Friday, 30 August 2013


I spend a lot of time in front of my computer, as I’m sure many writers do. When not in front of my computer, I’m watching YouTube videos on my iPad, reading on my KOBO or texting on my phone, or checking Facebook….

The point is: I spend a lot of time online, interacting with the virtual world. I decided several months ago to spend at least one day completely unplugged from the internet, interacting with real people in the real world.

Yesterday, I went out with my two sisters and my mother. We walked through a Sunflower maze:

Seriously though, once you’ve seen one Sunflower, you don’t really need to see thousands of them. LOL.

We had a great lunch in Wolfville, a beautiful college town.  Then we went to a place called Tangled Gardens (it’s been written up in Martha Stewart Living magazine) and walked through the wildflower garden.

They live and work onsite and make all their own jams, liquors, vinegars, and oils, etc. using their garden and fruits and wines from the farms nearby, six bottles at a time.  I imagined the owners working with their hands, happily living and working in a place so beautiful and peaceful.

I’m ready to settle down and get back to writing and working, now, having spent time in the fresh air, exploring some interesting places, with people I enjoy.

What do you do to unplug or unwind? 

Anne MacFarlane is an aspiring romance author and avid reader of everything - romance, mystery, women's fiction, non-fiction, the back of cereal boxes.You can follow along as she wrestles her inner critic and utter lack of discipline on her blog - One Word At A Time. You can also find her on Twitter.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

On Heroes and Hose: What makes a hero ooze sex appeal?

A romance writer’s number one job is to create a lasting romance between two characters that will resonate with readers. Since romances can vary from ‘sweet’ to ‘gonna need a new headboard’, it’s important very early on to determine the heat level for your story.

But, whether the ultimate consummation of the romance ends in a kiss on the cheek or three day romp leaving a broken bed, four empty champagne bottles, and a decapitated rubber chicken, the characters first and foremost must have chemistry.

Let’s put the heroine aside for a moment. There you are dear. You just go sit and read a good book while we talk about your lover.

What does it mean to say your hero and heroine need chemistry? Should we return to high school science class for the answer? Not quite. But the physical characteristics of the hero are the building blocks to, and play a huge part in, how the heroine will respond to him. Those details, when given the right amount of attention, are GOLD.

Is he tall? Blocky? Lean? Are his eyes brown? Green (mmm)? Blue? Is his voice deep? Accented? How does he smell? Leather? Sandalwood? What about his hair? Is it short or long enough to grasp so she can tug him toward her?

All of these pieces make up the physical shell which we hope our heroine will respond to in a very base manner. We’re all animals on a certain level and respond to sight and scent in a way our logical mind doesn’t usually reach. It’s all about the senses here.

So now we have our shell, what goes inside? Is he funny? Arrogant (mmmm)? Sensitive? Strong? Intelligent? Adding personality characteristics provide another opportunity to make him even more appealing.
But wait.

He can’t be perfect from the start or the romance would have nowhere to go. I’ll tackle romantic conflict in another post, but today we’re just going to focus on those elements which make him irresistible to her on some level whenever they’re within sensing distance on one another.

I love, love, love stories in which the hero and heroine sense one another before their eyes and ears detect. Like anything, this can be overdone, but when the right dash is added to the mix, the whole bowl of attraction becomes much more delicious.

Ok, let’s dress him. Oh come on! We have to dress him before we can undress him.

Romance novel settings will largely determine our hero’s clothing, however, sometimes we writers are faced with interesting challenges. My story is set in Scotland and so the first thing that comes to mind is our hero bare-chested, wielding a claymore, and wearing a kilt. Oh yeah, we’re all thinking, bring it!

Nope. Sorries.

No kilts during my timeframe and I was a little dismayed to discover the nobles of the day wore doublets and HOSE. Yeah, can you imagine someone coming at ya wearing tights? Anyway, I won’t go into how I’ve gotten James to OWN the hose. You’ll have to let me know how I've done on that front when my book is released in October. But my impression of them has improved. ;-) Oh yeah.

