Search This Blog

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Changing the World Through Fiction, by Mollie Hunt

Changing the World Through Fiction: Introducing altruism into your writing without using soapbox rhetoric (or putting your reader to sleep.)

As a fiction writer, I create an engaging and entertaining story; as an animal rescue advocate, I raise awareness of our companion animals and the ways we can help them. By introducing characters and situations involved with animal welfare into my cozy cat mysteries, my readers come away with something more than a pleasant read.

Whether it’s LGBT rights, saving the whales, or the beauty of the state of Alaska, if you are passionate about it, you will – and should – show it in your writing. A cause can give your character a more profound persona. Belief is inherent in all of us, and unless you plumb the depths of your characters’ convictions, they may come off as more two-dimensional than you would like.

The hero of my Crazy Cat Lady series, Lynley Cannon, is, like me, a grateful cat shelter volunteer. Through her, I can enlighten, promote, and advise without getting up on a soap box to do it. That’s the trick. Inserting a long commentary about the immorality of declawing or the evil of animal abuse would make my audience disappear faster than a feral cat. A one-sentence thought or insight through the eyes of Lynley is all that is needed to get the point across.

My readers are cat people and often tell me how much they appreciate the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. These are stand-alone notes or tips on cat behavior, health, and lore that impart something useful and interesting. In the same vein, a cooking mystery might be prefaced by favorite or nostalgic recipes, and a novel taking place in the wilds of the Yukon might use Robert Service’s poetry as epigraphs . Not all subjects lend themselves to this type of chapter prefacing, but for those that work, it’s a place to reach out to readers about a specific issue.

I like reading fiction books that get me thinking and help me learn something I didn’t know, but I don’t want it to seem like a lecture. Just the mention that your character is a communist, a hospice volunteer, a blood donor; that she marches in the Pride Parade or joins the beach clean-up every year; that he gives anonymously to the March of Dimes or hosts a fundraiser for his favorite independent candidate is enough to give new insight into a personality. 

What do you love? What do you feel strongly about? What do you think would make the world a better place? Don’t be afraid to let a little of your own passion slip over into your fictional world. You may find it brings in a whole new group of readers, ones with similar sympathies to yours.  

"Writing is a bit like lying - the closer you stick to the truth, the less likely you are to slip up."

Check out more blogs by Mollie Hunt at:

Happy reading!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photo Journal: Yosemite National Park


The president of the United States and his family are flying into my part of the world this evening. They are coming in order to visit Yosemite National Park over the weekend to celebrate the centennial of the Parks Service. I decided to share a few photos--mostly mine I've taken over the years--of Yosemite.

The first family will arrive at Castle Air Base in Merced County, the former Air Force base, which is not that far of a drive from where I live. From there they will go on a whirlwind tour of the park. For security reasons, much of the itinerary is hush-hush. The following images are some of the sites within the park he may see before they jet off to the next park they plan to visit.

If the first family enters by way of Merced on Highway 140, they will travel along the Merced River for much of the way. This river originates high in Yosemite National Park and lends its name to both the county and county seat where I live. This is the spring run-off a few years ago just west of the entrance to the park.

After passing the entry kiosk on Highway 140, any and all vehicles must be able to pass through this rock formation.

If the first family enters the park further south by way of Mariposa Grove on Wawona Road, they will be treated to this view of Bridal Veil Falls and Half Dome from the Tunnel View scenic outlook

Hopefully, if they come this way, the dogwoods may still be in bloom. Most dogwood blossoms I have seen in the past were along Wawona Road and in Yosemite Village itself. This picture was taken in May, so it may already be too late in the year.

If the first family travels Tioga Road leading to Tioga Pass, at one scenic look-out they may be able to see this view of the back of Half Dome.

Hubby and I were on our way home from a hunting trip (he shoots rifles; I shoot cameras) in the Eastern Sierra Nevada in September 2009 when we drove through the mopping up efforts of the Big Meadow fire that affected a large part of the park. The ground was still smouldering and fire trucks and firefighters were still stationed along Tioga Road to keep an eye out for hot spots.

Six years later in 2015, the land is starting to come back. If the first family visits the east part of the park, they may see this region appear something like this.

