Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thanks for Reading How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Thanks to all who read my blog post on how I spent my summer vacation. The contest is now closed and the winners have  been notified by email.

Friday, August 29, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation


This blog is part of a blog hop sponsored by Christina Cole Romance. I hope you enjoy reading my post as well as those by others participating in the hop. Check out the end of my post for details on special offers.

 Lesson 1 on how to annoy the husband: Buck decided last year that he wanted to save up to go to Mount Rushmore. He wanted to see the presidents. I was all for that idea. What he had not planned on was me turning this vacation into the kid and grandkid tour which added miles of travel and dollars of expense. But, in the end, even he agreed it was one of our best decisions ever.

Lesson 2 on how to annoy the husband: I set up a travel itinerary where we travel 5 to 8 hours almost every day in order to get everywhere we plan to go when we need to be there. The first day, we ended up traveling 13 hours. Excluding the fast and furious trip to take the granddaughter back home to Arkansas after she spent over a week visiting family out west, we traveled a total of 5,588 miles in 18 days. For most of those miles we pulled a trailer, which slows ya down, let me tell ya.
 We started by meandering east through Arizona to spend a little time in some towns that I wanted to see off the beaten I-40 path. We toured the first governor’s “mansion” and Pioneer Museum in Prescott, Arizona. Due to tire problems (over the course of the trip across Arizona and New Mexico, we replaced all four tires on the trailer) we did not have enough time to see Fort Whipple. A future trip....I will be the first to admit that we should have left three days earlier.

Lesson 3 on how to annoy the husband: From there we traveled to Las Vegas, New Mexico. There is a lot of history in that little city. Many of the outlaws and lawmen back in the 19th century managed to make their way to this area for a time, many of them staying in the Plaza Hotel. I thought I was doing so good setting up this itinerary so we would have time to see everything. Unfortunately, the museum was closed the day we were there. We are already planning another trip back. (Oh, darn! He-he....)

 We picked up one of my sons and a granddaughter in Arkansas, and then we headed north towards South Dakota. Driving through Kansas City, Missouri evening rush hour traffic to get to our campground was not one of the highlights of the trip, but touring the Steamboat Museum with all the artifacts from the Steamboat Arabia which sank in the Missouri river in 1856 was. This was the second time I have been to the museum and it was a “must see” on our itinerary. I don’t have my pictures of some of the exhibits posted yet, but if you want to catch them when I do, please go to my “Trails and Rails” blog at trailsrails.blogspot.com and sign up to follow it by email.

We crossed South Dakota and stayed three nights in Custer Gulch, the same area where George Armstrong Custer stayed with the Expeditionary Force in 1874 to determine if there was gold in the Black Hills. This did not make the Sioux happy since this land had been given to them as a reservation. But, we all know how well the white man was about keeping his treaties and promises with the native tribes back in the day.....

From there, we toured the Black Hills region starting with Buck’s initial vacation objective, Mount Rushmore. It definitely was a “must see.”
 After buying T-shirts for everyone, we worked our way up to Deadwood. That is another place with plenty to see. Unfortunately, it was late enough in the day that we missed some of the museums. But, we did get to see Mt. Moriah, the cemetery where “Wild Bill” Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.
 Lesson 4 on how to annoy the husband:  Day two in the Black Hills, we started south to Hot Springs to see the Mammoth Dig. While driving through town, I saw a sign with directions to the Hot Springs Pioneer Museum. So, after tromping around the mammoth dig and museum (more T-shirts), I convinced him we need to see this museum.
 The Hot Springs, South Dakota museum has one of the best collection of artifacts I have ever seen in a small, local museum, including great displays of antique quilts, weavings and sewing machines. I already have the quilt collection posted on my quilt blog which you can see here. While you are visiting that blog, please sign up to receive it by email so you can see the other pictures when they get posted.
 From there we went to the Custer, South Dakota 1881 Courthouse Museum, named that because, in 1881, it served as the courthouse for Custer County. It also had a small quilt collection which you can see here. One room was dedicated to images and information about the 1874 Black Hills Expedition which will be posted in the future on my Trails and Rails blog .

 Lesson 5 on how to annoy the husband: I waited until we had started the eight hour trip from the Black Hills on our way to the Denver area. Somewhere in the middle of the almost uninhabited wilds of the Wyoming prairie, I perused the map and excitedly declared, “Oh look! With just a little 20-30 mile detour off the beaten path, we can go see Fort Laramie!"

