Friday, December 19, 2014

Writing Smarter and Sharper by Elva Cobb Martin

I have started back through my historical novel, In a Pirate's Debt with a critiquer's eye. I made a list of things I need to watch for, items my good critique partners might point out. These cover areas beyond the basics.

And, like all good things, they do take time so pull over out of the traffic of your to do list today with me and get your pencil sharpened.
1) Delete/change too often used ing verb forms (being, having, walking) and avoid overuse of prepositional phrases. :
  The duck is holding up traffic walking across the road.
vs. A mama duck and ten ducklings strutted across the stacked four lanes and no one blew a horn.    

Getting involved with Travay could pose a threat to his      (Captain Bloodstone's) goal of finding out what happened to his captured parents.
      vs: He did not have time to get involved with her. He must pursue his goal. He must find out what had happened to his parents.

2) In deep POV don't say the character "heard, thought, wondered" anything. Just give the actual fact.

  She heard the boy call the pirate Captain Bloodstone.
  vs. The boy called him Captain Bloodstone.
(Of course, if you're looking into the face of Gerard Butler as Atilla, you won't be able to hear anything but your heart pounding against your ribs).

3) Avoid naming emotions, show them.

     He made her feel safe.
vs: She expelled a huge breath, her eyes locked on the source of relief.
     She was grateful for the rescue.
vs: Her eyes softened and filled with an inner glow when she looked up at him.

4) Keep all dialog, action, and thoughts of each character in
the same paragraph unless interrupted by other speaker.
(Which can happen. Particularly if the other person is holding something behind their back.)

5) Use contractions in dialog.

6) Ellipses: space-dot-space-dot-space-dot-space
    "But . . . Arundel!"
    "Could it possibly be that . . . ?" (fourth dot or question mark is end of sentence)  

7) Can't use description tags like the below in current POV to comment on something said.
    Lucas looked out to sea as if to end the conversation. 
    vs. Lucas looked out to sea and Thorpe sauntered away.

8) I am told we no longer indent the first sentence of a new chapter or a POV change. Center the 3 *** for POV changes.
Use center button, not space bar. Then temporarily drag paragraph indent marker to left to finish centering.

Have you got all this, Elizabeth? 

Thanks for stopping by. Do you have a good tip to add to my list? I would love to hear from you.

Have a blessed Christmas and Wonderful New Year-- my prayer for you.

Elva Cobb Martin


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Things Successful Writers NEVER Say

Guest Blog by Edie Melson 

                                                       Writers are an odd lot.

I can say that, because I am one. So I speak from experience, not judgment. Like all creative people, we tend to feel things more deeply, reacting poorly to criticism.

We also have no perspective at all when it comes to our own creation. Because a lot of us begin writing as a hobby, we tend to have a lop-sided view of the publishing industry.

So today, I’d like to clear up some common misconceptions and share some things that successful writers never say.

1. Uh…I guess…uh…I write. So…I suppose that makes me a writer…sometimes. CUT. IT. OUT. If you are serious about writing, even if you don’t get paid, you can call yourself a writer. So repeat after me. “I am a writer.”

2. I’m a much better writer than the majority of the published writers out there. This is for the small percentage who don’t have trouble telling everyone, “I am a writer.” Some of you believe you know more than everyone else. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t.

3. Sure, I don’t need to write today. I’ll go to lunch with you. Successful writers make spending time putting words on paper (or a screen) a priority. If we want to be taken seriously and have our time respected, we must set the example.

4. I don’t need to read books. I’m a writer, not a reader.
Besides, I don’t have time to read. I am not kidding. I’ve actually had writers tell me this. We need to spend time reading, and reading widely. Read outside your genre and learn what works and what doesn’t.

5. I don’t need an editor. I have a sharp eye and can catch anything I need to in my writing. Yes, many of us do have an editor’s eye. That’s a good thing. But that is NO substitute for an editor. We are blind when it comes to our writing. We see what is supposed to be on the page, not what is.

6. I can’t afford to attend conferences. I know conferences are expensive, but they’re also vital to moving forward in your writing career. There are a lot of ways to fund a conference—from asking for money from family and friends instead of gifts for holidays, to writing small articles for pay and saving that money. Conferences do three MAJOR things for writers:
·       They provide a place to learn the latest industry standards and techniques.
·       They provide a place to network and talk to writing professionals, like editors, agents and published writers.
·       They provide a place to network with other writer.

7. I decided to self-publish because traditional publishing just

takes too long. I’m glad to say that self-publishing—when done with professionalism—is now a respected option. Beyond that, there are a lot of good reasons to self-publish. But using self-publishing as a short cut is NOT a good reason.

8. I don’t have a target audience, everyone loves what I write. Every book has a primary audience. Yes, there are books that a lot of people enjoy. But if you write to a specific audience, you’ll have a much better finished product. Not to mention the fact that book stores will know where to shelve your book.

9. The rules don’t apply to me. Yes, I’ll be the first one to agree that there are exceptions to almost every single rule you ever hear about writing and/or publishing. BUT we can’t look at ourselves as that exception. Follow the rules and let the exceptions be a wonderful surprise if and when they happen.

10. The first part of my book is just information the reader needs, the story starts on page 70 (40, 60, 90, etc.). I really have lost track of the number of times I’ve had an author say this to me. Here is my response. If the story starts on page 70, that’s where your book needs to start. Trust your reader, and trust yourself, and skip the background information.

