Audiobooks

Bonjour!

I admit, I am not a big audiobook fan. I do not have a long commute to work, nor do I enjoy listening to anything other than birds and urban sounds while I run. But I understand there is gold to be found in the audiobook land, so when I attended ConCarolinas in May, I attended a lecture on this topic.

Boy, was I schooled!

Firstly, hats off to moderator Chris Kennedy. He is an indie author and gave a professional and organized lecture.

I admit, here, that I had looked into producing an audiobook, but I was scared. I did not know the lingo, the process, how to select a person, so I let my ignorance overrule any forward progress in this arena. Bad mistake.

After his lecture, I was inspired to try and put Prodigal Spell up as an audiobook. And what do you know!! It was simple.

I went through acx, a division of Amazon. Once you upload a sample for auditions, you select what type of voice you want, and voila! People audition and you pick which sound you like best. There are two formats for payment- an upfront charge per hour needed to make the recording, or a share of revenues once the product goes on sale. This is an item for negotiation between you and the audio talent. Everyone agrees to a deadline after payment terms are set, and then POOF! Your work is avaialble as an audiobook through audible. Roylaty statements are similar to kdp statments, if you have any history with amazon accounting statements.
So, the moral of this tale is do not let your ignorance prevent you from getting your work out to potential customers. There are resources available, and I can even help now that I have been through the process. Educate yourself, then make it happen.

Until next time-
Lillian

A Chill for Every Spine

Ken Schrader

Ken Schrader

 

Gentle reader, it is my sincerest wish that you, like I, try to scare the stuffing out of yourself in the month of October. Whilst I whittle away the hours watching The Birds and The Shining, my good friend and Roaring Writer Ken Schrader puts together a post about how to scare people with words.

First, I’d like to say a huge “Thank You!” to Lillian for asking me to come over and play in her sandbox today.  I’ll try and maintain the level of awesome that she’s achieved here.

On with the post…

As a writer – especially as a writer around this time of year – you may find yourself wanting to add some chills and shivers to your work-in-progress. Fear is a potent spice you can add to the quietly bubbling cauldron that is your story.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Like my fellow Roaring Writer, Alex, brilliantly stated , the page causes a disconnect between the writer and the reader. How can you be sure that what’s lurking in your mind creeps out onto the page to grab your reader?

Come closer. The moon is full, and the wind is in the trees. Let us talk of monsters…here in the dark.

 

The first thing I would say about bringing the scary is that, at its core, fear is rooted in the mundane. That’s your first tool: Take the ordinary and make it different.

Consider your home – the place where you live. You see it every day. It’s as comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans. It’s someplace you know.

Now consider that place at night, in a howling storm. Oops, there goes the power. The lights flicker, and die.

Different.

You think you remember where everything is, but you’re fumbling around in the dark. It’s still the same, old place. That creaky spot in the kitchen floor creaks, just like it always does.

But you’re not in the kitchen…

 

That brings us to the next tool: Isolate your character.

There is no more fertile ground for you to sow the seeds of fear than that provided by four, simple words:

Alone in the dark.

And you’re not restricted to a single character, nor are you restricted by location. The crew of the Nostromo, in Alien was just as isolated as Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.

Isolating your character, like changing the ordinary, builds a connection to your reader. Everyone knows what it’s like to be alone, maybe in an unfamiliar place. You can use that to your advantage as you describe your character, lost in the woods, in an unfamiliar town, in a darkened hallway in their own home…alone.

 

One final tool in your toolbox (next to the oddly stained rope and the knives) are your words. Words have power. Your descriptions and the words you choose set the stage for your reader.

The difference between “Quiet” and “Silent” is a subtle one. As I read them, quiet refers to a natural lack of noise – like when you are outside, in the country, in the deepest part of the night.

Silent refers to an active lack of noise – like the creature stalking you while you’re outside, when you’d be better off indoors…behind locks.

Know your words, hone them to a deadly edge and wait until the time is right…

 

As always, though, you need to start with solid characters before the bad things start happening. If you do that, you’ll keep people awake long into the night, wondering how much time it will take them to cross the distance between the light switch and the safety of the bed.

And what they might meet along the way…

 

Thanks, Ken! You can see Ken at themillionwords.net or see his short story in The Weird Wild West anthology.

