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Monday, February 29, 2016

#NewRelease -- To Lasso Her Heart (Indigo Springs Book 3) by Nan O'Berry -- #Giveaway!

Troy Malone runs the family's dude ranch in Indigo Springs, where visitors get to experience the thrill of the old west. When Troy goes in search of a publicity company, he gets far more than he bargained for. Seeing Amanda Perry, an old flame from the past, makes him curious—learning that she will be the publicity company’s representative intrigues him even more. When Amanda left town years ago, she broke his heart. Can he take a chance on her turning his world upside down again? Will she make or break his dreams this time around? 

Amanda Perry thought she'd put the past behind her when she’d left Indigo Springs on the run. Now, she has pressure from her boss to put together a promotional campaign for Troy Malone—the man she’s tried for years to forget. Can she battle her own feelings and keep her relationship with Troy all business? The secret she carries could destroy him. But keeping a Malone at arm’s length is next to impossible when one look is all it takes TO LASSO HER HEART. 


    A cold splash of apprehension washed over her. She knew that voice. His deep timbre sent a flood of goose pumps along her arm.
    “She should be here momentarily,” Mr. Fontanna answered. “You’ll find Ms. Perry quite punctual.”
    Squaring her shoulders and shaking off her uncertainty, Amanda pushed the door open and stepped into the room. At the creak of the hinge, Arlo Fontanna stood up and smiled. “Here’s our Ms. Perry now.”
    Fontanna held out a hand issuing her an invitation to join them. “Miss Perry.”
She stepped forward even as the warning bells chimed in the back of her mind. The man to her left rose and began to turn. Amanda recognized the cologne drifting over the air toward her. She stopped.     Her body grew rigid. No, it can’t be. The unspoken words echoed in her mind as he turned around.
    “I’d like for you to meet our new client.” Arlo continued.
    She swallowed as he smiled.
    “Mr. Troy Malone.”
    Dumbfounded, Amanda stared as the biggest mistake in her life raised his hand to greet her.

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a free ebook of TO LASSO HER HEART.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

8 WORDS FOR MURDER, by Mollie Hunt

What mystery writer can avoid murder? Most mysteries involve at least one homicide and often more. Many more! But even if it’s only the one, you can bet that despicable act will be mentioned multiple times. How do we keep from repeating ad nauseam the simple word, murder?

Well, that is the question, isn’t it? The answer seems to be, We don’t. Though there are many synonyms for the act of taking someone’s life, using them in a quotable sentence seems to be another matter. When I perused the web for apt passages, I found very few variations on the standard murder-murdering-murdered murderer.


1. Killing:Killing is not so easy as the innocent believe.”  -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

2. Slay: “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” -William Faulkner

3. Exterminate: “Exterminate!” the Daleks, Doctor Who
4. Extinguish: “Kill me? Lex Luthor? Extinguish the greatest criminal flame of our age? Eradicate the only man on Earth with Superman's address?” -Superman II

5. Slaughter: “I was in the war. I know how to kill. I was over there. I know how to do it. I've done it before. It's no big deal. You just make an adjustment. You convince yourself it's all right. That's all. It's easy. You just slaughter them.”  -Sam Shepard, Curse of the Starving Class


6. Deathwork : “If your work is deathwork, one weapon is not enough, just as a plumber would not answer an urgent service call with a single wrench.”  -Dean Koontz, Brother Odd

7. Dispatch: “And the company shall stone them with stones, and dispatch them with their swords; they shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses with fire.” -The Bible, Ezekiel 23

8. Snuff: “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.” -Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)


So, fellow writers, let’s purge, butcher, and erase our victims; let’s off them, terminate them, take them out; let’s waste them and put them down. Whether homicide, manslaughter, or assassination, there are plenty of words to describe besides tiresome and overused murder.


Check out more blogs by Mollie Hunt at:
Happy reading!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Short Links

Have you ever noticed when you click on a book link on Amazon when you are not signed into your account, the URL, or web address is different than it is when you are signed into your account? That is because after Amazon lists all the pertinent information about your book, it adds on information they use for their own records. As in, TRACKING. In other words, most of us unwittingly leave little bread crumbs that can tell Amazon all kinds of information useful to them.

Was the book purchased as a result of a search? If it was, it will have the information tacked onto the end of the basic URL (web address). Example:  ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1455387641&sr=1-1&keywords=Love%2C+come+to+me

Was the book purchased as a result of you finding it on the author’s Amazon author page? Example:  ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Was the book purchased after you clicked on a widget embedded in a blog post or website page? Example:  ref=as_sl_pc_ss_til?tag=httpliviajwac-20&linkCode=w01&linkId=OMKOSSXT5XEDMDHP&creativeASIN=B01AOVVLZ2

Here is the big picture. The following are the Amazon links for the same book, Love, Come to Me, a boxed set of five novels in which you will find my novel, Family Secrets. First, I need to explain that I order all my books under my real name, Robyn Echols. I have an Amazon account for Zina Abbott, but I do not have billing information set up on it.

