Monday, February 27, 2023

The When and the Why

The other day, my mom brought up a 2019 post of mine about following God's calling that dealt with why I had decided (at the time) not to pursue an elementary education degree. At that point in time, I had thought the answer to that question was "no" when in reality the answer was "not yet."

I'd honestly forgotten about that post. Skimming through it now, there are a few things that make me cringe, and I see some of the reasons why I thought I would be a bad match for classroom teacher are things I still worry about today—managing a whole class, meeting every child's needs, differentiating instruction in a classroom setting. But what I mostly see is something I have thought about often even though I totally forgot about the post: I was considering teaching for all the wrong reasons. And even though it turns out the "what" wasn't ultimately wrong and outside of God's plan for my life, the reasons I was considering it and the things I would have been abandoning for it made it wrong at the time.

It's easiest and most straightforward to talk about why the "when" was wrong. Because I'm glad I didn't do it then for timing and logistical issues. For instance:

  • I didn't yet have my own car as I was still sharing my family's old minivan with my sister
  • I didn't have enough savings to pay for tuition until scholarships kicked in, let alone to weather quitting my primary job during my last year and a half of school
  • I not only would have had to take more classes due to it being before KSU pared down the education program to 120 hours, I would have been in school during COVID shutdowns
  • Building on that, I would have started my field experience during the 2020/2021 school year and yikes
  • I wouldn't necessarily have had the same opportunities in my classes to share things about God and the Bible, and I may not have had the same professors and definitely not the same classmates
  • I wouldn't have had the same kids in my field experience and I just can't imagine not working with those same children
  • I also would not have gone to Realm Makers, gotten to meet Jaye L. Knight and Tricia Mingerink in person, or published The Void—but those things honestly fit more in the "why"

The wrong "why" is a lot more personal, and a lot more important. Because I'm realizing that in life there are a lot of things that may not be wrong in and of themselves, but our motivation and attitude can make them wrong. And that's primarily what was wrong with me considering teaching back in early 2019.

One of the reasons was that I felt like my writing was going nowhere so I was going to give it up entirely. I'd been dealing with massive writer's block, I wasn't selling many books, and I was just going to walk away from all of it. Forever. That was something God didn't want me to do. I went to Realm Makers that summer, which revitalized my passion for writing, gave me the tools I needed to get The Void into publication shape, and—this I consider to be most important—was the avenue by which I was finally able to meet Jaye and Tricia. I'd known Jaye online for years already, since back when she was publishing as Molly Evangeline, but I hadn't met her in person and I barely knew Tricia. After that Realm Makers our friendship deepened and now, despite our geographical distance, I consider them some of my very best friends. And I really couldn't imagine life without their friendship. And while college is causing writing to be slow and painfully sporadic and my schedule makes getting together with my friends much more difficult, I know it's for a time, and it's not forever. And writing and these friendships are something I don't ever want to do without.

The other reason I was considering teaching was escape. I had some things going on in my personal life at the time that I just really wanted to escape. And I've had to realize that running away from difficult things is not the way to handle it. You have to face it, work through it, not just ditch everything and run. Life is hard. That's just a reality. We're promised trials in life. God will get us through them. But it's not a good idea to do something else—even if that thing might be good in and of itself—just to get away from our troubles.

But pursuing something for the right reasons is a different thing entirely. Pursuing it because that's what God is calling us to now is a good thing. Pursuing teaching because God has gifted me in teaching and this is how He seems to be leading me to use that gift in this season is right. Pursuing it because I have a heart for children is a good thing. Pursuing it because God has opened those doors now is a good thing. And yes, there were financial reasons involved in the decision as well because that's the reality of the world we live in, but I've approached even those financial aspects of the decision from a different perspective and motivation than I did four years ago.

It all goes back to the heart. Even when we do things for the wrong reason, God can still use it for good because He's sovereign and He works all things for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purpose. But it's so much better when we seek Him not only for the what and the when, but to get our hearts right in regards to the why. So many things go back to our attitudes and motivations. No matter what we're doing, let it all go back to this:

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
—1 Corinthians 10:41

Note: Doing the wrong thing for what we might consider the "right" reasons is also a problem, but that's a topic for another day.

Monday, January 2, 2023

2022 in Review

2022 has been quite a year. It's been rather a mixed bag—lots of good things happened, but also it was rather rough for reasons I'll get to in a bit. But really, there were a lot of great things, even if it's been long and hard.

I started off the year with new piano students and 6 classes. Yes, I decided to do a crazy and take 18 credit hours last spring. 4 of the classes were online, so schedule-wise it wasn't actually horrible, but it certainly was a lot of work. As part of one of my classes, I volunteered with MUST Ministries for about 6 weeks. It was a really great experience and I was glad to see firsthand the work they do helping those in need and connecting people with jobs that suit their needs and skillset. 

