Changing My Mind

I was going to write a post for today about my NaNoWriMo project. I’d decided within the past few weeks to do NaNo again this year. Then, I changed my mind… again.

I’ve only participated in NaNoWriMo twice, but I loved it both times! It seemed like the perfect way to kick-start The Mechanic Who Would be Queen and get the first draft written. Not to mention this being the 20th year for NaNo! There are good reasons why I wanted to participate this year.

However, there are also good reasons why I decided not to participate. November is a busy month with Camo’s birthday, my IT staff’s birthday, our 20th anniversary, and Thanksgiving. My family is wonderfully supportive the years that I dive into NaNo, and they don’t complain about the things I have to let slide that month to make word count. I know they would all be cheering me on. The thing is, there are things this month that I want to be able to just enjoy without having to worry about my word count. My IT staff and I are going away overnight for our anniversary, and I want to be able to enjoy a nice dinner without having a word count nagging in the back of my head. Camo’s birthday sometimes seems a little lost in the shuffle of a busy month, and I want to make it special and make a cool cake for him without feeling like I have to rush to go get some writing in.

As much as I love NaNoWriMo, it does tend to overshadow everything else in a month. I don’t want that to happen this year. I’m definitely not ruling out jumping into the fray again next year, but for this year, I think it’s better to sit on the bench and cheer the rest of you on. I’m still going to write The Mechanic Who Would be Queen! In fact, it’s probably going to be the first book in a trilogy. Or maybe a four-book series… I’m not sure yet, but I’ve have ideas!

So, who’s doing NaNo this year? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Tea and Books Tuesday – October 29th

I read Edge of Oblivion, the first book in Joshua Johnston’s Chronicles of Sarco series, shortly after it came out. I loved the world-building, and declared it reminiscent of Star Trek. The last two books in the trilogy languished in my ever-growing TBR pile until just recently. Part of me thinks, “I should have read them sooner!” but I must admit that part of me is glad that I waited until I could read books 2 and 3 back-to-back. When I reached the end of Into the Void, my kids were startled when I said rather loudly, “Why would you end it there, Joshua Johnston? Why would you do that to us?!” Thankfully, I had book 3 waiting on my Kindle app to be started immediately.

After the last-minute cliffhanger that changed everything at the end of the previous book, I didn’t have a clue what to expect from Through Chaos. The world-building, cultures, and history that I loved in the first book, was carried through to the end of the third book. Watching certain threads come together, and connections falling into place was satisfying, and one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading the series. The diversity among the characters in the book gives the reader a wonderful variety of points of view on what’s happening. The number of connections, and story threads that needed to come together by the end of the series could have made for a haphazard ending, but Joshua did a great job tying everything up smoothly and in a way that made sense and brought the series to a good close. (Not that I’d mind a spin-off series if that was ever in the works!)

While the storyline in Through Chaos certainly has plenty of action, it’s not action-packed at the expense of world-building and character development. The exploration of the different people and cultures is in-depth enough to make for a rich setting, but blends into the story in a way that is relevant and didn’t pull me out of the story while reading. It’s definitely an epic space opera!

Fans of space opera along the lines of Star Trek will not want to miss this series. It’s solidly Christian fiction, and a clean read. This is another book series that I don’t hesitate to let me tweens and teens read! There’s an e-book box set available now, and you’ll definitely want to get all three books so you don’t have to wait to start the next one in the trilogy. (Trust me, you will need to pick up book 3 as soon as you finish book 2!)

In my mug today is something other than tea! I grew up drinking coffee, and still like to have some now and then. Some mornings just call for the caffeine kick of coffee! One of my current favorites is Butter Pecan by New England Coffee. I can buy it at my local grocery store, but if yours doesn’t carry it, then you can order online. Greek yogurt has become my breakfast staple since I started regularly having breakfast a couple of years ago. (Mom tried for years to get me to quit skipping breakfast, and it turns out that she was right. No surprise there!) Berry blend was my go-to, but I was recently introduced to honey flavor Greek yogurt, which definitely tastes like cheesecake. Cheesecake for breakfast? That works for me!

What’s on your bookshelf and in your mug this week? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Tea and Books Tuesday – October 22nd

Note: I received an ARC copy of today’s book from the author. I was not required to write a review in exchange for the book, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I’m a big fan of sci fi, and grew up watching Star Trek re-runs with my dad. I may have mentioned this a time or two! I also grew up watching mysteries on PBS with my mom. Does anyone else remember Mystery! hosted by Diana Rigg? Mom and I were definitely fans! When Nikki Haverstock mentioned that she was publishing a cozy sci fi mystery, I knew that I’d be reading Space Murder!

