Creative jump start!

Good bye June. You went by much too fast.  Tomorrow marks the beginning of July and the start of a new month and Jennifer Blanchard's Recharge Your Batteries in 31 Days journey. 

Jennifer says " This recharge is about getting yourself on track to becoming a badass creative person."  Well, I'm all for that since my creativity needs a recharge.

To get the most out of this Creative Recharge, you’ll want to have the following:
  • An Open Mind—I can’t express how important this is. Without an open mind, you’re not going to accomplish much of anything. Some of the tips/tasks are going to seem strange to you, even downright weird, but if you keep an open mind and attempt them anyhow, you’ll see the point.
  • A Commitment—to yourself and to completing the 31-day challenge. Sure, you could continue to make excuses for why you can’t, but you will never, ever reach any of your goals that way.
  • A Willingness to Share—you will get more out of this challenge if you comment on the posts and share them with other creative people that you know. Leaving comments around the day’s challenge and sharing with other people will help you get your questions answered, see how other writers are doing and assist you in implementing the tip/challenge into your day.

I'm jumping in wholeheartedly with an open mind, no excuses and willing to do the daily challenges no matter what they are. *gulp*    Who wants to join me?

Plus round 3 of a Round of Words in 80 days is starting July 2nd and vow to do a better job of stating clear, specific goals and working hard to meet them. 

I watched Neil Gaiman's commencement speech to the class of 2012 at the University of the Arts yesterday and he had several wise things to say including:

"Be wise, because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone wise, and then just behave like they would."

Off to do something creative!  

6th Grade Wrap up

Finished reviewing, organizing, and figuring out James final grades for 6th grade and he did pretty darn well, better than I expected.  6th grade became a year of growth, both physically and mentally.   James finally began taking initiative, worked independently on the majority of subjects, even those that required teaching by hubby or I.  He'd get up in the morning and dive right into his lessons which pleased me to no end.  We had more hits than misses this year which was a good thing.   I did discover than James and hubby think a lot alike and curriculum I thought would be easy to do wasn't because their brains just didn't get it.  

What we accomplished:

Voyages in English is a hit as always and plan on continuing with it in 7th grade.  I like the layout and most of all James gets it, most of the time.   The grammar part is excellent, the writing section leaves a bit to be desired however.  Kept writing pretty informal since James enjoys writing, especially stories as long as it relates to one of his video games. Plus he likes writing letters to the various video game or tv show creators and getting responses back.  I do my best to give him careful and constructive feedback in order not to squelch his creativity. In addition we tried Wordsmith Apprentice and I'm still on the shelf about it. As long as I geared the lessons toward the topics (video game characters) he was interested in, it worked.  Otherwise, it was like pulling teeth.  He's eventually going to have learn to write about topics he really has no interest in so we'll be working on that in 7th grade. 

A big miss was Hayes Outlining, Note Taking, Report Writing Skills.  Hubby had difficulties with it because it wasn't how he had learned it in school and it just didn't make any sense to him.  So that one was shelved and hubby taught outlining his way.  

Spelling Workout is a major hit. One of James best subjects and he consistently got an A on every quiz and test.  We'll will be continuing with Level G.    Continued Cursive with Horizon's Pensmanship which combined a bit of history with writing out presidential inaugural addresses or proclamations.

Mid year we started working on reading comprehension with Peace Hill Press's Writing With Ease and following directions with Creative Teaching Press's Following Directions. James seems to prefer reading non fiction over fiction unless it is a comic book.  Discovered he's a fast reader but doesn't remember what he read so working on his comprehension skills.   And following directions - just a case of selective listening.  *grin*

Math wise, we continued with Saxon and discovered Life of Fred mid year which really changed James attitude about math and he started enjoying math, looking forward to it and practically devoured the Elementary series in 6 months.   Fred is a 5 year old genius teaching math at Kitten's University and each book tells about Fred's life in novel format and is quite humorous.  James still isn't ready for pre-algebra so we are going to continue on with the next book - 6/5 Saxon and supplement with Life of Fred.  


Holt, Science and Technology's Earth Science is a fantastic book and James and hubby studied about the earth and minerals, rocks, and energy.  They didn't complete as much as I wanted and thinking we may continue with it in 7th.

James and I read Our Golden California together and surprisingly, I learned a few things myself about the history of California. 

James and I continued with Thomas Kincaid's Drawing Basics and happy to say James drawing improved over the course of the year.  He loves drawing and  his walls in his bedroom are a testament to that fact.  Not sure what we are going to do for 7th grade yet, but I definitely would enjoy taking an art class or two myself.  