Until next time!
Lillian

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Current works in progress

Gentle reader, I thought today I would update you on all the crazy going on in my head- my current WORKS IN PROGRESS! I got this idea from Ken Schrader- you can see him at his blog HERE.

Jamaica Spell (working title)
When I finished Prodigal Spell, I felt like I had run a marathon. I was out of breath, my writing muscles were shaking, and I needed time to recover. I have outlined this book more times than I can count, and the thing I keep tripping over is the fact that at the end of Prodigal Spell, I have so many characters going in different directions, I feel like GRRM when he must say to himself “I must get Tyrion to Daenerys and then everyone up to the Wall.” (cause in my fantasies, there will be a ginormous clash between the Walkers and everyone else. And dragonfire will reign and Jon Snow will be alive). What I have decided to do, after much gnashing of teeth, is a set of short stories about each of the characters, so I can get them all to “the Wall” and then we can proceed. I will keep you posted on the success or flaming disappointment of this project.

Chloe Longood
Yep, for those who have read Prodigal Spell, Chloe gets her own story- a twisted take on historical YA fantasy. I mean, how well-adjusted can she be after being abandoned by her family and possessed by demons multiple times? I am feverishly writing to find out that answer! This will be a short story/ novella most likely when it is done.

Alistair Dupont
My favorite traitorous bad boy gets his own story to examine his motives- where his true loyalties lie, and what it means to be faithful to a cause. Again, way too much depth to this piece than I could have accomplished in Jamaica Spell without hijacking the story.

Richmond and Julia
At the heart of this relationship are two people with naive but sweet ideas about what they want from a love match. I needed to develop their relationship more before I could throw them into the maelstrom of Jamaica Spell. This is the story that I am waffling about the most, as I need to see the finished product before I can decide where it lives best- as novel fodder or a stand alone.

Moonshine Spy
This is outside of the Caribbean witches world. It is set in 1960s Cold War America, and the protagonist is an American spy with Russian heritage out to stop a plot to release a biological weapon. There will still be magic in the story- my main character will have power, as well as some of the bad guys- but it is writing like a Cold War spy thriller, rather than a traditional fantasy. I am having a ton of fun with this one!

I will post updates on my progress with each of these projects.
Until next time-
Lillian

A HORRORible post

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Gentle reader, today I want to introduce you to the esteemed Mr. Alexander Gideon. He is a fellow Roaring Writer, and a regular contributor to The Million Words blog of which I am a part of as well. I invited him here in the month of October cause he is a horror dude:)

Enjoy!

Horror is hard as hell to write. Horror Movies and Video Games have the benefit of creepy visuals and eerie music to set you on edge. They ramp up the tension with the blood and the bodies so that when the Big Bad Creepy jumps out you crap your pants.

There are no jump scares in writing though, and not even Stephen King can get his publisher to have his books play eerie music when opened. When writing horror, we only have our words, no smoke and mirrors, and it’s hard to scare someone with just that. Those same creepy visuals don’t quite have the same impact when you put them to the page.

See, the same way a new car depreciates in value when it leaves the lot, your words depreciate when they leave your head. They may scare you but then, you have the benefit of being the creator. You see it all like a movie unfolding before your eyes and pouring through your fingers onto the page.

The reader doesn’t get to see the movie first, so they’ve got to paint the picture themselves using your instructions, and they aren’t always as clear as we hope they are. The page causes a disconnect between you and your reader, and the impact of your words gets blunted as they pass through that paper sieve. So how do you get around this? Simple.

Turn it up a notch!

Ramp up the horror, and the tension, and the blood, and the depravity. Double it, triple it, make those pages drip with the gore, and the demonic activity, and the aliens, and whatever else you’re using to make your readers crap themselves. It may seem like you are over doing it, but by the time it all goes through that inevitable page blunt, it’s going to come out the other side with exactly the impact you want.

One of the best ways to ramp things up is through your descriptions. When you write horror, you’ve really got to get in there. Show us every slice of that knife, every bead of sweat on your possessed character’s forehead, make us feel every crack of bone as their body breaks under the weight of that demonic presence, let us smell the fear, and the hatred, and the very depravity in the air. Paint that picture so damn well, that your readers can’t help but not be able to sleep at night.

Of course, all of this works equally well with any genre you might be writing. The impact of your words is always lessened after passing through the page, even if you’re writing the happiest YA on the planet. But it’s absolutely vital for horror. So ramp it up, and scare the living crap out of your readers.

