Friday, August 19, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Vital Steps (Part 2)

by Elva Cobb Martin

For a long while my dream of securing a book contract seemed like an impossible goal- like reaching for a castle in the sky.

If you missed Part 1, you can find it in the archives.

Here's a quick list of the Five Steps that helped me finally land my first book contract. It is with Prism Book Group for my inspirational romantic suspense novel, Summer of Deception, to be released in 2017

Drum-m-m ROL-L-L! I have recently signed a second contract with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas for my historical, In a Pirate's Debt! So now I am into edits on TWO books at the same time. (Yes, that's a prayer request in the subtext). Selling the second book has been quicker maybe because I started writing it before I sold the first one. ( : 

Here are the five steps I listed in Part 1:

1) NEVER give up!
2) Keep Honing Your Craft
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers
5) Learn how to Submit to Editors and Agents

Part 2  Keep Honing Your Craft!

Learn how to Plot a Novel  - 4 Ways I’ve Studied               

A) The detailed Authors Boot Camp Manual can be found at
     There are tons of links compiled for every aspect of plotting and writing a book! And it’s all free—the best articles from some of the best authors you’ll find. 

B) The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. Find his 10 detailed steps under Products at
Randy, a former software architect, lists 10 Steps that he compares to a snowflake in building a novel. He has a software program on it and a detailed book you can purchase on Amazon.)

   Here are the first 4 steps briefly which he covers in detail on his site and in his book.
      Step 1 - Take an hour and write a one sentence summary of your novel idea.
         Ex. “A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the Apostle Paul.”
      Step 2 - Take another hour and expand that sentence into a full paragraph describing the story setup, 3 major disasters, and the ending.
      Step 3 – Characters: Write a one-page summary for each character telling their name, their storyline, their motivation, goal, conflict, and epiphany (Details on site)
       Step 4 – Expand each sentence in your paragraph summary into a full paragraph each. The final paragraph should tell how the book ends.

End each chapter with a cliff hanger!

C)  MaryLu Tyndall’s basic method for historicals: Starts with research
           1) Do detailed main character sketches with photos and index cards of main characters
           2) Write synopsis of basic story line and chapter by chapter summary
           3) Write the first draft down fast in creative mode. No editing or checking research details. Get the main plot points down, about 40,000 words
           4) Rewrite/Expand adding the polish, research details, DPOV, five senses add more tension/conflict, and end each chapter with a cliff hanger.
           5) Edit for final draft
           6) She keeps three docs pulled up in computer when writing:

              a)Chapter by Chapter summary which she uses to write the first draft, (I have a Scene List doc for each chapter as I write the scenes)
              b) A To-Remember Doc which lists things she needs to keep track of like dates, back story, ancestry, research items
              c) Add-in Doc – lists all the extra ideas that she comes up with while doing other stuff that she wants to add in later
                       (In editing to cut my novel word count, I added a “Cuts” document to paste in all cuts which I may want to use later in blogs.

              Find MaryLu’s other Writing Tips at

D) Prescription for Plotting Notebook by Carolyn M. Greene (Pass it around)
       A fantastic 3-ring binder with 75 pages of worksheets, forms and easy instructions to help plot your novel. Order it from:
           Carolyn Greene, P.O. Box 412, Powhattan, VA 23139 
      Send check or money order for $25 plus $5 for shipping.  Check out her site at
       (I highly recommend this notebook, if still available.)

Three “plots” I worked up for Summer of Deception
The main romance plot between heroine Rachel and hero Luke.

The suspense/mystery subplot of who is smuggling drugs on the Charleston coastline and what really happened to Rachel’s brother declared dead by the DEA.

The spiritual subplot of Luke’s struggle to regain faith and the testing of Rachel’s faith

The Spectrum for Spiritual Plots for Inspirational novels from Ron Benry’s Writing Christian Fiction

    ♦ At the High End: A conversion/redemption scene of a main character, grace in action
    ♦ The Middle Ground: Jesus at work in the lives of one or more characters  
    ♦ At the very least: Show progress in a lead character’s Christian walk or reaffirmed faith.
          OR: Challenge your protagonist’ moral beliefs. Judith Rolfs in a new mystery release by Prism Books, Never Tomorrow, has a scene in which the heroine’s moral belief in chastity is challenged by a character she has begun to think of in a romantic way and the heroine gives a great “No” answer.

My take on all this is: Weave in the spiritual plot through “parable/story style” not preachy style.