Here is Half Dome again from Olmstead Point. You cannot believe there is this much granite in the world until you have visited this scenic look-out.

Twist slightly to the left at Olmstead Point, and you will see this.

Tioga Road passes several lakes. Here is Tenaya Lake.

The first family may visit Tuolumne Meadows on the east side of the park. An internet search will help you find images with greener grass. That is what I had hoped to see in May the year this picture was taken. Unfortunately, the meadow still showed the signs of the California drought.

If the first family tours the Yosemite Valley, they may see this view of Lower Yosemite Falls. This was taken in June 2009 before our four year drought in California.

Across from the view above the first family will find the Yosemite church. Throughout the summer, in their assigned time slot, several faiths offer church services to park visitors. My husband and I have had the privilege a few times of assisting in services for our faith in this church.

They may visit Yosemite Village.... 

....and/or the Yosemite Museum

On the eastern edge of Yosemite Valley, if they are up to a one mile hike, the first family may visit Mirror Lake.

One of my favorite places to stop for pictures in all seasons is the Valley View look-out on the north side of the Merced River as we drive towards the 140 park exit. This view of the river and Cathedral Rocks was taken in April 2007, long before our four-year California drought. 

If the first family stops here, they may view several Yosemite landmarks that may be seen from this location. Here they are marked on my photo taken last November.

Here is a better shot of El Capitan.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief photo tour of Yosemite National Park. Although we may not know exactly where in the park the President and his family will visit until it is all over, this may give you an idea where you might find him this weekend--if you are brave or foolish enough to try to get close to him and his entourage.

 Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press. 

In this photo Robyn is standing by her buddy John Muir inside the museum at Yosemite National Park.

Please visit and follow the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

Please Tweet this blog post:

Join with the first family-PHOTO JOURNAL: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK @ZinaAbbott #FireStarPress

Monday, June 6, 2016

Book 2 of The Unborn Galaxy Coming Later this Year

By Michael E. Gonzales

First, let me acknowledge this seventy-second anniversary of the 6th Of June, 1944 — “D-Day”.

I have had the good fortune to meet and talk with Infantrymen, Artillerymen, Paratroopers, and Naval Gunners. I met Coast Guardsmen who drove the Higgin’s boats ashore that morning, and countless other heroes of that nightmarish day.

I have also met and talked with German veterans, and gotten a feel for the horrors they experienced. And I learned of their mindset from before, during, and after they survived the hellish bombardments and the fierce battle.

War truly is all hell, as Sherman said, and thus should be avoided.

That having been said let us all recall the terrible sacrifice suffered by the Americans, Canadians, and British on those blood soaked beaches, on this date those long years ago.


People who know me are quite frankly shocked to learn that my first published book is a work of Science Fiction. Given my own back story and my current position as the curator of a military history museum they were, naturally, perplexed.

“Mike,” I’m frequently asked. “A love story on the Moon, really?”

I try to explain that its actually an adventure. A story of the human condition, an examination of prejudice, and bias. A story of our desire to survive in the face of certain death. It is a story of treachery, and deceit, of irrational belief, and an irrepressible desire for power.

It is the story of the human need for something that will complete us, and bring meaning to our lives.

It is the ancient story of the struggle between good and evil. It is a mirror on our past, a vista of the present, and a window to our future. 

Humanity has always been its own yin and yang; struggling against itself. Good gives rise to evil, and evil feeds off of good. One cannot exist without the other.

In fact, each thrives on the contest. Good would never be rewarded without a victory over evil. With no measure for it — what good is good?

And what would evil be without its eternal foe? Indeed, were there no good in the universe who would recognize evil for what it is?

Of course this eternal combat is at the root of all stories. It is conflict we crave! Who among us would read a story of eternal peace and harmony? Page after endless page of beautiful spring days, birds chirping, and neighbors helping one another hand in hand. Perhaps as they prepare of the long awaited wedding between two beautiful young people in an ideal utopian community?

