Friday, October 20, 2017

Writing the Cozy Mystery - Part 2 Definition

by Elva Cobb Martin

In my last blog we defined Mystery and Suspense and reviewed the major differences between Mystery, Suspense and Horror novels. You can find that blog in my archives. Carolina Reckoning by Lisa Carter is a great mystery I enjoyed.

What is a Cozy Mystery? --by Eddie Jones, CEO, Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas (LPC):
A cozy mystery features an amateur sleuth solving a murder within the confines of a controlled setting (think train, mansion, small town). Most of the suspects know each other and thus know each other's secrets. This leads to lots of accusations as to whom the killer might be.

Another definition I like is: A cozy mystery is a sub genre of crime fiction that gives readers a chance to delight in vicariously solving a murder--without graphic violence or sex. As a Christian writer this is what makes a cozy mystery my favorite kind of mystery and the kind I will want to write.

Others have said: "Cozies offer readers the kind of escapism that harder-boiled detective stories simply can't deliver."

"The abiding appeal of the cozy owes a lot to our collective memory, true or false, of simpler, sweeter times."

Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers are two cozy authors who have inspired several generations of cozy writers.

According to Brian Klems, Writers' Digest editor, there are four things a writer should know if considering venturing into cozy-mystery writing today:

1) Cozies have evolved since Christie and Sayers in faster pacing and more driving action with a broader range of subject matter.

2) Series are the way to go - virtually all cozies published today are part of a series with recurring characters and may be anchored around a hobby or craft--or even cats like the Lilian Jackson Braun series, which I have also enjoyed on tape as I exercise.

3)  Sales are steady, but moderate.

4) Genre-specific support is available - like Sisters in Crime writing group
( one of the leading networks for mystery authors. It offers
a Guppies program that provides help for new mystery writers.

Who is your favorite cozy author? Please join the conversatoin and share this on your social media by clicking on the small icons below.

Elva Cobb Martin

 Link to all my books on Amazon:  

Friday, October 13, 2017

Writing the Cozy Mystery - Part 1 Mystery, Suspense or Horror?

by Elva Cobb Martin

I've had a cozy mystery novel on the back burner for quite a while and have just decided to pull it up to the front burner. You are invited to trek along with me as I refresh my thinking about mysteries in general and this cozy book idea specifically on my next several blogs. Of course, my cozies will always have a good dose of romance!

To start with I've refreshed my understanding of the difference between Mystery and Suspense novels, and also Horror novels.

Here's a fave mystery writer's definition of Mystery: 
A Mystery is a story that has a crime already committed (preferably violent like a homicide) and the suspect is unknown until the end of the story. Mysteries can be broken down into sub-genres like Hard-Boiled Mystery, Police Procedure, Detective Stories, Cozy Mystery, Legal or Medical Mysteries, etc.

A Suspense novel is where the suspect may be be known to the reader, but the thrust of the story is the protagonist's attempts to catch, stop, or overcome the antagonist before a murder or mayhem can be committed.

Another interesting break down I've seen is the difference between Crime/Mystery, Suspense, and Horror stories relating to four aspects:

1) The Murder 
2) The Secrets 
3)  The Question
4) The Appeal

The Murder:
Crime/Mystery: The body is discovered close to the beginning.
Suspense: We anticipate the murder.
Horror: We see the murder happen in real time.

The Secrets
Crime/Mystery: We know none of the secrets until later.
Suspense: We know half the secrets; the characters know none.
Horror: We know all the secrets.

The Question
Crime/Mystery: Who did this and why?
Suspense: Will the character live or die?
Horror: How and when will the character die?

The Appeal
Crime/Mystery: Intellectual Curiosity.
Suspense: Worry and Concern
Horror: Gut Reaction

So now that I've gotten that review freshened in my mind, I will be ready next time to delve into the specifics of Cozy Mysteries.

Do you like mysteries? Do you  like to read Robert Whitlow's legal thrillers? Many of us call him the Christian version of John Grisham. WHO doesn't like Agatha Christie or Perry Mason, Monk, Colombo, Murdock, or Father Brown?  My husband will watch most of these series with me on TV. There are several good mystery series, but my favorite are cozy mysteries. In my next blog I'll tell you why and define what makes them "cozy."

