Maintaining the Illusion

I am reading a sample of Medieval-themed Fantasy novel that looked interesting. It is intriguing, and I finish the first two thats coolchapters. The author has already drawn me into the world they have created. They did a good job of writing the end of the chapter so that I don’t have any choice but to run my finger across my Kindle to bring up the beginning of the next chapter. And it goes something like this:

Lionel, we thought we had found the missing orb, but it is not as you described. It is not the correct color.” The elderly knight holds out a shining white sphere.

It’s okay. It is missing the most important ingredient.” Lionel reaches out and when he takes the orb, it turns a dark blue, like the middle of a lake. “Me.”

That’s cool.” Boyden standing slightly to Lionel’s left steps closer, his eyes wide.

I go back to my Kindle library and delete the sample, then search for another book.

The author made a critical, but an all too common, mistake. They destroyed the illusion that they had so painstakingly created at the beginning of the book. Because of what I had read to this point, I was settling into the Medieval-themed world the author had built. Then suddenly I came to a screeching halt as I was snatched out of the well-formed fantasy world. I am okay with stretching the lines of the time-period with words like “orb”, since it is a fantasy, but unless Lionel and Boyden were somehow transported from the Twentieth century (which they weren’t), the contract the author had made with me, was broken, and I could never trust the author again.

The author had made a promise, a contract, with me that this was going to be a Medieval-themed novel. From the description, and what I had read in the first couple of chapters, I was prepared to read a book set in a Medieval-like world. I wanted to be taken away to a fantasy world that, while different from Earth’s Middle Ages, stayed true to the same basic principals of that time period. I would not expect someone to show up with a machine gun or for a plane to fly over head, or for someone to say “Okay” and definitely not “Cool” (unless they referred to the weather).

I have heard many people say that because it is fantasy, you can do whatever you want. This is the furthest from the truth. Mark Twain said,

marktwain

Why is this? The basic tenet of fantasy is that the world, that the author creates, is an alternate reality of what we already know. An illusion that something could be real if you only let yourself go along with the author for a while. Illusion is the key word here. A common definition of illusion is ‘Something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality’. The key is that it gives the impression of reality. It is not a surprise that the word reality continues to come up as we try to define fantasy. When I read “Okay” and “Cool” the impression of reality was ended as cleanly as if the Knight had used his longsword to sever the connection between myself and the author’s world. Strange things happen in the real world that people cannot deny. However, in fantasy, the world must appear to be true. To do otherwise would be to breach the contract between the reader and author.

I realize that it is not always easy to use period-specific words. I am a little anal in my own writing and try not to use any word, in my Dragon-Called series, that did not originate prior to the mid-1500s. I am not this strict when reading other authors, but there is a limit. Simply putting just a little effort, on the part of this author, would have kept me comfortably in their world, and I would have bought the book.

Words are not the only way to destroy the illusion, but possibly the most common.

Another example occurred when I read a sample of a different book and immediately bought it. The story line was good, and the author kept me engaged. There were a few times, at the beginning, that stretched my believability, but I excused it because the story line was well done. That was until I came across a scene where the protagonist was invited by the king to attend a banquet. When the protag shows up at the banquet, the author starts off describing a palace banquet room. They initially did a reasonable job, but with crystal chandeliers, it would have been more relevant for something out of the Renaissance period or maybe even later than that. Regardless, I kept reading and then the author required me to stretch my believability beyond reason. He had the protag describe the opposite end of the room like this:

At the other end of the hall was a bar stocked with every possible type of wine, ale, and distilled spirits. Directly before the bar was an open dance floor with a small stage off to the side for the minstrels.

A couple of pages later the author writes these lines:

One of the young bartenders saw them coming… <deleted for brevity>

chocolate swirl martiniSomeone with the Protag says, “Hi Aeron, we’d like two chocolate swirls.”

The author proceeds to describe something that sounds like a martini to me. I was so engrossed that I tried to put this scene aside, though failed. Especially as the author continued with more of the same in the rest of the scene. And yes, you guessed correctly; I deleted the book. I survived the description of a 1920’s speakeasy, but bartender and a martini, really!

