know where it is. It’s your college acceptance letter. It’s your entire future.’ She rifled through the papers on the desk.

‘I really don’t know, Mom. I haven’t seen it.’ Jonathan didn’t look up. He was putting the finishing touches on his newest drawing. He held the paper up to the light. You could still see the faint outline of the logo that read Harvard Business School, but he darkened the shadow and it disappeared completely. ‘I haven’t seen the letter anywhere. Maybe Dad threw it out when threw out my sketches.’

3. Dialogue Introduces Conflict

Conflict, whether subtle or overt, is a vital part of fiction, but it doesn’t always have to be physical. Dialogue is a great source of conflict.


‘You never told me about the invitation.’ He stomped to the fridge. The bottles rattled as he yanked open the door.
Beryl took a deep breath and smoothed her skirt. ‘Yes, I did. I said that we were invited and that I accepted.’
‘Well, this is the first I’m hearing of it.’ The bottles rattled again and he slammed it once more. ‘And we’re not going.’
Beryl gathered her clutch and courage. ‘Well, then I guess this the last you’ll hear from me.’ And walked out the door.

4. Dialogue Reveals Character

How we speak reveals so much about who we are. Use your characters’ words to show who they are.


He adjusted his name tag and moved towards the customer. He needed to close at least one deal today. Aaron stuck out his hand to the nearest guy praying the hulk of a man wouldn’t crush it. ‘Aaron Bronson, pleased to meet you.’
‘Impossible.’ The man loomed overhead. ‘The Aaron Bronson I knew was  a sniveling little brat who tattled to the teacher.’
Aaron tried not to flinch as the bones in his hand cracked and groaned under the increasing pressure. ‘Jonty?’ he squeaked.

5. Dialogue Reveals The Setting 

When you use dialogue to convey setting it will help you to avoid writing long blocks of description.


Ally followed the dim pool of light as it bounced down the passage. ‘What is this place?’ She shone the torch into a room crowded with old metal beds.
‘It used to be a psych ward. They closed it down in the sixties.’
Candice sounded so nonchalant, but Ally wasn’t fooled.
‘Why are there handcuffs attached to the beds?’
‘It was a ward for the criminally insane.’

6. Dialogue Gives Information 

We need to share a lot of information with our readers. We also should vary how we present our information. Dialogue is a good tool to do that. 

Without dialogue:

He heard them coming down the passage and prayed they weren’t singing for him, but the dreary rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ limped closer and closer to his desk.

With dialogue:

‘Come on,’ someone hissed, ‘light it.’
Jeff cringed. Please don’t. Please don’t let them be coming here.
‘One, two, three.’ A staged whisper. A whiff of sulphur from the matches and then it began.
‘Haaaaa-ppppp-yyyy Birthdaaaaaaaay, dear Je-ffffffff.’
They sang. He shrunk, but they kept limping closer and closer with that off-key twang.

7. Dialogue Increases The Pace

Sometimes we need to speed up our stories and sometimes we need to slow down. Dialogue speeds up the story. Use it when you need to add a bit of a punch to your scene.


The crime scene tape fluttered in the breeze. The detectives approached the crime scene with caution and dodged the press by crossing to the other side of the street. They needed to be careful and could not afford another blunder. They were on thin ice with the captain already.


Brett glared at the journalists.
‘Vultures,’ he hissed as he crossed the street.
Don held up the crime scene and he ducked under it. The wind tugged at his notebook.
‘Can’t fuck this one up. Not again.’ Brett mumbled as he knelt next to the body.
‘Captain will kill us, that’s for sure.’

The Last Word

Dialogue is an amazing tool to enhance your writing. There are many things you can do with dialogue. When you are stuck or when your scenes seem a little flat, make your characters talk.

TOP TIP: Learn to write better dialogue with The Dialogue Workbook by Mia Botha


Hope you enjoyed this guest blog by Mia!

Spring Blessings,


Elva Cobb Martin is a mother and grandmother who lives in upstate South Carolina. She is the president of  ACFW-SC Chapter. All her Christian romance novels have spent time on Amazon's 100 Bestseller's list for Women's Religious Fiction. 

