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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Escapism - by Michael E. Gonzales

     One of the definitions of Escapism is: “A mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an escape or dissociation from the perceived boring, arduous, scary, or banal aspects of daily life.”
     Undoubtedly, there is some truth to that, but I believe some of us just enjoy a good story!
The Great Hunt

     Humans have been telling stories to one another for time immemorial. Troglodytes once gathered around the fire in the safety of their caves to relate stories of the day's hunt. I have no doubt that the hunters would oft times exaggerate―and so, fiction was born!
     Likewise, cave drawing, and hieroglyphics painted inside ancient tombs, told stories―stories of the pharaohs’ great victories in war, or of the mass sacrifices the Maya and Aztec made to their various gods.
     The Sumerian ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ was first written down somewhere between 2150–2000 B.C.!
The Epic of Gilgamesh 

     Along came paper, bound together, and books were invented. It really wasn’t until the invention of the printing press that books became available to the masses―well, the masses who could afford them.
     Then, in the 18th century, there began to appear books delving into topics other than religion, science, and poetry. Stories of romance, and then adventure. Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, was published in 1719. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, was written by English author Mary Shelley, and published in 1818.
Frankenstein and his monster

     Then came the grandfather of modern science-fiction, Jules Verne,
Verne's Nautilus

whose stories of great adventure and scientific achievement began in 1862. Of course, he had his contemporaries: Camille Flammarion, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton to name a couple. But no author reached the level of Verne until…H.G. Wells.
HG Wells

     Wells's stories use science fiction devices that both entertain and make points about the society in which he lived. In The Time Machine, published in 1895, the technical details of the machine are quickly glossed over, so that the Time Traveler can tell a story that criticizes the stratification of English society. In The War of the Worlds, published in 1898, the Martians' technology is not explained, as it would have been in a Verne story, and the story is resolved by a deus ex machina, albeit a scientifically explainable one.
     The differences between Verne and Wells highlight a tension that exist in science fiction to this day. The question of whether to present realistic technology, or to focus on characters and ideas. 
Thus, the difference between science fiction, and what is called, hard science fiction.
     An author must decide whether to write an exciting story, and make only a passing reference to science, or write a story that adheres strictly to the science behind the story.
Then the author must decide if his story is going to make an obvious or an underlying didactic point. In our modern age of heightened sensitivities, this can be a very dangerous thing to do, as someone is likely to be offended. This could mean the alienation of a segment of your market, and even result in "bad press" on social media. However, as a wise man once said, “All press is good press.”
     I don’t know that any author attempting to be a futurist can write anything that does not make a political statement. The most benign description of a future culture or civilization can’t help but exclaim the form of government that the author sees surviving the test of time.

     Here, the author must walk a thin line. Should the author, in his/her attempt to be educational and moralistic, be perceived as "preachy" they may very well drive readers away.
     It is, I think, important that fiction―all fiction―should make a statement about the human condition. But to do so too loudly will remove the author’s work from the genre, “escapism.”
     Every author’s work I cited above made a point about humanity. The author entertained us, and left the thinker with something to chew on. The best authors’ stories, and messages, have transcended time.

Look for book III of the Unborn Galaxy series, "Across a Sea of Stars," coming out soon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Release -- THE BABY BARGAIN by Diana Tobin -- Giveaway!

After years of estrangement from her family, Lynn Baxter comes home to Webster, Maine, for her mother’s wedding—but she brings a load of secrets with her. The life she’s planned hasn’t worked out. She’s lost everything—her fiancĂ©, her job, and the law degree she’d left home so eagerly to pursue. As Lynn makes amends with her sister, brother, and mother, she realizes Webster is where she needs to be to heal her heart and her wounded pride.

JC Benjamin is a farmer—and he loves that life. But seeing Lynn again for the first time since high school kindles emotions inside that he thought had died with the pain of divorce—and the departure of his ex-wife! JC wants Lynn just as much as he did all those years ago—but what would an upper crust woman like her see in a farmer? Much to his surprise and delight, Lynn gives him a chance to be the man he’s always wanted her to see…

When Lynn asks JC to give her a child, he bolts, fearing being trapped as his ex tried to do. But a sinister attack by a man from her past changes everything, and JC must face the truth—he can’t live without Lynn Baxter. It’s time for both of them to take a leap of faith after the hurts of their bitter pasts, but can they trust each other enough to find happiness? JC wants so much more from Lynn than what she’s suggested in THE BABY BARGAIN…but will she agree to be his wife, as well? 


