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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Research, by Mike Gonzales

Wow, we're about halfway through the year, already! Hard to believe. It seems just like yesterday that I was celebrating the release of my second novel, “The Battle of Broken Moon,” but that was back in March.

So far, I feel as if I’ve already packed a year into five months.

Recently, I have been giving thought, just for the purpose of experimentation, to writing outside my chosen genre. All my ideas and concepts always seem to come about, and morph into Sci-fi, and or, Fantasy.

Having an interest in the genre within which you write is, to my mind, paramount. I can’t imagine sitting down to write something for which I have no interest: stamp collecting, and golf, come to mind.

Now, it is not my intent to belittle either philately or the links, they just aren’t my cup of tea.

Regardless of how enthralled an author may be with the tome they are pouring their emotion into, there is always something that author must become more familiar with in order to give the story gravitas. Be it the right way to saddle a horse, the correct lay out of a long forgotten western town, or thrust to weight ratios.

I have learned a great deal in the researches I’ve done in support of my Sci-fi novels.

I’ve learned about new technologies that promise humanity a much faster ability to sail between the planets.

I’ve discovered the “multiverse”, the theory that points to an endless number of universes all around ours, like billions of soap bubbles crowding a child’s birthday party.
The possibility that there is a countless number of me out there, each making a different decision at every question; answer the phone or no, turn right, left, buy that house… each decision spiraling that other me into an entirely new future. It’s called, “string theory.”

I have come to understand that the universe is far stranger, and more complex than the human mind is capable of comprehending.

On a positive note, this means that no matter how outrageous, outlandish, weird, or bizarre an author paints his world, either in deep space, or on planet Earth…he can’t be wrong.

It’s all possible, in string theory.

          At night, as I gaze up into the heavens, I imagine my eyes as super powered light receptors. From beyond the Moon, beyond the Milky Way, past the stars in Orion’s belt, and the great Bootes Void, outside the realm of the visible universe come superluminal communications in data bursts too fast to be detected by poor terrestrial sensors.

Within these communications come stories of great daring, accomplished by individuals who reside on other planes of existence, some as far away as the Hercules Supercluster. Others from entire universes that exist all around us, in the same space, and others deep within a single fleck of dust now sitting atop a long forgotten book in your own library.

As the Bard speaketh, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio — than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


Visit my page, Michael Gonzales, fictionist:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New Release -- MUSIC OF THE HEART -- Giveaway!

Some song titles evoke memories not only of the song, but also of the time…the era…the place. They call for stories all their own, and at Fire Star Press they’ve inspired a new boxed set!

From the 1940’s through the 1980’s, each decade is represented by a song that was made powerhouse-popular during the time.

NEARBY by Tanya Hanson
With a marriage of convenience and an unexpected baby on the way, Stella Klenner fights her feelings for her bridegroom, the brother of her dead G.I. fiancĂ©. But Coast Guard signalman Titus Myers keeps secrets of his own. Two lonely people in war-time wish for “Someone to Watch Over Me”… But can they work through guilt and grief to find new love and their own happy-ever-after?
Kort and Rebekah’s star-crossed love is torn apart by family bigotry. Though Kort’s been away at college, his return immediately kindles the old flame of passion for both of them—and they won’t let anything stop them from wondering what could happen “If I Loved You”… for love is the only thing that can break the bonds of hatred between two small town families.

CRAZY HORSE HIGH by Sara Swann-Barnard
Cynthia Ann Johnson is devastated to leave her California home for a barren Sioux Indian reservation just before her senior prom. When some of the Native high school thugs corner her, she is rescued by heartthrob Danny Silver Sky who risks everything to save her. Romance blossoms between them, and Danny must stand up to those who condemn their relationship—including Cynthia’s father. Can true love happen in “This Magic Moment”—an instant in time that defines everything?