11. I’m not a marketer, I’m a writer. If this really is true and you absolutely refuse to market your work, then be prepared to pay. You’ll have to hire someone to market your book because marketing is a joint partnership between the publisher and the writer. That’s just the way publishing works today.

12. The publishing industry is dying. No, not really. It’s definitely changing, but it’s not dying. There’s a difference. Learn to adapt with the changes, but realize books and people who write them aren’t going anywhere.

13. I already have a book contract, I don’t need a literary agent. Now you need one more than ever. There are those who will argue this point, but here are my thoughts. Because of the rapid changes in publishing, contracts are brutal. You need someone in your corner, advocating for you. After the contract, you still need someone to help with possible (really probable) hiccups in the publishing process. If you don’t like your cover, or the copy editor isn’t doing a good job, your agent can be the bad guy and go to bat for you. This makes it possible for you to stay on good working relations with the publisher.

14. I don’t need to work on social media until after I have a contract. This is another that makes me cringe. Editors and agents award book contracts based on a lot of things. Now days, one of those things is whether or not an author has solid online presence. The lack of a presence may not always keep you from getting a contract, but it will affect the way you’re viewed by prospective buyers. Smart writers build an online presence while they’re working on a book, so everything is in place when they begin pitching.

15. Published authors don’t need to take classes or read books on writing. Successful writers know there’s never a point when you’ve arrived. Lifelong learning isn’t just a buzzword, it’s vital to stay current in the publishing industry.

Even though I slanted a lot of the points toward books, all are equally applicable to writers of shorter works. These are things that I believe you’ll never hear a successful writer say. I’d love to know what you’d add to this list. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Edie Melson, Vice President, ACFW-SC Chapter

Hey, thanks for stopping by. Hope you've had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed Edie's guest blog today as much as I did. Please leave a comment and share it on Twitter and Facebook.

Elva Cobb Martin, President ACFW-SC Chapter

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Part 2 Muslim Pirates of the Past by Elva Cobb Martin

In researching my historical romantic pirate novel "In a Pirate's Debt" I collected a lot of information about pirates. The below two blogs seemed like good information to share in our day of battle against Islamic extremists.

Quick review of Part 1  

Most Americans are unaware of the fact that over two hundred years ago,the United States declared war on Islam and Mediterranean pirates, and Thomas Jefferson led the charge!

America was told by Muslim pirates to pay ransom or continue to lose ships in the Mediterranean.

Despite their stunning admission of premeditated violence on non-Muslim nations, as well as the objections of many notable American leaders, including George Washington, who warned that caving in was both wrong and would only further embolden the enemy, for the following fifteen years, the American government paid the Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to over twenty percent of the United States government annual revenues in 1800.

(See Part 1 below for a full review)

Jefferson was disgusted that America was paying ransom to Muslim pirates!  Shortly after his being sworn in as the third President of the United States in 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli sent him a note demanding the immediate payment of $225,000 plus $25,000 a year for every year forthcoming.  That changed everything.

Jefferson let the Pasha know, in no uncertain terms, what he could do with his demand.  The Pasha responded by cutting down the flagpole at the American consulate and declared war on the United States.

Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers immediately followed suit. Jefferson, until now, had been against America raising a naval force for anything beyond coastal defense, but having watched his nation be cowed by Islamic thuggery for long enough, decided that it was finally time to meet force with force.

He dispatched a squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean and taught the Muslim nations of the Barbary Coast a lesson he hoped they would never forget.  Congress authorized Jefferson to empower U.S. ships to seize all vessels and
goods of the Pasha of Tripoli and to “cause to be done all other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war would justify”.

Jefferson, the Marine

When Algiers and Tunis, who were both accustomed to American cowardice and acquiescence, saw the newly independent United States had both the will and the might to strike back, they quickly abandoned their allegiance to

The war with Tripoli lasted for four more years, and raged up again in 1815.  The bravery of the U.S. Marine Corps in these wars led to the line “to the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Hymn, They would forever be known as “leathernecks” for the leather collars of their uniforms, designed to prevent their heads from being cut off by the Muslim scimitars when boarding enemy ships.

Islam, and what its Barbary followers justified doing in the name of their prophet and their god, disturbed Jefferson quite deeply.  America had a tradition of religious tolerance, the fact that Jefferson, himself, had co-authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, but fundamentalist Islam was like no other religion the world had ever seen.  

A religion based on supremacism, whose holy book not only condoned but mandated violence against unbelievers
was unacceptable to him.  His greatest fear was that someday this brand of Islam would return and pose an even greater threat to the United States.

This should bother every American. -- That the Muslims have brought about women-only classes and swimming times at taxpayer-funded universities and public pools; that Christians, Jews, and Hindus have been banned from serving on juries where Muslim defendants are being judged, Piggy banks and Porky Pig tissue dispensers have been banned from workplaces because they offend Islamist
sensibilities.  Ice cream has been discontinued at certain Burger King locations because the picture on the wrapper looks similar to the Arabic script for Allah, public schools are  pulling  pork from their menus, on and on in the newspapers.

It’s death by a thousand cuts, or inch-by-inch as some refer to it, and most Americans have no idea that this battle is being waged every day across America.  By not fighting back, by allowing groups to confuse what is really happening, and not insisting that the Islamists adapt to our own culture, the United States is cutting its own throat with a politically correct knife, and helping to further the Islamists agenda.

Sadly, it appears that today’s America would rather be politically correct than victorious. But I think we are waking up fast!