     He backed up a half-step. “Put them down, please.” She did as he asked, setting the can on the floor and the brush on top of the can. “Now, step over here.” He backed up another two steps. When Lynn was in front of him, JC wrapped his arms around her and hugged her to his hard body. “You are clever. I can’t believe all the thought and hard work you’ve put into this for me.”
     His praise pleased her even as a worrisome thought flitted through her mind. Was she repeating her Donny mistakes with JC? No. “It’s for me, too. You said you’d share your profits with me and I can sell my cookies. Plus, I can do what I want when not waiting on customers.”
     “All true,” he agreed, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “You’ve got to remember, my mother and ex-wife never wanted anything to do with the stand, the farm, nor my father and me.”
     “Your mother and ex-wife were idiots,” she spit out, then wondered if she’d overstepped the bounds of friendship.
     JC pulled her tighter against him and chuckled. “Keep talking like that and you’ll give me a swelled head.”
     She rubbed her belly against the front of him. “Think I already have.”

Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a free ecopy of THE BABY BARGAIN.


Monday, April 17, 2017

OLD FRIENDS, by Mollie Hunt

Last night I dreamed about old friends. It happens occasionally; at 64, there is more behind me than ahead, and my past covers a lot of ground. This dream was different though. Where usually I get caught up in the color and romance of a life left behind, in this dream I stood back from the misty used-to-bes, then said goodbye. I don’t know what it means. 

I know what prompted the dream, however: a few weeks ago I was contacted through Facebook by someone I haven’t seen for nearly 40 years. I met him when I was 18. The gap between then and now is virtually unfathomable. Still, he was a friend for many years so I confirmed the request without (too much) reservation. 

That was the beginning. As I read through his posts, followed links to other long ago familiar names, I discovered myself immersed in a rabbit hole of memory. Fearsome yet compelling, I moved deeper, touching, tasting, remembering things I hadn’t thought of for a long, long time. 

As I read on, however, the landscape began to change. The golden-lit past morphed into a present I didn’t understand. A new labyrinth emerged: A daughter who had recently died, a son who had taken a dark path, a dear friend who was off the grid and his kids were worried. Trying to read lives from Facebook is like seeing the ocean floor through the rolling layers of the oncoming waves: the words were there, but I could not comprehend the pictures. 

I didn’t pursue it, deciding to wait and let the stories unfold on their own. I’m not ready to embrace this long lost life just yet, so divergent from the one I’ve built for myself, brick by brick. Time to say goodbye to fantasy and greet old friends where they are now.

Maybe that’s why my dream was so mundane, bereft of all the usual passion and nostalgia. I’m 40 years past my beautiful, dramatic youth. I don’t miss it; I’m at home where I am.

Check out more blogs by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer at:

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Behind the Literature II

I previously posted a piece here ( about my discovery that Jack London and Hunter S. Thompson had both once lived in Sonoma County, not far from where I live now.  I was fascinated to imagine these historical literary figures living their lives in some of the same places I now live my own.  What would it be like to run into Jack London at the local saloon, or Hunter S. Thompson at the corner market (or more likely, the local saloon)?  

On that note, I recently found myself in Charleston, SC, for work.  I'm embarrassed to admit that on prior trips there, because of my busy schedule and the time change from California, I rarely got out to see the sights or experience the famous Charleston cuisine.  People would always tell me how lucky I was to have the opportunity to visit Charleston and ask me what I saw and where I ate while I was there.  I never had much to tell them because, due to the free happy hour and snacks offered by my hotel, it was easy to just return to my room in the evening and stay in for the night.  However, I promised myself that I would make myself get out and experience the local culture on this trip.  

Fried oysters at Pearlz Oyster Bar

U.S. Custom House

Purely by happenstance while at work one day, I overheard a colleague recommending to someone a local joint called Poe's Tavern.  I didn't pay much attention until I heard, "Joe's Tavern?"  Then, "No, Poe's.  It's named after Edgar Allan Poe."  That piqued my interest as I have always been a huge fan of Poe, who is credited with creating the mystery genre with his shorty story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."  I put my exceptional Google skills to work and found that Poe's Tavern is located on Sullivan's Island, SC. 

Now, I will tell you that this was a big leap for me, going from staying in my hotel room every night to driving out to an actual island (albeit only about a fifteen or twenty minute drive), but I was up for the challenge.  And how could I go wrong with Siri and Apple Maps leading the way?  So I took a scenic drive across the Arthur Ravenal, Jr., Bridge to the island.

Siri did not disappoint, and I arrived at Poe's Tavern without incident.

But what does Sullivan's Island have to do with Edgar Allan Poe?  Well, aside from having a tavern named after him, Poe, after enlisting in the U.S. Army under an assumed name, Edgar A. Perry, was stationed at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island in 1827 for about a year.  Poe set his short story, "The Gold Bug," about deciphering a secret message leading to Captain Kidd's buried treasure, on Sullivan's Island.  This story is said to have had some influence on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, adding an additional layer of mystique to the place I was visiting.  

Inlaid tile on sidewalk at Poe's Tavern

I ended up sitting outside on the deck of the tavern since the weather was nice.  I was a little disappointed that the place seemed more like a beach dive than a tribute to Poe, not that I'm against a good beach dive.  However, when the menu came, I was delighted to see the burgers named after Poe's stories, like the Amontillado and the Tell-Tale Heart.  

