12th Grade! Check!

From this 

First Grade 


High School senior -  class of 2018 

James graduated from high school today. When we began our home school journey, little did we think we'd continue all the way through to the 12th grade.  With the help of Vision in Education,  the home school division of San Juan Unified School District, who held our hands and kept us on track, he earned a 3.97 grade point average and  graduated with honors and a Golden State Seal merit high school diploma.  I am so very proud of him and all he has achieved. 

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

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Synopsis:  "Grace Mae knows madness. She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us."

I just finished A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis. I had a hard time it putting it down once I started reading. McGinnis's writing and characters drew me in  and played upon my emotions. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, liked the characters, but found myself questioning how I feel about it. Does the character's plight make her actions justifiable. How do you root for someone who takes matters into their own hand and goes against the law. But then the law wasn't doing anything for her. Is it madness or justice or revenge. Which is it? Which is why this was a truly great story. It makes you question as well as bleed for the characters.

Thursday Epiphany: Creative changes

Ch ch ch changes!  MyProWriMo is being called on the account of creativity.  Yes, odd.  I haven't had time to post because my brain has been busy - working on the story, writing in my head, talking through ideas with hubby, writing and editing.  I won't feel guilty about not posting everyday because I'm making progress, albeit slow progress.  I feel like we're in the second honeymoon phase. My writing relationship has gone from glowing to comfort and now we've rediscovered each other and can't get enough.  *grin*  

Once I started typing up revised chapter one, it took longer than expected.  Ideas and epiphanies, hubby putting in his two cents worth, more changes until I decided it was time to move forward. I can always go back and do another pass.  Currently on chapter two, going back and forth with the characters and myself about which clues to drop now or hold on for later.  How much detail do I go into. I don't want to dump any backstory, so dribbling it out bit by bit.  How else will anyone know what is going on in the heads of my main characters.  

I can see now why some writers do several passes, looking at dialogue, senses, description, and setting. Each time I reread, more of the picture pops out.  Like painting a picture, going with broad brush strokes, working with light and shadow, putting in the fine details, dabbing bits here and there.  The vision in my head doesn't always match what comes out on paper.  But that isn't a bad thing. 

So posting is going to be a bit sporadic. I'll try to put up something at least once a week. I still have book reviews to do.  I finished A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin which was simply amazing.    I'm enjoying delving into historical fiction more so than detective stories these days.  At least they don't compete with the story in my head.  


Friday Mumbles and Stumbles

I spent a bit more time working on Layla's scene and debating between first person present or third person past.  She's basically trapped somewhere so her scenes are scattered throughout the story.  I like first person present but how does that mix when the rest of the scenes are in third person past?   I know I should choose one or the other. Something to ponder for a while.  

I'm also second guessing working linearly on Eyes, instead choosing to work on scenes that haven't been written instead of taking each chapter chronologically until I've worked my way through the whole book.  I'm in the one of those wishy washy modes and worrying I'll get bogged down again after the first few chapters.   No matter what it will get done, as long as I'm working on it every single day.   Perseverance is the key. 

I stumbled upon The Millions  Five Non Fiction Books for Writers to read in an Emergency and much like the author, I found I can't read books about writing while writing or editing.  They make me second guess myself.   I can ignore all that while doing a first draft but when it comes to editing, no way.   I also find myself steering away from mysteries and suspense stories, instead immersing myself in historical fiction and other literary genres.  I've discovered, that even though I'm writing suspense, that paranormals, urban fantasies and mystery books, pull my attention away, totally distracting me from writing.  My brain fills up with their stories, blocking out mine.  Which is probably why I'm eyeballing Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra for when I finish Helprin's Soldier of the Great War.  

I also came across the Shortest Novels Written by 20 Authors You Should've Read by Now and I'm happy to say I've already read Don Delillo, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Haruki Murakami, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkein.  I have Cormac McCarthey's The Road on my shelves.  At some point I'll dive into the rest. Nice to know there are shorter books to read. 

~Cheers to a great weekend~ 

Fighting Terrorism by Benjamin Netanyahu

First lines:  Organized crime has plagued all the democracies.  It has attacked business establishments, assaulted judges, corrupted police officials.  But the rise of terrorism in recent decades presents a new form of organized violence directed against democratic societies.  Making their appearance in the late 1960's, terrorist attacks have afflicted virtually each of the Western Countries in an unfailing sequence. 

Synopsis:  In this innovative and concise work, Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu offers a compelling approach to understanding and fighting the increase in domestic and international terrorism throughout the world. Citing diverse examples from around the globe, Netanyahu demonstrates that domestic terrorist groups are usually no match for an advanced technological society which can successfully roll back terror without any significant curtailment of civil liberties. But Netanyahu sees an even more potent threat from the new international terrorism which is increasingly the product of Islamic militants, who draw their inspiration and directives from Iran and its growing cadre of satellite states. The spread of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, coupled with the possibility that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, poses a more frightening threat from an adversary less rational and therefore less controllable than was Soviet Communism. How democracies can defend themselves against this new threat concludes this provocative book

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, first wrote this book in 1995 and updated it in 2001.    He covers the beginnings and backers of terrorists groups, the rise in terrorism over the decades, the question of civil liberties, Gaza, nuclear weapons and lastly, What can be done about terrorism.  James and I spent quite a bit of time discussing the ideas and material as we read and talked about all that has changed in the past 18 years.  Makes for an interesting and educational read and provokes much discussion.  