So now we know what he looks like, smells like, if he’s funny or a bit of an arse, and how he dresses. Our heroine can come back now and check him out. What does she think? Well, she just dragged him out of the room and…yep I just heard the bedroom door lock. Click. I'd better get out of here before I hear other sounds I’d rather not.

So tell me. What do you like in a hero?

Kate Robbins is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John's, NL with her man-beast and two man-cubs. She writes historical Scottish romance.

You can find her here:

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Step One

By Michelle Helliwell

So, how do you write a book?

Okay, there may be a bit more to it. But, if you are thinking about writing for the first time, the advice in that meme is really 90% of what you need to know.

I met up with a work colleague over the weekend and we began talking about writing. She asked me, in so many words, how a person goes about writing. I told her, very seriously, that she needs to get herself some paper, and a pen, and just start. Just write.

That’s it.

Okay – that’s not exactly it. You have to learn about the craft, you need to read, you need to learn about character, plot, sentence structure. But all of that is pointless (except the reading, perhaps) if you don’t have anything on the page to work with. A potter takes clay and with great skill turns that clay into a pot or a vase. A painter turns watercolours or oils into a brilliant painting. For a writer, you have words that you form into a short story or a poem or a novel, but until you get those words on the page, you have nothing to work with. The words are your clay, your oils. You have to work with them, and to do that, you need to get them on the page. 

For most writers, those words don’t come out perfectly the first time. If you need a reminder of that, watch your favourite movie with the director or writer’s commentary on, or watch the deleted scenes section of the extras on the DVD. You’ll hear screenwriters and directors talk about characters or scenes that just didn’t work, story lines that were changed, or even dropped all together. Even for experienced creators, there is the struggle to get the right mix of elements to get the story right. Why should it be any different for you?

If you’re tinkering with the idea of writing a story, just write it. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just make your clay. And then, finish. Finish, finish, finish. Get all the clay you need to shape your story, to create your characters and drive your plot. But you can’t do any of that unless you have your words. And how to you get your words?

You write them down. There is no step two.

Michelle Helliwell is a lover of tech and an aspiring historical romance author. She blogs regularly on her website. You can also find her occasionally on twitter, popping into Goodreads. and far too much on Pinterest. In fact, she gives you permission to scold her about getting back to her writing if you see her pinning too much.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Kate Robbins is at Into the Mist today

Join Scottish historicals author Kate Robbins at Into the Highland Mist:

Currently in the Aulde Country researching and whatnot, Kate is running a giveaway over at her blog. Drop by for details!

Kate Robbins is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John's, NL with her man-beast and two man-cubs. She writes historical Scottish romance.

You can find her here:

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Friday, 23 August 2013

Settings Matter

by Annette Gallant

As a child, I loved the All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor. Set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s, these books opened up a world to me that was totally different from the one I knew, and I longed to see the places the five sisters (and later a little brother) went, experience the things they did, while living in pre-World War I New York City. To this day, I adore books set in NYC.
Photo by Daniel Schwen
I love when settings are so vivid they seem like another character. (A recent example is The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman. After reading that book, I had serious Bali fever for weeks.) Before I started writing my current manuscript, I debated where to set it. As I hope to query the U.S. market, I considered setting my story in Maine, thinking an American setting might make my story more appealing to agents. However, as I wrote the plot demanded I set it closer to home. I’m happy with my decision, and there’s something to be said for writing what you know. For writing about a place close to your heart.
Recently, I vacationed on my home province of Prince Edward Island, the setting of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s much beloved Anne of Green Gables series. Growing up, I didn’t fully appreciate how international these books were or how they helped put PEI on the map for so many. It’s only now, as an adult, that I fully get the wide-reaching appeal of her books, and how her love for our mutual island spills onto every page, making it come alive for anyone who reads her books.

How about you? Does setting matter when you choose a book? What are some books you’ve read that had larger-than-life settings?   

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Thursday, 22 August 2013

How To Choose an Audiobook Narrator

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the audiobook industry is exploding.  If you’re an independent author self-publishing your novels, you may also be producing your own audiobooks, and if you are, you know how difficult it can be to select the right narrator.