Nikki started out the book in the middle of the action, which made the book hard to put down. I liked Captain Laika from the start, and quickly became invested in what would happen to her, and the rest of her crew. Space Murder has a fast-paced plot and my kids will tell you that I gasped aloud a couple of times while reading it. (Some of those twists!) When the mystery was solved, I found myself saying, “Why didn’t I notice that?” The ending made sense, and didn’t come across as contrived, so it’s a good mystery in my opinion!

Space Murder is a perfect read for fans of cozy mysteries, and my mom would have loved the book! Sci fi fans who enjoy a good mystery will not want to miss what I sure hope is the first book in a series. Captain Laika’s faith puts this in the Christian fiction category, and the book is a clean read. I’m completely comfortable letting my tweens and teens read it, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my teen daughter will be asking me when the next book in the series is due to release! With Christmas coming, this would make a wonderful gift for the mystery or sci fi fan on your list.

Of course, if you’re gifting a book, I recommend pairing it with some good tea. The Blueberry Black Tea from The Spice & Tea Exchange that is pictured in my cup today is one of my new favorites. If you’re lucky enough to have a shop somewhere nearby, you can smell all of the fabulous teas they offer and pick what appeals to you. If there’s no shop in your area, you can’t go wrong with the blueberry! The blueberry flavor is strong enough that it’s not overwhelmed by the black tea, but you can still taste the black tea. The two flavors blend nicely, and they have created just the right balance between the two. This is a great morning blend, and also a good pick-me-up in the afternoon on the days when you need a little boost.

What are you reading and sipping this week? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Tea and Books Tuesday – October 1st

Note: The Plum Deluxe links in the post are affiliate links. I was a contributor to the book anthology featured today.

So, I may have mentioned my short story, “The Librarian Who Would be King”. I may also have mentioned that it ended up in an anthology titled Heroes of the Realm with some of my very favorite speculative fiction writers, and published by Realm Makers Media. I may be just a little bit excited about that… OK, more like completely freaking out, but trying to be professional and play it cool.

I signed on with the Kickstarter campaign for this anthology well before I ever considered submitting. I was familiar with the writers who had already been brought on board and I knew that I wanted to read their stories. (Their stories did not disappoint, by the way!) When I found out that being a supporter of the campaign meant that I could submit a story for consideration, it took two people to convince me to submit something. My IT staff reminded me that doing the things that challenge us is what makes us grow and get better at our work. And my sister told me what Mom would have, that I was trying to talk myself out of submitting something, but if I wanted to I should just do it. I needed that push!

The first draft of my story was so awful that I don’t think you could even call it a first draft. (Don’t laugh! It really was terrible and I think I broke every rule of writing and grammar, and went a few thousand words over the max word count.) A sea of red ink later, I sent it to a couple of writer friends for advice. I got some great suggestions back and went back to the keyboard for a couple more drafts before sending it off. The night before Mother’s Day, I got an e-mail that it had been accepted for publication in Heroes of the Realm. Then it was on to more edits, including a fantastic suggestion from editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail that resulted in one of my favorite lines in the story!

The day I held a print copy of Heroes of the Realm in my hands was the most amazing feeling. I admit that I did flip to “The Librarian Who Would be King” and took a peek at that first, but who could blame me? After that, I started at the beginning and read through the stories in order. I love the variety of genres and writing styles featured in the anthology, and there’s a reason why I admire the other authors–they write great stories! You can order the anthology in either digital or paperback, and I think it would make a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys speculative fiction and short stories. The theme for the anthology is heroes, so each story features some kind of hero. It was fun reading everyone’s interpretation on that theme!

The mug that’s made an appearance for the last three weeks is one of the Kickstarter perks, but you can order one for yourself at the Realm Makers website. The tea in the cup in my tea of the month from my Plum Deluxe subscription. It’s a wonderfully fall-ish tea, but the tea of the month is a subscriber exclusive. If you’re interested in learning more about their tea subscription you can check out the details here. At $10/month, it’s the most affordable tea subscription I’ve found, and their tea blends are delicious!

So, what have you been reading, or writing, or drinking this week? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Tea and Books Tuesday – September 24th

Note: The Plum Deluxe links in this post are affiliate links.