I also did fun experiments like shine a flashlight on a Styrofoam ball to model the phases of the moon. 😂 Elementary education, amiright? (That lab kit of a flashlight, Styrofoam balls, and ziplocs of sand and potting soil was so overpriced for what it was, but I digress.) I also took American history last spring, which I was unsure about to start, but ended up really enjoying. I love American history and I picked the class that covered my favorite eras, but I was concerned about the perspective. As it turned out, my professor was fairly balanced and I got along really well with him. AND I got to write a paper on the Salem Witch Trials using transcriptions of the original court records from the Trials and it was SO COOL. I might have written most of it with an ice pack tied to my head so I could muscle through a headache and get it done on time, but I did it. 

Phases of the moon with my 
overpriced Styrofoam ball

A fun display a coworker and I made at the library

We made this one in the fall, but anywho,
I'm rather proud of it

Throughout this semester, we started watching Psych, which was a super fun, low commitment show for a busy semester. Shawn and Gus may be immature, but they're hilarious, and I totally shipped Shules from early on in the show. "Last Night Gus," though. That's the best.

The cast of Psych

I had a lot of homework, but I did manage to take spring break to make some new dresses...after I got fabric on a whim going into Hobby Lobby for colored popsicle sticks. Eh, it was a week off. And I needed some dresses. And then I spent some of the time leading into finals reading The Selection series instead of studying. But I still got straight A's, so it didn't hurt me any.

Then May was great. My sister Addy and I drove up to meet our good friends Tricia Mingerink (also known as Tara Grayce) and Jaye L. Knight at an adorable cabin we rented by a lake in Kentucky. We visited the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, kayaked on the lake, watched Clone Wars, practiced a few sword fighting stances, brainstormed solutions to problems in our stories together, wrote and edited, talked and talked and talked, and had just as hard a time as ever saying goodbye. Our group of evil authors helped tremendously in helping me figure out the plot of Acktorek 2, though I haven't had the time to put that plan into action yet. And really, it was just so great to get to hang out with them. So much fun!

Adorable little loft perfect for writing!

The lake down the hill from the cabin

At the Ark!

It's so huge!

Wishing we didn't have to say goodbye

Once we got back, it was time to jump into both summer school and music recital. I always love seeing how much my students have progressed, and I was super proud of them for all the things they learned. 

I took 3 classes over the summer, which ended up being pretty chill after my 18 credit hour semester. One of my classes was basically a music appreciation class, online, and I had to watch 3 concerts and write papers on them. Only requirement was that they had to be at least 50 minutes long. So I watched a super cool Stephen Spielberg and John Williams concert, the Candlelight Processional from Disney World, and Doctor Who at the BBC Proms 2008. It was pretty great. Also, the summer had me watching Obi-Wan Kenobi, which I absolutely loved, and walking in my hometown's Independence Day parade.

At the end of summer my family went to Disney World! It was hot and I am not a fan of Lightning Lane, but we still had a good time. We got to go backstage and pet a rhino named Dugan (sadly they don't allow pictures backstage), rode our favorite rides, met cool characters, got swindled by Hondo Ohnaka on Millennium Falcon Smuggler's Run (also, I might have been reading all the aurebesh signs in Galaxy's Edge—I taught myself aurebesh in like an hour when I was bored once), went to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review at Fort Wilderness, and waited out a thunderstorm in Mickey's Philhar Magic. It may not have been our favorite Disney trip, but there was still a lot to enjoy.

Hoop-Dee-Doo was loads of fun!

The drawing class at Rafiki's Planet Watch

After we saw Dugan!

First time on the Ratatouille ride

Spaceship Earth

Rise of the Resistance!

I love the Beauty and the Beast show!

Walking into Magic Kingdom!

Thunderstorm rolling in over the castle

When the unloading area backs up on Pirates,
you can actually get some pictures

And then we get to fall semester, wherein I all but dropped off the face of the internet. It wasn't all bad, it really wasn't, but it was most definitely the hardest semester I've been through. Thing is, elementary education classes aren't hard content-wise, but the program is still very demanding and stressful, and coordinating all the moving pieces of classes and field experience and jobs is basically a nightmare. Add in kid germs spreading around colds and flu and strep and whatever else, and it's no wonder all of us prospective teachers are so stressed out.