If you have doubts about these facts on muslim pirates of the past, just Google Thomas Jefferson vs the Muslim World.

Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by. Feel free to share this information and do leave a comment.
Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, October 24, 2014

Muslim Pirates of the Past Held American ships for Ransom (PART 1) by Elva Cobb Martin

Most Americans are unaware of the fact that over two hundred years ago,
the United States had declared war on Islam, and Thomas Jefferson led the charge!

At the height of the eighteenth century, Muslim pirates were the terror of the Mediterranean and a large area of the North Atlantic. They attacked every ship in sight, and held the crews for exorbitant ransoms.  Those taken hostage were subjected to barbaric treatment and wrote heart breaking letters home, begging their government and family members to pay whatever their Mohammedan captors demanded.

These extortionists of the high seas represented the Islamic nations of Tripoli, Tunis,Morocco, and Algiers – collectively referred to as the Barbary Coast – and presented a dangerous and unprovoked threat to the new American Republic.

Before the Revolutionary War, U.S. merchant ships had been under the protection of Great Britain. When the U.S. declared its independence and entered into war, the ships of the United States were protected by France. However, once the war was won, America had to protect its own fleets. Thus, the birth of the U.S. Navy, and the US Marines.

Beginning in 1784, seventeen years before he would become president, Thomas Jefferson became America’s Minister to France.  That same year, the U.S. Congress sought to appease its Muslim adversaries by following in the footsteps of European nations who paid bribes to the Barbary States, rather than engaging them in war.

In July of 1785, Algerian pirates captured American ships, and the De of Algiers demanded an unheard-of ransom of $60,000.

 It was a plain and simple case of extortion, and Thomas Jefferson was vehemently opposed to any further payments.  Instead, he proposed to Congress the formation of a coalition of allied nations who together could force the Islamic states into peace.  A disinterested Congress decided to pay the ransom.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli’s ambassador to Great Britain to ask by what right his nation attacked American ships and enslaved American citizens, and why Muslims held so much hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.

The two future presidents reported that Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja answered that Islam "was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise."

Despite this stunning admission of premeditated violence on non-Muslim nations, as well as the objections of many notable American leaders, including George Washington, who warned that caving in was both wrong and would only further embolden the enemy, for the following fifteen years, the American government paid the Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to over twenty percent of the United States government annual revenues in 1800.

Thomas Jefferson and other Americans were disgusted. Don't miss my next blog as we explore what happened NEXT. 

Some think America's first confrontation with the Islamic world probably helped forge a new nation's character. We will check that out.

Thanks for stopping by. Please do leave a comment!

Elva Cobb Martin

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Victorian Tea Parties--Bring them On!

Tradition tells us that the ritual of afternoon tea began in England with Anna, the seventh duchess of Bedford. (1783-1857). At that time there was a long interval between breakfast and the evening meal. Anna said she felt a "sinking feeling" in the afternoons and ordered her servants to serve snacks of small cakes and sandwiches with, of course, hot tea.

This neat dose of carbs probably corrected Anna's low blood sugar and the caffeine from tea undoubtedly gave her a lift. Soon her court friends began to serve up tea and snacks as well in the late afternoon.

Soon the United States adopted the fashionable tea meal also, that is, until the Parliament levied new taxes and the colonists responded by boycotting English tea. This, of course, culminated with the "Boston Tea Party" of 1773. Tea consumption dropped dramatically. This lasted until 1776 when Congress advertised in the Philadelphia news that the drinking of tea could again be indulged.

A century later in the mid-1800's and in admiration for Queen Victoria's successful rule of Britain, an admiration of British ways brought renewed enthusiasm for the afternoon tea. It also provided an opportunity for ladies to have a social event.

Despite Henry Fielding's comment during this period that "Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea," and Oliver Wendall Holmes's rather unflattering, yet funny, description of a tea party as "giggle, gabble, gobble and git," women did actually at times converse on serious topics.

At tea parties in New York Elizabeth Stanton met with Lucretia Mott and her circle of Quaker women in 1848.
These reformers planned the first convention on women's rights.

Others organized themselves for charitable causes and missionary endeavors over china tea cups in many parlors.

I love hot tea, cucumber sandwiches, scones and special little cakes. A great place to enjoy a real English Tea is the Thoroughbred Club in Charleston, South Carolina. I chose that spot to celebrate a wedding annversary with hubby, who otherwise, might never have agreed to a tea party! The Club requires reservations.

 I say stop the sinking feeling and  bring back the afternoon tea as well as the great conversation and ideas!

How about you?

My first novel is set on a Charleston Tea Plantation. The HEA wedding describes a wonderful tea for the reception. Here's a recipe for scones I've collected that you might enjoy trying.

Sesame-Orange Scones
4 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking poweder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated orange peel (more is even better)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c. honey or sugar
1 c. orange juice
1/3 c. water (approx.)

Mix the dry ingredients then add the rest of the ingredients and form into a soft dough. Knead the dough and form into two balls. Flatten the two balls to about 3/4 of an inch and cut into wedges or cut with biscuit cutter. Dribble the below topping on top of each. Place the scones on baking sheets and bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes. Serve warm with honey or jelly.

1 tbsp. butter or margarine melted
2 tbsp. sesame seeds

Boy, does that make me hungry and it's way past tea time!  Thanks for dropping by. Do leave a comment or your favorite tea time recipe. And please do tweet this blog and share on Facebook for tea lovers everywhere.