Link to her books on Amazon

Connect with Elva

Monday, March 8, 2021

Spring at My House: Writing, Baking, Gardening

  I hope and pray you are blessed and healthy this warmer month of March. Here's what's cooking at the Martin house in S.C. The tallest Chocolate Pound cake I've ever baked. Look for the recipe at the end.

Wish I knew what I did differently.    

That's not all that's cooking! Here's my book news.

Drum Roll No. 1

Grab Georgia Ann, English Rose, right now for $.99 through March 12.  (Click the redirect link if it shows up) ( :

Here's a review!


5.0 out of 5 stars A Sweeping & Majestic Tale
Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2020.  Like the first book, which you don't have to read but you should because it's also amazing, this book hooks you from the beginning! It's a majestic tale that takes you to the Barbary Coast to pirates to Tripoli to the Spice Islands to the English rule in other parts of the world in the 1700's and so many parts in between! I could write about this book for days! I loved Georgia Ann and Samuel. What they wouldn't do for each other! The level of sacrifice and love was breathtaking. Slave ships and brother-to-brother secrets plus characters that will endear you or revile you! I just never wanted the book to end! Sometimes you never knew which character was friend or foe. I could easily see this book become a movie because it was so "sweeping" in nature! Spanish Galleons riding the open seas being taken over by pirates and sultans in Tripoli with harems but always, the main characters having a strong faith when they are in terrible circumstances! I loved every word of this book and highly recommend it!

Drum Roll No. 2
The publisher of my first two novels, Summer of Deception and the prequel, In a Pirate's Debt, are honoring their Barrett family connection at a  special sale. Click for your copies March 6-13 at $.99 each.  (click redirect link if it shows up)

The Barretts of Charleston (2 book series)

Set in the beautiful and historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, follow the Barrett family from the days of Captain Lucas Bloodstone Barrett, a pirate in the 1720s, to his descendant, former Marine Special Ops member Luke Barrett, owner of his family's working tea plantation. Prepare for breathless adventure and romance to make you swoon!

The Barretts of Charleston

Elva's Tall Chocolate Pound Cake
Set oven to 325 F. Grease and flour large tube pan.

2 Sticks butter (or substitute 1 cup Crisco)
1/2 cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sour cream
4 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon almond flavoring

Use large mixing bowl. Mix butter, Crisco and sugar, adding eggs one at a time. Add flavorings.  Measure flour and cocoa and sift together. Add flour mixture a cup at a time and alternate with milk.

Spoon dough into tube pan and place in oven on middle rack. Place a square or cake layer pan filled 1/3 full of water in top right corner. This is supposed to help stop deep cracks in the top of cake, but you see I still had a few, happily not too deep. ( :

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. Turn down to 300 degrees and bake one hour. When toothpick is inserted in the middle and it comes out clean, the cake is done. 

Let set about 10-15 minutes, then turn out on a bread rack, and I cover with plastic cake topper to keep cake moist while cooling. Then I transfer it to a cake plate. Usually, however, hubby and I take a warm slice while still on the rack! Once completely cool, this cake can be sliced into about 2 dozen slices, individually wrapped in waxed paper, inserted into two freezer gallon bags and frozen with great results. It is still delicious and moist when taken out as needed. 

Here's something I'm watching grow these days--my Lupin flower seedlings I'll plant outside after the last frost. 

Onward into Spring, my fave season!


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Do You Trust Me? Guest blog by MaryLu Tyndale

 Do You Trust Me? Says the Lord. It's Time to Prove It!

