SFR Audiobook Narrator Turns the Tables on Veronica Scott

MissionToM2AudioThe audiobook of Mission to Mahjundar is now available on Amazon, Audible.com and iTunes (sound sample below). Actor Michael Riffle and I’ve done a fun interview on the subject, over at USA Today Happily Ever After. This time, for the sake of variety, we’ve turned the tables and he interviewed me, asking questions about my science fiction world of the Sectors. We invite you to check out the interview!

Here’s the story for Mission to Mahjundar:

An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she’s of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She’s resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government to retrieve a ship lost in her planet’s mountains. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She’s already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she’ll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.

Mike, for his part, resists his growing attraction to the princess; he has a mission on this planet and rescuing the vulnerable but brave princess isn’t it. No matter how much he wishes it could be.

But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar’s peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira’s marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?

One question we didn’t have room for in the USA Today column:

Michael: While narrating Mission to Mahjundar, I noticed several places where there were hints of deep political intrigue, but the story couldn’t have easily followed it. Without giving too much away, can you tell us more about what was going on behind the scenes with the explosion that led to Michael and Shalira meeting? I smelled a hint of a rebellion or insurrection.

Veronica: Originally there was a lot more in the book about the growing resistance to the empress and her plans. Her attempts to install a new religion were part of the political upheaval. Captain Rojar played a much bigger part in the attempt to overthrow her, and I was setting him up for a possible sequel throughout the book when I first wrote the story. I’d even considered a sequel with Mike and Shalira returning to Mahjundar!

Interview with The Audiobook Narrator ESCAPE FROM ZULAIRE

Escape-from-Zulaire2HighResOver at the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, my current  SciFi Encounters column is about making HEAscience fiction romance audiobooks. I’m talking to actor Michael Riffle and actress Mary Fegreus, the stars of Escape From Zulaire, my newest book to be made into the audio format. The’re discussing how they prepared to bring the book to life and how it was to work together, including on the steamier scenes!

I’ve interviewed Michael before on this blog, when he narrated my Wreck of the Nebula Dream in 2013. I thought it might be fun to pull a few tidbits from the Archives, regarding things he shared with us then, about himself and that novel.

Excerpted From the  March 2013 Archives:

Did you have a favorite scene in Wreck of the Nebula Dream? A scene that was especially challenging?
I think the most challenging scene was (SPOILERS!) in chapter seven when [Character X] didn’t survive.  I have a really close relationship with my mother, and when the Character thought Nick was her son at the end I visualized my mother saying that and I actually had to stop recording for a few minutes because I got choked up.  The dangers of making the work too personal, I guess!
VS: I remember when you were doing the recording you’d tweeted that Chapter made you a bit sad. I’m touched that the scene had such an effect.

985481_49435382

I really enjoyed the way you brought each of the characters to life – not only Nick the hero but also wide variety of people he was trying to save from the wrecked ship. What goes on in your mind as you create each unique voice?
I think the biggest influence on what I try to do with my voice comes from your description of the characters.  Not just how their voice is described, but how they hold themselves, what sort of personality do they have, how they are feeling during the whole process.  I try to equate each character to someone I know, or a character I’ve seen in a movie or television, something to ground it in reality.  I might be a little selfish by giving my own voice to Nick.  It’s hard to NOT want to be the modest, able-bodied hero who gets the girl.
VS: I had a number of auditions submitted for the book and I have to say I knew you were Nick from the first word you said! It was amazing to “hear” my character and I was in no doubt who I HAD to have narrate the book LOL.

