Thursday, March 15, 2018

Why I Love Audiobooks and You Might Too

I was resistant to the idea of audiobooks for a long time.

I don’t know if it was because I had internalized some silly idea that it wasn’t “real reading” or if I just had never really listened to them growing up.

I remember once my family bought a book on tape (as they used to be called back in the dark ages of the mid ‘00s) but we weren’t committed to it and stopped listening part way through. I still don’t know how Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord ends.

This mentality began to shift sometime in high school. I’m not entirely sure what brought it about, but I think it was a combination of several things.

First of all, bookworm that I am, I wanted to have a way to read while walking that didn’t end with me stepping in a puddle or running into a pole, door or person. All those things had happened or nearly happened to me. I was like those confuddled people in infomercials who look directly into the camera and declare “there’s got to be a better way!”

The second reason, honestly, I started listening to audiobooks was that Google, in all its algorithmic, capitalist wisdom, had been showing me ads for Audible (an audiobook buying website for those of you who don't know) for some time and I finally caved. My walking-infomercial-self had found a problem and the internet had responded with “there’s an app for that.”

Although there are many places online where you can find audiobooks, I really like Audible because as a member I get one "free" book a month (I put "free" in quotations since there is the $15 monthly fee, but since many audiobooks cost most than that I usually come out ahead) as well as access to a member discount for any other book I may want to buy. (And, Audible does give you your first month of membership free so you can see if you like it). If you have never given audiobooks a shot, I highly, highly recommend that you do.

Most of the pleasure reading I’m able to get in during the school year is through audiobooks. I may not have much time to sit down and read a book for fun (because, let’s be real, I hardly even have that time to read books assigned for class) but I do have snippets of time between walking to class, eating and working out at the gym. That time adds up quickly and allows me to get a fair amount of pleasure “reading” in.

Listening to books can also be great for doing homework. For speed readers it may not be worth it, but as someone who is a slow reader, has a reading heavy course load and is prone to eye strain, it really is. Also, depending on the platform you are listening through, you may be able to speed up the narration to two to three times the recorded speed for when you’re in a hurry.

There is also a theatrical element to audiobooks, placing the experience of listening to one somewhere between reading a book and listening to a radio play. The voice actors will often do different voices and accents for the various characters and the inflections of their voices as they narrate will sometimes lead me to interpret a scene differently than if I had been reading the story and imagined the inflections differently.

Also, books that come from big publishers, especially books that have been heavily hyped, will often have a big name attached as the narrator. I imagine some people might find this distracting, but I really enjoy it.

Take the audiobook for one of my favorite books Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, for example.

The narrator of that audiobook, at the time I first listened to it was, from what I understand, well-respected and known among the Broadway community, but not particularly famous. Several years later, when I listened to it again, I was surprised and delighted to realize that the narrator was, in fact, Lin-Manuel Miranda. (This revelation made the scene in the novel where the main character is complaining about have to write a paper on Alexander Hamilton ten times funnier than it would have been otherwise).

In this current age, we have so many ways of sharing and consuming stories, yet the audiobook is often overlooked. Hopefully, if you have never listened to one before, I have piqued your interest enough to at least give this medium a try.

This piece first appeared in the Manitou Messenger, St. Olaf College's student newspaper.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive some money if you make purchases.

Release Blitz: The Mage Heir

About the Book

Traitor: that's what Tatsu is now. On the run from both Runon and Chayd, Tatsu and Yudai's only hope for survival is to disappear into the wilds. However, when the siphon's deadly curse returns, they have no choice but to travel into the desert kingdom of Joesar in search of a cure.
Battling the unforgiving elements of the sands, Tatsu starts to realize that the path towards destroying the siphon may claim Yudai's life. Time is running out as Nota's fury-and the siphon's hunger-begin to spiral wildly beyond their control. As their options slowly fall away, the only thing Tatsu and Yudai can count on is each other.

Author Bio

Kathryn didn't major in creative writing, but never stopped believing. She survives on books, strong coffee, craft beer, puppies, and the Oxford comma. She currently lives in Japan with her husband and teaches high school English to shape the next generation of young minds. She also comma splices like it's going out of style.