In the past, I’ve had audio rights retained and sold by my publishers, so I had no creative input whatsoever into the selection of the narrator, or the direction he or she received.  The upside is that I didn’t have to worry about it or invest any time.  I simply took the advance check, and eventually the audiobooks turned up at the retailers.

Now I’m publishing some audiobooks independently, and I’ve chosen to tackle this new beast on my own, because frankly, as someone who enjoys film and theater—and respects the talent and craft of actors—it’s a whole lot of fun.

I’m not going to address the issue of rights and royalties and all those other financial issues that come into play when deciding whether or not to sell your rights or do your own audiobooks.  This blog is all about the creative side.  Assuming you’ve already decided to drive this bus on your own, how do you choose the right narrator for the project?

I won’t lie.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.  When I invited auditions for THE COLOR OF HEAVEN, I received dozens, and listened to every single one of them.  Often I knew in the first five seconds if someone wasn’t right for the part.  As the author, I know my characters, and I know how I want them to sound.
I blogged about my choice of a narrator here.

But there’s more to consider than mere talent and the right voice.  There is another important factor as well: the narrator’s popularity and backlist.  In the film world, they call it bankability.

If you hire a narrator who has 50 books on his page--better yet, bestselling books that are in your genre--you increase your chances of discoverability, because listeners who enjoy that narrator might click on his or her name to see what else he’s done.  A bestselling audiobook is going to attract a lot of attention.  Wouldn’t you like to show up on the same page as The Hunger Games, if you write in a similar genre?

Let’s compare it to the film industry. As an example, look at Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.  There was some controversy that he wasn’t right for the part because he wasn’t tall enough, or whatever.  But let’s face it.  He’s Tom Cruise. He’s an A-lister, and he has box office mojo.  Who cares if he’s not exactly what the author, or readers of the series, had envisioned?  He has incredible screen presence and a giant fan base. He makes headlines. There was a built-in, high-speed engine already in place to drive the promotion and success of that film.

The narrator I chose for THE COLOR OF HEAVEN was perfect for the part, but I took note of the fact that she had narrated some books for Hugh Howey.  His books are not in the same genre as mine, but Mr. Howey is a high profile writer; he has a giant readership, so that was a strike in the narrator’s favor. With any luck, Mr. Howey will read this blog and say hi.

So what’s more important?  The right voice, or the popularity and career wingspan of the narrator?

You, as an author, should consider both of these concepts when you select your narrator.  Certainly, give importance to what you envisioned when you wrote your book, and what your readers might envision--and talent is paramount--but also consider: does the narrator have fans and great reviews on

Remember also that your audiobook audience is not going to be the same as your regular ebook or print readership. There may be some crossover, but for the most part, it’s a whole different animal--at least it is today, in 2013.  Eventually that may change as readers tap into the Whispersync technology, which allows them to switch back and forth between the ebook and the audiobook.  But for now, treat it as new territory.  If you are releasing your first audiobook, it might make sense to choose a narrator with a built-in audience of his or her own, to help bring attention to your book.

Or maybe, if you want to take a risk on an unknown, you might end up discovering the next big star, and that would be pretty awesome, too. Wouldn’t it be cool to be the breakout book for a gifted narrator who goes on to be a superstar in the audiobook world?

At the end of the day, as an independent author, it’s your decision to make, and take pleasure in the fact that you have complete creative control to choose the perfect voice for your book.  Whichever way you decide to go, have fun and enjoy the process.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Confessions of a Lazy Gardener

by Jennie Marsland

I come from a long line of gardeners. For over fifty years, my mother’s family ran a florist business in the Annapolis Valley. My father would have become a farmer if he’d had land or the money to buy any, and he’s grown flowers and vegetables for as long as I can remember. His mother was also a gardener. So, it’s not surprising that as soon as I had what Mary Lennox called “a bit of earth”, I had to have a garden of my own.

When we moved to our house, I set to work with the best of intentions, preparing and planting beds of perennials. I had my summers off in those days, so while Everett was at work I spent my time in the garden. I have the same approach to flowers as I do to food – you can’t have too much of a good thing. I picked up whatever looked pretty at the nurseries – delphiniums, shastas, lilies, lady’s mantle, Jacob’s ladder, hostas and astilbe for the shady parts of the yard – and I was rewarded with a riot of colour spaced out over the growing season.