The Boy on the Wooden Box - Leon Leyson

Leon's parents adopted a saying that he used to repeat often when the German's started to take over Poland - "If this is the worst that happens," taking each day one day at a time, dealing with each issue as it came along.  Quietly uttered when faced with losing their freedoms, their jobs, their homes, being forced into the Ghetto, then a work camp.  I chose to read The Boy on the Wooden box with James to give him a look at what life was like for the Polish Jews whose lives were turned upside down by the war.   How they had to scrape and scrounge for food, sharing even the tiniest bit with each other. How they managed to hold onto their humanity in the face of evil.  Leon, his brother, and his father worked for Schindler in his factory so he got to know them and was nice to them when the other Germans treated them badly.  When they were taken away and put into the labor camp, Schindler worked to build his munitions factory as quickly as possible and put them on his list of the workers needed who were necessary because they were already trained. He  managed to save the majority of Leon's family.  The memoir is heart wrenching as well as a tribute to perseverance, life and love during the most horrendous of experiences.    

Synopsis:  Even in the darkest of times—especially in the darkest of times—there is room for strength and bravery. A remarkable memoir from Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list.
Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, a man named Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon Leyson’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory—a list that became world renowned: Schindler’s List.
This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s List child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Most notable is the lack of rancor, the lack of venom, and the abundance of dignity in Mr. Leyson’s telling. The Boy on the Wooden Box is a legacy of hope, a memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read. (less)

A to Z Poetry: Choices


Is your cup half empty or is it half full?
Or is it overflowing, due to things you think 
are beyond your control?

You've caged yourself in and given me the key,
granted us the privilege,
giving me your responsibility. 

Don't give me your strength, nor give me your weakness,
then tell me it's my fault and and expect it 
to be accepted with meekness 

Life is full of cups and cages
 of our own making. We all have choices,
My mother would always say, quite sagacious

Take back your key and throw it away.
Build yourself up, not tear yourself down.
 Break out of your cage and rule your own day.

~R.L. McCormack

Sunday Salon: Productive and Creative

Happy Sunday!  I am quite proud of myself although it's only been four days.  I've automatically, without help of the alarm, woken up an hour early every day.   Except for today of course.  I have spent at least 10 minutes daily working on the first scene in Chapter one. I'm ready to type it up and move on to the next scene.  Yesterday I had been thinking that since it had only been four days and the month started midweek, I should give myself extra time and continue to work on that one scene for this week.  However, I'm ready to move on.  Hubby's been quite useful as a sounding board, bouncing ideas off of him.  He's being quite encouraging.  

So the goal for this week is to review and rewrite Scene 2 from Greg's point of view, plus write and schedule posts for this week.  I'm almost caught up with my book reviews, have three more to write and then I'll schedule them for the coming weeks.  

James and I are going out this afternoon for our annual Super Bowl Shopping trip.  It became a tradition when our wonderful neighbor starting putting off an air horn every time his favorite team made a touchdown.  Drives both of us up the wall.  We have fun going to the comic book store, Barnes and Noble, and picking up something for dinner.  My book buying ban is still in force (which a friend quickly reminded me of when she heard about our shopping trip) so I'm going to try and resist temptation.  Maybe I'll pick up a book for Hubby.  *grin*

My 52 Books group is traveling through England for the month of February and this month's flower is Rose.  I shouldn't have too much trouble spelling that one out.  

I'm still reading Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War (dusty and chunky) which is quite interesting and Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase (ebook) and as always, his books are off the wall.   I just finished listening to Faith Hunter's Blood of the Earth from her Soulwood series and will begin Curse on the Land tomorrow during my drive to work.   

It's the beginning of the end of our homeschooling journey.  We are down to the wire as we begin James 2nd Semester of 12th grade. Never imagined we'd end up working through all 12 years.  Hubby, who always swore he wasn't a teacher, now happily embraces his position and is learning just as much as James this year with Geometry and Chemistry.  I'm in charge of the two e's this semester -- English and Economics.   We still have half our budget given to us by Visions to spend, so going to have some fun shopping for biographies, memoirs, poetry, as well as more chemistry materials.  

Off to shop, then plan lessons for the week.  


First Lines: A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

First lines:  On the ninth of August, 1964, Rome lay asleep in afternoon light as the sun swirled in a blinding pinwheel above its roofs, its low hills, and its gilded domes.  The city was quiet and all was still except the crowns of a few slightly swaying pines, one lost and tentative cloude, and an old man who rushed through the Villa Borghese, alone.  Limping along paths of crushed stone and tapping his cane as he took each step, he raced across intricacies of sunlight and shadow spread before him on the dark garden floor like golden lace.