Great Summer Reads 2020 Countdown Blitz Day 14!
My name is Robyn Echols. Zina Abbott is the pen name I use for my American historical romance novels. I’m a member of Women Writing the West and Western Writers of America, and American Night Writers Association. I currently live with my husband in California’s central valley near the “Gateway to Yosemite.”
I love to read, quilt, work with digital images on my photo editing program, and work on my own family history.
I am a blogger. In addition to my own blog, I blog for several group blogs including the Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog, which I started and administer.
Roslyn Welsh is sent by stagecoach to Junction City to marry a man with whom her aunt and guardian, without Roslyn’s knowledge, had been corresponding. His requirements for a wife were that she must be at least twenty-one years of age with a family Bible for proof, and she must have no children. Only, Roslyn is not quite twenty-one, she has a baby, and her aunt has no intention of sending the family Bible with her. The marriage prospect turns into a disaster. Stuck in a strange town with no money, she is told there is no work for a decent woman with a baby. To allow herself time to figure what to do with her future, Roslyn accepts an offer to ride the stagecoach to the Ellsworth B.O.D. Stagecoach station to help the stationmaster’s wife.
Elam Stewart survived the American Civil War, but his left leg from above the knee down did not. With no home to return to and realizing there are very few people willing to hire a man with only one good leg, he’s convinced he has no future. While working as a day laborer in the local Junction City livery, he becomes intrigued by a visitor named Ross who is anxious to spend time with the horses. Elam discovers Ross’s secret. Then he learns where Ross intends to seek work. Even though he does not have a future, he does have a Spencer repeating rifle. He can have a purpose.
Roslyn and Elam ride the same stagecoach to the Ellsworth Station on the Kansas frontier. Between resentments among the stock tenders, difficulties with animals that pass through the station, and the threat of attacks by the Cheyenne Native Americans, is there a future for Roslyn and Elam at the station? Or will their future take them on another stagecoach ride away from Ellsworth?
Please look for my other two books in the Widows, Brides & Secret Babies series, Mail Order Lorena and Mail Order Penelope, that will be published this summer. The three stories are related and part or all of them involve the stagecoaches and stations on the Kansas frontier in the late 1860s.
Q&A With the Author:
1. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy reading, first of all. I also enjoy quilting, creating book covers and advertising memes on my photo-editing program. I will be so happy when Yosemite National Park reopens, because I love to drive in the mountains and foothills close to home, and that is one of my favorite “go to” spring and summer destinations.
2. What was the hardest part of writing your book, and how did you overcome it?
The hardest part is I accepted the deadline that did not allow me as much time as I comfortably like to write and publish a book. I thought I had most of my research about frontier Kansas in the late 1860s finished after I finished my book before this one. Then I started digging deeper into stagecoaches in the region during that era. I had great scenes in my mind—my characters kept leading me interesting places—but had to settle on those that I could tie up into a connected story. In the middle of all this, Covid-19 became recognized as a pandemic and life became interesting and challenging. Face mask, anyone?
3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Anywhere outside the home that is not the grocery store, drive-through pharmacy, drive-thru restaurant drive-through, or gas station sounds good.
4. Where do you get information and ideas for your books?
I get my information mostly from the internet and research books. Sometimes I luck out and find good research books at my local library. Other times, I find them online. Many of my research books I found in the bookstores of museums or state/national historical parks.
As for my ideas, I use a business workgroup technique called “brainstorming.” Where, in business, I brainstormed with other people in the room, as a writer, I brainstorm with my fictional characters and research sources. Here is how it works.
In my book, Hannah’s Handkerchief, (set in 1865 after the Civil War) one scene takes Hannah to the Fort Leavenworth hospital to visit her brother. She barely misses connecting with her love interest, Jake. To flesh out the scene where she spends time in the hospital ward, I created an injured soldier named Elam in the bed next to Hannah’s brother. I gave him my favorite dialect to write—Appalachian. By the end of those chapters, I was in love with Elam. I had to use him somewhere else.
