Category Archives: How We Write; a series of essays by guest authors

Sea Trials (or, How NOT to sail around the world)

Wendy Hinman is an adventurer, speaker and the award-winning author of two books, Tightwads on the Loose and Sea Trials; Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire.

Tightwads on the Loose is a travel adventure book about the seven-year, 34,000-mile voyage the author embarked on with her husband aboard a 31-foot sailboat, performing a wide range of shipboard duties worthy of both “Wonder Woman and Suzy Homemaker,” as Wendy describes it. Tightwads on the Loose was selected for the literature program for Western Washington University, won the Journey Award for best true life adventure story and was selected as a top travel book for women.

Her latest release, Sea Trials, is the story of the Wilcox family who set off to sail around the world in four years. Thirteen months into their voyage they are shipwrecked on a coral reef, with surf tearing a huge hole into the side of their boat. With years invested in saving money, preparing the boat, and learning to navigate by the stars, parents Chuck and Dawn refuse to give up. Fourteen-year-old Garth is determined to continue, while eleven-year-old Linda never wanted to go in the first place. To triumph, they must rebuild their boat on a remote Pacific island. Damage sustained on the reef and a lack of resources haunt them the rest of the way around the world as they face wild weather, pirates, gun boats, mines and thieves, scurvy and starvation in a trial that tests them to their limits.

When asked about her writing process Hinman says,

“Always an avid reader, I secretly longed to write books one day, but no one in my family was a writer nor did we know any professional writers personally.  After years in international business, during the dot com boom I shifted into working as a technical writer, a web content manager, and an online magazine editor, as we prepared for an offshore voyage. During our 7-years of traveling, I loved sharing our adventures on a popular blog and through our growing email list. Upon our return, readers encouraged me to put my stories into a book. They loved my humor – an essential ingredient when traveling aboard a 31-foot boat. Marrying my love of sailing and adventure with my love of writing seemed a natural place to start writing books and has kept the voyage alive for me while we build a boat and prepare for another offshore adventure.

After I finished writing Tightwads on the Loose, I was ready for another challenge.  Over the years since I met my husband I’d been hearing snippets of the epic voyage he had taken with his family around the world and their shipwreck when he was fourteen. Family dinners had been filled with do you remember whens: 

“Do you remember the time when gunboats forced us to sail across mines in the Red Sea?… the time when our pilot Abdul got lost in the Suez Canal?… when the boat starting sinking in Israel? mom tried to poison us? we ran out of food and nearly starved?

Such tantalizing anecdotes intrigued me. I got possession of the famous letters the family had mailed home. Hundreds of them. Inside them was more detail than any writer could hope for.  Too much, sometimes. But in combing through them I fleshed out the outline of the story that I’d developed in my mind of their voyage. I asked a lot of questions of the family members and took copious notes.  I consulted guide books and sailing directions, maps, and the ship’s log to ferret out the details. I read the newspaper articles, listened to the interviews with the family. And started writing.  And double checking details with the ones who had lived through it. With a rough draft completed, I had them read every word to check for inaccuracies or things that didn’t seem true to their experience.  It was a family bonding experience.

What I uncovered was such a dramatic story, that I could hardly believe anyone had truly lived through it.  Especially people I knew.  The challenges they overcame astound me. And that was AFTER surviving a shipwreck.

I’m excited to share these stories and I’m thrilled at how well-received they’ve been.”

For more about Wendy Hinman’s adventures, writing, and speaking engagements, please see her author’s website and her Amazon Author page.

 

 

 

 

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The Prodigal’s homecoming – Keogh’s voyage

Self-Publishing: What used to be the last resort of an amateur writer is becoming Plan A for many professional authors wanting more control over their creations — and more revenue from their sales.  For a growing number of authors it’s at least Plan B. That is, we initially published with a traditional or independent press but soon felt we could do a better job ourselves, selling the book for less (and keeping all of the revenue instead of the standard ten to fifteen percent). Of course there are production and marketing costs — which are large — but fully under our own control. Authors as publishers — it’s becoming the new norm.

One such author is S.K. Keogh who is pleased to announce The Prodigal, book one of The Jack Mallory Chronicles, has recently been re-released — this time with Leighlin House Publishing, an imprint she owns and operates. Book two, The Alliance, and  Book three, The Fortune, are already sailing under the Leighlin House banner. The fleet is together now, with Keogh at the helm.

If you’re new to S.K. Keogh’s historical fiction, the stories are realistic adventures set in Colonial America during the age of piracy. Rousing good reads, they feature the anti-hero protagonist Jack Mallory — along with other compelling and complex characters, both male and female.