Now, I know that Fort Laramie is in the middle of nowhere as far as modern highways go, but back in the day--meaning the 1840s through the 1860s--it was THE stopping place along the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails.

So, we crossed the South Platte River, spent two and a half hours touring the fort, which put us getting into Denver late--rush hour traffic, again--but, hey! We got to see Fort Laramie!

In the Denver area, we visited with family. It was a great reunion with three of my sons and families. We stayed in Cherry Creek State Park, which is a wetlands area and reservoir set in the middle of the metropolitan Denver area. While hiking part of the park, it was hard to remember we were surrounded by big cities.

It was here that we put my son on a bus to travel back to his home since he needed to return to his job. That was part of the reason for our fast and furious travel itinerary--we wanted to allow him to see as much as possible in the week of vacation he had available.

 Buck, our granddaughter and I traveled on to northern Utah. On the way we stopped in Laramie, Wyoming so we could see--what else?--the Wyoming Historical Territorial Prison. Buck bought a hat and his “The original bed and breakfast" T-shirt there.

This prison housed several noteworthy inmates back in the day including Butch Cassidy. This photo of him is his mug shot.

  In the Ogden area, we toured the Union Station museum with its collection of classic cars, Browning gun collection and the Transcontinental Railroad display. In the 1800s, Ogden was the closest big city to Promontory Point, the place where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads were joined at the Golden Spike ceremony which marked the beginning of the Transcontinental Railroad. 
We also spent a few hours at the Eccles Dinosaur Park, one of my granddaughter’s favorite places to tour (more T-shirts).

 Lesson 6 on how to annoy the husband: I probably took over 2,000 pictures on this trip. However, in the process of downloading them to the computer, I managed to delete 200-300 of them, including the ones we took at Promontory Point with Buck standing next to the Comet and the Jupiter. We will have to go back again, maybe around May 10th when they have their reenactment of the Golden Spike ceremony, but we will not be able to restore those lost pictures which included our granddaughter.

After leaving the Ogden area, we traveled south to drop the granddaughter off to visit her other grandpa and grandma in southern Utah. On the way we stopped at Cove Fort which was built out in the middle of nowhere in central Utah. Once again, most of my good pictures of the fort were lost. I only have a few I took with my cell camera.

After touring Zion’s National Park (those pictures, including the one of the mountain goats Buck wanted for his tablet wallpaper, were among the lost), we headed home. I like taking pictures of the Southwest desert when I run across a distinctive land feature. I particularly like to take pictures of trains, because oftentimes there isn’t much else of interest to look at. This train happens to be in Barstow, California, which meant, in a relative sort of way, we were almost home.

Lesson 7 on how to annoy the husband: At the beginning of the vacation, Buck laid down the law. NO WRITING WHILE WE ARE ON VACATION! Okay, I didn’t write. But I fixed him good. Not only did I take pictures and research many historical museums, I bought over $700 worth of research books.

My historical western novels are not out yet, but you might enjoy my two New Adult novels which, include not only time travel, but also include historical settings as part of the plot.

You can purchase the first book in the Aurora Series, AuroraRescue, at Amazon by clicking here.

You can purchase it from Barnes & Noble for Nook by clicking here.

Or, you can purchase it in print from Barnes & Nobel by clicking here.

The second book in the Aurora Series, AuroraRedress, you can purchase from Amazon for Kindle by clicking here

 You can purchase it from Barnes & Noble for Nook by clicking here.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief summary of how I spent my vacation, not to mention my tutorial on how to annoy a husband.

As part of this blog hop, the sponsor, Christina Cole Romance, has a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card. For a chance to win this prize, please click here.

You can read the other blog posts and increase your chance to win some prizes by clicking here and going to her blog. Follow the links to the other blogs participating in this hop.

In addition, to thank you for reading about my vacation adventures, I am offering a $10 Amazon gift card and a $5 dollar Target gift card. To qualify for my drawing, please do the following:

1.  Sign up to receive future posts to this blog by email.
2.  Write a response to this post in the comments section below.

This "How I Spent My Vacation" hop contest is open from August 29 through August 31. I will throw all the names from the posts made during those dates in Buck’s cowboy hat and draw the winners. I will post the winners of my drawing on the evening of September 1st (after I get back from another quick trip to the mountains), so check back on Tuesday, September 2nd. If you are one of my winners, I will give you instructions on how you can send me your contact information in order to receive your prize.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Two Cents on Kindle Unlimited

As an author as well as a reader, I received two notices on the new Kindle Unlimited program Amazon has started—one for each side of the coin. Here is my two cents which may not be worth a plug nickel.