Now. It had some really great moments. I absolutely loved both the preK class and the 2nd grade class I was in for field experience last semester. I worked with some really great teachers and both classes were full of really great students. I practiced planning and teaching lessons and got to work both in small groups and one on one with the kids and it was fabulous. I spent a lot more time with the 2nd graders, and while before starting the program I had decided I wanted to teach 4th grade because of the social studies standards, I'm no longer so decided. I really loved 2nd grade. Part of it might be that I lucked out with a great teacher and class (I know it's not always like that, I've heard stories), but it's a really fun age. I miss the kids so much, and I'm so glad I got to work with their class.

But...working with kids has downsides. Namely germs. It only took one day at the preK for me to come down with a nasty cold and, well, that was pretty much the end of me being well. I came down with the cold September 13 (I know because it's the day Wishtress and Flight came out) and that weekend, it turned into a sinus infection. I went to the school clinic for antibiotic #1. Infection mostly went away, but not completely and after I'd been finished with the antibiotic for a few days, the symptoms came back pretty much full force, along with some gland pain in the glands under my chin. So I went back to the school clinic, got another prescription for an antibiotic along with a steroid course, took a math test feeling totally miserable (thankfully it was easy and I got an A on it in spite of how I was feeling), and had to hang around Walmart for a good while waiting for them to actually fill the prescription. That prescription mostly kicked out the infection, but the steroid kept me from sleeping which really badly messed up my stomach (I had to ask my professor to let me go home in the middle of class. I don't do stuff like that). 

Then a little while after I finished all of that, I took my car over to the shop because it was having trouble starting in the cold as my glands started to feel like they were swelling again. The next morning, a Saturday I was supposed to work, I woke up with my glands so swollen I practically had a double chin. Not to mention it hurt like crazy. So instead of work, I went to urgent care and got antibiotic #3. Then spent the rest of the day miserable on the couch instead of at work.

That weekend was also the weekend registration for spring classes started. During the fall semester, I had barely been able to fit classes, teaching music, field experience, and work at the library into the week. The way registration was shaping up, it was looking even more difficult. And with the lack of time I had for homework, let alone rest, I had to come to the difficult decision that something had to go. And the thing that made the most sense was my library job. I was going to have to quit to do my student teaching in fall of '23 anyway, so it would just be a semester earlier. At that point, it was just a few more weeks until the end of the semester, so I figured I might as well tough it out and make it to the end of the year. But the end of the year would be it. I just knew that I couldn't do a semester like this again, being so overworked and constantly sick, not to mention having more migraines than I used to.

The swelling went away with antibiotic #3, but not all of the congestion. I'm still not consistently off all the Mucinex and antihistamines and extra vitamins.

The semester started to wrap up, things got easier to keep up with as I finished all my major assignments, and, well, then I got another cold with a nasty lingering cough that made it difficult to sleep for a little while, but that did go away. We visited family for Thanksgiving, school officially ended, and then some of my family went up to Indiana to surprise my great grandma for her 90th birthday.

Everybody at the surprise party

I got to do the library's special Christmas programs one last time, which was fun and a little bittersweet. And I spent many evenings rewatching Timeless with the cat, which was fun. I really love that show.

Pippin watching Timeless

And then the week before Christmas I got swollen glands again. This time though, due to the lack of other significant symptoms, the doctor was pretty sure it was allergies, and the fact that Benadryl caused significant improvement supports the theory.

So it's no wonder, really, that I haven't really written anything in the last few months. A few small snippets here and there, but not really anything of note. And I haven't done much reading in the last few months either. My brain just hasn't had the opportunity to recover from the last semester yet.

Going into 2023, my life looks rather different. I've worked at the library for 7 years, so it's very strange that I'm not there anymore. I'm still teaching music, so I have that. I'll have 5 classes and field experience in a 4th grade class, and that's what I have to keep up with. It seems like so much less than last fall, but I guess we'll see how that actually looks when the semester starts. 

Will I be able to read and write now that something is off my plate? I don't know. I hope so, but I just don't know. I do know that I'll make it through the semester, take my summer classes, and then jump into student teaching in the fall. But what else will this year hold? Only God knows, and I'm trusting that whatever it is, He'll get me through it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Top Twelve Books of 2022

I'm officially making this a "top twelve" thing now because I'm just that kind of reader who can't narrow down favorites very well. It's been a long, kind of rough year (I'll get into that in my year in review post), and I wasn't sure based on my slow reading lately if I'd have a good list...but I read a lot of great stuff before this semester, and a few things since. 

Before I get into my list for the year, I have to mention my notable rereads/relistens because they don't qualify for the list, but y'all, Blood of Kings is even better the second time around! And so is Blades of Acktar. Such great stories, and they got me through a very rough semester for sure. Even while I'm sick, Vrell and Achan still make me so happy. And it's even better that I got most of them on sale via Chirp Audiobooks!

