Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My backyard chickens, coop building and hawk attacks

While helping my rooster scare off a hungry hawk this morning, it occurred to me that I never posted updated photos of my backyard flock. That handful of chicks I posted pics of back in March quickly grew to a flock of 18 chickens (they call the addiction 'chicken math'). One of them ended up being a rooster, which is fine since we live in the countryside. He has saved quite a few hens from hawk attacks, but we did lose one not long ago...and another to egg-binding complications. So our current number is 16, including the roo, Excalibur.

Excalibur, an Easter Egger
Taken when he was younger.
We have Easter Eggers, Speckled Sussex, Plymouth Barred Rock, Cuckoo Maran, Buff Orpington and Black Australorps. I'd  have to say that my favorites are the EE and Barred Rocks. This spring, I'd love to add some Rhode Island Reds to our family.

If you recall, we decided to build a coop from scratch. Yes, I thought it would save money. No, it didn't. Well, it did if you compare what we made to buying an equivalent, but it wasn't the cheapest project. I just got all HGTV with it LOL. So here are a few pics summarizing the process. It's 8 x 8 with a sealed floor covered in sand that I scoop like kitty litter. We put in sand/sweet pdz filled poop boards under the roost and every window, eave, vent etc...is covered in 1/4 in hardware cloth to keep out predators. Lots of door locks too!












Note: I now have shredded pine in the nest boxes. They thought the shredded paper was delicious. 


Cynder our Barred Rock
Zuni my sweet Easter Egger who lays blue eggs
The hen up front is Rain, an Easter Egger. She lays pinkish brown eggs. My other EE, Moon (not pictured), lays green eggs.


The nutrient difference free ranging makes. Store bought on the left. Ours on the right. See the color?
So now my biggest problem is hawks. I love all animals and know the hawks needs to eat too, but I'd rather they not eat my chickens. We have evergreen trees the chickens hide under...and plenty of other places to take cover, but the hawks have figured out that our evergreen trees have a fence near them. A perfect place to perch and wait.

That hawk I mentioned was hanging out this morning? He came back while I was in the middle of writing this post and went after one of my Buff Orpingtons named Pippa (after the little girl Pippa in The Promise of Rain). I heard our rooster alarm and ran out in time to chase the hawk away, but he did manage to peck at her comb. I now have her in our basement in a large dog crate I converted into an emergency chicken hospital a few months back. I cleaned up the blood and am hopeful that she'll be okay. She's pretty shaken though and I locked up the rest of the flock in their coop for the rest of the day.

They really love free ranging but I need to put more places for shelter up. This is their first winter with us and many of the shrubs/small trees, such as our fig, that they were successfully using as hiding places, have lost their leaves. We have large expanses of grass where I'd like to add large, ornamental grasses or shrubs where they can hide (berries to eat would be a plus). If only I could train my dogs to guard the flock and not eat them. They're still getting used to our new kitten, Grimalkin.

Predator scares or not, I absolutely love having chickens. I've done so much research on keeping free range, backyard chickens as safe as can be, but I'm off to do more. Finding that balance between giving them a beautiful life and keeping them safe isn't easy. Parenting is parenting...tough no matter what species you're caring for! Tips anyone?

I'm heading downstairs to check on Pippa. I hope you enjoyed the coop building pics!

Note: Many thanks to www.backyardchickens.com and all the backyard chicken keepers that hang out there, www.the-chicken-chick.com, www.fresh-eggs-daily.com and so many other chicken keeping sites. I'm a lurker, but without all the info and ideas shared online, plus great books and magazines, I wouldn't know half of what I do about caring for a flock of fluffy butts. Thanks!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pretty PLEASE, with ice cream and a cherry on top...VOTE for THE PROMISE OF RAIN!


It really is raining today. Actually, it's freezing rain and icicles are hanging off the trees. I love a rainy day. I usually find them cozy, but it's quite cold and gray outside today and I'm feeling forgotten.

I had a blast kick-starting 2014 with my debut, The Promise of Rain, but the downside to a January release, is that by the time end of year contests roll around, folks have forgotten that your book release date qualifies it for a nomination. I realize not all books are for all people, but it really did get awesome reviews...you can check them out HERE.

So this week, I noticed two Goodreads Listopia lists/contests up that focus on wholesome, tender romances. One is for Favorite Harlequin Heartwarming...I saw my book on this list, but I'd love to see it climb the ranks...and the other I just learned about at Jennifer Shirks' blog Me, My Muse and I. It's called the Swoony Award and voting ends Dec. 31, 2014. I'd love for someone to nominate The Promise of Rain (Jan 2014)! I think at least 3 votes are needed for it to qualify for the list. It's Goodreads page can be found here, if needed.

So two contests/lists on Goodreads I'm shamelessly begging for a little love and votes on:

Favorite Harlequin Heartwarming

The Swoony Award

If you vote or nominate The Promise of Rain, thank you, thank you, thank you with virtual ice cream with a cherry and whipped cream on top! If not, no worries. I'll still thank you for reading this because that means you've taken the time to visit my blog :).

