Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer/Winter Promotion at Smashwords

For one month only, thousands of Smashwords authors and publishers will provide readers deep discounts on ebooks, with coupon code levels for 25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off and FREE.

At one minute past midnight Pacific time on July 1, a special Smashwords Summer Winter promotion catalog will appear on the Smashwords home page.  Readers can browse the catalog and search by coupon code levels and categories.  At the stoke of midnight Pacific time on July 31, the catalog disappears.

All of my books that aren’t already $.99 will be 50% off at check-out. Have fun shopping at Smashwords. Here's my author's page at Smashwords.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 6

Excavating for the basement turned up a huge number of rocks all destined for our fireplace. My husband and I combed the miles of trails on our property as well and picked up close to 13 tons of rocks. Whew – a big job, but we had the help of our trusty “Argo”, a six-wheeled vehicle that has been a lot of fun on the trails and a little workhorse when we attach a trailer to it to go rock hunting.

The view in this next picture shows that we planned a walkout basement. The building in the background is our garage/guest house where we stayed to oversee the project. We were our own general contractors, a task that two teachers who had handled thousands of students were able to do quite efficiently. More about that in a later post.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 5

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, woods, site prep continued. We have a driveway that was originally an old logging trail or “two-track”. It meanders through the property and makes a scenic and winding half-mile seem like forever. There are stretches where we can get up to 30 miles an hour, but mostly we're driving between trees and turning sharply. 

Friends and relatives told us we’d never get large trucks between the old pine trees or around the S curves. But we’re not stupid. My husband made sure the way was wide enough for fire trucks, ambulances, and cement trucks. The tricky part is when you meet another car or truck coming or going. Right of way goes to the larger vehicle.

We love the privacy. We have deer, turkeys, coyotes, raccoons, porcupines, bobcats, and plenty of squirrels and chipmunks, but no neighborhood noises like lawn mowers, leaf blowers, booming stereos, loud mufflers, screaming kids, or annoying traffic.

See! The cement truck is proof we can get large vehicles through the woods.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 4

In these pictures you can see that another month has gone by and the walls have really begun to define the rooms. We could walk through and get a better feel for the sizes of the rooms. They no longer had that small feeling. Strangely, as the wall height increased the rooms expanded. There was an opening where the front door would go and a crawl through space at the back where eventually windows would be cut out, but while they worked on the structure in the airplane hangar they kept the long logs intact. Cutting out the windows wasn’t going to happen until the entire house was re-erected on our site. In fact, there was one room we couldn’t even see into unless we climbed up onto a ladder and looked down into it.

The floor of the hangar had several inches of fresh sawdust. The place smelled wonderful! The guys would sweep up barrels of sawdust every day. A local lady came and carted it all away to use like straw in her stable.

Notice the interlocking corners. They stacked the logs alternating butt and top ends so you can see here the effect of big-little-big-little. North Arrow Log Homes had done about 160 log homes before ours, but almost all had only four or six or eight corners since most people only use logs for the exterior walls. We wanted log walls everywhere so we had 19 or 20 corners (I’ve lost track).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 3

North Arrow Log Homes rented an airplane hangar that was so large it could hold a couple of two story houses. The cranes that used to handle the big engines of B-52 planes now lobbed eighty foot trees trunks into place. The workers could work through the winters without contending with the harsh and freezing weather. We asked for delivery of logs to our property after school got out in June. They began laying out the logs in February.

These pictures show our first and, a few weeks later, our second visit to the facility. The labor intensive scribing kept four men busy. With noisy chain saws the guys cut each log to fit tightly against the one beneath it. The log ends fit together like the old Lincoln Logs I used to play with as a kid.

On the first visit we felt like we were walking through the floor plan I had sketched a few years earlier, but something was off. First of all, the rooms seemed small. We had our copy of the plans and a tape measure and soon verified that each room was exactly right – if you measured from the center of the log. Every room lost a little square footage due to the large diameter of the logs; some logs were as thick as two feet. I had expected that and it wasn’t going to be a problem because of the spaciousness, high ceilings, and large windows. Still, something was wrong. We finally discovered that they had placed the wall between the guest bath and the laundry a full foot and a half into the laundry room. The guys were chagrined and offered to start all over, but we thought it was one of those happy mistakes. The laundry room was still plenty big and the extra space in the guest bathroom allowed for a little more luxury.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 2

We had the land, we had the plan, next we needed to decide on a log home company. Years of touring homes, going to log home expo’s, and researching the various companies led us to one particular style and company. I’m not going to name this nationally known company, but they were featured in log home magazines and on television. Although they were based in our state, they were expensive. Then we stumbled upon a home being built in our own little off the map, backwoods village. The logs were huge, the Swedish cope style of fitting the logs together was more appealing than what we had previously envisioned, and the company was Christian owned: North Arrow Log Homes.

