Ghosts, Spirits, and Things That Go Bump in the Night with Marilyn Meredith

 Marilyn Meredith, who is also known as F.M. Meredith, is the author of nearly forty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, published by Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, Oak Tree Press publishes her Rocky Bluff P.D. series. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra in a place similar to Bear Creek, the setting of most of her Tempe Crabtree series. For over 20 years, she lived in a Beach community with many similarities to Rocky Bluff.

Ghosts, Spirits, and Things That Go Bump in the Night

When I began writing the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, my plan was to incorporate a great deal of Native American legends and mysticism. Tempe, who is part Indian, is the resident deputy of a small mountain community. In early books, Tempe participates in several Indian rituals and ceremonies to help solve a crime. When Tempe calls back someone from the dead to find out the truth about a suicide and a murder in Calling the Dead, a door is opened to the spirit world.

From then on, she has unexpected visits from spirits of murder victims, sometimes offering confusing information that is at first not particularly helpful to solving the crimes. She’s also had many visions of Indians from the past.

In Spirit Shapes a body is found by ghost hunters in a haunted house. When Tempe is called to investigate, she faces an onslaught of spirits and ghosts. Some of the spirits are evil—and the ghosts are victims of crimes from the past.

In the book that follows, River Spirits, a movie company is filming on the nearby Indian reservation and one of the actors is found dead. While hoping to trap the murderer, Tempe is guided by unusual spirits that rise from the river called Bear Creek.

Not as it Seems is the latest in the series. Tempe and her husband go to Morro Bay to attend their son’s wedding and enjoy a much needed vacation. Her son asks her to try to find the missing maid-of-honor, and of course Tempe agrees. When the young woman turns up as a ghost, Tempe knows she’s been murdered and continues the investigation. She has no idea what all of her encounters with Indian spirits from the past could possibly mean.

My Rocky Bluff P.D. series is a police procedural and has had nothing to do with ghosts until the last one, Violent Departures. When Detective Doug Milligan and his family move into their new house, it isn’t long before they realize it has another occupant, a ghost. Even though the youngest member of the family has had conversations with the spirit, Doug is reluctant to believe in the phenomena. What happens is a side plot to the main story.

I’ve always been fascinated by ghost stories and haunted houses. Hubby and I have stayed in several haunted hotels, even once in the room that was purported to be haunted. However, I’ve never seen a ghost though my grandkids all think the old house that we live in is haunted.

Oh, I’ve had many eerie experiences over the years, but no ghost sightings. I have lots of fun writing about what I think it might be like.

If you visit my website,  you can read the first chapters of most of my books.

I also have a blog  where I too host authors and write about various subjects.

If you’ve ever had a ghostly encounter, tell us about it here in a comment.


A Nail-Biting New Release From GB Pool, Just in Time for Halloween!

Author GB Pool has come out with a standalone novel, Caverns, which is a perfect winter read and just in time for Halloween!  As someone who worked downtown Chicago, I could imagine this happening. Here is a brief description:

CAVERNS chronicles a nightmare that happens in Chicago in the dead of winter when huge caverns are discovered beneath several expensive condominiums built near Lake Shore Drive. The caves were carved out by enormous rats that have been feeding on the landfill for many decades, but the vermin are running out of food… below ground. The two men who find the caverns are being hunted in order to silence them because they know who own those condos and who authorized the shoddy city utilities project on which they were built. The powers-that-be want to bury their involvement as well as a handful of people who know about it before one of their costly investments falls into the lake. When it comes to a disaster, you have to wonder which is worse: man or beast.

Caverns is available in paperback on Amazon.

Hodge Podge – Google, Weather, and Promotions


 Madeline (M.M.) Gornell is the author of six award-winning mystery novels. Her current literary focus is Route 66 as it traverses California’s Mojave Desert. Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries, and besides reading and writing, is also a potter. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the High Desert. For more information, visit her website or Amazon Author Page.

The original title of this post was “This ‘n That,” then I went for “Hodge Podge” and found out in its definition there’s something called “salmagundi.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/salmagundi. Who knew!