I started Nadine Brandes’ book Fawkes on, ironically, November 5th of last year while the power was out. I barely got through one chapter when the power came back on, and the book sort ended up getting shifted further down on my Kindle book list. (I can’t be the only one who has so many e-books that I forget to finish them sometimes, right?) I re-downloaded it to my tablet recently and wow, I wish I’d gotten back to it sooner!

I love learning about history, and was somewhat familiar with the history surrounding Guy Fawkes and the 5th of November. I absolutely love the speculative twist that Nadine put on the story though! At the end of Fawkes she includes info about what parts of the story are true, and what isn’t. I definitely appreciate it when a historical fiction writer includes that information.

Fawkes is technically a YA book, and while it’s appropriate for teens, I enjoyed reading it tremendously. I liked how Nadine re-framed the religious strife of the time period as opposing schools of thought on White Light, the source of color magic, and whether or not anyone should have direct interaction with White Light. The fact that she presented a balanced view of “both sides” showing that people on both sides of the ideology did terrible things is another thing I appreciated about Fawkes. A study of the actual religious conflict in that time period shows that to be very true. Some of the questions of prejudice that were raised were appropriate to the story and the time period. It was thought-provoking without being preachy.

If you aren’t familiar with the history of the time that Fawkes was set in, I hope this story will pique your interest enough to make you do some more reading on the real life history, because it is fascinating!

The tea in my mug this week is another Plum Deluxe blend–Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Tea. Seriously, it’s the next best thing to a spoonful of Nutella! And since it’s an herbal tea, I can drink it before bed and not worry about caffeine keeping me awake. It’s the perfect blend to go with a good book after a long day.

What books have you been reading, and what tea have you been drinking this week? Let me know what you recommend in the comments or on social media!

Tea and Books Tuesday – September 17, 2019

Note: The Plum Deluxe links in this post are affiliate links.

When Audible suggested the book Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski, it caught my eye because I recognized him as the creator of the TV show Babylon 5. Being a fan of the show, and wanting to hear how Joe Straczynski became a writer in the first place made this an audiobook that I couldn’t pass up.

Becoming Superman started out with Joe’s childhood, and some of the truly horrible abuse he grew up with. It was not exactly what I’d expected, but I had to find out how he got from there, to being a successful sci fi writer. It was hard listening at times, so I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live through. Every time something positive happened with Joe’s writing, I couldn’t help but smile because no matter what, he just didn’t give up.

That was one of my biggest takeaways from Becoming Superman, the importance of just not giving up. I know it sounds trite, but in practice, it’s harder than it sounds. I have to admire Joe’s willingness to stick to his principles, even if it appears to be a bad move career-wise. Whether or not I completely agree with every stand he took, it sure took a lot of courage to stand by something that you think is important, knowing that it can cost you dearly.

I also appreciated the part in the book near the end where he encouraged people dealing with mental health issues, addictions, or abusive situations to get help. There’s still an awful lot of stigma around those things, and parts of Becoming Superman highlight the cost of not seeking help because of that.

Becoming Superman gave me a lot to think about, and some of it was even related to writing! One big aha moment was when Joe talked about when he finally understood what a writer’s voice is. I’m still rolling that idea around in my head, but something really clicked and I had to re-listen to that part a couple of times. The advice he received from Rod Serling about not letting anyone stop you from writing the stories you want to is going to stick with me for a long time too. That, and of course, the not giving up part!

Sci fi writers, and fans of J. Michael Straczynski’s work would likely enjoy his memoir. There is some amount of profanity, and there are some things that are hard to listen to, so keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to listen to (or read) it for yourself.

The tea in my mug is a Plum Deluxe blend that is a particular favorite of mine. I love black teas with a butterscotch flavor and Sweet Spot Butterscotch Black tea is one of the best I’ve tried. It reminds me of the buttered rum Lifesavers that my great-aunt used to favor!

So, what’s on your reading list or in your mug this week? Let me know what books and teas are topping your favorites list in the comments or on social media!

Tea and Books Tuesday – September 3rd, 2019

While I was sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office today, I finished reading Chasing Eden by Cherilyn Clough. I started reading it on Monday, and really couldn’t put it down. I was facinated by Cherilyn’s memoir and her stories of growing up with a dysfunctional/abusive family dynamic. What struck me the most though, was that she didn’t come across as bitter about her experiences, and seemed very balanced in the telling. She didn’t tell only the bad about anyone, rather both the good and bad. I found myself rooting for Cheri and hoping that by the end of the book, she would have found a way to escape the situation she felt trapped it.