These are not the only methods that can rip the reader out of the author’s world. Basically, anything that stretches the reader’s ability to believe in the setting the author has created. It is important to keep in mind that the reader is already suspending their belief to even invest time to try and accept the author’s world. The reader has entrusted the author to not only create a world that will whisk the reader away for ten minutes or hours on end, but to keep the promise that the author will maintain the illusion.

When an author delves into the fantasy genre, they are signing on to create a world, whether it be an alternative physical world to Earth, or our own world (hopefully that is Earth for all of you) based upon alternative principals, the metaphysical. In doing this, they are making a promise, to their readers, that they will do everything in their power to maintain the illusion of reality. If the author fails to do this, then they have given up any claim to the reader’s time and their loyalty.

My objective is not to criticize other authors. Most keep the promise and view their reader’s trust with due reverence. Everyone has their own style and a voice that is unique to them. My goal is to help those that venture into this, and similar, genres with something that is nearly as important as the plot, characterization, and all the aspects of writing that is drilled into most of us as we learned our profession. When an author introduces a character and tells us what they look like, a little about their background, and give them dialog – we, the readers, expect the character to do something later. The author has made a promise that there is something important, or at least relevant, about this character. Maintaining the illusion of the world is as, or maybe more, important.

Imagine if the first example had gone like this:

Lionel, we thought we found the missing orb, but it is not as you described. It is not the correct color.” The elderly knight holds out a shining white sphere.

You are not mistaken. It is missing the most important ingredient.” Lionel reaches out and when he takes the orb, it turns a dark blue, like the middle of a lake. “Me.”

Incredible.” Boyden, standing slightly to Lionel’s left, steps closer, his eyes wide. (Yes, IncrediblBooks onlinee originated in the late 14th century).

Would it have changed the content of the story if the author had changed the words above? I think not, it required little effort. The only difference is that I would have bought the book.

When you read fiction, how important is the illusion?

Ending a Series: The Fae of Calaveras

stw-photo-cover-md

Small Town Witch

Sometimes a series is open-ended, with many books continuing on over the years as it follows a variety of stories of the same character or world. But other series have a finite ending after a certain number of books, such a trilogy, that tells just one story.

When I first started writing Small Town Witch, the first book in the teen fantasy Fae of Calaveras trilogy, I didn’t know what kind of novel or series I was setting out to write. I had ideas about a whole town of magical people, each with their own powers and secrets, interacting with each other through a tangle of stories. I would write about Rosa’s story for a while, then jump to another teen girl who was jealous over her ex-boyfriend or a boy getting injured in an explosion at the high school. The result was a chaotic mess.

My first reader, my husband, asked me a very good question then. “What’s the thing you want to focus on? Do you want this to have a broad scope with a lot of people, or is it a more personal story about one girl and her family?” That made me think about my writing in a whole new light.

In the end, I decided it was a personal story about Rosa and her relationship with her mother. From that choice, the logical conclusion of the series followed: Rosa’s story would be finished when her problems with her mother were resolved. When I thought about what steps it would take to reach a resolution, I realized that the story was too complex for just one novel. That’s when I knew that it would become a trilogy.

Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt

Those plans have finally come to fruition. Last May, one year after the publication of Small Town Witch, I released Witch Hunt, which describes what happens after Rosa breaks her mother’s spell. Tomorrow, October 10, the final part of the trilogy, Witch Gate, will feature the final showdown between Rosa and her mother. I’m so excited to have everyone read the latest installment, but at the same time, I’m a little sad that the series is coming to an end. I’ve been writing about Rosa for three years now, and as my first heroine, I’ve grown very attached to her.

Writing these books have been a lot of fun and also an emotional roller coaster for me as I learned so much about writing, revising, and publishing my own books. I had to overcome a lot of hurdles, not the least of which was my fear that no one would want to read my books. That fear has been proven wrong because I continue to get nice comments from readers in both reviews and personal letters who tell me how much they’ve enjoyed Rosa’s story and look forward to the next book. I’m so happy that I can share the last part of the story with them.