But a garden – at least the clipped, tidy, well-weeded type of garden – takes more work than I’m willing to do, now that I’m fourteen years older and no longer have summers off. So, our garden has evolved – or devolved – into a bit of a jungle that blends into the woods surrounding our property. Fitting, perhaps, for an unashamed romantic like me.

We have crocuses, because spring isn’t spring without them. One year we had lovely tulips, but marauding deer nixed that the next spring. We’ve stopped planting things the deer will eat, except for hostas – we cover those early in the season. There’s no arguing with the natives. They were here first.

In June, there are irises, the crab-apple and the lilac, followed by pink and white peonies and wild daisies. I love to sit on my front deck on a June evening, breathe in the scents and watch the magic that twilight works on white flowers. Never mind the wild ginger that’s popping up everywhere and the wild strawberries insinuating themselves into the tomato bed. The ginger will get pulled out eventually, and the strawberries are delicious.

And there are the roses. Our property is flanked on one side by a bush rose that has the sweetest, most fragrant, perfectly shaped pale pink blooms – and a very obstreperous disposition. Cut it off and it sends shoots underground to poke up just where you don’t want them. But I forgive it every year when it blossoms. Then there’s my Graham Thomas rose that bloomed one year in November – a single, perfect golden rose in November. It’s the only rose in the yard with a name I remember.

Next come the day-lilies, evening primroses, brown-eyed Susans and Echinacea. We had a riot of brown-eyed Susans for a few years, but they seem to have petered out. Never mind, we’ll get more from Dad in the spring – he always has them sprouting in vegetable beds. And if the primroses are getting too invasive, we can pull them out in the fall. Besides, the purple vetch that entwines with them makes a pleasing colour combination – says the lazy gardener.

The brown-eyed Susans, sedum and dahlias carry us into the fall. Come October or early November, we put things to bed in a haphazard way – everything that has survived over the years is hardy and doesn’t need much coddling. And we look forward to spring, with good intentions. Next year, we’ll keep up with the clipping weeding and fertilize on schedule. But if I’m honest, I know we’ll have a tangled, jungly “secret garden” again.  Because that’s the kind of gardener I am.

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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Making Mischievous Happen

Nikki McIntosh is a chick lit writer, a 2012 Golden Heart finalist and a past-president of RWAC three times over. She is, like most writers, terrible at blogging ... 

New Girl is one of my favourite shows. It has all kinds of funny, great setups, tons of romantic tension, and ... Schmidt!! What's not to like!!??!!

Liz Meriwether, who writes the show for Fox, says that she often writes when she's feeling mischievous. I think my best writing happens when I'm in that kind of state, but sadly, it's a little hard to feel "mischievous" at
Zooey Deschanel and Liz Meriwether.  Probably
laughing at the fact that I'm not published ... 
5:30am when I'm trying to cram in writing before the day-job starts and I can barely put instant oatmeal together, let alone write complete sentences.

So once in awhile I need to Make the Mischievous Happen. This is easier said that done, but when I need some inspiration, I almost always turn to my hero. And he, like the good hero that he is, always reminds me why I love to write.

Current inspiration? Joel Kinnaman. Well, really it's Stephen Holder from The Killing, but since Joel Kinnaman is the actor who plays him I should give him some of the credit.

I know he looks kinda sketchy - and he does play a
meth addict on the show while permanently
outfitted in a hoodie... but still ... serious crush.
To "make mishievous happen", I collect photos of my hero (always an actor - easier to mimic them in my books I find if they're living, breathing things ... with a good set of abs, of course) and peruse the photos when the time is necessary. I've done collaging, Microsoft Movie Maker, Pinterest and have recently set up a Tumblr account (which I'm still trying to figure out how to use properly).

I'm not sure I need all of these timesucks in order to gain inspiration to write ... but unlike fashion, finding inspiration should not be relegated to the 'Less is More' category. When you need help writing, it's definitely 'More is More'.