Would love to hear about your fave mystery writer. And please do share this on your social media by clicking on the small icons below.

Elva Cobb Martin
Link to all my books on Amazon:

Friday, October 6, 2017

Six Things the ProWritingAid Editing Tool Taught Me That Might Help You

by Elva Cobb Martin

I finally bit the nail and bought an editing tool before sending out my latest novel proposal. I checked out several editing tools but ended up buying ProWritingAid for an annual fee of $40.

One of the best things about it is that I could buy the version that integrates with MSWord. ProWritingAid is now right up in my Word top menu bar that I can click on after I pull up any document I want to edit. I can click on "Full Edit" or any of 25 individual edits. You can check out the program and get a sample edit at   And no, I am not receiving any kickbacks!  ( :

Frankly, it's like having a highly skilled editor looking over your shoulder.

Six Edits That Are Making My Manuscripts Shine:

1) Repeated Words  --it's amazing how often I repeated without realizing it.
2) Cliches and Redundancies- - we all have favorites that slip in
3) The Dialogue Tags check - use action beats instead
4) The Sensory Report - helps you write using all five senses
5) The Pacing Check - very good to know if this is going well
6) The Grammar Report - catches everything besides spelling--including two             periods or even an extra space between words that pop up in my writing.

One of the first things I was glad to find out was the Reading Level of my ms.

ProWritingAid does much more--The Writing Style Report (very comprehensive), Thesaurus Check, Diction Report, Vague and Abstract Words Check, the Plagiarism Report, Sentence Length, Transitions, Consistency, and Sticky Sentences full of glue words that can be rewritten for greater clarity.

Needless to say I am happy I now have this "editor over my shoulder" to help hone my writing.

Have you found a great editing tool? Would love to hear from you. And please do share this on your social media by clicking on the small icons below.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, September 22, 2017

Planning Your Novel - Part 10 The Fiction Proposal

by Elva Cobb Martin

Have you writen a fiction proposal? It's good to start work on this before you finish your final novel draft. The first place you need to check is the submission guidelines for whatever publisher you're thinking of sending your proposal to. Publishers and agents usually have a proposal form or template on their sites and guidelines to follow. 

I recently sent a proposal out for the new historical series I've showcased in this series of blogs. In my email cover letter I notated the different sections in my attached proposal which included the first three chapters of Book 1, Spanish Rose, all in a single attachment. Here is the list I gave in my email cover letter so the editors could skip to whatever sections they were more interested in.

My Proposal sections include:

1) Working Title and author basic information for Spanish Rose
2) Premise
3) Pitch
4) Back Cover Tag
5) Back Cover Copy
6) Author Bio & Photo
          (all the above is on page 1 for quick perusal)
7) SYNOPSIS (at least one page single-spaced)
8) Web and Social Media Presence (numbers)
9) Marketing Strategies
10) Potential Readers for Spanish Rose/Inspirational Romance             (Primary and Secondary audiences)
11) Market Comparative Analysis
12) Hero/Heroine Character Descriptions and Motivations for                Spanish Rose
13) Projected Book 2 blurb, 1760 Charles Town and the Barbary             Coast
14) Projected Book 3 blurb, 1780 Charleston
15) Spanish Rose, first three chapters

It might not be necessary to include this list in a cover letter, but I decided I would this time. I've always liked numbered lists. This way the editor can quickly check what she might want to look at first.

One point to remember about the synopsis. Unlike back cover copy, this should show the major turning points of the story, the climax, and how the story will end. We never want to leave the editor or agent in suspense about how the story ends. But we will want to do this in the back cover copy to hook readers.

Thanks for stopping by. Do you have a suggestion for a better proposal? What helped you do a successful proposal? Do leave a comment and share this on your social media by clicking the below small boxes.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, September 15, 2017

Planning Your Novel - Part 9 Choosing the Best Opening Scene

by Elva Cobb Martin

How are you coming with your dream novel you want to write? I hope this series of blogs describing my journey helps you. We've covered eight other topics you can find in the archives. Today I want to share about what may be the most important scene to plan in your entire novel--that opening scene you hope will hook editors and readers.