I may write further stories in Rosa’s small town, featuring some of those other characters that I also grew attached to, but that will begin a new series. The Fae of Calaveras series is complete. For now, I’m focusing on my other series, the epic fantasy Wyld Magic books. Rest assured that I will not stop writing and I still have a lot of exciting stories to share in the future!

Witch Gate is available for preorder on Amazon, iTunes, and Smashwords for immediate release tomorrow, and will be in other stores soon.

Witch Gate

Witch Gate

New Release! Strength of Conviction Now Available

LoHI_JT_SoC_cover_webStrength of Conviction, the second volume in the Judgement’s Tale saga, is available now on Amazon. The tale of Solemn Judgement, Treaman, Anteris, Gareth and the other heroes you first met in Games of Chance now continues.

As an added bonus, starting September 29th through October 1st, Part One Games of Chance will be  completely free. If you haven’t started on the saga, here’s a great opportunity to get all caught up for less than three bucks. I hope you’ll take a moment to pass along this news to someone you know, but I don’t, who likes epic and heroic fantasy.

In the first volume you got acquainted with the good and bad guys; most crucially, a gentle Sage named Cedrith was thrown into Solemn Judgement’s path, probably saving him and the city of Conar from ruin. Now in the second book, you will see the Woodsman Treaman and his encounter with a deadly dragon; Anteris the scribe’s apprentice finds out more about the stiff-necked preacher named Alaetar; and Solemn Judgement seems unable to avoid deeper and deeper trouble even though he’s living in a library! Meet the four-year old Riddy who comes to fear and love The Ash Man. Puzzle through the secrets Conar’s nobles keep, where one knight prays in place at the cathedral while another rides away never to return.

Strength of Conviction

As the central kingdom of the Lands of Hope languishes without rule or reason under a worsening pall of chaos, most Children of Hope stand by and do nothing. The few who would dare are outcasts and strangers, either too high up, or too far inside, or still too young to help. Worse, all their scattered mysteries seem unconnected.

Treaman the Woodsman struggles to guide his companions through ensorcelled wildlands to safety. The poorest knight in the city prays by Conar’s statue for weeks without ceasing, as though his life LoH_kg_2_map A5depends on it. The young scribe Anteris copies histories for his master by day, dreams of adventure till sunset, and searches the stars by night for the riddle of his future. A noble Conarian heir seeks to join a lost legendary Order, putting his duty before his life. A gentle Elvish sage confronts the greatest of puzzles, the closed door barring the way to friendship with his greatest, and most dangerous pupil.

For Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, is learning that names are indeed important when he shows… Strength of Conviction.

Upcoming SPUN YARNS Collections

I thought I’d do a bit of blatant self-promotion this week :D

Each of my writing personae has a collection of short stories scheduled for release within the next month! Here’s what you should be watching for:

Tales of Tomorrow

Tales of Tomorrow by Debbie Mumford will feature four science fiction stories. From first contact to interstellar travel, these tales will carry you into the great beyond!

Ghosts and Ghoulies

Scheduled for an early October release, Deb Logan’s Ghosts and Ghoulies, a collection of five haunting tales for younger readers, will be available just in time for Halloween! And a second collection is already in the works for Halloween 2015!

Fantasy Classics, Part Three

So have you read the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander? Written back in the 1960s, this is a five book series that features Taran as the main character. Taran starts out as an Assistant Pig-Keeper to the wizard Dallben, and becomes one of the greatest heroes the land of Prydain has ever known. The Book of Three starts this excellent series, then continues with The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and ends with The High King.

In the first book Taran starts searching for a special run away pig and meets up with four characters which become his companions-in-arms in the adventures of their battle against the forces of evil. Each book has its own climax, but in the final book, The High King, the outcome will decide the fate of Prydain forever. Taran begins in The Book of Three as a naive boy and ends as a strong young man in The High King.

It is unusual for books in a series to become stronger as the series continues, but that is just what happens in the Prydain Chronicles.   The Black Cauldron was a Newbery Honor Book, and the final volume in the chronicles, The High King, crowned the series by winning the Newbery Medal which is for the most distinguished contribution (of the year) to American literature for children.

