Monday, August 10, 2015

HEARD any good books lately?

I was a slow convert to audio books – not as a listener, because I have always loved listening to a story – but as an author of ‘to be read’ stories. 
I was always nervous about the process which includes putting material up for audition, listening to the tapes the actors send – and then, gulp, choosing the ‘just right’ narrator.

Why? Not because it was a difficult a process, it isn’t. ACX, my retailer of choice, makes it ridiculously easy and economical for authors to find just the right professional voice to step up to the microphone and ‘tell’ the author’s story to an audience of readers who enjoy getting their box fix via a hands-free delivery system.

What was most daunting to me was simply letting go of my story. There is no doubt about it – giving a book to an actor to read is letting go of your work and watching – in fascination, and sometimes in shock – as another creative person interprets the mood, tone and characters in your book. 

Authors, by the end of the editing process (which in my case involves reading my book about 10 times, some sections more than that), can clearly ‘hear’ their characters voices. We know what motivates them, what they wish for, what they’re hiding and scared of. We understand clearly why they did what they did, and what part they play in the overall panorama of the plot. Our biggest challengers as authors are to do two things – make the readers clearly understand these characters by choosing the right words for the dialogue and internal thought, and convincing the reader that these made-up creatures are acting from believable and well-grounded motivation.

On my final edit, I am confident the readers will understand my characters’ actions and personality, and hopefully they will like or dislike them as I do, and enjoy the story they inhabit.

Readers, of course, bring their own experiences along with them when they read a book, and I have learned from conversations and reviews that authors aren’t always the final word. I have often been surprised by readers reactions to a story of mine, where many times they do not like or accept something about a character, that, as the writer of the story, I thought I was the final word on. HA! Frankly, I’ve loved this reckoning, for I know that books do belong to the readers. When I write it, it is my story, but when I give it to someone else, it is theirs. Each of us decide which characters are good or bad or fair, or deserving of a happy ending.  

While I have embraced this fact of life about readers, what I didn’t realize was that when I authorized an audio version of a book, I had authorized another interpretation of what was going on.  Listening to the actors voicing my words, I was surprised at how,  through intonation and tone,  their grasp of each character  was a shade or two different from mine.

My first venture into audio was with my book SECRET SISTER, a women’s fiction novel with a surprise paranormal twist that sets up the action. Thematically, this novel is about love and friendship, trust and lies, secrets and the hope we all have that we can ‘fix’ even the most complicated events so that we will be happy.

The actor who produced and narrated SECRET SISTER, brought a younger, fresher voice to Cathy Chance than I had heard in my head, and a more subdued and suffering voice to my hero, Nick Chance. In several scenes, she infused the novel with an ache and dramatic intensity I had not imagined, but which she felt by interpreting the words I had written in a darker or sadder tone.

This same thing occurred – even more startlingly for me – with Caroline Price’s performance of my new audio release of MOLLY HARPER. Both in the introductory novella, Duets, and in the full women’s fiction novel, brought a pensive, inured insight to Molly I may not have consciously intended.

Buy Molly & Cruz at Amazon
Buy Molly & Cruz at
Molly Harper, a beautiful, academy award winning actress, is an angsty, somewhat prickly character and I had some push back from readers and reviewers about her. Some thought she was arrogant, or cold, or unforgiving, and felt she should be softer, nicer, because of all the blessings she has in her life…not bitchy because of unresolved personal wounds.

I saw her, wrote her, as heroic and smart, navigating as best she cut through a cut-throat profession as she dealt with significant wounds to her heart and soul because of some deeply troubling family secrets and lies. But I understood how readers, coming from their own experiences, didn’t understand her as I did.

However, I was again surprised (slow learner here) to listen to Caroline’s reading of the novel, because through her, I actually heard Molly’s character differently. She did seem a little bitchy. She could be aloof. I finally understood what some readers had been angry with Molly about when Miss Price voiced my character. She spoke the same words I had written, but came away with a different take.

Note to self…embrace this fact – anyone who touches your work interprets it and understand it through their experience and point of view – hears it with their heart in a way you might not. I have always prided myself on being good at communication – that human process of stating something in such a clear way the person being communicated with fully understands what you meant. But this process has taught me once again that for all my thinking, planning, editing and polishing…readers and listeners hear things you may not realize you revealed.

The bottom line is, once an author writes ‘the end’, books then belong to readers, and listeners. They will create, with their own wonderful imaginations, the world inhabited by your characters.