Chasing Eden deals with some difficult and depressing situations, but Cheri manages to write it in such a way that I felt hopeful rather than depressed at the end of the book. I think that’s one thing that makes her memoir really unique and why I enjoyed reading it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely feel terrible and horrified at some of the things that happened to her, but I also see her not giving up despite all of it, and that’s why I think the tone is hopeful by the end of the book. There’s a sequel in the works, and I’m definitely going to pick it up when it comes out because I want to know how the rest of Cheri’s story turns out!

The tea featured in the photo today is Soho by Harney & Sons. I’ve liked any of their teas that I’ve tried, and this black tea with chocolate and coconut notes is delicious! It’s a nice afternoon pick-me-up, and I think it will also feature in my morning tea rotation as well. If you’d like to shop their site using my affiliate link, and get $5 off your first order of $30 or more, then just click here.

So, let me know in the comments what books you’re reading, or which tea blend you’re drinking this week!

Summer Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

I started out the summer with a challenge list of 13 books to read. I only checked off nine boxes, but that’s OK! The point of the Teish Knits Summer Reading Challenge was to read some great books that I’d enjoy. I definitely read some great books this summer, and I’m part way through a number of other books that I just haven’t finished yet. (Whether it’s knitting or reading, I’ve always got more than one in-progress at any given time!) I hope you read some fantastic books this summer, and that you enjoyed hearing about what I’ve been reading. I definitely had fun with this particular challenge.

Now that summer is all but over, I’ve been debating about what to do to fill the Tuesday blog slot. I’ve decided not to bring back my Thoughts for Tuesday posts, but to instead do a Tea and Books feature. Originally, Teish Knits was called Tea and Conversation, so this will be something of an homage to my blog’s original name. Not to mention an excuse to write about two of my favorite things!

Let me know in the comments what book you enjoyed reading the most this summer, or what your current favorite tea is! And stay tuned for more chatting about tea and books at Teish Knits.

Lesson Planning: Digital vs. Paper

Author’s Note: I am an independent contractor who does work for Well Planned Gal. I was not hired to or asked to write a blog post about planning with their products on my blog, nor am I receiving any kind of compensation in exchange for doing so. I have been using their paper planners for the past 9 years, and talk about them in this post because that’s what I still use today for my own homeschool planning.

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in lesson planning this month. New Book Day for us is on September 2nd, so after finishing up final grades and sending off reports back in July, I jumped right into making sure that I was ready for the upcoming academic year. Well, as ready as I can be!

I’ve been using the Well Planned Day paper planners since Munchkin was in first grade. I still am too attached to my paper planners to give them up completely! A few years ago though, I added the My Well Planned Day online planner to my planner line-up. While having a nice paper planner on my desk for day-to day reference is still my preference, I’ve been surprised by just how helpful the online planner has been, and can’t imagine not using it at this point.

My Well Planned Day does require some extra time and effort to set up before the beginning of the school year. There are some lesson plan add-on options that will let you “plug in” pre-planned assignments so that you don’t have to type in anything. These are wonderful, but they aren’t an option for every course that I use. For the ones that don’t have an add-on option, I create the course and then add assignments myself. This does take a fair amount of time for a full year of assignments. In the past, I’d avoided planning out a whole year at a time on paper because inevitably, something happens that requires shifting things around. If you’ve written out a year at a time, then it really is a headache to try and update the paper planner. With the online planner though, I can move things around with just a click or two of my mouse! I can also see when our projected finish date is for every course we’re working on. That’s a huge help for staying on track through the year. I can enter grades for assignments right in the online planner, and things like grade reports, attendance reports, and even a high school transcript are generated for me. This is a wonderful feature when I’m getting semester reports put together. The student log in option has been perfect for one of my boys. He much prefers digital planners, so being able to log into the website on his mobile device and check off his assignments is perfect for him. (He can only see his assignments and check them off as completed though. He can’t add grades or delete assignments from the student log in!)

So, why do I still use the Well Planned Day paper planner if the online planner has all those helpful features? There’s something about me that still loves paper, pen, and beautiful planners. Since we do a year-round school schedule, we take every seventh week off. I transfer lesson plans to my paper planner in six week blocks. That way I’m set for the block of classes between breaks, but if something changes our schedule, there’s not too much to shift around. I personally prefer having a paper plan to refer to throughout the day, rather than needing to log into my planner account. You can print assignment lists and teacher lists from the online planner, but the paper planners are spiral bound and truly beautiful.

