Homeschool Literature Project – Watership Down

From the above guide, there was a suggested activity to draw a specific scene from the novel, Watership Down. I think there were 4 or 5 choices. My 9th grader chose to draw Bigwig after his fight with Woundwort, and my 5th grader chose to draw the Black Rabbit of Inlé.

Then in a different section there was a recommendation to write a poem. I don’t remember the particular styles they assigned, but they didn’t fit with the drawing prompt to my mind, and I liked the idea of having them write a poem to accompany their drawing, so I asked them to write a haiku about the scene they drew.

Earlier in our Watership Down until study, I had the 9th grader recreate a scene from the book in comic format. She is taking drawing lessons and I really like how it came out, although the drawings are very small and I couldn’t get a good photo. I liked the project enough that I’m planning on having her draw other scenes from other books in the future.


NaNoWriMo failure. Again.

I’m not going to make my word count for NaNoWriMo. I’m disappointed, but this has been visible in the distance for awhile now. I just couldn’t keep up. I started out so strong, but I couldn’t keep going on a sleep deficit and I got sick, and couldn’t kick it – it kept coming back. Still, I know it was doable, I just made a choice not to sacrifice to the level I would have needed to to hit the 50,000. And I’m good with that choice still.
While I don’t have as many words as I might like, I’m very happy with the words I have. At month’s end (I am going to keep writing until the end even if I can’t hit my words) I will switch gears to revising the previous book. I’ve been doing a lot of exercises on character, and I think I can use what I’ve learned to help significantly in the revision process.
The plus side of not pushing myself into burnout is that nearing the end of November I’m still excited about writing and my story, and not sick to death of it. I’m calling it a win. Not an official NaNoWriMo type win, but a win in my progress and growth as a writer.


New Short Story Collection – Get it for Free!

Eye of the Beholder and other stories by Kara Hartz

I have put together some of my favorite short stories as a short ebook. These are Science Fiction and Fantasy stories:

An astrobiology team discovers a planet with disturbingly familiar aliens.
A middle manager finds out who has been stealing office supplies but knows no one will believe him.
A cleaning robot is much too efficient.
A little boy id desperate to acquire superpowers.
A military robot fights to deliver vital information before time runs out.
A translator under pressure makes a fatal mistake.

This collection qualifies for the KDP Select program, so I’m giving that a try as an experiment. So for now it is only available at Amazon but it also allows me to offer a limited time FREE! promotion.

You can get the collection for free for three days at the link above beginning tomorrow, Friday February 5th thru Sunday the 7th.


Things I Love – Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

When I find something I love, I have the urge to share it with someone. It occurred to me, that would be a great use of this blog.
So, to begin with, I give you Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman.
Shadow Scaleis the sequel to Seraphina:the story of a young musician (named Seraphina) who is in a unique position to bridge the increasing divide between dragons and humans at a time when years of peace between the two groups is growing strained. In Shadow Scale Seraphina has to take her mission even further and travel to other lands in search of other half-dragons like herself.
I loved the first book so much that I was waiting with great anticipation for the second. Part of me was a little disappointed in the sequel, but for a strange reason. In the first book, I was captured by the wonderful world and characters, and a decent amount of the text is spent on developing and introducing this world as Seraphina goes about her business. It’s the sort of story world I love to just wallow in. I had looked forward to that same feeling in the second but didn’t quite get it. We are introduced to many new lands and a lot of fascinating characters, but I didn’t get to wallow. So much happens that the story doesn’t pause enough to just lounge around in this beautiful world as much. Seraphina moves on a to a new place and new characters before we ever get to feel settled. Although I feel like complaining that the story moved along too well as a backwards sort of complaint. Instead, I will fill my need to spend time in this world by rereading both books at some point.
I believe these are marketed as Young Adult books, but I feel like there is more than enough depth for full on old adults like me to enjoy. I have a dragon-loving tween who I think would enjoy it a great deal, but I think I will wait a few years before offering it to her. Not that I don’t think she could handle any of the content or follow the story, but I think there are things (like the innocent, bitter-sweet romance) that she would appreciate more a little later on.

What I Read in July

Several other bloggers that I read regularly post a list of what they’ve been reading. Even though it just makes me want to read even more stuff that I will probably never get to, I like it anyway. So I’m stealing it.

Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Serger
This is mainly about screenwriting, but it promised to also apply to novel writing. I guess some if it did, but not as much as I was hoping. Although much of what it suggested, I’d heard or read in other places as well, so I suppose that supports it as being sound advice. I was just hoping for something new – to me anyway. Many of the examples I didn’t find useful, especially the ones involving commercials. Even really wonderful commercials I just don’t get a great sense of character from, so these examples just fell flat for me.