Then of course, I spent half an hour or so wandering around Google following tidbit to tidbit, instead of writing this post, updating my blog, or working on my next novel. Which oddly enough takes me to my cousin Frank, a wonderful song writer among many things, and we were sharing on the phone how much we like books—the look, the feel, the smell of them. We also like reading them (smile)—from there he wandered back to the days way back when he was writing his thesis, and searching though card catalogues, and library shelves. Which finally takes me to the point of this long paragraph. For me, Google (and equivalent search engines) are great for adding details that bring richness, color, and depth to settings and character personalities–without the time and energy needed at the library (though still close to my heart!). An example for me is doing the research for the fancy accouterments for one of my character’s idealized sports car driving experience/fantasy. I.e, Italian driving-shoes, driving-gloves, hat, etc. Was that fun! And I traveled the sports-car road without leaving my desk chair. Downside, for awhile there, a lot of driving-glove ads seemed to appear from nowhere on my various site visits…
We live way out in California’s High-Desert, and coming most recently from Washington’s Puget Sound, one of the attractions for us was sunny dry-heat weather. Well, this last summer dripped with humidity. And I hadn’t really comprehended how my writing was being affected. No energy, slow moving, brain-dullness. Indeed, I was a little worried, then it cooled off and dried up for a few days, and I felt a surge in mental acuity. So, the point of this piece of Hodge Podge is, if you run out of excuses why you haven’t finished your latest—blame the weather. Which takes me to setting (which includes weather) and what a powerful tool the weather can be for taking the reader there, action enabler or inhibitor, and character motivator.
Then there’s the “P” word, promotions. In my last post I cavalierly said I’d talk about my birthday revelations on the topic. I tried to tell myself I really liked doing all the P-word stuff, and for awhile it was definitely fun. Especially the part of meeting, engaging, and connecting with new people, mostly readers and authors. That part was lovely. (And I really enjoy talking to readers and authors on a one to one or small group situation, and even signings and promoting their books.) But talking about myself, saying what a great book I just published, all of that remains distasteful—but necessary sometimes–I’ve slowly learned. And I kept telling myself, I would gradually embrace, and get better. However, to this day, I haven’t embraced, nor gotten better. Bottom line that I finally accepted and internalized this last birthday was–I still do not like doing promotions—regardless of the necessity of doing them. So what does that leave me with? Books that aren’t best sellers, and a name only known by a few.
So can I say, so be it? I don’t know that answer yet. I do think though, that finally embracing the truth, has made me feel a lot better. And no, I do not have a marketing plan for my next title (smile). And my point in this last post segment is: The truth about your writing-self is sometimes not easy to figure out or accept, and once you do, what do you do then?
And my super bottom line point to this Hodge Podge rambling is, the writing life has all kind of paths, with crooks, and turns, and switch backs. And determining if you want to go to a certain place, then figuring out the best route, “ain’t”[i] easy.

[i]Reading Elizabeth Daly’s Henry Gamadge series and as was the convention then—“ain’t” keeps appearing.—annoyingly to my ear, but the word takes you right there to that period!

New Miko Johnston Novel Released!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a fabulous announcement

A Petal in the Wind Book II: LaLa Hafstien is available in paperback on Amazon and for Kindle! We are so pleased for author Miko Johnston!  Here is a quick preview of the book:

Luska, the orphaned girl introduced in A Petal in the Wind, begins a new life in Bohemia as Lala Hafstein, adopted daughter of Jakob and Sarah. It’s 1914; Lala is now a young woman with one desire—to study art—but her parents won’t let her reside alone in Prague. She contrives a marriage to her childhood friend and art student Armin, her father’s wealthy employer’s son; she would be free to join him, and he could silence gossip about his disinterest in women. Armin agrees, but Lala’s heart is troubled.

Both families are thrilled about the engagement, and now Armin is too—believing they can make the marriage “real.” Lala is shocked when she uncovers proof Armin and his male classmate are more than just good friends. But with both families intent on the marriage, and Lala wearing the heirloom family engagement ring—how can she renege? She’s haunted by a recurring vision—at her easel wearing her ring, and feeling the warm embrace of her true beloved, unseen behind her. How could this splendid dream ever come true? As both families travel to Berlin for Armin’s art show on August first, a desperate Lala devises a way to change her destiny—but no one is prepared for the horror that begins that momentous night. As the world around her plunges into war and fate drops a surprising hint about her repeating dream, Lala finds she must battle the nightmares of the past, or risk being set adrift again—like a petal in the wind.