1284217_33761472Wreck-of-the-Nebula-DreamFinalMedI came up with some unusual words and names, given that Wreck of the Nebula Dream was a science fiction novel. Was there anything or anyone you wished you could rename? (I promise it won’t hurt my feelings LOL)
Hahaha, I was so worried about mispronouncing things.  I said D’nvannae wrong so many times when I started this.  I think if I could change anything I’d change Mellure, and only because I had a terrible habit of adding a Y to it for no good reason.  My mouth always wanted to say Meh-lyoor.
VS: And even though we did some advance discussion about pronunciation, we never discussed the name of the alien pirate race, Shemdylann. You say it differently than I heard it in my head when I wrote the book but the first time I heard how you said it, I knew you had it right, not me!
MR: Haha, and I changed my mind about it halfway through the chapter and had to go back and rerecord a big section.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
My mom said to me (on more occasions than she should probably have had to) “You only truly fail if you don’t try.”  It’s a lesson I have a hard time learning, but it’s damn good advice.

A few quickfire questions:

Can’t live without: Technology – I’m a nerd to the bone.
Would love to work with: Nathan Fillion VS sez: Wouldn’t we all 🙂
Show I can’t miss: I’ve got Netflix, HuluPlus, and Crackle.  I binge watch whole seasons of anything.
Best dinner I ever ate: Went outside of my price range to Cube on La Brea.  Good lord. Delicious.

Nick drinks interstellar brandy and ice planet vodka (not in the same glass) – what’s your favorite drink?
I learned this one at the Irish Village in Brighton, Mass.
1 part Powers Irish Whiskey, 1 lemon wedge with cloves, 1 barspoon full of raw sugar, splash of Sandeman port
muddle in glass
add 4 parts boiling water
You have yourself a Hot Whiskey (or Hot Toddy) – Cures all ills, improves ailing throats, and is basically magical.

Buy Links for the audiobooks:

WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM    Amazon       Audible.com

ESCAPE FROM ZULAIRE        Amazon     Audible.com

AudioBook Panel at CoyoteCon Transcript

Wreck-of-the-Nebula-DreamFinalMedThis past weekend I had the pleasure of moderating a workshop on audiobooks as part of the online CoyoteCon, which has been occurring during October weekends. Participating in the panel were my friend and fellow Carina Press Author Dee J. Adams, who is also an Actress and has narrated her own audiobooks. We were also privileged to have my friend and collaborator Actor/Narrator Michael Riffle as a member of the panel. Michael narrated my science fiction adventure WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, as well as a number of other audiobooks.

Our discussion was wide ranging and fun (if I do say so myself) and if you missed it, the transcript of our remarks can be found right here.

Here’s a snippet of what Dee had to say on the subject of narrating her own books:

“There is nothing better than being able to tell your story the way you want people to hear it. There is no error in interpreting a character’s tone or meaning in a certain or sentence. The reader gets to hear it the way I intended them too. There’s nothing better than that. And as a (former) actor it’s a way to keep that love of mine alive. “

michaelAnd Michael shared these thoughts about bringing a book to life:

“Characters! I think my favorite part of recording audiobooks is giving each character (no matter how small) their own voice. It’s probably the most challenging part, too, because you want everyone to sound unique, but you don’t want to make them unrealistically different! If there are two male characters with similar backgrounds talking to each other they have to sound completely different, but also very similar. It’s a fun challenge. “

For more of the discussion follow the link to the transcript!

deejYou can find Dee at her Amazon Author Page …dees book

 

 

 

And all the CoyoteCon transcripts are located on this page.

coyotecon

WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM Making the Audio Book Part 3

hubble wavyThis is third and final post in my mini series on making the audio book for WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM.

So after I fell in love with Michael’s audition for the book (see last week’s post), I sent him an offer through ACX, again using all their standard contracts and forms. He accepted and we were off. I e mailed him the entire book, which as he said in my interview with him, he then read through, as part of his preparation. He had a few questions and we e mailed back and forth a bit. Since the book is a published work, we couldn’t collaborate the way a playwright and an actor might, and change actual lines of dialog BUT listening to the book as he worked his way through recording it was an amazing experience. Some scenes were hard to listen to for me because of the gritty reality he brought to the action I’d written. Others were “aww” moments, hearing my characters interact, especially Nick and Mara.

