Category Archives: Audiobooks

Christopher Plummer Narrates Alice in Wonderland

A friend who is active in the Lewis Carroll Society of North America honored the memory of the late Christopher Plummer by recommending his masterful narration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I’m very glad she did!

Plummer’s narration is brilliant. He gives each character a fresh new voice and brings out each personality to perfection. Even as well as I know the story, he had me laughing out loud. Listening to his performance (and it IS a performance, not merely a reading) is an entirely different (and better) experience than reading the books.

Given the ways in which my own Waterspell fantasy novels connect with the Alice books, I am particularly delighted to discover the Plummer narration and to recommend it to anyone who loves a good story well told. You’ll enjoy listening to a consummate professional lend his remarkable talents to Alice in Wonderland.

By the way, I couldn’t find the Plummer narration at Audible. I downloaded my copy from Barnes & Noble Nook Audiobooks.

 

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Fun With DIY Videos at Biteable

A writer friend recently posted a book trailer she’d made with the Animoto video builder. I loved it except for the Animoto watermark that was displayed on it.

Searching for an affordable, flexible, easy-to-use video maker for my own books, I explored Powtoon and Animaker as well as Animoto. With these, it seemed that the only way to avoid the company’s watermark and to outright own my handmade videos was to subscribe for a full year. Shorter, more affordable subscription terms were not offered.

Then I found Biteable. It’s definitely the one for me. You can subscribe monthly instead of for a year, and every video you make while subscribed is yours to download and keep forever. Biteable’s templates are so easy to use, and their library of stock footage is so comprehensive, covering every need, you can create a great many videos in a month, making this service by far the most cost-effective of any that I looked at.

Another great advantage with Biteable is that you are allowed to use the videos you make for commercial purposes, “something that other video editors don’t allow,” notes Brightspark. I can’t imagine why any writer would pay to make videos that they are not then legally allowed to use for the commercial purpose of promoting their work. That feature alone raises Biteable far above the pack.

Waterspell Book 1 detail

Waterspell Book 1 video intro scene

Brightspark claims that voiceover isn’t available at Biteable. That is incorrect. After I made a very cool (if I say so myself) book trailer for my Waterspell fantasy novels, I emailed the video to my audiobook narrator. He recorded a voiceover in an MP3 file, which I then uploaded to Biteable and synced with the video. Syncing the audio was simple, since Biteable’s video-editor allows lengthening or shortening “scenes” in half-second increments. It required only a few adjustments to the length of each scene to perfectly match the narration with the video.

For authors seeking an affordable, easy-to-use online video-maker for creating book trailers, I highly recommend Biteable. You can subscribe for just one month if you like, and every video you make and download during that time will be yours to keep and use whenever and wherever you wish, unrestricted and watermark-free. Check it out: Biteable.com

 

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Singing the Social Media Blues

Waterspell on Goodreads


Was there ever an attempt at “social media” that turned out more difficult to use or clunkier than Goodreads? I set up an author profile at Goodreads years ago, but soon abandoned it because it’s so maddeningly difficult to beat into submission. Every update requires multiple attempts to make the edits “stick.” I thought I never WOULD manage to upload the new Waterspell covers and force the interface to show those as the default covers.

I wonder how useful Goodreads actually is to authors like me, who are trying every way we can to reach a wider audience. Cutting through the static is enormously difficult.

With new audiobook editions of my fantasy novels in the works, however, I’m once again struggling with such things as a Facebook page. “Clunky” isn’t a strong enough word for THAT particular platform—it’s dang near impossible to use, and Facebook’s algorithms ensure that few people will see it. I’ve now done my utmost to update my author profile at Goodreads. I’m trying to do something with LinkedIn, though I’m not sure it’s particularly suited to my needs. I’m not looking for a job. Twitter? Yech. I quit Twitter years ago and have no intention of going back.

What’s next? Instagram? A YouTube channel? Are any of them worth the effort they require? Are they worth the time they take away from writing and editing? I don’t know.