12. The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I really wouldn't have thought I'd want to put this on my list. When I first started it, I was extremely underwhelmed. It's basically a dystopian The Bachelor with a prince and at first I found it rather eyeroll worthy. When I got to the end of the first one, I still didn't think it was that great, but strangely wanted to know how it played out. And then book two happened. I'd been listening to it, but I got to a certain part where things were going crazy, so I got the kindle version from the library, read during dinner, and less than 24 hours later, I'd finished the initial trilogy. As I was going into finals week with a lot of homework to do. And then the next week read the two books about the next generation. 

America Singer doesn't actually want to compete for Prince Maxon's hand in the Selection, but she enters anyway, and leaves behind her boyfriend (who I don't like anyway) for the palace. Where she challenges their caste system, causes all sorts of trouble, and ends up falling in love. And Maxon is the kind of guy that once you learn about his backstory, you want to wrap in bubble wrap. Such a fun series.

11. The Betrothed duology by Kiera Cass

Had to put this on too because I actually liked it better than The Selection. I checked the first one out from the library on a whim because I'd enjoyed The Selection, didn't get around to it until it was almost due, then read it in basically one night and decided it was a good thing the library didn't have the second one on kindle because I would have gotten no sleep. Hollis Brite is the king's love and is looking forward to being queen. But when a family from a neighboring country arrives as refugees, everything changes, true natures begin to be revealed, and deadly secrets are shared. Lots of political intrigue, and holy cow, the way the first book ended! No spoilers, but I was in shock. I had to wait a few days for the second book to come in at the library, but I read the entire thing in the car on the way to Disney and loved every bit of it.

10. Olivia Twist by Laurie Langdon

This one caught my attention years ago while browsing my library's ebook collection. Then I saw it on Kirk DuPonce's banner at Realm Makers (he did the cover). Then I got into an Oliver Twist mood and decided to rewatch the musical. And then saw Kara Swanson mention Laurie Langdon as one of her author friends and requested it from the library. Finally, I read it just the other day. I kind of feel like this book is for a particular audience, but I also feel that I fit that audience to a T. Like the author, I fell in love with the musical as a child (only unlike her, I was in a local production, I didn't just go see it), and then read the book later. And so I loved all the nods to the musical and the original book. 

Olivia Brownlow was disguised as a boy from birth to protect her, going by the name Oliver Twist, but when she was taken in by her uncle Brownlow after the Artful Dodger picked his pocket, she learned how to be a lady. Well, sort of. Ollie the street kid isn't totally gone, even though she's grown and expected to find a match. She still sneaks out in disguise to help street kids, and while she is technically engaged to a respectable young man, she's actually in love with Dodger, who is now going by his real first name of Jack (though not his real last name). And Monks is out there and dangerous, especially where Olivia is concerned.

9. The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella

For this one, I actually got an ARC, and I really very much enjoyed it. It's sort of a dystopian Alice in Wonderland where those with the Wonder gene can access the Wonderland Reality. Alice's sister disappears and Alice herself receives a cryptic invitation to compete in the dangerous Wonderland Trials, during which many players go missing every year. I hadn't thought I was super familiar with the original before I read this, but I kept picking up different references and ways she wove in elements of the original that just made me appreciate it more. But it was still a very unique and original take on Wonderland and, as a nearsighted person myself, I loved that Alice wears glasses. And then the end leaves you hanging and ready for the Looking Glass!

8. The Secret Letters by Margaret Peterson Haddix 

As always, when a new Haddix book is released, it makes my favorites list. (There were actually two this year, both really good, but I decided to put the other on honorable mentions.) I'd been sick and overworked and barely reading, but one Sunday I read this entire book. And it felt great to read a book in a day, especially when it's as good as this one. Colin's mom helps people get rid of their junk. Neveah's dad sells people's junk. And when Colin finds old letters in an attic he and his mom are cleaning out, he sets out to unravel a decades old mystery and find out why two children from the past ended a friendship. And what that means for the future. It's just a really, really good story and I enjoyed it immensely.

7. Wishtress by Nadine Brandes

I preordered this and then got sick the day it came out, so it was a good while before I managed to actually read it. But I finally did and it was so good! Myrthe's tears grant wishes, but then she is cursed that her next tear will kill her. Bastiaan can stop time with a snap of his fingers, but in doing so he was responsible for the king's death. Myrthe wants to break the curse and Bastiaan wants to get rid of the Trials protecting the Well that gives people talents. And danger and deception and all kinds of great stuff. And the themes that came out in the end really made me think. I always love Nadine's books, and this one is definitely no exception. Plus it's a cool concept with intriguing worldbuilding. 

6. Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis Majors

This one I got on audio at a library book sale. It had a few scratches but was mostly intact, and wow did it make me cry. Like, a lot. But it's so good. This is Katie's story about how God called her to move to Uganda when she finished high school and all about her ministry there and the girls she adopted. It's very inspirational, very God-focused, and honestly heartbreaking seeing the poverty some people live in. But it's so wonderful seeing her testimony, how God can use anyone to touch people's lives, help them, and share His love. It's beautiful, but definitely prepare to cry. 

5. Single Isn't Second-Best by C.E. White and Philip Wilder 

Okay, technically I haven't quite finished it because I had a couple chapters left when I got sick and all my reading was derailed, and then my sister took it to read and I just got it back from her. But I've read most of it and it's really good and important (and not just because I'm quoted it it). Most Christian books about singleness are focused on "until you get married." The church seems to perpetuate this, and it's not really uncommon for singles to feel invisible and to get sick of well meaning people making suggestions about how they can find a spouse. Single Isn't Second-Best takes a very different angle to singleness, addressing the trials of singleness, acknowledging that singles often feel like second-class citizens even though we're not, addressing marriage myths, exploring what the Bible actually says about singleness, explaining the worth singles have in the body of Christ, and really shifting the perspective on singleness. An important read for singles and people who know singles (which pretty much comes down to everyone).

4. Heirs of Neverland duology by Kara Swanson

I actually went to the launch party for the second book, Shadow, at Realm Makers 2021 before I'd read either of them. But I fully intended to read them. And finally did read the first book on our Disney trip in August. And I have to say, it was an interesting experience reading it at Disney surrounded by Peter Pan stuff. And goodness, I loved them both so much! I love Claire and Peter, and Peter is such a mess but he has such a wonderful character arc, and so much danger and traumatic pasts and bad choices and sacrificial love and it's just so good! I read Shadow in pretty much one day once we got back from Disney and I was able to get a copy from the library and I had such a book hangover. Kara did a great job of continuing the story of Peter Pan while both honoring the original and making it unique. And now I want to go reread them both.

3. Shield Band by Tara Grayce 

New Elven Alliance book? Of course it's on my list! Now, naturally I assume Tara Grayce books are going to be good. Not just because she's my friend, but because she's a great writer with books that I always love. But I wasn't sure how invested I'd be in this one since Essie and Farrendel are no longer POV characters and it's focused on Essie's brother Julien and his intended troll bride Vriska. There was no reason to have any doubts. I came to love Julien and Vriska very much and they're just adorable and she's a great fighter but does actually have a soft side. And there's a deadly illness and suspicions of traitors and fighting and danger and romantic fluff and they're just so well suited for each other. I just love their story, and maybe I don't love them quite as much as Essie and Farrendel, but I still love them dearly. And seriously, if you haven't read Elven Alliance yet, DO IT NOW!

2. Daican's Heir by Jaye L. Knight

I debated how to rank these last two, almost decided to put them in a tie, but then decided to put the one you can actually read now first and the one you have to preorder second. And that's literally how I made the decision because they're both such amazing books that I love so much and have waited literal YEARS for.

Ahem. I FINALLY GOT TO READ THE ILYON CHRONICLES FINALE!!! Y'all. This book is amazing and so worth the wait. So much Jayrin fluff, and also danger and fighting and injuries (is this a theme in my favorite books? maybe?) and so many things brought full circle and Davira is scary evil and it's time for her to go DOWN and I just don't know how to be coherent right now. They're ready to go head to head with Davira for Arcacia, but of course things can't possibly go smoothly. I don't want to spoil anything, but you should definitely go reread the previous books so you can experience the full glory of this amazing book. Plenty of action and danger and torture, but also plenty of fluff and lots of time to wrap up all the story threads and I just can't wait for it to be released so y'all can read it! (The kindle version is available for preorder, but if you want a paperback like I do, you'll have to wait for the actual release to purchase.)

1. Eleftheria by J. Grace Pennington

This is the book I waited literally almost nine years for. Not a joke, not an exaggeration. My beloved Elasson was introduced in In His Image which I read on Christmas 2013 and now in 2022 I FINALLY got to read the book wherein he returns! And it was everything I could have hoped for and more. Well, I still don't have confirmation of my ship, but I'm still pretty sure I'm right. Most of my favorite things about this book are spoilers, but I'll say this: The Surveyor finally gets to return to Kainus Ge while Andi's life is being turned upside down by an attorney who's calling them out for infractions of policies and such (like Andi helping in medbay even though she doesn't have official medical training), and they get to see Elasson again and things go crazy and Elasson is as adorable as ever and I just want to unleash the fangirl squealing. Definitely worth the nine year wait and I'm even more excited about future installments than I was before. Such a fabulous series and it's another one of those that if you haven't read it yet, I don't know what you're doing with your life. So good!