We visited their operation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where they were building several homes in their log yard. They took us to several finished homes where we noticed their signature arrow piercing an upper log and, of course, pointing north.

Every house was a masterpiece. And, unlike the other (famous) company, they did not charge extra for larger logs. We were still a year and a half away from being ready to build, but we slapped our money down and snagged a place on their schedule. Meanwhile we continued to spend as much time as we could in our northern Michigan woods. We plotted the course of the sun, determined the best orientation for the house, and cleared as few trees as possible. My husband and his two chain saws felled around forty mature (60 year old) trees.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 1

I’ve been meaning to write a “story of Big Pine Lodge” ever since we moved in, but life has gone in other directions. We have two photo albums that chronicle the steps involved so I’ll be blogging the journey here, even if I am a tad tardy in doing so.

The Beginning – my husband and I had the same dream of building a full log home. Every facet of that dream, from floor plan to fixtures to colors, we agreed on, thanks to nearly ten years of collecting pictures from log home magazines. We bought 72 acres of bright, wooded, and rolling land that had a bowl-shaped, south-facing high spot perfect for our dream house. We built a three-car garage to the west with a two bedroom apartment above and used it as a weekend and summer get-away for several years until we were ready to build “the lodge”.

The Floor Plan – I used graph paper first and later a computer program to figure out how to incorporate our list of must-haves.

The Must-Haves: Full logs, no drywall anywhere, a stone fireplace, a large great room, a loft, a kitchen you could look down on, high ceilings and lots of windows, a sunroom, and a deck. From sketch to print-out to 3-D model we changed multiple things, but the basic layout stayed the same.
(If you're not already an e-mail subscriber you might want to sign up so you don't miss any "chapters" in the progress of building this dream home. I'll have pictures of every step.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thanks, Blessings, and Surprises

What am I thankful for on an ordinary day?

First, there are no ordinary days, are there?

I started listing in my head all of the usual blessings: home, family, income, health, sunshine. Boring, right?

So how can you and I be interestingly thankful each extraordinary day? We can be thankful that our prayers are answered even if the answer is “no”, “later”, or “I’ll surprise you”. We can be thankful that our minds are so intricately functioning that we can read this, see what’s in our peripheral vision at the same time, hear several sounds right now, be thinking in our quiet heads, feel the hard surface of keyboard or coffee cup, too, and also be conscious of the chair under us. We are marvelously made.

I am going to be thankful for the surprise that awaits me today, even if it’s ordinary. There will be more surprises tomorrow. No day goes by as planned. If you can’t find a surprise today, you’re missing the little delights of the day.

Anybody want to share a surprise, answered prayer, or blessing they had this week?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Favorite Quirks of Fictional Characters

Sometimes in books and movies and TV shows a particular character will seem over-the-top or ridiculous or just plain unbelievable, but we like that character anyway. Here are a few of my favorites. The cool thing is that I’ve known someone in real life who exhibited the same quirk.

1) Michael Scott in the TV sit-com The Office – he says and does such embarrassing and inappropriate things that I can’t help but drop my head in shame for him as I laugh. (I’ve known a social studies teacher like this. He once showed up in a pink bunny costume to crash a ladies’ Tupperware party.)

2) Indiana Jones in my favorite movies – his hat never came off no matter what improbable situation he escaped. (A divorcee, a pastor, and a young man I’ve known can all tell the most interesting stories from their lives; whatever place, activity, or problem you mention, they’ve been there, done that, solved the problem with finesse.)

3) Russell Hantz from Survivor, now hosting a house flipping show– his hat was usually on, too, to hide his bald spot. Though he’s not fictional he’s a combination of Michael Scott and Indiana Jones with a dash of deception, arrogance, and ignorance thrown in which, strangely, makes him interesting. (I know a restaurateur who also hides his balding, continually lucks out in Vegas, flips houses and cars with alacrity, and leads a charmed life.)

4) Eddie Burling from my book Edge of Escape– teenaged hunk, but unaccepted, shy, awkward, emotionally impaired. (I had an eleventh grade student who got quite emotional over little things. He was tall and handsome yet the girls ignored him. He sat with the special education kids at lunch and seemed to be an outcast even with them. I based the character, Eddie, on him. I’ll never forget the time he came up to me after class with tears running down his face because he couldn’t understand how to conjugate verbs. I worked with him; he wasn’t dumb and eventually earned a B.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writing Tips, Characters

I ask myself these questions about my characters and flesh out their personalities on a separate document. I don’t use all of the information I invent, but it’s nice to have a thorough knowledge of them to draw from.