"Truth or Consequences: The Perils of Ghost Writing" by Jackie Houchin

Jackie is a retired photo-journalist, a book reviewer and blogger. She loves to travel and read, and has a favorite, very intelligent cat named Story (what else?). She is involved in her church ministries for children and the elderly and admits to being a “sinner saved by God’s grace.”
  
 Awhile back I was approached by a friend who asked me if I’d be interested in doing some writing for him. He and a couple friends were building a non-profit website that would feature true stories by everyday people who volunteered to share how they came to faith. The website would be called Real Christian Testimonies (http://realct.org/rct/).
Rick explained that while many people had amazing stories, most were not writers. He needed me to interview and “ghost write” their stories, using their own words as much as possible. (He and his friend were interviewing men; he needed me to write women’s testimonies.)
His request excited me. I had been a journalist for several small local newspapers over the previous years and I enjoyed meeting new people, discovering their unique stories and writing about them. (See my earlier ‘Writers in Residence’ blog post on interview techniques at: http://bit.ly/1LKyVvf ). Although this was not quite what I had done before, I thought I could be good at it and agreed to try.
Rick sent me a packet listing their mission statement, what each story should include, and a release form for the interviewee to sign after reading the final draft of her testimony. This was something I’d never had to do as a reporter, but it made sense. The privately owned website was concerned with accurately telling the person’s personal truth; something you can’t always say about newspapers.
After I wrote a testimony and got it approved, I would submit it with the signed release form and a headshot photo of the person (or an image of something pertaining to the story, if they did not want to be photographed). The website owners would give final approval.
 I was eager to get started.
I had a woman I admired in mind, so I approached her with the idea. She agreed and we set an interview time and a place. She was a college professor now and I knew she’d be a stickler for accuracy, so I took my tape recorder. Then I forgot to turn it on! Boy was I rusty! I’d jotted down only the main points of her story, so when it came to writing it, I had to email her with many questions. Talk about embarrassment! But I learned my lesson. Which each following interview I took meticulous notes.
I wrote up her story, edited a few things at her request, got her approval, and then submitted it. I was eager to see “my story” (although I had no byline) on the website. Rick, however, sent it back by return email for further editing. Huh?
I learned that I could not mention well-know people by name or the specific places connected to them, even though they were an integral part of the testimony, I’d shown them in a positive light, and I hadn’t quoted them. Why? Because I would have had to get permission if their names were included. Wow. That never happened in newspaper stories. Public people were just that… public. Rick also said that the website wanted to stay as “main stream” as possible, without promoting one denomination over another.

I rewrote the sections he mentioned, ran the edits by my professor again, had her sign an additional release form and resubmitted. This time it was approved.

The next two testimonies I wrote ran the same gamut with slight differences. I had minor areas to edit for the interviewees, but the stories got jammed up with the editors again. I had mentioned people in the stories that had made an impact, this time in a negative way. They were non-celebs, however, and I had used only first names, or sometimes simply a relationship (ex-husband, boyfriend, father, etc.), but that didn’t matter.
Rick explained. If any of the people I’d written tangentially about read the story, they (or a relative in the case of one who’d died), might be offended and come after the website. Okaaay. These were a little more difficult to write around and still use the original “voice” of the women, but I finally did it to their and Rick’s satisfaction.

The testimony I’m working on now is a powerful story. The life of this young woman has changed dramatically, but she went through “the valley of the shadow of death,” literally. Several times, my tears joined hers as I listened to her hesitantly tell about it. How was I ever going to adequately write this, I wondered.

It took me a very long time, and then it came in at a thousand words over the website limit.

This time I sent it to Rick first, asking for advice on where to cut it. He came back immediately with what I could NOT write about, regardless of how compelling or effective. Areas of illegal or even criminal activities on the part of anyone mentioned in the story were strictly out. It could hurt my interviewee in the long run, and the words and actions I’d revealed about people, might result in a lawsuit against the website if they were ever to read her testimony. Yikes!
I should have known that, but I’d harked back to my investigative newspaper journalism days, and had forgotten. I’d zeroed in on revealing the details of the story and had forgotten the purpose of the website. (Following a magazine or website’s guidelines is one of the first rules of article writers!)
So I cut and rewrote it – thinking I must be softening the story. Then following Rick’s further advice, I cut it more and rewrote it again.  And, what do you know! The story of how her belief in Jesus Christ dramatically changed her life emerged crystal clear. It was the jewel in the muck.