He completed the first fifteen minutes, which I then had to approve as a gate required by ACX before he could proceed, kind of a quality control. Once we passed that moment, he’d notify me if a chapter was finished and up on ACX for me to listen to. I would rush home from work on those days, believe me. It is SUCH a treat hearing the world of your novel brought to life by a trained, skillful actor. If I could afford it (and he had any interest in doing it), I’d have him read all my novels for me from here on out, before I sent them on submission! I picked up things I’d missed when the book was in edits, I had flashes of totally new ideas, things I thought I knew about the characters changed a bit as a real person embodied them…it was magic! Looking back over our e mail traffic, I see that while listening to Chapter 6, I solved a big plot problem for the eventual sequel – nothing to do with the events IN chapter 6 itself, but hearing my characters talking and interacting sent me down other trains of creative thought.

MichaelRiffle_0125I listened to Chapter 7 three times – it’s got some very emotional moments in it. As Michael said in his interview, even he was affected by the death of one character, and had to stop recording and do that part over, which was the highest praise I think I’ve ever had.

The ACX contract does provide for the author to request do overs and rerecording in a strictly limited amount, or even to cancel the entire contract if they’re unhappy with the end product. (Although there are protections written in for the artist to receive fair compensation.) Obviously that wasn’t an issue with Michael and me.

When the book was fully recorded, which took approximately two months, I officially approved it and zap, ACX sucked it into their system. They perform a quality validation activity of their own and would have notified Michael as the Producer if they’d wanted anything changed about the sound. About ten days later ACX notified us the book was now available through Amazon and Audible.com. We’re still waiting for it to arrive on iTunes (no idea why that part is taking so long).

As the rights holder, when the audio book went live I had a few wrinkles with the meta data, no idea if that was my mistake up front when I entered the book into the ACX system, but their Customer Service is trying to fix it for me. Nothing earth shattering but it affects those famous Amazon sales algorithms LOL.

I would do this again in a heartbeat. ACX made it extremely easy and straightforward and, as I mentioned last week, once they offered to pay a stipend, I received a large number of auditions, although at the risk of sounding like a totally broken record, Michael simply was Nick. Having the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow artist was an incredible experience and I am so hoping we can do another audio book together in the future. I’d love his input on the characters up front, before the final draft of the sequel, since he’d be revisiting them with me!

So, are there any questions I didn’t cover in this series of posts that you’d like me – or Michael – to address? Thanks for your patience with the topic!

ant nebula

Making the Audio Book – WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM Auditions

hubble-picture-6Last week I interviewed the wonderful actor Michael Riffle on his creative process in narrating the WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM. This week I’m going to blog on some of the aspects of getting an audio book made, as the author.

Right from the start, when I self published the novel, I wanted to have an audio book version available. I knew the audio book market was booming and science fiction seems to do really well. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get the story in front of such a potentially large audience. I researched ACX, which is an “Amazon Platform”, read their easy How-To instructions, perused the standard contracts they offer, and said, “Why not?”

I also asked a million questions of fellow author Dee J. Adams, who is an actress and who I knew had narrated her own Carina Press book for Audible. Dee was kind enough to explain to me some of the behind the scenes aspects and how there are many hours of work by the narrator. You can’t just sit down in front of a microphone, read for nine hours and five minutes (which is the length of WRECK), hit the off switch and then sell the book.

I never for one moment considered narrating my own book, not being an actress – I know my limitations! ACX suggests posting a short one or two page excerpt from the book to serve as an Audition Script. The book is entirely in the male main character’s Point of View (POV) but whoever narrated was going to have to give voice to female characters, children, other men, aliens…so I not only needed someone with that perfect voice to be Nick the hero, I needed an actor who could be believable when reading the other parts, not take the listener out of the action.

hubble-picture-7I picked a section right after the Nebula Dream has crashed into something and Nick emerges from his cabin, to a scene of panicked passengers, no crew members and not enough lifeboats. I figured I’d hear Nick himself and I’d hear how the actor handled a variety of other voices, including a woman, as the scene went on. I never realized how MANY times I was going to hear that scene. I don’t want to say I grew tired of my own words, but wow, I have it memorized now too. (“Back pressed against the half opened door…”) When Michael sent me that finished chapter later, it was startling to hear the excerpt in its proper place as just part of the novel’s flow.