There’s no better month for it!

 

A hearty thank you to Alexander Gideon for contributing to the blog this month!

Until next time-

Lillian

New Writing Blog

I know, gentle reader, you need a new writing blog like you need a new set of sparkly pink pens. This site is different, ’cause I am part of it.

I belong to a writing retreat group called the Roaring Writers, and ConCarolinas is our home con. Earlier this year, we decided to share our journeys in writing with the world through a group blog. themillionwords.net is the product of this union of minds.

The leadoff post is by a writer you may not have heard of now, but you will. Alexander Gideon is a fantastic writer (he wrote a short story about a weresquirrel and it was fabulous) who plumbs the depths of emotion while navigating plots of fantastical horror.

We hope to share a bit of ourselves, our insights, and some tradecraft to all who walk with us on this journey.

Until next time-

Lillian

Southern Rites by Stuart Jaffe

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Gentle readers, it is my deepest pleasure to introduce you to Stuart Jaffe, purveyor of fine historical paranormal noir. His Max Porter books start with Southern Bound, and continue to the current installment, Southern Rites. Set in modern-day North Carolina and based on real historical events, the series follows the cases of Max, Sandra, and Marshall Drummond. Max Porter is a researcher (making connections between disparate things is his superpower), who works with his wife Sandra (who can see ghosts) and Marshall Drummond, who is the ghost of a detective from the 1940s.

I invited Stuart to a Q and A on my blog to celebrate the release of Southern Rites, the seventh book in the series.

1. Why historical fantasy mixed with noir detective?

The Max Porter series grew out of an accidental discovery. At the time, we lived in Winston-Salem, NC while my wife worked on her Masters at Wake Forest University. Periodically, I would find myself out at the campus (about 30 minutes from where we were living) waiting for her to finish up with a class or teaching or whatever, so I’d hang out at the campus library. One afternoon I decided to learn more about the area — we had only moved there for my wife’s schooling and I knew little about Winston-Salem or the South. In the course of searching around, I stumbled upon a little known fact regarding Winston-Salem, cigarette production, World War II, and German POWs — mainly, that we housed German POWs on American soil and used them as forced-labor to keep producing cigarettes for American soldiers. And my brain went ka-pow! From that moment, I started creating the series and it’s developed ever more depth with each book.

2. Your Max Porter series is based on real events. How do you find the source material for your works?
I have an ever-growing collection of local histories as well as books on the weird and strange stories about the area. They are not hard to find. North Carolina has a long, odd history filled with unusual tales as well as fables of magic and mystery. It would be harder to avoid finding good material. I also frequent the libraries and use the ultimate research tool — the librarian. Finally, I can often stumble upon odd bits by letting the links of the Internet take me to strange worlds. Start with a simple search and an hour later you’ll end up in the most bizarre reaches of humanity. So, between all of that, I tend to find what I need to get started. Then I go visit the actual places and often meet helpful people who either are directly connected with the events or know the history better than I do. That’s the greatest secret source of information — people.

3. If Drummond could have a drink with any real historical figure in the ghost world, who would that be?
I suspect he would want to share a bottle of whiskey with Eisenhower. Drummond died in the early 1940s. World War II ripping apart Europe, and had Drummond lived, he would have served — probably would have ended up on Omaha Beach during D-Day. I think Drummond would have a lot of respect for Eisenhower and enjoy hearing how the man dealt with the pressure of leading such a massive army. Meeting the man would also be a touch of the world Drummond grew up in. And the truth for him is that no matter how long he lives, part of him sorely misses the world as he knew it.

4. If Max Porter could research in any library of his choosing, which would it be? And it can’t be UNC or Duke, cause I am a UVa grad:)
No doubts here — The Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. It is the library he goes to many times and it’s the place the series was born. I love that library. It’s beautiful. It’s also two older buildings forced into becoming one, which gives it a lot of character with all these odd nooks to find and mismatched floor levels.

Having said that, I’m sure Max would love to spend a day at the Library of Congress or the New York Public Library. Those are amazing places, too.

 

Thanks Stuart, for dropping by the blog!

What I particularly love about these books is the interplay of historical events with the modern, the fast-paced plotting and the horrible scenarios that Mr Jaffe dreams up for his characters. I do love a great bit of suffering in my genre books:)

You can read more about this series and others at his website.

Until next time!

Lillian