Elva Cobb Martin

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Writers' Coat of Many Colors

by Elva Cobb Martin

Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors to show the great love he had for this son.

Contrary to branding principles we're told to follow, I believe Father God has given me (and many of you) a writers' coat of several colors.

I am writing fiction and nonfiction, articles, devotions, and contemporary and historical romance novels. I have written a number of poems and a pourquoi children's story.
 I even have a cozy romantic mystery on the back burner whistling like a tea kettle.

But the latest "color" on my palette is an independently published mini-book, Power Over Satan. Publishing my brief Bible teachings and seminars, a long-time goal, is now becoming a reality. This 40-page book is a primer on the believer's authority and how to discern
and overcome attacks of the enemy. It includes many stories of people who have done just that, including my law officer son who chases criminals using not only his law enforcement authority, but powerful spiritual warfare principles as well. Just released on Amazon in both ebook and print, find it here

I trekked across the Alps and forded many rivers learning how to indy publish on Amazon.

But that's another blog.

What about you? Have you found a single brand, genre or type of writing that is bringing you the fulfillment you are seeking as a writer? Or do you long to stretch your wings and soar over the walls of "specific brand" to new places the Lord might be leading you to and your heart beats faster to even think about them?

Joseph's coat of many colors led him into trouble and red-hot-lips testing. But, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of Joseph's story" included fame, fortune and being exactly in God's plan for not only himself, but for his family and a new nation being birthed during hopeless times.

 Thanks for dropping by and please do leave a comment and share on Twitter and Face book if you think this article might not bore others.

May you find joy in all you write! Except for that pesky editing. I pray you find endurance and diligence for that.
Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Interview with author Gina Holmes

Please welcome, novelist, Gina Holmes. Gina is the founder of popular literary site,   She is a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist and winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award. Her books regularly appear on Christian bestseller lists.

Gina, tell us a little about your newest release, Driftwood Tides.

Driftwood Tides tells the story of an aging, alcoholic driftwood artist turned beach bum, Holton Creary, and young Libby Slater. Libby grew up with an absent father and a loving but cold, socialite mother. Leading up to her wedding, Libby and her groom-to-be go through genetic testing and she learns her blood type doesn’t match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is reluctantly told that she’s adopted. She goes searching for her mother, Adele, only to find her husband, Holton Creary lying face down on the carpet of his Nags Head beach shack.

She lies about her real identity until she is finally found out. Holton does not welcome the news. He never knew the wife he had given saint status too had given up a daughter for adoption. Together the two search to find the truth about Adele, Libby’s father and themselves.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

At its heart, Driftwood Tides is really about discovering who we are, whose we are, where we belong and the need to accept and bestow forgiveness.

Why did you set this novel in Nags Head?

Oh, how I love that place! I’m not sure there’s a more peaceful setting in all the world. And the further out I get from civilization, the happier I am. I love the sand dunes, the untouched nature, the quaint towns. Just everything! Well, except sand in my bathing suit maybe ( :

You seem to have a recurring theme in your novels about absent fathers, if it’s not too personal, why do you think that is?

It is too personal, but I don’t mind answering (wink!) When I was 6 years old, I was packed up by my stepfather and driven to my father’s house. Overnight I had a new Mom, new sisters and brother, house and life. It was as traumatic an experience as I can imagine. There were few explanations that made sense to me and I missed my other family desperately. I think ever since I’ve been trying to settle some pretty deep-seated questions. Writing books is wonderful for that.

The novel you’ve written that seems to be a fan-favorite is Crossing Oceans, do you ever see yourself writing a sequel?

I love that book too. Makes me cry just thinking about certain scenes. I would love to write a sequel, prequel or off shoot stories. I love those characters dearly. I’m under contract for three different novels, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the time, but I’d love to explore Craig’s story and of course, Bella’s. I miss Mama Peg very much!

You’ve said that your favorite novel you’ve written is Wings of Glass. Why is that your favorite?

Well, for storyline, I think Crossing Oceans is the strongest. I think my writing in Wings of Glass was my best, plus when I was very young I watched my mother in one abusive relationship after another, and then two of my sisters. I had been there too, despite thinking I was better than that. I know the mindset that keeps a woman (or man) in a relationship like that and I wanted to give insight to those who don’t understand. I’ve received enough letters to know I did what I set out to do.

You’re originally from NJ but write all your novels from the South, why do you set your novels down South if you’re from up North?

Ha, you found me out! Yes, I was born and raised in NJ. As much as I love my friends and family, I am definitely more suited for the slower pace of the South. I’ve lived in Southern VA for half of my life and I plan to spend the rest of my life here if I can help it. I try to write books from settings that make me happy. So I write where I want to be. (Although, I’ve got to say, NJ food is amazing and you’ve got to love a boisterous NJ laugh!)

What do you like most about being a writer? Least?

Most, I like being able to have a platform to share lessons I’ve learned in my life that I know others would benefit from. And more than that, I just love to tell a good story.

Least,would be the unpredictability of the business. Sometimes it seems so random and the lack of control makes me uncomfortable sometimes. (Which is probably right where God wants me!)

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

My advice is pretty much always the same. 1. Write. So many people want to have written but don’t actually do the work. 2. Get to a writers conference because there’s so much you don’t know, that you don’t even know you don’t know. If you don’t you’ll be spinning your wheels for years, wasting valuable time. 3. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy yourself a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Then apply it. (Best money I ever spent!) 4. Join a good critique group and get a nice thick skin, ‘cause you’re sure going to need it!

