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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#NewRelease -- THE VIOLIN by Sarah J. McNeal -- #Giveaway!

Leave Sarah a comment below to be entered in a drawing for a free ecopy of her time travel novel, THE VIOLIN.


Genevieve Beaumont is haunted by dreams of a drowning man and her helplessness to save him. She buys a violin at an estate sale, and when she opens the case, her life is changed forever. The pictures she finds inside the case are of the man in her dreams, and the news clippings detail his death--a death she has witnessed countless times.

She travels to the small town where he died, almost 90 years in the past, searching for answers. When she enters the abandoned homestead where John Douglas lived with his parents and younger brother, she steps through the threshold of time. It's 1927 all over again, and she has only days to prevent John's death--if she's able.

THE VIOLIN has brought Genevieve into the past--but to what end? She must make the decision of a lifetime--whether to return to her life in the future, or stay in the past with John--the man she's already fallen in love with. Either way, she must find a way to keep the dream of his death from becoming a reality...


 The man wore canvas trousers, a white cotton shirt with no collar and suspenders. He was fly-fishing in a picturesque scene with steep banks and forests on either side of the river that hurried past rocks and boulders. The water scrubbed his waders, sometimes a few inches below his knees and other times deeper, up to his waist, as the man worked the river using a fishing pole and liquid skill.
 He stood with his back to her. She watched the muscles ripple in his back as he cast his line into the water. The wind ruffled his hair and the sunlight glinted through it. Water gurgled and splashed as it bumped along the rocks and boulders.
 It seemed to be a pleasant scene, but something wasn't quite right.
 Genevieve had a feeling deep in her core, something ominous was about to happen. She tensed. Her heart went into overdrive. Someone screamed. Was it her? The man began to turn, his face almost revealed to her.
 Then, the dream tumbled out of control.
     She couldn't breathe. She found herself under the water, looking up through it into the clear, blue sky. The man's face hovered above the water to peer at her through the surging current. The rippling water distorted his appearance and kept his identity a mystery. He reached toward her as if to help her…and everything went black. 

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Back It Up

Image courtesy of Jeff777BC

This past month, with a manuscript deadline hanging over my head, I experienced one of a writer's worse nightmares. My trusty five year-old computer stopped being trustworthy. 

***It crashed.   ***It froze.   ****More often than not, in order to turn it off so I could restart, I had to press the button to force the "hard" shut down. 

I made two decisions:  
  • First, I started backing up all my files before I completely lost the computer. 
  •  Second, I bought a new computer. 
 I have always been one to back up my computer files. That is the good news. The bad news is that I have a tendency to regularly back up only my working files. After all, those family photos and images I've downloaded from the internet tend to be big files that take a long time to copy and paste to a back-up drive. I don't get to those as often. Then there are the email addresses and the favorites/bookmarks I want to save......

However, with the prospect of the permanent death of my computer staring me in the face, I knew there were a lot of files other than my working files I needed to get backed-up while I still could.

Back-up Considerations
How a person backs up their files is a personal choice. The considerations try to keep in mind are these:
  • the ease of use, therefore, the greater likelihood that I take the time to make back-ups
  • the durability of the back-up media
  • the number of years I will be able to access the back-up media
  • cost
Like Jennie in my novel, Family Secrets, once I developed an interest in family history, I gathered only so much information before I realized the importance of setting up a filing system. The same held true for my digital files on my computer. And, if I didn't want to lose all my hard work, I needed to back it up.

In the early years I backed my files up on 5.25 inch floppies. Then my Windows 95 computer died. Not only did my computer that replaced it not have a 5.25 inch drive, which required me to purchase an external drive, the later version of Windows I purchased did not let me access the old MS-DOS files.