For the author, the benefits promoted include:

  1. All books enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited. 
  2. KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book (the first time only)-–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books-–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. 
  3. KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. 
  4. Amazon has added $800,000 to the pay-out fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.

For the reader, the benefits include:

  1.  Readers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited may choose from a library of over 600,000 titles.
  2. Unlimited free reading and unlimited listening on any Amazon compatible device. 
  3. Right now, the first 30 days is free and the monthly fee thereafter is $9.99. But, if you don’t continue the plan, what you have downloaded will be removed from your account. 
  4. It boasts “Popular titles” as well as what they recommend for the reader based on past purchases. They featured a bunch of glitzy books from big-name authors--you know, the same 50 you see when you go to a book store.

Here is where I found information lacking:  Can you download more than one title at a time? Or, do you need to wait until you finish and send back a title you are reading (or started, but decided it wasn’t worth finishing) before you can download another title?

And—tah-dah! Here is my two cents.

  1. As an author, how do I know what I will earn from my books as part of this program? The July fund may be $2 million, but if Amazon giveth, it can also taketh away. Right now, if I sell a book for $2.99, I know I’m going to earn 70% of the sale. Under this vague “monthly fund” plan, I don’t know if I would get $2.00 or $.20 or two cents per book read. 
  2. It appears to me that Amazon is pushing the big-name books and authors to attract readers to this plan. This plan looks like it will mainly benefit the major publishers who are selling the Kindle versions of their books for anywhere from $6.00 to $12.00 and who maybe don't like to be passed over by readers who resist paying more than one to three dollars for a book. There are a lot more good writers out there than what agents can represent and big publishers can accept. I have a feeling that we lesser-known authors who are either self-published or with small publishers will find ourselves having a harder time attracting readers for our books under this program. 
  3. Anyone who enrolls their books in the KDP Select plan, and, now by extension,  Kindle Unlimited, is not allowed to offer their books through any other venders. Once in, contractually Amazon owns and controls lock, stock and barrel. In the past, I have enrolled my digital books in the KDP Select plan. Other than making it easy to set up a discount campaign to attract buyers, I can’t see where it did me that much good. On the other hand, my Nook readers were not happy that they had to wait 90 days for me to quit the plan before I could offer my book through Barnes & Noble.
  4. Yet, if I don't cut out my Nook readers and enroll in this program, Kindle Unlimited readers will pass over my books rather than buy them on top of the monthly fee. After all, with over 600,000 titles to choose from, why should they go out of their way to buy my book?

The jury is still out, but at this point, as an author, I’m not favorably impressed with the Kindle Unlimited plan. As a reader, it would depend on whether or not I could download AND KEEP on my Kindle the titles I want to read until I actually have time to get around to reading them. I don’t like thinking I have a particular book only to find out it has “mysteriously disappeared.”

What are your thoughts on the new Kindle Unlimited plan? Do you also have your reservations? Or, do you think it will be a boon for writers and readers alike?

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Banner Is On This Side of the Moon

How do you like my new banner?

I have been busy today. With the publication of my very short book of humorous short-short stories titled This Side of the Moon: With Mom & Walt, I have updated my website, which can be found at:

After adding some images to the website to make it more visually appealing, I decided to do something about the banners for this website, Robyn Echols Books, and for my Trails & Rails (click on the tab at the top of the page to go to that blog.)

Since I state in my author biography that my husband and I live near the "gateway to Yosemite," I think it only fitting that I use images we have taken while visiting that wonder place. This was taken a year ago in April. Notice how much water there is in the waterfall.

About This Side of the Moon ~~ This collection of short-short stories was written about 20-25 years ago as a tribute to my mother and stepfather, Walt, after they had both passed away. Here is what they are about:

Originally written as "Mom and Walt Stories," this collection of humorous short-shorts is about the interactions between the author's mother and stepfather in the 1960s and 1970s. The couple married when the author was sixteen. "Mom" was a stay-at-home mother and very down-to-earth. Walt worked as an instructor for NASA at the height of space exploration. These stories are told from the author's point-of-view during the ten years following the marriage. The stories, although infused with a certain amount of literary license, are based on true events. In other words, who could make this stuff up?