And for honorable mentions: The School For Whatnots by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock, Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Welcher, Elite by Kristen Young, and The Stern Chase by John Flanagan.

What are your favorite reads of 2022?

Friday, December 2, 2022

Daican's Heir Cover Reveal

The Daican's Heir cover is here!

I had the great privilege of reading an early version of this book a few months ago, and let me tell you, this book is FANTASTIC!!! I CANNOT WAIT to read the final version. It's been a good while since we got new Ilyon, and this book is so totally worth the wait. All the angst and danger and also fluffiness, and Jace and Kyrin are just SOOOO ADORABLE. So many things to bring the series full circle, again, so much angst and so much fluff too. I can't wait for y'all to get to read it.

And now.

Yes, I'm trying to make you have to scroll down to see the cover.

Here it is.

Don't you just love it? Davira is just...she's so evil and it's time to take her DOWN.


Here's the description, and make sure you check out the preorder!

For three years, the Resistance has suffered under oppression—first from Emperor Daican and now from his daughter. In her quest for vengeance, Davira has ripped Arcacia apart, and more blood is spilled every day. Newly married, all Jace and Kyrin want is to be able to live their lives in peace. In order to do that, they must help restore the rightful heir to Arcacia’s throne.

Carrying the weight of everyone’s hopes for the future, Daniel works every day to be the leader and king they have all fought so hard to see him become. With the Resistance and their allies from all across Ilyon united behind him, he prepares for a final confrontation with Davira. But to do so will require facing the full might of Arcacia’s military and Davira’s wrath.

When Jace and Kyrin become the primary targets of her ravenous hatred, Daniel finds himself in a race against time to stop his sister and avoid the bloodbath she is determined to unleash. Can he find a way to protect his loved ones and bring peace to Ilyon or will Davira succeed in bringing them all to their knees and destroying everything they hold dear?

And an excerpt from chapter 1!

Jace didn’t like ships.

His stomach had threatened to heave itself up his throat since he’d re-boarded the talcrin vessel an hour ago. So far he’d managed to keep it in place, but Holden wasn’t so lucky. He had already lost what remained of his supper over the edge and now leaned heavily on the railing. Clearly, it would take a lot more than the two days they’d previously spent on board, sneaking the Militia into Samara, for their stomachs to get used to the sea.

A low groan rumbled from Holden’s hunched form. “Remind me never to set foot on a ship again after this. I’ll happily stick to dragons.”

Jace had to agree with him there. As much as he hated heights, he’d far rather fly with Gem right now. And it wasn’t just his churning gut that bothered him. Despite only small waves rippling the sea, each dip and tilt of the ship robbed him of balance. The lack of solid footing left him feeling vulnerable. Not that he had any threats to worry about just yet. Those awaited him on shore.

Footsteps passed behind him, and he looked over his shoulder. Though pre-dawn darkness cloaked the ship, and they’d forgone any lanterns that could give away their position, General Torva strode across the deck with a confident stride. He made an impressive figure, as most talcrins did. He reminded Jace of Sam, especially in stature, though his hair was long and gathered into small braids, and his eyes flashed a cunning copper.

Their talcrin allies were obviously masters of the sea. Jace hadn’t seen any of them on the verge of losing their stomach contents, though maybe that had not been the case when they’d first left Arda a few weeks ago. Somehow, Rayad and Trask didn’t seem affected either.

Torva stopped at the railing a couple yards away, feet planted and fists on his hips as he stared out over the dark sea. His bronze scale-mail glinted faintly like dragon scales. Jace had never seen armor quite like it.

“We should be nearing the city.”

Jace scanned the horizon. He could barely make out the shore from this distance—just a black line against the indigo water and sky. No signs of a city, but the talcrins would know better how far they had traveled.

Someone else drew near. Jace shifted, and Rayad put his hand on his shoulder.

“How are you doing?”

Jace wasn’t sure if the question was in regards to his queasiness or what lay ahead. He shrugged. He still thought Balen should have chosen someone other than him to lead this mission. Someone with actual leadership skills and experience. But then, he was the one who could see in the dark, and their plan to take back Samara’s capital depended on infiltrating the city undetected. Logically, he offered the greatest chance of success.

Rayad gave his shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll be right behind you.”

It'll be here before we know it! 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Indie Author Black Friday Sale!

I'm still alive, y'all! I know I've been pretty absent here, my newsletter, and even Instagram but I do have a legit, if not especially fun reason for it. I promise I'll write a real blog post soon with a proper update, but for now I'm going to leave it at school+work+sickness.

