Monday, December 1, 2014

A Christmas Promise Excerpt

If you have not yet purchased my short novelette, A Christmas Promise, here is a story summary:

A sergeant from Fort Laramie plans to muster out of the Army after twenty years in order to go into ranching--and start a family. A new widow, grateful to have work as a housekeeper, struggles to provide Christmas gifts for her two children. An eleven year-old boy, still fiercely loyal to the dead father who neglected him while alive, struggles to learn how to grow to be a man. A younger sister is starved for the attention and affection only a father can give. This heartwarming tale of a bleak Christmas set in 1873 Wyoming tells of the gift of second chances and a promise for a brighter future.

Links for purchasing the book for Kindle, Nook, or from Smashwords (offers a variety of formats) are on the left. Links to my Pinterest board for A Christmas Promise are on the right.

Still want to know more? Here is an excerpt from the book:

     “’Bout time!” Samuel grumbled as he burst through the door. “Do we get our presents now?”

     “No, not until the mornin’, Samuel,” Annie responded in the calm manner she had cultivated over the years from dealing with her wayward husband and disruptive son. “You know that.”

     “Mrs. Clayton was a-sayin’ they open a gift on Christmas Eve,” Samuel countered. “Reckon we outta, too.”

     “That’s not how our family does it Sam. You know that. If we open our gifts tonight, there won’t be anything for Christmas morning.”

     “Figures,” Samuel snorted. “That’s mighty sorry, Ma.”

     “I’m sorry, Samuel, but that’s how it’s a-goin’ to be. I guess we might read the Christmas story from the New Testament,” Annie said in an attempt to steer her son away from his disappointment.   “Reckon it’d be best, what with it being what Christmas is all about, not just a-gettin’ presents.”

     “But we like a-gettin’ presents, Ma,” Arletta piped up.

     “I know, Letta,” Annie remained calm, refusing to allow the frustration she felt worming its way through her insides to erupt in her voice or expression. But we need to remember that it’s because Jesus was born into this world to save us that we celebrate Christmas. And, if you both listen to just a smidgen of the story, I’ve a special treat I’ve saved for you all. But, you gotta wait until we’re done a-readin’. Come around the table, now, and I’ll get the lamp.”

     The three had no sooner settled in their chairs than they heard the sound of boots stomping on the back porch. A knocking on the outside door to the kitchen followed.

     “That Saint Nicholas, Ma?” Arletta asked, her voice full of wonder. Samuel snickered in response. Annie glanced over to Samuel with a warning frown.

     “Too early for him, Letta. Probably one of the hands a-needin’ something from Mr. Clayton. You two wait here while I see who it is.”

What family tradition regarding opening Christmas presents does your family practice?  Please leave a comment below.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas this year with a new year full of promise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Look Where I Stand on Amazon!

Will you folks please bear with me while I share a little bragging rights, here? This is my first published historical western romance novellette and my first published Christmas Story. I am so excited about my standing on Amazon! Thank you, Prairie Rose Publications for publishing this for me.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Christmas Promise

My short 15,000 word novelette, A Christmas Promise, has been out for two weeks now. I am absolutely thrilled with the sales and the favorable response it has received so far.

The only complaint I received from one reviewer is that it was too short. I tend to agree. It was my first attempt in many years to write a shorter piece. Actually, the story of Annie Murdock and her family are part of a series of novels I have planned, but have yet to write. She was developed as a secondary character. Her personality, her situation and her story captivated me from the start. I could not resist plucking this one day out the life of one of my favorite novel characters and using it to feature her. Because of it, I also had the opportunity to develop the personalities and characters of her two children. What fun!

And, then, there is Sergeant Isaiah Jenkins -- not your run of the mill hunky hero by any means, but one you will want to claim for your own.

Although the give-away offer is over, the release announcement plus a story excerpt from my publisher, Prairie Rose Publications, can be found by clicking HERE. Purchase links are on the left sidebar of this blog. A link to my Pinterest board for A Christmas Promise is on the right sidebar.