Posted: 18 Jan 2021 12:30 AM PST


 I've been talking to the Lord a lot lately, and like many of you, I feel like something big is right around the corner. Perhaps this week, perhaps not, but something evil lurks on the horizon. Recently I've had the sense that the Lord is saying that it's time for His people to prove that they actually believe the Words they have recited in the Scriptures for years and years. It's so easy to sing worship songs about trusting God and how faithful He is, and quite another to be put in a situation where you have no food, shelter, or water and your life is in danger AND then to trust God. I'm not saying things will get that bad, but I'm saying from what I'm hearing our lives here in America will never be the same. 
Before the faithful few who follow Jesus are rescued from this place, we may see some hard times. This is how the Lord separates the wheat from the chaff, the true believers from the false, the ones who know their God from the ones who play church. Which are you?
It's okay to feel fear. It's a natural emotion that we cannot help. But it's what we do with that fear that matters. Do we bring it to the Lord? Do we get into His Word and claim His promises over us and our families? Or do we sink deeper into a quagmire of despair and doom? 

The Lord Jesus asks you now

Do you believe I will protect you from the evil one?   
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.  2 Thessalonians 3:3
Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you Luke 10:19 

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord
. Isaiah 54:17
Do you believe that I will always be with you and will never leave you
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6
For the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’  Deuteronomy 20:4
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
 Isaiah 46:4
Do you believe I will give you strength and uphold you
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10
Do you believe I will deliver you from ALL your troubles
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;  Psalm 34:19
Do you believe I AM your refuge
 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1 
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.  Psalm 57:1
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10-12
Do you believe that I will preserve your life in the midst of trouble
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.  Psalm 138:7 
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.  Isaiah 43:2
Do you believe I will save you from all your enemies?
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me.  “I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.  2 Samuel 22:3-4 
 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Psalm 23:4-5 
And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!  2 Timothy 4:18 
Do you believe I will keep you from harm and watch over your life?
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;  the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.  Psalm 121:3-8 
Do you believe I AM for you and can conquer all your enemies?
What then shall we say to these things? If God  is for us, who can be] against us?  Romans 8:31
So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:6 
These are only a FEW of the many promises of the Lord to protect His children. How do we know we are His children? Because we love Him and follow Him and His Spirit cries out within us that we are His. 
So when things start to fall apart and you begin to fear, the best thing to do is read over these Scriptures (and others!)  and not just read them, but recite them out loud. Remind the Lord of His promises! Remind Him He said He would never leave you and that He would help you through ALL your troubles. Remind Him! He loves to honor His Word!
I hope this has brought you some comfort and peace in the midst of the storm. I encourage you to either bookmark this page or jot down these Scriptures and have them handy.   

And keep looking up!  The worse things get, the closer we are to our seeing our Prince!
Howdy Friends,
Hope this encouraging word from MaryLu blesses you today!
I would add:

We (the church) have the tremendous power to agree in prayer and CHANGE ANYTHING. Don't neglect your church family and the power of our agreeing prayer.  Matt. 18:19


Elva Cobb Martin is a mother and grandmother who lives in upstate South Carolina. She is the president of  ACFW-SC Chapter. All her novels have spent time on Amazon's 100 Bestseller's list for Women's Religious Fiction. 

Link to her books on Amazon

Connect with Elva

Monday, November 23, 2020

Romance Means Kisses by Elva Cobb Martin

If you write or aspire to write romances, you will know the importance of learning how to describe romantic kisses. As Christian writers we want to show romantic passion, but it’s not that easy to do in the Christian market. Anybody can warm up their pages with blatant bedroom scenes, but it takes skill to heighten the romantic tension in a book with only a look...a kiss...or even an almost kiss. 

I highly recommend two authors who have taught me much about romance and “kissology.” Susan May Warren has a great workbook available on Amazon that I treasure, How to Write a Brilliant Romance. (Kiss and Tell I think was the earlier version and the one I have.) And Julie Lessman, in my opinion, is the queen of romantic tension and kisses. A blog series of hers, I think she did on Seekerville, is in my file that I refer back to often, Sixteen Suggestions to Warm up the Pages with Romantic Tension.  

I personally love the first heady kiss between my hero and heroine. 

Here’s a scene from my just released novel, Georgia Ann, English Rose, of the first kiss and reaction. You always need a reaction. Georgia Ann is Book 2 in my Charleston Brides series. 

