Friday, November 29, 2013

Atalaya Castle

I recently visited Huntington State Park in Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina, and had a wonderful time tramping through Atalaya Castle, the oceanside winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington built in the 1930's. It is now on the historic register and open to the public.

Aerial View of Atalaya
 The structure's outer walls are in a square, 200 feet on each side, with the front facing the ocean.

Entrance to Atalaya
 Within the walled structure is a large open inner court. The living quarters consist of 30 rooms around the three sides of the perimeter.

Inner Court Yard

Have you ever visited a romantic castle? This one stirred up a lot of story ideas for me. Thanks for stopping by today!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Convert Research Into Published Articles

by Elva Cobb Martin 10/2/13 

As you research or blog on your historic topics think about publishing some of them as articles in local newspapers or magazines. Most newspapers and magazines have spots for carefully researched historical pieces. They may be welcome in a Views section, Local Color, Around the State, Travel or History section. Sunday, September 29, 2013, our local Anderson, South Carolina, newspaper, accepted and published one of my blogging topics in its entirety and with pictures. Surprisingly, they gave it a full page. Most importantly, they gave me a good byline with my photo.

Did you guess which research ended up published in our local newspaper? I combined my below blogs on Blackbeard and polished rather quickly into an acceptable article. Below is a picture of BB's final capture.

Here’s how I made my contacts.

I did know one writer at the newspaper fairly well. She attended one of our writers’ workshops. I gave her a call and asked if she thought the newspaper might be interested in a freelance article on Blackbeard. I thought it likely since I had a ghostly legend in the article and we are entering the Halloween season. She gave me the name of the editor to whom I should submit the article. I emailed the submission with some pirate pictures from my file and with a note asking the editor to see if my submission had any merit.

That editor contacted me the next day and said they wanted to use it in Sunday’s edition. She asked for my research sources and a photo of me to go with the byline that I also wrote.

They printed the article in the Views section with very little change and with one of my pirate pictures. They quoted all my resources. There was no pay but they gave me a great byline I’ve pasted in below this blog and they included my photo.

Be assured, there can be money in these type historical pieces. The first one I had published sometime back for another publication drew a welcome check of $150. Because of the good byline given the above article, I’ve been contacted by an apparently wealthy local individual, 81 years old, but sharp as the proverbial tack, who wants me to take a look at a historical mss he’s put together on his life and covering a lot of local history. He’s offering to pay me to help him get the mss together, emphasizing his Christian faith. Who knows what will come of this? I love local color, and I’ve agreed to meet with him next week.

Have you turned any of your research into an article for a publication?

I’ll be glad to help any way I can, if it’s only to take a look and make a suggestion. Contact me through my web site listed below and then we’ll email back.

Thanks for dropping by!

Elva Cobb Martin

Elva Cobb Martin is a freelance writer and president of the Upstate SC American Christian Writers' Chapter. She is currently helping form a new South Carolina ACFW Chapter. Her research for this article was collected for an inspirational novel she has just completed set in the Colonial/Pirate era of Charleston. She has been published in The State Magazine, Decision, and Charisma. She blogs on the Golden Age of Piracy and other topics at She lives in Anderson with her family. She can be reached through her web site or the chapter web site

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pirates - Part 2 Blackbeard

                                           Blackbeard's Flag

Pirates - Part 2  Blackbeard

To review, in the first part we shared that piracy had their greatest days in our Atlantic waters in the 1600-1700’s. Many governments at the time supported piracy encouraging it as a cheap way to get expensive goods into their country, especially from their enemies. England and others issued “letters of marque” which gave their own “privateers” as they called these type captains, permission to attack and plunder ships of their enemies.

But piracy became so prevalent at times that honest sea trade almost ground to a halt. Then governments withdrew letters of marque, tracked down the pirates, and hanged them in public.

The history of Charleston, South Carolina, records such a story involving Blackbeard, one the most notorious pirates of all who roamed the Eastern seaboard and the Caribbean.

In May of 1718, Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard, sailed into Charleston with his fleet of pirate ships. He blockaded the harbor, captured and plundered nine ships and took several hostages including Samuel Wragg, a member of the S.C. legislature. After interrogating the hostages about the remaining ships in the harbor—their cargoes and destinations—the victims were thrown down half-naked into the hold.