James and hubby finished the 2nd half of The Story of the Orchestra and learned all about the instruments.  Great book with an accompanying musical cd with samples of music and the instruments.  Now when they listen to the stereo they are pointing out to me the various instruments in the the songs.

I have to say it's been an interesting time homeschooling James.  Both hubby and I have discovered things we have either forgotten or possibly never learned.  It's fun doing interest based learning and I so enjoy seeing the gears turn in James's head, see the spark when he gets it or discovers a new interest.  Yes, there are frustrating days when you want to tear your hair out because it seems he's forgotten every single thing he's learned.  And then there are those days when he's flying and it makes those hair pulling days all seem worth it.  But you know what?  I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  

Time to start planning 7th grade.....

TLC Book Tour: Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke

Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke

Back cover:  Thrilled to spend the final hours of her spring break in the VIP room of an elite Manhattan club, fresh-faced Indiana college student Chelsea Hart remains behind  when her girlfriends call it a night.  The next morning, joggers find her body in East River Park, her blond hair brutally hacked off.

NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher believes the group of privileged men last seen plying Chelsea with free-flowing alcohol most likely includes a murderer.  But after building a tight case against a young hedge fund managed, Ellie has her doubts, because Chelsea's slaying is eerily similar to three other murders from nearly a decade ago.  Continuing the investigation long after the department brass is satisfied with their case, hard headed Ellie plunges into a late night party world of conspicuous wealthy and hedonistic consumption to catch the real killer--unaware that a psychopath is watching her every move...and eager to kill again.

Alafair Burke bats it out of the ball park with Angel's Tip.  I enjoyed it more than Never Tell.  This fast paced, action packed police procedural has so many twists and turns and keeps you so intrigued wondering exactly how Ellie and her partner Rogan are going to figure it out, you don't want to put it down.   Ellie is the newest officer in the Homicide department and when she happens to be the first officer on the scene when Chelsea Hart's body is found, she moves fast to take charge.  Her new partner, seasoned detective J.J. Rogan supports her 100% and goes to bat for her, providing with some credibility with the rest of all male homicide squad.  Just when she thinks they have the killer nailed down, she receives a tip that opens up a whole can of worms. The murderer is not at all who I expected, since there were just enough red herrings to throw you off the scent. Thoroughly enjoyed the story and look forward to reading the other books in the series.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for asking me to be part of the tour, Harper for providing a courtesy copy of the book and Alafair Burke for an intriguing story with well drawn 3 dimensional characters.  Check out the rest of the tour here, Alafair's website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday Salon: Summer laziness

Good morning! We are still alive and kicking around here. Just full of summer laziness. I refused to schedule or plan anything the past two weeks even though said laziness caused boredom for one particular party which resulted in getting in mischievous trouble.  I needed the break...badly.  We contemplated our navels for awhile, read a lot, hung out, and generally drove father crazy.  *grin*  Seems he thrives on schedules as well.

Now feeling a bit more refreshed and even rewrote one page of my current wip this morning. May not seem like a lot, but its progress.  The 2nd round of ROW80 has come to an end and I don't feel like I accomplished all that much.  My goals were to finish the 2nd edit of Eyes in the Ashes.  I like the creative part of the process so much more than the editing process.  Once I reread and outlined the story, discovered had done a lot of head hopping with several points of view.  Narrowed down the points of view and managed to rewrite the first five chapters.  Admittedly, I didn't work on it every single day and there were days felt like was going in an endless loop.  Reviewed my notes the other day and realize was reinventing the wheel several times.  It really does help to actually write down your to do list rather than keep it in your head.  For an organized person, I was extremely disorganized this round.    I stumbled across a post the other day by Nail Your Novel entitled Letter to a writer who is losing confidence which gave me the kick in the pants I needed. Especially this part. 

"Writing a novel is a big job. You have a heck of a lot to get right. Plot, character, pace, theme, structure, description, logistics, language. If it’s your first novel, you’ve also got to learn the craft too. If you take it at all seriously (and thank goodness you clearly do), you’re bound to have wobbly times. Most professional novelists take at least 18 months to get a novel right – and they know what they’re doing."

So I may not be done by the end of June but that's okay. It was a self imposed deadline and life happens.  Getting my to do list organized and going to take baby steps.  I have a new story ruminating in my head but going to throw that first love honeymoon feeling at my current WIP and take a 2nd honeymoon.

Reading wise, I completed Lilith Saintcrow's Jill Kismet series. Sad to say goodbye to Jill but sure I'll find another heroine to fall in like with soon. I just finished Alafair Burke's suspense novel Angel's Tip which was pretty good and enjoyed it more than Never Tell.   Really hate reading books out of order so will be going back and reading the series in order:  Dead Connection, Angel's Tip, 212 and Never Tell.

Currently working on nook book Judas Kiss by J.T. Ellison. Finally got into Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp (reading during breakfast and lunch) and listening to audiobook Portrait in Death by J.D. Robb.

We are on week 26 in our quest to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.    I'm always on the look out for unique or interesting book lists and forget exactly who turned me on to Hawes Publications (think maybe Jen from Life with Books)  which lists every New York Times Bestseller listing from the year 1950 until now. You can look up which fiction and non fictions books were published and on the best seller list for the year, month and week you were born. Checked out the list and already have a few in my TBR pile: Exodus by Leon Uris, Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell, The Thirteenth Apostle by Eugene Vale and Doctor Zhivago By Boris Pasternak.

Life wise, today we are heading out to the nursery to get some goodies for our garden plus working on our family to do lists for household projects, summer field trips and lessons. 

The Sunday

Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. ~Danny Kaye

TLC Book Tour: Never Tell by Alafair Burke

Never Tell by Alafair Burke

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Julia Whitmire appeared to have everything: a famous father, a luxurious Manhattan townhouse, a coveted spot at the elite Casden prep school. When she is found dead in her bathtub, a handwritten suicide note left on her bed, her parents insists that their daughter would never take her own life.

But Julia's enviable world was more complicated than it seemed. The pressure to excel at Casden was enormous. Abuse of prescription anti-depressants and ADHD medication ran rampant among students; an unlabeled bottle of pills in Julia's purse suggests she had succumbed to the trend. And a search of Julia's computer reveals that in the days leading up to her death, she was engaged in a dangerous game of cyberbullying against an unlikely victim.

NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is convinced the case is a suicide, but she knows from personal experience that a loving family can be the last to accept the truth. When the Whitmires use their power to force a criminal investigation, Ellie's resistance causes trouble for her both at work and in her personal life.

As she is pressured to pursue a case she doesn't believe in, she is pulled into Julia's inner circle-an eclectic mix of overly precocious teenagers from Manhattan's most privileged families as well as street kids she met in Greenwich Village. But when the target of Julia's harassment continues to receive death threats, Ellie is forced to acknowledge that Julia may have learned the hard way that some secrets should never be told.

I was first introduced to Alafair Burke through my favorite mystery writers blog Murderati and was totally blown away when I read Long Gone.  (check out the tlc tour)  So when the opportunity to review Never Tell and Angel's Tip in her Ellie Hatcher series came along, I was thrilled.   I don't usually read series out of order but they do stand alone.  The order of the series is Dead Connection, Angel's Tip, 212 and Never Tell.    I'll be reviewing Angel's Tip on 6/27 and have since downloaded the other two books to read on my nook. 212 is available for your e-reader for only $.99 for a short period of time,

Never Tell is one of those books that even though you may have something that needs doing, you just have to read one more chapter, then another until you forgot what you needed to do.  Burke did an excellent job of elevating the suspense and keeping you wondering who the culprit really is.  The characters will get under your skin and some of them you want to shake some sense into.  I highly recommend it. 

Check out what everyone else thought of it here. 

Alafair is also hosting the 2nd annual Duffer Awards and each day will be posting a poll featuring two novel characters. Vote and post a comment and be automatically entered for weekly prizes. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for asking me to be part of the tour, Harper Collins for providing me with a courtesy copy of the book and Alafair Burke for creating such an interesting, intriguing story. 

Sunday Salon: Freedom!

We are done with 6th grade and hence the elementary school years.  It has been a family affair and an accomplishment we are all quite proud of.  Little did we think when we started homeschooling James and taught him how to read, that we'd still be doing it today.  We took it day to day and year by year and each year decided to just kept going.  We decided for the Junior high years we needed a bit of help, so signed up for the local public home school charter school.  We are hoping to ease James into some classroom situations over the next couple years so he'll be ready for regular high school.  But who knows what the future will bring with schools changing so much and the majority of textbooks all turning electronic. I'll be posting our 6th grade wrap up sometime this week. 

As far as writing is concerned, I didn't accomplish anything last week.  Heck, I feel like I haven't accomplish much this whole round.  Too busy concentrating on making sure James did all his work and passed all his tests to even think about it.  Did manage to get some critiques done on the first and second chapter which were quite helpful.  So now since free from lessons, going to put the pedal to the metal and concentrate on editing my current wip and attempt to finish the 2nd edit by June 30th.  How has everyone else been doing? 

The Sunday

Reading wise, I completed The Bishop by Steven James and the reviews were right. It is an unputdownable book. Have The Pawn on my nook which is the first one in the series so will be going back and reading it, then the rest of the series. Finally read the thriller A Killing Tide by P.J. Adlerman. It's been on my nook forever - one of those Barnes and Noble free friday things. Great mystery with characters who loved to keep secrets which kept creating more crisis.

Finished Blameless by Gail Carriger, the 3rd book in her steampunk mystery series. Lady Maccoon is a hoot and the story is humorous as well as charming and entertaining. Now reading #4 in the series: Heartless.

Next up on the nightstand is Jane Emily: And Witches Children by Patricia Clapp. Discovered it through Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick.

And just received Love is Murder edited by Sandra Brown with original short stories from mystery authors: Lori Armstrong, Jeff Ayers, Beverly Barton, William Bernhardt, Allison Brennan, Robert Browne, Pamela Callow, Toni McGee Causey, Lee Child, JT Ellison, Bill Floyd, Cindy Gerard, Heather Graham, Laura Griffin, Vicki Hinze, Andrea Kane, Julie Kenner, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love, Jon Land, D.P. Lyle, James Macomber, Carla Neggers, Brenda Novak, Patricia Rosemoor, William Simon, Alexandra Sokoloff, Roxanne St. Claire, Mariah Stewart, and Debra Webb. I've read the majority of these authors so know the stories will be good. Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Blogging wise, now that I will have more time, am looking forward to catching up with all my peeps.  Yesterday, went through my reader and culled it down a bit to my favorite favorite folks, making it more manageable.  Plus I need to sit down and write/schedule a bunch of book reviews to get caught up.  It's been a bit boring around the blog lately. Will be sprucing it up a bit and possibly even transferring over to my own domain name.  Lots of things on the to do list.  

It is week 23 in our quest to read 52 books and highlighted Ray Bradbury on 52 Books blog and have links with Stephen Colbert reading The Veldt on You tube.  Check it out - very well done.   Do you remember the first Bradbury book you ever read?  What was it and when was it?

Happy Summer, ya'll.

 It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.  ~e.e. cummings

If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.  ~David Carradine

Sunday Salon: Hello June! Nice to meet you.

Brother at  Mogollon Rim, AZ
Happy June, hello Summer.   We have one more week of lessons and James will be done with 6th grade.  A milestone for the whole family because it has been a family adventure. Will wax poetic when all said and done.  I haven't accomplished a whole lot writing wise.  I have a new story percolating in the back of my brain and trying to ignore it while editing Eyes in the Ashes.   Which is going slowly - but surely. My goal is to be done by the end of June and by George I am bound and determined.  

Came across two wonderful blog posts from the two people who always give me much encouragement:   My unofficial virtual mentors - Jody Hedlund talking about Macro editing

"If we skip the macro edits, then we’re neglecting the sculpting part of the process, the chipping away, the molding, the plying. If we move directly to the line and copy editing stages, then we’re polishing a lump of clay."

So I'm going to continue to do my best to sculpt and mold my story and if it takes a little longer, well the wait will be worth it.  

And there is James Scott Bell talking about self discipline and your inner drill sergeant whom I haven't exactly been listening too lately.  

We've been a bit preoccupied with finishing up lessons and tests and.... this is a biggie... We meet with the counselor this week at Visions in Education and enrolled James for 7th grade. Visions is our public school home school charter and provides the monies for curriculum, teachers for guidance and testing, counselors for counseling, special classes and lots of extra curricular group activities.  We'll still be homeschooling, choose our own curriculum as long as it meets state standards and will have a teacher checking all of James work and keeping us on track.  

Reading wise, this week I just finished  Robin Burcell's Face of a Killer and thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading more of her stories.  The Great Gatsby - Meh! Good writing but no redeeming moral value to the story. The Inquisitors Key - Jefferson Bass (review book from William Morrow) Part historical fiction / part present day mystery. All blended together in the end. The only issue I had was the two writers and their voices were so completely different it was kind of jarring going from present to past then back again. 

 I'm so far behind with book reviews it is ridiculous.  One of my goals this summer is to get caught up with reviews for the A to Z challenge and unscheduled review books from various folks.

Life wise, we are working on our house to do list of what we want or need to get accomplished for the summer, plus a summer project or group class to keep James from getting too bored or overly dependent on technology and driving us all crazy. 

I love these two quotes I came across on Quote Garden

 If you want to be happy, be.  ~Leo Tolstoy

Happiness is never stopping to think if you are.  ~Palmer Sondreal

The Sunday