Monday, June 29, 2009

Giveaway: Macia Mickelson's Pickup Games

I mentioned last week that I had the opportunity to give away a free copy of "Pickup Games," by Marcia Mickelson. I recently read her frist book "Reasonable Doubt," which I really enjoyed and can't wait to review this new book on Wednesday. If you want to learn more about Marcia, check out her Website, or read her intro to herself on the new blog we're both writing for called Writing Fortress. This link will take you straight to her intro. And while you're there, bookmark us so you can learn all about writing, our lives and our books!

So there are three ways to win.

First, you get one entry if you leave a comment in the comment trail. If you dont have a blogger account, you can contact me through my Website instead. Make sure I have your email address!

Second, if you are a follower or become a follower of my blog, let me know in your comment and I'll add a second entry.

Third, if you post on your blog about this contest, or your facebook (and leave me a note so I know. You may have to friend me so I can go check), then you get 2 more entries. Yes. that's all there is.
All entries must be in by 5 pm Friday, July 3 MST and I'll announce the winner on my blog that night.

Friday, June 26, 2009

July's Writing Challenge

Okay, so don't believe me when I say I'm going to post more regularly. I'm probably just dreaming anyway. But check back here Wednesdays for some reviews/author interviews for some great new books that are coming up. I plan to review every Wednesday, starting with next week when I'm giving away a FREE copy of Marcia Mickelson's new book "Pickup Games." I just finished her first book, "Reasonable Doubt," and it was seriously good, so I'm looking forward to reading this one.

All right, now for the reason I'm posting today. Tristi is holding a July challenge to motivate us to kick our writing into gear. So, my goals for July--since I promised myself to be more realistic this year than I was last July--do a final look at my book "Rebound," so I can send it in--this should be simple since it's just line edits. Really. And prepare the other things my publisher wants to go with it. Most of which is already done.

Second. My current WIP is mostly written, but needs some restructuring, corrections from my critique group, which are piling up, and you know, an ending. So the goal is to get the whole thing finished and to catch up on editing it. This totally ought to be doable since I only have to add like, 10,000 words. I've written more than that in a single day.

Third. I have these nebulous plans for my publicity for my book which is being released in October--some great ideas, but not well developed. I totally have to get some things on paper, and do some more firm plans, so I won't be so stressed when everything else seems to pile up on me at once.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Enter to Win Julie Bellon's "All's Fair"

Okay, I have been a slacker the past few days, but I promise I'm going to be a bit more diligent...well, okay, I'm going to try. We'll see how I do. In the meantime, check out Anne Bradshaw's blog for a chance to win Julie Coulter Bellon's book All's Fair. I recently read On The Edge, and thoroughly enjoyed the mix of action, intrigue, and romance and look forward to reading this one as well.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: Crystal Liechty's The First Year

Okay, yes, I'm fully aware that this book came out like two years ago, and I've been meaning to read it ever since, but I finally got to it (my to-read stack is horrifically tall). I still remember the Storymaker's conference where Crystal read part of her opening scene at Boot Camp. It was probably for the dialogue bit, as that scene has really smashing dialogue. I smiled when I read, "Taffeta, taffeta, taffeta."

Anyway, so here's the low-down: Beth has been married to Mike about six months when the book opens. She's got a great life, married her sweetheart, and is determinedly NOT thinking about the ex-boyfriend, Charlie, who cheated on her and then left for the Marines. Then Charlie returns home, and he wants her back.

Every time she turns around, there he is, insisting that she still loves him, and that she only married Mike to hide from him. After a while, she starts to wonder if it's true. Her two bffs struggle in their new marriages, deal with in-laws and spouses, her sister moves in with a boyfriend and learns she pregnant, and Beth feels like life's falling in pieces around her.

Then she catches Mike in a truth-shattering lie and she wonders if she made a huge mistake.

I love these characters, they're so thoroughly flawed, but still likeable. I like the way Crystal broke up the action with little scenes between Beth and her shrink, which added a fun dimension and showed the reader so much about the character.

Life isn't always pretty. It's messy and stressful and confusing--and the first year of marriage is no exception.

Fun story, great characters, and a satisfying ending, all wrapped in together. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next (and I do believe she's got something else coming out soon.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Win a book from Queen of the Clan and Cindy Beck

So my friend, Danyelle, is having a weekly summer giveaway. Ever week she is featuring a book, service, or other cool prize on her blog. This week she's giving away the winner's choice of three books each with a story written by Cindy Beck (also a cool friend of mine). Go check out Danyelle's blog and see how to enter and win!

Monday, June 8, 2009

$50 Gift Certificate Giveaway

Just a quick note. Anne Bradshaw is giving away a $50 gift certificate to the store at LDSWA --LDS Women's Alliance--on her blog this week. If you want a chance to pick out some great products, pop by the blog and see how to enter.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to make an A-frame chicken coop

This spring I knew I needed another coop. I was on a budget, and since I didn't want the project to take all year, I needed it to be something I could build completely on my own--I had a deadline and intended to stick to it. I also knew it needed to be tall enough I could walk into it. My shelter in the goose/duck run is built similarly but it's only one sheet of plywood on it's side on each wall and I have to get down on my hands and knees to collect eggs or do other chores.