Susan (S.K.) and I have long been supportive of each other’s work. I asked her to share some of her thoughts and experiences on writing and publishing with us, in conjunction with the news of Prodigal’s re-release.

 

WHEN YOUR [BOOK] CHILD RETURNS HOME

S.K. Keogh

I’m sure my writing journey is similar to that of other writers of my generation (I’m 52). Growing up, I was an avid reader, and that interest naturally morphed into a desire to write my own stories. First young adult, then Westerns, then contemporary, now historical. None of my early works ever made it to the world of publishing, of course.

Back then submitting a novel to publishers meant writing query letters (the physical kind you sent through the U.S. mail, not the electronic kind) to the myriad of publishing houses, most in New York City, after scouring the thick Writers Market listings for someone interested in your genre. (Nowadays you can’t even query a New York publisher without an agent to do it for you.) Then, if you were lucky, an editor would request to see your manuscript, and you’d cram that ream of paper into a box, say a prayer, and mail it through the U.S. postal service.

Much has changed since those days, and I’m not just referring to the process of querying. Now the publishing industry has shrunk to three options for today’s writers: get an agent who can query the handful of big publishers (who won’t invest much time or money into you because you are an unknown); directly query small publishing houses (who have even less money for promotions than the big houses); or self-published.

In 2012, my historical action/adventure novel, The Prodigal, was published through a small press. I won’t go into all the gory details, but let me just say it wasn’t what I expected. My displeasure grew over the years, so I decided to start proceedings to reacquire my rights to the novel. I’m happy to say, I succeeded and have just re-released The Prodigal under my own imprint.

Yep, independently published, just like the two novels that follow The Prodigal — The Alliance and The Fortune.

To me, with a lesser-read genre like nautical fiction written by a relative unknown, independent publishing is a viable option. Small publishers take most of your money and give you very little in return. You might as well keep your rights, publish your work with the cover and content you want, work your tail off to promote it (which is what you would do even with a small press), and collect the majority of the profit yourself. Why shouldn’t you? You’re the one who did all the work. Research is costly. Promoting can be costly. Writing is not easy. And neither is publishing.

But that book is your baby, your blood, sweat, and tears. And sometimes it’s better to keep it at home (self-publish) then let it go out into the wide, wild world of indifferent publishing houses. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know I’m happy that my baby came home.

The Prodigal

A story of relentless pursuit, betrayal, and revenge:

As a young boy Jack Mallory knows horror and desolation when James Logan and his pirates murder his father and abduct his mother. Falsely accused of piracy himself, Jack is thrown into jail. He survives seven years in London’s notorious Newgate prison and emerges a hardened man seeking revenge.
His obsession with finding his mother’s kidnapper drives him to the West Indies where he becomes entangled with a fiery young woman named Maria Cordero. With a score of her own to settle with James Logan, she disguises her gender and blackmails Jack into taking her aboard his pirate brig, Prodigal, in his desperate search for Logan. Their tumultuous relationship simmers while Jack formulates a daring plan to rescue his mother and exact revenge upon Logan for destroying his family. But Logan has no intentions of losing what he now treasures more than life itself—Jack’s mother, Ella.

 

Find out more about the Jack Mallory trilogy and forthcoming works on S.K. Keogh’s author website and on Goodreads. Follow her on Facebook and as @JackMallory on Twitter.

 

 

 

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Stretching Silver Through Blue Haze

Stretching Silver Through Blue Haze

— a marriage of poetry & visual art

 

Stretching Silver through Blue Haze is a collection of 38 poems by Lawrence Gregory and 21 photographs by Birgit Gutsche, of Taos, New Mexico.

82 pages, 21 photographs softbound; Shanti Arts, 2017

 

I was first introduced to (and became enamored of) Lawrence Gregory’s poems in Steamboat Springs Colorado, where I heard him read Hutterite Strawberries (included in the book), a sensual recollection of an incident one summer in Montana. The newly released book was my first introduction to Birgit Gutsche’s award-winning art — her elemental imagery ranges from beautifully and elegantly stark to playful.

The publication might be classified as an illustrated poetry book but is perhaps better described as a moving juxtaposition of poems and images, a metaphorical dance of observations, a conversation of memories between lovers who have long known each other.

For me, Stretching Silver Through Blue Haze is a way of seeing, of observing, of remembering. Noticing is all that really mattered, Lawrence writes in the poem This November Day (included).  His writing reveal an inner tension, a coupling of desire and regret, a landscape of longing.

I asked Lawrence and Birgit to tell me more about what inspired this book and how their collaborative process worked, as poet and photographer, as partners, as husband and wife.