This series was written for children, but is absorbing reading for adults, also. All is not sweetness and light in these books.  Danger and evil  are abroad in the world, but love, compassion and friendship exist also. So have you read the Prydain Chronicles? If you like fantasy, you should!

Fantasy Classics Part One

Fantasy Classics Part Two

New Release: The Day Music Died

Today, I published the short story (20 pages, 99ct) “The Day Music Died.” I’m sure you can guess where the inspiration came from. ;-)

About the book:
When Dan’s mother, a gifted piano player, dies, his father puts away his cello for good and drowns his sorrow in alcohol. Now, Dan wants to join the local school band, but his choice draws the attention of those who have been hunting him since his birth. Will the stranger he meets at a rave be able to help him?

I have always wanted to write a story that incorporates music but found my skills lacking. Only recently, I decided my writing had improved enough to give it a try. I know it’s not perfect, but it is as good as I can make it at the moment, and my beta readers liked it well enough. Find out for yourself. Get a copy on Amazon (the other shops will take much longer to go life).

Interview with L. Blankenship- Disciple V

As followers of the Independent Bookworm may know, we occasionally snare an unsuspecting indie author, luring them to the unspeakable horrors of our donjon for interrogation. It’s always made me a bit suspicious to see how willing some of them were. But I never expected a volunteer.

This time, we find a very no-nonsense victim in Louise Blankenship, already sitting in the chair and tapping her foot to get started. Worse yet, the subject was the theology of her world, from which the fifth book is now out! Talking about other people’s gods is always a bit off-putting, you know, takes away half my rap from the start. But I nerved myself up while heating the irons and decided to give it my best shot. So brace yourself for a cut above, you might say, as we explore the deities of the world of Disciple.

Q1: I gather your world is governed or influenced by two gods. Are they, in any way, um, a couple? Related, perhaps? Is this the eternal-war deal or did they both decide to go out to the same world at the Deity Speed-Date Night on Match.com?

A: Mother Love and Father Duty have one of those long-term marriages where they disagree a lot and seem to be at cross purposes but they respect each other far too much to actually fight. Things always seem to work out in the end. I don’t think that they met each other so much as the universe required both of them to exist.

In the world’s mythology, the Mother and Father are the human forms of the alpha ram and ewe that lead the “flock” of the world’s population. Their teachings are on how to be good flock members during one’s life.

This flock is overseen by the Shepherd, who is at various times Life and Death, Luck and Fate, the judger of all the sheep. He’s a mysterious higher power that isn’t exactly approachable, so people focus more on Mother Love and Father Duty.

Q2: Even the gods are married? Sheesh, you think if you lived in heaven you could avoid the “honey-do” lists… No polite way to put this one. How “real” are they? Do the people of your world see manifestations of their deities on a regular basis? Miracles, much? Or do your characters have to do more than see to believe? Are there many unbelievers in your world, or just a lot of salt-pillars standing around in odd places…

A: The saints are chosen by Mother Love and Father Duty to lead a particular portion (kingdom) of the Flock. Saints are very real and very powerful, no question about that, which tends to blur out the fact that the Mother and Father don’t seem to act overtly in the world. Not on their own, at least. The saints take care of that and can invoke the Mother and Father, or even the Shepherd, as needed.

There are other takes on the same mythology: in the kingdom of Caercoed, which is strongly matriarchal, it’s Mother Strength and Father Care. Same roles, just gender-switched.

And in Arcea, the Empress banned the Mother, Father, and Shepherd outright. The Empress has the armies and power to back up that sort of blasphemy, though.

Q3: You’ve made reference to miraculous magic by the “saints”. Can you describe a bit more about that? Are miracles well understood, reliable, easy? Or is something about them difficult, exhausting, iffy? About how many saints are there walking around at the time the story happens?

A: The saints do not talk much about how they do what they do — they’re all in direct competition with each other over scarce magical resources (the kir founts, where raw magic wells up out of the earth) and it’s dangerous for the enemy to know what you’re capable of. Keep your aces up your sleeve is the common wisdom.