How do you re-inspire yourself when you're stuck?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Why I started writing: love.

by Tara C MacDonald

The topic of love exists through Romance Writers of America, RomCon, Romantic Times... but where did it start for me?  In a library.

When I was thirteen I used to grab a notebook from my bookbag and after eating my sandwich I would scurry into the library.  At this school I would use the library as my safe haven.  I really didn't like the class I was with and found them to be bullies so the library was safe.  Safe to create an entire world based on my love of the Elfquest comic book.

Elfquest, created by Wendy and Richard Pini, is a comic about a world where elves and wolves lived as a tribe.  You can find them online at

This world had humans that were neolithic and not friendly to elves.  It was a world of two moons.  There was danger all the time from lack of food, impossible environmental changes and then the inside political movements to rid the tribe of its Chief Cutter.  Cutter had a dream.  This involved leading his tribe wolves n' all across their world.  If he hadn't he wouldn't have met Leetah his future Chieftess and Healer.  He wouldn't have solved the mystery of the elves beginnings and ultimately conquered a very great evil elf determined to rid the world of his tribe.

What I love, though, about this world besides the comic art is the acceptance of those who are "different."  I was always "different" and was isolated at a private school where my nearest friend was a 30 minute drive away.  Up until I had my license there wasn't much I could change about my location so I read.  I read a lot.  And Elfquest let me indulge in a world where "different" was acceptable.  It also survived the breakup with my first boyfriend: comics, I mean.  He introduced me to comics and I loved that I could go to Wilkes in Dartmouth and add to my to-be-read pile.  Comic lovers were "different."  Artists were "different."

Then, many years later, when I started my own business I tried to make people's visions come true on video.  And my writing stopped.  Six years later I'm wrapping up the film & video business to finally start my writing career.  I've been at it "nose down" committed for the past year and a half.  Thanks to communities like Brenda Novak's Online Auction and Romance Writers of America my writing is improving.  I fill my days with working out and writing.  I do it because I love it.  Because that girl in the library needed to write out her angst and her need for her world to change.

So I have this notebook still.  I was very daring at the time labeling it "Volume One."  I'm not sure what happened to Volume Two or Three but I can tell you that if I start writing fan fiction it will be based on the Elfquest's world where the Wolfriders live and your imagination can soar.  Elfquest was about love and now I write about love.  What greater force is there in the world than love?   

Photo by Rebecca Clarke

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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Find Your Inspiration Around You

It`s summer, and it`s harder than ever to find time and inspiration to write. I need to work on my story, a science fiction story set in a bubble city on Titan, the largest of Jupiter`s moons. Nothing around me on my trips to the camper or to the beach is helping me. The sound of the kids in the background arguing over a Minecraft game aren`t helping either.

So I need to find my muse. She isn`t hiding, although some people would blame it on that. She`s around. In fact this morning I found her in my fourteen-year-old daughter`s room, in the way she lounged on her bed, scanning her computer. My character has a computer, of sorts, and she needs time to talk to it. How would the computer of the future talk back to her? How much character would it have?

Yesterday my muse was hiding in my car. I was driving home from a family reunion and there she was, hinting at the way my hero needed to be able to get from one bubble city to another, and why. He needs to escape, wants to, at least in the beginning.

Where will she be tomorrow?  I don’t know. My writing this summer has been somewhat disjointed, but these little details are slowly pulling it together. I’m not about to give up my time with my kids. The beach just might be the perfect place to think about a military strike. Somehow. :)

With this in mind, I have a quick exercise I am going to try while I look for my sneaky muse this week. I’m going to lure her out with music. And coffee. And headphones so I don’t have to listen to my kids even while they are sitting in the same room. This week’s music is coming from the theme music from the 50 Greatest Science Fiction Movie Themes, downloaded here -

What are you going to do to find your sumertime writing muse?

Lilly Cain
The Confederacy Treaty Series – Alien Revealed, The Naked Truth, and Undercover Alliance -- from Carina PressUndercover Alliance  released in ebook and audio formats.