Lawrence responds:

I didn’t write a single poem to respond to or elaborate on a photo that Birgit had taken. But as I went through the process of choosing poems (and re-working most all of them to one degree or another) I sometimes flashed on one of her images. Indeed, the more I worked on the collection, the more I’d flash on her photos. This was partly to do the fact that Birgit and I were reviewing her portfolio a lot at this time as she worked on her website; submitted work to publications; applied for admission to galleries; etc. She was getting herself established in the Taos art scene at the same time I began the book project. So, there was a lot of that energy flowing in the household ethers.

So, that was part of it. But perhaps a more significant factor leading to the collaboration, is the fact that so many of the poems came out of experiences the two of us shared…experiences I noted in journals and that she recorded with her camera. I think it’s totally understandable that so many of her photos seem to “fit” with the poems. It may, indeed, be serendipity. But I’ve a hunch there’s more to it. We’re both expressing a certain soulful/visceral response to experiences we shared. Shared experience but processed individually.

I also need to mention many of the poems in this collection are a direct reflection of Birgit as my muse. Yeah, she’s definitely my muse. One of them, anyway.

At some point in the process I asked Birgit if she’d be willing to let me use some of her photos; she wholeheartedly agreed. I had some specific images in mind for certain poems; for others, I asked her to suggest a few possibilities . . .There were, of course, quite a few poems I did not want associated with a photograph. Also, there were a couple that I felt begged for an image that did not exist. So, I read those poems to Birgit and asked if she’d be willing to go out and make an image that fit. What she came back with was stunning.

What I think is fascinating about this book is the way it illustrates the fact that Birgit tends to think and communicate pictorially. She reveals her soul — dare I use that term in this day and age? — in her images. At the same time, her photographs invite the viewer to consider something deeply personal. I, on the other hand, am a verbal communicator — with a lot of silence thrown into the mix. We have a strong relationship but we definitely encounter communication difficulties at times. Sparks do fly!  I find the whole thing, our life journey together — our travels, our marriage, this book — to be such a rewarding endeavor. Incredibly strenuous, too!  It’s really rather miraculous, actually.

Lawrence, can you tell me more about your writing process?

Definitely solitary. Messy as hell. For me, a poem can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months. Actually, all the poems in the book took my entire life to write. If we are writing honestly, soulfully — there’s that word again — we must bring to the writing desk all of who we are . . . else, why even bother? And who we are is all we have met in life.

It’s remarkable how seldom I sit down with the idea that I am going to write a poem about a specific idea. In fact, I’m not sure that has ever happened. Instead, I’ll sometimes just start jotting down (seemingly) random thoughts, or let myself go into a stream of consciousness riff until something starts to take form. And then I’ll play with that for a while. Sometimes I’ll wake in the middle of the night hearing a (seemingly) random phrase or sentence — often it seems nonsensical — which I’ll scribble down in a small notebook I keep on the bedside table. And then at some point, I’ll sit down at my desk and “write to it.” Maybe the line ends up being the first line of the finished poem (rare). Often, I’m convinced it will be the last line (that, too, rarely turns out to be the case.). Usually, it ends up living somewhere in the middle. And then there are the occasions when the initial line, the words that sparked the flame, vaporize . . . but that’s okay because they served a crucial purpose as a prompt. One thing is certain, as cliche as it sounds, once I’m in that writing zone the poem does indeed take on a life of its own. And I’ve gotta say, sometimes I’m not at all comfortable with what is coming. It can be hard to lean into that discomfort, but it’s a necessary part of my process. It’s both an engagement with anxiety and a letting go of fear . . . fear on a couple of different levels.

I employ the structure of poetry because it helps in the distillation process. So much of my writing is about coming to terms with something: a complex event; an unsettled state of being; or asking a question for which I have no answer. It can be hard to get to the essence of thoughts, feelings, doubts. But, somehow I can get there — or at least get closer — by creating a boundary of sorts, a vessel to help contain the energy lest it dissipate or overwhelm. That’s the value of utilizing specific poetic forms, like a sonnet, a haiku, and so on. Strange as it may sound, that requisite discipline often helps me accept and even celebrate the uncertainty, insecurity and equivocal nature of everything.

The process can be maddening. Tapping out the rhythm. Counting beats, arranging stressed and unstressed syllables. Feeling the rhythm. Choosing one word over another can be an agonizing process. Do I use a comma here, or allow a line break to serve that purpose? Is that really what I mean? Listening. Listening. Listening. Lots of reading out loud too. That’s so incredibly important for my process: reading what I write out loud . . .

