There are 4 ways to work in a State as a nurse:
1. Have a compact license from one state and work in another state that is part of the compact.
Lists of States that are part of the compact:
2. Obtain a License by endorsement for a state which means, you have a license already in one state, and you apply for a license in another based on the 'endorsement' of your original license.
3. Original Licensure by Examination. This is what you are seeking to do.
4. Have a license in any one state and work in a Federal gov't facility in any state.
The issue of being able to obtain a license by endorsement in any state because you are originally licensed in California is true, but doesn't explain things well. In fact, California is no different from any other state in this regard. Once you have a license in any state, you can apply for licensure by endorsement in any other state (except that this is not necessary if your original license is a compact license and you work in a compact state). Some states might have special rules about how long you have practiced, etc., but the concept of licensure by endorsement is an interstate concept and widely accepted by every state. Unlike working under a compact license, each licensure by endorsement requires an application to that board and an additional payment of fees.
As far as which states are cheaper, etc. that I cannot tell you because I don't know. I DO know, being from Texas, that Texas IS a compact State and that might allow you more flexibility in seeking employment. (NM is also a compact state. FL and CA are not.)
As far as fees, the link above includes a link to all the state boards of nursing - BONs. You can look up the fees of each of the states individually on their BON website. You should also be able to download applications from most of those websites.
In Texas, I believe the fee is 139.00 sent in with your application, but that does not include the 200.00 fee that you should send to pearsonvue first: www.vue.com/nclex
The Texas BON (actually called the BNE Bd Nurse Examiners in Texas) says it will not approve you for examination before this fee is paid. So, sounds like 339.00 total.