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Friday, November 21, 2014

When a Warrior is Away for the Holidays

Figure 1
Much as been said and sung about being home for the holidays. However, many of our active-duty service personnel and veterans have been in positions where they end up anywhere but home.

Figure 1: U.S. Soldiers eat a Thanksgiving meal at Forward Operating Base Torkham, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2013.
Figure 2

Especially with our modern volunteer military with a greater proportion of older personnel who have families, being away from their family is difficult any time of the year. Even with keeping in touch using Skype, email and phone, it is no substitute for actually being in the same room with loved ones.

Figure 3
Figure 2: U.S. Army soldiers heap Thanksgiving dinner on their trays at Camp Cobra in Iraq on Nov. 25, 2004. The soldiers are assigned to 30th Brigade Combat Team, a comprised unit made up of over 5000 North Carolina Air National Guard personnel.   
Figure 4

This has always been the case, not only for those serving in modern conflicts, but our warriors serving in the past.

Figure 3:  Thanksgiving cheer distributed for men in service. New York City turned host to the boys in service today and cared for every man in uniform. Ca. 1918. Underwood & Underwood. (War Dept.)

  No matter how much effort is made to make the  holiday festive, for most warriors,  single or married, there is no substitute for being home with family and friends and in familiar surroundings observing their familiar family holiday traditions.

Figure 4:  NATO Training Mission Afghanistan members receive top-notch service on Thanksgiving. 

No matter how much effort is made to provide a quality Thanksgiving feast, it cannot take precedence over operational necessity.
Figure 5
 Figure 5:  ARABIAN SEA (Nov. 26, 2012) Chief petty officers aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) prepare dinner for a postponed Thanksgiving meal. Mobile Bay is deployed with the John C. Stennis Strike Group to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.

For some, even if there is an effort to celebrate
 a holiday in the main compound, those on duty in the field may find themselves eating the usual rations. This was the case for Mike Carpenter, a character in my novel, Family Secrets, when he was in Vietnam in 1967.

Figure 6

Figure 6: Vietnam...."Home is where you dig it" was the sign over the fighting bunker of Private First Class Edward, Private First Class Falls and Private First Class Morgan of the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, during Operation Worth., 1968

Being remembered by those at home can help. It may be too late to mail Thanksgiving wishes to those serving overseas. For sending Christmas greetings, there is still time  to remember those who now serve. Neither I nor Blogger nor Fire Star Press endorse any of the following websites, but if you would like to get some ideas on how you can remember our service men and women serving away from  home, you can start by reviewing the following web pages and then surfing the net for other ideas. Be aware of what policies and procedures have changed since last year:
Figure 7

 Figure 7:  NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan members wait in line outside the Goat Dining Facility on Camp Eggers, Kabul, for dinner on Thanksgiving Day. The Camp Eggers DFACs served a myriad of cuisine to NTM-A service members, contractors and civilians to include ham, turkey, beef, stuffing, potatoes and pies. In addition, patrons were treated to decorations and displays such as ice sculptures, robust cornucopias and hand carved Thanksgiving scenes. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In my novel, Family Secrets, even though Jennie is married to a soldier deployed to Afghanistan, and the novel includes scenes from the year Jennie's Grandpa Mike fought in the Vietnam War, Family Secrets is not a war story. Family Secrets is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day story, although Thanksgiving plays a big role in this novel. Family Secrets is about three generations of a family, their secrets, how they resolve their individual challenges and draw closer together.

Jennie realizes her family is surrounded by secrets. She has her own secret which she keeps from friends and most family members. Her husband who is deployed to Afghanistan wants a divorce because he has fallen in love with someone else. Jennie decides that the key to unlocking her family's secrets and perhaps understanding her husband well enough to help resolve their differences is to get her grandfather, Mike Carpenter, to open up about his earlier life. She goes to a local club, the Golden Oaks Family Ties, to learn how to conduct a successful oral history interview. Here is an excerpt:

