Of Hallmark and Audiobooks

This week, I found out Hallmark Publishing will be teaming up with Dreamscape Media to release audiobook versions of Hallmark books! This new venture will begin with the upcoming release of Nancy Naigle’s The Secret Ingredient next month. You can check out the article here. I am so excited for Hallmark with this newest addition. From eBooks, then paperbacks, and now audiobooks, Hallmark Publishing is definitely a books division to watch closely in 2019.

Which leads me to my thoughts on audiobooks. I’ve always been a fan of physical copies with my books. Since then I’ve come to enjoy eBooks, especially when you can taken them with you wherever you go. Audiobooks are, still, a new experience for me. I’ve listened to an audio version of Me Before You bu Jojo Moyes and have been listening to an audiobook version of Romeo and Juliet. I’ve also purchased a few classics as I’ve been curious to “read” them in this manner.

I first encountered audiobooks in college when I listened to a few Shakespeare plays for one of my classes. Throughout the semester, I found myself enjoying the plays even more and gaining a better understanding of the language. I’m sure some of us listen to audiobooks during a long car ride, when out for a run, or in the quiet of our home. We can close our eyes and be taken to a different world. We can picture the stories we hear as movies playing in our mind. Ongoing debate about audiobooks counting as “reading” aside, I think they have value. You might view a story differently by listening. A story you might not enjoy reading, you might prefer listening to it instead. Give audiobooks a chance and let those who enjoy them, well, enjoy them to their heart’s content.

When you get your next Hallmark book, consider checking out the audio version. You might find yourself enjoying it and building a new collection.

Happy writing!

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How Do You Discover Books?

Bookshelf

I had a thought last month that’s been on my mind: where do I discover my books. I don’t have one specific place I go to to find books, whether it’d be a classic, a bestseller, or even a favorite Christian Fiction author.

Before college, I usually stuck to Barnes & Noble and Amazon for purchasing my books. As I got older, I spent more time in a local Christian bookstore and indie bookstores. I still went to Barnes & Noble and Amazon post-college for ideas and for growing my to-read list, but something changed.

The final week of December, I visited Barnes & Noble to take advantage of the 50% off sales on planners and calendars. After finding what I needed, I went upstairs to browse the Christian Fiction section. Christian Living was gaining more shelves. Whereas, Christian Fiction was shrinking. Not because of a lack of interest. But because bestselling books occupied the shelf.

When I first discovered the section at Barnes & Noble a couple years ago, there were a ton of books as high as the eye could see! It was there I discovered Becky Wade, Mesu Andrews, and Rachel Hauck. In the years since, the shelf moved from the ground floor to the upstairs and seemed to grow smaller every time I looked. Again, I don’t think it was due to lack of interest (although some may argue that point). I think it was due to the bestsellers taking over. Which, that is the purpose of a bookstore when you think about it. You display the hottest, top-trending, and latest books.

My copy of The White Christmas Inn

When I turned around, I saw a shelf listing new releases in the Christian genre, and I saw a copy of The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright. The book was becoming popular, I’m sure, because of the recent holidays.

But, I already purchased the book when I discovered it at the local Christian bookstore.

Going forward, I have decided to leave any new Christian Fiction book purchases for that local store. I could discover new writers there, books that spoke to me, and gain a better idea of the extent of the genre. I feel Amazon–despite what your opinion may be of them–can help you discover new writers, too (to a certain degree). That’s how I discovered Jennifer Rodewald when I took a chance on her book, Reclaimed.

We’ve seen numerous articles over the last few years, too, talking about the rise of indie bookstores. Supporting local is one reason. However, I also think we all are searching for the hidden gems that we may not find in your average bookstore. I first discovered One Evening in Paris by Nicholas Barreau and The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George in one, and a collection of fairytales from all over the world in another. These books have enriched my life, and I don’t think I would have found them in any other place.

Do you agree? Where do you discover new books? Share your thoughts in the comments!

2019: Rebuilding and Reflecting on Stories

Image: mohamedhassan (freerangestock.com)

In last week’s post about wrapping up 2018, I reflected on a number of things, particularly my writing goals for the New Year. How I wanted to write more, make time to read more books, and explore who I was as a writer. This afternoon, I found myself reflecting once again.