After much mulling over, this A-frame is what I finally came up with. The foot print is 8x8 and I built it entirely by myself in one (1) day (plus half an hour of preparation the night before). To do this I had to have a nail gun--it's the only way to go because drilling screws and hand-pounding nails would have taken way too long--luckily for me, my ad loaned me his. I decided I wanted a coop with LOTS of ventilation, especially for the summer since there is almost no shade in my yard and it gets really hot in summer. I wanted to make sure the birds had plenty of shade to settle into during the hotter seasons. Since this coop was intended only for roosters I didn't work in a place for nest boxes, but you should be able to adjust the plans slightly for a regular flock.

The night before I started work in earnest I trimmed my uprights at a 60 degree angle. I had to feed my lengths into the miter saw to at a 90 degree angle instead of running it along the guides. It was the only way I could turn the saw enough to get the cuts right. This probably ended up in my having imperfect cuts and lengths, but perfection was really not my goal.

The next day, bright and early, I laid out my base boards so I could make sure the location I had cleared was my best bet. I used 2x4x8 pressure-treated lumber for the foundation so it will last longer. My ground is extremely rocky and uneven--there are more large rocks then there is dirt, so I had to do the best I could. This was a pretty even area to work on.
Next I nailed the uprights to the top board. I tried to do the uprights on one corner and then the other, but it ended up being too hard to get the pieces to fit together without it falling apart. Instead I stuck the middle and edges along one side onto the ridgeline, then lifted the side to add the middle and edge pieces on the other side. I also nailed the bottom boards together at this point and attached the 'roof' boards to them. I only used part of the wall supports at first because I knew I would need to lift the edges to wrap the hardware cloth for the next step and I wanted it to be light enough for me to handle on my own.
In this step I cut the hardware cloth to size and slid it under the base far enough to roll rocks on the bottom, and still have enough to wrap up the sides. I used 2-foot-wide pieces of 1/2"x1/2" for this part.
Next I nailed the rest of the uprights into place. Even though the 'roof' has a pretty good slope, I still placed the boards at the standard 16" widths. Actually, since I was working alone I didn't measure this part, I just eyeballed it. If I lived in a really rainy area I would have added more cross-pieces on the ground and put a real floor on. Since saving time and money was important to me, and I live in a desert, I didn't. My other two coops both have real floors, but with lots of straw bedding this will work great, especially since my birds like to scratch away the bedding and put their bellies on the cool ground when it's hot.
Next I put large rocks in the coop to keep anything from coming under the wire once I had it finished. All of these rocks came from no more than twenty feet away from where the coop stands. In a lot of areas they suggest burying the wire outward or down to prevent digging, but I seriously have so many rocks that no dog or coyote would get that far without giving up.

Next I wrapped more hardware cloth around the end of the coop. I wanted to put this on next so when I nailed on the sides the nails would hold the wire in place and I wouldn't have to deal with trimming it back too much. At this point it's just wrapped and formed to the boards a bit. I had to pull and twist it slightly when I put up the walls. It would have been better if I had pulled it tighter, but that was a two-person job, and it's secure this way.
You can't tell in thsi picture, but since I used 2-foot wide hardware cloth as my wire I 'sewed' the pieces together where they met with bits of wire that surrounded the roll to keep ferrets and raccons out. I used 4x8 plywood in 1/2 inch thicknesses for the slanted roof, and I lifted the corners with my toes or a rock to keep them off the ground so if we get a little snow they won't rot so easily. It also allows a little extra ventilation around the bottom of the coop. I folded the hardware cloth up around the walls before I added the plywood so it would be nailed firmly in place, preventing critters from getting in.
Next I added my roosts. I hung them from the roof with some supports where necessary because I wanted plenty of floor room in the middle for feed and water bowls. I also only ran one roost half the length of the wall to ensure I could get the feed out of the weather so the occasional rain wouldn't make it moldy. If I were going to put in nest boxes, I probably would have done it here on the left, then placed the feeder on a shelf above it to take advantage of the space.
Again, I haven't been especially precise about my measurements or where I nailed things. I played around on this side for a minute to make sure the gate would be big enough to get me through with any feed bags or whatnot that I needed to carry, then nailed the boards in place. When I built the door I actually measured top and bottom and each side to make sure the door would fit the hole, since I didn't force the doorway to be totally square. It swings really well and is plenty sturdy, though.
Here's the door hanging tight. I also added a bit of leftover OSB paneling from building our other coop the previous year to the top of the sides. Next I painted and added the metal flashing to the ridgeline to keep water out and finish it off. I still need to locate my nippers and cut off the extra bit of flashing that hangs over the back. This winter I'll have to board or cover the sides mostly with plastic to keep out the worst of the weather, but between now and November my birds will be most comfortable with the extra air flow. When I planned this I put one of the roof walls toward the west so it would block the majority of the rain and wind, which it has done well in the past month or so. I haven't had any wet feed and it creates a nice wind break for them if a storm gets too fierce. I don't have a fence up around this coop yet as the roosters free-range all day most days, but I do intend to do something about it soon so my hens can take turns free-ranging while the extra boys stay shut in a smaller run for the day.
And here you see my food and water setup.

