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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reviewers Wanted for My Book!

Dragon's Curse (The Dragon and the Scholar Book 1)

Hello, there, fellow bloggers! 

I am looking for blogging friends with a little free time on their hands to review my ebookS (linked above). You can read it on kindle or on a PC with the free kindle app. If you are interested, send me your email address and I will gift you a copy.

You can contact me through the comments or use my email

While I would appreciate any feed back, even negative, I will not pressure you for a review. Once the book has been delivered, I will never mention it again, I  swear. I will not follow you around the internet begging to know what you think. If you decide the book isn't your cup of tea, but you do not feel like being frank about it, just set it aside and pretend the whole embarrassing thing never happened. If you want to write an honest review on your blog or on the Amazon page, please please do! I only ask that you provide me with a link so that I can share your review with others in my social circle.

If you do post a review, negative or otherwise, I would like to see it but will refrain from commenting to argue with you. I promise!

You can also review my books on Goodreads here.

My books (but not my short stories) also exist in paperback form, but I am unwilling to give out too many copies this way because of the price of shipping and actually producing these books is much higher for me. I can order them at a discount from the Amazon price, however, so if you are extremely interested but unwilling to read on a computer or kindle, message me and maybe we will work something out.

I currently have multiple eBooks available, three novels and two short stories. I will be adding to this list regularly as I finish new projects, so even if you have reviewed for me before, feel free to check back here and see if I have something new you might want to read. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Kindergarten Work Load

We started school today. It was kind of arbitrary, choosing today to start school in earnest, but I really just wanted to test out the system I  had worked out in my head and see if it needs any adjustment before next week when her co-op classes start. Co Op classes are twice a month, up from once a month last year, and she will be in three different classes: science, Spanish, and art.

I have been slowly purchasing her educational materials every time I get a hold of Amazon.com credit, which I do often thanks to Mysurvey.com (I can send you a referral to this site if you would like. Just give me your email address. It has by far the best rewards for your time of any survey site I have found so far and you can sometimes get product samples as well), and we have been doing light school all summer, but it has been mostly just one subject a day. Today was the first day I decided to do all the subjects at once.

The subjects I have chosen to teach this year are reading, handwriting, math, and Spanish. I plan to incorporate literature, art, and other humanities subjects through our library books, picking out subjects she is interested in and expanding upon them with books (such as I did with our unit on Van Gogh and our space unit).

We already finished up our Kindergarten Reading Unit through Hooked on Phonics.

I was surprised at how quickly we went through it. I am going to buy the first grade unit when I get a chance, but I don't want to rush her through it too quickly, so right now for reading we are just using readers that we get from the library. Her favorite are the Mo Willems ones that I blogged about here. 

I was concerned that Coryn would get burned out if I tried to do everything in one day. After all, I've never really required her to do more than a half hour of school at a time and here I'd planned out a math lesson, a Spanish lesson, a fairly length handwriting sheet, and also to read a book. That could take hours.

It took less than an hour and a half, so now I'm wondering, okay, did I go too light? Should I add in a few more subjects? More busy work with the subjects that I did choose?

Here are the  workbooks we are using:

I chose to go with Horizons for math. It is very highly recommended and the books were a reasonable price.

 My only complaint is that they are a little  easy. I do like that they include a mix of different subjects. The lessons involve pattern recognition, telling time and the days of the week, shape recognition, and number writing practice. These are all subjects that Coryn has become somehow fairly adept at (we haven't done a lot of math work but she has a decent grasp on addition and subtraction), but I decided to resist the urge to skip ahead. For one thing, this means that for now math is her easiest subject and I'd like to avoid  it becoming hated for her as swiftly as it did for me (I remember disliking math from an early grade). Coryn likes subjects where she can feel smart and has my weakness for getting frustrated with things she can't get right the first time. 

For handwriting we are using a combination of Draw.Write. Now and a basic printing workbook called Brighter Child Handwriting: Printing

Draw.Write.Now is good because it involves drawing a simple picture and then writing out four sentences describing the picture. Coryn doesn't really seem to do too well with the drawing part (she takes a lot of short cuts), but so far she has been good about getting through the sentences. 