I do a lot of thought and planning and getting advice from other writers about my opening scene. Trust me, it gets changed a lot. ( :

Here are the three different opening scenes I polished up over the last months of planning.Can you guess which one I have used in my final work?  Just yesterday I sent my proposal and first three chapters to my agent to send to editors, and breathed a sigh of relief after working all summer on this. Do pray God will divinely connect me to His best choice of editor and publisher for this projected inspirational historical series.

Here are the three opening scenes from which I chose one to send out in my proposal. I am also giving you the premise, pitch and two back cover tags lifted from my proposal to get you into the scene. You can find articles on each of these in my recent archives.

Premise of Spanish Rose
Love, forgiveness, and determination can overcome the most appalling experiences and poor choices when God is invited into the equation.

Pitch: Marisol Valentin flees the murder of a Spanish nobleman who molested her by sailing to the New World only to realize no one but God can turn good out of evil when her exposed past threatens to destroy all her dreams of love and security.

Back Cover Tags:  1) Loving Her Can Wrap the Chains of the Inquisition Around His Neck.  2) Can Love Overcome the Past and Ignite a New Beginning?

Beginning #1

Chapter 1       Charles Town 1740

Cloaked in the early morning shadows of the cemetery, Marisol Valentin watched Captain Ethan Becket place flowers on his wife’s grave. Her heart hammered so hard she feared he might hear. He had left Charles Town as the grieving minister of the small Presbyterian Church and returned as privateer captain of his own ship.

       His bronzed face, thicker arms and chest only hinted at the greater change she sensed beneath his seaman’s demeanor. How had this gentle man
become what many would call a pirate?
Ethan turned and she shrank behind a monument.
“Marisol.” His deep voice rooted her bare feet in the dew-laden grass.
He strode toward her. “I’m glad you followed me. “I have something to tell you.”
Trembling, she looked up into his bearded face and startling grey eyes.
“You must know how much I appreciate your care for  Joshua these past few weeks. A smile tugged at his thin lips beneath his mustache.
She nodded and heat climbed her neck at his closeness. A scent of sea, leather and spice tantalized her senses.
“My parents will be immigrating to Charles Town, along with my Cousin Emma. They will take over Joshua’s care.”
Joshua. His child she’d grown to love. Her heart fell and the blood drained from her cheeks. What was he saying? Was he selling her indenture paper?
He searched her countenance and his forehead furrowed. Then he laid a broad, warm hand on her shoulder. “But in no wise are you to fret about your future, Marisol.” His frown relaxed. “I am going to arrange your freedom from any indentured obligation, and I’ll help return you safely to your home and family. Wherever that is.”
Marisol averted her face and tried to swallow, but her mouth dried up like a potsherd. She could never return home. 

Beginning #2
Chapter 1   Charles Town, 1740  

Hidden deep in the ship's hold, Marisol Valentin rocked her sleeping charge on her lap. If only she could keep her one-year-old Samuel quiet and their presence secret for a few more hours. Once they were well out to sea, surely Captain Becket would not turn back to Charles Town. Would he be furious she’d stowed away and with her son he had adopted?

Reverend Ethan Becket, now Captain Becket of his own ship, a French merchantman. Just thinking her indentured master’s name, not to mention his new status, caused Marisol’s heart to jump in her chest and her breath to catch. But the next moment, moisture gathered in her eyes and her shoulders slumped. Her secret past weighed like a sack of stones on her back.
       Samuel whimpered and awoke. Shaking aside her troubled thoughts, Marisol looked down into the bright eyes of her toddler, his rosy face and dark hair a perfect blend of her English and Spanish heritage. Thank God no resemblance of her attacker showed up in the child's looks. That face she longed to forget.
 “Good morning, little man,” she whispered and kissed him on the cheek. “We’re on an adventure with Captain Becket. You’re on a real ship. Feel the movement? Hear the waves lapping the hull? Isn’t it wonderful? You’ll get to be with your adopted father every day.”

And so will I. But what chance would a soiled piece of goods like her ever have with a man like him?

