Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Need Help with Conflict? Check out This New Conflict Thesaurus Writing Guide!

 Guest Blog from Angela and Becca!

New Conflict Thesaurus II!

I always get a bit excited when a book I’m 
waiting for finally releases, so it’s great to finally share that The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and
Inner Struggle (Vol. 2) is now out!

This SILVER EDITION is the twin of the GOLD EDITION, and continues to explore all the ways we can better leverage the conflict in our story.
If you are new to these “thesaurus” books, each one is part writing guide, part brainstorming tool.

The first part of this book dives into how conflict powers your plot and is the golden threat that weaves your inner and outer stories together. It also digs into how to craft great villain clashes, character agency, how to maximize tension, what goes into a satisfying story climax, and more.

The second part of the guide is a mother lode of conflict scenarios (115 to be exact) built to get your imagination thrumming with ideas. You must see it to believe it. 

Writers Helping Writers is hosting a Writing Contest! 

I’m part of Angela & Becca’s Street Team, and I have news:
Writers Helping Writers is hosting a Writing Contest! A book about conflict needs a FIGHT CLUB Story Contest, right? Exactly! So if you want to show Angela & Becca how good your conflict-writing
skills are, check out this contest and see what you can win.


Angela and Becca are also hosting a must-enter giveaway. They’ve filled a vault full of their favorite writing books and are giving away some digital 5-packs, winner’s choice! So much fun. Make sure to head over and enter, and good luck!

Have a blessed Fall!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


Grab while it's still on pre-order price!   https://amzn.to/3wpkZ5n

A strange thing happened while writing this novel!

Friends, when first beginning The Sugar Baron’s Governess, my precious husband booked a week for us in a condo at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This was to help me concentrate on my plot storming—without the “do me” call of our vacuum, washing machine, or phone calls at home. Of course, he likes to fish from a pier while I’m writing.  

            The first morning I sat at the dining table overlooking the Atlantic, with my laptop. Busy researching Jamaica, and especially the historic Maroon settlement of warriors and escaped slaves in the mountains that might play a part in my story, I stopped to pray. I asked the Lord to help me get a good start on this fourth novel in my series. Should I even be including the fierce Maroons in my plot?

             A knock came at the door. I had opted for no cleaning service, so I was surprised to be interrupted. When I answered it, a pleasant black male employee asked if we needed any cleaning done or fresh linens. I almost gave him a short answer, wanting to get back to my laptop, but my ear discerned a British accent. Here’s our amazing conversation:

          “Where are you from?” I asked him.


            Surprised,  I opened the door and invited him in. “That’s most interesting. I’m writing a novel set in Jamaica.”

             His dark eyes widened. “You are?”

             “Yes, in fact,” I gestured to my laptop, “I’m right now researching a group of warriors in historic Jamaica, called the Maroons. Know anything about them?”

             His mouth fell open. “I’m a descendant of the Maroons.”

 A tingling chill shot up my arm. How likely was this kind of timely meeting to happen? He further told me he never worked the fifteenth floor we were on. But for whatever reason, he’d been assigned our floor that day. He told me was a Christian, and he shared several things with me about the Maroons and how they finally won their independence and rights the British government of Jamaica had long withheld. At times, because of their desperate existence, they did hurtle down from their mountain strongholds and burn sugar plantations, as history records.

 I decided I had a definite confirmation to include the Maroon warriors in my Jamaican story. They are instrumental in convincing my hero Joshua Becket to turn back to God when his life and plantation are sorely threatened. Whoops, there I go giving away some of the story!  Hope you enjoy Joshua and Abigail’s exciting, romantic adventure in Jamaica. Can they survive and make it back to Charleston and a happily ever after?  Here's the back cover blurb, and below that, some pics I used to imagine my heroine and hero!

She needs a new start. He knows a reckoning is coming.

 Banished from Charleston for his misdeeds years earlier, Joshua Becket built a new life on both sides of the law in Jamaica. As sugar plantation owner and member of the governing British Assembly, he’s known and respected on the island. But he guards a secret identity. As swashbuckling Captain Jay, he leads daredevil privateering exploits on his ship, the Eagle, when the mood suits him. Currently, he needs a governess for his young daughter whose mother has passed.