So I posted the Audition Script, along with the book’s blurb and a few other facts about myself as a published author, my social media platform, etc….and I waited. Hmm. Remember the part about how much work the narrator actually does? Well, on ACX you can either pay the actor up front, at a rate from $150 to $400 per finished hour or you can split the royalties. I didn’t have the budget to pay for the hours up front and curiously enough, actors didn’t flock to put in all that work and record my book for free, hoping to reap copious royalties later. I couldn’t blame them!

ACX came to the rescue after a few months. They made my book eligible for a stipend, whereby they would pay the narrator a set hourly rate up front to do the recording and producing, and he and I would also split the eventual royalties 50/50 on the back end. I have no idea why ACX picked my book for their stipend program – I’m guessing perhaps because it was science fiction. (Those famous Amazon algorithms no doubt!). I just knew I was wildly flattered that ACX had such confidence in the book.

The auditions began in earnest! First of all I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who took a chance and submitted an audition. cat eye nebulaWe authors know what it’s like to face rejection and actors are in the same boat. I received an e mail every time there was new audition and I’d log into ACX to listen. To me, this was THE key element of the whole thing (well, after my deathless prose of course) – getting the right narrator. In the auditions I heard everything from complex accents to Nick’s thoughts being given VOICE OF GOD emphasis compared to the normal voice for all the other text. Some tried falsetto for the ladies’ dialog (which doesn’t work for me), other people who read the lines with a lot of funny little pauses – that seemed to be a thing – there were actors who didn’t read the entire scene (if you didn’t even get to the part where the woman’s voice comes in, how was I supposed to know if you were the one?)…and a number of people who were close but….just….not Nick. Sigh. It was undefinable but they just weren’t my Sectors Special Forces captain. Now I know why movie directors can sometimes take so long casting a part, searching for the one right person! Still, I had it narrowed down to two actors who were the closest and then I heard Michael’s audition.

And from the first word he said, I knew Nick was talking to me.

Listen to the sample at Audible.com (“Listen > Play Sample”  right below the cover art)….

Next Monday I’ll finish this topic with a little more about how Michael and I worked, how ACX works and whether I’d do it again. (Short answer: YES!)

Weekend Writing Warriors – Science Fiction WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM

better wewriwa

VERY excited that the audio book version of WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM is now available so I’ll be doing my eight sentences from it today. The narrator, a terrific actor named Michael Riffle, caught the main character perfectly. And brings the rest of the cast to life really well too LOL. (Interviewing him on the blog tomorrow BTW.)

This snippet is from early in the book, as Nick rides the shuttle to the Nebula Dream. One distraught passenger wants OFF, endangering all of them in her attempt to open an escape hatch. Nick steps in to stop her since the husband doesn’t seem to know what to do. First Nick gently disarms her while she tries to stab him. This excerpt comes after that, as the pregnant woman collapses on the deck in tears.

He’d no idea what language her people spoke – he hadn’t heard enough of it to trigger any of his implanted linguistic reflexes. Cradling her, Nick tried a reassuring murmur in Basic. “It’s all right, madame, we’re in no danger – the shuttle flies normally. There’s no need for you to –“

“Fool!” She literally spat at him, twisting her upper body so she could see his face. “If we set foot on that cursed ship, we’ll all die!  My baby will die unborn with me – we must not go there.”

The story:

Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.

But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?

A note: WRECK was loosely inspired by the events of the Titanic sinking and there were a number of people who had premonitions of disaster prior to her sailing.

hubble04

I love and appreciate your comments and feedback! Go here  to find all the other Weekend Writing Warriors and read  a variety of  terrific excerpts…

WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, a 2013 SFR Galaxy Award winner,  is available for kindle, as an audio book or a paperback at Amazon.