Even so, I was never tempted to skip ahead or stop reading altogether, and even if some of the suggestions were things I’d heard before, hearing them over again can only help to get them through my thick skull. So I’m still happy to have invested my time in this book.

Cat Daddy by Jackson Galaxy
This is less a book about cat behavior and more a memoir of Mr. Galaxy’s life. Although he does weave some cat information into the narrative because his life has been influenced by cats more than a little. He has struggles with multiple addictions in his life and goes into that topic in a good amount of detail. The cat behavior information is mostly good, solid stuff, but it was nothing new to me. I’ve never seen his show, so I had no expectations for the book, and I generally enjoyed it.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
As both a Scalzi and a Star Trek fan, I’d been looking forward to this one, and was happy to receive the Kindle version for my birthday. Honestly, I had a little trouble getting into it. I knew it was going to be a comedy, but the first few chapters just felt sort of. . . stupid to me. Then I realized this wasn’t a ‘playing it straight’ sort of comedy, but more of an over the top, full blown silliness kind of comedy, and I almost instantly started enjoying it more. A lot more.I couldn’t wait to make my family read it kind of more.

It’s a shorter book, and there are three codas at the end that tie in to the main story but happen outside the central narrative. I read several Amazon reviews that suggested not bothering with the codas, but I’m glad I ignored that. The codas were some of my favorite parts. By the time I was done, I’d gone from ‘meh’ to five stars in my opinion of the book.

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Paper Books vs. Ebooks

I had a moment of epiphany today. I was reading a book on my Kindle, but I sadly had to stop to do other things. As I put book down, I thought to myself, “I love my Kindle.” 
That thought stopped me. Literally. I stood still for a moment. I was one of those people who thought, sure, an e-reader might be convenient, but it will never be like reading a REAL book. I like the way real books smell and feel. How I know how far along I am in the story by how thick the stacks of pages are in each hand. I love all that stuff. 
So this sudden spontaneous thought about loving my e-reader took me off guard somewhat. Do I really love it that much? What do I love about it? I like it. It’s light and has great battery life. It’s easy to use, but it doesn’t smell like old paper or anything cool like that. 
Then the epiphany. I’m really enjoying the story I’m reading. (Redshirts by John Scalzi if you’re curious). That’s what I love. That’s what I suspect everyone who says they love real books means. What I really love is a good story. 
For so long, all the stories we loved came with that certain feel of a book in your hands. The smell. The pages flipping. It created a whole bunch of positive associations that are powerful. The go back to childhood for most of us. I remember hiding in the bushes on the side of my house, or under my bed to read a book in peace when I was a kid. Good memories. For so long now I thought I loved books as a physical thing. Turns out, I just love the stories. I love the stories enough that the physical thing they’re attached to became loved right along with the stories.
There are a lot of people who don’t think they could ever enjoy reading on an e-reader. I even fell into that thinking myself. I’m so happy to realize that the format isn’t all that important after all. I think it’s very good news for stories, because technology doesn’t go backward.

The Artist’s Way

So, one of my favorite writing podcasts, I Should Be Writing is working through a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron together. It’s a kind of workbook for unblocking creativity. I wasn’t feeling particularly blocked or anything, so I’m not sure why exactly why I decided to join it, but I did. So I’m doing the exercises and stuff. I’m in week 3 of the program. There’s a total of. . . hang on let me look it up. . . 12 weeks. I guess I felt like since I don’t get as much writing and other creative time in as I’d like, maybe it would help me to do that.

So far, it isn’t helping me get more writing done. In fact, I’m actually getting less done. The program requires me to write 3 pages (longhand writing) every morning about. . . just whatever. Stream of consciousness stuff. I usually can’t even get dressed in the morning before kids and cats and husbands (okay, just the one husband) need me for something, so I moved the page writing to evening. But evening is when I usually sneak in the little bit of writing I already did. So now I’m writing what feels like pointless ramblings (the book assures me it isn’t pointless) instead of working on my novel, or my newsletter, or my blog. Not loving the program yet.

Another problem I’m having, is that it’s difficult for me to view myself as an ‘artist’. That label doesn’t feel like it fits me. I write about alien fish and robots, and sew quilts that are made to snuggle with, not be hung on walls. Yet I feel like it’s strange that the name should bug me. Artist. Fine. So what? Don’t know why I don’t like it.

But I shall plow forward with this thing for a little while longer at least. If I gain any great insights that I feel are worthwhile, I shall come and report in about it. If any of you have ever heard of this book, or gone through the steps, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.