By considering “the consequences” and being wise about not telling sordid and unnecessary “truth,” I’d done a better job. The young woman’s story was told, God was honored, and I learned a valuable lesson. I will certainly always tell the truth when ghost writing a person’s testimony, but I will also decide and eliminate what is superfluous to that truth and which might bring needless and “nasty” consequences. Good advice for all non-fiction writing, I think, but especially in writing for ministry.

Fact vs. Fiction with G.B. Pool

A former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, G.B.Pool writes the Johnny Casino Casebook Series and the Gin Caulfield P.I. Series. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line.”




Putting Facts in Your Fiction

You hear a version of these comments a thousand times from writers: A reader sent me an e-mail saying I got the name of the cross street wrong in their town. Or maybe it’s: A fan said people didn’t have that type of phone in the Eighties when my story takes place. Or how about: A chef wouldn’t make an omelet that way. Or: Cops don’t work that way.

Here’s a Fact of Life: Nitpickers are out there.

Here’s a way to deal with them: DON’T Ignore them…But don’t let them get you down, either.

The 21st Century has given us many great tools to use to avoid the nitpickers in our lives. MapQuest and Google Maps will show you the streets in towns you are writing about. The satellite version will show you what the place actually looks like.

When I was writing one of the stories in my Johnny Casino Casebook Series, I was describing a hotel along South Beach in Miami. I made up the name of the hotel, but I wanted that location. I assumed (big mistake) there would be hotels or shops on both sides of the street. When I looked at MapQuest and actually “got down on the street” in their Street View Mode, I looked to the left and saw the hotel I was using and then to my right. Instead of other shops or restaurants or more hotels, I saw the beach and the ocean. Very glad I looked.

I did the same thing when Johnny went to Mexico and even Marrakech, Morocco. They didn’t have Google or MapQuest for Marrakech, but some wonderful guy had his cell phone video of his bus trip through the city posted on a travel site. I got to “ride along” with him and see the sights without buying an airline ticket or getting all those shots.

I know several writers who make up their towns. I did that for Logjam, California, the place where Johnny Casino starts out in my three-book series. I drew a detailed map. I know where his house is, and the restaurant he frequents is, and where the Mafia lodge is. It’s no longer just in my imagination. I have a map.

As for using the right phone or anything else in a period piece, whether it be ten years ago or a hundred, do some research. Something I do is watch a movie either made during that era or one that covers that era. The studio set designers are often very good at their job.

If you are writing a cooking mystery or literary fiction that requires your character to make an omelet, for goodness sake, learn how to make an omelet. You don’t want to cheat your audience. Most craft-related mysteries are written by writers who actually know their crafts. And often the techniques or even recipes are half the reason people read those types of books. If you don’t know that information, ask somebody who does or watch a cooking or craft show.

Now police procedures and jargon is something else. Some “police procedural” books are way too technical to be interesting, just like mysteries that feature a lot of legal lingo or medical techniques. Unless the information sets the scene for the story you’re telling like Dick Francis does in his novels, pare down the information.

In my latest books, The SPYGAME Trilogy, I use a lot of history to tell the stories. The books take place during World War II, the Vietnam era, and the Hollywood Left trials. Since these are practically ancient history to people younger than forty, I added a good deal of facts just to set the stage, plus I introduced real people into the stories. I have my main character, Robert Mackenzie, work with not only “Wild Bill” Donovan, the first head of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA, but also Ian Fleming who really did work with Donovan.

During the Hollywood years depicted in my books, I have a few real movie stars make a guest appearance as well as the ones I made up. But I did my homework. In Star Power, I learned what kind of movies were being made, both anti-war and those wanting America to join the fight. As fate would have it, those movies were showing up on television while I was writing the books. That’s research I love doing.

But there was another element I added to these stories; something that I have included in a few other of my novels: FACTS FROM MY OWN LIFE. My father was a pilot in the Air Force. He flew the Owen Stanley Hump in Papua, New Guinea, during the WWII. I relocated the character I based on him, Ralph Barton, for a portion of the story and had him fly a mission over Hamburg. That’s the fiction part.

I also used the house were we lived in France while stationed there in the 60s in one of the books, The Odd Man. The house really was used by the Nazis during the war. That’s the fact part. My story about what Mac and Ralph Barton did there was the fiction side. I even used my boarding school in France in one of the books, Dry Bones. The school was strictly military boring architecture, but I made it look like Oxford. Fact and Fiction.