He (Samuel) touched a tendril of her hair curling on her shoulder. 

She gazed into his shining jade eyes so close to hers. 

His glance fell to her lips, and he drew her nearer. Slowly he bent and pressed his mouth to hers. 

Fireworks exploded in her head and travelled down her frame. Her arms came around his neck without forethought. The kiss deepened until she felt transported on a soft, wispy cloud. 

Suddenly he released her and stood. “It’s time to go back.” He reached a hand to help her stand, but she couldn’t. Her knees buckled. 

He chuckled and held her against him for warm moments. Her cheek pressed into his shirt and the spicy scent of cloves enthralled her. Did all his clothing carry that delectable scent now? "

Then there is another type of kiss like this one when my hero Samuel first sees Georgia in the sultan’s dungeon. It’s a kiss of sorrow and imminent danger. Up to this moment she had thought him dead from his earlier ship wreck. And I found a photo that helped me see my captured heroine. 

Samuel knew the moment Georgia understood he was at her cell door. 

 Her body stiffened on the pallet. She sat up and stared toward the cell door. Tears overflowed her eyes. She arose and stumbled toward him. They clutched fingers through the bars. 

His heart jumped into his throat at her loveliness even in her rough Turkish slave garment. Her hair, parted in the middle, hung down her side in a thick blond plait. Silky curls, escaped from the braid, framed her lovely face covered with tears. 

“We thought you were dead,” she whispered between shuddering, repressed sobs. They kissed through the metal bars, and Georgia staggered as if she might fall, but Belle grabbed her around the waist and held her erect. 

Another favorite kiss of mine is the “almost kiss.” 

This scene comes from Marisol, Spanish Rose, Book 1 in this Charleston Brides series. One night Marisol is discovered as a stowaway on her indentured master Ethan’s ship—with her six-month old son, Samuel, and a servant girl. Captain Ethan loses his usually gentle nature. 

"What is going on in that head of yours, Marisol, to bring your baby and Amy aboard my ship, upsetting all my crew?” He gave her a little shake and looked at her with such a derisive expression, her temper flared. 

She stomped her booted foot and, to her surprise, smashed down on his. Hard. 

He growled and pulled her to him, scrunching her bouffant skirt. His tight, bearded face came within inches of hers. Manly, warm breath feathered across her cheek. “Now that kind of attack will never do, my Spanish lady. Maybe for a snake, never for a captain. Did you mean to do that?” His blazing eyes held her captive as much as his arms. His glance fell to her lips. 

Her knees threatened to fold, and she couldn’t breathe. She tried in vain to pull away from the warmth emanating from his encircling arms and firm chest. “No, I promise I didn’t, Ethan. Please let me go.” She couldn’t prevent the tremor in her voice. 

He released her, and her knees buckled. 

He chuckled and caught her elbows to steady her. 

New strength flowed to her limbs, and she pushed away from him. “Let me go back to my cabin, sir, I have a plan to help you rescue your sister, but we can talk about it tomorrow.” 
In the daylight. 

So work on it. Get those romantic kisses in your romance and elicit those sighs. 

Georgia Ann, English Rose Blurb 
The lure of the legendary Spice Trail beckons, but he may never find a spice more precious than the treasure he left in Charles Town. 

Two Charles Town men love Georgia Ann Cooper—Samuel Vargas and his step-brother, Joshua Becket—but only one both intrigues and infuriates her. Even though he’s a dangerous budding patriot and a privateer—or more likely pirate—Samuel fills her dreams and waking moments. 

When he leaves Charles Town for high sea adventure on the legendary Spice Trail, she determines to push him out of her thoughts and her graces. A task made easier when she sets out on her own journey to England on one of her father’s merchant ships. 

Samuel Vargas is determined to make his own way in the world, not live in the glow of his parents’ escapades in Charles Town and the Spanish Main. There’s no better place to earn his fortune than the Spice Trail and along the Barbary Coast of the Mediterranean. But the adventure becomes more than he bargained for when at Tripoli he stumbles across a familiar face from Charles Town in a sultan's dungeon, and he’s forced to use all his abilities to save the life of the woman he’s been trying to forget. 