If you have not already read it, I hope you will enjoy A Christmas Promise.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

FAMILY SECRETS - The day of the Release Party

November 1st is the day I set aside for the release celebration for my novel, Family Secrets. I have been leaving tidbits of information about this story at several online sources recently. But, for today, I decided to tell a little of what prompted me to write Family Secrets.

I love family history research. The problem I encounter when researching my own family or Buck's (my blog name for my husband) is that I easily get engrossed in the history of the time for the locality where our ancestors lived. Then, when I turned from the technical/legal writing of being a union steward to writing fiction, I decided to write about what I know. Why not take that love of history about everyday families and turn it into a book series?

When coming up with an outline for a series of books, I wanted the same young woman and her family to continue from one book to the next, even though the featured ancestors would change. Since I am somewhat familiar with the Sacramento area, I placed Jennie Graves Howell and her family in the hypothetical city of Golden Oaks located in that region north of Elk Grove, east of Florin and south of Sacramento. Thus, the Golden Oaks series was born. 

One of the basic principles of starting family history research is to first gather all the information available from living family members. That includes documents, pictures, artifacts and family stories. For this starting novel, Jennie finds herself pulled into, and then captivated by, researching her own family, starting with her own parents. But, when Jennie starts asking basic questions about full names and relationships, dates and places of births, marriages and deaths, she soon realizes that there is a lot about her family that has been kept secret. Her mother, her maternal grandmother and her great aunt know things about the past that they choose to not talk about. Over time, Jennie realizes that it is her Grandpa Mike who is keeping a secure lock on these secrets.

In an effort to be the key to convincing her grandfather to unlock that strong box of secrecy, Jennie agrees to go with her neighbor, a professional genealogist, to a local group of family enthusiasts. The November topic is conducting oral history interviews. Jennie attends, hoping to learn enough to get Grandpa Mike talking at Thanksgiving Day dinner.

The Golden Oaks Family Ties club, whose members are sometimes called the GOFT or the goofy ladies, will continue to make their presence known throughout the Golden Oaks series of books. To make this group more appealing to a younger reading audience, I deliberately did not set this up as a genealogy club. Although a few genealogists belong, other members, including another young mother like Jennie, share their desire to strengthen family ties through photography, creating scrapbooks, needlework, quilting, story writing and cultural research and sharing.

Although Jennie's mom, Christy, and her maternal grandmother, Jan, play big roles in this story, the real star is Grandpa Mike Carpenter. To develop his character, I drew upon the experiences of two people. Like many former members of the military, Mike went to work for the Post Office as a city carrier once he was released from active duty.  Although I worked as a rural carrier after the Post Office was changed to the United States Postal Service, I was able to draw on what I knew about the organization's history, jargon and operating procedures for his character.

But, it was Buck's experiences in the Vietnam War that make up the lion's share of Mike's story.

The nation did not have an all-volunteer Army in the 1960s. Being a husband and father did not keep Buck from being drafted. He chose to enlist for three years instead of going in as a draftee for two years because he wanted to serve in a specialty of his choice. Like Mike Carpenter in Family Secrets, he chose to be a heavy equipment operator. The pins and badges depicted on the bottom of of the novel cover are Buck's. In Vietnam, like Mike, Buck served in the 84th Construction Engineers battalion stationed near Qui Nhon. He was there at the time of the Tet Offensive. Unlike Mike, Buck continued his career in the engineering construction field both as a laborer and heavy equipment operator, retiring as a crane operator.

Buck took pictures while he was in Vietnam in 1967 to 1968. He had them developed into slides, a  popular photo format during that era. By the time he and I met when we were in our forties, those slides had been stored in hot garages for decades. They were faded or degraded past the point of being viewable. So, although I have a nice of collection of Vietnam War photos on my Pinterest FAMILY SECRETS board, none of them came from Buck.

But, what Buck did still have besides his DD-214, pins and patches was his stories. He shared them with me several times. Unlike Mike in Family Secrets, Buck learned early on that talking about what happened over there helped him get past the nightmares, flashbacks and warped attitudes about life that followed him home from Vietnam. Although fictionalized, with the exception of one incident (although Buck assures me that incident is very realistic), the portions of this novel about the Vietnam War and the return to the United States at the SEATAC airport are Buck's stories. They are based on what he actually experienced.