Handwriting: Printing has worksheet pages that focus first on letters, then on words, and eventually sentences. It is a very basic workbook and I probably could've just printed out handwriting sheets for free off the internet, but I've been having off and on trouble with my printer, and I felt it would be nice just to have the worksheets on hand (it helped that the entire workbook is only $3.59 on Amazon and I had some credit there). The letter pages are a little bit monotonous, but once she focuses she can get through on in about ten minutes.

For Spanish I found Teach Them Spanish which is a teacher source book, meaning it is meant to be copied so that you can share the pages with multiple students and have them cut them up, draw on them, etc. It has a decent range of activities and even some songs to teach children basic Spanish words and phrases. It is a good program if you know how to read Spanish, by which I mean are familiar with the Spanish alphabet and pronunciation of the words.

I was surprised at how quickly we got through our work today, so I'm reevaluating a tiny bit. I'll keep tweaking the system until we figure out what works for us. 

Crazy Claire: Toddler Distraction Techniques

a key
Claire has started opening doors. She is very good at it. Because of this things which I thought were out of her little grasp have now becoming easily accessible. It is a similar crisis to when she learned how to push chairs over to things she wanted to climb up onto or before that when she learned to walk. She scampers off into all sorts of trouble the moment my back is turned. If I go to the bathroom I find she has got into my make up and eaten a tube of lipstick. If I get distracted cooking she gets into the room where I keep games and craft supplies and dumps out all the puzzles and mixes the pieces. If I take the time to clean up one mess she has made she goes and makes another.

So I've started locking doors.

I lock them from the inside with the door open, shut the door from the outside, and when I need to get back in I use a coin to unlock them. It's a process, but it keeps her out of one or two places she shouldn't be.

Claire's School Station
She is also very demanding and wants to be "involved" with Coryn's schooling. She climbs up on the table and scribbles on her sister's work books. So far the best distraction I have found has been her easel (I got it for $5 at a thrift shop). One side has a chalk board and the other a white board and I let her draw on it using either dry erase markers or chalk, depending on her  mood. She needs to be watched closely when she has the markers so that she doesn't nibble the tips off or take off with one of them and draw on something she shouldn't (today she made a beeline for an open library book and got a few red lines on it before I could stop her). She loves using the colored markers to scribble all over the whiteboard,  however.

We are still working on Claire's busy ways . . . or I am say I am working on controlling my reaction to  her busy ways. It can be very frustrating when I finish cleaning up one mess and find out she has climbed into the pantry and dumped out a box of spaghetti or got her paws on a pen and drawn on herself and other objects. I think I just need a little vacation. Either that or a baby straight jacket. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Crochet Snowman-Wordless Wednesday

I'm probably going to make a family of these little guys. I'm not satisfied with the hat so this is a work in progress.

Wordless Wednesday Hop

Amanda’s Books and More
The Mommy Blog Hoppers


Monday, August 26, 2013

Because you really wanted to cry tonight. . .

I was rolling my eyes at all the VMA "news" links today on Facebook when, at the bottom of a bunch of suggested stories about popstars I couldn't care less about I saw this headline

Man, 96, enters song contest to pay tribute to love of his life

That intrigued me, so I clicked (you can click on the headline to find the article I read) and omgosh . . . crying!

You know that first segment of Up! where they tell Karl and Ellie's story and everybody cries? It's like that with singing.

 Its Hump Day!

Easy Readers: Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie

It can be hard to find compelling easy readers for "just beginners." As vocabularies expand, of course, a whole new world of books will open up to a child, but for the first bit, the bit where it is C-A-T=cat and sounding out every word can be laborious, it is easy for kids to get lost and bored and learn to loathe and dread reading or at least find it tedious. A lot of reading programs are very drill/repetition intensive and only very slowly get to anything resembling a story. We went through several of these (which you  can read about here) before we found Hooked On Phonics. One reason I think this curriculum worked so well for Coryn was that in the very first lesson she can read a real story. Yes it only uses words that end in "at," but combined with the pictures it was a STORY! Once she realized reading would enable her to read stories and not just lists of words, something clicked, and she has been on fire ever since.