If you could go back to the pre-published writer you were, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give her?

Well, I wouldn’t have told myself how many novels I’d write that would never see the light of day, because I would have given up. I wouldn’t have told myself how little money there is actually to be made or how lonely writing can sometimes be. I wouldn’t have told myself that I’d still have a day job with 4 novels out in stores, including 3 bestselling novels… okay, but that wasn’t your question… I would tell myself to relax. Some of this, most of this is, is out of your hands, and that’s okay. It’s not going to be at all what you think it is, but it’s going to be so much more. You won’t get rich, but you will touch lives. At the end of the day, that’s going to be exactly what will fulfill you.

Where can readers find your books and more about you?

Thanks for asking. My books are in B&N, BooksaMillion, Amazon, Lifeway, Parable, Family Christian and hopefully a good number of independent bookstores. You can find me at Thanks so much for hosting me!

If you enjoyed this interview with Gina Holmes, please do leave a comment.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, August 15, 2014

My GPS Writing Life: Recalculating

by Elva Cobb Martin

Driving the other day with our GPS, I suddenly saw how my writing life resembles this navigational gadget. My husband looked on with raised brows as I burst into uproarious laughter. If you read on, get ready to laugh and release some healthy endorphins into your system.

In writing I “put in” my goals and happily slam my foot on the gas doing what I love most these days, writing. But then I find the pavement running out from beneath my wings and must “recalculate.”

Goal: Write the dream novel.

Fall in love with an idea, a genre, a character, a setting, a theme.
Research, research and read tons of novel writing books.
Join a writers’ group.
Attend an expensive writers’ conference.
Plan like crazy getting the main plot points, conflict, MRU’s in order.
Gas up to the speed limit, getting the first draft down on paper.

Email: “Cozy mysteries are no longer selling well.”       Recalculating


Goal: Get an Agent

Research sites, friends, writing groups, the kitchen sink and the fence post for good measure.
Research query letters.
Research agents not on the any kind of predator list and their submission guidelines and blogs.
Revise, critique, and polish the query. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Send it to The Agent.

Email: “Sorry The Agent is no longer accepting fiction clients.”  Recalculating

Goal: Submit to an Editor Myself

Research fiction editors and publishers. Repeat, repeat.
Learn how to do a great One Sheet.
Join or start another writers’ group heavy on critiquing.
Attend some more expensive writers’ conferences.
Get editor appointments.
Get some nibbles.
Memorize every word the editors say.
Revise, get critiques, polish, check DPOV, pesky words and tricky errors. Repeat till done (or till you hate the novel).
Send full ms to first editor asap.

First editor response: I really like this but we have just bought a novel with similar theme and setting. Sorry.

Repeat most of the above.

Second editor response: I like this so far, but we are really looking for novels of 95,000 – 100,000 words. Yor're about 20,000 short. Sorry.

Repeat most of the above.

Third editor response: I like this but it’s too wordy. You need to cut about 20,000 words.

RECALCULATING! ---The thing I now do best.


What about your writing life? Ever feel like you are on a GPS merry-go-round?

The good news is that my auto GPS, most of the time, even with several recalculations, manages to get me to my destination. I hope the same holds true for my writing life, especially since I have the best model on the market, GHS, God's Holy Spirit.

Somehow I believe we will get somewhere.

If this article made you smile and feel less alone as a writer on the uphill, curvy journey to publication, please leave a comment, tweet it and share on Face book.

Thanks so much for stopping by.
Elva Cobb Martin

Monday, August 4, 2014

Guest Blog What is a ONE SHEET Anyway?

So What is a ONE SHEET Anyway?

Guest Blog By Edie Melson

Today I welcome Edie Melson as our guest blogger on a timely subject, One Sheets. As co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers' Conference she has seen quite a few and written many herself. Do leave a comment or question and I'll pass it on to Edie!

Guest Blog

For those of you getting ready for a big writers conference, you may have heard about the need for a One Sheet. This tool is also known as a Pitch Sheet. It's a one page presentation of the project you're pitching to an editor or agent. Today I'll be explaining how to put one together.

Click here  to see an example of my cozy mystery, DEAD RINGER one sheet. This sheet led to multiple requests for proposal and full manuscripts. To answer your question, no, it's not been published. I sent it out too soon and killed my chances -- but that's fodder for a future post!

There are three basic components of a one sheet -- the project blurb, specifics about the project and the author's bio -- including a picture and contact info. We'll take each component individually and explain what's included.

An Image to Illustrate Your Concept

A lot of one sheets include an image to set the mood. This isn't a requirement, but we're seeing it more and more. You can buy an image, upload one of your own, or use one that's copyright free.

The Project Blurb

For this section, think back cover copy. This is NOT the place for a full synopsis. You want this section to read like the blurb on the back cover of a book. You should give more information than just a hook. Make sure you include enough for the editor or agent to get a good sense of the story.

Project Specifics

This is where you give some of the details and they're slightly different for fiction and non-fiction.


Genre -- like Romance or Suspense.

Manuscript Length -- this doesn't have to be an exact word count, just an approximation.

Target Audience -- every book should be written with an audience in mind. I know, we all think our book will appeal to a wide range of readers -- and that may be true. But this tells the potential editor or agent how to market the book. It will help sell a publishing house on your manuscript by defining the reader you're writing for.

*There isn't a section here for completion date because it's understood that a manuscript must be complete before it's submitted. It's okay to pitch an uncompleted manuscript with a one sheet, but it's rare for anyone to look at it as a submission until it's complete.