“So you’re not afraid of opening Pandora’s Box?” Kaylee asked.
     “I don’t see it as Pandora’s Box. I see it as—well, not like a treasure chest—more like a strong box with important information inside that can be of great value if only I can unlock it.”
     “And your grandpa is the key, no?” said Lupe.
     “No…” Jennie hesitated. “He’s the lock. He’s the one who keeps everyone from talking about it so it stays hidden away.”
     “So, what’s the key?” asked Kaylee.
     “I think it’s more of a case of who is the key?” said Donna.
     The room grew silent as everyone looked at Jennie.
     “I guess I’m hoping I’m the key,” Jennie said. “That’s one of the reasons I decided to come tonight. I need all the help I can get to learn how to help Grandpa Mike open up so he will tell us what happened.”
     Helen clutched her chest and leaned to her far right, her face assuming an expression of mock shock. “And here I thought you came because Donna assured you that we at GOFT are the most wonderful, fascinating, irresistible women you would ever want to meet.”
     “No, Mom, this is serious!”
     “I know,” said a more subdued Helen. “And I do hope you find what you are looking for, Jennie.  I just hope you know that when Donna brought you to the GOFT meeting, you came to the best bunch of supporters in the world.”
     Jennie laughed. “Yes, she did tell me you are great. Although, her husband calls you the ‘goofy ladies’.”
     “We can be that, too,” said Arlene with a laugh. “We have a lot of fun.”    
     “We have enjoyed having you join us tonight,” said Opal.
     “Thanks, and I appreciate all your help. I’m going to study these hand-outs and look up all the online sites so I can be as prepared as possible. Wish me luck on Thanksgiving Day, will you? That is the one holiday my mom’s side of the family always spends together. Even though he sometimes gets quiet and grumpy after dinner, it seems to be Grandpa Mike’s favorite holiday.”
     “Really!” said Kaylee. “I think Christmas is most people’s favorite holiday. I know it’s mine, hands down.”
     “Grandpa Mike says we can visit other sides of the family any other holiday, but Thanksgiving belongs to him. It’s really important to him to spend it with as many of the family as possible. I just hope that since it’s his favorite holiday, he will be in a good mood and agree to talk to me.”
     “We will be pulling for you one hundred percent, Jennie,” assured Sandy. “We can hardly wait until next month when you tell us how things worked out.”
     “Yeah, and find out why he likes Thanksgiving so much while you’re at it,” said Kaylee.
     Jennie opened her mouth, but no sound came out as her breath caught in her throat. She had attended the meeting so she could learn how to conduct oral history interviews. In her mind, this was a one-time event. She did not plan to come to a second GOFT meeting.

For the rest of the story, you can read Family Secrets by purchasing it at Amazon (print and Kindle), Nook from Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You will learn:
  • How Mike Carpenter spent Thanksgiving while fighting in the Vietnam War
  • Why it became important to Mike to spend Thanksgiving each year with his family
  • What happened on Thanksgiving the first year after Mike returned home from Vietnam
  • What happened at Thanksgiving time a few years later after Mike met Jan Reed
  • How Jennie Howell, her husband, Gerald, and her son, Garrett, spent their Thanksgiving
  • What happened after Thanksgiving dinner when Jennie asked her grandpa Mike to tell his life story.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories? What brings out feelings of gratitude for you at Thanksgiving time? After reading this novel, are there any additional reasons you can think of for which you can be grateful this Thanksgiving season?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and please remember those who serve our country at this time.

Robyn Echols writes using the pen name, Zina Abbott. Her novel, Family Secrets, has been published by Fire Star Press and is now available. You can read how a cavalry sergeant stationed at Fort Laramie in 1873 spent his Christmas in my short historical western romance, A Christmas Promise, which was recently published by Prairie Rose Publications.

Pinterest board for FAMILY SECRETS by Zina Abbott

Pinterest board for A CHRISTMAS PROMISE by Zina Abbott

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

FSP -- New Release -- SNOWFLAKES AND TEARDROPS by B.J. Betts -- Giveaway!

 Be sure to leave a way to contact you in your message to enter a drawing. B.J. Betts will be giving away a copy of her new contemporary Christmas romance, Snowflakes and Teardrops.


On a dark and snowy November night, ER nurse, Celina Gray, takes into her home two little girls after they land in the ER with their mother, who has been seriously injured. Little did she know by taking the girls that it would land her under the protective custody of Detective Brad Palmquist. He was there to serve and protect them, but who was going to protect her heart from him?


    The sound of the school bell split the air.
    Celina watched as the two girls walked onto the playground. Despite the bitter weather, they were dressed in flip-flops and shorts. Long, adult hoodies covered their tiny bodies to their knees. Their hands and legs were turning red from the cold.
    As they tried to get into line, Celina heard two girls that stood before them call out, “Ooh get away from us! You’ve got cooties!”
    One by one, they were shoved to the back of the line. The youngest girl started to cry all over again.
    The blare of a car horn had Celina looking into her rearview mirror. The light in front of her had turned green. She flicked on her left turn signal, stepped on the accelerator, and pulled into the intersection. From out of nowhere, a car burst through the intersection at a high rate of speed. Celina slammed on her brakes and fish-tailed. She gripped the steering wheel tightly, fighting for control as she cut a cookie in the middle of the icy street. Her eyes widened in fear and her heart pounded in her chest as the car careened toward her.