Beginning #3

Chapter One    Cadiz, Spain, 1740   
Marisol Valentin fought her way to consciousness on the barn floor under her attacker. Managing to free one hand twisted behind her, she wrenched the knife from her boot and thrust it deep into the man arched over her. He uttered a curse, then his eyes glazed over, and he fell forward. She spit out the cravat he’d stuffed in her mouth and pushed his heavy, lifeless form from her. Her hands came back wet and sticky. The acrid odor of blood replaced the sweet scent of hay and horses and her stomach roiled. She groaned and sat up, holding her palms outstretched. She wiped them on her torn skirt and struggled to stand.
 After pulling her clothing together as best she could, she peered at the still form lying beyond her. Diego Vargas, nobleman of Cadiz, would never harm another maiden. But that would not help her now. He had ruined her for life. Tears coursed down her cheeks. Then her lips curled and her fists clenched. He got what he deserved, and she was not sorry. Even if she hanged for it. But la policía would have to catch her first.  

Marisol pressed her wet face on the neck of her beloved mare and said a hasty goodbye. She stumbled across the dark stable yard, and up the back stairs of the hacienda. Bursting into her bedchamber, she shoved the door closed, and leaned against it.

 “Oh, my lady.” Her maid dropped the gown she was laying out on the bed and hurried to her side. “What has happened?”


Which opening do you like the best?  Thanks for stopping by. Do leave a comment and share on your social media.

Elva Cobb Martin


Friday, September 1, 2017

Planning Your Novel - Part 8 Outlining

by Elva Cobb Martin

Some kind of outline helps keep me on target and is also a great help in writing up the summary or synopsis of a novel. It's kind of like having OnStar or a GPS when traveling.

I am sure there are many ways to outline a novel, but here is what I do.

1) Write the pitch and premise out first. These are the "skeleton's" on which I will plan my scenes and chapters.

2) I keep reminding myself that my outline is very fluid and can be adjusted easily as I write the first draft.

Note: I am saying "outline" but what I'm really doing is listing scenes for each chapter, not doing a formal outline.

As a reminder from my earlier blogs, here is my pitch and premise for Spanish Rose, my historical romance wip.


Love, forgiveness, and determination can overcome the most horrifying experiences and poor choices when God is invited into the equation.

 Draft of my pitch:

Marisol Valentin must flee the murder of a Spanish nobleman who molested her by sailing to the New World only to realize no one but God can turn good out of the evil when her exposed past threatens to destroy all her dreams.

Here is the first chapter "outline" which is really a list of actual scenes I now have in my first draft of Spanish Rose.

Chapter 1

1) Rape/murder scene at Cadiz, Spain, stud farm: Marisol Valentin kills                                nobleman Diego Vargas
2) Marisol’s bedchamber, preparing to flee with maid Carmelo
3) On the road/path fleeing to Cadiz Harbor
4) Kidnapped by King’s men (indentured servant kidnappers) for King’s West                      Indies colonies, put on ship
5) Six weeks aboard and Marisol is throwing up in the chamber pot each                              morning on the Magdalena. 
6) English pirates attack the ship. Marisol given sword to defend herself and the                               other women.  (ENDING HOOK)

             (Carmelo dies of fever on pirate ship but told later as brief back story.)

One thing I always plan is an Ending Hook to all my chapters that will hopefully motivate the reader to keep reading to see what happens next.

I actually wrote 3 different openings scenes for this novel and tried them out on my critique partners at our S.C. Chapter of American Christian Writers. Next time, I may share the first paragraph of each of the three openings and see which you like the most.

Thanks for stopping by. How do you plan your scenes and chapters? Please leave a comment and share on your social media.

Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Planning Your Novel Part 7 - Secondary Characters

by Elva Cobb Martin

 Villain, Don Rafael Castillo

Next to my hero and heroine, I believe a good villain is very important. I chose this photo of a character who was supposedly the best friend of a hero in a NetFlix series, but really was his worst enemy, doing all sorts of wicked things to discredit and harm the hero and win the heroine for himself. I have this man and photo in mind to draw my villain for my new novel. Remembering this character will help me get my villain right.

 Housekeeper - Mrs. Piper

I needed a wise voice, a dedicated Christian character, who will influence the heroine to turn to God. I chose this photo of the real Mildred Natick who played many secondary roles as a fiesty, stern, capable, big-hearted governess or housekeeper in movies. This woman is helping me draw my Mrs. Piper, the Chrstian housekeeper of my hero in my story who will greatly influence both h/h.

Here are just a few other secondary characters in my coming novel. I've found it good to have a photo to represent them, too, but won't include them here.