After finishing my first book for 2019, A Passionate Hope: Hannah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith, I was struck by an interesting anecdote in her “Note to the Reader.” I usually skip these once I finish a book. However, Smith’s thought was different:

“Hannah’s story is one I have wanted to write for many years, but the timing wasn’t good until now. And in truth, I think every writer has her own growing to do as a person to make her ready for certain stories.”

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Think about that for a second. A writer has their own growing to do as a person in order to be ready for certain stories.

I think Smith’s insight can also apply to reading because we sometimes stumble upon certain books at just the right moment in our lives. The Reason by William Sirls, for me, was one instance as I’d struggled with how God allows bad things to happen to good people in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, CT. Another book, Gideon’s Gift by Karen Kingsbury, helped me reconsider the idea of Christmas miracles and how they do happen to those who believe. This newfound belief would begin the miraculous changes in attitude that forever changed my life throughout 2017.

Yet, what about writing?

Image: BenjaminMiller2651 (freerangestock.com)

Perhaps I haven’t reached the point in my life where I am ready to write that book. Maybe I still need to grow confidence in my own writing abilities before I can submit a piece again. I probably need to make changes to this blog even so I can reach as many people as I can.

We always have growing to do, and I think that’s something I’ve forgotten.

2019 will be the year I reflect and rebuild my writing whether it’d be my voice, my heart and soul, my writing approach, or even how I review books. I will read 40 books as part of the 2019 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. I have made time to read the issues of Writer’s Digest and Bella Grace that I bought just last week. I have also made use of my new planner with writing down my thoughts for each weekly writing prompt. I am also hunkering down to promote Mesu Andrews’ latest book, Of Fire and Lions. To celebrate the novel’s upcoming release in March, I am excited to announce that the first three months of 2019 will have book reviews dedicated to Biblical Fiction! Jill Eileen Smith’s book about Hannah will be my pick for January so watch for my review in the coming days.

But don’t worry I will still review Hallmark Publishing books during this period! Going forward, my book reviews will focus on wholesome romances and mysteries from Hallmark and Christian Fiction whether it’d be Biblical, historical, romance, etc. I want my writing to make a difference, but if I can help people discover books that have inspired me or make me cry and laugh out loud, then I will be doing my job. However, you can always check out my “Kristin is Currently Reading…” list to see what else I’m reading. I recently finished Circe by Madeline Miller just before Christmas and found it excellent!

This year, redefine your writing and reading goals. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Check out books outside of your genre. Write from your heart.

Let’s make 2019 a great one.

Happy writing!

2018: The Year I Thrived

Me in front of my bookshelf with my ARC copy of Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews (Release Date: March 2019)

It is truly amazing how much can change in your life within the span of a year. Personal and professional growth, new writing opportunities, long-awaited dreams becoming reality, and embarking on the trip of a lifetime that months later left me contemplating my life’s direction. But with the good also came the bad: spiritual woes, personal loss, writing projects on hold or failing, and more.

This is what happened to me in 2018.

New Writing Experiences

Image: Hallmark Publishing Twitter account
Mesu’s BFFs Logo

The new writing experiences I’ve been blessed to partake in involved things outside of writing itself. For Hallmark Publishing, I was reading their books and sharing reviews on here, my Twitter account, Amazon, and on Goodreads. This has been my first venture into book reviewing, and it’s been nothing but a fun experience! I cannot wait for next year’s releases. I would like to, again, thank Stacey Donovan for this amazing opportunity. Don’t forget to check out her book, Sunrise Cabin. You can read my review here.

Another new venture has been book promotion with joining the Biblical Fiction Fans Book Launch Team for author Mesu Andrews. You might have seen the above logo on my sidebar every time you’ve visited the blog. This promotion is for her upcoming book, Of Fire and Lions, slated for a March 2019 release. Interestingly enough, the story centers on the Book of Daniel which was the theme for Vacation Bible School at my church this summer (my first year also participating in that). As we near the New Year, you will be seeing more promotions on here and on social media for the book. You can now pre-order on Amazon and also check out the book trailer here.

Another new venture is the new direction for HEAL(er) Mag. Some of you may have read the articles I contributed to the literary magazine. I have since become their new Content Marketing Manager and am learning new things about content marketing. I cannot wait to see where we’ll be headed with this new adventure. Thank you to the amazing Isabelle Marsh for the opportunity and I cannot wait to work with the new team! Give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates and visit the website at www.healermag.org.

New Adventures and Dreams Becoming Reality

The Mount (home of author Edith Wharton), Lenox, MA (June 2018)
Mount Rushmore (South Dakota) (August 2018)
Yellowstone National Park (Montana) (August 2018)
David Archuleta performing during his “Winter in the Air” Tour, Fairfield, CT (December 2018)

My non-writing life thrived in so many ways this year, too, in finding new adventures and dreams becoming reality at last. From visiting The Mount, the home of author Edith Wharton, my trip to Montana in August, to seeing my role model and favorite artist, David Archuleta, not once but THREE times this year alone…I could not be more blessed.

The Mount has been on my dreams list (I don’t like saying bucket list) since 2015 when I read three of Ms. Wharton’s novels in college: Ethan Frome, Summer, and The Custom of the Country. When I learned about The Mount, I wanted to visit as soon as I could. As a gift to myself and to spend time with friends, I finally visited the famous estate on my 25th birthday. I highly recommend the tour and after going, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for Wharton’s writings. You can check out this Instagram post with more photos from my visit.

Meanwhile, my vacation to Montana in August was the trip of a lifetime carefully planned by my older brother. During those two weeks, we visited eight states, saw Mount Rushmore on the way, hiked, and went white water rafting for the very first time. Talk about stepping out of the comfort zone BIG TIME! I also took a much-needed social media break during this trip so I could recharge and clear my head. I was also writing every day in my notebook about the sites that stood out to me, courtesy of a suggestion by one of my co-workers. I never imagined visiting Yellowstone or doing the things that I did on this trip, and I am thankful.

Lastly, two other dreams related to David Archuleta became reality this year. I got to see him in Northampton back in February (another dream of mine since college) and also in Fairfield, Connecticut just last week during his Christmas tour for the album, “Winter in the Air.” I also stepped out of my comfort zone by driving down to Connecticut myself, which I’ve rarely done (seeing him in Hartford back in March with my best friend was the very first time I did that). In one year alone, these dreams came true and I am beyond grateful to God for these gifts.

All three of these things remind me that life is still beautiful, that dreams are never truly dead, and you grow so much when you step out of your comfort zone. If my non-writing life has become this rich and blessed, the possibilities for my own writing are endless.

Books!

My bookshelf

For my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I once again surpassed it by reading 42 books, three more than last year! I think I might challenge myself in 2019 and double the goal. The last physical book I purchased for 2018 was When God Winks at You by Squire Rushnell. For eBooks, I purchased Starry, Starry Knight by Janice Thompson.

However, I have been thinking a lot in the past week. With books, it’s like beating the goal became more important than actually enjoying the books I read. I got this thought after watching Hallmark Channel’s “It’s Christmas, Carol!” starring Emmanuelle Vaugier and the late Carrie Fisher. The main character, Carol, works for a publishing company and one of the things said in the film was about with publishing books, sales and money mattered more than publishing books that were meant to be read. By the end, that thinking changed. That not only got me thinking over my own views of reading, but also my writing. I also never got to indulge myself in the audiobooks I purchased around this time last year.

Since then, I grabbed the latest copy of Bella Grace magazine (for their writing submissions and mission), an issue of Writer’s Digest (their annual Yearbook issue), and just this afternoon, canceled my subscription to Poets & Writers as I had stopped reading their issues. I did these things to begin rebuilding who I am as a writer and figure out the next steps I needed to take. I also bought a new calendar and planner for my personal and professional lives to begin looking at things anew.

Because this year writing was on the back burner.

The Struggles

The personal struggles I will not disclose here, but writing-wise they have been rampant this year. Failing NaNoWriMo miserably through writing only 7,000 words, two writing projects stalling, my writing for YAYWORLD suddenly pushed to the side, writer’s block, and work getting in the way of my writing made me really question my passion like never before. I also struggled with a ton of self-doubt and backed out of submitting to literary magazines that caught my eye. Fear, past rejections, and frustrations greatly hindered my creativity. I have never felt so discouraged in my writing as I have this year.

In 2019, I’m going to take time to reexamine my priorities and figure out what needs to go, and what needs to stay. I also abandoned the dream of publishing a novel by age 27 because I’ve realized I shouldn’t pressure my work with a number. When the time is right, the novel will be written.