I keep a journal rather religiously . . . have done so for 30 years. A daily practice from which I occasionally mine a nugget or two. But usually those pages are used to clear out the dross; jettison a bunch of bullshit insecurity, righteous indignation, etc . . . the kind of stuff so many people post up on Facebook or spew forth in a Twitter-storm these days. I write all that stuff down in my journals . . . most of which I’ve burned.

Early in the process of writing a poem, I’m restless. I’ll take frequent breaks to go outside . . . cut wood; shovel snow; walk; tinker with one thing or another.  Less frequently I’ll sit at my desk staring out the window for hours. I realize now, after years of doing this, that on those evenings when I say to Birgit in frustration that I didn’t get a single thing written, that I wasted the entire f^*k*^g day at my desk . . . those turn out to be necessary days to my process. Don’t ask me why. But I know it’s so. I do all the initial work with a number 2 pencil and yellow legal pad. Once I feel like I’m getting close — like the poem is getting close — I’ll sit down at my computer and “finish it.” At that stage, I’ll sometimes sit at my desk for hours and hours . . . I’m not so restless then. Eventually, I print off the finished draft and read it out loud again. And always I find the first printed version is not finished. But eventually, it’s finished. Abandoned, actually.

Birgit is always the first person to see a “finished” draft. To be specific, she hears it . . . I always read it to her. I can tell instantly what she thinks; how she feels about it. And from time to time she mentions something that doesn’t feel quite right. And it’s remarkable how often the thing she mentions is the thing I wasn’t quite comfortable with!

I next send the draft to my son. (Not always, but almost) You know he’s an incredibly talented artist, but he’s also a terrific writer…better than I am. He is wonderfully supportive, but he won’t hesitate to tell me what he thinks. Interestingly, he rarely offers suggestions about craft. Instead, he will not hesitate to call me out on the premise. He’s sometimes incredulous that I feel a certain way or that I have suggested something or other. But that’s fine with me. It’s healthy, in fact. Healthy for my work; healthy for the relationship he and I have.

Linda: Your writing and Birgit’s photography evoke a strong sense of place. How important is geography to your process?

Lawrence: PLACE is crucial, for me at least. For Birgit, not so much. (I think she’d be fine with me saying that.) I wither in an urban environment. I slip into a depressive funk the moment I arrive in the midst of traffic-choked “Anywhere USA” with all the fast food restaurants, big box franchises, sirens, billboards, etc. Nature and open space and silence are essential to my process, to my life. I love the fact that we live in a place without a Starbucks, Burger King, Petsmart, Best Buy, etc.

Linda: Birgit, can you tell me something of your artistic process? How much is “eye” and “soul” and how much is craft?

Birgit: Although I used (B & W) film in my very early years, I ​create digital photography now. The principles of film photography still support my technical approach. The symmetry and proportion of a subject or scene speaks to how an image is eventually composed. Why I might choose one subject over another is personal and often draws upon history, memories, and a sense of irony.
Explaining (my) creative process might be as challenging as describing the circular cycle of creative life and, thereby brings to light another question yet — would I be at all drawn to the same images if not for our specific relationship? Much of what I “see” informs our conversations and indeed the result of much of our conversation actually presents to me images in my environment. Arguably, some I would not otherwise have seen. Lawrence is one of the most well read academics I have known. He has added layers of moral, spiritual, political, economic and social texture to my own thought processes and hence, has affected what I see through a lens. Although there has rarely been a direct intention to facilitate or even imbue the other’s artistic medium, our ethers tend to both collide and intermingle.
 
Linda: Beautifully said Birgit, and worth pondering further: the effect of specific close relationships on our writing and our art. Which photographers do you credit as influences?

Birgit: Sam Abell was my first and most influential artist of photography. His life work of creating thought provoking images remains an inspiration today. Other, but by no means all, notable photographers and spanning a great many photographic statements are Cig Harvey, Fred Herzog, Vivian Maier, Dorothea Lange, Platon, S​e​bastiao Salgado.

 

Linda: To see more of Birgit’s work and for upcoming and past exhibits, please visit her website  www.birgitgutsche.com

Lawrence’s first reading of Stretching Silver Through Blue Haze will be in Taos, New Mexico at the Historic Taos Inn (Friday May 26, 4:30-6:00 pm) where Birgit’s photography is on exhibit.

 

 

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Strong Female Protags Wearin’ the Pink

The days of the stereotypical helpless heroine of the romantic Gothic novel are long-gone — well, except for characters like the passive, doe-eyed Bella Swan who succumbs to the sexy vampire Edward in Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight…  OK, so maybe those days are not long-gone; the helpless heroine waiting for a man to save her (or suck the life out of her) continues to be a pervasive meme in literature no matter how much I sigh and roll my eyes. The problem is, writing a strong female character is rather frightening. Having a mind of their own, strong female characters often take on a life of their own — Watch out!