As their paths intertwine on a journey filled with Barbary pirates, intrigue, and romance, only love and the grace of God can overcome the past and ignite a new beginning for Georgia Ann and Samuel. 
Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to have your feedback and how you describe a great kiss. And please do share this on your social media by clicking on the small icons below.

Elva Cobb Martin is a mother and grandmother who lives in upstate South Carolina. She is president of  ACFW-SC Chapter. All her novels have spent time on Amazon's 100 Bestseller's list for Women's Religious

Link to Georgia Ann, English Rose (click on redirect link              to go to Amazon page)
Connect with Elva

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Read Marisol First Chapter Free! On Sale May 29- June 5 only $.99

By Elva Cobb Martin

Cadiz, Spain 1740
Chapter One      
Marisol Valentin pressed her tearful face onto the warm neck of her beloved mare, blocking out for a moment the sickening smell of human blood in the barn corridor. “Goodbye, my dear Jada.” The horse nickered and nuzzled her as if understanding. Dragging her feet out of the pregnant Andalusian’s stall, Marisol couldn’t prevent a sob escaping her lips.
She averted her eyes from the form lying in the moonlight near the tack room entrance. The still body of Diego Vargas, nobleman of Spain, sprawled across the dirt passage.
She killed him but she’d not had a choice.
 Her breath strangled in her throat as she inched by. Somehow she made it across the shadowed stable courtyard and up the rear stairs of the hacienda. Bursting into her bedchamber, she shoved the door closed, and leaned against it. The pressure in her chest, the awful bile churning her middle, they both rose up to strangle her. She drew in  ragged breaths as tears flooded down her cheeks and onto her ripped gown.
 Her maid Carmela dropped the camisole she was setting out on the bed. “Oh, my lady, what has happened?”
“Diego Vargas came into the foaling barn after I entered to check on Jada and he...” Her voice broke down. She clenched her eyes to block scenes of his savage attack assailing her mind. “He’s ruined me, and I stabbed him.” Her lips trembled. “I only meant to stop him. Not kill him.”
Carmela gasped and her hand flew across her mouth. “Madre de Dios!”
Marisol’s shoulders slumped, and she swayed toward the wash stand. Every movement of her body ached. She would have bruises everywhere by morning.
 Yes, Mother of God, if you’re there, I need your help. Would God aid a murderess? She plunged her hands into the tepid water and scrubbed them raw. “Carmela, I must flee tonight. His family will never believe my story or be content until I sit in the garroting chair. My blade is in his side.”
The woman hastened to Marisol’s side, her face pale and tense. “You will not go alone, dear one. I’m going with you.” She darted to the chifferobe and stood on tip toes to reach for the travel bags on top.
Marisol turned from the washing bowl, wishing she had more time to sponge away the man’s dreadful smell of unclean linen and wine that clung to her. But there was not a moment to spare. She frowned at her maid flinging clothes into both their valises. “No, my friend. I’ll be a castaway, a criminal fleeing justice. You must not come with me.”
Seeing her words had no effect, she continued, “You can go back to your brother’s house tonight. Say you weren’t even here.”
Carmela shook her head. “You cannot travel alone. I’m coming. I have a little savings of my own, my lady. We need to find a ship to the New World and you will be safe.” The woman squatted, loosened a floor board, lifted out a small leather pouch, and stuffed it into her bodice.
Watching her, Marisol sighed and ceased trying to discourage her. She did not have time to protest. She rushed to the wardrobe and snatched a garment. The notion of an escape to the colonies of Spain in the West Indies took root in her mind. Carmela helped her peel off her ruined clothing and change into the simple, dark blue silk dress. She decided against a hoop or layers of petticoats. They would have to travel fast and on foot. She agreed with her maid about the type of shoes. She would put on her thick, black leather boots. Who knew how long they would have to walk over what kind of terrain to the harbor? Heretofore, she’d only gone there in a carriage and by the main road.
Marisol opened her jewel case and scooped up her valuable necklaces, pearl comb, and the Valentin rose-cut ruby brooch, her precious last gift from her mother. Dear Madre. How she missed her. She pressed an emerald choker into Carmela’s hand. “For our passage when we get
