Monday, June 13, 2016

I'm Back! And I've got NEWS!

My actual face RIGHT NOW.
mom hair + crazy eyes = aggressive happiness
Hi, there. Did ya miss me, Interwebs? 'Cause I missed you!

A quick glance through my blog will show, I've been gone for a while. There's a good reason for that. Let me update you on where I've been and what I've been doing.

Growing Family, Moving Forward
In 2013, I had a baby! And in 2015 I had another one! My boys are both walking, talking toddlers and I absolutely love motherhood (but also I am exhausted and a basket case 97% of the time). But the arrival of my tiny humans meant a big shift in my time and priorities. While I never gave up my creative writing, I did have to sacrifice how much time I put into blogging and writing book reviews. I've kept up my reading though (thanks to the miracle of audiobooks). And you can check out what I've been reading on Goodreads.

On top of that, we moved from Fayetteville, North Carolina to Long Island, NY, taking a much needed 34-day road trip + Alaskan cruise in between homes. Our goal was to live in Manhattan, but we wound up in Nassau County, where we've settled pretty happily. Our first northeastern winter was kind to us, if long. And we're an easy 40-minute train ride into the city when we want to go. After we got here, we made a surprising, but exciting, decision for Ray (my husband) to stay in the Army until he retires. This was never our original goal. But things are changing. God has led us on a very different adventure than the one we thought we were setting out on. Our long, long term plans are the same as they were before. For now our plans are for him to finish his master's degree and become a chaplain in the next few years and finish out his 20 years ministering to the military. Which leads me to...

Educational Milestones
I'm proud to announce that after nearly ten years of work in five states, I have finally finished my Bachelor's Degree (in Theology and Biblical Studies in case you're curious). My last class ended in December 2015. But I was able to walk with my class and attend the most random commencement ceremony (complete with weird celebrity cameos and a fire show) at Liberty University in May 2016 (you can see some of my posts about this madness on Twitter). Having been homeschooled for high school, I'd never had a proper graduation ceremony. So this was a Huge Deal for me and my family. I'm hanging my graduation cap in my house and framing my official photos. It was an amazing experience. But most of all I'm so happy happy happy to be DONE. I'm going to be putting this degree to work more and more over then next few years. But that's another topic for another day. Right now, I'm primarily a SAHM with a raging passion for stories. This brings me to...

Creative Projects
I started this blog when I decided to get serious about my writing four-ish years ago. I wanted to make a career of it, and I still do. The project I was working on back then (a dystopian spy novel I adore), though, has sadly been placed on the back burner. I have every intention of returning to it, but not until I'm ready. I'm not ready (read: not smart enough). I've stayed engaged in writing groups and critique partnerships since I started with them seven years ago. My love of writing and storytelling has only grown as I've engaged with other authors, poets, songwriters, artists, dancers, and actors over the years. For a while, I spent more time critiquing and editing others' stories. While I loved doing that, my soul longed to have the time to get back to writing my own stories. I kept notes for all of my Ideas while I was finishing school and running back and forth between playdates and writers meetings. But I had no dedicated time to write.

Well, school's over, baby. And the very first thing I did when I finished was dived headlong into a novel I've been brewing for five years, maybe longer. And I'm happy to say #FantasyNovel is 50,000 words long already. I don't want to talk about it too much, but if you're curious, you can take a peek at my inspiration board on Pinterest which is basically what my brain looks like on the inside. I am constantly living in this world I'm creating, and it's wonderful, and I can't wait to share it with you. But for now, I've keeping it pretty close to the vest. All I want now is to finish it.

I've spent a lot of years getting into projects and not completing them. It's the curse of the ENFP. Jack of all trades, master of none. This is a new year for me. I finished my bachelor's. I finished Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred (and I'm still going every day). I want to change my life. So I'm changing my habits. I write every day (usually during my youngest's nap time). I'm writing in a straight line, scene after scene, not relying on the muse to fuel my creativity. I believe writing is an art and a craft. The art is the easy, inspired part. The craft is the hard, diligent part. I'm learning both. I'm doing both.

On top of my writing, I've recently released some old music on online. Since having kids, my music has taken a huge backseat to everything else in my life. But upon arriving in NY and getting involved in my church's band, I find myself getting back into it. I've missed it. I have another record I never shared with the public that I intend to upload soon. I'll be sure to let you know.

Where to find me:
Truth is, I've been all over the Internet in the past few years. I just haven't been here. Whenever I get a free moment or chunk of uninterrupted time (i.e.: nap time!), I use it to write my novel. But I'm committing to dropping in here more often now. In the meantime, check me out on my other homes on the web.

I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Bandcamp (if you wanna listen to me) and Spotify (if you wanna listen to what I'm listening to). Let's be friends.