Buy Links     B&N Nook     Smashwords

Also available in large print paperback.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pinterest for Writers Tutorial - Part 3: Enhance Your Novel Release Party Using Pinterest

Welcome to the Fire Star Press blog for the third Pinterest Tutorial for Writers - Part 3: Enhance Your Novel Release Party Using Pinterest

If you missed the first two Pinterest tutorials for writers, you may find them by clicking on the following name of the tutorial which will link you to the original post:

1.  Part 1: Set Up Your Accounts, Boards and Start Pinning (Prairie Rose Publications blog)

2.  Part 2: ManageYour Writer’s Boards and Pins (Prairie Rose Publications blog)

Many writers have conducted successful release parties over the years and have a system that works for them. Facebook has proven very effective as a venue for conducting an online release party. Also, blog posts offering descriptions, excerpts, buy links and prizes such as a free copy of the book are another option. I will discuss that more on the last tutorial. Among the options available, whether you are using Facebook, a blog or another form of online promotional communication, is that you can use Pinterest images and links to enhance your book release party. For this tutorial, I am focusing on the release parties often held on Facebook

The value of Pinterest is in the visual appeal or clarification that comes with viewing an image. Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Let those pictures help you sell your written words

I assure you that I am not the one who came up with the idea of creating boards for each novel, and using the pins on a novel board in a release party. I am taking what I've learned from others, adding a few organizational tips of my own and passing it along.

I became sold on this idea after attending a few book release parties on Facebook that I felt were effective because they shared images that related to their books. For example, while reading a particular novel, from the description of one of the dresses, I thought I could visualize that dress in my mind. It didn’t stick in my memory. I later saw the Pinterest pin of the dress on which this description was based. It made the dress more memorable. The author also shared the image of this dress as part of her release party. It sparked interest in the book and the character who wore the gown. I don’t remember all the clothing described in all the many novels I have read recently. But, I remember that dress, the novel it came from and the name of the author because I SAW THE PICTURE OF THE DRESS.

The number of images from Pinterest you use depends on how long your release party...or your portion of a joint promotional event...will last. It also depends on your individual style. It is better to have more images prepared to share than what you think you will want or need. On the day of the release party, you can always pick and choose based on the interest and the flow of attendee comments.

Figure 1
Assuming you are writing fiction, here are some aspects or elements of your novel to keep in mind as you first gather pins on Pinterest and then choose which ones to share with your potential readers at your release party. Select the ones you think will spark the most interest:

1. Setting
Do you have a picture of the locality in which your story takes place? The countryside? A town? A building? A room? Add a Pinterest image along with a brief description. (See Figure 1) You can use the description you added to your pin at the time you pinned it on your public board. Or, you can compose a brief description for your release party and, if you choose, add it to your pin later. As with all your images from Pinterest, you may want to also include a link to your Pinterest novel board so your release party attendees can easily find your pins.
Figure 2

2. Characters - Did you use an image of a person you found on Pinterest on which you based the description of one of your characters? Share it at your release party. If not, how about an item of clothing or a clothing accessory for one of your characters? Share the image along with a brief comment about how or why it relates to your book.(See Figure 2)
Figure 3

3.  Plot
Do you have any Pinterest pins that describe some aspect of the plot or storyline? How about an unfamiliar vehicle, piece of equipment or plant--anything that is involved in moving the story forward? Share the picture, especially if it is unusual, hard to describe or unique in some way. Include a description of how it relates to the storyline of your novel. (See Figure 3)

 Have you written a blog post or other internet article with pictures and research information that support your novel? You can put the link for the article directly into your comments box. Or, after you have pinned that article to Pinterest (directions on how to do that will be included in the next tutorial), you can show the Pinterest pin of the image that corresponds to that blog post along with the link to your Pinterest site. That way, your party attendees know they can always go to your Pinterest novel board to find that blog post. (See Figure 4)
Figure 4

There is also a concept well-known among sales people often expressed as W.I.I.F.M.? That acronym stands for “What’s In It For Me?” Some release party attendees just like to chat, but others hope to get something out of taking the time and making the effort to attend your book release party. Some hope to win a free copy of the featured book or another prize you may offer. Not everyone can win those prizes. However, you can satisfy the WIIFM? desire for everyone who attends by offering something that all attendees may use if they so choose.

To satisfy WIIFM?, some writers add links to special music or a You-Tube video for entertainment. Other writers share recipes either by posting a link to a favorite recipe on an internet site or by copying and pasting one of their own recipes into a comment box.

Another option is to share one of the recipes you have pinned to your novel board on Pinterest, especially if it relates to your book.

Along with the image, you can add the link to your board so party attendees can easily find the pin for the recipe. From there they can click through to the source with the complete recipe. If they choose to not print out or save the recipe to their computer at the time of the party, they know they can always go to your Pinterest board and find it. (See Figure 5)

Figure 5

Figure 6

Same thing with how-to tutorials. Do you possibly have seamstresses, quilters or craftsmen among your party attendees? Offer them a picture of a pin with a DIY (do it yourself) project which has a link to the online location where they can find directions for that project. This is especially effective if the project relates to your novel, such as this tote bag that Jennie in Family Secrets used to carry her digital recorder and questions for an oral interview with her Grandpa Mike. (See Figure 6)



With a little advance planning, you can keep everything organized and accessible the day of your release party.