What I do know is that word-of-mouth is the only truly effective way of spreading the word about books that are worth reading. Fingers crossed that the soon-to-be-released audiobooks will catch on, the forthcoming fourth book will get some attention, and Waterspell will finally reach its intended audience. Given the glowing-ness of the reviews the trilogy got, I live in hope that more of my potential readers will find my work. I know they’re out there.

My eternal gratitude to everyone who has read the trilogy and left reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, and book blogs. I love you all, dear readers.

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When Characters Speak

I’m having a great time working with a skilled, extraordinarily talented professional narrator to turn the first three books of Waterspell into audiobooks. The way the narrator has moved into the body of my wysard is uncanny. The man sounds exactly like the voice I heard in my head during all the years I devoted to writing Books 1 through 3. I look forward with eager anticipation to each newly recorded chapter the narrator sends me. He’s finished Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock and is approaching the one-third mark of Book 2: The Wysard. We plan to release both audiobooks together or within about a month of each other, since Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger and I believe listeners will want to move immediately into Book 2.

For me, an unexpected side benefit of hearing my characters’ voices come alive in the real world, is the inspiration this experience has provided to finally get me writing again. After my husband’s sudden death in 2012, I had no impulse to write. People would ask about a possible Book 4, and all I could tell them was that Life with a capital L had kicked me hard, and I wasn’t writing. Then came 2016, and the shock of discovering that I wasn’t living in the country I thought I was living in. The country of my birth was, in fact, a breeding ground for the absolute worst in human nature.

Therefore, after spending four years trying to patch together my life, I found myself obliged to join the Resistance and spend the next four years attempting to save the soul of my nation.

Then came 2020 and Covid-19, and a months-long self-isolation that has been a godsend for me. I hate the pain, the loss, the suffering that this virus has heaped on other people’s heads. I’m a walking example of white privilege: I get to stay home, safely isolated out in the country, ordering stuff for delivery to my gate and going into town only to pick up groceries and my mail. My pandemic experience has been 180 degrees from the devastation that others have experienced.

After years of no motivation followed by years of exhausting nonstop effort to resist the tide of fascism, I suddenly found myself with both the time and the desire to create something of my own again. Almost immediately upon entering my bubble of self-isolation, I hired my audiobook narrator. After six or seven weeks of listening to his breathtakingly good interpretations of my characters and their story, I placed my fingers upon the keyboard and started pounding out Book 4.

I started Draft One on May 6, and completed Draft Two on September 6. Record time for me (Books 1–3 took me 16 years to write and publish).

The second draft will need to sit for a couple of weeks. I do still have obligations to my state and my nation—I’m supporting candidates and contributing to Get Out the Vote efforts. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks engaged in that effort.

But then I’ll be looking through my notes again, and settling down for a close reread and re-edit of Draft Two. I’m tentatively planning a Summer 2021 release date of the Book 4 ebook, to coincide (I hope) with the release of the Waterspell Book 3 audiobook.

How good it is to be writing again. Strange, how inspiration will arrive unexpectedly, and opportunities may arise from cataclysm.

 

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Having Fun Again

How great it is to read that Far Side creator Gary Larson has published his first new cartoons in 25 years, and he’s sort of coming out of retirement – though with no deadlines. Larson said he is having fun, “exploring, experimenting, and trying stuff” – without the pressure of daily deadlines.

“So here goes,” he wrote. “I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got this cool gizmo [a digital tablet], and I’ve got no deadlines. And – to borrow from Sherlock Holmes – the game is afoot.”

While I’m not in the same league as Gary Larson, I completely identify with the delight he’s taking in all the creative potential contained in new technology. He wrote: “I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there – a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run …”

I feel the same way about my Waterspell books. I began writing the story in 1996. Created my first website for it in 2000, using what was then a modern app called Web Express. I attended writers conferences and pitched my books to various editors who invited me to submit the manuscript. Some of them never gave me the courtesy of any reply, afterward. Several did reply, but every one of them rejected it with some version of: “Definitely captures interest, it’s beautifully written, it’s very cinematographic” … but, “The first book of the series must be a standalone. We won’t commit to publishing all three books of a trilogy.”

In other words: Every major publisher who looked at it wanted to publish only the first book, and if it wasn’t immediately as profitable for them as the Harry Potter series, they’d kick me to the curb. I’d be on my own to publish Books 2 and 3.