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Monday, 12 August 2013

Making the Most of a Writers Conference

A few weeks ago I attended the RomanceWriters of America’s annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I heard a rumor that over five thousand people were registered. (FYI. That means four thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine attendees were women.)

I wanted to make the best use of my time and money, so before I went, I asked my agent if there was anyone he wanted me to connect with.

“Yes,” he said. “Other writers. Get out there and network.”

As most people are aware, writers tend to be introverts. This wasn’t true of everyone at the conference, of course. There were a lot of extroverts roaming the halls, too. But let’s say a conservative one third of attendees were introverts. That’s almost seventeen hundred people forced to socialize and mingle who’d rather be undergoing oral surgery.

Conference sessions are never a problem. No interaction is required. You show up, you listen, you take notes. You can also buy the conference audio tapes if taking notes is a hardship. But my agent was right. One of the main reasons for attending a conference like this is to network with other writers and industry professionals.

Now, I’m not shy. Far from it. But a gathering of more than five people exhausts me. I have no patience for small talk at the best of times, so the thought of networking with five thousand writers, editors, agents and publishers was beyond overwhelming.

I found a solution. I took my sister with me. She’s a complete extrovert. She loves crowds. She loves people in general. She’ll introduce herself to anyone, anywhere. In fact, she’s so outgoing and helpful she once passed on my regards to John Ralston Saul at a formal reception. (He was somewhat perplexed until she explained he didn’t know me yet, but someday he would.)

Call me, John. We need to talk.

Therefore, it was my sister’s job to make sure I mingled at RWA. This was when I discovered the second benefit of bringing her with me. She believes it’s inappropriate to mingle without a drink in your hand. All the photographic evidence we gathered to prove I didn’t just stay in my hotel room includes some sort of alcohol. And of course we all know that alcohol enhances performance.

Am I right?

So we went to the bar, and drinks in hand, we both mingled. She’d sidle up to a conversation, gauge the tone, and then leap right in.

And here comes the pitfall.  Neither one of us knew anyone else at the conference, and she’s not a writer, and by an unfortunate coincidence, Microsoft was also sharing the hotel.
Here’s another odd and interesting fact. While the majority of romance writers tend to be women, software engineers, on the other hand, tend to be men.

It’s my own fault. I never mentioned to my sister that 99 percent of the RWA attendees would be women, and that a group of men might not be our target audience. I didn’t think it needed to be said.

Apparently it did.

On the plus side, Microsoft now knows my opinion on Microsoft Project and the updates they make to their software products in general. I take that as a win. Feel free to thank me.

It’s probably best, however, if you don’t pass on my regards to Bill Gates.

Paula Altenburg has been a member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada since 2000, and served as president, vice-president, and newsletter editor. Paula lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and two sons. Once a manager in the aerospace industry, she now enjoys the freedom of working from home and writing fulltime. Paula currently writes paranormal romance and category romance for Entangled Publishing.Visit her at, follow her on Twitter, or find her on Goodreads.

 Available now from Entangled Bliss

Available now from Entangled Select

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Voice Behind an Audiobook: Julianne MacLean interviews Narrator, Jennifer O’Donnell

by Julianne MacLean

Do you ever wonder what goes into the creation of an audiobook, and how a narrator brings the story to life? 

It was all a bit of a mystery to me, until I became involved in the production of my contemporary novel, THE COLOR OF HEAVEN.  Through ACX, an Amazon platform that matches rights holders with narrators and producers, I discovered Brick Shop Audio as soon as the auditions started pouring in.  All my top choices seemed to come from Brick Shop, and as soon as I heard Jennifer O’Donnell begin to read from my book, I knew immediately that she was the one.  Not only did the quality and tones of her voice “fit” the part of my main character, Sophie Duncan, but Jennifer pulled me into the drama instantly, and I found myself riveted with suspense, as if I had never read the book before. And I wrote it!

So here we are at last, with the audiobook completed and available for pre-order at Audible and Itunes.  (It releases on August 19, 2013.)  My fabulous narrator, Jennifer O’Donnell, has graciously agreed to answer some of my questions about her work on the book.