And, yes, the cover design is mine. And, no, I'm not an artist. That yellow background is all about having fun with the photo editing program. I had a devil of a time finding the right flag for the moon (yes, that is the earth and the moon on there), so this last vacation I took scads of photos of flags waving in a stiff breeze ~~ just in case for next time. The cover won't win any prizes at the county fair or anyplace else, but hopefully it is eye-catching.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

New Nom de Plume - Zina Abbott

I have taken the big plunge -- or plume, as the case may be. I have decided to write my historical novels under the pen name, or nom de plume of

Zina Abbott

For more details on why I made this decision, please visit my Zina Abbott Books blog:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Aurora Redress Now on Nook

Aurora Redress is now available on Nook. I have it on special for $0.99 through May 30th. After that, it go back to its usual price of $2.99, still a bargain. Here's the link:

For you Kindle readers, Aurora Redress is also available for $0.99 through May 30th.

This novel is a Young Adult/Crossover, what some writers and publishers call a New Adult book. Two people from the year 2024 find themselves back in western Maryland in 1859, the year of one of the biggest aurora borealis events in history. Click on the  AURORA RESCUE tab above for more details about this book which is the second in a series.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Submitted The Fourteenth Quilt

I finally finished the edits, wrote my query letter and chapter synopsis and submitted my novel, The Fourteenth Quilt, to a publisher for consideration. Now I need to wait 12 weeks to see if they are interested. Here is a picture of the real fourteenth quilt
I also updated my website at www.robynechols.com.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Musings About Genres-Part 1

I have been studying my craft by reading within what I think is my genre, HISTORICAL WESTERN ROMANCE. The novel I'm working on is HISTORICAL. It is set in the WEST (okay, what was the West in the 1870s--Abilene, Kansas, plus part of it is in Indiana). And, it is a ROMANCE. But, I am not sure it fits in the HISTORICAL WESTERN ROMANCE genre.

It is important for an author to categorize his or her work correctly. People have certain expectations about their genres of choice. I recently learned of an author who was slammed on a bunch of reader reviews because her novel was billed as "inspirational." Several readers, I believe, interpreted that to mean it was a "Christian" novel. They indicated in some of the negative reviews that they gave the book low marks because they did not feel the book fit in the Christian genre. I don't think it fit in that genre either. However, it was a good novel with some interesting plot and character development. The lesson I learned from seeing that happen was this:

Be careful how I bill my novel because book reviewers can be vicious with their feedback if they think I have listed my book in the wrong genre.

I know that there are really only about 24 different basic plots. I think I have a list of them somewhere. No matter in what genre we writers write--contemporary romance, action-adventure, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, etc.--our stories will fit in one of those plot selections. What makes each story different and worth reading are the details. Oh, yes, the skill of the author plays a big role, too.

My novel is definitely not a mail order bride romance. I've read several of those lately. They are starting to run together in my head. The names and places are changed, but, with only a few exceptions, the plots are getting a tad too cookie cutter for me. Time for me to read something different.

Other examples of that genre I've read lately have pretty simple plots and are like pulling petals off of a daisy: Does he love me? Does he not? Does he love me? You get the point. I don't like it when that seems to be the beginning and end of the plot "conflict." 

Some of these novels read like they've been dashed off on the computer pretty quickly. I know about the "write your novel in 30 days" principle, but that is not me. Besides all the editing I do as I go, it takes me days, sometimes weeks, to do my research, set up my timelines or calendars and write up my character descriptions before I really get into writing my story. Thank goodness, I don't have much of a problem with writer's block.

Yes, my little contemporary Christmas feel-good novel I recently finished is only about 51,000 words. But, I get nervous when I consider reading a genre novel with stats that show well under 200 pages or 55,000 words. Some of the historical Western romance genre books I have been reading are not very long. That tells me the plot must be pretty simple if the story can be told in that few words. On the other hand, I'm worried my novel is going to be well over 85,000 words and maybe pushing 100,000 words. So, does my novel "fit" in this genre?

I've read some comments by historical writers to the effect that they don't like the history to get in the way of their story. I think on the other end of the scale. The main reason I like to read historical novels is to get a feel for the history, attitudes and the conditions in which the people of that place, time and society lived. To my way of thinking, if an author is not going to do the research and try to as accurately as possible bring in the history and social customs and conditions of a time and place, why not write that same story in a contemporary setting?

Maybe part of my problem is that I like to be educated as well as entertained when I read historical novels. I think a historical novel, especially, needs a little more setting development to give it substance for readers who may not be history experts. Maybe I'm over thinking things for this genre.

Okay, most blog readers, including myself, tend to have short attention spans and/or time restrictions. I will continue my musings in a future post.