That being the case, I decided my only rational response was to publish all three books on my own. How fortunate for me that I went the indie route! Have I made any money? Nope. My royalties have not come anywhere near covering the time and effort I’ve put into these books. But I’ve retained control, which has me in a great position to enjoy the benefits of new technology. Like Gary Larson, I’m having fun exploring modern tech’s creative potential, while freeing myself from deadline pressures.

The creative spark for my current project began in December 2019, when my sister-in-law gave me an Audible audiobook gift membership. I immediately downloaded The Lord of the Rings, the unabridged edition narrated by Rob Inglis.

My god! What a masterpiece. Inglis’ narration is astounding. He speaks Elvish, Dwarvish, and Orkish. He sings the songs. He correctly pronounces unpronounceable words. I found the whole audiobook experience to be far superior to rereading the books myself, and even better than the movies. The audiobooks combine the best of both: the dramatization of movies, with the completeness of  books.

My readers had been encouraging me to produce audiobooks of the Waterspell series, but I thought the cost would be prohibitive. After so immensely enjoying The Lord of the Rings, however, I decided to look into it.

And that’s when I discovered the creative potential of new technology.

It turns out that Audible has this nifty “Audiobook Creation Exchange” (ACX) by which writers and narrators can find each other, and work together easily and affordably. I’ve been astonished by how simple it was to post an excerpt, invite auditions, and immediately find the world’s most perfect narrator.

(More about him in a later post. We’re still working on Book 1. When we’re nearing the end of Book 2 and the books are set for release on Audible, I’ll be launching a bragging campaign about the extraordinarily talented narrator I found through ACX.)

My delight with new technology extends also to the ease of getting book covers designed these days. Even in 2011, when Waterspell Book 1 was initially published, getting decent covers proved difficult. I was never satisfied with the covers on the first editions, and I’ve been thrilled to discover that things have evolved to the point where writers can easily connect with talented graphic designers who’ll create good-looking covers using stock images. The new covers, created by Vila Design, are vastly more appealing than the books’ first-edition covers.

And like Gary Larson, I’m now doing this work for fun. I’ve got my coffee. I’ve got no deadlines to meet except those I set for myself. I’ve got no one to please but myself. No editor’s opinion counts with me now, for “Book 1 must stand alone” has been established as the fallacy that it is. Readers and reviewers have described the Book 1 cliffhanger-ending as “wonderful” and the series structure as “getting bigger and bigger.” I always knew that I knew what I was doing.

Having a new collaborator, however, in the person of the professional narrator who’s hard at work on the audiobooks, has sparked my creativity in an unexpected way. Hearing the narrator give each of my characters a distinctive voice has made the entire story seem new to me again. I swear the man has become Lord Verek — he voices the wysard so powerfully, and so close to the voice that I’ve heard in my head for years, that it’s simply uncanny. You just wait ’til you hear him.

Working with the narrator has proven to be such an inspiration, I actually cranked out the long-neglected Book 4 in a mere two months: May 6 to July 6. It’s a roughish first draft, it’ll need fleshing out — particularly as I work through the existing trilogy with the narrator, and recall details that I’ve forgotten. But it’s a solid start, and by this time in 2021, I expect to be publishing Book 4, which ties together some of those threads (not really loose ends) that remained from the first three books.

That’s how I’ve been spending the 2020 coronavirus lockdown: working with an excellent audiobook narrator, working with a talented cover designer, and writing a fourth novel. Like Gary Larson, I’ve been freed by the creative potential of all this new technology. It’s making my life fun again, after several dark years of grief, and feeling like I’d never write another word of fiction.

I wasn’t actually sure I still could write fiction. But I’ve shown myself that I can. And I’ve got my sister-in-law and other family members, my narrator colleague, my graphic-design colleague, Audible, ACX, Rob Inglis, and all my lovely and supportive readers to thank for pulling me out of my personal black hole and getting me creating again. Love you all! ♥

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

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Filed under Audiobooks, Books and Readers, Coronavirus, Cover Design, On Writing, Waterspell fantasy trilogy, Writers