I have used a few people I know in my books, but most of the time I changed their names slightly, just to keep it fictional. Most of the actual names of real historical people like Bill Donovan or even Ian Fleming are used strictly because I admired them. Since there is nothing libelous in the story about them, I don’t worry about anybody getting upset. And people I don’t like never appear in my books. Why give them any ink when I wouldn’t give them the time of day in real life. (Rhetorical question) And my fictional bad guys get their comeuppance; something that doesn’t necessarily happen in the real world.

I thought it was fun to work within a time frame of actual historical events as I wrote the spy novels. The only deviation was when I mentioned one of my characters, Elaine Barton, a writer, taking acting lessons from Rudy Solari and Guy Stockwell to learn how to write dialogue for her screenplays. I took those lessons myself, but in a different year than the story relates.

I actually worked as a private detective for a while and use bits and pieces of that life in both the spy novels and my Gin Caulfield P.I. Series: Media Justice, Hedge Bet, and Damning Evidence.

There is just something about mixing fact with fiction that makes me feel like I am creating an alternative universe. I guess I have gotten to know these characters so well, I see them as one big, happy family. In fact (or fiction), Gin Caulfield taught Johnny Casino the private detective trade and her uncle is Robert Mackenzie, the master spymaker. My world indeed.

Putting Your Book into Audio Format with Narrator Becky Parker Geist and Author Karina Fabian

UPDATE: 








Have you ever wondered what it takes to make an audio book? We are lucky to have two talented women on Writers in Residence today who are going to share their behind-the-scene experiences as they walk us through the steps to bringing characters to life–audio style! 

We bring you Karina Fabian and Becky Parker Geist! (Don’t forget to check out the links at the bottom of the interview!)

Becky Parker Geist owns Pro Audio Voices, serving clients internationally with exceptional voiceover for audiobooks, advertising & animation. She loves creating audiobooks with sound effects! Married with 3 adult daughters, Becky lives in San Francisco and New York, working Off Broadway regularly.

After receiving her M.F.A. in Acting in 1981, Becky began narrating Talking Books for the Blind through the Library of Congress, narrating over 70 titles in two years, and quickly became one of their most popular narrators. As a professional stage actress, she has toured internationally (England and U.S.) and on the east and west U.S. coasts. She performs a wide range of voiceover work, but has a particular love for creating audiobooks with sound effects – the more theatrical the better! Becky brings her broad range of theatre skills – acting, directing, producing, marketing – to bear in all her voiceover and production work.

Winner of the Global eBook Award for Best Horror (Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator), Karina Fabian’s writing takes quirky tales that keep her–and her fans–amused. Zombie exterminators to snarky dragons, things get a little silly in her brain. When she’s not pretending to be an insane psychic or a politically correct corpsicle for a story, she writes product reviews for TopTenReviews.com and takes care of her husband, four kids and two dogs. Mrs. Fabian teaches writing and book marketing seminars online. 

Now, the book.

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator–but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she’s looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it’ll be a working vacation after all.
Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.


First, we wanted to hear from Karina about the process of creating the book.

Zombies. Did you anticipate the popularity of the genre? Or were you interested in writing about the undead for another reason?

I wrote my first zombie story, “Wokking Dead” starring Neeta and Ted, because Kim (the publisher of Damnation Books) had asked. It was really an excuse for puns and slapstick, but people loved Neeta and the funny twists, so I made a novel with her. Now I’m on my third novel.

I really don’t care about the trend one way or another. I watched Walking Dead for a couple of seasons but got too frustrated at the stupid living people. I’ve watched movies and read books where zombies just need love or acceptance. I parody that in the Neeta Lyffe books. I prefer the undead shambling and just smart enough to work in my jokes.


Your lead characters, from Sister Grace to Neeta Lyffe, are strong women of action inhabiting extraordinary environments. Has your imagination always been this active, or did you begin to create new worlds as you grew as a writer?

I tend to start with characters or situations, and the worlds grow as they move, interact, affect, and are affected by it. But yeah, my imagination has always been overactive. It’s why I write. Otherwise, my brain would be too crowded with characters telling me their stories.