Final Reflections

You probably read all of this and thought, “Wow Kristin, you’ve had quite the year!” On that account, you would be right. 2018 has been a better year for me in so many ways. Things can only get better from here. However, there are always things I wish that happened. But so many more good things happened this year than in years’ past, and that’s what I wanted to focus on for this post.

If your year was rough, I pray that you have a happier 2019. Also, don’t forget that the number of accomplishments in a year isn’t the main goal! What truly matters is the feeling of hope, joy, and gratitude for what you have. That is something I’ve learned even more after this year. Perspective has become a focal point of my journey in many ways, and 2018 is no exception to that thinking. A lot happened to me this year, absolutely. But, there is always room for improvement.

I hope by reading this reflection you will feel inspired with your own dreams, to step out of your comfort zone, and in your own writing adventures. Your dreams can and will happen, with a little hard work and faith. Along with some patience!

To my readers, thank you for joining me on this ride that was 2018. I am also happy to announce that this blog reached the 900+ mark in viewership, surpassing last year! Thank you so much for reading!!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend ya’ll, and I’ll see you in 2019.

Enjoy the Holidays!

I want to take a moment to wish you all a happy holiday season! May you receive even more wonderful books to read. Also, to feel your writing dreams grow as we near the new year. Let’s not forget the time for family, friends, and giving. If you are alone or struggling this season, please remember that you are loved :).

Tune in next week for my look back on 2018!

Happy writing!

Winter Blues

Image: Unsplash (freerangestock.com)

Around this time of year, some of us feel downer around the holidays. We don’t want to get out of bed, hate the colder weather, and feel our spirits are much lower. This year has been rough for me with the blues. Not as jolly about Christmas, not watching many Christmas movies, not noticing many decorations in my house, and so on. The winter blues have never been this bad until this year.

I have found two comforts, though: books and music, particularly the Christmas kind. As I’ve said before, the arts bring me comfort when I need it most, and this winter is no exception. My mood is still blue, but it’s not unbearable. Maybe the arts can help not just me, but others, remember that there is still joy this time of year. People that are selfless, kind, and humble. Giving, forgiveness, and fellowship shining bright against hate, meanness, and more. Maybe it’s wishful thinking.

However, I still have hope.

I hope by reading a Christmas book or listening to Christmas songs, your spirits will be lifted, even if a little. I’ve included a list of some books and tunes that have cheered me up this holiday season and in years past. May these make you smile as they have for me. 

Christmas Books:

  • The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado
  • Gideon’s Gift by Karen Kingsbury
  • The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson
  • The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson
  • The Christmas Company by Alys Murray
  • The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans

Christmas Albums/Songs:

  • David Archuleta, Winter in the Air
  • Mandisa, It’s Christmas (Christmas Angel Edition)
  • Michael Bublé, Christmas
  • “A Baby Changes Everything” by Faith Hill
  • “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters
  • “Believe” by Josh Groban
  • “The Heart of Christmas” by Matthew West
  • “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Ingrid Michaelson feat. Leslie Odom Jr.
  • “Where Are You Christmas?” by Faith Hill
  • “Little Saint Nick” by The Beach Boys

Happy writing!

Struggling to Find the Perfect Gift? Check These Out!

Image: GeoffreyWhiteway (freerangestock.com)

Some of you may remember a guest blog post I wrote in June 2016 for Dear English Major. In it, I talked about sticking with the path of majoring in English despite my self-doubts. That decision has defined my life in staying true to myself and to the things that make me happy.

There’s another thing I appreciate about Dear English Major, though. Gift guides! Have an English major in your life but struggle to find the perfect Christmas gift? Well, these guides should help! I’ve used these guides in the past to give my family gift ideas. A few things I’ve received over the years include The Amazing Story Generator, a Bookstores and Cats mug, and more! Here are a few gift guides found on the website:

  • Children’s Book-Inspired Gift Guide
  • The Ultimate Shakespeare Gift Guide
  • The Ultimate Gift Guide for Writers
  • Maya Angelou-Inspired Gift Guide

These guides don’t apply to just Christmas. You can also check out these lists for birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions. Thank you Dear English Major for having these awesome gift guides for our writers and book lovers!

To check out the other gift guides, click here. 

Happy writing, reading, and Christmas shopping!