Then for years I backed everything up on 3.5 inch floppies (they were in a hard plastic case, but everyone I knew still called them floppies.) Imagine my surprise when several years later after a couple of computer deaths and a mother board failure, I realized that among the three current computers in my household, only one had a 3.5 inch drive. Everything had gone to CDs by then, and they were no longer selling computers with the floppy drives. So, using that old laptop that, fortunately, also had both a CD drive and two USB ports, I was able to back up everything I wanted to save on the most current media.

At first I heard that CDs are indestructible. If that claim sounds too good to be true, that is because it was. Later claims warned that CDs have about a ten year life. After ten years, it is wise to copy the contents of the CD onto a new CD or another form of media.

Now, many computers have DVD drives that won't work well with CDs. And, what happens when the CD/DVD drives on computers go the way of the 5.25 inch and 3.5 inch floppy drives? I have already chosen one of my daughters and one of my granddaughters to be the family historians after I pass. One of the most important duties to which I have tasked them is to keep our family digital photos and records backed up on the most current media.

Decide on your best back-up options--the ones that will work for you. Right now, I rely more on flash drives (thumb drives, USB drives) and external hard drives. Because I can fill up even the largest flash drive with only a portion of my images, I mostly use two external hard drives. I alternate them and make a point every couple of months to not only back up my working computer files on them, but I also back them up with each other. That way, my data is saved in two places .

Consider the Cloud -- Carefully

Several years ago I started using Dropbox. They offered a small amount of storage space free of charge with the hope that I would pay their fee for more storage space on the "cloud." I loved the ease of transferring files from one computer to another using this program. Also, I could invite others to share individual file folders which made it a lot easier for me to transfer large data files to family and friends rather than using email. The more family and friends I convinced to sign up for Dropbox, the more storage they granted me. 

However, what a free service gives, a free service can take away. I heard the rumor that Dropbox had dropped several files for many of its users. In a panic, I checked my account. Yes, some file folders were gone, but I had them backed up in other places. Fortunately, the files with the family history documents and photos I share with my cousins were still there. I immediately made sure everything the others had contributed were also saved to my hard drive and my back-up drives. I have since decided that until I am ready to PAY for a cloud storage service, I am better off not relying on one.

It took me about two weeks, but I got my back-up media organized (well, fairly organized), my new computer set up, and the files I need now transferred to my new computer's hard drive. I'm back to writing and still chasing that deadline. And, I am making an effort to be more diligent about backing up EVERYTHING in a timely manner.

Robyn Echols writes using the pen name, Zina Abbott. Her novel, Family Secrets, has been published by Fire Star Press and is now available on Amazon HERE and on Barnes & Nobel for Nook HERE

Also available from Prairie Rose Publications:

Big Meadows Valentine, on Amazon Kindle HERE and on Nook HERE . The second novella in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, A Resurrected Heart, is available on Amazon Kindle HERE and on Nook HERE.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

People and the Forest--Gathering Ichnish, A Tribal Tradition. by Jae Hall

Lomatium californicum. Also called Ich-nish
Getting ready for this blog I thought about wide variety of native plants and the stories connected with them.  
Then the warm weather turned cold and my camera came out. Our mountain tops were shrouded in clouds and snow furies. I knew the plant and the story that needed to be shared.

I gather many plants with my family through the year, but spring time is special. It's not only Ich-nish (Ick niche) Season but it's also Coyote Weather, and the Story of Coyote and Coyote Weather is told in my family as it has been told for thousands of years.

In the Shasta Language Lomatium californicum is called Ich-nish.
It's a species of plant related to the carrot and the parsnip which is known by the common names California rock parsnipcelery weed, and California lomatium. This plant is native to California and Oregon, where it is found in low elevation mountains and hills. ( )

Gathering among the Oak trees

As with all wild plants, please know what you are picking and eating. Most plants in the carrot/celery family are extremely toxic. There is no such thing as too much caution. I recommend if you are in Northern California/ Southern Oregon and do decide to gather this plant that you go with someone knowledgeable.

Ichnish is used by several tribes in the Southern Oregon/Northern California area. Some use the root as a part of their traditional medicine and religious ceremonies. It can be used for smudge and many Shasta people use it to protect their homes from evil spirits.