 Widowed gentlewoman Abigail Welch accepted the governess position, leaving behind her disintegrated life in Charleston. This new start in Jamaica might finally help her find healing for her broken heart after losing her husband in the Revolution and their infant son to yellow fever.

 Joshua’s precocious, undisciplined daughter is the drawing card that brings him and Abigail together like clashing cymbals of disagreement...and fiery attraction. Can love and the miracle power of God give them a new beginning and a happily ever after?



Widowed gentlewoman Abigail Welch. 

Joshua Becket in his secret role as privateer Captain Jay.

Joshua Becket in his dual role as Jamaican sugar planter.

                           Joshua's Rockford Plantation Great House in Jamaica as I imagined it.

This is actually Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. There is a story, a legend connected to this house, often told by the Jamaican people to their children and to anyone who will listen. It's a story of intrigue, murder, romance and betrayal. It's the tale of former owner, Annie Palmer, who became known as the White Witch of Rose Hall. You can find the story by googling that title.

I hope you're enjoying the continued summer fruits--watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes, like we are here in South Carolina. Are you also finding an opportunity to hike in the cool mountains? Below, my hubby and I are hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg.



Elva Cobb Martin is a retired school teacher, a mother, and grandmother who lives in South Carolina with her husband and high school sweetheart, Dwayne. She grew up on a farm in South Carolina and spends many vacations on the Carolina Coast. Her southern roots run deep.

A life-long student of history, her favorite city, Charleston, inspires her stories of romance and adventure. Her love of writing grew out of a desire to share exciting love stories of courageous characters and communicate truths of the Christian faith to bring hope and encouragement. She always pauses for historic houses, gardens, chocolate, and babies of any kind.

Link to her books on Amazon https://amzn.to/2ksRfTw

Connect with Elva

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A New Writing Guide for You! The Conflict Thesaurus (+Giveaway) Guest Blog

Howdy Writers and Friends!

It's always fun when there's good news to share, and today is one of those days. You may know Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus. Well, I'm a big believer in the helpfulness of their books and so joined their Street Team for The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1). It's just released, and I am so excited to share a bit about it, and a super fun event, with all of you!

The Conflict Thesaurus tackles all the ways conflict can be used to build tension, push the story forward, raise stakes, and pressure characters to do whatever it takes to win. The guide dives into over 100 conflict scenarios and how each can be adapted to challenge a character inside and out. Problems, Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, Challenges...say goodbye to writer's block, weak plots, and unmotivated characters. If you need help in any of these areas, check it out.

Now speaking of challenges, I have an important question to ask you:

Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist?

Let's face it, as writers we're always doing bad things to the protagonist. We put their loved ones in danger, force them to make impossible choices, and worse. But wouldn't you like to know how you'd fare as the protagonist of a story?

Let me put it another way: if you were in the hot seat, could you handle the pressure? Would you make good decisions, or bad ones?

It's time to find out by taking the Conflict Challenge!

Become the protagonist in a special story Angela & Becca have created using scenarios from The Conflict Thesaurus. And heads up, if you survive, you win some cool stuff!


While you're trying not to die in the Conflict Challenge, make sure to enter Angela & Becca's Conflict Thesaurus release day giveaway, too. But hurry - it ends October 15th.

So, take the challenge...if you dare. And don't forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!


Writer Friends, I hope you enjoyed the above guest blog about Angela and Becca's new release, The Conflict Thesaurus. I have been so blessed with their thesauruses and know they have helped my writing succeed.

Love and Blessings,

Elva  (cuddling a baby goat at my sister's farm)

Elva Cobb Martin is a multi-published author, mother and grandmother who lives in upstate South Carolina. She is the president of  ACFW-SC Chapter. All her historical Christian romance novels have spent time on Amazon's 100 Bestseller's list for Women's Religious Fiction. She loves all small cuddly things, chocolate, and exciting stories from history. 
Link to her books on Amazon https://amzn.to/2ksRfTw
Connect with Elva
and Facebook/ElvaCobbMartin


Monday, July 5, 2021

Six Vital Elements in Your Novel's Opening Chapter- Guest Blog C. S. Lakin

 Hope you enjoy and GROW by this great blog by C. S. Lakin on her blog, Live, Write, Thrive.  It's a keeper for us novelists!  --Elva

The 6 Necessary Elements in Your Novel’s Opening Chapters  By C.S. Lakin

Writing a novel is a massive undertaking. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written one or thirty.

