Adventures in Audio

I’ve been testing the waters in Audio Books

A few courageous years ago, I thought about performing my own audio books. It sounded like a lot of fun. Audio and voice recording is something I’ve dreamed about doing since I was little – probably since Gurgi in Black Cauldron, after I realized I could do cool things with my voice. 

When the opportunity came to create a studio in my home, this was just the push I needed to get into voice acting… right? I thought about starting a podcast, a vocal art studio, possibly composing the music for the intros, and really expanding my reach as an author. What a WONDERFUL dream. I currently hold all my audio rights for my series and I felt like this was a golden opportunity….

This was two (plus) years ago. And though I still have delusions of recording, different opportunities and challenges took precedence over my starring role as recording artist and composer.

But here is what happened to help branch my books into audio…

My grandmother, who is a personal hero of mine, is blind, Macular Degeneration, where the eyes just slowly lose vision. I fear this will eventually happen to me as well, something to look forward to, I suppose. She is currently in assisted living, but the crazy girl is teaching exercise (within reason) to the other residents. She’s spry and sharp, and a well of experiences. I don’t ever have the time to visit (I’m the worst offender out of all her grandchildren) and she wouldn’t be able to read my books anyway. Around her 95th birthday back in May, the thought came to me that I wished my grandmother knew my stories while she is still here.

Now was the time to get into audio.

A friend asked why I didn’t read Vampire-ish myself, with all my audio talk and whatnot. Very simply… well, I’m not a guy. I can’t even fake this on a good day. The thing about Oliver (Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale), it is told in first person narration. I needed a guy.

I looked into ACX and decided to give it a try. I went for halvies, profit share, and received a lot of incredible auditions, but none were right for Oliver. My main character needed a specific, youthful, yet slightly nerdy voice. All these deep baritones just wouldn’t work out. When I heard Ryan Jeanmaire, I knew immediately this was my Oliver. Ryan not only had the vocal sound I needed, but the comic timing required for the part, and it was a bonus that he studied acting and currently lives in New York City. I’m VERY excited to announce that Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale will be available in audio – Audible, iTunes, and Amazon – at the end of this month, July 31st. (link to come)

 

But, another incredible thing happened.

A few years ago, an author friend and someone I’ve mentioned before, probablyAlyson Grauer (Whimsy and ArtificeDreams To Become), talked casually about recording my books. She loved Vivatera and always wanted to do it, but at the time her life was circumnavigated by change and the timing wasn’t right. Last month, Aly contacted me and approach the subject of recording my books. My series is finished and this was a great chance to get all three done by the same person, and field into another arena of book lovers. A slot had opened in her artistic life to read my books, and I jumped at the opportunity for her to audition.

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015: Aly in the Steampunk cowgirl and me as Honey Lemon. You can tell it’s the end of the con. I was exhausted. Photo credit: Bryan Rasmussen, Chisledlight Photography

I have a lot of professional artistic working relationships, and working with friends, especially the dear ones, can be very delicate sometimes.

Here is some advice:

  • Always draft a contract
  • Follow the contract
  • Remember this phrase – “It’s Business.” (coined while editing the Blacksmith Series) Don’t take it personal, it’s business.

Aly sent me the Prologue and First Chapter for Vivatera and my jaw hit the floor. Unlike Oliver’s 1st person narrative, Vivatera is 3rd person limited view. It spines a vivid cast of characters, all across this world I created. Aly asked several questions about the characters before starting, comprehensive questions about region and dialect, audio samples and word pronunciations. We also audio chatted in :22-ish audio clips, just bouncing back and forth about specifics while I was in my car.

From what I have heard, this will be an audio experience. Aly is an actor, storyteller, a dialect coach, a creator, and for me, a very fortuitous friend to have in my life. Contract is drafted and I’ll have more details later.

I can’t wait to share this with my grandma, and all of you when it comes out. Stay tuned!

**If you are interesting following Aly and her projects, please click on her Patreon link here: Whimsy and Artifice

 

 

Book Review – Off To Be The Wizard

When I was researching wizards for a presentation, this book popped up and I got the giggles just reading the description. It looked clever, and I like clever. Anything that I wished I’d come up with, those are my faves. That puts Off To Be The Wizard by Seth Meyer on my TOP SHELF.

Martin Banks, a computer guy/pseudo-hacker stumbles upon a computer code for EVERYTHING. He finds his name and can conveniently alter his height and bank account. He also finds that he can alter his timeline and essentially become a time traveler. And where else would he go but to medieval England to be a wizard. Dawned with a Draco Malfoy robe and his handy smartphone with his custom app he sets off to be a wizard. Trouble is…. so have a lot other people.

This book is THE BEST! It tickles every geeky sensory nerve I have. It delves deep into Nerdity too, crossing generations – from the Commodore 64 and Coleco to smart phones and Macbooks, D&D, WoW, LotR, the Simpsons, not kidding when I said it hit everything. It covered them all. I found myself laughing out loud all the time, because…. I get it! This book was beyond genius, way more clever than I could ever come up with. It’s funny and witty, clever, cool, and just the most fun I’ve ever had in a book.

If you have these threads of nerdity, the geekiness of gaming, and herding in the nerd culture, this book is made for you.

It is Brilliant! I’m already heading into book two!

Wonderful job Scott Meyer, I tip my wizard hat to you.

Book Review – A Piece of Sky

A Piece of Sky by Ann Hunter

This delightful, scrumptious re-imagining of Chicken Little is one of the best pieces of magical fiction I’ve ever read. I don’t say that lightly.

I met my dear friend Ann Hunter at a meeting of like-minded authors a few years ago. She has seen me at my best… and my worst, and she still thinks I’m cool, which I will always love her for.

Her book, A PIECE OF SKY, caught my eye when we were in a booth together at Salt Lake Comic Con…. I mean, it’s gorgeous, but I didn’t buy it. I remember her being super excited that JoBe Cerny (THEE Pillsbury Doughboy) recorded the audio version of the book. I thought that was so very cool to hear, and my heck, I have some really cool author friends. But…… I had a lot of projects happening and didn’t listen to it.

We ran into each other at other various events and still I didn’t buy her book. Why? I was busy with finishing up my series and a myriad of other excuses. And I tend to shy away from reading things my friends write, a principle I am repeatedly breaking lately, because curiosity has bitten me (and they are all so brilliant).

Then Ann did something I didn’t expect, she contacted me this past fall asking to buy my trilogy. How awesome! Of course I wasn’t about to tell her no. I met her on the side of the freeway, like some illegal drug deal, and gave her my books. She later chastised me – I completely forgot to sign them.

This last month, at Salt Lake FanX, I got the privilege to team with her again in our fantasy author booth. And there sat that little book, staring at me with a cute, chicken eye. But I still didn’t buy it. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME?! I planned to, but yet again, it was another busy con and everything was packed by the time I returned to the booth. Ann also told me that Vivatera, MY VIVATERA, was the next in line for her book club read on for her newsletter. I was so touched.

I tell you all these facts to illustrate my bad character and highlight Ann’s thoughtful gesture, one that I couldn’t shake. I have a very strong community of author support, and I have always been there encouraging their creativity and success, but I wasn’t prepared when someone wanted to help me.

So….. in-between books and adding a boring commute, I decided to look what I could get on my Audible. A strange remembrance sparked in my brain and I looked up A PIECE OF SKY. and WHAT? It was only $5. I immediately downloaded it.

And with my long explanation, here is my review…

I loved it. Loved is not a strong enough word for it. It wrapped its arms around me, seeped into my soul and enveloped every fiber with its magic. And I found myself in awe, still struck with the fact that this is Chicken Little… CHICKEN LITTLE! And I was so in love with it that I didn’t want to stop listening. It was joy, pure joy to experience it in audio form. But, the book is just as illuminating, with the different playful fonts illustrating the story for you.

Ros is your Little Red Hen, who gets struck with a golden acorn, fallen from the God Oak – the Tree of Life. And she knew, from the moment it struck her, that this was something special – not an acorn, but a piece of sky! .

Ann brings in such a strong, magical core to the story I found myself scratching my head at how she came up with such wonder in a story about a chicken. The imagery is absolutely beautiful and enchanting, the characters are so lovely, and it still follows the formula you would expect in Chicken Little, taking the acorn to the dog, a mare, a fox, a kelpy, and then to a griffin, cause…. MAGIC!

I laughed out loud several times, and may have shed a tear at the end. And the points of the book, the parts that keep rolling around in my brain, are these:

  • How great acts can come from the smallest things.
  • How having faith in yourself and belief that what you are doing is important, can make you stronger than you ever imagined.
  • …And last, that there is a piece of sky in all of us – the potential to grow and be what we dream of being.

Bravo Ann! Truly beautiful work. 

You can DOWNLOAD A Piece of Sky for FREE on Instafreebie right here:

A PIECE OF SKY BY ANN HUNTER

FanX 2017 – Supporting Local Fantasy Authors

Authors Rebecca Rode, Me, and Jen Greyson, with the talent Kermit the Frog and his handler (getting his name now)

 

Today, I’m reflecting on my past experiences as I get ready for another FanX.

Lissa (amazing editor) and I FanX 2014

My first FanX was an experiment. It was only me and my family and friends helping out. I was NOBODY – a fledgling author with one book and a BIG award. I coughed up the money (YIKES!) for a booth without any special discount beyond being a repeat vendor. (I think they were nervous it would suck.) Along with my book VIVATERA, and a short story in an anthology, I was eves away from my second book CONJECTRIX, being published. I met my editor for the first time – Lissa – and I was placed on the end RIGHT in front of Patrick Stewart’s and Karen Gillan’s line. It was hard, HARD work. I filled it with other Xchyler’s (my publisher) books, those who could participate, and did my best at selling them.

Xchyler Authors 2016: Jay Barnson, Scott Taylor, Ben Ireland, Jon Olsen, Sarah Seeley, and ME!

Last year, we collaborated as Xchyler authors, plus having our sponsor Kelly Olsen, in a booth together. We were generating some buzz at other conventions. Still hard work, but completely worth it. I got the chance to grow in friendship with some of these amazing people. The experience also set me in a new direction as an editor.

This year for FanX, I’m helping other authors get the chance to let their books shine by hosting a booth for Local Fantasy Authors. With both FanX and Salt Lake Comic Con, I have established relationships and respect within the community, something I feel very humble and honored to have. I get to participate again as a panelist and special guest at this convention. The idea still blows me away. But with that, I can help others make their mark in the community. Attending these conventions can be expensive, but the exposure is VITAL. And WOW I’ve got a great crew with me for this con.

The authors are:

Badges for the authors! AWESOME!

I’m incredibly impressed with the talent in our little booth. We have Amazon top sellers and award-winning talent, among some stunning new fiction. If you are in Salt Lake City attending FanX, we are in booth 721. If you don’t get the chance, check out the links and look at these wonderful authors.

FanX is so much fun – hard work, but so worth it. I can’t wait to be an author again.

Serendipity – the Beginnings of Billy Blacksmith

ser·en·dip·i·ty

serənˈdipədē/

noun

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

 

I think out of all the words that I have ever encountered (that being a LOT) Serendipity is a special word that I have always admired. I remember reading the little Serendipity picture books like Morgan and Me, Bangalee, and The Muffin Muncher (all my favorites as a kid), so I grew a subconscious association with the word that, to me, embodied magic and imagination.

In this quick definition, it doesn’t express the feeling of Serendipity. Many times a person doesn’t know that a moment is serendipitous, only on reflection can it be seen. This is very true in my personal experience with this strange cosmic event called “Serendipity.” Though, as it was happening, there was a certain feeling pulling me along, alerting me of how special this was. I wouldn’t call it fate or kismet, that makes it imply that I didn’t have a choice. But in this case, I clearly did have a choice, and this is how my choice led me here…

The Occurance

February 2016 – LTUE: Life, The Universe, and Everything Writers Conference, one of the best Sci-fi/Fantasy writing conferences there is. I was very involved this year, being on ten panels and subbing on two. It kept me very busy.

ltue-2016-crop
Actual picture of our first meeting

Ben Ireland, fellow Xchyler author and Moments In Millennia contributor, had just moved to Utah. He had contacted me back in December about getting more involved in events here. I was the right person to contact about that, I have my fingers in all sorts of pies. Truth: Xchyler is much like a family, so adding another member was very exciting, plus I felt a strange kind of kinship with him after working on MIM. And me, being very active in the writing community here, felt a specific need to befriend him, a need I did not understand at the time. I invited him to LTUE, and got him to take part of the large author signing event.

I had been very busy, as I said, and hadn’t noticed him come in and set up at a table close by. I was rather struck by my great fortune being positioned directly across from Brandon Sanderson. It took me a good while to notice that he was sitting kitty-corner from my seat. I could only see the back of his head, but I knew it was him. I grew very nervous – people online can be very different in person, but I couldn’t just sit there. I got up, casually went over, and tapped him on the back. He was excited to see me and glad I was there. We immediately hit it off and my friend Mike from the media team nabbed a picture.

My 12 year old daughter and I had a casual lunch with him the next day during the conference, where he asked her, nearly in passing, if she would be interested in reading a YA fantasy he had been developing. I was curious about it, but he didn’t say much, just that he wanted her opinion. He sent it to me, and I in turn sent it to my girl.

Development of Events

My daughter is rather flaky. I love the guts out of her, but she starts things then gets distracted by squirrels. She read about 50 pages before she started doing something else. I was curious about the story, but I had so many other things to do, like finishing writing a few books, one being the final book in my series. I couldn’t justify time in reading it. And at this point, Ben had not asked me to read it.

About a good seven weeks later, Ben and I met up yet again in the Xchyler Booth at FanX, a geek convention in Salt Lake City. He kept mentioning this YA story. And here I was, a YA fantasy author. I knew he was dying to talk about it. So, I simply asked him to tell me about Billy Blacksmith…

…and the flood opened and he shared with me so much. He was so excited to talk with another author who understood creation and world building. I mean, Ben completely lit up. I tried to catch everything as he filled my ears with this world of Billy Blacksmith, all while walking the wide convention floor eating overly priced chocolate ice cream.

This is what I caught:

  • Billy is a big kid, out of shape, lover of cupcakes, amazing at baseball
  • Has ultra cool friends, Greyson Ash and Ash-lea Gray, very cool
  • He has demonblood

But it wasn’t until…

  • Giant demonic spiders and a little girl that this giant spider had to protect

…did I wonder how complex this story really was.

And then he killed it by saying that part was actually in the second book. But, after everything, and me as a YA fantasy author, he really wanted my opinion. Now, know I have a hard time reading books from my friends. I don’t want my author friendships to become delicate if I don’t like it, you know? But, there was something, I’d nearly call it a magic charm, calling me to read this story. I started reading and told myself that I would try and keep my personal friendship out, remove my writer self, and just enjoy the story.

I failed.

By chapter three I had a problem – I really liked the story. It surprised me. It was funny, funny, funny. The characters were super engaging, especially poor, larger-than-life Billy. But, my stupid author brain would not shut up. The story had great potential, but I could tell it was more complex than what Ben had original told me. A boy that swings a bat really well did not scratch the surface.

So, lucky as I am, I went to the author with questions. And there Ben blew my mind with a creative

billyblacksmithfinalcover
COVER REVEAL Pre-order Billy Blacksmith Available January 2017

world constructed of three realms: Humans, Demons, and Angels, and the wars that befell them. About the different demonic races and classes, about a different kind of hero story, filling me with mystery and admiration, the kind that makes me wish I had created it. This manuscript screamed at me, and it wasn’t even mine.

And then I read a chapter called, “The Demon Who Loved a Maid and Saved Mankind,” and I feel in love with the story. It talked about the sweet beginnings and love story that started everything. I couldn’t help myself. This was good – really good, but there were problems that I could see and Ben couldn’t. Ben writes thrillers, not YA fantasy. YA sometimes needs a gentler hand, or something that appeals to that age. And YA is something I write and I knew I could help. This is what Ben wanted when he first talked to me, someone within the writing world to believe in Billy–and I, in some strange cosmic serendipitous way, was there.

In A Happy or Beneficial Way

At this point I warned Ben, “I can’t shut off my writer brain, so if I see something that could be improved, can I add a comment?” He was so excited that I offered, he said “Yes, please.” And thus, started a back and forth writing process that soon developed a trusting friendship and partnership as author and editor.

That’s right… Editor. New hat, but I like how it fits.

Over the past months working on this, I’ve learn how important it is to have creative people. Though ideas may be different, artistic types, and especially writers, speak the same language of art. It was this language of writing, world building, and creative storytelling that spoke to me. Writers need writers to speak to, bounce off ideas, learn from, and share with. We all have loved ones who believe in us and in our abilities, but having other creative minds believe in it too is validation that you are doing something right, something worth while. The imaginative beauty of this project wrapped around me, and instead of simply encouraging the idea, I got involved, because I believed in it and desperately wanted it to succeed.

I love writing. I love storytelling. I love making a difference. I love being a small part of Billy Blacksmith.

Serendipity only works when you act on it.

Congratulations Ben!


 

Billy Blacksmith: The Demonslayer

Billy has spent his whole life keeping his head down in school and trying to survive the endless parade of foster homes. When a three hundred pound spider emerges from under his bed intent on drinking his blood, Billy discovers he is the main player in an ancient war between demons and humans. With his best friends Ash-lea and Greyson, and a reformed demon as his ally, Billy prepares to face an invasion of demonic spiders and the General that leads them.

Sign up HERE for a chance to win a signed copy of Billy Blacksmith:The Demonslayer