Emma Ducworth - Captain Ethan Becket's second cousin and a widow, pretty woman with 2-year old boy, comes with his parents to Charles Town and is interested in widower Ethan.

Grace Becket -  hero Captain Ethan's older sister he will rescue from Spanish captivity

Senora Lucia Chavez - heroine Marisol's aunt in Cartagena 

Tim Cullen -  loyal Irish Lieutenant on Captain Ethan's merchant ship

Danny -age 13, cabin boy on Captain Ethan's ship, he takes under his wing

I have quite a few other secondary characters and photos of them all unless their part is very small in the story.

Naming of Characters
A great help in naming my characters is  a fill-in sheet with blocks for the ABC's where I list each character's name to make sure I don't name too many characters with similar names, or starting with the same letter. This can be confusing during the writing and for my later readers.

How are you coming with your novel? Are you in the idea stage, outlining, or already writing up a storm?  Would love to hear from you, and please do share this blog on your social media for all those out there thinking about writing a novel. 

In my next blog I will share how I do a fluid chapter outline to keep me moving and on target in my novel writing. Perhaps it will help you. Thanks for stopping by!

Elva Cobb Martin

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Planning Your Novel - Part 6 - Hero Charactization

by Elva Cobb Martin

How do you like this photo I chose to represent my current hero, privateer  Captain Ethan Beckett?

Doesn't that face, that intense look inspire you? It certainly did me. It is actually the face of the Turkish actor who played the hero in the NetFlix historical romance series "Kurt Seyit and Sura." I highly recommend this series for historical romance lovers.

Here is how I've planned out my character,

Captain Ethan Beckett, formerly Rev. Ethan Becket of Charles Town.

Basics: grieving widower, bitter since wife’s death, left the ministry and returned to the sea, his first love.

Physical Description: tall- 6 feet, 2 in.; muscular, deep-set pewter eyes,   chestnut brown hair pulled back in a queue (braid), full beard and mustache, sun-tanned square face; flaring nostrils; straight eyebrows; thick neck, arms, chest; thin lips; great with sword and sailing a ship.

Internal  Goal/motivation– overcome his grief and bitterness over wife’s death and second child at birth and raise his first child Joshua in a happy home

External – Find and rescue his sister from Spanish captivity

Core Need:  To find the peace and happiness he once had during his first marriage and ministry

Character and Spiritual Arc

Persona: (face he shows the world) Bitter, easily angered, arrogant, now drinks, doesn’t think God cares or was fair in letting his godly wife Olivia  and child die in child birth. Vows never to love again.

Essence: unmoored, feels cut-off from all that is good, guilt-ridden for backsliding, feels a failure, wishing he could find his way back to sanity and peace.

Will Become: a stronger minister than he ever was with renewed faith in God’s love, care and power to forgive and cleanse.  No longer angry or bitter, quits drinking, humble, able to risk loving again.

I have further notes planning my romantic arc for Captain Becket.

Now you've been introduced to my heroine and hero in my wip. How do you like them?  In my next blog I'll share about those important secondary characters that enrich our story.

I'm busy finishing the first three chapters and a proposal for some editors I met at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May who liked my pitch for this series and asked to see a proposal. Yes, tis a lot of work! But I'm taking you on the journey with me!

Are you working on a novel? Would love to hear your comments or questions. And please do share this blog on Twitter and Face book by clicking on the icons below.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, August 11, 2017

Planning Your Novel -Part 5 Deep Heroine Characterization

by  Elva Cobb Martin

Planning an Heroic, Determined, Compassionate Heroine --start with a picture or two.

Here are a couple of the photos I've chosen for my heroine in Spanish Captive, showing her two sides as a lovely Spanish lady and a trained sword-fighting foe when necessary. (And, yes, it's going to be necessary). I love having an idea of how my heroine might look as I plan and write the story.
(Do  you recognize Catherine Zeta Jones?)

My heroine: 

Doña  Marisol Valentin 

Physical Description: Medium height, long, curly, dark hair, hazel eyes with a tinge of gold,  dark arched brows and thick lashes, skin color and texture from her English mother – creamy ivory; face structure – oval/oblong with high cheek bones; straight nose, full lips and gleaming straight white teeth, small but strong hands with long, tapered fingers; general body structure – small bones, lithe, well endowed, much stronger than she looks. Had Spanish father and English mother.