If I had to pick just one, I’d probably switch to the online My Well Planned Day. For now, I’ll keep using both! But what if you don’t want to use both? How do you decide which is a better fit for you?

Pick the paper Well Planned Day if:

  • You would rather plan with paper and pen
  • You want to record what you’re doing as you go along instead of planning everything out ahead of time
  • A physical planner that’s beautifully designed helps you stick with planning and record keeping better than a digital planner
  • You don’t mind calculating semester grades yourself as long as you have pages to keep track of the grades and attendance for each semester
  • You’ve tried digtial planners and calendars and they just aren’t a good fit for you
  • You don’t want to enter a year’s worth of assignments up front

Pick the My Well Planned Day online planner if:

  • You are comfortable using digital calendar and planner tools
  • You want to plan your whole year ahead of time, but still maintain the flexibility of updating and changing plans as needed
  • You want a planner that will calculate attendance, grades, and even generate a high school transcript for you
  • You want your students to be able to log in and check their own assignment list
  • You want a paper sheet to refer to each week, but you don’t mind printing off a weekly assignment list to hang up or put in a 3-ring binder
  • You don’t mind investing the time to enter a year’s worth of assignments at the start if it means saving time while still being able to be flexible later on

If you still aren’t sure which planner is a better fit for you, head on over to Well Planned Gal and check out the options. There’s a Peek Inside button under the description for all of the paper planners that shows you an online preview that you can “flip through” to get a good idea of the page layouts. You can also sign up for a free 30-day trial of the online planner. You don’t have to enter a credit card, so there’s no sneaky auto-renewal at the end of the trial!

If you have a question about how I use either of the planners, leave a comment, or use the contact form to send me a message. I’ve been using these planners for years, and I’m always happy to answer questions about them!

What about you? Do you prefer paper planners and calendars, or are you a digital planner?

Summer Reading Challenge Update – August 21st

We’re doing a reading challenge here at Teish Knits this summer, and it’s not too late to join in! You can download the challenge prompt list and bookmarks here. This is a strictly fun, no pressure challenge, so you can interpret the prompts as broadly as you like, and choose to do fewer of them if reading 13 books this summer seems too overwhelming. Every Tuesday, I’ll be sharing my own progress here on the blog, and I hope you’ll stop by and comment either on the blog or social media and let me know what you’re reading!

An e-book.

I finished reading The Powers of the Earth by Travis J I Corcoran last night, but I couldn’t write up my review last night because I was still internally screaming over the massive cliffhanger! The second book is already out, so there’s no wait to start the second book in the Aristillus series.

The Powers of the Earth is not for everyone. I was intrigued when I heard it compared to Atlas Shrugged and the concept of a moon colony further piqued my interest. There’s a lot of discussion among characters and even internal debate on topics like economics, politics, ethics, and even a bit of religion. While that sort of thing isn’t to everyone’s taste, I’m fascinated by the topics myself. I tend to lean rather libertarian myself, so I didn’t mind the inclusion of that in the book, and I appreciated that there were some of the tougher points, and some of the potential problems with that ideolgy explored in the context of the story. No system is perfect, and that’s true even in the Aristillus moon colony!

I’m a sci-fi geek at heart, and that was part of the appeal of The Powers of the Earth. I found the setting of a moon colony to be interesting reading, and I honestly wouldn’t have minded delving a little deeper into it. Admittedly, when I first came across the talking dogs, I was beginning to wonder what I had picked up. The dogs were the results of genetic engineering who have an interesting history of their own. I quickly grew to like the characters, and the interesting point of view they brought to the story. The inclusion of an AI is another good twist and I’m still not sure what to make of this particular AI. I guess I’ll have to read book 2 to figure it out!

There are interesting characters in The Powers of the Earth, and while the idea of a Moon or Mars colony clashing with Earth isn’t exactly new, I enjoy the premise and this is a slightly different take on it. It’s a long book, but that’s not necessarily a problem! The cliffhanger means that you will want to have the second book, Causes of Separation, on hand. (There’s no book 3 out at this point, so if the second one ends on a cliffhanger, then I’m really sunk!) There is some strong language in the book, so I would not recommend it for kids and younger teens. In a book dealing with an invasion, there will be some violence, but it’s not particularly graphic. If you’d like a nice long read, and you don’t mind sci-fi books that like to dive into the philosophical, then The Powers of the Earth is worth a look.