I'll focus on the edible aspects of the plant.
Bags of Ichnish Spring 2015

For most people it is simply a delicious herbal seasoning and only the leaf is used. It is a great addition to common seasonings like pepper and garlic. It tastes somewhere between celery tops and cilantro with a twist. The older the plants the hotter the leaves. I often add it to soups, stews, and any roasted meat. it also spices up deviled eggs, omelets and salads. It grows only in the spring and is only available for a few weeks so gathering and drying enough to last our family for the year is important.

Book By Mary Carpelan

When the late winter gets warm and the Ichnish starts to grow we watch the mountains for the distinct green color of the growing Ichnish. 

I'm going to share a Shasta Legend that has been handed down for many many generations. This story takes place during the 3 days of the spring equinox and the Sun and all the landmarks in this story line up perfectly on a map for those 3 days.

My sister-in-law, Mary Carpelan wrote and illustrated this ancient family story in a children's book called Coyote Fights the Sun (currently out of print) 

I'm using common names for places and please forgive some of the photos. It's hard to get clear pictures without getting power lines, houses and  other modern items in the shots.


The Shasta Legend: Coyote Fights the Sun

Winter was turning to spring and Coyote thought of eating fresh Ichnish. He was foolish and decided that the food they had stored to get through winter was no longer good enough. He had his daughters throw it out.

He looked outside and saw that the skies were clear. Calling his two daughters he told them to go up the mountain (Quartz Hill) and  pick some Ichnish.

His daughters were hungry too. They went up the mountain to gather in the Ichnish patch. It was growing tall and they began to fill their bags quickly so they could get home before dark. The kept their eyes on their work and didn't pay attention to the weather.

They didn't notice that the clouds started coming over the Marble Mountains and came across Quartz Valley.

The storm rolled up the ridges and covered Quartz Hill. Soon there was a terrible storm and several feet of snow covered the hill. Coyote's daughters realized too late that the sun was gone and they were trapped.

 When the storm was over and Coyote was able to climb Quartz Hill he found that his daughters had died in the storm. He was very angry. He blamed the Sun for going away and allowing the storm to take his daughters. He vowed to kill the Sun. He took his bows and arrows and climbed up on Quartz Hill to the Ichnish patch. He waited all night for the Sun to come up, but the Sun came up across Oro Fino over Chapparal Hill!  

Still angry Coyote walked all day and climbed to the top of Chapparal Hill. The next morning the sun came up over Duzel Rock. 
Now Coyote was really mad. The sun was teasing him. He walked all day and climbed to the top of Duzel Rock and waited for the sun to rise. But the sun came up over the Lime Stone Bluffs in Shasta Valley. 
Again he walked all day to the Lime Stone Bluffs. He was determined to kill the Sun.

 The next morning the Sun was now across the valley and came up behind Mount Shasta. Coyote looked down the bluffs and saw a big lake between him and Mt. Shasta. He dove down to swim across and get ready for the next morning. But the lake was really fog. Down he tumbled until he landed on a rocky ridge and was turned to stone. 

Coyote is still standing on the ridge south of Gazelle California.

He waits each morning hoping to get his chance to kill the Sun.

So when Sun shines brightly in February and March we don't go up the mountain to look for Ichnish. We call it Coyote Weather because Coyote is a trickster and the warm weather is not Spring. It is a false Spring that goes away as the late March and early April snowstorms come over the Marble Mountains and cross Quartz Valley to wrap our Ichnish patch on Quartz Hill in cold and ice and snow.

Jae Hall
Find my page and book TimberBeast at "Kelsy is an environmental spy running from her troubles. Fox is an timber faller living his dream. They meet in a forest full of  danger, romance and the Timberbeast." What could possibly go wrong?
On Facebook at
At twitter JaeHall @kelsyfoxx
Find my  PRP Firestar Press novels and Arcadia history books at