In exchange for the prisoners, Blackbeard demanded of Governor Johnson something he did not find on the plundered ships, mainly a large supply of meds used to relieve a pirate’s recurring nightmare—syphilis. Blackbeard warned that if his demands were not met, he would execute all the hostages and then raid and sack Charleston.

The legislature complied. It seemed that shame, indignation, and revenge were outranked by fear. Actually, it was wisdom that outranked the lot, with revenge simply being reserved.

Blackbeard sailed away, and he had to be gloating over the fact that not only had he taken the most valuable loot of his career, he had, as one writer put it, “reduced to total submission the proud and militant people of South Carolina without firing a single shot.”

What Blackbeard and his cohorts did not count on was that in the South, revenge rides hard on the heels of humiliation.

Once the pirate squadron sailed out of Charleston Harbor and Samuel Wragg and the other hostages had replaced their clothing, if not their dignity, white-hot Southern dander rose to the surface in the Charleston waters.

It was just the stimulus needed for the difficult task of subduing a hitherto fashionable vice.

History records the results.

The courts of Charleston, in November of that same year, tried, convicted and caused to be hanged in the period of one month a total of 49 pirates.

The pride of South Carolina was certainly restored in great measure by these successes against piracy. Blackbeard, however, was not among those executed in Charleston.

He died on November 22, 1718, at the hand of Lt. Robert Maynard. Maynard and his crew, sent by Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood of Virginia, challenged Blackbeard near his Ocracoke, North Carolina, hideout. After being wounded an astounding 25 times, 20 cutlass wounds and five gunshot wounds, Blackbeard succumbed.

Maynard reportedly chopped off Blackbeard’s head and attached it to his mast to sail home. Legend has it that when they threw the body over board, it swam around the boat seven times before sinking.

So goes the story of Blackbeard.

In England the last pirate of this era was strung up in 1840, and in America the last one was hung in 1862.

In my next blog I will share a typical Pirate Ship’s Articles, the “laws” they lived by, that the Captain and all the crew decided upon and signed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pirate Notes - Part 1

How do you like my current pirate hero, Gerard Butler? Of course, in my wip he is Captain Lucas "Bloodstone" Barrett and we are having a load of fun getting him and my heroine Travea together for a happy ending!

Pirates – Part 1

In our Atlantic waters pirates had their greatest days in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Piracy was often a form of freedom for the outcasts of society, as well as attractive to some second and third sons of nobles who saw it as a way to gain the wealth they didn’t gain from birth order. Of course, pirates have been around a lot longer than this time period and still operate in many parts of the world today.

Caribbean pirate ships didn’t roam around hoping to chance upon a victim; they were smarter. They patrolled known shipping routes, especially Spanish treasure routes from the Incas to Spain. During much of this time, many governments (particularly England) supported piracy, encouraging it as a cheap way to get expensive goods into their country. England and other governments issued “letters of marque” which gave their own “privateers” as they called these type captains, permission to attack and plunder ships of their country’s enemies.

Piracy became so prevalent at times that honest sea-faring trade almost ground to a halt. Then the governments would begin working against the pirates. They withdrew letters of marque, tracked down the pirates, and hanged them in public.

An amazing story of this kind is emblazoned in the history of Charleston, South Carolina, my home state and favorite city.

In May of that year, the notorious pirate Blackbeard blockaded Charles Town Harbor with his large pirate fleet, captured and plundered nine ships of much gold and silver, and took all the passengers captive including a member of the Charleston legislature, Samuel Wragg. In a message to South Carolina Gov. Robert Johnson, Blackbeard demanded a large supply of medicine in exchange for his captives. The meds, which Blackbeard did not find on the ships he plundered, were needed to relieve a pirate’s recurring nightmare, syphilis.

The Charles Town leaders capitulated and sent the meds. The captives were released and Blackbeard and his fleet sailed off to Ocracoke, North Carolina, in the gayest of pirate spirits.

However, there’s another amazing footnote to this story.

When the South Carolina leaders gave in to Blackbeard’s demands, it seemed that feelings of shame, indignation, and revenge were outranked by fear. Actually, knowing Southerners like I do, since my family has lived here for many generations, and what history has now recorded of this incident; it was wisdom that outranked the lot with revenge simply being reserved.

In Part 2 I will share, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of this story.”

Drop by again and keep writing!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Guest Blog: Are You Ready to Contact an Agent?