Large-scale magic requires strength, focus, and practice, and in addition it’s dangerous because it draws attention. Few people are born with the innate talent for that level of kir-magery, and fewer survive the process of training and ascending to full sainthood.

Saint Qadeem thinks there might be a hundred saints in the world at any given time, but it’s difficult to say because firstly saints are immortal, and secondly they can hide among the general population easily — so long as they don’t do anything to attract attention.

Q4: The comedian Henny Youngman said it best: “I tried once to be an atheist, but I had to give it up. They have no holidays!” So what do folks in your world do to celebrate their faith? Is there a custom or day that really expresses what they believe?

A: The four big holidays of the year are the two Solstices and the two Equinoxes. At the Equinoxes there are smaller parties and everyone is encouraged to “balance” one’s accounts of debts owed. These can be debts of money or honor. If you need forgiveness for something, or you want to honor a loving relationship, this is the time to do it.

The Solstices are a chance to throw a big party and mark the turning of the season from one deity to the other. Winter and spring are Mother Love’s seasons: the flock should be supportive of each other to survive the weather and see to the spring planting. Summer and autumn are Father Duty’s seasons: time to serve the kingdom in wartime or public works projects, and then get the harvest in.

Traditionally, it’s bad luck to see moonrise on Winter Solstice without getting a kiss. That plays into the plot of Disciple, Part V… none of the main characters are getting kissed after what happened at the end of Part IV.

Thanks Louise, the world of Disciple sounds beautifully detailed and justified in matters of faith. We shall forbear to punish you further… just in case. Here’s the info you need to get started on the world of Disciple.

Disciple, Part V

Disciple-picKate faces winter with a broken heart: betrayed by one lover, the other lost to her.

Kiefan will not give up on the alliance his kingdom desperately needs — even though the Caer queen refuses to speak to him.

Anders, alone and despairing, faces the Empress’s seductive offers of power and privilege.

Each of them must carry the ongoing war in their own way, whether cold, alone, or backed into a corner. Each must patch together a broken heart as best they can. Duty will throw them together soon enough and they must be ready.

 

On sale now!

Amazon • B&N • Other retailers

 

Read Disciple, Part I for FREE

AmazonB&NOther retailers

 

Disciple, Part VI

ends the series early next year!

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Pre-Order functionality for Indies

For a long time, one of the advantages of traditional publishing was the ability to get pre-orders. The soon-to-be-published book would be visible in online shops with a possibility to order a copy which would then be shipped upon publication. Trad-Pubs then had considerable time to promote their upcoming release. The good thing is that all pre-orders would count as sales on the day of publication, making the book much more visible to potential readers. So far, Indies didn’t have many shops where they could garner pre-orders, and of those that did offer it, not many made much sense to use.

Now, amazon announced a pre-order option for Indies. If that will benefit authors and small publishers remains to be seen. One thing is for certain. We’ll have to get better at scheduling our releases. It doesn’t make much sense to offer a book for pre-order if it’s all proofed, has a cover and is ready to go. But it will be interesting for ongoing series where readers often want to know when the next volume will be available. Of course that means that if you set a publication date, you’ll have to stick with it. There’s nothing worse then an unplanned delay.

I, for one, am really curious to see how well pre-orders will do once I know how to use them well. How about you? If you’re a reader, are you the kind of person who uses pre-orders? If you’re a writer, will you try out this feature and what do you expect from it?

What Makes a Story Unique / Original?

I’ve been doing some research / study on originality in fiction. Remembering the conventional wisdom that there are only so many plots in the world, and all of them have been done many times…and by the masters, how do contemporary writers have a hope of writing original, unique works?

One persistent response is “voice”, that elusive element that marks your work as your own. Something that an individual writer often can’t recognize in their own work, but that others read and say, “Oh. Of course. That’s a Deb Logan story.”

But more than voice, where does originality reside? Is it in a gimmick? Some little detail that no one else has thought of that an author can build their plot (which has been done before…and by the masters) around?