But — should that spring day be shattered by the grinding cacophony of the treads of a Division of Panzers blitzing toward that pastoral hamlet destroying the wedding and separating the perfect young lovers — well, now we have a story that promises adventure! A young man’s quest to rescue his beloved from the clutches of the jack booted monsters who took her, and to ink out revenge for his village and his people!

Of course, in most cases, the boy gets the girl, or vice versa, the bad guys are defeated — this time, and our heroes ride off into the setting sun. In most cases.

I hope book two of The Unborn Galaxy will keep you riveted, I hope the twists will surprise, and the ending will please.

Book two does not pick up where Dark Moon Rising ended. In fact, it begins two years before the events of Dark Moon. We will follow the unfortunate experience of Sergeant Mathew Strum, who, after escaping from being cut off and surrounded on a tiny island in the Battle of Oceania, becomes one of his unit’s few survivors.

To escape the pain of being one of ‘the few’ he volunteers for duty in the most remote of locations, on the Moon as a member of the LCDD, the Lunar Civil Defense Detachment.

His troubles begin while training for this new mission here on Earth, and finish with a tragedy of Homeric proportions before the culmination of that training.

He returns to the land of the living an entirely new man, only to find himself on the Moon, arriving shortly before the great Moon quake that all but destroys the lunar facility.

Fighting to stabilize the collapsing Moon base, rescuing the survivors, recovering the dead, and organizing the evacuation would seem to be conflict enough, but his troubles are only just starting.

Don’t miss The Battle of Broken Moon, soon to be released by Fire Star Press

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's in a Category?

In an earlier post I wrote about how the need to know my genre led to my discovery that I am a romance author. However, knowing my genre was just the tip of the iceberg.  As authors, we must also categorize our stories within our chosen genres. Why are categories important? Well, if we plan to submit our stories to publishers, we need to know what categories they are looking for and their requirements for each. Submitting an erotic romance to a publisher of inspirational romances is not going to have good outcome.
I don’t know about other genres, but romance has a mind-boggling number of sub-genres.  Not only are the number of categories seemingly never ending (dino erotica anyone?) the lines between them are constantly blurring. In years past, paranormal romances involved vampires, werewolves, ghosts and various other paranormal creatures and was not to be confused with fantasy romance. Fantasy romances generally had a medieval setting and featured magic-wielding characters, dragons, etc.  The lines between the two categories are now completely blurred with many authors using them interchangeably, resulting in much frustration on the part of readers looking for a magical, medieval romance and not one populated with various alpha shape-shifters.
I, for one, have always considered sweet romances and clean romances to be the same thing. My experiences over the last few months have taught me that they are not. It seems that the most widely accepted definition of a sweet romance is one that contains no explicit sex; any sex between the characters takes place behind closed doors. Clean romances, it seems, are those that contain no foul language. This category is made even more difficult by the fact that the definition of foul language is going to vary greatly from person to person.

My short story, Saved by the Belle, was recently published in a collection advertised as “sweet, clean” romances. The collection has received a couple of lower-starred reviews due to the language used. This surprised me. One of the harshest words used in the collection is probably “asshole,” which is used in my story when the hero and heroine are trying to decide how to describe a male diva. While there are swear words that I find vulgar and would never use myself, “asshole” is not one of them. After raising two sons and spending much of my adult life swimming in a sea of testosterone, my profanity tolerance may be a little higher than that of others. Regardless, the “clean romance” label has been removed from the collection; hopefully, this will be less confusing to our target audience.
My novel, Dial V for Vampire, is scheduled for publication by Fire Star Press later this year. I categorize it as a sweet, humorous, paranormal romance. Why did I choose those categories? Well, the story contains no sex (although it is not-so-subtly implied at the end), it is humorous and it contains both vampires and werewolves (although they prefer the term ‘shifter’).
In short, or maybe not so short (my posts tend to be on the longer side) in writing, as in life, it is not possible to please everyone. So we must write the stories that are on our hearts and categorize them as best we can based on our knowledge of the publishing world at that time. If our publisher – or our reviews – reflect that we chose poorly, all we can do is step back, take a deep breath, and try again.
How important are categories to you when choosing your next read? Have you noticed any blurring between categories when searching for new books to try?

Sign up for my newsletter here: