Friday, February 19, 2016

Product Review: Fast Transcripts

Congratulations to Sandra Scott! You've won the free 1-year Single Student License to Fast Transcripts! A HUGE thank you to all of you who read my review and who entered. Blessings!

GIVEAWAY EXTENDED! Not sure if it was my vague instructions or a Rafflecopter fail, but I only had two entries and I know more of you have to be interested! So, if you want to be entered, please leave a comment on this blog post. If you're having trouble with that, contact me via whatever social media is easiest for you, and let me know you're interested. :) Thanks so much! Giveaway closes for good on Friday at midnight.

I'm not profiting from the giveaway; I'm just looking to share a great product with my fellow home-high-school parents!


So, I'm still tweaking this back-to-blogging thing. I've decided that once a month or so, I reserve the right to talk about this or that site or product or book I've found particularly useful or meaningful. I've done several book reviews over the years, and I've become very picky because if you can't say something nice, why say anything at all? But we all find things that deserve some positive attention, and I'd like to share some of those with you.

With our family’s move two years ago, halfway across country, our homeschooling life shifted and we found ourselves in the position of having to produce our own high school transcripts. When looking for something that would just help me calculate my daughter's high school GPA, I happened across the Fast Transcripts service, offered by Home School Legal Defense Association, and took advantage of the 30-day trial membership to see if this was something this busy, distracted mom could navigate without too much trouble.

To my delight, it was very user friendly—and later, when I needed the actual, official transcript for my daughter’s university application, affordable as well. The turnaround time was much faster than promised, and after I’d added my signature, the college admissions office accepted the transcript with no questions. I was particularly nervous about this, since I’d always depended before on the validation lent by our accountability group, who had issued official transcripts for us, before. 

So, after crossing that final hurdle, I’m thrilled to offer my very positive review on this product and the customer service received.

So, what is it and where can you find it? gives homeschool parents the ability to create professional high school transcripts with error-free GPA calculation (includes weighted AP and Honors calculation).

They offer everyone a no-credit-card 30 day free trial!

The cost is only $16 ($12 for HSLDA members) if you continue with the service beyond the free trial.

AND! Fast Transcripts is offering a giveaway! The prize is a 1-Year License for a Single Student, normally $16 ($12 for HSLDA members). If you think you’ll need this anytime soon, please enter! All you need to do is leave a comment on this post. For extra entries, you can visit my author page on Facebook (where I share links to various posts I write and other tidbits on what I'm doing professionally) and/or follow me on Twitter (where I'm not very active, so I promise not to overwhelm your feed).

The giveaway starts at midnight tonight and continues for exactly ONE week. (I have no control over the time so ... )

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLAIMER: This is not my company and I'm not affiliated with them in any way, besides the exchange of my honest review for a year's subscription, as well. I don't profit from the actual giveaway at all. This is offered just to help out other homeschooling families. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Writing Through Grief, Part 4

So, last night I tried to talk to someone about Mom, and the whole situation this past year, and I swear, I couldn’t get a coherent thought out. My brain just refuses to work in a linear fashion right now.
And the anger. I feel so fragile, so brittle, like the merest blow will shatter me. I’m constantly having to rein the anger back in, over every stupid little thing.
Writing ... oh, yeah, I said I’d get to that. Over the past year, I’ve put proposals in for three different novella collections but nothing was chosen. Probably a good thing, because with everything else going on with Mom, I honestly didn’t have time for a contract.
In October, though, once we had Mom settled into rehab care, I thought I’d be able to settle in and focus on my writing. On doing something productive.
The suggestion was made by my agent that I come up with another historical romance, something aimed at a certain popular category romance publisher. With no little grumbling, I found my thoughts going back to a particular story idea I’d first written out as a novella proposal, a story that started seriously coming to life while I was staying in Missouri in May, training to do Mom’s dialysis, but then was turned down as a novella.
The ideas started percolating again. From October through December I made modest progress, first on a fantasy saga that I’ve pretty much been working on since I was 15, then on the new historical. In late December, I found myself writing a short stretch of story that suddenly upped the stakes for all the characters and changed the game as I knew it.
On January 2, Mom flew away home to Jesus.
Now, I’m stuck. I’m distracted. I don’t know how to get the characters out of the mess they’ve created, not even sure I believe they can grow enough for a decent character arc, or so their winding up together wouldn’t just be a setup for disaster. (I did mention this is romance, right?)
In the middle of being flat irritated at the characters (and even Joss Whedon commented that characters aren’t any good unless they have a will of their own) I find myself in the position of needing to work up a proposal for this story. That means not only polishing up the first three chapters (I have not quite four written so far), but figuring out where the rest of the story is going, including high points and black moments and the oh-so-important climax, and coming up with a one-sentence summary (the “pitch line”), the theme, stakes, scriptural basis, etc. etc. etc.
I whined a lot, but I managed it. And in the process, I have a better grip on the story itself, and might actually be a little less irritated at the characters.
So what is this story? Here’s my pitch line ...
How can she tell if God is calling her to stay ... or if she’s simply afraid to really live?
Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned this so far, my heroine is the granddaughter of Micah and Truth, from Defending Truth.
More later. :-)

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Writing Through Grief, Part 3

            Part of the problem with grieving is that it doesn’t come in this nice, neat, clearly labeled package: “Oh, here is Grief. I will take it out and feel sad and nostalgic for this person [pet, thing] I have have been separated from, and then after ten minutes, I will put it back away and on the shelf until another day.”
            No. For starters, it blindsides you, almost never when it’s appropriate or convenient. It may or may not be accompanied with tears. It might manifest (as I mentioned before) as anger or apathy.
            Grief makes me stupid, forgetful. It’s raw and yet enervating, causing me to be far more sensitive than any human being has a right to be, and at the same time calloused to the hurt of others.
            What really sucks, is that as time goes on, it feels less about missing the person who has left this life, and more that a whole chunk of your own life—who you are, what you base your daily routine around—is suddenly just gone.
            Basically, your whole paradigm just shifted.
            We writers, especially we speculative writers (and I am still one at heart, even though I’ve written both contemporary romance and historical, and am only published so far in historical), are used to writing about such paradigm shifts. We resent having to live them.
            I’m seriously resenting it this time.
It was one thing when we lost my adoptive dad, the summer I was 17 and newly graduated from high school. I didn’t know anything about grief back then but I subliminated a lot of it—and wound up with a hard-to-diagnose and protracted case of mono that kept me from returning to college after a mere three semesters. That was Daddy, and his passing was such a shock—just a month between his first hospitalization and his passing from cancer.
It was also different, grieving the loss of a baby. I knew by then that I better give myself space to grieve, or else, even if it meant shutting myself in my bedroom and screaming into a pillow, just to vent all the careening emotion in a way that wouldn’t harm my living children. That was still one of the roughest years—or two.
This time, indulging the grief feels ... wrong. Like, she’s only gone temporarily. I felt something of the same the couple of years that Troy served as civilian support in Afghanistan—a single parent in practice, mourning not just the physical closeness but the emotional closeness as well. But, I’ve spent the last couple of years watching Mom decline ... shouldn’t I have been prepared for this? Shouldn’t I feel more gladness that she isn’t suffering?
My stepdad’s grief, now, I can understand. Between everything, he was robbed of nearly a whole year with her. At the end only had, what, ten days with her at home, in the new house? Just talking to him on the phone hurts. I breathe in his pain like shards of glass and find that it kindles my own, all over again.
For crying out loud, though, I’ve been on my own, a married adult for nearly 30 years now. And fiercely independent during most of that (for a few different, complicated reasons). Why does the stray thought of being motherless suddenly snatch my breath and quicken my heartbeat?
I feel like I’ve been grieving already for the past year and more. Maybe I have.
Regardless, I find myself fighting it this time. Trying to tough it out, wrestle through the fog and stupidity and hardness of heart until something completely random and irrelevant reduces me to much-needed tears.
Because God made weeping to be a release for us, not as a sign of weakness.
Why is it so hard to remember that?