I don't have a cover of my second book, After the Silence (March 2015), to share with you yet, so I'll leave you with my kitten Grim's sweet face...


Please vote for Mommy's book! She loves animals! It has baby elephants in it who are almost as cute as I am :).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Latest Interview, New Kitten, Next Book and more!

I've been quite scarce in the blogosphere the past few months, popping in every so often at the Heartwarming blog...but that's been about it. I've missed you all, but sometimes things happen we can't control. Shortly after returning from Nationals, I became very ill, spending most of August with a fever, flu-like symptoms and foggy brain. It turns out, I had stage 2 Lyme Disease...a diagnosis that came the day I got my revisions for my second book.

Of course, the die-off reaction I had when I began Lyme treatment was severe and the arthritic and nerve pain (I had a lot of neurological manifestations) made typing nearly impossible. After a few weeks, I managed somewhat, but I had to reserve all my typing energy for revisions, and that meant no blogging (because it really hurt). I still  have some symptoms, but I'm doing so much better now and improving daily. Now, Murphy's Law, right when my hands were not functional, all my major appliances had to break down, including but not limited to my microwave and dishwasher. Sigh.

Also, last month, I had to nurse my eldest through a terrible, resistant strain of pneumonia. We're talking fevers of 103-104.5 while on medication, and an antibiotic that didn't work. He ended up on two different oral antibiotics, plus daily injections (in lieu of hospitalization). Luckily, he finally responded to treatment and is doing well...BUT...I ended up with two weeks of bronchitis that turned into laryngitis and was finally diagnosed with pneumonia myself. Not as bad a case as my kid's, but bad enough, given my asthma. I'm still recovering, but at last I have enough energy to rejoin the world.

A million other things were going on through all this and my stress levels were out the roof, but things are starting to look up now and I have some news to share (warning: cute kitten coming up)!

First of all, my latest interview at USA Today's Happy Ever After is up! It's with fellow animal lover and author Kate James and you can check it out HERE!

Secondly, my second book in my Harlequin Heartwarming series is due to release March 1st, 2015! Yay!! It's titled After the Silence and you can check out the blurb or pre-order HERE.

And finally...

I adopted another kitten from out local SPCA! Those of you who hung around here last November may recall that I adopted two brother kittens (Nimbus and Storm...or as my kid says, Stormageddon) who were taken in after their mother was killed by a car. THIS is the post I had up with their pics at the time. They're much bigger now and the best cats ever.

Well, they've just been joined by a little boy who looks like a Maine Coon mix. My teen named him Grimalkin (Grim for short) after the character in The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen).




Now, cuddling with him makes the past few months worth it :). I hope you all have been well. See you around!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Giveaway & HEA Interview!


Happy September everyone! I hope those of you in the U.S. and Canada had a great Labor Day weekend. Today marks the first day of school in my area and fellow Harlequin Heartwarming author Catherine Lanigan and I are blogging together at the Heartwarming blog and giving away a gift bag designed for kicking back and relaxing with a book and a cup of tea (see pic ;).

The gift bag giveaway includes:

Autographed copies of Catherine Lanigan’s Love Shadows and Heart’s Desire
Autographed copy of Rula Sinara’s The Promise of Rain with matching bookmark

A canvas tote bag, approx 15x15in, (great for lunches, books, groceries & more) imprinted with the cover of The Promise of Rain

A 16 oz, BPA free, Stainless Steel Contigo Travel Tumbler

Teatulia Black Tea, Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified

A custom ‘Sweet and Heartwarming’ bracelet from the Harlequin Heartwarming authors and…

A ‘Think Harlequin’ button pin


(Please note: The gift bag drawing is open only to entries from U.S. or Canadian residents. One winner will be chosen by random drawing. All other entries (international) will be placed in a drawing for an e-book copy each of Love Shadows, Heart’s Desire and The Promise of Rain.)

All you have to do to enter is hop on over to the Heartwarming blog and leave a comment. Pretty cool, huh?
Here's the link: http://www.heartwarmingauthors.blogspot.com/2014/09/all-shades-of-labor-day-by-catherine.html

Oh, and one more link...

My latest USA Today HEA interview is up! It's with Harlequin Superromance author Claire McEwen and she shares her personal experience growing up with an alcoholic parent. Please check it out HERE!

Have a great day!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

RWA Nationals 2014

I usually get my photos from RWA Nationals posted within a day or two after the meeting, but better late than never! Every year at Nationals is a different, fabulous experience. This year in San Antonio was extra special because I went as a published author and got to sign at the Readers for Life Literacy Autographing. My first book signing! I was even asked to sign a few of the canvas totes with my book cover you can see too the far right in the photo :).


Thanks to Beth Andrews for sending her hubby over to take that photo, otherwise, I wouldn't have one. And thanks to Jeannie Watt and her daughter Jamie for helping get me set up.

Having a huge number of Harlequin Heartwarming authors attend this year was another reason the meeting was so great! Getting to meet face-to-face was wonderful and working together to promote the line was a blast. Everyone met early one morning to put together bags for the Librarian's Day luncheon/Book Fiesta. Cheryl Harper made the cutest labels for the water bottles we included!