Don't miss the next blog(s) when I will share other writing skills I had to gain mastery in: Goals, Motivation and Conflict; MRU's; and How to Show not Tell. 

What has helped you most in plotting or planning your book? Please reply by leaving a comment and click and share this with friends on Twitter and FB.

Blessings on your day,
Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Journey to a Book Contract - Five Important Steps (Part 1)

by Elva Cobb Martin

As some of you might know, I signed my first book contract a few months ago with Prism Book Group, for my inspirational romantic suspense, Summer of Deception. What you may not know, is how long it took to come to a contract. 

Here are what I consider five important steps to that elusive contract. I will be sharing them in detail in future blogs:

1) NEVER Give Up!
2) Hone Your Craft - a big, continuing step
3) Importance of Conferences and Writing Groups
4) Help Other Writers
5) Learn How to Submit to Editors and Agents 

I researched and wrote the first draft of Summer of Deception thirty years ago after attending Yvonne Lehman's first Christian writers conference in Black Mountain. I didn't even have a computer and wrote it on a Selectric typewriter. The next year God called me and my husband into the ministry and I stashed the big box of research and first draft up in my attic for the next twenty years where the typed pages turned yellow. After we retired from full-time ministry, I pulled that box down and began rewriting. After I started submitting it to publishers and agents, it was rejected 26 times. I studied craft, revised and rewrote after every rejection. Finally, after submitting the full ms to a Prism editor I met at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers' Conference in 2015, I received the following email from Prism Editor Susan Baganz:

Dear Elva,
    Paula Mowery met you at Blue Ridge and asked me to look at your ms Summer of Deception. I did and I couldn’t put it down. I loved it!  Attached is a publishing contract that includes eBook, print as well as audio publishing with Prism Book Group.
Susan Baganz, Editor
Prism Book Group

Many may reject your ms, but someone will love it, if you don’t give up. Make up your mind you are committed for however long it takes and whatever it takes to get your book written, polished, sold and marketed or indie published. Carve out praying time, writing time, reading time in your genre and honing your craft time.

And here's a scripture promise for you that I often used to overcome discouragement  Phil. 1:7  “Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus’ Christ.”

Don't miss the next steps in future blogs!

What advice do you have to help someone who feels like giving up on their novel dream? Please leave a comment and share this blog by clicking on the Twitter and FB button below.

Blessings on your day,
Elva Cobb Martin 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Creating a Good Villain and Perfect Setting - Guest blogger

Today I want to share a blog post by a new author friend, Katherine McDermott. I am currently reading her exciting romantic suspense, Hiding. I highly recommend it.

     In creating romantic suspense the "bad guy" is just as important, if not more important, than the hero and heroine. He must be a "real" person with legitimate motives and his own back story; otherwise, you end up writing a melodrama with stock characters like Dudley Do-right and Snidely Whiplash.
     In my suspense romance Hiding, available at, I gave a lot of thought to my stalker, Alex Sinclair. When Alex was a child his father deserted his mother, and Alex has pent up anger over the abandonment. His fascination with knives is symbolic of his father's action in cutting off his family. Alex is insecure and easily becomes jealous. He hates to look foolish in front of other males.
     At first, he is a strong shoulder to lean on, an excellent financial advisor and friend to the heroine, Teresa, who has lost her father after a long struggle with cancer. Her mother died when Teresa was a child, and her father's medical bills have left her almost destitute. Fortunately, she has a college education and rare artistic talent. Alex goes out of his way to help her, even lending her money, but he finds her desire to establish independence threatening. When he strikes her in anger, she flees to Paris with the last of her savings, hoping to leave his over possessiveness behind. But eventually, he tracks her down.
     A "good villain"? Oxymoron? No. In creating a believable monster who genuinely thinks he has been wronged, an author cranks up the suspense. Breath bated, the reader forges ahead as this legitimately off-balanced person commits acts of increasing atrocity. Like the narrator in Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart," who keeps insisting that he is perfectly sane, the reader sees and fears the psychosis.

