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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.


  1. Your words:

    "...I write to keep the people and places consistent based on what I figured out was the best scenario..."

    This is my situation exactly, so I feel your map-research agony. That you created your own to deal with it is a necessity that I understand, because at some point, we have to move on and just get the darn story written. *wink*

    In my case, I need a [historically valid] detailed map of the inside of the warehouse where the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre happened in 1929. The building no longer exists, and the drawings and photos I've located don't show what I need for my story. I haven't drawn my rendition of the inside of the warehouse, but I have created a mental image to fit my story.

    Creative license, I suppose. lol

  2. I'm old school I guess, but GPS just doesn't help me with some things like road trips. It's fine for in town driving and I do like the satellite images of buildings so I know when this building is my destination. But I like to unfold a paper map, get out my compass and mile wheel, and find the route I want to take which isn't usually that giant slab of interstate. I, too, like to see the "big picture" of the surrounding area.
    I may be a bit paranoid, but it is worrisome to me that everyone's house has a picture taken of it. So if a person with evil intent finds your address, they will have an easy time locating your house. Just yesterday on the news I learned there is a magnetic GPS locator device that can be placed on an unsuspecting person's car to allow the evil stalker to know the victim's location at all times. Wouldn't it be terrible if the victim sold the car to a friend or by private sale unbeknownst to the perpetrator and that person then became the stalker's victim?
    I enjoyed reading your blog about maps, Zina. All the best to you.