We also joined forces in the Goody Room. I'm pretty sure the airport security guys who searched my luggage raised a brow or two at the fact that I had one entire suitcase stuffed with books and craft supplies...including a hot glue gun. A few hours in my hotel room and I had this box ready for action.



 Copies of Harlequin Heartwarming books flew out of our box so fast, we could barely keep up! Our 'Sweet & Heartwarming' bracelets were super popular too.


Heartwarming authors at the Book Fiesta: Pamela Tracy, me, Cheryl Harper and Melinda Curtis
The lovely and talented Anna J Stewart made all her fellow HW attendees these custom pins. Mine has an elephant because of my book...and she even made us mini book pins!


And now I'll just run through pics...

Jamie Steinman, Jeannie Watt & Kimberly Van Meter: best roomies ever!
Me, Jamie and Jeannie
And I was so happy to see Cathryn Parry and Karen Foley again and to meet Nina Nilay Singh.

Cathryn, Karen, me, Nina
The Harlequin Heartwarming authors had a fab time when we got together for dinner at Boudro's on the Riverwalk. I wish I had more photos (my phone cam is terrible in dim lighting) but I only have a few. For those of you who followed our #GoHeartwarming and 'Where is Tori' social media fun leading up to Nationals, you'll notice Tori (aka the HW Barbie mascot) joined us for dinner too. Here she is with fellow Heartwarmer Carol Ross.

Tori and Carol
And with namesake Senior Editor of Harlequin Heartwarming, Victoria Curran.

Victoria and Tori
Now, no RWA Nationals is complete without the Harlequin PJ party! In celebration of my debut, The Promise of Rain, I sported a custom made (aka iron on transfer) t-shirt with baby elephants on it, elephant earrings and giant fuzzy elephant slippers. I wasn't the only animal lover at the party! Check out Harlequin Forum moderator, Love Inspired author & fellow chicken lover Dream/Danica Favorite's chicken pj's.

Danica and me
Other buddies at the pj party...

Pamela Tracy and Karen Rock

BBA Finalist buddies Barbara Wallace and Cathryn Parry

Barbara Wallace and me
One of the big events at Nationals is the Harlequin Book Signing. Awesome ladies Karen Rock and Jennifer Snow represented Harlequin Heartwarming. 

Karen (in red) and Jennifer
Karen Rock
And awesome Harlequin Superromance authors Beth Andrews and Jeannie Watt...

Jeannie and Beth


I really admire what Brenda Novak has done for diabetes research through her Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes Research. She raised well over a quarter of a million this year! Participating with my fellow Heartwarming authors this year was an honor, as was getting to meet Brenda in person. She's such a genuinely sweet person. Check out an interview fellow HW author Kate James did with Brenda HERE.

Brenda Novak


Walking out of the signing, I ran into a lovely person I'd interviewed and met online, but never in person...Nicole Flockton. She was even nicer in person :).

Nicole and me
Later on, I finally got to meet fellow organic gardening lover, Harlequin forum friend and super Supers author Holly Jacobs! She's truly uplifting and full of glee. #OMGHollyJacobs!

Me and Holly
And then came the famous Harlequin Party. This year we got red dancing socks. Last year's were pink and I wore them whenever I was writing during the winter. They're so comfy. Anway, the party was fantastic as usual and everyone burned off plenty of calories dancing. 


Jennifer Snow, me, Carol Ross & Amy Vastine taken w/Amy's camera
Karen Rock and Kate James
Sweet authors Roz Denny Fox and Marion Ekholm
Jennifer Snow's shoes. Her fancy heels are a tradition ;).
Jeannie Watt's fabulous dress...which she made herself!!! This woman can sew like nobody's business. Seriously. And her specialty is vintage dresses. You should check out pics of what she's made at her blog Retro Sewing Romance Writer.


And I leave you with our group Heartwarming photo. Pamela Tracy did join the fun but we'd already taken the pic :(.

Top left to right: Tara Randel, me, Roz Denny Fox, Kate James, Cheryl Harper, Anna J Stewart, Karen Rock, Amy Vastine
Bottom left to right: Victoria Curran, Jennifer Snow, Carol Ross, Marion Ekholm
We had an incredible Heartwarming Open House as well and Nationals came to a close with the RITA/GH awards ceremony. Congratulations to all the finalists and winners this year!

Amy Vastine, me, Pamela Tracy, Tara Randel and Carol Ross at the Awards ceremony
Whew! I know that was a lot of pics, but I hope you enjoyed them. I met so many more people who I haven't mentioned or don't have a photo of. Every one of them was amazing. No amount of pics can express the supportive spirit, friendship and unmatched energy that envelopes you at an RWA Nationals meeting. I always return recharged and ready to write. 

And btw, I'm also blogging at the Heartwarming Blog today, where I'm doing a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card, so go leave a comment! Of course, I'd love for you to leave one here too :).

Have a great one!