I sincerely hope you will enjoy reading Family Secrets. Although it is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day story, it tells of Mike's Thanksgiving while in Vietnam. It tells of Jennie's efforts at her family's Thanksgiving dinner to persuade her Grandpa Mike to share his history. When you finish reading this book, you may think of a few more things for which you can be grateful this Thanksgiving season.

If you are on Facebook, please join me on my FAMILY SECRETS page by searching for it by name in the search window or by clicking HERE. Please stop by between 10:00a.m. and 12 noon PDT to participate in the discussion and get in on the drawing for a free digital copy of the book. If you don't make it until later, stop by anyway. I plan to post lots of images and teasers related to Family Secrets, including some recipes, a tote bag tutorial and a link to a great 3 minute You-Tube video about the Vietnam War.

If you don't have a Facebook account, you can still get in on a drawing for two prizes by leaving a comment at the bottom of this blog post. This portion of the release party will run on November 1st from 1:00a.m. to 11:59p.m. PDT. I will take all the names of those who comment on Facebook and add them to everyone who comments on this blog post. One prize will be a free copy of Family Secrets in either digital format from a vendor of your choice (Kindle, Nook or Smashwords) or in print trade paperback. The second prize will be an "any way you read" book bag created by yours truly using a gilded oak leaves design on rusty red in keeping with the Golden Oaks series theme. One large pocket that is quilted on the outside will hold most large e-readers or tablets. The smaller quilted pockets on the other side will hold a small e-reader and/or smartphone. The center will hold one or more good-size print books. And, just so there are no misunderstandings, the book bag prize does not include the e-readers or smartphone shown in the pictures to the right.

Please visit my FAMILY SECRETS board on Pinterest. Click on the Pinterest button in the right sidebar of this blog to reach it. Many of the images towards the top include bits of information about the novel in the description section. And, if you just can't wait to see if you are the winner of the free copy of the book, the buy links are in the sidebar to the left of this blog post.

Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to reading your comments. Please check back Monday, November 3rd in the late afternoon to see if you are one of the winners.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


It has been a busy week due to my novel, FAMILY SECRETS published by Fire Star Press, being released and available for sale yesterday and preparing for the online release party to be held this Saturday, November 1st. But, I have another story being published I need to announce. Who can not like that kind of busy?

I wish to share the beautiful cover for my short story (15,000 words, not quite a novella, but just right for the busy holiday season coming up) titled A Christmas Promise. It is scheduled to be released on November 6th by Prairie Rose Publications.

There are some tidbits about this story:

After twenty years in the cavalry, a sergeant at Fort Laramie plans to muster out of the Army in order to go into ranching--and start a family. A new widow, grateful to have work as a housekeeper, struggles to provide Christmas gifts for her two children. An eleven year-old boy, still fiercely loyal to the dead father who neglected him while alive,endeavors to learn how to grow to be a man. A younger sister is starved for the attention and affection only a father can give. This heartwarming tale of a bleak Christmas set in 1873 Wyoming tells of the gift of second chances and a promise for a brighter future.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Release Day! FAMILY SECRETS is published

Today I am happy to announce that my novel, Family Secrets, is published. It is now available from the following vendors:

1. Amazon for Kindle.

2. Amazon as a print book.

3. Barnes & Noble for Nook.

4. Smashwords, in which the book can be downloaded to your computer or tablet in several formats.

The following is the novel description:

Jennie Graves Howell has a secret, including being thought of as a loyal wife to her husband serving in Afghanistan, a husband who has demanded a divorce.

Jennie’s family do not want her to delve into the past. Grandpa Mike refuses to talk about his experiences in the Vietnam War and the aftermath. He wants the biggest mistake he ever made to remain hidden in the past, including family members Jennie never heard about until hints of their existence begin to seep through the cracks of secrecy.

Her new friends at the Golden Oaks Family Ties club are willing to teach Jennie the skills she needs to unlock her family’s secrets, but is she willing and emotionally strong enough to learn what her family has kept hidden?