I also write strong men (and dragons), and weak men and women – and some who are stronger than they think. I like Tess, the little bartender at the Crude Lady, who has a small but important role in I Left My Brains in San Francisco. She has always wanted to be strong and brave, but never felt like she was. Yet in the end, she’ll offer herself as bait to draw away a zombie from her friends. (She survives by holing up in the walk-in freezer. And no, she did not consider that the zombie could have opened the door. Fortunately, it didn’t think about it, either.)

Next, let’s summarize the process from each professional’s point of view.

Karina:

1. My publisher, Kim, tells me she wants to have the next Neeta Lyffe book produced by Becky. I do a happy dance and post on social media.

2. Becky contacts me with questions about character voices, pronunciations of odd words, and any special sound effects.

3. Becky starts doing the voiceover, emailing me with any issues. I forward any caught typos to Kim in hopes we can fix them. (In fact, next book, I’ve suggested just going to go straight to producing I think, so Becky can find more typos for us; she’s very good at it. J )

4. Becky posts the chapters. The first time, I think Kim proofed them. This time, I did. It was a surreal experience for me. If I catch anything that seems odd (like a mispronounced word or a difference of inflection that changes the meaning of the word or phrase), I email her and she tweaks that part.

5. In the meantime, we’ve been working together on ways we can promote the book. Thanks so much for interviewing us.

Becky:

1. I either get contacted by the publisher or the independently published author that they’d like an audiobook produced.

2. If I haven’t worked with them before, I will send one or more sample reads (auditions) from myself and/or other narrators on my team. When I’ve worked with the client before or they know my work well, we might bypass this step as we did in this case.

3. I start reading in advance of recording, figure out what questions I need to ask, pronunciations, etc. In a case like this where we’re adding sound effects, I start a sound effects ‘map’ so I know what sounds I’ll need and get a sense of the soundscape so there is balance overall in the audiobook.

4. I record and edit my recording chapter by chapter. I’m editing out re-takes, re-recording anything that seems unclear or where I could improve the way the words are stressed – stuff like that.

5. In this particular case, I ended up creating a song for the book. THAT was fun. Since the whole Crappy Crude song can’t be heard during the audiobook itself, we’re going to make it available as a download on my site – with a freebie code in the About the Author section of the audiobook.

6. Then I master the edited audio file – that’s stuff like making sure the volume is within the accepted range, sort of the technical quality control and polish piece.

7. I send the finished audio files to the client for any feedback or corrections or tweaks.

8. I make any requested adjustments and send them back for proofing.

9. I upload the files to ACX and submit. The client then does her submit to ACX. It takes about 2-3 weeks to get through their QC queue and then the audiobook is launched!

10. Throughout all this, but especially when it launches, my marketing efforts kick in to help boost sales.

Karina, when you first decided on this venture, were you worried that no one would ever be able to bring your characters to life as you imagined them? 

Not worried at all. I did hear the characters in my head, but I also know that others will hear them differently, so I didn’t have an especially strong attachment to a particular voice. In fact, it’s been very interesting to hear Becky’s interpretation. Her inflections are not mine. It added a new dimension to the story, and it made some scenes take on different levels. I especially love Neeta’s voice when talking to Ted.

I will admit (and Becky knows) that Roscoe is nothing at all like I imagined. It was jarring for me at first, but after a chapter or two (because he has short appearances in this one), my ear got used to it. Now I hear his “Oh, gawd!” like Becky says it.

Becky, do you need to really love the material to take a job, or are you game for anything?

I’m pretty game for anything. But what I am not really interested in is poor writing or unedited writing. There’s a saying: Good authors have talent; great authors have editors. Yeah, that was probably written by an editor, but I think it is safe to say that every manuscript that is going to be published really should have an editor. Too many don’t. But I’ve narrated a wide range of genres. My favorite, though, is audiobooks that call for sound effects. That is SUPER fun – creating and sourcing sound effects and mixing those in. Good times. These are a couple reasons I so love doing Karina’s books: she’s an excellent writer, her books are edited, and we’ve juiced them up with sound effects and music.

Becky, when you are preparing to record a book, do you pre-read the entire book, or just get a feel for it and then read it cold?

I usually read ahead a few chapters so I’m not reading cold. The thing about reading cold is that I am more likely to have to re-do a section, so that’s more time-consuming than going in prepared. For example, the attitude of a character sometimes does not become clear until the next character responds or the scene is further along. I always want to make sure the emotions and attitudes are where they should be, because that’s like the blood flowing through the veins of the story.