I decided to look at three of my favorite series and see what insights I could gain. Each of these three has a distinct gimmick…but is that the answer to their uniqueness? Let’s see.

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Colfer built an entire series of eight middle grade fantasy novels around an imaginative bit of word play: leprechaun = LEP Recon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance). I love that … wish I’d thought of it first *lol* I heard Colfer speak once and he revealed another bit about why this series is so original: he based the main character, Artemis Fowl—who begins the series as a 12-year-old criminal mastermind—on his older brother, thereby pulling in Colfer’s own emotional history. It’s a delightful series with a great character arc leavened with lots of age-appropriate humor.
  1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher – The first book of Butcher’s Dresden Files series introduces us to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a contemporary wizard living and working in Chicago. It’s the little touches that really make Harry unique – the fact that he advertises in the yellow pages under “W for Wizard”; his sidekick and helper, Bob, is a disembodied spirit who lives in a skull and loves romance novels; his cat, with the nondescript name of Mister; and eventually his dog, Mouse, a gentle giant with magic of his own – a Tibetan Temple dog (Foo dog). All through this series Butcher creates memorable and unique characters, giving them a life of their own while breaking traditional stereotypes. (His vampires are truly terrifying…and completely original.)
  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – this series could be described as time-travel romance, but you’d be limiting its scope. Diana’s gimmick is that Claire Randall, a nurse who has just survived WWII, is sucked back in time through a circle of Scottish standing stones. Doesn’t sound all that original, but her characterization is amazing. Diana writes really LONG novels, and there are eight in this series (so far) all centering on the passionate love of ONE couple: Claire and Jamie. I don’t know many writers capable of keeping me interested in the life and love of a single couple over that many words, but she pulls it off. Plus, her main characters jump from being in their late 20’s in the first book, to nearing 50 in the 2nd, and the relationship remains just as intense.

Interesting. A good gimmick is great to start the ideas flowing (LEP-Recon; Wizard for hire; time-travel), but what makes the story original ultimately is the depth of characterization and the author’s own emotional history woven into those characters. All of these books have characters that I love as well as characters that I love to hate.

Each of these writers has created characters so real, that I feel like I know them … and not just the heroes. Even the secondary characters have personalities so distinct that I can recognize them from dialogue alone.

Which leads me to conclude that originality, uniqueness, memorability, isn’t a function of the gimmick or the plot as much as it is a by-product of characters so real they leap off the page and drag you into their lives, loves, and adventures.

What do you think? What makes your favorite books memorable for you?

Audiobooks- Will and Karin Chat on the other way to your readers

I’m chatting with Karin Gastreich about a-books. This is one of those decorous corners of the self-pub world, like coming across a hidden niche in a mansion, with lovely furniture that just makes you want to sit and take it in. Were you as charmed by the idea as I was when it first came up- and hey, whenabouts did it come up in your career as an author, right away or recently?
Karin_Rita_GastreichWell, I signed on with a small press, Hadley Rille Books, and in that initial contract they asked for the audio rights. So right from the beginning, the idea was in my head, thanks (or no thanks) to my editor. But it took a while to make that dream happen.
I’m curious: What charms you about the thought of an audiobook?
I could try to lie, but- it’s the sound of my own voice! I can’t think about a-books as anything other than self-narrated. I’m an old acting ham from way back. My first effort, The Ring and the Flag, drew me because I knew I could convey some of my passion for the tale with the spoken word.
Yes, me too! I love acting and reading out loud. As a consummate narcissist, I especially love reading my own stories.

You couldn’t possibly be as egotistical as me!  What’s more, reading my own writing out loud is a best practice for finding odd constructions, run-on sentences, repeated words. I find that talking out my chapters is half the rehearsal I need to record it later anyway. Will 1
Yup. I totally agree. There’s no better way to edit.

Where do you come in on the Fear of Being Heard Scale? Would you contemplate narrating your own stories? Can anyone else do them better?