The following excerpt tells how Jennie starts her journey of discovery into revealing her family's secrets:

            Jennie chatted with Garrett and her parents through the meal. She waited towards the end to execute her plan, but she knew she better catch her parents before they left the table if she wanted some answers about the family. When she judged it to be just the right moment, she fished the paper with her questions from her jeans pocket. Keeping her tone light and casual, she asked her first question regarding the full, legal names of her grandparents?
            Christy glared at Jennie, a frown creasing her face. “What brought this on?”
          “Oh, I was sharing a table in the library with our neighbor, Mrs. Moore, and we started talking about what she does for a living. I told her I knew your full names, but I also realized that I’m not sure of the first and middle names of my grandparents. So, she helped me put together a list so I could learn more about my family.”
            “What kind of information about the family?” Christy demanded sharply.
            Jennie hesitated as she picked up on the concern in her mother’s voice. She looked up to see her mother’s expression hard and forbidding as a high stone wall. Jennie realized she needed to reassure her of her intentions.
         "You know, like the full, legal names of my grandparents, for starters,” I said. “Grandpa, Grandma, Granddad and Nana are okay when I’m around them, but I know that’s not what is on their birth certificates.”
            Jennie waited, but neither of her parents spoke. In the silence, broken only by Garrett making airplane noises as he swooped his fork over his plate, Jennie noticed that her father was not looking at her. He was intently watching her mother. Something was going on, but Jennie could not guess what it might be.
            “I guess that would be okay,” Jennie’s mom finally said.
            Jennie’s dad was the next to speak. “My father’s full name is John Kevin and the last name is Graves, of course. My mother’s name is Amy Renate Walding.”
            Then Christy told Jennie her parents’ full names, pausing as Jennie carefully recorded them.
         "Okay, I know all their birthdays, but I’m not sure of the years,” Jennie continued. She recorded the birth years of her four grandparents.
            “Okay, where were they all born?” she asked next.
            “Why do you need all this information? What else is on that list of yours, anyway?” Christy demanded.
            Jennie’s senses went on full alert. Her mother was definitely frowning, her voice hostile, her jaw clenched and her body rigid. Jennie looked at her father. His eyes were darting back and forth between her and her mother. At that point, she realized she was somehow touching on a sensitive subject for her mother. What could it possibly be?
            “Just the usual genealogy questions, I guess,” Jennie said. “Names of everyone in the family. Date and place of birth for everyone. Date and place of marriage….”
            “I don’t see any reason for you to be digging into all this,” Her mom cut her off. “This is all in the past. Our family is who we are now, and that is what counts.”
            Jennie felt completely confused as she stared at her mother. Had someone in the family done something wrong that everyone was trying to keep quiet? Jennie did not know what was behind her mother’s reluctance, but she knew she better proceed carefully if she was going to get any more information.
            “Mom, my grandparents are important to me. I just want to find out a little more about them. But, maybe I should just wait and ask them.”
            “No, Jennie, forget it,” Christy ordered her. “I do not want you to ask your grandparents a lot of personal questions like that. I don’t want you saying anything that may hurt someone’s feelings.”
            Jennie blinked, feeling befuddled.
         "I have no intentions of saying anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings,” Jennie said carefully. “I love my grandparents. I would never want to make them unhappy.”
            “I think that is enough for tonight,” Rob cut in kindly. “I know you would never knowingly say or do anything to hurt your family, but some things may be best left alone.”
            “Okay. Sure,” Jennie stammered. Even her father was in on whatever they were trying to keep from her. “But this is the first time I ever suspected we may have some deep, dark secrets in our family.”
            Jennie was sorry as soon as she said it.
            “That’s enough!” her father spoke sharply.
          “There aren’t any deep, dark secrets in our family,” Christy spoke quietly, as she rubbed the sides of her face with both hands. “It’s just….”
          The three all looked at each other in the silence that followed. Even Garrett stopped his playing and looked around the table in confusion.
            Jennie silently folded her paper and put it back into her pocket.
            “I’m sorry, Mom.”

The online release party which will be held on Facebook and this blog is scheduled for Saturday, November 1st. The details are on the blog post before this one, which you can access by clicking HERE. Please join me for more information and a chance to win some prizes.

Also, check out my FAMILY SECRETS Pinterest board. You can access it in the upper right-hand corner of this blog. The pictures will give you more details about the book.