Trust this, and enjoy it, for after all, there is nothing else you can do.   

Thursday, July 16, 2015

RWA in the Big Apple - New York City - July 22-26 Marriott Marquis

Please come join us at the "Readers for Life" Literacy Event at the Marriott Marquis. Free entrance to readers! Come meet hundreds of authors and buy some signed books. All proceeds to benefit Literacy. 

In honor of the ghost of RWA past, here's a blog I did about one of the more embarrassing things ever to happen to Emelle Gamble! Leave a comment below about something embarrassing that happened to you, and you could WIN a FREE signed book and $25 gift card!
What not to do at RWA in New York City? 

          Hint:  Do NOT spill 10 pounds of shrimp on your shoes at Nora Robert’s party.


I’m sure you are nodding as you read the above, and thinking, “Well, what kind of dolt would do that?”

This dolt.

It was a few years ago, and Ms. Roberts had graciously invited her home chapter of RWA to join her and her many other guests for cocktail hour in her suite.
It was perfect…view out the windows glorious, delicious and varied spread of cheeses and dips and seafood, waiters with drinks on gleaming trays, fabulous clothes and sparkling party jewelry. The room was packed with well-known and much loved writers, very important editors, publicists and fans and fellow WRW members like me who were thrilled to mingle and have a couple of munchies and a fortifying drink before the Awards Ceremony.
I was nervous, as always, like most of us there, hoping to make an impression on those we wanted to do business with. I had my elevator pitch ready and my new high heels on and was keeping my eyes peeled for an editor I was dying to chat up. I decided I’d grab a drink, but realized sensibly it would be much smarter to first take a lovely little cocktail plate and grab a few bites. The line was forming, shoulder to shoulder hungry writers were starting to queue up, and I somehow, with a graceful step or three, managed to plant myself right in front of an amazing display of shrimp.
 A gorgeous silver bowl of the plumpest, freshest, yummy little creatures sat on a table covered with  crushed ice, the enormous bowl tilted just so one could poke a toothpick in and spear one without any effort at all. Plate in one hand, toothpick in the other, I first spooned on a tablespoon of lovely red cocktail sauce, then speared a shrimp.
I plopped it on the plate and frowned, not sure but wondering, did the  silver bowl gently, oh so freaking gently, begin to turn on its bed of ice? I thought it might have, no more than a degree clockwise, if I remember right. The room was warm, the ice was melting just a bit, but no problem. Surely.
I speared a second shrimp. When I picked the thing up from the mountain where it perched with a thousand of it’s lovely pink  buddies, disaster.
Like card 101 in a design that could only ever balance 100, the silver bowl of shrimp moved again. Wildly. The thing took a full, dizzying ninety-degree spin, and one second later tipped forward and spilled at least half its content onto the table, onto the table cloth, onto the floor of Ms. Nora Robert’s suite.
And onto my totally shocked and humiliated feet.
It made quite a noise. A crash, actually.  Ice, silver, shrimp, glass. I don’t know what broke, but something did.
One hundred people fell silent. And then an anonymous voice from across the room asked gently, “Is everyone thinking, Thank god I didn’t do that?”
Which was hilarious at the time to everyone but the woman with seafood stuck between her toes.
In an instant a waiter in a black coat appeared at my elbow. He smiled at me and then spoke into a walkie-talkie, which appeared in his hand as if by magic.
“We have a shrimp emergency,” he said. Clicking sounds. Static sounds. Then a disembodied voice asked, “Is there sauce involved?” The waiter met my eyes. He looked relieved. “No, no sauce.”
Many more people in black coats appeared. The shrimp was cleaned up. Replacement bowls of the jumbo little devils arrived. The hostess was gracious and kind and did not have me thrown out of her penthouse window. She waved me to come over to where she stood, sympathetic and smiling, and had me sit down while people brought me drinks. 
Later that evening, after all the fun, I had an excellent discussion with the editor I was chasing, but it centered on faux pas in public, not my book. I believe she said me vs the shrimp was the worst she had ever witnessed. Ha.Ha.Ha.
Yay! I made an impression!
Okay, so lesson learned and duly passed onto fellow Conference goers.  “Step away from the shrimp”, as my dear critique partner, Elaine Fox, now whispers in my ear whenever we’re in a buffet line anywhere.

Especially if the sneaky devils are in a bowl on an ice display, intent on proving Al Gore is totally right about Global Warming.