Projected Completion Date -- the reason you don't have a non-fiction manuscript completed is because publishers like to have a say in the overall concept.

Manuscript Length -- since it's not completed, this is just an estimate.

Target Audience -- just like in fiction, you need to focus in on who specifically you're targeting with this manuscript.

Similar Titles, also known as Comparables -- you don't have to include this, but it's nice if you have room.

Author Info
This is where you need to include a recent picture, personal bio, contact information and social media information.

Picture -- this should be a professional headshot. That doesn't mean it has to be stuffy, but it needs to be of professional caliber.

Bio -- keep this short and relevant. The person reviewing your one sheet is going to want to know your experience. That includes writing experience and experience with your subject matter. In other words, why are you the person to write this book?

Contact Info -- You need to include your email address, phone number, and website URL. This is no need to include your physical address. It just takes up valuable real estate without adding anything.

All of these individual components will give you an effective one sheet. Be sure to post any questions or comments you have.

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She's the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the social media mentor at My Book Therapy. She's also the military family blogger at, social media director for Southern Writers Magazine and the senior editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review of MaryLu Tyndall's Abandoned Memories

In this Book 3, Abandoned Memories, in her Escape to Paradise series, MaryLu takes us back to the Brazilian colony of Southerners who left the South after the Civil War.

The colonists have found their escape most definitely has not landed them in paradise where the living is easy. Their lives are filled with hard work, many dangers, natural enemies, and not a few supernatural ones. In fact, this book reminds me of the spiritual warfare we found in This Present Darkness.

Despite all the dangers, labor and spiritual warfare in Abandoned Memories, we still find a sweet love story between two very human and broken people, James Calloway and Angeline Moore. Not only do they have to combat all the various terrors that attack the colony, including huge army ants, they have to overcome their own past failures to find true love.

This is a great read if you love adventure laced with courage, romance, and mighty spiritual principles.

I found the Epilogue and Author’s Historical Note at the end of the story most satisfying and another confirmation of MaryLu’s diligent research she always puts in her novels.

I have no doubt this whole series would make a great movie. Bring it on!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Patriotism Winds A Blowing

This July 4th weekend I've watched several inspiring movies about our amazing battle for liberty.  I'm so full of patriotism and thankfulness to God, if anyone so much as touches me I might break out in "God Bless America," or the national anthem or the Pledge to the Flag! Or tears at how close we were so many times to not even having a Revolution or a free and glorious America. Only God could have made it possible.

The movie 1776, which so aptly portrays the battle in Independence Hall trying to decide to and then WRITE a Declaration of Independence, moved me to joy, then tears, and underscored how we have had and STILL have a  debating, often divided Congress.  But RIGHT and courage prevailed then, thank God, and we must believe it will again and again.

The inspiring movie about brave, skilled Captain John Paul Jones who founded the Navy and I think also the Marines is excellent, and moved me to righteous indignation when he was often passed over for commands by corrupted, noble family political appointments that he warned was the big mistake of the British military. But his ideas, his ideals and spirit prevail to this day in naval training and promotion. A most exciting scene in a deadly naval battle with a British ship shows Jones ship shot up, many dead on the decks and taking on water. The captain of the enemy ship shouts over to Jones and asks if he's ready to surrender. He replies, "NO SIR, I haven't begun to fight yet!'

What's not to love about the brief movie "Give Me Liberty" and Patrick Henry's mighty oratory that stirred up Virginia to enter the Revolution and help the northern states?

There is an old saying "When all is said and done, more is said than done."  But in the glorious, miraculous birth of this one nation under God, I believe more was done than has ever been said.

I am saving these movies on my TV log for my grandson who is six right now, but will need to see the truths they portray.

Of course, the recent great American Revolution series TURN got me ready for this Fourth Celebration in a big way. I've saved it, too, and hope they come out with a next season!

But who can talk about the first great battle for our nation without remembering those who battle for us still in bunkers all over the world? Let's never forget that the courage, bravery and sacrifice that birthed this nation continues on to keep us free. There are enemies who would love to swallow us up. This brings spiritual warfare prayer and some tears, too. But also faith that God will continue to bless America as we come back Him.

Have you renewed your patriotism and thanks to God on this birthday of our nation?

Thanks for stopping by!
Elva Martin

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ACFW-SC First Pages Contest Winners

Hello Friends!

Today I would like to share below a photo and media announcement about the winners in our ACFW-SC Chapter Inspirational Novel Contest, First Five Pages.  Get ready for a new fall contest coming soon and you don't have to be a member of our chapter to enter.  Here's the media announcement pasted in FYI.

  The South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers is happy to announce winners of their 2014 Inspirational Novel Boot Camp contest, "First Five Pages." Awards were presented at the final session of the boot camp at North Anderson Baptist Church, Anderson, June 28. Attendees of the chapter meeting enjoyed hearing the first three winning manuscript pages and judge's comments read aloud.  

First Place went to Elva Cobb Martin, Anderson, for The Labyrinth, an inspirational romantic mystery set at Lake Junaluska Assembly in North Carolina.

Second Place winner, Debbie Turner of Greenwood, polished her five novel pages with one finger while recovering from a broken wrist. Her entry, a Young Adult mystery, is entitled Written in Red.

Third Place winner, Bruce Brady of Simpsonville, hooked interest with his opening pages of a young man being rescued from a deadly automobile accident. His Y/A novel Thom and the Time Tunnel is sure to be a hit with young readers.