That said, there aren't a ton of stories that first time readers can muscle through and while Coryn is ambitious (she is always asking to read books above her level), she can get frustrated and sometimes asks me "just to read it" when things get too hard. 

I was a little skeptical of the Mo Willems Elephant & Piggie series when I saw them because, and this may seem like sacrilege to all those who adore his "Pigeon" series and Knuffle Bunny and whatever else he has written), I find his books silly verging on stupid. They seem too simplistic, too dependent on comic strip like drawings.

However, what makes a poor picture book (in my opinion, you are welcome to love his works. I just don't.) makes for excellent easy readers. 

Elephant & Piggie books are simplistic and silly, but that is actually their strength. They tell, in very few words, a very funny story. 

Coryn was not in a posing mood
The first book we tried was Can I Play Too?

The first time we read it Coryn was nearly hysterical with giggles. The story (told in easy reader words and a few new sight words I had to help her with) is Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie playing catch when their friend snake wants to join in, but snake does not have arms. Can a snake, with no arms, play catch? 

(There is actually a little bit of a lesson in here about accommodating friends with disabilities, but if this is not something your child is dealing with, it reads more like a funny story than a morality tale)

We ended up finding that our library had five or six more of these titles. Coryn wanted to get every single one, but I made her pick out three.

I looked on amazon and there are a ton volumes in this series. I highly recommend them if you have an easy reader who likes humorous tales and likable characters.

Reading List: Cozy Reading Spot

I try to do a Vlog and life is really so much harder for the careless

So my attempt at a vlog has led me to wonder: am I really this much of a mumbler or is my microphone set up really that bad? If you want a lesson in how not to make a vlog, click on the link above. I think you'll get about every third word. It involves a story of me locking myself out of my house, ending up with a chandelier in the middle of my kitchen table, and other hazards of life with a walking disaster such as I am swiftly becoming.

If you can muscle through it, try to laugh with me, not at me.

So, to sum up:

On Saturday the  light fixture in the dining room fell down.

It's hanging by a cord. I put a towel under it to keep it from scratching the table, but it is too heavy for me to lift back into place and I can't figure out how to reattach it.

Did I mention Matt was gone? Yeah, he'll be back on Friday. Until then, I think we are stuck with this.

it's so bright!
When it is on it kind of looks like a campfire  in the middle of the table.

Cara Box Reveal!

Cara Box

So I decided to do a Carabox exchange again this month! I've had mixed results with online exchanges. I seem to get paired with flaky partners about 50% of the time. I don't whine about it much because there isn't a ton you can do, but of the last five or so box exchanges I've done (some through Cara, others through other blogs) I've gotten three boxes back and other times I've found my partners to be rushed or uninterested in actually taking the time to get to know me (if you tend to be too busy to respond to basic emails, probably these sort of swaps aren't for you, just saying).

Which is why, this month, I was relieved that Kaitlyn with Wifessionals was pairing veteran with veterans, which meant I knew I was going to be matched with someone who  had done the exchange before and had a track record of follow through. 

I sent my box to Ashlea (you can read her blog here), and I am praying it got there or will get there soon. I provided her with a tracking number so it is in the hands of the USPS now.

But my box came from Kari, a mother of two adorable twin girls. You can see her blog here.

Now I had the "bright" idea to do a video reveal, but I think I need to invest in a microphone because I am really hard to understand in this video. You can watch it for laughs. 

Here are some photos to clarify anything I mumbled through.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Comment Policy

I decided to post this simply because it has only recently started to come up. This is a low traffic blog and I don't get a lot of  comments. I also know how important blog traffic can be and understand why you might want to comment with a link back to your blog, or link up party, or social network. I'm fine with that, however, I also really really don't want to link up to parties if you don't take the effort to actually read my blog and have some actual reason for commenting.