to the harbor,” she whispered and stashed the rest of her jewels in a concealed pocket under her skirt. But she tied the thin leather strap bearing the ruby pin around her neck and thrust the gem deep into the top of her gown. She dropped her mother’s miniature into her bag. Her heart faltered as she thought of her departed father and how his proud Valentin name would now become a byword linked with murder. A tear ran down her cheek. She swiped at it and cast her mind again on the New World. Maybe they could make it to her father’s sister in Cartagena on the Spanish Main. Aunt Lucia would help her, and that destination should be far enough away.
She reached to the rear of the chifferobe and withdrew a short Sevillian steel blade, similar to, but longer than the navaja left in Diego’s chest. She cast aside the memory of his glazed, shocked eyes and slid the weapon into the top of her boot. Her father’s brother, who now managed the estate, did not know about the rapiers her dear Papa had given her. Nor had she told him about the sword fighting lessons, he’d insisted she take.
Her maid touched her arm. “I will go as your dueña and you’ll be safer on the road and on the ship.”
Carmela dressed her own dark hair as an older woman’s, donned a plain black dress, headpiece, and wrap. She handed Marisol a blue cloak and thick lace mantilla to cover her tresses and shadow her pale face. Then she moved to the cold supper tray and stuffed every sandwich and biscuit she could into her pockets.
A glimmer of a smile touched the corners of Marisol’s mouth. Dear Carmela, only ten years older than her own eighteen summers, but so sensible. They would require food on their long journey. Her maid resembled a stern governess, clad as she was. She loved and trusted the woman like a sister she’d never had.
Before leaving the room in which she grew up, Marisol marked her reflection in the walnut framed mirror over her marble-topped dresser. Her mantilla covered most of her thick, ebony hair. But the lace edge pulled close did not mask the paleness of her face or the bruise on her left cheek where Diego had knocked her to the barn floor.
Careful not to awaken the servants on the top floor, they glided like silent ghosts down the hall, the staircase, and through the shadowed kitchen toward the back door. Carmela lifted a leather skein of water from the servant’s pantry and draped it across her sturdy shoulder.
Marisol followed the woman outside and to the farm road exit carrying her own valise. The moon drifted in out of clouds like a stealthy galleon following its prey.
Carmela unlatched the wide gate, and they passed under the arched sign above the entrance. Marisol stole a look backward. Valentin Andalusian Stud Estate. Her heart broke anew. She loved the famous Spanish horses they bred, the spacious home her mother had once graced, and the large estate her papa had run like a gentle lord. Would she ever see it again? Nothing had been the same since her uncle took over at her father’s death. A tear plopped down her cheek. The man had several faults but one most costly—gambling.
The taunting words of Diego tripped back across her hot mind. “Don’t think your dear uncle will come to your rescue, my girl. I’ve won all he owns tonight, including you. And he’s passed out drunk in the Vargas game room.”
“Walk faster, my lady,” Carmela urged her on the narrow path winding through the forest below the main road. “We must reach the harbor before dawn.”
Marisol cast her sorrowful thoughts aside and did as her maid asked. The breeze rustled through leaves, and the screech from a pursued animal gave her pause. She took a deep breath.
The woodsy smell of wild mint, sweet cedar, and verdant growth encouraged her, and she continued on as fast as she could.
They passed the last majestic oak on the Valentin estate. No lights or shouts followed them from the house or stables. The tightness in Marisol’s shoulders eased, but not the heaviness in her heart. Murderess. The word stung her mind like a scorpion.
The unpredictable moon covered their flight one moment and revealed their hasty passage the next.
“How long should it take us to get to the harbor, Carmela? Surely we can count on the night for travel before they will miss us in the morning.” Before the stable hands find Diego’s body. Marisol shuddered and ignored her tiring legs. The humid evening air promised rain. Something else to worry about.