I would have loved to have done the audio edition of EOLYN. In fact, my editor, after hearing me read a few times, suggested that very option. But I don’t have the time to read a full book, or the means to record it properly. So I think I knew from the beginning that we would have to find another narrator.Darla_Middlebrook

Can anyone else do them better? Well, I would say Darla Middlebrook probably did a better job with EOLYN than I could have. She has a gift for voices that I don’t share; and I think she understands pacing for an audiobook better than I do.

Hold the phone, what do you mean by “pacing”?

Well, basically just the rhythm with which one reads the story. It’s one thing to listen to a 10-minute read; another to listen to a 14-hour read. People need time to digest all the details when listening to a book; they can’t flip back through the pages to double check on something they forgot. The narrator needs to respect that, to keep an even pace that’s not too fast or too slow.
Oh, and there’s something else that I suspect might be important. Darla connected to the story as a reader; I will never get past connecting to the story as an author. Darla probably saw elements in my work that I am blind to, and so was able to capture and interpret these elements in ways that I could not have.

Hey that’s right, she does count as a reader! Heavy.

Yes, and I’m really glad that in addition to narrating the book, Darla also liked it! She is doing the audio edition of the companion novel, HIGH MAGA, which should be out sometime this fall.

Will 5I will confess, marketing a-books has been a puzzle for me. I posted my one complete tale to Podiobooks at first, and later decided to also try Scribl, where people can get the e-or-a-book and the price is crowdsourced. I can’t help but feel it’s out of the way there, though; I link to it and mention it, but… any great insight come your way about how to push the tale in people’s ears?

Marketing is tough. I’m just getting started with the audio edition of EOLYN, and am still exploring possible channels. A lot of what’s out there (book blogs, forums like Goodreads, etc.) is very much geared toward the ebook or print market.
One interesting thing has happened since the release of EOLYN in audio. HRB coordinated production through the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). As a result, Audible (i.e., Amazon) sets the list price. When the audio book was released and I first saw the price tag, I thought “No one is going to pay that!” Why would they, when the ebook is so much cheaper?

I think I’d have the same problem, separating the price in my head. A tale’s a tale, surely?
But to my surprise, people are buying the audiobook, not in hordes, but consistently since its release. I’m hoping that as I pick up on my marketing effort, that will increase. I suspect that the market for audio books is not nearly as saturated as the market for ebooks, so it’s probably a little easier to get noticed.

Agree, and it sounds like your publisher did good work for you there.

I would say that it’s probably a good idea to establish a track record for your work before releasing an audio edition. Let the reviews of the ebook (and print) editions build up a little. The more buzz you already have once you go audio, the better.

Whoa, print, I’ve heard about books written on paper. So the platform can never be wide enough, I guess that’s fair to say. And you’re right, I keep hearing (!) about folks who want good audio materials for things like the daily commute. It just seems to make so much sense, especially if you have a book with good chapter-breaks.I did get some notice and nice feedback on the audio first chapter of Games of Chance I used on the blog tour. An audio-file as a blog post might be a nice way to sample a tale. Have you done that?

Yes, I have posted some audio recordings of my readings on the blog. There is a page that carries readers to those links, and it’s one of the most visited pages. I think people really like to hear an author read his or her work.

You mean, besides ourselves? Yes, I’ve heard that too. But let’s assume we’re getting a narrator. Tell me a bit about who you looked for, why you picked Darla; did you chat with her before she started recording, for example?
Eolyn_Audio_Cover_compressedWhen HRB decided to do the a-book, they solicited auditions through the ACX platform. Interested narrators, after reading the book blurb, recorded and posted their auditions, which consisted of an excerpt provided by the publisher.
Darla was one of the first people to audition. Since HRB is a small press, my editor asked me to listen to the potential narrators. (Not sure if a large press would have given me that option.) I knew nothing about this back then, so really I was going on instinct. Darla has a rich voice, and it simply “felt” like the right choice. My editor agreed, so the decision was made. During the auditions, I had no direct interactions with potential narrators; HRB took care of that.
One thing I’ve figured out since then: When choosing an excerpt for an audition, pick a scene the has a lot of voices, male and female, preferably of different ages. That will give you a very good feel for the versatility of your narrator.
What have you heard about the pitfalls here?