The Perfect Oubliette (Forgotten Place)

     After creating an intriguing villain, I needed the perfect setting for the climax of Hiding, available at
Having read a fascinating article in National Geographic about the labyrinth of tunnels under Paris that include a sewer and water system, French resistance outposts from WWII, and the ancient and eerie catacombs, I knew I had the perfect oubliette. The French word oubliette means "forgotten place." An on-line tour of the catacombs gave me a realistic vision of the bone yard. When Alex abducts Teresa and takes her there, she realizes with growing horror there is no better place to kill someone. What notice will be taken of one more set of bones among the many?
     Find the perfect oubliette for your novel and think about important setting can be to the story. In "The Fall of the House of Usher" the crumbling mansion represents the decaying family. The house is attacks strangers; it is almost a living being, another character. The crack that widens and causes its ultimate destruction
symbolizes the hereditary thread of insanity that runs through the Usher family which culminates with Roderick and Madeline.
Katherine McDermott was born and raised in Charleston, S.C. She is a retired English teacher and guidance counselor with degrees from the College of Charleston and Citadel. She has articles published in numerous publications and her Hiding ms was a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier Kiss of Death Contest. She has published children's books and co-authored South Carolina Lighthouses.

Connect with Katherine McDermott

I hope you enjoyed this guest blog by Katherine McDermott. How have you created your villain?  Have you found a great setting or "oubliette?" Do leave a comment and share with your friends.

Elva Cobb Martin

President, ACFW-SC Chapter

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crafting Great Dialog by Guest Andrea Merrell

Crafting Great Dialogue

By Andrea Merrell from  

Dialogue can make or break a story—too much, too little, too stilted, or too corny.

When we read, we want to see the characters interacting with each other. Whether they're arguing, sharing secrets, or just getting to know each other, we want the communication to be real and flow in such a way that we get pulled into the story.

As writers, we all have a unique voice. When we create our characters, they will also have a voice. The problem occurs when all of our characters have our voice instead of their own. How boring for our readers if everyone in our story sounds the same.

Tips To Remember When Crafting Dialogue
  • Use believable, down-to-earth dialogue that fits your character.
  • Don’t be afraid to use contractions, since that’s the way most people talk.
  • Be mindful of the setting, especially if it’s historical.
  • Make your words fit the culture.
  • Consider the age of your characters.

Using speaker beats and tags will enhance your dialogue. Let’s look at both.

Speaker Tags
A speaker tag shows the speaker’s name and a speech-related verb (said, asked, shouted). This is generally the best way to show which of your characters is speaking, but sometimes we tend to overuse them. They're not necessary each and every time someone speaks, especially in a long section of dialogue.

Example: “That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said.
                   “Thank you so much,” Beverly replied.
                    “Would you tell me where you got it?” Wendy said.
                   “Sure. It came from Dillard’s,” Beverly answered.

Do you see how annoying that could get?

Note: This is a common error when using speaker tags:  “That’s a pretty scrawny dog,” Jim laughed. Since Jim cannot laugh that comment, the proper way would be: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog.” Jim laughed. Do you see the difference? In the second example, there is a period after the word dog instead of a comma. The problem with this is that the second example now becomes a speaker beat instead of a tag.

Speaker Beats
A speaker beat describes the action that accompanies what the speaker is saying (like the example above). Here is another example:

“I can’t believe you said that to me.” Jessie grabbed her keys and headed for the door.

Note: Just like the speaker tags, don’t overuse beats. Too many will interrupt the flow of dialogue. They're not necessary every time but work well to help set the scene when used correctly. You can also use them at the beginning instead of the end:

Jessie grabbed her keys and headed for the door. “I can’t believe you said that to me.”

Know your characters well and present them in such a way your readers will not forget them.

What secrets can you share about crafting dialogue? We would love to hear your suggestions.

Andrea Merrell

(Photos courtesy of Isolated Images.)


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Interview with Paula Mowery, Acquisitions Editor, Prism Books

Today I am posting a guest blog by Danele Rotharmel and her interview of Paula Mowery, Acquistions Editor for Prism Books. I met Paula at at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers' Conference last May (2015) and pitched my romantic suspense novel, Summer of Deception, to  her. We soon signed a contract and have a 2017 release date. Thought you might like to get to know Paula through this great interview by Danele. --Elva Martin