  • The first link for the book is from widget on the Fire Star Press release announcement blog dated January 19, 2016. You can reach it by clicking HERE
  • The second link is from a title search while I’m signed into my Zina Abbott account on Amazon.
  • The third link is from a title search while I’m signed into my Robyn Echols account on Amazon.
  • The fourth link is from a title search when I am not signed into any account on Amazon.
  • The last link is from my Zina Abbott Author Page. 
You will notice that everything up through the highlighted letters in green are the same. After that, Amazon’s tracking information begins, including a time and date stamp embedded in the highlighted letters in red.

Let’s take a look at that widget from the Fire Star Press blog: Note how the information after the highlighted green numbers includes more information than on any other link.

Why should we care about that tracking information? One possible concern about the bread crumbs being out there is the Amazon book review “police.” Amazon is cracking down on reviews of our books by those they can identify as close friends or fellow authors. They are also trying to discover who we have sent a book link to in order to solicit a book review. The tracking information gives them another tool for identifying who those people are to us.

As authors, part of our promotional efforts is sharing those links on blog posts, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other media sites. Many of us grab that link when our book first comes out and save it to a Word document. Then, each time we put together a promotional effort, rather than look up the link on Amazon each time, we copy and paste from our Word document. (For more information about putting together online media kits, click HERE.) The only problem with that is, from the information embedded in the full Amazon book link, Amazon can tell if the link being used to purchase the book was a recent book search or one from years and months ago. And, who but the author who, in the minds of the Amazon book review "police," are soliciting book reviews as well as sales, would send a book link with a really old time and date stamp? If that purchaser turns around and does leave a book review, then that old time and date stamp on the book link could trigger Amazon to take a closer look at the review in order to determine if they should accept or delete it.

That whole scenario can be eliminated one of two ways. First, use Bitly shortened links. The one problem (or not…) with them is they are not consistent. I obtained a Bitly link for the five links above for the very same book. Not a one of them is the same. They look like this:

The other big problem with Bitly links is that they degrade over time. The Bitly link may be good for a month or two or three, but a year from now—who knows? Many book promotion sites will not accept Bitly links for that very reason.

There is an alternative. Look at the highlighted number in green on the Amazon links. Notice how on all the links, the information up through that number is basically the same. That number that I changed to green and highlighted is like an ISBN number for the book. It is unique to that book, and will not change as long as the same book is listed on Amazon without a break.
Look at the data after the highlighted numbers in green. That is all tracking information and is not necessary. It may be deleted. Copy and paste the following link into a new browser window and see where it takes you:

About those bitly links. Yes, they sure are handy when it comes to tweets and a host of other sharing. But, you can get away from their unreliability by creating your own shortened Amazon link. Once again, copy and paste this into a new browser window and see where it takes you:

Bitly links are slightly shorter, and you may prefer to use them. However, for only a few characters more, you may wish to save and use your customized shortened Amazon link—without the bread crumbs attached that tells Amazon what date and time and where it came from.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press, and is now included in Love, Come to Me.

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Sweep away those Amazon bread crumbs with SHORT LINKS @ZinaAbbott #FireStarPress

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Happy Mardi Gras!

Since Fat Tuesday was yesterday and today is the beginning of Lent, I wish you a merry belated Mardi Gras and a happy Lent!

New Orleans has always held a special place in my heart, maybe because it is a short trip from Houston and was a frequent destination for me in my youth, and also because I met my husband there, right in the Pat O's courtyard where I was sipping a mint julep in front of the flaming fountain.  I have always found the Crescent City to be especially intriguing and mysterious, with its ancient, moss-dripping trees, its clanging streetcars, and its French and Spanish history - a great place to set a work of fiction.  

The food's not so bad, either.  In fact, I am currently drafting a short story set in New Orleans, so what better inspiration than the Mardi Gras season?

Although NOLA has plenty of events and festivals throughout the year, I think it's safe to say that Mardi Gras is its biggest and most well-known.  Mardi Gras extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day), up until Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday," the day before the start of Lent.  The first Mardi Gras is said to have occurred in 1699 when French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in Louisiana.  They camped about 60 miles away from where New Orleans is now, and dubbed the spot Pointe du Mardi Gras since it was Fat Tuesday when they arrived.

There are not many Mardi Gras celebrations going on out here on the West Coast, but Tom and I like to remember it in our own special ways, usually with a shrimp pie and a King Cake for dessert.

The King Cake takes its name from the three biblical kings, celebrating the Epiphany and the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child.  It is traditional for a plastic baby, representing Jesus, to be baked into the cake.  Whoever gets the piece with the baby inside is supposed to throw the next party or bake the next cake.  This never seems to happen in our house when Tom gets the baby, however.  He usually tries to stuff it into another part of the cake, but he's not fooling anyone!  

When we first moved to San Francisco and Mardi Gras season rolled around, I called several bakeries asking if they carried King Cakes.  None of them knew what I was talking about and one of them even asked me to spell it.  I was forced to take matters into my own hands and make my own.  Since you can find anything on the internet, I found many recipes and settled on an easy one that I can handle as a non-baker.  

This year, we were invaded by a flock of masked ducks who helped us celebrate.  And I added a new tradition to our celebration - King Cake coffee!  

Do you have any special traditions for Mardi Gras or Lent?  Do you plan to give up anything for Lent?  Let me know in the comments!