So, tell me what's up with you. I really have missed you. <3

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Getting Started with Audiobooks

Okay, if you want to start listening to audiobooks, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been addicted to audiobooks for about 4 years now. And since having kids, it’s become my primary method of reading. I’m happy to impart everything I’ve learned about finding great audiobooks with you.
1. Download the Overdrive app to your phone IMMEDIATELY. Overdrive will connect you to your local library's digital library. Through the app you can instantly download audiobooks, ebooks, and even some movies to your phone FOR FREE. I use Overdrive basically every day. I always check if I can get a audiobook on Overdrive before I buy it on Audible. Because FREE!!! 
2. Go to your local library. There you can find hundreds of books on CD or with their own individual media players that you can check out. I've listened to tons of books like this as well. Great resource.
3. Check out which is a program that offers 2 free audiobooks a week for 15 weeks each summer. That's 30 free audiobooks. These are a mix of fiction, nonfiction, classics, and newer releases, mostly geared to interest young readers (teens) but not all YA books at all. You have a one week window to download the 2 books if you want them or not if you don’t. 
4. Spotify has a category at the bottom of their genre/moods page called "Word" where you can listen to ALL KINDS OF THINGS. Classics, poetry, nonfiction, language studies, fairy tales, mythology, self-help, guided meditation, and on and on and on. It's awesome. I just browsed through there and want to listen to everything. 
5. allows you to listen (or record!) to books that are part of the public domain. Their website is full of classics, poetry, and the like that other normal avid readers like you have recorded for the world to enjoy in audio format. 
6. Free Audiobook apps provide a similar service. These are filled usually with official recordings of classics and older books in the public domain. These can be find easily doing a search for “free audiobooks” in your phone’s app store. 
If you try some of these formats and discover—as many do—that audiobooks are AMAZING and you want to try more that aren’t available for free, then a membership may be right for you. I’ll try to keep this brief. 
7. Audible is my preferred audiobook membership website/app (but it is not the only one. offers a similar deal but I have no experience with it). When you start with Audible you get 1 or 2 free audiobooks when you sign up depending on their promotions at the time which usually means you get the first month or two free. A standard membership is $15/mo which gets you one book/mo (1 credit = 1 audiobook). Since audiobooks costs upwards of $20 each, it's a better deal than paying full price. The other plans are (rounded out) $23/mo for 2 credits, $150/year for 12 all at once, or $230 for 24 all at once. These are then digital books you own forever and can download or delete from your device but always remains in your library (unless you return it—they do have a pretty great return policy).
There are other benefits to and Audible membership: On top of your credits, membership gives you access to their entire catalog of books at a discount. So if you spend your credit, then you can buy whatever other books you want still at a cheaper price than normal. You also have access to their sales, which they run often. They have daily deals. Sometimes they run 2-for-1 or 3-for-2 sales where you get more than 1 book per credit. I LOVE those. Sometimes they have $5 sales or whatever. (It is always important to see if the cost of the book is less than your monthly fee because you don't want to buy something available to you at $11 with your $15 credit. The best example of this is children's books. Most of those are less than $10. But the default for purchases is that it takes from your credit first. You just have to uncheck that option before buying.)
Another cool thing is Audible is an Amazon company. So a lot of books are able to be linked between Audible and Kindle with what they call WhisperSync. So you own, say, Pride and Prejudice in Kindle format, you can get the Audible version significantly marked down (or vice versa, although it’s important to buy them in the right order, usually Kindle then Audible). This is a great way to get a lot of classic books for free. I always check prices on things marked as WhisperSync. Sometimes I can pay a few bucks for the ebook and a few bucks for the audio and together they're cheaper than my credit. Then on your device you can switch between the audio and ebook formats, and it will sync up with wherever you left off in the other format. Very cool.  
8. Recommendations for beginners (from my actual listening experience): 
-Mysteries/Thrillers: Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and Fight Club (that’s a thriller sort of, right? I don’t even know) were both excellent listens. 
-Sci Fi/Fantasy: Illuminae, Ready Player One, Armada, Chronicles of Narnia (BBC full cast audio), Ender’s Game Alive, and Outlander (which counts as fantasy apparently, but I’d still shelve it with my historical fiction, I think. Or romance Whatever.). Also The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and the entire Harry Potter series (obviously), and The Night Circus. Also and especially The Lunar Chronicles, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (these YA books are not merely great listens but personal favorites of mine which I hope you love). I could probably stay in this category forever.
-Memoir/Autobiography: Rob Lowe’s two memoirs Stories I Only Tell My Friends and Love Life both moved me to tears and satisfied me need for insider Hollywood information. Other great listens are those by Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Shonda Rhimes, Nora Ephron, and Elizabeth Gilbert (specifically Big Magic which might not be considered a memoir but is amazing). 
-Literary: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Time-Traveler’s Wife, The Help, The Book of Speculation <3 <3 <3
-Contemporary: Me Before You, Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, Silver Linings Playbook, All the Bright Places, The Fault in Our Stars, The Royal We, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (series). 
-Historical: Code Name Verity, The Book Thief, Salt to the Sea <insert weeping emoji here>
-Classics: The Importance of Being Ernest, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare. (I’m not offering particular versions here because I’ve heard several. But trust me, it’s great to hear these particularly read/performed. Just start trying it out!)
If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s my GREAT AUDIOBOOKS Goodreads shelf. I’m particular about what gets listed there.
So tell me, do you listen to audiobooks? Give me some recommendations! And feel free to ask any questions if something I wrote doesn't make sense.