Meladee Lerner is a single mom and struggling songwriter in hiding, escaping a marriage she never wanted. When a snow storm paralyzes the city, she and her young daughter run into Niall Dillon, a handsome, hard-working Pittsburgher with strong Irish roots and plenty of captivating charm. When near-tragedy strikes, Meladee and Niall fall under love’s spell quickly and realize that while they’re together, everything that comes their way will be “Wonderful Tonight”…

Glamorous New York fashion designer, Erica Lime, has a messy life. She can’t cook and has lost her muse—and that elusive promotion is just out of reach. Because of one impulsive decision, she falls for stripper Ken Donovan, aka “The Phantom”, headlining in a nearby strip club. Though she tries to hold her emotions apart, memories of a magical night with The Phantom leave her with one burning thought:“I’m On Fire”… Will she complicate her life with an honest love?

Pull up a chair and settle in for five music-inspired love stories through the decades that will take you down a breathless walk through memory lane…  

Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a free ebook!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

WRITERS’ BLOCK, by Mollie Hunt, CatWriter

One of my most useful writing tips came from an unlikely source in an unlikely place. The place was a mega-Star Trek convention in Las Vegas; the source was William Shatner, known best for his role as Captain Kirk in the short-run but long-lived Star Trek, the 1966 to 1969 original series. 

To be fair, Bill Shatner has written a multitude of  books of his own. Goodreads lists 95 with 61784 ratings at an average of 3.78. He has several sci-fi & sci-fi series (yes, he brought Captain Kirk back to life after his untimely movie death in Star Trek Generations) as well as non-fiction. His most recent are Leonard, memoir about his long-term friendship with Leonard Nimoy, and Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration in Fact and Fable, a subject Mr. Shatner knows and loves. And we mustn’t forget his 1999 classic, Get a Life! where he mocks the Trekkies for not having anything better to do than play Star Trek. (A stance he recently rescinded after setting out on a mission to discern the true meaning of Star Trek and its hold over a legion of devotees. “Though Star Trek’s fandom may be rooted in science-fiction,” he writes, “it revolves, and thrives, around friendship, belonging, love, hope, and understanding.”)


Shatner is no slacker, in fact he’s one of the most driven people I know. He dives into his projects with passion and enthusiasm. He pushes himself to deliver the best he can create. He seeks and learns with every accomplishment. So with 95 books under his belt, (even if a number of those have been co-written) he has to have gained some perspective on the craft. At the convention, on stage with 15,000 Trekkies watching, he proved it. 

The format for the con’s guest stars usually begins with a few minutes of talk and then questions from the audience. Most of the questions for Mr. Shatner have to so with Star Trek and his famous role as Captain Kirk. “What was your favorite episode?” “ Tell us some of the behind-the-scenes anecdotes.” “Why aren’t you in the new movies?” But one young man asked another sort of question: 

“What do you do when you get writer’s block?”

Shatner didn’t hesitate. “When you get writer’s block,” he said, “it’s because you’ve gone wrong somewhere in the story. Go back to the last place that your story worked and start from there.”

Simple. Elegant. True. 

People ask me why I go to Star Trek conventions? I can honestly say that, among other things, it’s to get writing advice from William Shatner.

Next time: A revelation from another Star Trek writer alum, David Gerrold.

Check out more blogs by Mollie Hunt at:


Happy reading!

Friday, May 19, 2017

WHAT'S WITH THE MAP? by Zina Abbott

 What's with the map?

If you are a visual person like me, just about everything. Don't try to describe it to me. Show me on the map.

I have found Google Maps (MapQuest would do about the same thing.) is great. It gives me street maps and topographical maps like the one below. When I am researching an area, I love how you can find out how many miles are between one place and another. Also, it gives the estimated travel time. Since most of my writing today is historical, I switch to walking rather than driving or bus. Sometimes the walking routes are different than taking the main roads, and are more inclined to show how a person may have traveled by horse. 

Larger, regional maps give a sense of where places are located in relation to each other.

This earth map gives a true sense of the mountainous terrain up in the Eastern Sierra-Nevada Mountains, the locality of my current work in progress. No, it will not be a Fire Star Press submission, but one I will submit to Prairie Rose Publications, the parent company.

Here is the map that prompted this blog post. My latest writing takes place to a great extent in Lundy, a defunct gold mining town. There are no current street maps of the area as it was at the time my story takes place--the current fishing resort has one main road going through it. 