Today I am sharing Erica Verrillo's interesting article, from a link on The Steve Laube Agency blog.   Get a cuppa tea and enjoy this timely information. Thanks to Erica and Steve!  ---Elva Cobb Martin

Are You Ready to Contact an Agent? Take This Short Quiz and Find Out

Today’s guest is Erica Verrillo. Erica is the coauthor, with Lauren Gellman, of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide (St. Martin’s) and author of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide, 2nd Edition. Her short stories have appeared in Million Stories, Front Porch Review, THEMA Literary Magazine, 580 Split and Nine. Ms. Verrillo’s first screenplay, The Treehouse, was completed in 2011.

Erica says, “Although creativity is the chief concern of writers, I know from experience that the publishing world demands that writers also be businessmen – that is, if they want to become authors. It is very easy these days to simply self-publish, but in order to become a successful author a good working knowledge of how the publishing world works is essential.”

Follow Erica on Twitter or visit her Facebook page to learn more. Enjoy!

Are You Ready to Contact an Agent? Take This Short Quiz and Find Out

You’ve finally completed your book. You’ve had it critiqued – brutally – and done more revisions than you care to count. Your proofreader has made sure there’s not a single error in the entire manuscript, and now you are confident that your work is ready to be published. What next? Obviously, you need an agent. So, after searching AgentQuery for agents representing your genre, and consulting Jeff Herman’s Guide and the most recent Writer’s Digest, you are sitting down to compose the perfect query letter.

Stop. You’ve skipped some steps.

Before you can even think about contacting an agent, there are several important questions you must be able to answer. Why? Because, if an agent calls you, she or he will ask them. (I know this from painful personal experience.) You must be prepared to reply with compelling answers.

This short quiz will tell you if you are ready to take on the publishing industry.

1. Have you written a one-page summary of your novel? Do you have a “hook,” an intriguing sentence that will draw your audience into your story? For example: “A man wakes up one morning to discover that every single person he knows is trying to kill him – even his wife and kids – and he has no idea why.” Can you keep your agent’s full attention for three minutes while you describe (verbally, or in writing) the rest of the story? In short, if your agent asks, “What’s your book about?” can you sell it? 20 points

2. Have you researched your market? Who will buy your book? Agents rely on numbers because publishers do, so you have to be able to say, with accuracy, how many people are in your demographic. (Hint, “adults” is not a demographic. College-educated, married women with small children is a demographic.) 20 points

3. What is your competition? Your agent will want to know the titles, authors, publishers, and year of publication of other popular books in your genre (or field). There are two reasons for identifying your competition: 1) You have to prove that there is already a market for your kind of book, and 2) You have to prove that your book is better or different. (Give specifics.) 20 points

4. How will you reach your market? Do you have a platform? You may think that marketing is the job of your publisher, and it is. But agents must convince editors that not only is there a market for your book, but that you have the credentials, and visibility, to promote your work. In the old days, BI (before internet), this was done through book tours, signings, and talks. You can still do those things, but what agents really want to know is how many people are reading your blog/website. (Publishers are fond of the number 10,000, so it helps to be able to say, “My blog/website has had 10,000+ page views.”) If you have published other books, how many were sold? Do people in your field or niche know who you are? Do you have any famous contacts who can give you endorsementS? 20 points

5. Do you, in Michael Larsen’s immortal words, “harbor a consuming lust for success,” and are you “irresistibly driven to do whatever it takes to make your books sell?” Your agent will expect you go the whole nine yards, and to comply – eagerly – with whatever sports metaphors your publisher will hurl at you. This is no time to be a shrinking violet. You are going to have to step up to the mat and bat a thousand. 20 points

If you scored a hundred, congratulations! You are ready to contact an agent.

If you answered, “I don’t need to do that,” “I can’t do that,” or “Huh?,” to any of the above questions, then get to work!

How to score 100 on the test

1. Fortunately, there are a many good books about pitches and proposals. I recommend Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal. (This book is also useful for fiction.) Larsen really understands the publishing industry, so you can rely on his advice. To get the hang of preparing pitches, start with a pitch for a book you haven’t written. If your one-sentence hook can make your friends want to read the book, then move on to pitching your own work.

2. To determine your demographic, check the Alexa ranking for every well-trafficked website related to your genre or field. Alexa includes a demographic profile for high-ranking sites. Identify all the organizations or groups that might have an interest in your topic. What is their membership?