And even after studying countless how-to books on fiction writing and taking workshops and listening to podcasts, many aspiring writers still flounder.

Why is that? Because there is so much to learn, and if you undertake this mission to learn without focusing first on the most important elements of a story, you can waste a lot of time.

Yes, it’s important to learn how to craft great characters. And write distilled, effective dialogue. And have a riveting plot. But that’s not enough.

I do more than 200 manuscript critiques a year, some by beginning writers and others by seasoned authors. Regardless, I can tell you this as fact:

Very few of these manuscripts hold up structurally. Very few have stellar writing.

Very few accomplish what those first few chapters must do.

What is that, you might ask?

  1. Setup of a strong, compelling, empathetic protagonist. You need your reader to bond with your protagonist in the first page or two (of the first scene he or she is in). Unless you have a terrific prologue to launch your story (meaning, it’s just what your premise and story line need), you should be starting your novel with your protagonist. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but if you’re a novice writer, I would highly recommend this course. If you’re not clear on how to create a compelling protagonist, read some of my posts on the topic. Just know, though, this is paramount. Without that compelling protagonist, your novel is going to flop.
  2. Get the protagonist’s core need, motivation, and life situation clear. You might think this is a no-brainer, but this is severely lacking in a lot of manuscripts I critique. Part of setting up that main character is revealing these key facets about him. Start your story in the middle of something important happening in his life that will reveal his living situation, his immediate problems and concerns, his work and lifestyle, his deepest hopes and dreams and fears. This is all key to story structure and preparation for the inciting incident to come.
  3. Present the inciting incident. This comes close to the start of your novel. Usually by the 10% mark. But when you are just starting your novel, you don’t know what will end up being 10%. So it’s easier to think in terms of scenes. Get the opening scene or two setting things up so you can slam your character with that incident. Without proper setup of your protagonist, which means risking the bond and concern for what happens to him, that incident may fall flat. You need to first get your reader to like, care, and understand—to some extent—what he’s about.
  4. Introduce key supporting characters. These opening chapters need to set up your protagonist’s world populated by character types: family, friends, rivals, love interests, etc. These all need clear roles and should have unique personalities and voices (which includes the narrative voice if they have their own POV scenes).
  5. Hint at the stakes, and make them high. The more stakes, both personal and public, you can create, the better. But they need to be believable and appropriate. In other words, if you have a boring, weak concept without any kicker, throwing in a ton of danger and conflict that is random and meaningless won’t do anything to hype up the tension in your story. Again, I have gobs of posts and chapters in my writing craft books on conflict, stakes, and tension. Do your homework if you need to learn all this.
  6. Get that protagonist’s goal in sight! Fifty pages will sometimes get you to that 25% mark in the novel, at which point the hero’s goal for the novel is locked into place. If you’re writing a long novel, by page fifty, your character might not be at that turning point yet, but he should be getting close. All scenes should be propelling your character to that important point. What I see in a lot of novels is a string of scenes, random events and interchanges that don’t seem to have any point to them.

While there is a whole lot more needed in the opening chapters, these are just some key ones that you need to be aware of.

Those opening scenes work as a litmus test for the rest of a manuscript. In other words, if these first scenes reveal serious flaws, more than likely the rest of the scenes will be infected as well.

Here’s the thing: if you haven’t written a lot of novels and gotten professional feedback to show you what you’re missing or weak in, you may spend years pumping out drafts of novels and getting nowhere.

How serious are you about writing a terrific novel? So many writers wouldn’t think about spending their hard-earned money on hiring an editor or writing coach. While serious about developing a writing career, maybe even hoping to make a real “living” at it, they don’t think they need to invest monetarily in their “training” other than to perhaps buy some books.

Think about the amount of money people pour into education and getting a college degree. Or maybe think about what you spent on that trip you took (pre-Covid), a week maybe of fun on holiday but left just fleeting memories.

How much is your writing career worth?

Here’s the thing about writing fiction, though: you often don’t know what you need to improve upon until someone with experience points it out. It’s not like in basketball where it’s obvious your jump shot or free throw sucks.

Writers can spend years trying to improve their stories, thinking they’re applying all the many things they’re learning. But the most egregious issues are often staring right at them and they can’t see them.