Today, I want to make sure you know all about the Indie Author Black Friday sale! We have over 600 titles this year, all free or $0.99 on kindle! As usual, Creighton Hill is free and the rest of Time Captives + Acktorek and Twisted Dreams are all $0.99. There are SOOOOO many books this year, but there are a few I have to especially mention.

First off, Ilyon Chronicles, which is super important because book 6, Daican's Heir (which is absolutely amazing, by the way) is finally almost done and just went up on preorder today! You do not want to miss this series!

Y'all know how much I love Elven Alliance, I've been raving about it for years. And they're on sale for Black Friday too! So make sure you check them out so you can experience the adorableness that is Essie and Farrendel for yourself. 

And the newest Firmament book, Eleftheria, is on sale too! I've been a HUGE fan of this series since I read the first book in 2013, and this particular book is one I anxiously awaited for the past nine years--and it was totally worth the wait! I reviewed it earlier this week on my blog, so you can go check that out and see why you need to read it.

Make sure you browse around the site too! I haven't read nearly all the books that are on there, but there are definitely some whose covers have caught my attention.

That's all for now, and hopefully I'll see ya real soon!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Firmament: Eleftheria Review

They're finally going back.

Several months after the discovery of Kainus Ge, the Surveyor's crew has a new mission – to gather more information about the planet and try to negotiate a treaty with its ruler. Andi is excited at the prospect of seeing Elasson again, but the arrival of a legalistic attorney on the ship threatens to once again turn her way of life upside down.

How has Elasson fared on the treacherous desert planet in their absence? Can the crew find a way to help the people of Kainus Ge, or will their presence throw the civilization into chaos? And with loved ones absent and rules and regulations forcing unwanted change on her home, how can Andi find her place in the world?


*cue the fangirl squealing*

Seriously, though, I'm not sure how I can make it through this review without dissolving into a puddle of fangirly happiness and totally spoiling the whole book.



I waited almost nine years for this book and IT WAS WORTH EVERY SECOND. See, I got book 2, In His Image, for Christmas in 2013 and proceeded to devour it, fall in love with Elasson (who I still 100% ship with Andi), and proceed to pester Grace for, well, the next nearly nine years about when I was going to see Elasson again and by the way, is my ship canon? Well, I still don't know if my ship is canon though there were moments that (okay, maaaaaaybe I'm just seeing what I want to see, but I don't think so) had my sister and me squealing and speculating. Even though Andi's still super annoyed with the Captain not so subtly trying to set her up—

Aaaanyway, trying to not be spoilery but ELASSON IS BAAAAAACK. Or rather, the crew of the Surveyor gets to go back to Kainus Ge and see Elasson again. *big cheesy grin* 

Why is it so hard to not spoil the whole thing?

It's just SO GOOD. 

But it's not all sunshine and roses getting to go back to Kainus Ge. A legalistic attorney is pointing out all the violations that are just a normal way of life on the Surveyor—like Andi working in medbay with the Doctor—and that's just the beginning. Helping the people of Kainus Ge with Basilius, Elasson's brother, being just as unfriendly as ever while not violating the rules and causing total upheaval to their way of life is hard enough...and then things go crazy and I had so many emotions, from anger to shock to elation to, well, fangirl squealing...

And oh, why are the things I love the most about this book spoilers?

I love seeing my Firmament family again, I LOVED revisiting Kainus Ge, I loved the roller coaster of emotions I went on as I read it in a matter of hours, and after this one, I am beyond excited for upcoming books. 

I really cannot express how much I loved this book, though if I admit that at 26 years old, thinking about certain elements of the story make me squeal and actually literally jump up and down, that might give you something of an idea.

Go read the Firmament series. I know I've said that many times over. But really, truly, I love it so much and I want y'all to experience the awesomeness too.

And we got to see Elasson again!

Monday, September 26, 2022

"Don't Like, Don't Read"

"Don't like, don't read" is a tag/disclaimer I've seen used a number of times on fanfiction sites. It makes me sad that people feel like they need to state that, but...I've seen the comments left on certain fics.

But I've been thinking about that tag lately beyond the context of fanfiction. Because it really applies to so much more.

I don't think you have to spend much time on the internet to see the fandoms getting stirred up, to see people tearing apart franchises they supposedly love, rage/hate watching things for the express purpose of trashing it publicly. I can't say I've never watched something I knew I wasn't going to like for the purpose of seeing how bad it was. I can only think of one time I did it purposely, but I did do it once. I can't say I've never publicly stated that I didn't like X for Y reasons. I did try to be dispassionate, but I did it, and now I question the wisdom of it.