3. Amazon is one of the greatest research tools of all time. To identify your competition, look up the bestsellers in your genre. What books are on the top 100 lists? Who publishes them? Use the “look inside” feature to compare those books with your own. (Google Books also allows generous previews.)

4. Building a platform takes time. But you can accumulate 10,000 page views in a few months if you blog about interesting topics – and if you do some social networking. Advertise your blog posts on Book Blogs, Goodreads, and LinkedIn groups. You can precycle your posts on blogs that get more traffic than yours. You can recycle your blogs, as well, on sites that accept reprints. Look up the top 50 blogs in your genre on Blogrank and read them! High-ranking blogs invariably contain lots of insider tips, trends, news, and industry gossip.

5. Getting writers to harbor a consuming lust for anything other than writing is a tall order. Writers are an idealistic lot, deeply committed to exploring the human soul while crouched in front of a keyboard in a dim, unheated garret. Before you contact an agent, you need to go through a metamorphosis – from idealistic writer, to practical businessman. When your agent asks if you will do anything to sell your book (mine did), there can only be one answer.

Resource: The Steve Laube Agency  Sign up for the agency blog at  I highly recommend it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

ML Tyndale's Forsaken Dreams Book Review by Elva

Book Review by Elva Cobb Martin 3/30/13

Forsaken Dreams – author MaryLu Tyndale

MaryLu has done it again! If you’ve read any of her other series like Legacy of the King’s Pirates, Charles Towne Belles, or the Surrender to Destiny series you will know exactly what I mean. Forsaken Dreams is Book 1 of another exciting series, Escape to Paradise.

The heart-tugging story of Widow Eliza Crawford and decorated, war weary southern Colonel Blake Wallace begins somewhere in the Caribbean in May, 1866, just after the Union won the Civil War. We find Eliza on Blake’s ship, the New Hope, along with a cast of interesting characters, colonists-to-be, all preferring a new life in Brazil versus life in Charleston under the Yankee yoke.

Eliza and Blake are attracted to one another from the start. But both harbor secrets and painful pasts they want to forget and which threaten any dreams of a new beginning.

Eliza has been rejected by her southern family because she married a Yankee officer and by his family because she was southern. The only peace she found was serving as a nurse on the bloody field of battle. Since the war, and the death of her husband, she has suffered great distress and ostracism. She dreams of a new life in Brazil where no one will know her sad past. But one person on board remembers who she is and who she married.

Blake suffers from war nightmares and the loss of his entire family to Union soldiers’ cruelty, something he will never forget or forgive. Wanted by the Union for supposed war crimes, he organized the expedition to Brazil, and longs for a new life far from the horrors of war.

The two seem to be finding new love until a foolish, drunken young woman reveals to the shipmates Eliza’s marriage to a Union soldier. Then hatred like Eliza has seldom experienced breaks upon her, even Blake’s attitude toward her changes immediately.

The emotional wars Eliza and Blake both battle are further complicated by many troubles, hardships and even demonic attacks at sea. Will they survive and be able to forgive and love again? You are kept on the edge of your seat as wave after wave of challenges, interspersed with tender romantic interludes, separate them again and again.

In addition to the central story of Eliza and Blake, the other colorful characters have their own stories the reader wants to hear more about. This is a crew with a medley of their own problems to solve, not so different from human troubles in any age. I look forward to MORE in this Escape to Paradise series.

Besides an engrossing read, MaryLu’s creative writing gifts are so evident in Forsaken Dreams. Once again she proves her skills with deep point of view, endearing characters, emotional description, and movie-scene plotting that keeps you glued to the pages.

And like icing on the cake, by the end of Forsaken Dreams, you’re left with the warmth of the powerful spiritual messages of forgiveness and how active love and servant hood wins out over the hardest hearts. These two are woven throughout the story and renew your faith in God and man. And it may even prod you to pursue again your own Forsaken Dreams. Get the book! You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

We will sell if we keep at it!

Zane Grey couldn't sell a single story his first five years as a writer. George Gershwin composed almost one hundred melodies before he sold his first one--for $5. Somerset Maugham earned only $500 in his first ten years as a writer. S.N. Behrman, an American playwright, wrote plays for eleven years before he sold one.

So keep at it! Never, never, give up. Keep studying your craft. Keep pursuing.
Elva Cobb Martin