I also wandered inside and saw that there were numerous works of art, such as paintings, prints, and sculptures, depicting Poe and his macabre works covering the walls and much of the other surfaces of the establishment.  Even more interesting was the bathroom, which was wallpapered with pages from vintage Poe books.  You could also hear the spooky narration of one of Poe's stories being broadcast while, er, making use of the facilities.  (See this short YouTube video I found:  I'm not making this up!)

After an enjoyable dinner and a unique experience, I easily navigated back to my hotel.  True to my promise, I got out and about a few more times while in Charleston, but stumbling upon a piece of literary history was my favorite part of the trip.  

Angela Crider Neary is an attorney by day and writer by night. She is an avid mystery reader and especially enjoys reading novels set in interesting locales. She was inspired to write her first mystery novella, Li'l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau: The Case of the Parrots Desaparecidos, by one of her favorite areas in San Francisco, Telegraph Hill. To learn more, visit her on Facebook and Amazon.

Friday, April 7, 2017

To Use a Prologue or Not by Jeanne Harrell

A prologue can be compared somewhat to the opening remarks in a trial. A lawyer faces the jury to explain how he will conduct his part of the trial, what evidence and items of discovery will be admitted. The beginnings of ancient books were important because the author would give some indication of the book’s contents, and define the subject to be discussed.
In today’s novels, prologues are often not used well or at all. Apparently, editors hate them, writers are confused how to use them and readers simply skip ahead to start the novel. In a novel by J.A. Jance, ace crime fiction writer, I found myself impatient with the poor victim’s story in the prologue and hurried on to chapter one to see what the protagonist was up to. Later I felt guilty at my lack of concern and read the prologue because I should. That’s not a good reason to read a prologue.
J.K. Rowling didn’t bother with prologues. It was full-speed ahead into her latest Harry Potter story; she had much to say and wanted to get right with it. Sara Blaedel, Danish crime writer, will use a prologue to set up a story and make you come back later to check certain startling details and say, “Aha! That’s what she meant.”
It seems to be the rule of thumb with prologues to not use one if it’s for: a) a massive information dump or b) if it has nothing to do with the main story. As a mystery and romance writer, the latter in that rule resonates the most with me. The spy novel I’m currently working on has a prologue I questioned from day one. Why did I write it? The scene had actually happened to me, sparking the idea for the book. Does it have anything to do with the plot? No.
There’s my answer, so I cut it.
It’s interesting that writers are turning away from prologues more often than not these days, but movies and television shows use them religiously. Older shows like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote always began with a murder but no suspects. Newer shows like CSI and Law and Order do much of the same. Even a comedy like Trainwreck gives the viewer an idea in the beginning why Amy Schumer’s character is out of control.
So if you’re set on using a prologue, make sure it has relevance. If not, it’s an effort in futility and a possible reason for a reader to put down your book. And that will never do.

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Happy reading from Jeanne Harrell!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Final Chapter

A few months ago I wrote about how my mother's books were more to her than just ink and paper, they were her friends. (Read the post HERE.) That friendship continued through the remainder of her life.

In late January 2017, my mother suffered a mild stroke and was admitted to an in-home Hospice program. Prior to Hospice swapping out my mother's hospital bed, etc., my sister decided to move mother's belongings to a different bedroom so that it would be easier to get a stretcher into the room should it be required. Moving the furniture was easy, moving the books not so much. As my husband and brother-in-law shifted furniture, my sister and I sat on the floor surrounded by piles of books, organizing them by author before putting them back on the bookshelves. It was easy to determine mama'a favorite authors - the piles of their books were the largest. Among the stack of books by Catherine Anderson was a dog-earred copy of Lucky Penny - its pages were falling out and the cover was held on by multiple strips of tape. I suggested that we throw it away. My sister said "Oh no! That's one of mother's favorites - she asks for it frequently." I was kind of surprised because while mama is responsible for introducing me to the writings Catherine Anderson, Lucky Penny was not one of the books that she had ever discussed with me.

Even as mama entered the final days of her life, her books stayed by her side or in her lap - usually The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey, with a few others sprinkled in. One of the last things she asked me for before her power of speech failed was a list of all of my books - she wanted to be sure she had read them all.

The White Dragon was with my mama the last several months of her life.

When we got the call that mama's life was now limited to hours and made the mad dash to be by her side, the much loved copy of Lucky Penny was on the table next to her. As my sister had said she would, mama had asked for it.

When we laid mama to rest, her copies of The White Dragon and Lucky Penny were with her. What better tribute is there to the power of words and books?

Goodbye, mama. I love you. When I see you again, I'll tell you about all of the new books I have written.


When I sat down to write this post, my concept was clear - I knew where I wanted to go. However, execution was much more hit and miss. Words failed me and tears flowed. My mother passed away one year and eight days after my father and right now, I miss her. I miss both of them. This post is a form of catharsis for me. I promise, some day soon I will get back to my humorous, lighter writing style.

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