First Honorable Mention winner, Fran Strickland of Abbeville, entered a fast-paced Inspirational Romantic Suspense, The Message at Stone Tree.

Second Honorable Mention went to author Kimberly Pickens of Simpsonville for Molly's Story.

The contest, coordinated by Edie Melson of Simpsonville, mandated entries from unpublished fiction writers, but authors did not have to be members of the chapter. Entries were required to follow strict guidelines regarding content, industry format, and the length limited to the first five pages of a novel. Authors also included a 200-word blurb or pitch.

An acquisitions editor judged the contest, offered comments for improving the manuscripts and remarked that all entries had merit.

Front Row left to right: Fran Strickland, Kimberly Pickens. Second row Elva Martin, Bruce Brady, Debbie Turner
 A fall writing contest is in the plans which will be open to ACFW-SC Chapter and non chapter members. Please call Elva Martin at 864/226-7024 for further information on the contest or the monthly meetings which are open to visitors.

Information on the national organization of American Christian Fiction Writers can be found at The South Carolina Chapter blog can be visited at .

Thanks for stopping by today!  


Friday, June 27, 2014

Southern Writers: Suite T: How Theme and Worldview Drive Fiction

Southern Writers: Suite T: How Theme and Worldview Drive Fiction:  By Elva Cobb Martin As a beginning novelist I had to research theme and worldview to start planning my first inspirational novel...  Check out my guest post today in Southern Writers Magazine, a great magazine for writers!

Elva Cobb Martin

Monday, June 9, 2014

Diving into Mystery

by Elva Cobb Martin

Below is the beginning of a mystery I've had on the back burner for sometime while finishing a contemp and an historical romance which are still under consideration by an agent and by an editor. Does the mystery hook you? Would you be interested in reading more? Any comments will be appreciated as I am trying to decide my writing direction for the next few months while I am also doing some requested changes on the other two mss. 

The Labyrinth – (Inspirational Mystery, Book 1 Lake Junaluska series)

Back Cover Copy

Murder comes to a quiet North Carolina mountain retreat center and a young woman, wanting only to be left alone, is drawn into a net of suspicion and danger. Can her aunt, an Agatha Christie enthusiast, help clear her name? Will a new Deputy Sheriff who does everything by the book, win her trust in time to save her?

The lives of two women, Trinity Skylar just out of college, and Aunt Aggi Peggoty, older and wiser, collide with murder, greed, and danger. And if that’s not enough to make the two of them want to stay sober and vigilant, romance, like a rock slide, tumbles across their respective paths. Will anything ever be the same on their

Chapter 1

He was dead. Dead as the proverbial door knob, lying stretched out on his back, in the middle of the concentric circles of the Meditation Labyrinth with his hands folded on his chest under a brown hat.

On her morning walk to work at Lambuth Inn, Aggie Peggoty stood frozen and gaped at the marble face of the man lying in the grass with a single bullet hole in his forehead. When she could breathe again, she stooped and groped for her purse she’d dropped on the path. She never took her eyes off the deceased she knew as Mr. Jenkins. Poor soul. Who would want to go and kill an old man like him? He kept to himself. Never bothered anyone. She shook her head and tried to remember the last time she’d witnessed to him about the hope in Christianity. He cut such conversations off as fast as they began. Well, he certainly knew about the hereafter now. She sighed and then dug in her shoulder bag. Under a half dozen tissues, a too-pink tube of lipstick and sundry throat lozenges, she found her cell and dialed 911.

“Sheriff’s office.”

Aggi took a needed breath and willed her heart to quit knocking against her ribs. She stumbled over the first words but cleared her throat and started again in her normal husky voice. “This is Aggi Peggoty at Lake Junaluska. I’ve found a dead man, one of our residents, in our Meditation Garden. Is that new Deputy Martin around?”

“A dead man? Are you sure he’s dead?”

“Of course I’m sure. I’ve seen a few dead folks in my fifty-two years, young woman.” Then, not able to keep her eyes from returning to the terrible wound, she added with a shudder, “The first time I’ve seen a bullet hole in a forehead, though.”

“We’ll be right out.”

“And, look, since he’s already deceased, how about not running those sirens up the mountain here and scare all our retirees. And come on around to the chapel. The Meditation Garden is next to it.”

Aggie replaced her cell in her bag and pursed her lips. If Sheriff West came out, he would command her to leave the investigation to the law officers, meaning him. There was one thing she needed to do before he arrived with all his official crustiness.

A sudden thought chilled her. Could the assailant still be around? She stiffened and scanned the garden area with its hedges of Camilla and rose bushes. No one. No movement but a few scampering squirrels and leaves rustling in the morning breeze from the lake. Of course she wouldn’t find anyone. What murderer stayed around the crime scene? She’d read enough Agatha Christie, her namesake, to know that much. When she turned around to glance back down the lakeside trail, she saw Margie Landers walking toward the Meditation Garden, with a coat and kerchief around her head as though it were colder than sixty-five degrees announced on the radio at breakfast. The woman had her eyes lowered, watching her step on the acorn-strewn path.


The housekeeper’s assistant, in her early twenties, looked up at Aggies’s strong voice, and then gasped as she saw the still figure on the grass. She crept closer, leaned over, and looked into the face of the deceased. “Oh my! Is he...?”