1. Hi Jennifer!  Please tell us, what is your background, and how did this lead you to audiobook narration? 

I trained and worked in the theater as an actor and a director throughout most of my 20s. By the time I hit 30 I was a bit burnt out on theater and decided to get an ESL teaching certificate and spend a few years teaching English and traveling. While I was living in Prague, I randomly befriended two guys who ran a film production company. Their company got hired to produce an adult internet video game and they needed a native English speaker to voice the female part. They asked me. I was hesitant because I had never done any voice over work in my life. Plus, the project was racy and I had a crush on one of the producers and was nervous about moaning and saying the sexy dialogue in front of him. So I turned them down. They held auditions but claimed they couldn't find a better fit. (The pay was low!) After a bit more coercing, I agreed to do it.

It turned out to be a blast. There was something limitless about acting without physical boundaries; just your breath, voice and imagination. And I think I did a pretty good job because the producer I had a crush on asked me out a few days after we finished the project!

When I got back to New York a few years later, I was in The Strand and ran into a friend who I had done summer stock with in the late 90's. He was working as a director for Recorded Books which is one of the original audiobook production studios. He mentioned they were in need of directors. At this point in my life I'd never even heard an audiobook but I had directed several plays and two short films. I went home and spent the weekend downloading and listening to books on Audible. I applied and was hired.

During my years directing at Recorded Books I had the good fortune to listen to and learn from some of the most incredibly talented narrators in the business -Jenny Ikeda, Therese Plummer, Christina Moore, Nicole Poole- to name a few. While working for Recorded Books two seasoned colleagues of mine decided to start their own studio. They were aware of my acting background and asked me to audition as a narrator for them. I started auditioning and booking work as a narrator through Brick Shop Audio Inc.

A little less than a year later I have voiced 13 books. The Color of Heaven makes 14. I work with a coach (an amazing man named Paul Ruben) because I want to keep growing and improving with each project. I've also done a few commercial spots for radio.

2. What do you look for when considering an audition? Are there certain types of stories or characters that attract you, and is that different from what you like to read for pleasure?

I gravitate toward stories that deal with complicated family dynamics, love, loss and hope. I think that is why I enjoyed working on The Color of Heaven so much. It incorporates all of those elements and explores them beautifully.

I also love to read biographies and books on psychology and social science. However, I rarely get hired to narrate those types of books. I guess I don't sound smart enough!

One of the many great things about being a narrator is that you are sometimes forced to explore new genres. I recently narrated the second, third and fourth book of the Molly Fyde science fiction series written by Hugh Howey. I think of myself as someone who doesn't like science fiction but I adored these books. They are full of wonderful characters and incredible story lines.

3.  How much time do you spend reading the book or thinking about the characters before you go into the studio?  Do you rehearse, and if so, what is that process?

I come from a theatre background where you have three weeks to rehearse one part with a director. You have the time to test impulses and ideas and make changes accordingly. With an audiobook you are lucky if you have two weeks before you go into the studio to perform multiple parts of both genders. You are usually dealing with 250 plus pages of material without outside input. I love the rehearsal process so it was an adjustment for me when I started voicing books.

My process varies but generally I read the book once thru and break the text into scenes so I remember the shape and arc of the story. I look to the text for direction and character development. I make notes about character voices and try to model the voice after someone I know or a celebrity. I try to let their essence and cadence influence my imagination resisting the urge to do an impression. I practice bits of dialogue out loud until I feel I have a hold on who they are and what they sound like. I'll look up the pronunciation of words I am unsure of and practice a dialect if there is one. The night before I go into the studio, I reread the section I will be working on the next day so it's fresh in my mind. When I get into the studio my goal is to trust the prep work and just jump into the story.

4. How many pages do you record before taking a break, or having to do a retake?

This one is tricky for me (and my director). I stop a lot! I often want to redo a section or to try a different take. I tend to act on impulse and often need toning down. When I get swept up in a story I have a nasty habit of omitting or changing words which will always result in a retake as it is necessary that audiobooks are word perfect. The upshot is I rarely need or want a break. When I am in the booth I can work for 6 hours at a stretch. I enjoy the flow.