Happy reading and enjoy!

Amazon Kindle & Print          Barnes & Noble Nook          Smashwords

                                               Zina Abbott Books Website

Saturday, October 25, 2014


A lot is happening now that Family Secrets is available for pre-order on both Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

On October 28th, Family Secrets will be released by my publisher, Fire Star Press, an imprint of Prairie Rose Publications. It will be available on Amazon Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and as a trade paperback from Amazon.

I am in the process of updating my Amazon's Author page to show me as Robyn Echols writing as Zina Abbott. I am also updating my Zina Abbott Books website which can be found at I already have my Pinterest board for the novel which you can access from this blog. Now that the time is getting closer, I will be adding more pins to give you more hints about the book.

                   RELEASE PARTY

For those of you on Facebook, I have announced a Family Secrets release party on Saturday, November 1st, which will be held both there and on this blog. The Facebook portion will be an interactive sharing of images, recipes, buy links and, hopefully, feedback and comments from those who attend. If you have not already done so, please search for my Family Secrets page, "Like" it, and come to the party.

The names of all who comment on the Family Secrets Facebook page during the hours of the party will be thrown into Buck's cowboy hat. [In keeping with the Vietnam War theme which makes up a portion of this novel, I should say his steel pot (helmet). However, he left that behind when he got out of the Army. So, we'll use his cowboy hat.] I will pick one winner to be announced the last 5-10 minutes of the party. The winner will receive one digital copy of the novel from the vender of their choice.

For those of you not familiar with Smashwords, it has several file types available for download to your computer. They include epub (used on Nook), mobi (used on Kindle) and several other document formats. From there, you can read it on your computer or upload most of them to your e-reader, tablet or smartphone.

The hours for the portion of the party held on Facebook will be as follows:

Pacific Time Zone:        10:00am-12 noon
Mountain Time Zone:    11:00am-1:00pm
Central Time Zone:        12 noon-2:00pm
Eastern Time Zone:        1:00pm-3:00pm

In case you are wondering what these pictures to the right are, They go with the Zina Abbott Books blog portion of my release party.

The Zina Abbott Books blog portion will be held on Saturday, November 1st from 1:00am to 11:59pm Pacific Time Zone. I hope you will all stop by, read what I post for that day, and leave a comment.

On Monday, November 3rd, I will take all the names of those who comment on my Facebook page between 10:00am PDT and 11:59pm PDT on November 1st AND the names of those who leave a comment on this blog between 1:00am and 11:59pm PDT on November 1st and put those names in Buck's cowboy hat for a drawing. The prizes I'm offering for  this portion are:

1.  One "any way you read" book bag as pictured. (It should be obvious, but for legal-eagle reasons, I need to clarify that the e-readers and cell phone shown in these images are not included.] Since Family Secrets is part of my Golden Oaks series, I chose a fabric design using gilded oak leaves on a rusty red background. The large pocket holds a large reader or most tablets and the shorter pockets hold a small reader and/or a cell phone. The outside of the pockets are padded and I did a rough outline stitch around part of the design. 

2.  I will give away either a digital copy from the vendor of your choice or an autographed copy of the book in trade paperback format. (You will need to wait a couple of weeks for the print version.)

The following is a quick overview of Family Secrets:

In many ways, Family Secrets is three stories in one.

Even though Jennie is married to a soldier deployed to Afghanistan, and the novel includes scenes from the year Jennie's Grandpa Mike fought in the Vietnam War, Family Secrets is not a war story.

With the exception of one, the chapters dealing with the Vietnam War and the return to the SEATAC airport are loosely based on Buck's (my husband) experiences during his year in Vietnam. It is his pins and patches that are depicted on the red storyboard on the bottom of the novel cover.

Family Secrets is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day story, although Thanksgiving plays a big role in this novel. Not only do we learn of Mike's Thanksgiving experience in Vietnam, but, thanks to Jennie's prodding, over forty years after his return, he shares the reason it is important to him to celebrate this particular holiday surrounded by his family each year.

Family Secrets is about three generations of a family, their secrets, how they resolve their individual challenges and draw closer together.