Karina, was this a collaborative process from start to finish, or was the finished product a surprise?

A little of both. Becky emailed me about particular characters and phrases (and caught some typos!), and I made a couple of suggestions (like adding “Unchained Melody” to a section.) But other things I did not expect, and more than once, I buckled over laughing. Then Becky gave me the best surprise of all.

In I Left My Brains in San Francisco, a song plays an important part of the plot. I won’t explain because – spoilers! – but I had to make up lyrics. I am not a poet. I am not a songwriter. I did some lame rhyming and vague meter, had one character say it had kind of a reggae beat because I thought that would be the funniest contrast to the words, and left it at that.

Becky put them to music.

Wow! What a difference someone with talent can make to a bunch of flat (albeit funny) words.

Becky, how do you make the voices of the various characters in a book distinct, and do you ever try accents?

Distinct voices is actually a very important aspect of narration to me. So many narrators don’t differentiate enough for me as a listener and I get annoyed when I think one person is talking then find out it was someone else and I have to go back and listen again to understand what is going on. I use several techniques in changing my voice. I can focus it more into my nose for a more nasal sound, drop it into my chest for those big heavy guys, add raspiness or breathiness, raise or lower the register. Sometimes I’ll talk more out of one side of my mouth or the other, or open the back of my throat more. Even just changing my face into a squint or scrunch can change the voice. It’s really fun. But one of the challenges is remembering, in a book with lots of characters, who sounds like what and how I made that voice. Consistency. The toughest is when a minor character suddenly turns up again. At times I have to go back to listen to what I did before.

Becky, what makes the perfect author client and what makes your worst nightmare?

Perfect author client: works collaboratively and enjoys the process; is clear on who the characters are and provides me with pronunciations of made up names and words (since researching those is impossible); understands the importance of editing; is engaged in social media; loves writing and publishing and keeps doing it. Like Karina. J

Worst nightmare: gives me an unedited manuscript with lots of errors and expects me to figure it out; has no marketing presence or activity; is not available if I have questions.

Generally, my worst nightmares don’t happen because I’m looking for those perfect clients.

What is the demand for audio books and who do you see at the target audience? Do you see them most often rented from libraries or Amazon etc. or purchased? And are they most popular as downloads or physical copies?

Karina: That’s probably a question better answered by my publisher and Becky. Personally, I’d see the target audience as people going on long drives looking for something to keep them amused and alert. This book is funny, fast-moving, and doesn’t need a lot of deep thinking or concentration to enjoy. I’d love to see these in truck stops.

Becky: The audiobook market is growing annually by double digits. Increasingly they are bought as downloads (about 70%), especially now that newer cars let you plug your phone into them. But there is still a fairly strong market for CDs as well. Audible.com (a division of Amazon – no surprise there) is by far dominating the audiobook market. There is an increasing number of audios showing up as available through libraries as downloads – through OverDrive. And I think Karina’s idea of CDs in truck stops is fantastic! Yes! As for the target audience for audiobooks overall, it is definitely adults listening to fiction.

Do you have any advice for writers on the hunt for a voiceover artist to read their book?

Karina: I didn’t look for a voiceover artist. My publisher did. However, I would say find someone who will work with you and get some samples of the work.

Becky: Get auditions that are at least 5 minutes long. And listen to other audiobooks narrated by the narrator. Listen to the whole thing. Because many narrators can deliver an audition piece that sounds like you could listen for hours, but after an hour you may be tired of listening. A narrator needs to stay fresh and keep the listener engaged throughout. S/he needs to understand the flow of storytelling. Also, I strongly suggest using a narrator who is a trained, professional actor. That makes a huge difference. I’ve had clients come to me who had contracted with a narrator through ACX after the audition and then couldn’t get the person to make any changes when given direction. It’s a good idea to request a different reading of part of an audition before hiring just to see if the narrator knows how to take direction and implement it.

Thanks for interviewing us!

You can find more about Becky at the following links:  Website, Blog

Check out Karina’s latest books and find out more about the author at the following links:

Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:

Amazon:  (paper)  (Kindle)
And read more about it at http://zombiedeathextreme.com
Audio Link will be sent once live….or undead, as the case may be.

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