It is a bit of not seeing the forest for the trees.

Think about how much time you’re willing to tinker with your writing, hoping one day you’ll write well enough to hit those best-seller lists or get gobs of 5-star reviews.

Wouldn’t you want to know if you are wasting your time? Wouldn’t you like to know what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can target those weaknesses and improve and bolster those strengths to develop a strong writing style? It’s doable!

Consider having a fifty-page critique, maybe even an outline critique. If you’re struggling with your ideas and story concept and need help putting it all in order, or you want to know if your premise has potential, book a phone consultation with me and we will discuss!

You can read all about my critique services, rates, and formatting requirements HERE. Don’t waste another moment guessing what’s wrong with your manuscript. Make the commitment to do all you can to become the best writer you can be!


Hope you're having a blessed, safe summer!


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 https://amzn.to/2ksRfTw

Connect with Elva

Monday, June 7, 2021

 Researching my current novel in progress, The Captain's Governess, which is set in Jamaica, I came across this timely historical note for today, June 7. Here's the scoop of Port Royal's destruction one sunny summer day. Was it a judgment of God? Some thought so.


Here's how history records the destruction:   On June 7, 1692, a massive earthquake devastated the town of Port Royal in Jamaica, killing thousands. The strong tremors, soil liquefaction, and a tsunami brought on by the earthquake combined to destroy the entire town.

 The earthquake occurred without warning on the morning of Tuesday the 7th June at 11:15a. m., and continued for less than 15 minutes, during which time it destroyed every building or other substantial structure in the Island, a total of nearly 3000.

Port Royal was called the "wickedest city on earth"; a den of pirates, prostitutes, and slavers unlike any the world had ever known. ... It was a city so overrun with liquor, slavers, and prostitution that one in every four buildings was either a bar or a brothel.

Members of the Jamaica Council declared

 "We are become ... an instance of God Almighty's severe judgment," therefore every future "seventh of June ... be kept and observed by all the inhabitants of this Island, as an anniversary day of fasting and humiliation, in hopes that acknowledging "manifold sins and wickednesses committed against his Divine Majesty, may "appease God's imminent wrath and prevent heavier judgments."

Eye-witness Rev. Emmanuel Heath, the Anglican rector for Port Royal, had finished his morning prayer service at St Paul's Church and was meeting with John White, president of the island's council, when the floor began "rowling and moving" and they "heard the church and tower fall." 

Rev. Heath wrote:  "Port Royal was terribly destroyed by an earthquake and breaking in of the sea upon it. The destruction was sudden ... in four minutes multitudes were killed by the falling houses. I believe God I never in my life saw such a terror ... the earth opened and swallowed up people before my face ...The sea swallowed up the greatest part of that wretched sinful place ... They are so wicked, I fear God ... will utterly destroy all by this dreadful Judgment ...

 By this terrible judgment, God will make them reform their lives, for there was not a more ungodly people on the face of the earth."

So goes the story of the destruction of Port Royal on June 7, 1692. Today the site is one of the most important underwater sites in the world with its rich repository of historic shipwrecks and the city of Port Royal.

Hope you find history like this as interesting as I do.


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 https://amzn.to/2ksRfTw

Connect with Elva

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

No Error-Free Books - Guest Post by Editor Ramona Richards

Why Perfection Is the Impossible Dream

By Ramona Richards, Editor, Iron Stream Media & award-winning author

In a fair land far away (Tennessee in the ’70s), I majored in English. Twice. The first time I had a minor in Modern European Studies (multiple classes in history, politics, and foreign languages) and an emphasis in grammar and composition. I took advanced classes in both. I can diagram sentences from James Joyce (yes, that was one of the exercises). I loved it.

Repeat that. Loved it. Correct grammar became a passion. People were afraid to write me letters. I became a grammar dictator.


The second time, for my master’s degree, I had to take a foreign language. German. Which taught me even more about grammar (German and English have similar Indo-European roots). By the time those degrees were in hand, I had Harbrace, and Turabian, and the Chicago Manual of Style, and Strunk & White memorized. I had a red pen grafted to my left hand. I was ready for publishing.


Then … I actually got a job in publishing. And here is the first lesson I learned in publishing: There is no such thing as a perfect book.