Please do not comment just to tell me about a link up without taking the effort to read the post and say something about it first (like why my post would be suitable for your link up, how it relates to a similar post on your blog which I might like to read, all of these are good reasons to link back to your own blog in your comment). Even without a link, if someone comments and has a profile I can follow back to their website, I generally will click on their name just to see who they are and what they have been writing about. I don't always comment back on every comment (I'm awkward that way. When I don't have anything brilliant to say I just stand there and look at my feet). If you don't have anything to say about my particular post but still think I would enjoy a link up, feel free to contact me through other means (you can find link ups to most of my social networking profiles here).

So my comment policy:

I will keep comments that have something to say about the actual post.

I allow links that are included in comments that meet the above criteria.

Comments that include link but do not say anything about the post will be deleted from now on.

If you wish for me to join a linky you have created, please contact me through other means than blog comments (see link provided above).

Now to lighten the mood, here is Claire Bear with a lollipop.

Follow Who? Social Weekend Hop

More Cover Art: Dragon and the Scholar Series

I'm by no means an artist. I don't even really have a visual imagination. I'm not particularly good at titles either, but holding a picture in my mind long enough to describe it let alone to draw it is hard for me which makes long, descriptive sections my weakest point as a writer (though as mentioned, my titles also just generally stink).

Cover art, however, is very important in book sales because  while you can't judge a book by its cover, when pursuing titles online or in a bookstore, you are dealing with limited information and cover art does make a difference. Some people will completely bypass a book with cheesy or bad cover art.

Now, other than paying a professional artist, which I didn't feel was an option for me for financials reasons, or using a stock image (create-space and kindle direct provides several options for these, but I didn't feel any of them got the mood of my stories across), the self-published author can either team up with a friend, use a photograph of their own, or draw something.

I have had a very clear vision about my Dragon and the Scholar series and the image I wanted to represent it. I wanted a silhouette of a dragon behind the outline of a castle. The first book of the series is called Dragon's Curse and the central theme for most of the story is how the kingdom of Regone has been shadowed with ill luck ever since an unfortunate encounter with a dragon. I chose an orange/red background because of dragon flame and decided to work in water color and sharpies after experimenting for some time with the limited art supplies I had on hand (this artwork might actually be better done with computer graphics but I do not possess that particular skill set).

I started by googling images of castles and dragons and picked a castle with an outline I liked and worked from that. Once I had the castle shape sketched out (in pencil. There was a lot of erasing done today) I started looking into dragons.

There are a lot of images of dragons on the internet. They come in all shapes and sizes, and I was able to pick and choose elements from various artist renditions and play with them until I had an outline I was satisfied with (again, a lot of erasing, but eventually I got there). Once I had the outline I decided I wanted the sharp lines of flat black against the red-orange background and chose to go with Sharpies so I could have the contrast. I outlined the dragon first so that I wouldn't lose any pencil lines when I used the water colors for the background.

Tools of the trade for an extreme amateur
Then I got to work with the very soothing task of filling in the red-orange background. I went over the paper several times to get a dark, consistent color (which I may end up using paint to smooth out later on, but for now I'm happy with how it looks). Since I knew the black marker would cover up any mistakes I didn't feel a need to be particularly careful with the paint.

When that was finally done I started to color in the dragon's shadow with my marker. I  had to keep my face back away from my work because of the fumes. I kind of wish I'd had an ink pen that could handle this workload.

I considered using black water colors instead of markers, but the small portion I painted in with them (visible in the next image) simply wasn't dark enough for my taste.

So finally I finished my dragon. I'm very happy with it, though I might choose to use paint (the computer kind) to darken it and make the colors more consistent.

I don't want to publish Dragon's Curse until I've finished at least the first three installments of the series (Dragon's Debt and Dragon's Rival follow Dragon's Curse. I have a theme going.), but  it makes me happy to have this artwork out there to share with my "fans." I still have a goal of producing at least one new self-published volume a year, so I want to keep moving. Wish me luck!

And, as always, if you want to check out my first self-published work, it is available on Amazon as a paper back and an ebook.

Be A Crafter xD

The Chicken Chick

Craft O Maniac