**BRAINSTORM ** Elam became my hero in my next book, Mail Order Roslyn in the series, Widows, Brides & Secret Babies (WB&SB). Because Mail Order Roslyn is part of a multi-author project (MAP), and because, if I write more than one book in a MAP, I like them to be connected—a series within a series—
** BRAINSTORM ** My second book, Mail Order Penelope, will be about Roslyn’s cousin. They both will travel in about the same direction.
What direction? While writing the series which included Hannah’s Handkerchief and Otto’s Offer, I did a lot of research on frontier Kansas and the Smoky Hill Trail. For Hannah’s book, because she becomes enamored with a lieutenant at Fort Riley who then is transferred to the forts in the wilds of western Kansas, I did even more research on Kansas frontier forts. A lot more. Frequent mention was made that one mission of the Kansas frontier forts was to provide escort for the stagecoaches.
** BRAINSTORM ** My WB&SB books will involve stagecoaches and stations. The first frontier fort along the Smoky Hill trail just west of more civilized Salina was Fort Ellsworth. It also had stagecoach stations nearby (Kansas Stage Company and Butterfield Overland Despatch (not a typo) or B.O.D..
** BRAINSTORM ** My stagecoach station in Roslyn’s story will be in Ellsworth. For Hannah’s story, I also reviewed, once more, a book I bought two years earlier for Otto’s Offer titled Tales of the Smoky Hill Trail. Lo and behold, this year I noticed the last half of the book detailed about 500% more information about stagecoach lines and stations on the Smoky Hill Trail, particularly the B.O.D., than I have yet to find on the internet. My California library does not have a thing on that topic.
**BRAINSTORM ** My Roslyn story will feature the B.O.D. stagecoach and Ellsworth station in Kansas.
One of the secondary characters in my Roslyn story is sort of a jerk, but redeemable (I hope), because, as a solution to a problem at the Ellsworth stagecoach station, I wrote one of characters to offer the suggestion he marry Lorena. He’s reluctant, because of her circumstances. One of the men points out, “Like you, she’s from the South. A lot of Southern women have fallen on hard times because of the war.” I wrote four paragraphs about this in Roslyn’s book, but then I could not get Lorena out of my head.
**BRAINSTORM ** Lorena needs her own story.
** BRAINSTORM ** So, I checked the WB&SB schedule and there was an open publication date that would allow me enough time (barely) to add Lorena’s story. (I can do it, I can do it, I can, I can…) Within 24 hours, I had my book cover lined up. I’ll give her the release date originally planned for cousin Penelope, and write Penelope’s story last.
How do I get my inspiration and ideas? That is just a taste.
5. Tell us a bit about a future project you are working on? Do you have any little sneak peeks you can share?
See number 4, above. I also have a book I wrote three years ago, also set in Kansas, but during the cattle drive era of the early 1870s. Because it has a “happily for now” instead of a “happily ever after” ending, I want to finish the second book in that series before I publish Abilene Gamble.
6. Now that we've gotten to know each other, tell us a story of a favorite childhood activity you used to do during the summer. It can be long or short. Funny, sad, or somewhere in between. Just make sure it's yours. Tell us a story?
Go to the beach ~ the beach ~ any beach, but my favorites when I was young were La Jolla and Laguna in Southern California.
My story deals with the San Diego Bay—not my favorite beachy area because it did not have good waves for body surfing. For a few years, my father had a small fishing boat. We kids were not great fishers like he was, but sometimes he took my brother, sister and I out on the boat to spend an afternoon.
While at the bay, I recall seeing the harbor seals popping their heads above water. At a distance, they looked like human heads. At first, I wondered what those crazy people were doing swimming way out in the middle of the bay.
My problem was seasickness. If there was a bit of chop to the water, for me, there was not enough Dramamine in the world. On one boating trip, our lunch included raw carrot and turnip sticks. Up until that time, I thought raw turnip sticks, although not my favorite, were fairly good. After getting sick on them, I don’t think I ever ate raw turnips again. (I don’t recall eating cooked turnips since that time, either.)
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