Because if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. And you don't really need to talk other people into hating it either.

It's something I do struggle with. I'll admit to telling people the reasons I disliked Harry Potter or the Star Wars sequel trilogy in the hopes that they'll come around to my point of view. But really, what difference does it make to me if someone else likes something I consider to be poorly written? What difference does it make to other people if I do enjoy something that other people think is full of plot holes or clunky dialogue?

It doesn't.

There are plenty of things I've decided not to read or watch, or decided I didn't like for reasons pertaining to worldview, writing craft, and personal taste. But does it really do any good to argue with strangers on the internet about it? Not really.

I'm not saying to compromise your convictions. And I'm not saying not to talk about it to anyone either. If there's a good reason to have a civil, productive conversation with someone you actually know about it, by all means, do it. You might both come out of it with a new perspective, and pending the story, reasons, and audience, you might have a perfect opportunity to share the Gospel in a relevant, impactful, loving way. 

But if you're just yelling at people that they're stupid if they think X was a good movie, or that their kids are going to become devil worshippers if they let them read Y, then all you're really trying to do is pick a fight.

Let people have their preferences. And if you don't like it, you don't have to read/watch it.

There's another reason I think you don't really need to give any time or attention to movies and books that aren't very good. Think about this: How many mediocre movies have come out in the last decade that people are still talking about? Thought of any? I haven't. Because reality is, if the movie isn't very good, unless there's a big internet explosion over it, people tend to just forget about it. If no one cares, it usually ends there. If a movie bombs at the box office and does just as poorly in whatever the current equivalent of home video sales is, it's unlikely to get a sequel. If a TV show doesn't get good enough ratings for the advertisers, the network cancels it. If a book sells poorly, it goes out of print. 

On the other hand, rage views still count as views. Going to the movie to see how bad it is still results in a ticket sale. Buying a book and throwing it in the trash because you hated it that much is still a sale. And bad press is still press. You can't pay me to believe that no director has "leaked" something about a project known to trigger certain groups to get people talking about it and buying tickets to see if it's really what people say it is. It gets people talking, it gets people curious, it gets people watching. And that's all they really want. Because views/sales equal money, whatever the reason people are watching or buying.

Full disclosure: This post is largely prompted by the constant fighting in the Star Wars fandom and the months-long complaining over Rings of Power. And I don't think it's hard to figure out that I've liked some of what's come out of Disney Star Wars and some of it I haven't. And that I do like Lord of the Rings. But I've come to realize that not only do I not have to watch everything from franchises I like, I don't have to convince others that certain things are bad or not worth watching either. If they ask, sure, I'll say, but that doesn't mean I have to convince them of my point of view either.

I'm not watching Andor. I watched the trailer and it didn't excite me, so I decided not to bother. Is it good? I legitimately don't know. Will I change my mind later and decide to watch it after all? I also don't know. But it doesn't really matter. If you want to watch it, you can, and we don't have to try to convince each other that the other is wrong. And if you're not bothered that they pushed back Bad Batch season 2 from September 28 to January 4 the way I am, that's also okay. I can be disappointed and you can not care.

Same goes for Rings of Power. Is it good? I don't know, I've heard very mixed reviews. I'm not watching it myself because I don't care. Maybe I'll have to turn in my fantasy-lover card for admitting this, but I'm not what you would call a Tolkien fanatic. I love watching the Lord of the Rings movies and I prefer the extended edition to theatrical, I mostly enjoyed the books when I read them, and I think the music from the movies is amazing. But took me a year to read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings back when I was a young teen, and I only started reading it because my mom made me. She convinced me to read The Hobbit by telling me Tolkien was friends with C.S. Lewis, and had to literally make me read Fellowship of the Ring until they got to Moria. Also, I totally missed the fact that Frodo went into the west at the end because my sisters were watching Up in the same room where I was reading, and I didn't get very far in The Silmarillion before I quit—that was over a decade ago and while I've since acquired my own copy I've yet to feel compelled to pick it back up. This is as much to say, I don't really care enough to have an opinion on Rings of Power. You can watch it or not watch it, like it or not like it, and we really don't have to argue about it. If you think you won't like it, you really don't have to watch it, and you don't have to convince people your position is the better one either. 

So if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. If you get a little ways in and realize you don't care for it, you can stop and move on with your life. None of us really need to waste time and energy antagonizing each other over stories we do and don't like. It's not worth it, and it's only serving to add even more nastiness to an already sinful and fallen world. Let's not waste our limited time here on earth rage watching and picking fights about things that don't really matter. And above all,

"Be ye kind, one to another." —Ephesians 4:32a