Paula Mowery #2–Author Interview

Paula Mowery 1
Dear Friends,
It’s my honor to welcome Paula Mowery back to my blog. Paula is such a terrific person. She is a pastor’s wife who interprets her husband’s sermons into sign language for the deaf. I talk with Paula often, and I have to say that she is one of the nicest, sweetest people that I know. I feel very blessed to call her a friend.
Danele: Paula, I’m so glad to have another chance to interview you!
Paula: Danele, thanks for hosting me again. You’ve become a dear friend and sister in Christ, even though we’ve never met in person. You are an inspiration, and it is an honor to visit with you and your readers.
Danele: Thank you! I feel the same about you, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about you! Can you tell us how being a Christian has influenced your writing?
Paula: My writing is a calling from God, thus being a Christian has greatly influenced my writing. I try to be sensitive to God’s leading in the messages and themes revealed in every story I write. Writing is considered a ministry to me. Ultimately, I want all of my words to bring glory to God and at the same time to encourage the reader towards a better relationship with Christ.
Danele: That’s wonderful, Paula! Here’s another question for you—I’ve heard some people say that the Bible isn’t relevant for us today. Can you explain why you think it is important for Christians to read their Bibles?
Paula: The Bible is the living Word of God. That means it isn’t like any other book we might pick up. It speaks to us where we are today, at this very moment. I can give you a little experiment to test this. There is a Proverb chapter for every day of the month. Read the chapter that coincides with the day of the month. (On the 2nd of the month, read chapter 2.) Pray each day that the Lord will show you something from the reading. Somehow mark what stands out to you. Repeat the next month. Here is what this experiment revealed to me. When I returned the second month to read each chapter, a different verse stood out. Often I didn’t remember the verse being in the chapter. Many times the verse I had marked from the month before held little or no meaning now. What does this show? God’s Word is living. It speaks to us specifically every time we read it.
Danele: I love that answer! While we are discussing things, can you tell us why you think it is important for people to go to church?
Paula: Sweet brothers and sisters in Christ, you must follow God’s mandate to keep the Sabbath holy and not forsake the gathering of the saints. In a world as dark as ours, we need a place to gather with other “light-carriers.” We need those moments of fellowshipping with our fellow Christians and spurring each other on. We need the equipping found in Sunday school and discipleship. We need the worship time together as we sing and open God’s Word. Our church attendance also shows the priority we place on God. Let’s face it, our children are watching as well as our co-workers and friends. Your priorities are evidenced in how you spend your time. We need to recognize our church as a gift from God and treat it accordingly.
Danele: That’s so true! Church is such an important part of the Christian walk. Some of my favorite memories were made in church—and some of my funniest ones too. Is there a funny story from church that you can share?
Paula: My husband is a pastor, and I interpret his sermons for the deaf members of our church. I will never forget when he preached a sermon on fears. He proceeded to call out these long names of phobias and then move over next to my stool and say to the congregation, “Let’s see how the interpreter does with these words.”
Danele: Oh, Paula, you just made me giggle! I can just imagine you trying to sign a word like arachibutyrophobia (the fear of peanut butter getting stuck to the roof of your mouth) or hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words).
Paula: It wasn’t the last time he has done something to me like that in the middle of his sermon. The congregation sure gets a kick out of him ribbing me like that.
Danele: I can imagine so!! That’s so funny!! I love to laugh, and I love to smile, but I know that life sometimes has a sad side too. Has God ever delivered you from a time of great sadness?
Paula: When my husband was in his last couple of years of seminary, we decided to start trying to have a baby. We both loved children and had worked with them in various capacities in ministry and secularly. Nothing was happening. Some tests later, my doctor informed me that I had Polycystic Ovarian Disease. She also told me that it would be more difficult for me to conceive but not impossible. Let’s just say I went through a lot of bitterness and depression while trying to have a baby. I had very strong feelings of dislike for those women who accidently ended up pregnant. Through infertility medication, I finally conceived and brought my only daughter into the world. Fast forward to just a couple of years ago. God nudged me to become the devotional leader at our pregnancy center. I questioned God on this one, “Do You remember my feelings? I’m not so sure they aren’t still there.” Well, needless to say, I took on the job. I learned that my feelings toward these women and girls were wrong. They each had a story. And my job was to show them the unconditional love of Christ. This is some of what inspired The Crux of Honor.
Danele: That’s beautiful, Paula. I love how God can turn our hardest trials into points of ministry. Is there anything else that God is speaking to your heart that you would like to share?
Paula: One theme in The Crux of Honor that I hope readers will discover is the unconditional love of God. Some people today have a hard time believing in this kind of love from God because those closest to them have not shown them this love. When a person has a parent who doesn’t display this kind of unconditional love to him or her, that person might doubt that God could love them in this way. In The Crux of Honor the main character struggles with this as well as feeling that there is no way she deserves God’s forgiveness. The very person (her mother) she needed to model these characteristics fails her. I want people to know that God is a God of forgiveness and unconditional love. You can trust Him even when others fail to model His traits. Humans fail but God never does and never will.
Danele: I’m so glad that you brought up your new book. I know it was released just a few days ago, and I’d love for you to tell us more about it. Can you share the back cover blurb and a purchasing link?
Paula: Sure! Chelsea Wilson’s life is a constant reminder of what living dishonorably looks like. At every turn she continues to prove her mother’s shunning must be deserved. Dr. Kevin Alley returns to the old home place to establish his medical practice. After running into Chelsea, he knows his love for her is still strong. Chelsea is ousted from her small rented room when her mother bursts in, proclaiming Chelsea’s pregnancy. Kevin takes Chelsea in, giving her space to live on the upper level of his house. When Chelsea’s baby displays life-threatening symptoms, Chelsea must face her mother. Secrets unfold about Chelsea’s parents. Can Chelsea and Kevin uncover the secrets linked to Amish heritage in time to save the baby? Can the two find love together despite their history? Here’s the Amazon link:
Danele: Before I let you go, can you give us a list of all the books you’ve written?
Paula: The Blessing SeerBe The BlessingForgiven in the Brave New Century anthology, Legacy and LoveLove AgainFor Our Good, and The Crux of Honor.
Danele: Paula, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! It has been such a pleasure speaking with you again.
Paula: Thank you so much for allowing me to share with you and your readers.
 Friends, Paula is a delightful person. She is incredibly kind and warmhearted. If you would like to learn more about her or her books, please follow the link below. I hope you have a wonderful day!
Thank you, Danele and Paula, for this inspiring interview. I am happy to give our blog visitors a link to Danele's blog here. 