Well there are many pitfalls in making an a-book. I’ve had a great experience with Darla Middlebrook, but some of my fellow authors have run into problems with audio productions. Narrators occasionally defect from the project, or the final recording is not satisfactory for any number of reasons, or the name pronunciation or voices are all off. It took us about 4 months to produce EOLYN with everything running smoothly, but I have colleagues who started their audio production at the same time I did and still do not have a final product in sight.
I guess one advantage of doing your own audio recording is that you depend on no one else but you. What has been your experience, recording stories in your own studio?

My studio, that’s a laugh. I rustled up a microphone that had come free with some game or other, made in the Philippines back before Marcos stepped down. And I stuck it in the crack of a music stand, and put that into my PC (using Audible, which is free and great) facing into my daughter’s closet (so the clothes would help deaden the echo). I read the entire novella into my PC like that, three times- I mean multiple takes of each paragraph, going back and scrubbing the project and coming back to re-record three times. I have no idea how many hours I spent- so much pop, crackle, what sounded like background noise, and an irregular bub-bub-bubb sound like I was gently bouncing the mike. Argh!
But I got through it, and after some significant heavy-handed engineering I think the end product sounds quite good. Have to say I was really unsure if I’d go ahead on those terms though. Suddenly, a friend simply sent me a microphone- a really good one.

Good friend, or good microphone?

Yes! Both. I was stunned. That’s what I used to read off the first audio chapter of Games of Chance- in like half an hour, no pops, no sounds, nothing. And a stand, with one of those foam circles to catch your spit- I feel like Peebo Bryson recording the end-music for a Disney movie.
That’s awesome. For any author who has the equipment, talent, and time, I’d say go for it. Record your stories and put them out there. For the rest of us who are a little hesitant to take on this particular challenge alone, ACX is a great alternative for making our work available to a wider audience.

Thanks Karin, really good chat. Everybody, get down with the links below especially the trailer and the rafflecopter at the bottom. And let’s “hear” from you in the comments!

EOLYN http://edition
Karin Rita Gastreich (author)
Darla Middlebrook (narrator)

Sole heiress to a forbidden craft, Eolyn lives in a world where women of her kind are tortured and burned. When she meets Akmael, destined to assume the throne of this violent realm, she embarks upon a path of adventure, friendship, betrayal and war. Bound by magic, driven apart by destiny, Eolyn and the Mage King confront each other in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes will satisfy fans of traditional epic fantasy, with a romantic thread.” – Publishers Weekly

“Magnificently written.” –Kindle Book Review

Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/Eolyn/dp/B00KROCQCY/

Link to YouTube Preview: http://youtu.be/ymFTCvi8wew

 

About the Author:

KARIN RITA GASTREICH lives in Kansas City and Costa Rica. An ecologist by trade, her past times include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance. Karin’s first fantasy novel, EOLYN, was released by Hadley Rille Books in 2011. The companion novel, HIGH MAGA, is also available from Hadley Rille Books. Karin’s short stories have appeared in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and A Visitor to Sandahl. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency. Follow Karin’s adventures into fantastic worlds, both real and imagined, at http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com and at http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com.

Author web links:

Blog for Eolyn: http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com
Blog Heroines of Fantasy: http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Eolyn/110814625640244
Twitter: @EolynChronicles

About the Narrator:

With experience of 34+ years as a Speech-Language Pathologist, more than 20 years as a stage & film actor and over 20 years as a trained singer with knowledge and insight into the mechanics of the voice and speech, Darla Middlebrook brings a wealth of experience to bear to develop character voices (male, female, mature, extremely elderly, creepy, bright exotic, etc) with an impressive emotional range.

Currently, Darla is one of many voice actors who narrates podcasts for AIRS-LA (an audio internet service for individuals with visual challenges) in addition to narrating audio books. She is able to produce retail quality audio books from her home studio in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – Canada.

Narrator Web Links:

Website: http://www.darlasvoice.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/damiddlebrook
Twitter: @GypsyCatVoice

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