 “We must walk fast, my lady. I’ll not have any peace until we’re on a ship setting sail. And we can’t go the easy road. We have to stay in the forest shadows cuatro millas más. But never fear, I know the way.”
Four more miles? How many had they traveled already? Marisol marveled that the woman wasn’t even breathing hard. Her own legs ached from the continued rapid walk and she switched her valise to her other hand for relief. Her maid must have sensed her tiredness for she soon left the path and stopped at a log lying deep in the trees. Marisol dropped her baggage and sat. Her partner did the same.
“We can rest now, my lady. But merely for a moment.” She swung the skein from her shoulder and passed it to Marisol. The welcome water soothed her dry throat and refreshed her.
Too soon Carmela stood up, and Marisol followed her back onto the path.
When she felt she couldn’t take another step, the scent of the sea and cry of seagulls lifted her heart and renewed her energy. They had to be close to their destination. When the moon moved out from the clouds, she could see in the distance a row of waterfront buildings lit by feeble lights and beyond them, the tops of ship masts bobbing in the water. The harbor of Cadiz. Thunder rumbled, and the sound of horses on the high road made Marisol tremble. Carmela pulled her from the path into the forest. She stopped at a large oak stump.
“We are entering the most dangerous part of our journey, my lady,” she whispered. “And it may rain. We must wait for time to buy passage on one of the ships at dawn and we won’t have our cover of darkness. I’m going to look for a merchant ship heading to Hispaniola.”
“But I want to go to Cartagena. I have an aunt living there who will help us.”
“So you have someone who might offer you shelter? That’s good news, my lady. And don’t fret; from that island we can gain passage to your aunt’s city and to any other Spanish colony. It’s the right port to find our way in the West Indies.”
“Oh. I am so glad you know all this, Carmela.”
The woman smiled. “Well, that comes from having a father and a brother who were sailors. Now would you like to rest here until I check things out?”
Marisol nodded and sank onto the tree stump. She dropped her valise next to her aching feet.
Her tired mind kept replaying the face of Diego Vargas, her ears still heard his contemptuous voice as he clamped her hands behind her back. “Since I saw you dance the flamenco at the harvest gathering, I knew I would have you. And I guessed right you would check on your prize mare tonight to see if she had foaled. I’ve got plans for this stud farm. Europe is begging for our Spanish horses.”
Marisol shook her head and forced away the memory of Diego. She propped her elbows on her lap and leaned her chin onto her hands. For just a moment she closed her eyes.
Cool raindrops on her face awakened her. She lay on the damp forest floor next to the stump. Surprised, she sat up and looked around. Pink and purple streaks spread across the horizon. Where was Carmela? 
Marisol stood and grabbed her valise. She followed the path from the woods her maid had taken and came to the outskirts of the harbor town. Continuing through narrow, sleepy streets of Cadiz, she passed store fronts whose owners had yet to open their shutters. Somewhere a baker cooked bread. The smell of fresh loaves made Marisol’s mouth water. The shrill cries of two cats fighting in a nearby alley startled her, and she dropped her bag.
Heavy footsteps sounded behind her. Before she could turn about, thick arms strong as iron bands wrapped around her. The odor of sweat, rum, and unwashed clothing gagged her. In another quick movement her captor grabbed her hands and clapped a cuff on her wrists. She tried to scream but a foul-smelling hand clamped down on her mouth. She bit into the fingers and the metallic taste of blood flowed onto her lips.
The man slapped her so hard for a moment she lost consciousness. His harsh words, spoken in a guttural whisper next to her ear brought her back. “If you try that again, you’ll be sorry, senorita, and don’t scream or you’ll die and I mean a painful death. We thought there might be more of you heading to the harbor.”
Others? Poor Carmela. Had they caught her, too? If only she’d had time to reach for her knife in her boot before he’d twisted her hands behind her.
The man, twice her size, pulled her into an alley like a rag doll with his hand still over her mouth. Carmela lay bound on the ground before a tall ruffian with a full red beard and wild hair.  Her maid twisted her head around and groaned through her gag when she saw her mistress.  