Figure 7

 1. Set up a folder for your images and script for the release party. I put my release party folder, clearly labeled, on my computer desktop so it was easy to find. (See Figure 7) Once the party was over, I moved it to my My Documents folder. 

Figure 8

2.  Select the Pinterest images you want to use for your release party and put a copy of them in your release party folder. You can also add digital images from your own collection and add them to your Pinterest board after the release party.

Decide on the order in which you want to present them at your party. As part of the image name, put a number in the front so that they are organized in presentation order in your folder. (See Figure 8)

3.  Open a Word document and create a script. Set up your script however it makes sense and is comfortable for you. I set my margins to narrow and made three columns to a page.

For each image you use, type a number on the word document. From your release party folder, insert the thumbnail of the numbered picture that corresponds with the typed number on the script. Next, type a short description for that image. You can use part or all of the description you already added to the pin when you placed it on your Pinterest novel board. Or, you can write up a description and add it to your pin after the party.(See Figure 9)

On the day of the release party, you can add an image to a Facebook comment box and then, from your script, copy and paste the description that goes with it. If you decide on the day of the party to reword your comment, no problem. The script merely gives you something with which to work.

Once you have completed your script, save the Word document to the release party folder so everything stays together.
Figure 9
4.  The day of the release party, Have three things open on your computer before the event starts:
     a.  Facebook - Go to the page on which the event will be held
     b.  The release party folder with the images
     c.  The script on the Word document .

Along with participating in the discussion, responding to questions or “liking” comments, you can keep your release party moving by pulling Pinterest images from your release party folder and descriptions from your script. Based on the flow of response from attendees, use as many or as few images and descriptions as you feel will enhance your event.

In the end, leave a link to the Pinterest board you created for your novel on your release party site, either in a post pinned to the top or in a comment box. Invite your party attendees to follow not only the board for the novel you are promoting, but all of your writing boards. The more your readers see as well as read about your books, the greater the chance they will become enthused about what you have to offer and be motivated to buy your books.

The Fire Star Press imprint of Prairie Rose Publications was created as a publishing company devoted to publishing contemporary, futuristic, paranormal and fantasy works of all lengths. For those who are not familiar with what has already been published by Fire Star Press, we are featuring the eight works currently available in a little post-release presentation. You can click on each title to be directed to the Fire Star Press website for a complete description, an excerpt and purchase links.

THE WISHING TREE by Cheryl Pierson

Will a special tree–a wishing tree–contain enough magic to fulfill all their Christmas desires?


From Vietnam to Afghanistan, how many secrets can one family keep?

WHITE CHRISTMAS by Cheryl Pierson

A firefighter--an ER nurse--and holiday sparks!


A generous demon gets the surprise of his “life” when the human he tries to help on Halloween shows him the meaning of The Darker Side of Goodness.

A HEART FOR A HEART by Cheryl Pierson

Home safe from Iraq only to face a war for his heart.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER by Cheryl Pierson

A gypsy fortune teller predicts a new love with a big surprise for Fireman Gage Ross and Cindy Taylor, two people who have both sworn to remain single ALWAYS AND FOREVER.

SWEET DANGER by Cheryl Pierson

Love and Bullets at First Sight.

CAST AWAY HEART by Sarah J. McNeal

An abandoned piano, rejected. Love and hope....

If you have not already done so, please sign up to follow the Fire Star Press blog in order to be notified of new releases and receive blog posts written by the Fire Star Press publishers and guest authors.

As stated in the beginning, this is number three of four tutorials on how to use Pinterest to help you as a writer. For the last tutorial, we will see you back on the Prairie Rose Publications blog. 

Those tutorials that are past are linked below. Here is the schedule:

1.  Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - Prairie Rose Publications blog

2.  Monday, October 20, 2014 - Prairie Rose Publications blog

3.  Friday, November 7, 2014 - Fire Star Press blog
     Part 3: Enhance Your Novel Release Party Using Pinterest

4.  Monday, November 17, 2014 - Prairie Rose Publications blog
     Part 4: Add Pinterest to Your Blog and Website

Robyn Echols writes using the pen name, Zina Abbott. Her novel, FAMILY SECRETS, has been published by Fire Star Press and is now available. Her short historical western romance, A CHRISTMAS PROMISE, was recently published by Prairie Rose Publications.

Pinterest board for FAMILY SECRETS by Zina Abbott

Pinterest board for A CHRISTMAS PROMISE by Zina Abbott