If I had this to do over again I would have painted my outter 2x4s before I added the wire so it would be at least somewhat sealed from the weather. You may be ale to tell that the roof overhangs the edges by a couple of inches in an attempt to protect it a little, but more would have been better.

Materials used: 5 pressure-treated 2x4x8s
18 or 19 regular 2x4x8s
4 sheets 1/2 inch plywood
a 10-foot piece of pre-formed flashing
2-25ft rolls of 2' wide hardware cloth, 1/2" x 1/2"
One set of hinges and a latch for the door
1/2 gallon of paint
Cost: about $220

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Writing Blog

My publisher, Cedar Fort, Inc. has asked a bunch of us to start a new blog called the Writing Fortress, which with Rebecca Talley's great organization, launched on June 1st. Most of us will be posting every-other week about writing, publishing, and life in general. I posted up my first entry today. Come check it out!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review: Tristi Pinkston's Agent in Old Lace

So the first and most important thing I can say about Tristi's newest book is that I'm in the acknowledgments. Little ol' me. Though honestly, there was very little Agent in Old Lace that needed help because Tristi Pinkston is such a great writer.

First: the back cover blurb:

Shannon Tanner has it all, a perfect family, perfect job, perfect boyfriend--or so she thinks. What Shannon doesn't know is that her boyfriend, Mark, is stealing money from her father and making millions doing it. When Shannon learns Mark's secret, he turns on her, and Shannon's life abruptly goes from perfect to perilous.

In an effort to protect Shannon, the FBI assigns their only female agent to go undercover as her personal bodyguard. But when the agent gets injured the day before the assignment, they turn to the next best thing: their top agent, Rick Holden--in a dress.

Life seems safe again for Shannon with Rick by her side and Mark apparently gone for good. Then Shannon gets word that her best friend has been kidnapped, and it becomes clear that Mark isn't going to stop any time soon. Shannon realizes the only way to save herself and her friend--and stop Mark once and for all--is by sending Rick, her only source of protection, away. Can Rick save Shannon before it's too late?

The book is a great mix of intrique, romance, and action. The characters are well fleshed out, the dialogue believable, and the story flow is great. If you haven't read anything of Tristi's before, check her other books out on her Website, or learn more on her blog. She also has a great new cozy mystery series starting next fall with Secret Sisters--a hilarious tale of old ladies determined to solve crimes, regardless of what the police have to say about it.

Anyway, I digress. Because I enjoyed Agent in Old Lace so much, I thought it would be interesting to interview Shannon and see what she had to say about her harrowing experiences.

Me: So, Shannon, what's it like to have your story in print?

ST: Well, I was really worried at first, I mean, what if the writer didn't tell the story right? What if she embellished or forgot something important? But then I read Tristi's book Season of Sacrifice about her pioneer anscestors and I just knew she was the one.

Me: Do you know the difference between a clip and a magazine? Tristi said she needed help with that.

ST: Of course, doesn't everybody? A magazine has words and pictures on it and is printed up so you can read it. A clip goes in your hair to hold it back.

Me: I wonder why Tristi had so many problems with that. Hmm, anyway, Rick sounds like he's totally hot. Does the man have any faults?

ST: Well, he refused to shave his legs, and then complained incessantly about the panty hose itching. Oh, maybe I should have said that. I asked Tristi to leave it out of the book.

Me: So he didn't continue to wear them after he was able to dress as a man again?

ST: No, he's plenty secure enough to do so if he ever had to again, but he claims they didn't do a thing to make his legs look better. I have to agree.

Me: I was so glad to read that your dad recovered from his poisoning. What have he and your mom done with all of that money?

ST: He decided to retire and they are traveling the world hitting every Disney World on the planet. He's also obsessed with eating a burger at McDonalds in every country that has one. China has been his favorite--so far.

Me: Wow, well after everything he went through, he definitely deserved a vacation. And what about you and Rick?

ST: We're going to live happily ever after of course, with 5 kids, a minivan, soccer, piano and Scout meetings. I promised him, however, that I would never make green Jell-o with carrot shavings in it.

Me: That's great. Well, thanks for appearing on my blog today. And good luck in your min-van shopping. It can be dangerous!

ST: You're not kidding. the last dealership we went to had to be threatened before they would let us leave the building. It's a good thing Rick packs heat.

Agent in Old Lace can be purchased here. It is currently sold out on Amazon, but should be back in stock soon.