The larger captor holding Marisol bragged. “Now we have two fine senoritas to help colonize the King’s colonies. These ought to bring plenty of gold, Jacque.”
The man kicked Carmela and her moan made tears spring to Marisol’s eyes. “Yeah, well this one put up quite a fight. But she ain’t going nowhere, except to that ship awaiting a few more warm bodies for the Indies.”
 The ruffian called Jacques ripped the mantilla from Marisol and gagged her with it. Then he wound her cloak around her body like a mummy, preventing all movement.
Carmela’s captor pulled a sack over head. He lifted her and slung her across his shoulder as if she were a sack of potatoes.
The monster standing over Marisol did the same and plopped her on his back as if she were a feather weight. He patted her covered head as they moved out onto the harbor road. “You senoritas can rest easy. We’re bringing your valises, too. We’ll make sure your valuables find their way into our pockets before we put you on the ship.” His low, wicked laugh, echoed by his mate, made her want to chew nails and throw up at the same moment.
Six weeks on board the Magdalena were more like months for Marisol. Most of the time she and Carmela stayed in the cramped women’s cabin to avoid the crew and the indentured male passengers. But a greater concern gripped her than the crowded conditions. Every morning for the past week she had thrown up in the chamber pot. El mareo? But she had never suffered sea sickness when sailing.
One day after a difficult episode, Marisol wiped her mouth and sank onto the cot. Other women in the cabin had murmured when her vomiting started and piled out the door as fast as they could. Only Carmela remained. Concern ridged her face as she handed her mistress a damp cloth. She patted her hand, and whispered, “My lady, do you also have a tender bosom?”
Marisol hung her head. “Yes, dear friend.” A tear slid down her cheek. “I may be with child.”
“How do you feel about that since...” Her maid lifted her brow.
Marisol faced her. “You think because I conceived a babe in violence, I would hate the little one?” She didn’t expect her friend to answer. “The child had no choice in this matter. I would never be bitter against an innocent baby.” She looked away. “But I wonder how we can ever handle this.”
“But our God will care for you, milady, and the babe.” Carmela spoke with confidence.     Marisol shook her head. “The same one who protected me from Diego and both of us from the kidnappers? Sorry to disappoint you, dear friend. But I have no such assurance.”
A deafening boom sounded from the side of the ship. They both jumped to their feet. Another blast followed, and the cabin rocked, causing them to grab hold of the cot posts to keep from being thrown to the floor. The sound of splitting wood, running boots, and vulgar curses echoed from above. Smoke seeped down into their space.
Carmela coughed and wrapped her arms around herself. “We’re under attack, and they have hit us. May the Blessed Virgin have mercy on us.”
The other women passengers flew into the cabin, their faces tight with fear. The last one in, bolted the door. A few minutes later, loud knocking sounded. 
“Who is it?” Marisol called.
A hoarse, anxious voice answered from the passage. “The Captain says tell ye, we are under attack by them English pirates and ye may have to fight for your lives.”
The voice was somewhat familiar. Marisol pushed toward the sound, unbolted the door and opened it wide.
A short Spanish sailor stood there, pale under his dark tan. “He’s sent a sword. Hope one of you can use it.”
He thrust a rapier handle into Marisol’s hands and scrambled back up the passage.

                                                   End of Chapter 1

Hope you enjoyed this beginning of Marisol, Spanish Rose, Book 1 in our Charleston Brides series. Grab it at this link for $.99 Friday, May 29 - Friday, June 5

Book 2 Georgia Ann, English Rose is now on pre-order sale. Have it come into your inbox when released in November!

Have a blessed, wonderful day,
Elva Martin

Elva Cobb Martin is 2020 President of the SC Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College.  She has three inspirational novels published, Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and two historical romances, In a Pirate’s Debt, and Marisol, Book in a new Charleston Brides series for  Wild Heart Books. All three novels have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction.
Link to all her books: