December 14, 2014 • No Comments
Congratulations to Karen Krack – you’re the lucky winner of Shereen’s book!
December 8, 2014 • No Comments
It’s lovely to share the stage with a guest now and again, so please allow me to introduce fellow author and urban fantasy writer Margo Bond Collins! Her latest Night Shift novella, Bound by Blood, promises that sometimes the monsters in the dark are real…
As a child, Lili Banta ignored her grandmother’s cryptic warnings to avoid children outside their Filipino community in Houston. When many of those other children fell ill, Lili ignored the whispers in her community that a vampiric aswang walked among them.
Years later, Lili returns to Houston to work for the Quarantine Station of the Center for Disease Control—but she is plagued by dark, bloody dreams that consume her nights and haunt her days. When a strange illness attacks the city’s children, Lili is called in to find its source, and maybe even a cure.
But in order to save the city, she must first acknowledge the sinister truth: A monster stalks the night—closer than she ever expected….
Character Interview: Dr. Lili Banta
1. Lili, quick. Describe yourself in seven words or less!
Filipino-American, Texan, doctor, epidemiologist, scientist.
2. Tell us something about your current hometown.
I recently moved back to Houston. I went to medical school in Maine because I wanted to get as far away from home as I could—but eventually, I was ready to return. I’m staying with my mother—my Inay—until I find a new place. That might take longer than I initially planned, because my ex-boyfriend just called me in to consult on a strange case at his hospital.
3. What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was a child, my grandmother warned me about the aswang hunting the children at my school. An aswang is a woman who turns into a monster at night and attacks women and young children. I didn’t believe in them . . . but I might be changing my mind.
4. What’s your favourite food?
I love the traditional dish adobo from the Philippines. My grandmother—my Inang—made it with chicken and peppercorns, cooked in soy sauce and olive oil, and lots and lots of garlic. At the last minute, she took it out and pan-fried it to get the edges just crispy enough. Mmmm.
5. Can you tell us a little about what to expect in Bound by Blood?
When I get called in to consult on Will’s case, we’re all surprised by what we discover. I don’t want to give away too much, but my past and Will’s present case are all tied together in ways we never expected.
6. Can you tell us something about yourself we don’t learn from the book?
My father died when I was very young—I don’t even remember him at all.
7. What is your author Margo Bond Collins like?
She’s kind of quiet until you get to know her—she likes to sit back and watch for a while before jumping into any kind of social situation. But then it’s hard to shut her up! She grew up in Texas, and after living all over the country, has come back to North Central Texas, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and a bunch of pets.
8. Name five items in your purse or pockets right now.
Two IDs: one for the CDC in Houston, the other for Houston General Hospital. My car keys and cell phone. A scrunchie to tie my hair back. A pen. And that’s pretty much all my lab coat pockets have room for!
9. If you had one chance to change anything about your life, what would it be?
I wish I had believed my grandmother—that I had figured this out before someone got hurt . . .
Sitting straight up in bed, I gasped and threw myself back against the headboard, the thud dying away along with the remaining shreds of my dream.
But the word still ricocheted through my mind.
Until yesterday, I hadn’t thought of the term in years—not since I’d left Houston for med school in Maine, determined to get as far away from home as I could.
But this resurgence of the same, odd illness that had swept my city years before was apparently also dredging up the old stories from deep in my subconscious: the aswang, a vampiric woman who lived a quiet life by day and fed on children in the night, flying back home on bat-wings just before dawn.
My unconscious mind had clearly also expanded on the idea, casting me in the role of aswang and adding schizoid conversations with a chorus of internal voices.
Great. I’m insane in my dreams.
And I’m a monster.
Shuddering, I wiped my hand across my gritty, raw eyelids.
Only $.99 via Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Bound-Blood-Night-Shift-Novella-ebook/dp/B00PB3AIGC/
About the Author
Margo Bond Collins is the author of urban fantasy, contemporary romance, and paranormal mysteries. She has published a number of novels, including Sanguinary, Taming the Country Star, Legally Undead, Waking Up Dead, and Fairy, Texas. She lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, and several spoiled pets. Although writing fiction is her first love, she also teaches college-level English courses online. She enjoys reading romance and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about heroes, monsters, cowboys, and villains, and the strong women who love them—and sometimes fight them.
Connect with Margo
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/margobondcollins
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargoBondCollin @MargoBondCollin
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/vampirarchy
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/MargoBondCollins
• 58 Comments
I’ve been a fan of Shereen’s stories for years, so it’s with great delight that I welcome her to my blog. If you like fairy stories, romance, adventure, and the occasional talking broomstick, I highly recommend these books. This blog contains sound advice for writers, but readers should note THERE IS A CONTEST FOR A FREE BOOK BELOW!!
Grant Me Five Wishes
The best way to improve our writing is to pay attention to what our readers want. Though it might sometimes feel as if they ask for the impossible, satisfying reader-needs is a sure fire way to win their hearts.
So what do readers want? Why, it’s simple. They want writers to grant them five wishes.
WISH #1 – Indulge me – This wish is not about drinking hot chocolate on a cold winter day, but it could offer an avid reader an equivalent amount of enjoyment. We grant this reader wish when we pay homage to writing basics. Eliminate typos, revere grammar, be concise, and use literary techniques with skill to the point where readers becomes so immersed in the story, they are unaware we have even used such tools. Mastering this wish will take patience, practice and persistence. Start by building a relationship with yourself through your writing – write every day, week, month and year. Then begin to edit with a reader in mind.
WISH #2 – Convey me – This wish speaks to suspension of disbelief, which in turn is linked to meticulous research and solid world building. Whether our story is a mystery or a paranormal, a contemporary or a historical, we must convince our reader that he or she has just bought a train ticket to our fictional world. If that world has unusual elements, then explain them up front so the reader can enjoy the ride without being bumped out. If we have twists and turns, lay the ground work so those shocks are absorbable. Paint vivid and atmospheric sceneries, employ a captivating conductor (an engaging narrative voice), populate the train with intriguing passengers (fully fleshed-out secondary characters) and ensure the main characters are people a reader will be enthusiastic about spending time with during this exciting journey.
WISH #3 – Intrigue me – If this train ride gets boring, a reader might be tempted to get off at the next station. To avoid this, ensure all scene changes and chapter ends have solid hooks crafted to make a reader say, “Maybe I’ll read just
a little longer.” A Beastly Scandal’s editor had a favorite question that she would scribble at the end of my scenes: “And then what?” Every time I read that, I wanted to reply, “Well, keep reading and you’ll find out.” But what she meant was, “What’s to keep me from putting this book down right now?” Give the reader a reason to keep reading.
WISH #4 – Amuse me – Karl Iglesias, in his Writing for Emotional Impact, devotes eight pages to this reader wish. He believes that a reader always tries to second guess a story line. It’s part of the fun of reading. So inject humor, plot twists and endearing character quirks. And if we can intermingle surprise with suspense, that train will be chugging on late into the night.
WISH #5 – Delight me – This final wish is about a story’s ending. But this wish does not simply refer to a happy ending where the hero and heroine end up together, though that is a strict requirement of any book labelled a romance. To truly satisfying a reader by the end of a story, we must tie up all the story threads. It’s about ensuring the ending is solid and strong enough to justify the reader having spent their precious money and time to travel with us. It’s leaving a reader sighing with pleasure at the end of their journey and then wanting to buy another train ticket from us.
As writers, are we up to granting readers these five wishes? Of course, we are. But we could use a life line. There are many books on how to edit well, but authors also need insightful feedback from the people who have our backs: critique partners, contest judges and editors. If their comments always make us feel proud and pleased about what an excellent writer we are, we need a stronger supporter who can be fearless about hurting our feelings when necessary. Someone who will at times make us so furious, that we passionately gripe to family and friends about how wrong this person is about our work.
We need this type of honest, uncomfortable feedback to force us to re-examine our work with a critical eye. To clearly see both what’s working, and what isn’t. And don’t be afraid of your righteous anger. That fury can trigger creative breakthroughs. When we’re royally cross, we gain the courage to step out of our comfort zone and shed those easy answers with which we normally pad our work. This process is necessary to ensure our story doesn’t wander, will read faster and stays laser focused to hold a reader’s undivided attention until the very last stop.
Remember, our goal is not simply to write a good book. Our goal is to win a reader’s heart. To do that, we must craft stories that leave our readers in awe, and forces them to ignore their TBR (to be read) piles while they anxiously scour the internet or bookstore for our next book. And curse us if we haven’t yet released it.
My recent release, a paranormal Regency novella, is part of a Christmas anthology, One Winter’s Night. Below is an excerpt from this Goldilocks-inspired, Regency romance, A Season for Giving, where you are about to meet one of the three “bears.”
December 20, 1812, London, England
CHRISTOPHER DE WYNTER skimmed his hand across the page as he wrote down the time, date, location, and purpose behind this final experiment. Flickering candlelight from three lit candles accented his perfectly-written script. His mama used to say his writing was a work of art. It was in Christopher’s nature to be precise, a useful trait for his work with volatile mixtures.
And important work it was. He designed trigger mechanisms for guns that soldiers in combat could use in a dependable and safe manner. He had recently been inspired to use a small canister linked to a braided rope-type fuse in place of the less reliable fuses made of straws or quills filled with black powder. He hoped that one change would greatly reduce the hazard of accidental explosions.
With the war still raging, the navy had gone to great lengths to ensure Christopher’s work was kept top secret. If successful, his new fuse could hasten the end of the war and save numerous lives. Still, such an invention was best kept out of the hands of the enemy. Only his family and his naval commander, Sir Trigg, were privy to his work.
Christopher had been given permission to use the Royal Arsenal’s laboratory in Woolwich to work on his theories. Its location, on the outskirts of London, was far from his family home in Mayfair, so on those nights when he worked late, he stayed in the barracks nearby.
While there, he still took pains to ensure his most dangerous work was conducted only when no one else was likely to be nearby. He scheduled his tests when his colleagues had left for the evening or were at church on Sunday when the adjacent offices were certain to be empty.
Despite painstaking precautions and triple checks of his routines, occasional unexpected explosions did occur, and they were hard to keep quiet. Come daybreak, neighbors nearby were known to complain about the loud blasts at night and charred debris spewed on the streets. Those annoyances were tiny compared to the stir that would be caused if such disruptions were to happen in his laboratory at his home in Mayfair, where the ton of London, with strong connections to members of Parliament, resided.
As for his own safety, Christopher, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a predisposition for working with chemicals, had spent the last couple of years surviving the dangers of his chosen profession. It helped that he had a special family talent that enabled him to escape an imminent blast. An unusual inheritance passed down over many generations had kept him out of harm’s way.
The story went that one of his ancestors, a Spanish gypsy, had been a tightrope dancer in a circus until, in retaliation for a perceived wrong, a witch had cast a curse that clashed with the gypsies’ protection spell. Christopher was unclear about the specifics and uncertain if he even believed in such far-fetched tales, but all direct de Wynter descendants could race like a gazelle, scale walls as nimbly as a squirrel climbed trees, and leap like a startled Yorkshire hare. On occasion, a de Wynter was known to even defy gravity and rise straight up in the air.
A Season for Giving by Shereen Vedam
After one unsuccessful season, Miss Honoria Gilbert knows just what she wants in a husband. And she’s finally found him. But Christopher de Wynter isn’t your typical English gentleman. He’s living a double life, doing undercover work for the crown, and has no intention of letting anyone get too close. But then again, he’s never been up against the power of a young lady’s Christmas wish . . .
I have a Kindle copy of One Winter’s Night to offer as a prize to one randomly chosen commenter. To enter:
- if you’re a reader, share a wish you’d like writers to grant you
- if you’re a writer, share one of your readers’ heartfelt wishes
Shereen Vedam was born in Sri Lanka but her roots are now firmly planted on Canada’s West Coast. After thriving for 5 years in friendly Winnipeg with its -40ºC wind chill factor, she decided sandals and shorts for 9 months of the year was preferable to 6 months of parkas, snow boots and frozen nose. Vancouver Island’s magical rain forest, with its ancient cedar, red-barked arbutus and giant weeping sequoia, inspires her writing. Among her published works, you’ll find heartwarming historical and fantasy romances that have a healthy dollop of mystery, with a pinch of magic.
October 19, 2014 • 4 Comments
I’ve been prodded to give some more info on what’s happening with my series. So sorry I’ve been slow off the mark! Here is the latest: the next two Horsemen books are POSSESSED BY A WOLF and POSSESSED BY THE FALLEN. They are written and turned in. Release dates are May and July of 2015, but of course these are subject to change.
WOLF features (of course) Faran Kenyon and Lexie Haven, and I really adore this book! They’re such great characters and an impossible couple. But talky. They wouldn’t shut up. Nevertheless, it has my favourite ending of any romance I’ve written and, no, I won’t say why.
I turned in FALLEN at the very end of August and I have to say I’ve been in recovery mode. I wrote 7 books in short order and was a little burned out by the end of it. Since then, I’ve been catching up on life things–appointments, visiting, cleaning, and whatnot–while I’m thinking about what comes next and writing down ideas for new characters.
• No Comments
So here are a couple of new items!
Del Rey has come up with two new ways to enjoy Evelina. All three of the short stories have been bundled in the Baskerville Tales, so if you’ve got the books but not the shorts, you can download them for $0.99. If you haven’t read the series at all or want them in one ebook package, all three novels and all three short stories are now available in one bundle for a reduced price. Both are out on November 4, and can be found at all the usual places in the usual formats. I LOVE the cover of the Baskerville Tales.
August 8, 2014 • No Comments
I’m delighted to welcome steampunk author Nikki Woolfolk to my blog. She’s just released The Men of Summerly, a sweet and steamy romance! She’s dropped into the salon to talk about terrariums–a fine way of keeping a piece of the Victorian garden growing even when things aren’t quite as “summerly” outside. Yes, bad pun. Smack me, but do read on …
If green thumbs exist I am lacking in having one, but it doesn’t keep me from trying. My mum has the ability to make the most fragile plant grow even if it seems dead. When it comes to me I can kill a cactus in the desert. How sad is that?
Several years ago I decided to try my hand again at growing plants, but I needed something that was almost fool proof. At the time I had been living in a Second Empire Victorian home and I was trying to understand the era in which my house had been built. I stumbled across many Victorian ways of gardening including creating Terrariums.
On the East coast the winters can get pretty harsh so what better way to keep the vibrancy of Spring in the Winter than with a plant in a glass case?
The more I read the more I fell in love with the idea of creating my own terrariums. The beauty is that you can keep plants and moss flourishing while creating a scene inside of your creative glass jar or cloche. As a storyteller by trade this tickles me. Soon I began dreaming up scenes from my favorite novels and trying to figure out how to recreate that one moment in a tiny terrarium. It sounds simple unless you are like me and have fish stick size fingers and not the delicate digits I longed for as a kid. Nevertheless, I’ve found creating terrariums to be quite relaxing and allows me to take a break from my writing whenever I find myself stumped.
This relaxing pastime has spilled into my writing and became something my “prince”, in my newest Steampunk novella THE MEN OF SUMMERLY, uses as a way to settle his nerves from his daily tasks as a trade envoy. In a world filled with steam, gadgets, gears and goggles there’s something quite grounding in playing with nature, manually cross pollinating orchids and building terrariums. In regards to the meaning of plants the orchid, in all its delicacy, is a symbol of the beauty of life even if fragile. When you understand the symbolic meanings of plants and flowers it opens up a whole new world of how you view a terrarium scene.
The British trade envoy, Simon Leatherby, fills his rare downtime from a day scheduled with meetigns to attend to his terrarium, but even in creatign a perfect world under glass the outside world has different plans. Here’s an excerpt of Simon, the British trade envoy, finally getting some downtime from a hectic day.
The high summer sunlight from the open window illuminated the round glass work of art Simon created in the center of the table. The environment made of miniscule plants, stones, moss and delicate porcelain figurines was one that he had completed months before arriving in the States. He had tended to the creation across the ocean on the ship, and then over the mountains on the airship. This was the world he had created inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Titania asleep beside a donkey headed Bottom. “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”
If the winds of fortune had blown a different way, Simon believed he could have had great joy as a botanist owning a terrarium business. Family pressure led him down a different path. To have taken up a trade would have been a slap in the face to his fortunate birth as a black man in this day and age.
Simon put on his loupe and adjusted it until it magnified his view of the Cymbidium Orchid within the ecosystem he had created. He adjusted the tweezers to pollinate manually the exotic flower hoping to create a hybrid. He loved seeing the beauty of change, nature evolving. He loved being a part of creation.
Henri cleared his throat. “I beg your pardon, Leatherby, but there is a matter that needs your attention.”
Simon sighed and removed the loupe. “Herrison, I cannot abide any more visitors.”
“No, sir. It is not that. Apparently this town has never been the host of the person of your position and though they have been informed to make your extended visit hospitable I believe they misunderstood.”
Henri’s nervous mustache bristled. “Sir, I have been listening to what people have been saying, and I have noticed a change in the types of gifts we are receiving.”
“I believe the town of Stubborn has mistakenly thought that the town’s resources of gas and coal aren’t the only things up for negotiation. And I am afraid we are going to require more space…”
Simon’s brows furrowed. “Speak plainly, man.”
“I believe the town intends on finding you a spouse.”
Simon fell backwards into the chair and raised his hand to his head.
Clearly, the town will challenge Simon’s desire for quiet. Though as he’ll learn that though gorgeous to look at, there’s a message and a world beyond the glass terrarium that is one of hope, beauty, and magic. What story do you tell in your terrarium?
So thinks British trade envoy Simon Leatherby as he settles into his temporary home in the mountains of Stubborn, West Virginia, to negotiate an equitable export trade agreement. As the guest of honor at the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream Costume Ball, Simon is charmed by the beauty of this rugged country and matchmaking townsfolk, but only business is on his mind.
Ashland “Ash” Gottschalk, a sweet tempered glassblower, is caught up in a horrible set of circumstances, no thanks to an evil manager and his two wicked assistants heaping abuse on all the downtrodden workers of the Pantoufle Glass Factory. With a clever plan, borrowed items, and a touch of magic, Ash’s friends transform the kind cinderfella into a proper gentleman for one stolen evening at the ball.
A chance meeting at the celebration turns into a magical evening to remember as Ash and Simon meet their match. When the clock strikes midnight and the mysterious Ash disappears as suddenly as he appeared, Simon moves heaven and earth to seek out the keeper of the glass trinket left behind on that starry night.
Will Simon find his ‘prince’ before time runs out or will the evil management’s last cruel trick destroy his happy ending with Ash?
Find The Men Of Summerly HERE on Amazon.com
Nikki Woolfolk grew up with her southern father’s good cooking and tall-tales and her mother’s science fiction loving influence early Silicon Valley. In 2013, a friend challenged her to mix her two loves, science and writing, to create a romance novella. Considering herself more nerd than a romantic, Nikki wrote her version of a romance in which she gets to “have a parkour chase scene, blow sh*t up, and make sure the good guy and gal get the girl” with food on the side when the adventures work up an appetite.
Nikki lives in New England with her son and her partner and is working on the next book with more original recipes for the Steampunk Romance Sweet & Steamy series. For more details go to her blog: thedrunkenmousse.wordpress.com or find her on Twitter!
August 6, 2014 • 68 Comments
I wanted to do something a bit different as a giveaway for the release of the UK edition of the Baskerville Affair series. So, I took myself to the genius crafter who has customized journals for me before and asked for another steampunk creation. I’d given one away previously to one of my street team, which I loved and could barely bring myself to part with. And here came another journal, very different from the first, and I’m going to be just as reluctant to part with it!!
The clasp on the front is magnetic and finished with a radio tube. There are other found objects, including parts of old London maps, keyholes, and more intriguing pieces. The insides of the covers are decorated as well as the front and back, and there is also a bookmark included. I find myself looking at these journals for ages, because there is always one more image I find that I didn’t notice before. (Click on the images to see a bigger view)
How to win this treasure? Leave a comment below and tell me something about how you bring steampunk into your world–reading? music? costume? or something else wonderful and quirky? Or, are you just discovering it, because that counts, too! I know there are readers for whom the Baskerville Affair was their first venture into the genre. Tell me about it and you’re entered in the draw. Contest closes at the end of the month.
August 4, 2014 • 1 Comment
It is with great fanfare and delight that I announce the UK editions of the Baskerville Affair! It pleases me enormously because, of course, a) the UK is fabulous b) the books are set in England and I gathered so much of the research material there and c) best of all, there are TONS OF AMAZING READERS who are now poised to fall into my web. Really, that’s all authors care about. Great herds of willing readers saying “fill me with words,” with shining faces turned our way and clamouring for our stories and characters . . . sigh. That is author happiness. Welcome, welcome!
The series is being released in ebook only editions through Piatkus Entice, which is somewhere under the Little, Brown umbrella. They are available for sale August 7, 2014!
Here are the covers:
July 19, 2014 • 1 Comment
Also known as May, June, and July flying by at breakneck pace. Summer is supposed to be a time to slow down, but this year it just keeps on galloping.
So, after being absent from the new releases pile for some time, this season this season I’ve brought to you: Lord Dragon’s Conquest (novella, March), Possessed by a Warrior (novel, May), Possessed by an Immortal (novel, June) and Valkyrie’s Conquest (novella, July). You can’t say I’ve been lazy!. All of these are from Harlequin Nocturne and are available in digital format. For those who like paper, the novels are available in paper direct from Harlequin and in a 2 for 1 paperback in some select stores.
In the meantime, I’ve written and submitted Possessed by a Wolf and Possessed by the Fallen, which completes the four volumes of the Horsemen series. Currently, I’m in rewrites of Fallen, which I hope to wrap up in fairly short order now that I’ve got myself back on task after a brief holiday. I’m excited to be working on this grand finale of the series, which gives me a bit of room to stretch my imagination. Those of you who know my books are aware there is nothing I like better than an alternate dimension to play with and the Realm of the Dark Fey is packed with creatures and castles, towers and princesses and adventure. I can’t wait to share it with you!
April 12, 2014 • 4 Comments
I can’t begin to describe how odd it is to hear someone else narrating YOUR story. There is a moment of excitement, territoriality, and extreme suspicion–and then if you are as lucky as I have been, all that quickly transforms into pure enjoyment. I have been extremely lucky to have Angèle Masters giving voice to my characters in the Audible version of The Baskerville Affair trilogy (if you haven’t DO go check these out–there are samples:
I’m even luckier that Angèle agreed to do an interview!
A long and weird journey, actually, and I like to say that I was destined for it from childhood. I was an avid reader as a child, (my mother had to institute a “No books at the meal table” rule), and I especially loved to read aloud, whether it was in class at school, to my siblings or, when lacking a human audience, to my stuffed animals, who were much better listeners than my younger brother and sister. After moving to America and leaving school, I ended up with a job in an audio bookstore. This was about 15 years ago, right around the time that Jim Dale started doing his amazing recordings of the Harry Potter books, and most audiobooks were Abridged versions, which you rarely see these days. The concept of audiobooks was still relatively new at that time – I mean, we still had a majority of books on cassette tape, not even CDs. I think if someone had mentioned the idea of a “digital download” at that point, my head might have exploded. Anyway, I digress. I remember looking at the backs of the cases, at the pictures and bios of the narrators, and wondering how in the hell I was going to get my name on one of those boxes. Fast forward to late 2010, and I decided to take a class on the art of narrating that my voiceover agent was teaching. At the end of the class, we talked a little about how to actually get involved in the work, and Jeffrey mentioned a newish production company here in Atlanta called ListenUp Audiobooks, owned by a guy named Chris Fogg. He gave me Chris’ phone number and e-mail address and told me to get in touch with him. I sent Chris a truly terrible demo that I had recorded on my phone during class one night, and I waited. And waited. This was at the beginning of 2011, and the industry was just on the brink of exploding in popularity, as in it hadn’t yet exploded and projects were scarce. At the time, however, I didn’t realize that part and assumed the worst – that my demo was, in fact, truly terrible, so terrible that it wasn’t even worth getting back to me to tell me how terrible it was. Then, a couple of months later, I got an e-mail telling me that they loved my voice, and would I come in and record a real demo. I said yes, of course, and it went from there. I recorded my first book in April of 2011, and by September of that year was working at ListenUp as the Casting Director, in addition to narrating as much as possible. I have since left my casting position, but continue to narrate for the company.
What are some of the other projects you’ve done?
So many books at this point!! And so many good ones! Some that stick out: The Collegia Magica series and the Bridge of D’Arnath series by Carol Berg; The Book of Night with Moon, and To Visit the Queen by Diane Duane; Silvermeadow by Barry Maitland; The Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger; The Dragon Chronicles series by Susan Fletcher; The Watchstar Trilogy by Pamela Sargent. I do most of my narrating in my native English accent, but occasionally I get the chance to stretch my vocal chords with an American author – I loved working on Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale. And I was thrilled to put an Irish lilt to the character of Keira in Orca – Book Seven in the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust; the majority of that series is voiced by the talented Bernard Setaro Clark.
Tell us a little bit about what the experience of doing an audiobook is
like. How do you prepare?
Well, audiobooks are kind of like the marathons of the voiceover world. Physically, they require a great deal of stamina in both the voice and the body, so plenty of sleep the night before a session and plenty of warm water to drink during the session. As for the words themselves, I like to do some prep in terms of familiarizing myself with the characters and any possible accent choices that need to be made or foreign languages that I need to wrap my mouth around, but I will confess that a big part of me really hates losing the element of surprise that comes from prepwork. I don’t mean the “Holy crap, I just read this whole character in an Irish accent and now, here on page 328, it says that she’s French!!” sort of surprise, because that’s REALLY not fun, but the kind of surprise that you get when you’re actually listening to the book or reading it on the page, the kind of surprise where you stop and say “Holy crap, I can’t BELIEVE the author just did that! What the what??” – sometimes, prepping seems like a giant spoiler alert! One great thing that seems to happening more lately is getting to speak with the author BEFORE going into the studio. It’s nice to get some insight into character choices, accents, pronunciations and that sort of thing before I start recording, and it certainly eliminates the anxiety of wondering whether or not the author is going to hate what I’ve done with his or her carefully crafted story. I know that my heart was in my mouth when I got YOUR e-mail, Emma Jane 🙂
What are the challenges?
First, the physical stamina required. The voice can only take so much of a workout before it forces you to stop. I used to do 8- or 9-hour sessions at a time, but I’ve cut myself back to 6 hours a day. Actually, while working on the Baskerville Affair, I got really sick and lost my voice for a few days. When I got it back and got back into the studio, I pushed myself a little too hard and ended up losing it again after only one day! I learned to be better about taking care of myself, especially when reminded that permanent damage to my vocal chords would put me out of a job. There’s also the physical strain of sitting in a small booth for hours at a time; I do a lot of yoga to counteract that cramped-up feeling in my back and legs 🙂
Second, the artistic stamina. It’s tough to create voices for so many different characters and keep them interesting and authentic, especially as a woman doing male voices. You never want the listener to be confused as to which character is speaking at any given time, nor do you want to devolve into the realm of caricature or any kind of cartoonishness – not to mention making sure that each character’s voice stays consistent throughout the story! It’s definitely a team effort with your engineer to make sure that you’re staying true to the life that you’ve given each person. I’d be lost without our amazing crew of engineers at ListenUp.
How long does it take?
Recording time varies from narrator to narrator. I have a very good ratio in the booth because I don’t make many mistakes, which means that I, generally, spend an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half in the booth for every hour of finished audio. If a project has lots of foreign words or phrases, it can take longer because I’m very particular about getting my pronunciation perfect. Luckily, I have a good ear for languages and accents. (God, do I sound awfully stuck on myself??) I’ve also been known to decide halfway through a book that I’m unhappy with a character choice and insist on going back and fixing every piece of that character’s dialogue in previous chapters, but I try not to make that a habit!
What is your favourite part of the process?
I love the craft of storytelling; I love feeling the words coming to life in a recording session. Honestly though, my favorite part has to be saying the very first and very last lines of a book. That first line will set you up for the rest of the recording, and I think there’s a particular art to being able to make those last few words come out just so and neatly wrap up the story into a perfect package. And, of course, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment with that last line, especially on a particularly lengthy story. The Baskerville Affair, for example, was a huge project. We spent almost a week on the record for each book, and all of those characters felt like old friends by the time we finished. My engineer, Mallah Corbett, and I were both a little sad after I said the last line of A Study in Ashes. There’s definitely a sense of stepping back into the real world that can be sort of surreal.
How does it compare to other kinds of acting?
Oh, vastly different from anything else I’ve ever done. When I was still casting, I used to tell new narrators that this kindof work would go against a lot of their natural instincts as actors. Usually, we only get to tell the story from one point of view. Film and television work, especially, is very disjointed and can feel very disconnected from an actor standpoint; depending on the project, you may not even have any idea of the rest of the story outside of the scenes that your character is in. Theatre is more connected by virtue of it being live, but again you’re only getting to tell one side of a story. Other voiceover work generally involves a much shorter amount of time in the studio, even if it’s animation for a film or television series. Audiobooks will involve you in a very different way, simply because you have the feelings of an entire world of people running through you all at the same time. It’s intense and completely immersive. At least, it is for me.
What are you working on next?
In my audiobook life? At the moment, I’m working on two books in a series by Liz Carlyle – The Bride Wore Scarlet, and The Bride Wore Pearls – set in mid-1800’s London. After that, I can only hope for a reunion with Evelina Cooper. Please.
What would you say to someone who has never tried audiobooks?
That’s a tough one, because I certainly understand the resistance to hearing someone else’s idea of what things should sound like. I’ve always been completely transported by books, totally moved into a world where I have definite ideas of what people should sound like and the tone and inflection of any given sentence. If you’re a first-time listener of audiobooks, definitely don’t seek out a recording of your favorite book, or even your top 10 favorite books. It’s just like watching the movie adaptation of a book that you love – no matter how good the performances or how beautiful the costumes and locations, it’s never going to be exactly how you pictured it when you read the words for yourself. Oh, and make sure that you listen to the voice samples before you download!! Even if you love the description of a book, the narrator’s voice will completely affect how you feel about the story. Reading listener reviews can be helpful, but it’s completely subjective, and how a narrator sounds to one person may not be how they sound to someone else.
Angèle Masters is an actress, voiceover artist and soon-to-be Biology major based in Atlanta, Georgia. She hails, originally, from England, which is why she narrates so many books in an English accent, but she’s been here in the US for almost 25 years, which is why she also does a few in a totally fake American accent 🙂 In addition to reading books in her outside voice, she’s also quite fond of reading them with only the voices in her head. In her spare time, she likes to travel the world in search of adventure, but she can generally be found in her kitchen either baking, performing cooking experiments or doing weird things like making her own butter and vanilla extract. If she’s not there, check the garden. In fact, if the kitchen could be in the garden, life would be pretty perfect. Currently, she shares her life with her talented tattoo artist husband of 8 years, her almost-18-year-old stepdaughter, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 hives of honeybees, and will be welcoming 6 chickens to the family in the very near future.