Special skills:  Trained in sword fighting. Is excellent horsewoman and Flamenco dancer. Raised on an Andalusian Stud Farm in Cadiz, Spain

Don't forget my premise for this novel:

Love, forgiveness, and determination can overcome the most horrifying experiences and poor choices when God is invited into the equation.

Here are some characterization details I'm working out for Marisol that will help develop and bring my premise into realization. Of course, some of this may very well change as I write the story. I keep my plotting outline fluid!

Internal Goal/Motivation – to overcome her terrible past and find love, security, respect. She falls in love with widower privateer Captain Ethan Becket, but sees little hope for that relationship due to her terrible past with the murder of a Spanish noble who attacked her. 

Spirit of Rejection  - desperately wants to be part of a loving family circle but doubts she's worthy.

 External Goal/Motivation-  Escape from Spain to New World. Later, help Captain Ethan Becket find and rescue his sister from Spanish captors thought to be living in Cartagena.
Core need: to find true love, security, respect and a new beginning.

 Greatest fear: That ALL her past will be revealed and she’ll suffer great consequences, even to being garroted (in Spain) for murder. And Ethan Becket will never understand if he learns of the murder.

The incident that wounded her earlier in life that got her to believing a lie.
Her stepfather tried to marry her off to a rich, wicked don she refused to marry. One day the nobleman attacked her but she managed to stab him, accidentally killing him. She had to flee her home and live by her wits and charms. She escaped from Spain by becoming an indentured slave on a ship bound for the colonies.

Character Arc:  
Persona (face she shows to the world):  A very capable, sometimes harsh, sometimes vixen, fearless young woman.

Essence: An insecure, frightened, low self-esteem, young woman, who longs to escape her past and find love, family, and security.

Will become: a strong, godly young woman willing and able to fight and sacrifice for  others.

Spiritual Arc
Marisol starts out as a nominal believer, not sure what blessings faith affords. Even though she repented her past sins, she still feels like soiled goods and knows she’ll go to prison or to  execution if the murdered nobleman's family finds her. She is sure no one will believe her version of the attack vs. the version of the man’s family, who are wealthy and of the Spanish nobility.
 She Will Become: Marisol will discover through scripture and experiences that God wants to wipe away all that stains her mind, will and emotions and help her become a true woman of God worthy of respect and love. The battle she will face when the murder catches up with her will serve to strengthen her, not to destroy her, and will build a strong faith in God’s justice and belief in his love for her.

Romantic Arc
Marisol falls in love with widower Captain Ethan Becket, but many hurdles stand between these two ever finding love and a HEA. 

Do you like this heroine so far?  Please do leave a comment and share the blog on your social media by clicking the square links below.

Elva Martin

Friday, August 4, 2017

Planning Your Novel Part 4 - Characterization Special: Dancing Horse Heroine

By Elva Cobb Martin  ---Check out the above YouTube Clip!

If you're planning a novel, I assume you've studied a lot about characterization and how best to plan and detail your characters. But today with the above YouTube clip I am sharing with you something I've run across with planning my Spanish heroine in my current wip (work in progress).

In my research I ran across the Spanish horse or the Andalusian breed which has had a large influence on the bloodlines of the beautiful Lipizzaner breed of horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. That's why it's called the Spanish Riding School, but it's in Vienna, Austria.

I've had horses myself and love them. I am thinking about making my heroine more special than ever by setting her on a Spanish horse stud farm where she has learned the beautiful dancing with the horses like you see in the clip. Don't you think this will make her a much more special character that readers will love?

Remember, one of my first points in planning your novel in Part 1 was Research and More Research! I've spent some time studying out the Spanish or Andalusian horse and had a great time doing it. My novel will be much richer as a result. These horses are still being bred in several nations and very popular all over the world, not just in Spain or Austria.

In the clip you can see where the Lipizzaner got it's beautiful dressage genes! And don't you love the Spanish guitar accompaniment?

Of course, I've got MUCH research on this subject I may never get to use in my novel, but that's fine. I'd rather be on the rich end rather than the skimpy one.

Here's a few quick notes from my research for you horse lovers like me!