I have used this map from the book on Lundy I have as a guide for the first five books. However, this sixth book required more research. I found as I read accounts by local "historians" the "facts" read more like tall tales. Of the secondary characters and names of saloons, there was no consistency. In desperation, after even my timeline of all the information from all my sources didn't solve the mystery, I made a photocopy of the map on which to plot what I gleaned from research books and online newspaper sources.

The photocopied map is pretty beat up by now. It has been dropped and stepped on. Both me and my cat have sat on it more than once, and food has been spilled on it. Yet, in an effort as I write to keep the people and places consistent based on what I figured out was the best scenario, that map is what I keep by my side and refer to often as I finish up my manuscript.

Did I use a map for my Fire Star Press-published book, Family Secrets

You bet. 

I wanted a hypothetical town in the Sacramento, California area as my setting. I knew from being a union steward representing rural letter carriers in many rural post offices in Sacramento County that there was a lot of rural land around Florin road between Elk Grove and Sacramento, and it wasn't far from Consumnes College where I have my heroine, Jennie Graves, taking classes. Still, driving the streets is not the same as getting the big picture on a map. This one shows where my hypothetical city of Golden Oaks fits.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press. For more great images about this book, visit and follow the Family Secrets Pinterest board.

Friday, May 5, 2017


In television jargon, the job is called being a second banana.

I Love Lucy, an old television show still being broadcast somewhere, has Ethel as second banana to Lucy. Ethel participated in most of Lucy’s madcap adventures and often helped the viewer to understand Lucy’s point of view, why Lucy did what she did.

Dr. Watson performed the same function for Sherlock Holmes, which was a good thing because readers wouldn’t have known what Holmes was thinking at any given time without the banter with Watson. 
The process of storytelling hasn’t changed much for writers today. 
A main protagonist needs to bounce ideas off someone. A secondary character can be supportive, define the setting or help progress the story. Going deeply into the plot without an ally is difficult, and even lone wolf detectives have a backup somewhere.

Dashell Hammett’s Sam Spade had his trusty secretary to lean on when his partner was killed. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone had her steadfast neighbor, Henry, to pull her back when she went too far on that proverbial limb. Luke Skywalker had Han Solo to help defeat the Death Star and Harry Potter had Hermione and Ron in his battles with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

Secondary characters can be good or bad. Having a pristine character of any kind is not particularly interesting because humans are not perfect. We all have flaws so the characters we read should have flaws as well. Hans Solo seemed to get on everyone’s nerves, up to a point, until his true blue nature came shining through and he fell for Princess Leia.

While having a secondary character can be fun, don’t write too many. If your readers are flipping back to remember who a character is, you’ve confused them—never a good idea. Be sure your characters have a reason to be there and your story will be the better for it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Long and Short of Things

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. When it comes to my next read, I don't give a thought to it's length. Okay, maybe that's not exactly true. Before diving into a missive the length of those written by Diana Gabaldon or Brent Weeks, I do pause to consider if I'm willing to devote myself to a lengthy read at that point in time. If the answer is no, I just move that book further down my stack until my schedule is a bit more accommodating.

As an author, I know that there are many categories of stories based on length, but your average reader seems to lump books into one of two categories: full-length novels and short stories. I didn't realize until last year that there seems to be a lot of dislike for short stories. A year ago I participated in a collection of short, sweet romances. And, as authors are wont to do, we requested reviews of our collection. While the reviews were primarily positive, most of them started with "I don't usually read/like short stories..."

Short or long I love them all!
When I first moved from the world of fan fiction to original stories I didn't expect to write short stories but I do. And, I don't know why I though that. My favorites of my fan fictions are only 1700 and 4500 words respectively. To me, not all stories are meant to be long. Some stories just give you a peek into a world and I'm okay with that.True, I have read short stories that felt incomplete because they left questions unanswered. But, at the other end of the spectrum, I have read many full-length books that would have been better if they were a few chapters shorter.

So, dear readers, let's chat. Do you love or loathe short stories and why? This inquiring mind wants to know!

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