“Yep, he’s dead. And I’ve called the Sheriff’s Office. But I need someone to stay here with the body, Margie, until they get here. I need to get up to Lambuth Inn to man the desk. The place will go crazy when this news gets out. And it’s Monday and there’ll be several checking out. Can you do this for me?”

The woman’s countenance paled and her shoulders slumped. “Oh, no, I wouldn’t want to stay here by myself.”

Aggie clicked her tongue. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Margie, its broad daylight, not midnight, and there’s nothing this guy can do to anyone. And whoever did him in is probably long gone. Don’t you know murderers never stay at the crime scene? Besides, more hikers will probably be coming up the trail and you won’t be by yourself for long.” She tugged at Margie’s sleeve. “I need you to do this, young lady. Please?”

Margie sidestepped as far away as possible from the corpse to the edge of the path. “Well, okay. But I’m scared.” She lifted a hand to her mouth and chewed on her thumb nail.

“Tell the deputies I’ll be up at the Inn when they need to talk to me.” Aggie turned to go, then twisted back. “And tell any others who might come up not to walk up to the body, and track up the Labyrinth area. Tell them to stay on the trail.”

Glad she’d thought of that, she hurried up the path, then the steep steps from the hiking trail to the driveway of the Inn. Her breath came in ragged spurts. Screeching tires hit the wooden bridge over the dam below and she knew she didn’t have much time.

She walked in the front door and to the registration desk and then behind it. Grabbing her master key from its hidden hook, she came back around and headed for the elevator. Mr. Guy Jenkins was—had been—registered for Room 332.

The third floor hallway was empty. She first unlocked the maid’s closet and grabbed a pair of latex gloves, then headed to Room 332. She needed to take a look before the Sheriff did. For Trinity’s sake, of course.


Trinity Skylar opened her dorm door, dropped her books and purse on the bed, and turned the thick white satin envelope over in her hands. Pain and anger rose in her throat.

With heart pounding she broke the golden seal on the flap. A wedding invitation—a wedding that should have been hers. Why would they invite her to celebrate the marriage of the man she had loved? The man her best friend had managed to steal away when Trinity had encouraged him to help Suzanne with a tough math course? Did they really think she would attend?

She tossed the expensive invitation into the garbage. Opening her small fridge, she pulled out a jar of orange juice, poured a cup, and drank three gulps. Falling into her worn chair she pulled her feet up and leaned back, waiting for the juice to replenish the energy spent in the final exam of her college career. She looked around the small, half empty room, now gathering afternoon shadows. Her roommate had already packed and left school. Against her will, she envisioned Tom’s handsome face, the last time he’d kissed her. The sweet words he’d spoken echoed in her heart. Her stomach knotted.

Oh, Tom! How could you be such a liar?

The desk phone rang. She reached for it. “Hello.”

“Trinity, how did you do on your exams?”

She recognized her Aunt’s throaty voice. “I think I did okay, Aunt Aggi.”

“Just okay? You’ve never done just okay, girl. I’ll bet you end up at least magna cum laude.”

Trinity smiled. There was no one like Aunt Aggi to lift one’s spirits.

But now her aunt’s voice changed. “Trinity, how soon can you leave college and get home?”

Trinity thought of the wedding that would be held in the college chapel Sunday. “Oh, I can leave now, as a matter of fact. As soon as I pack the car.” It was only a two hour drive. “Of course, I’ll have to be back Friday for graduation. Why?”

“Well, something has happened. Mr. Jenkins was . . . murdered last night or early this morning and this place has been crawling with police and reporters.”

“Murdered!” The eighty-five-year-old who had hired her to help write his memoirs the past six months drove the vision of Tom out of Trinity's mind. The elderly man’s washed out grey eyes and sparse hair did not take away from a military bearing. From his dictated memoirs she now knew the military influence related to his early years spent in the German youth army. That fact and a few others had made her begin to feel uncomfortable as the memoirs progressed. What dark secrets had he been hiding?

“How, Aunt Aggi? What happened?”

“Oops, here come some new guests to register. I’ll need to reassure them everything is okay. Come on home, Trinity. Let’s talk when you get here. And the police will want to see you, too, but we need to talk first.”


Deputy Sheriff Derek Dawson pulled into the Lambuth Inn parking lot a couple of minutes after Trinity. He twirled the steering wheel of the squad car into a parking space with a single twist of his wrist and flipped it into park. He couldn’t help but notice the attractive blond in a lavender sun dress lifting a suitcase from the trunk of a silver Camry. Neat car. Looked new. A small black and red banner centered in the back window heralded North Greenville University. A college girl? He wouldn’t mind meeting this new guest. After he touched base with Aggi Peggoty to get her story of the murder. She might be tired of telling it now, but Derek had been two counties over transporting a prisoner when she called in. He wanted to make his own notes. And from another person of interest, too. Her niece.

He quickened his steps across the lot and reached the lobby door ahead of the tall beauty. He held it open for her. Eyes as clear as a blue sky met his and a fragrance of vanilla and cherry floated above smooth tanned shoulders. He nodded. “Hello, ma’am.”

She tilted her chin but otherwise ignored him and walked toward the registration desk.

“Trinity, you did make it fast, dear girl.” Aggie Peggoty flew around the counter and gave the young woman a fierce hug.

Trinity Skylar. So this was the niece who had been writing the deceased man’s memoirs. And he would have first go at questioning her. Way to go. In more ways than one. He stood back, gave the lovely form in front of him a little closer inspection, and waited for Aggi to notice him.

Look forward to reading your comments or suggestions!
Elva Cobb Martin