1) Physical attributes (hair and eye color, height, athleticism, etc.)
2) Personality characteristics
3) Quirks, speech patterns, attitudes, mannerisms
4) Family relationships and friendships
5) Likes, dislikes
6) Fears
7) Goals
8) Talents
9) Secrets
10) Obsessions
11) Clothing style

Things change as I’m writing, though, and quirks or habits or number of siblings jump around from Bob to Sue or maybe someone’s height or age or hair color needs tweaking. By the end of the story I know them pretty well and I hope my readers do, too.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Books are full of triangles. You can’t have boy-meets-girl without a third party to mess things up. You can’t have a detective solving a murder without something blocking his path to success.

What other triangles are there? Relationship. Disaster. Obstacle. Danger. Decision. And it always seems to be that the third point in the triangle is somehow “bad”. Kind of like real life, isn’t it?

I need an idea for a new novel and before I write the first word I need to settle on a triangle. The bad point on a three sided story could be jealousy. Who hasn’t found herself stuck by that sharp edge?

Here’s a tentative first sentence: It wasn’t the fact that her thirteen year old sister really was more beautiful that made Alyssa plant the poison, no, it was the fact that Brandon pointed it out yet again.

This might get me started, but I guarantee that once I flesh out the characters and really begin to write a story all this will change – ages, poison, beauty, first sentence – but jealousy will remain and I’ll spin a tale around it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Tunnels Series - Chapter Books for Kids

The Tunnels Series on Amazon
In all six books Nick Bazebahl and Samantha Tennes explore classic and modern books by sliding through strange tunnels and landing in the middle of fictional events. Sometimes they can interact with the characters and sometimes they are just invisible observers, but in all the stories they have a mission to complete. Let your imagination run wild with them as they go to different places, times, and realities in
The Tunnels Series on Amazon

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Truth about Nicodemus, part 3

We first were introduced to Nicodemus in John 3. He was a part of the story that brought Jesus to exclaim the most important verse in the Bible, the one you see on billboards, tattooed on football players’ cheeks, held aloft on homemade signs: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Nicodemus didn’t get it then and he didn’t understand later (John 7), but by John 19 we learn with one astonishing fact that Nicodemus came to a saving faith in Jesus even though he had stood against him when he was with the Pharisees.

What is this fact? We find it in the story of Jesus’ burial after the crucifixion: “Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.”

I cannot think of any reason why Jesus’ disciples would allow a Pharisee to do this most important task unless that Pharisee was one of their own group, secretly, like Joseph of Arimathea. God can work in anyone’s heart. Nicodemus had questions. He asked. God answered.

Do you have questions?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Truth about Nicodemus, part 2

After Nicodemus’s nighttime visit to Jesus, we are left wondering if he “got it”. Did he understand Jesus’ explanation about being born again? (John 3) We come across Nicodemus next in John, chapter 7, after Jesus teaches during the Feast of Tabernacles. The people are confused as to whether or not he is the Messiah and wonder what the chief priests and Pharisees have concluded. The temple guards do not arrest him and the Pharisees chastise them, saying that Jesus has deceived the guards, but not the Pharisees. Nicodemus is among them and it is said that none of the Pharisees believed in him. We can conclude then that Nicodemus’s mind was not changed.

Not yet, anyway. He is recorded as saying, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” Sounds to me like he is experiencing a few inklings of . . . what? Curiosity? Doubt? Wonder? Belief?

There’s an interesting conclusion to Nicodemus’s story that I’ll tell you in part 3.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Truth about Nicodemus, part 1

Nicodemus was a well-educated Pharisee, member of the Jewish ruling council, and teacher. He came to see Jesus one night. (John 3: 1 – 21) He made a statement that revealed exactly what the elite council was afraid to say: “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

That means they did not dispute the miracles, the healings, the exorcisms. That’s astounding information. Jesus answers the question in Nicodemus’s heart by responding, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

The expression "to be born again" (or literally, “to be born from above”) was in common usage among the Jews to indicate a conversion from Gentile to Jew, but they never used it in regard to someone who was already Jewish. Nicodemus is confused; this seems to be an absurd doctrine and so he mocks it by saying a man cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time.

Jesus clarifies it by explaining that a person must be born of water and the spirit, in other words, you must be born physically and spiritually. One cannot see the physical world until he is born. One cannot see the kingdom of heaven until he is born spiritually.

More about Nicodemus in parts 2 and 3.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered the Splash into Summer Giveaway Hop to win a copy of Edge of Escape. I used a random number generator to pick the winner: "Mara80". She's been notified by email.

Now, it's time to get back to blogging.