Spanish horses, including the Andalusian, originated from Arabian and Berber horses from North Africa. They were brought to Spain in the 8th Century. (Think Muslim invasion and takeover of Spain which continued several centuries and hence the mosques still standing there).

During the 15th and 16th Centuries (think of the Catholic deliverance of Spain, Queen Isabella's Empire, and Columbus) these majestic high-stepping Spanish horses became the status symbol of the royal courts throughout Europe. 
Note: my photo may be of Isabella...and it might not be. But you get the picture. ( :

1580: When the importation of horses from the Spanish Peninsula became more difficult, the Vienna court under Archduke Karl II decided to develop their own breeding farm in . . . Lipica. He sent buyers to Spain and they brought back stallions and mares. They became the foundation of the Lipizzan breed. And, yes, I have the rest of the exciting story about even these Lipizzan horses and all they went through during the various European wars, even their rescue during WWII by our own General Patton. But that's another story. . . for another day.

Have you planned a special talent or work for your main character that people will love to learn about? This is the kind of thing that makes an historical or a contemporary novel much richer. In my contemporary Summer of Deception novel, I shared the growing and making of tea by my hero. You can find the novel here:
I also have a beautiful Arabian horse in this novel named Haidez.

Do join the fun and tell us about your character's special talent or work. Please click on the social buttons below to share if you found this blog helpful.

Elva Cobb Martin

Friday, July 28, 2017

Planning Your Novel Part 3 "Pitches and Book Tags"

by Elva Cobb Martin

In Part 2 we talked about "Premise" and how it will actually help you write your pitch. Never mind pulling your hair out. You can access Parts 1-2 in my archives.

So what is a pitch (or log line) and how does it differ from a book tag?

A pitch is a one or two sentence nutshell that explains what your book is about. 

Imagine someone asking you, "What is your book about?" (Some one like an editor or agent that you may run into at a conference and you only have a few moments to tell them about your book). 

Here are some examples of pitches:

1) Jacob Marshall must avenge his father's honor by implicating Serena Jones' father, only to realize revenge often hurts the innocent.

2) Rachel York determines to unearth the truth about her brother's reported death by taking a position at an historic tea plantation, only to realize the truth may destroy her new found love and could even cost her life.  (This was my pitch for Summer of Deception which helped snag a contract and can be found at )

Want to try your hand at a pitch?  Here's a simple template that has helped me:

(Your protagonist) _________MUST __________(critical plot goal) BY ______________(action or conflict)  
ONLY TO REALIZE __________________(what the character learns about life that helps him change his goal during journey of book

Tags are a briefer hook, like back cover copy first line or byline in a movie. You'll need this for your book cover and tweets.

To boldly go where no man has gone. (Star Wars)
Don't go in the water (Jaws)
Collide with destiny (Titanic)
Power comes with a price (The List by Robert Whitlow)
Can love survive a summer of deception? (for my novel Summer of Deception)
Falling in love with a pirate was never part of her plan. (for my novel, In a Pirate's Debt).

My Premise for my current wip helped me write my Pitch. Of course, it's an inspirational romance.

To recap, my tweaked premise for my wip is: Love, forgiveness, and determination can overcome the most horrifying experiences and poor choices when God is invited into the equation.

Here's a rough draft of my pitch:

"Marisol Valentine flees after murdering the Spanish nobleman who sexually assaulted her only to find herself caught in a net of kidnappers for the King's colonization of the New World which threatens to derail her forever from love, security and decency until she discovers a God who can work good even from evil."

How's that for a long sentence? But it gets the job done--for now. ( :

Thanks for stopping by. Please do leave a comment and a sample pitch, if you have one. And share this blog if it has been helpful.

Elva Cobb Martin

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Planning Your Novel - Part 2 "Premise"

by Elva Cobb Martin

Planning your novel can get that dream you have (like an illusive bubble in your head and heart), down on plain white paper or on your computer screen.

In Part 1 of planning a novel, we talked about:

a) Reading/immersing yourself in your genre and time period

b) Jotting down your initial storyline
c) Researching and more researching

You can find Part 1 in my archives.

Today, I want to talk about the first of three important "p's" in planning your novel: Premise, Pitch, and Pictures.

Stavros Halvatzis has several good blogs about Premise that helped me. Click

To recap, he says: 

The story or moral premise is a short description of the entire story in its essential form. It's the essential core or meaning of the story and the chief theme of your story.