5.  Do you listen to your audiobook narrations after they are finished?

I didn't at first. It is hard for me to listen to myself because I hear all the things I could have done differently or better. However, I do now because it is a good tool to use to improve my work. It is good to know what the final product sounds like for the listener.

Thank you for answering all my questions, Jennifer, and for providing such a moving performance in the narration of my book.

So tell me readers!  Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks?  And if you have any questions, please post them.  I will do my best to answer them.

You can find Julianne online here:

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Schooners on the River

by Heidi Hamburg

The schooners are back on the river. The Nova Scotia Schooner Association was formed in 1961 to help preserve these graceful craft. This week about fifteen schooners will race every day on the LaHave River, and out among the LaHave Islands at its mouth. They sailed out from Riverport on the fourth to the sixth. From the seventh to the tenth they will operate from the LaHave River Yacht Club.

These are recreational boats, not the huge cargo vessels that used to fill the upper tidal reaches of the LaHave from March to November. Those ships could go anywhere in the world, and for a hundred years they often did.

From Bridgewater they mostly hauled our lumber and bales of dried salt fish, heading south, ending up in the Caribbean to fill up again with sugar, molasses and rum to bring back home to Nova Scotia.

Nearby Lunenburg had its fleet of salt bankers, heading out to the Grand Banks for weeks at a time to fish for cod. We still have our Bluenose II, a beautiful replica, but I doubt a barrel of molasses or a cod fish, live or salted, has ever rested in her hold.

So it does my heart good to see schooner sails on the river again, skimming over the salt water like dipping terns, even if these are the small grandchildren of the great ones.

Heidi Hamburg

Monday, 5 August 2013

Home Office

by Cathryn Fox

The last time I was here I promised I’d show you some pictures from my writing cave.  Well here they are!  I hope you enjoy!


This first one is, obviously, of my desk.  I have a little picture on the wall that says, Real love stories never have endings...Hubby gave it to me for Christmas last year and I love it.  Also on my desk you will find a very cool red shoe tape dispenser given to me by the awesome Pam Callow, and a pink and blue switch pitch toy given to me by my daughter, that keeps me occupied when I’m trying to figure out a plot problem.

This is my bookshelf overflowith...and below I have lots of cabinets to store/hide all my papers, junk etc!

This is where I sit and read, and my camel watches over my shoulder.  On my little table I have an M&M dispenser.  Yeah, love M&M’s.  To the right I have an electric fireplace which I like to light in the winter just for ambiance!   And of course,  I have a doggy bed for my big lab. 

Above my birdhouse is a set of love birds facing each other.  This is a symbol of love, and should be found in every romance writer’s office! 
So that’s it, that’s where I spend a good eight hours of my day.  I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Visit Cathryn online Romance with heat and heart Young Adult Romance

Friday, 2 August 2013

5 on Friday - Set 182

Welcome to a long-running feature in which I've taken part for three years over on my own blog -- the 5 on Friday music set.

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of tunes -- whatever takes your fancy -- for his musical meme.

For this week's set, I'd like to introduce you to the characters from my current work in progress, the second book in my dark fantasy Dragonsfyre series.

1 - Death is the Road to Awe -- composed by Clint Mansell

The opening piece belongs to Xaviero, Captain of the Guard to Lady Elysande

2 - Pie Jesu -- composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber -- sung by Anna Netrebko

Although this is a piece of sacred music addressed to the God of our world, the sentiment of the music and words belong to the main female character of my book, Lady Elysande

3 - Olim lacus colueram, Carmina Burana -- composed by Carl Orff

This piece belongs to Scorpius, former falconer's apprentice, now bodyguard to Lord Thibault

4 - Overture, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme -- composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully

This piece belongs to Lord Thibault, second son of the Duke of Pruzhnino, cousin to Lady Elysande, master to Scorpius

5 - Etudes -- composed by Knudage Riisager

This piece belongs to the uneasy relationship between the Eighth Dominion and the dragons that threaten the land.

Photo by Helen Tansey

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