Please leave a comment if you enjoyed getting to know Paula Mowery and we would love for you to share this blog on your social media!

Be blessed,
Elva Cobb Martin
Pres., ACFW-SC Chapter


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Google Penalizes Sites that aren’t Mobile Friendly & Other Digital Spring Cleaning

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Time for some digital spring cleaning.
I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in South Carolina spring is definitely here. And with it comes the inevitable urge I have to throw open the windows and get my house back in order.
But this time of year isn’t just a good excuse to shine up my house, it’s also a good time to do some digital spring cleaning. There are some changes on the horizon that we all need to be ready for, and it’s important to freshen up our social media pages on a regular basis.
So let’s get to work!

Item One: Upcoming Google Changes
Take note of upcoming Google changes.
This one’s important, so listen up. As of April 21, 2015, Google will begin penalizing websites and blogs that are not mobile friendly. And it’s not going to be a small penalty either. When someone searches for something—even on a regular computer—if the site isn’t mobile friendly it will show up much lower in the rankings. Here’s a link to Google’s announcement.
If you’re not sure if your site is mobile friendly, you can use the Mobile-Friendly Test that Google has set up.
For those of us with Blogger sites, we’re in good shape. Blogger is owned by Google and was modified to be user friendly several years ago. But for those with other sites, and with self-hosted sites, I recommend you check and see if your site passes the test.
Item Two: Check Your Links
Another thing that can drastically affect your search engine ranking is the presence of broken or dead links on your blog. The negative affects are more pronounced if the links are on one of your main pages. They’re slightly less of an issue if they’re buried within an old blog post.
I recommend taking a few minutes and clicking on every live link on the main page of your site. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s important that these links work. First because of the search engine issue, but also because a dead link irritates and frustrates your audience.
Update any social media changes
Item Three: Update any Social Media Changes
If you’ve added a new network to your list of go-to social media sites, be sure there’s a link to follow/friend you on it.
Item Four: Tidy Up Your Blog’s Sidebar
It’s easy for things to get out of order in your blog’s sidebar. But these gadgets/widgets are vitally important when you’re growing an online presence. Make certain they’re in the order of importance you assign them.
It’s also important to toss any gadgets/widgets that are no longer relevant. Spring cleaning isn’t just about organizing, it’s also about getting rid of the junk that’s accumulated.
Item Five: Give Your Site a Facelift
Spring is a good time to update the overall look of your site. This could be a minor font color change, or a major overhaul. If you’re thinking about making a few changes, I’d say the time is right.
All of these may seem like minor tweaks. But each one can have a major impact if it’s in disarray. Now it’s your turn. What digital spring cleaning tips do you have to share? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!

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 ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.