A unique premise contains a strong set-up and pay-off, it generates dramatic questions, and gives the writer a blueprint for writing a successful story.

It can be thought of as the two-part genetic code of a story: one part identifies the virtue which leads to victory, while the other identifies the opposite, which leads to defeat.

Here are some movie examples he sites:

1) The Ten Commandments, Braveheart, The Firm, Gladiator
    "The hero must do the right thing to eventually achieve the goal (carry the day, save the world), even if it sometimes means he has to sacrifice himself."

2) In There Will be Blood  
      "The pursuit of wealth and power, at the expense of love and family, leads to loneliness and defeat."

After studying premise this is what I came up with for my work-in-progress, an inspirational historical romance.

"Love, forgiveness and determination can overcome the most horrifying experiences and poor choices."

Can you see the two main parts of my story? (Terrible experience & Happy Resolution) Can you see that it will be an encouraging story for those who have suffered from bad experiences or poor choices? Does it bring to mind dramatic questions like: What horrible experience did the heroine endure? How will she find love and forgiveness to overcome the effects? Does she have enough determination to move forward to a HEA? My heroine, Marisol Valentin, will find what she needs to overcome! She will illustrate my idea of a strong, determined woman who will not let circumstances destroy her or keep her down. And, of course, she will have to discover the great power of Christian faith to do this.

Do you see that from my premise, I actually have my beginning, middle and end of my story? 
     The Horrifying Experience (and all it entailed)
     Working to Overcome (risk, hindrances, conflict, people)
     Accessing love, forgiveness and determination to a HEA

Sound like the 3 acts? Maybe so.

Can you come up with a premise for your novel? It will help you write your story, and keep you on track to your planned ending.
Please share it in the comments. I'd love to read it.

Premise is different from the Pitch which I will discuss in my next blog. Premise will help you write your pitch!

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and share this blog on your social media if it was helpful.

Elva Cobb Martin

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Planning Your Novel - Part 1

by Elva Cobb Martin

Are you planning your first novel or trying to get started with your next one? I give God the glory for two novels recently released by Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas, Summer of Deception and In a Pirate's Debt. You can check them out on Amazon at this link:

This summer I am researching and planning my next novel which will become a series, I hope. Here are the steps that have helped me in the past and, I believe, will assist me again.

1) Read, Read in Your Genre --and Time Period if Historical.
I find it very important to immerse myself in the genre I'm hoping to write. In your genre, find the best, most successful authors you can and read and study what makes their novel interesting to read. I often take notes and write in the margins!

If writing an historical, find books in your time period. Since I'm planning an historical series set in the 1700's like my pirate novel above, I am reading novels of established authors set in this century. It's amazing how many great ideas come to me as I soak up stories set in my chosen time period and place. Reading a contemporary novel,or one set in the Regency Period, or during World War II won't help keep me on target, so I save those novels for another time. I also look for movies set in my time period and save them in my TV groups. I take notes on setting, dialog, dress, conflict, historical tidbits, etc. 

4) Jot Down Your Initial Storyline
My basic story idea is of a heroine, an indentured servant, who has a bad past she's carrying like baggage, even after she becomes a Christian. (See the "lie" she believes and the spiritual plot possibility of her overcoming?) After a terrible incident in Spain she fled for her life to the New World as an indentured servant. She falls in love with her master after he becomes widowed, but she feels like soiled goods he will never be interested in. She desires to find respect, security and love and will go to some lengths to find them. (See the motivation and goals unfolding?) And, of course, I will give the widowed hero problems, conflicts, and goals to complicate the romance possibility we will pursue from Charles Town to the Spanish Main. Of course, some of these details will likely change as I write the story! (More on characterization, lies, motivation, and goals in Part 2.)

3) Research and Research Some More
Having the Internet has made research so much easier. Seldom do I have to make a trip to the library for research. This novel will have a heroine who is an indentured servant. Yesterday I googled "Indentured Servants in America" and came up with great information. I printed some articles and saved some to my computer. I already know this story will be set mainly on the Spanish Main in Cartagena so I googled that and came up with some great articles and maps.

How do you plan a new novel? I would love to hear your comments. Next time I will share Part 2 that works for me.

Elva Martin