The Mage Heir on Amazon
Book One (The Life Siphon) on Amazon

Book Excerpt

Tatsu didn't mind sleeping under the leaves, but Yudai's agitation seemed to grow as the sky darkened. He paced back and forth between two ancient tree trunks with his hands clasped behind his back, over and over, until the stars came out.
"You're going to have to sleep eventually," Tatsu pointed out, voice mild, once the moon was high overhead. It earned him a growl in reply. "Please just sit down."
"This clearing will be dead by morning," Yudai snapped. When he turned to retrace his steps again, Tatsu could see the twist of his fingers clenched together in tight fists.
"You can't do anything about it, so there's no point in blaming yourself. It's probably just making the whole thing worse."
The look Yudai threw him was dubious at best, but evidently, the possibility was difficult to ignore. Yudai eventually settled himself down between two patches of yellow-green weeds, and he ran his finger over his lip a few times before his eyes flickered up towards Tatsu. "Distract me."
"You could ask nicely," Tatsu said.
One corner of Yudai's mouth quirked upward. "I could," he agreed, and said nothing more.
"Did you know that my mother had other children?"
Yudai blinked and sat back, face slackening. "Good distraction."


Giveaway for 5 eBook copies of "The Mage Heir" to celebrate the release day.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Author Interview: Kaethe Schwehn

I was recently able to ask Kaethe Schwehn, author of the just-released dystopian novel "The Rending and the Nest" a few questions about her career and new book. She is an award-winning writer and poet and currently lives in Northfield, Minnesota where she teaches at St. Olaf College. The interview in full is below.

I know you have a collection of poetry and a memoir out, is this your first novel?
It's my first published novel. I have another one languishing in a drawer somewhere.

When did you first start writing “The Rending and the Nest?”
Almost five years ago. It took three years to write and then the submission and publication process took almost another two years.

Could you talk a little bit about what your writing process was like for this book?
I write longhand first. I filled up a number of journals trying to figure out the characters and the setting. Once I knew where the story began I started typing. When I finally submitted it to the amazing woman who is now my agent she suggested that I needed to expand the ending. I thought she meant I needed to add a page or two.  "No," she said, "I think you need about another 20,000 words." She was absolutely right.

Are you currently working on any other projects?
I'm in the beginning stages of an historical novel set in 4BCE.  

What is one piece of advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write a lot. Read a lot. Join communities of other writers and readers. I guess that was three pieces of advice. :)

About The Rending and the Nest:

A chilling yet redemptive post-apocalyptic debut that examines community, motherhood, faith, and the importance of telling one's own story.
When 95 percent of the earth's population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can't afford to lose. She has everything under control. Almost. 
Four years after the Rending, Mira's best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first since everything changed and a new source of hope for Mira. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object--and other women of Zion follow suit--the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new life begins to fray. As the Zionites wrestle with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world beyond Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn't return, Mira must decide how much she's willing to let go in order to save her friend, her home, and her own fraught pregnancy.
Like California by Edan Lepucki and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Rending and the Nest uses a fantastical, post-apocalyptic landscape to ask decidedly human questions: How well do we know the people we love? What sustains us in the midst of suffering? How do we forgive the brokenness we find within others--and within ourselves?

Find it on Amazon!

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Spotlight: Cold Flood by RJ Corgan

Book Description:
For geologist Kea Wright, when a volcano erupts under an ice cap, it isn't just a good time, it's a living. Camped at the base of an icecap in southeast Iceland, Kea and her team are investigating landforms created by catastrophic floods. With only days left in the field season, bad weather on the way, and the volcano due to erupt at any time, the team is struck by a tragedy that threatens to shut down the entire project. As the team rushes to complete their work, the expedition continues to be plagued by setbacks, leading Kea to wonder if the initial tragedy was an accident after all. During her reluctant - and inept - attempts to investigate, Kea inadvertently stumbles upon a secret. One so valuable, someone is willing to kill to keep it hidden.

Author Bio:
Raised by librarians, RJ has a PhD in Geology, and has worked on volcanoes and glaciers across the globe. Cold Flood  is his debut novel, mixing genres of actual scientific expeditions and thrillers.
The adventures of Kea Wright will continue in the forthcoming novels Meerkat Murders and Mammoth Drop in 2019.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Goodreads Giveaway: Wildcat by JP Harker!

 JP Harker is currently running a Goodreads Giveaway for Wildcat, ending on 28th February 2018 – follow the link to enter

Book Description
Rhianwyn of the Caderyn is conflicted about giving up a warrior’s life to become a wife and mother, but her love for her new husband is enough to at least make her consider it.  However, with the conquering Gaians moving ever closer to her homeland a peaceful life may no longer be an option, for Rhia or for any of her people.  With rival tribes, old suitors, and the dangerous General Lepidus to contend with, Rhia soon finds her new family in unprecedented danger, and her choices now must be about more than just herself...  
 Set in a world inspired by Iron Age Britain and Imperial Rome, this first book of the Caledon Saga follows Rhianwyn through many trials and tragedies as the would-be conquerors turn her world completely upside-down.
Wildcat Prologue
Book Two of the Saga
Leaping Wolf (Caledon Book 2)

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bifrost Review Release!

Founding team of Bifrost
My college has a J term, which means for the month of January we take one class that we attend every day instead of the more usual three to four classes that we take two to three times a week during a semester. This year I took Exploring Literary Publishing. This class has taught me a lot about the publishing world, especially because it gave me a perspective outside that of a book blogger, but one of the coolest things about it is that we got to create our own literary journal! 
Our first issue's cover!

Our professor came up with the name "Bifrost," but gave the class free rein to decide what the journal's mission would be. We decided that Bifrost, like the rainbow structure from Norse myth it was named after, would serve as a bridge. In this case, a bridge between undergraduate literary communities. There are so many terrific undergrad journals out there, but they all operate in their own bubble more or less. Bifrost is seeking to change that by reprinting works featured in other undergrad journals to create a space for sharing and community building. We are also trying to bridge the gap between journals that feature only student writers and journals that feature professional authors. We are currently doing this by including reviews of a wide variety of journals in our first issue as well as featuring interviews with literary professionals. 

While the whole class helped decide Bifrost's vision, I was specifically working in the social media group. This meant I helped create and build our social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), set up a Buffer account (a platform for organizing and posting on all our accounts in the same place), and coming up with content for posts. I definitely learned a trick or two that I plan to implement for the Howling Turtle in the future.

Even though a new team is working on Bifrost now, I am still very excited to see what comes next for this journal!

If you have time, I would love it if you would check out the website, and maybe even connect with us on social media!

Bifrost's Website

Monday, January 22, 2018

Your Laugh Line Awards

I am honored to announce that I have been asked to be a judge for this year's Your Laugh Line Awards! I can't wait to see what this contest has in store!

Strap in!  It’s going to be a hilarious ride!

Starting on February 1st, Your Laugh Line begins its official search to find the funniest books written in 2017.  It’s like a quest for the Holy Grail (Monty Python or otherwise) but more important!  Our hope is that this book is so funny that it will end all war.

Okay. Maybe not.

But we are looking for the best, hilarious books written last year. 
The contest has two components. One is a Reader’s Choice Award. Readers can log onto and enter the author and book of their choice. The author who receives the most reader votes will win $250 and an assortment of promotional help from Your Laugh Line.

The other component is an adjudicated contest for books submitted by authors and/or their publishers.  The form is available at  The cost to enter the competition is $20 per book. Those books will be judged by a panel of expert book reviewers. The winning author will receive $500, plus an assortment of promotional help from Your Laugh Line.

Authors can enter the competition between February 1st and April 30th.  Reader’s Choice voting runs from February 2nd to August 15th.  Books making it past the first round will be announced on July 1, second round list on August 1, and the final winner on September 1. Honorable mentions will be made for category-specific books.

Author or reader – come and help us find last year’s funniest book! 

About Your Laugh Line
Your Laugh Line was created to help funny authors find an audience who appreciates funny books. Knowing the power of laughter to help alleviate stress, to provide the necessary mental distraction to give the brain a break, and to make people feel silly, Your Laugh Line is committed to making the world a better place through humorous books.