Not that I absorbed this lesson easily. I still remember that first letter of correction from a reader. I was devastated, even though I’d had nothing to do with the book. It had been published long before I even graduated from college.


My boss, however, was quite nonchalant, with her “no such thing as a perfect book” lesson. “Ramona, if you get upset over every mistake in a printed book, you’re going to spend your life in a tizzy,” she said gently. “Humans make mistakes. And grammar changes.”


Wait. What? Grammar changes?


Definitely not something I heard back in that fair land far away. I was just beginning to learn how far away it was. I soon began to read publications like The Editorial Eye, which covered the ongoing changes in grammar. Now I read grammar blogs and CMOS Q&A pages. I went from being a prescriptivist (one who dictates how grammar should beused correctly) to a descriptivist (one who describes how current grammar isused correctly). And I discovered that editing content, editing story, is far more satisfying to me.


Above all, I began to truly appreciate the overwhelming beauty of this whackadoodle language we call English. It’s fluid and flexible with rules that guide yet shift. It allows for different stylebooks to flourish (Associated Press is not CMOS is not APA style, and serial commas are not universal). It allows new words to be added and old words to change or vanish. Words are allowed to evolve. Nouns become verbs, and vice versa. Googol, a noun, inspired Google, a proper noun, which became a verb.


In fiction as well as nonfiction, English allows for the development of an author’s voice through selective syntax, dialogue, and dialectal phrasings. And I’m always amused at people who desperately fight some usages until they’re added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Then they’re OK, accepted by the “authority” of the OED, which has always been a descriptivistpublication.


So what’s my point?


My point is that every book has mistakes (even if you don’t catch them) and some grammatical “mistakes” aren’t actually mistakes. When reading a book, try focusing on content, on story, not on the occasional trip-up by a copyeditor. Because if you let a few grammatical mistakes or typos upset your reading of a book, then you are going to overlook some of the most beautiful and well-written (if not well-proofed) books in our language.


Don’t get me wrong; in some ways this attitude (books must be perfect) is helpful to authors and publishers. We do take emails about mistakes seriously, and often readers find things that should be corrected. And, once upon a time, complaints about things that are not, in fact, wrong used to have little impact. (I once had a woman complain to me about the use of parentheses in the King James Version of the Bible, since nothing in God’s word is parenthetical. I had to explain to her the evolution of parentheses as punctuation and that in older versions of the KJV, they were perfectly acceptable.)


But now we have the internet, where a campaign against a mistake can cost an author a career.


Think I’m exaggerating?


A publisher I worked for was startled when they were notified that Amazon had pulled the “Buy” button from one of our books because of one reader’s complaints about the “mistakes” in the book. They sent us the list. Of all the “mistakes” on this reader’s list, one was a typo. One was a continuity error. The rest were not mistakes at all, but out-of-date grammar or the author’s voice in dialogue. So, no, these weren’t going to be changed, no matter how much one reader protested. They weren’t wrong; she was.


But even though this reader was incorrect on most of her complaints, she cost the author sales. And she has a platform to continue to complain. This was not justified nitpicking; this was just mean.


So, I beg of you, when you see mistakes in a published book, don’t grab a red pen and a platform. Don’t wail and jive in Amazon reviews about the lousy copyediting. Be biblical—go straight to the source first. Contact the author or publisher (we’re online everywhere these days), and alert them to the problem. Give them a chance to respond.


And if your grammatical knowledge is based on what you learned before 2001, please do not mention split infinitives. They’ve been acceptable since at least 1983, if not before.


Or to quote a CMOS Q&A column: “In this day and age, it seems, an injunction against splitting infinitives is one of those shibboleths whose only reason for survival is to give increased meaning to the lives of those who can both identify by name a discrete grammatical, syntactic, or orthographic entity and notice when that entity has been somehow besmirched.”


Another reason to love the CMOS folks.


It really is OK for us “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”


And other places.


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and digitalart.)



There is no such thing as a perfect book. When you see mistakes in a published book, don’t grab a red pen and a platform. via @RamonaRichards (Click to tweet.)


Ramona Richards is a forty-year veteran of the publishing industry. She is the author of 12 books, including Tracking Changes: One Editor’s Advice to Inspirational Fiction Authors, from which this post was adapted. She is currently an editor with Iron Stream Media and is working on books 13-17.