But what is a strong female protagonist?

Here’s what she is not: “Feisty.” “Spunky.” Has “feisty” or “spunky” ever been used to describe a man’s character? OK, maybe if he’s ninety-six years old, in his dotage and charmingly irascible to the attendants at the nursing home. “Feisty” and “spunky” are diminutives of STRENGTH — which in many cultures is considered a male trait, exclusively. Yet strength — whether physical, mental, emotional, moral, or spiritual — isn’t exclusive to the Y chromosome.

We all know women are strong — we know it first-hand — so why do some of us have a hard time showing their strength? Are we afraid we’ll make our male protags seem weaker by comparison? Are we afraid of alienating male readers?

Writers, is your main femme strong? Is she potent? Tough? Tenacious? Resilient? How is she strong? What are her weaknesses that undermine her strength?  How do you balance these to create a human being in full without devaluing your male protag?

V.E. Ulett writes historical fiction set at sea during the age of sail.  Her trilogy, Blackwell’s Adventures, is “a story of honor, duty, social class and the bond of sensual love,” says Joan Druett. nautical historian and novelist who knows very well what it was to be a strong, sea-going woman in any age. Ulett writes with gritty candor about topics some historical novelists avoid. I asked her to tell us more about her female protag’s strengths and how she drew upon them. Was there historical evidence for a woman of her time having this particular trait? Do any women today exhibit this fortitude?

Ulett replies:

Mercedes was raised on the Spanish settled western coast of America, in her youth Mercedes fought with swords, sailed on ships, and found the love of her life.  In Blackwell’s Homecoming Mercedes faces illness, aging, and cultural divides while still passionately attached to Captain Blackwell and their children.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone’s life has been touched by cancer and other grave illnesses. In historical fiction, in fiction writing in general, we make choices about what to leave in and what to edit out. A constant balancing act between credibility, perceived accuracy, and entertainment value. In my novel, Blackwell’s Homecoming, one of the main characters has breast cancer and endures a mastectomy under early 1800s surgical conditions.

Both breast cancer and the possibility of surgical treatment were known in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as movingly depicted in the HBO series John Adams, and more to the point of this post as described by Madame D’Arblay in a first hand account of her surgery in The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay. Madame D’Arblay, or Francis Burney, is a literary hero of mine, for her valuable seven volume Diary and Letters and her novels. When I wrote my scene of a character undergoing this operation, I turned to Madame D’Arblay’s letter to her sister, describing her experience, as a guide in capturing the patient’s or sufferer’s perspective. Madame D’Arblay’s letter was the inspiration for the surgical scene I wrote, though I didn’t flatter myself that I could create anything so moving, so graphic, or so well told as Madame D’Arblay’s account. She was a remarkably intelligent, brave, and incomparable woman and writer. Madame D’Arblay recovered from the surgery, living to the age of 88.

A couple of the pre-publication readers of Blackwell’s Homecoming let me know how uncomfortable the surgical scene made them. One commented that I might lose readers who would go no farther than the mastectomy scene, especially men of a certain age. It was hinted the scene was an instance of when it might be better to tell rather than show. Nothing will get an author’s attention faster than the suggestion we might lose readers, so I was given serious pause. What to leave in and what to take out?

How to balance the sensibilities of readers who may have had direct painful experience with cancer, with a desire to depict the courage, both physical and in strength of mind, of a woman undergoing the trauma. I was also very much concerned with whether it diminishes the strength and honor of women to have their events, however dreadful, pushed off-stage. I turned to Madame D’Arblay’s account, where she describes how difficult it was to relive the surgery in recounting it for her sister.

“I have a head-ache from going on with this account! and this miserable account, which I began 3 Months ago, at least, I dare not revise, nor read, the recollection is so painful.”

After her husband Alexandre D’Arblay includes a note to Fanny’s sister Esther and their family with her account, Madame d’Arblay concludes in part, “God bless my dearest Esther—I fear this is all written—confusedly, but I cannot read it—and I can write it no more, therefore I entreat you to let all my dear Brethren male and female take a perusal—”

I left the surgery scene in my novel, however uncomfortable, because I believe this is how to depict strong female characters, by showing what women have survived and overcome.

A woman’s fortitude — it’s more than a pink ribbon and a month of awareness.

breastcancer

Eva Ulett is the author of Captain Blackwell’s Prize (book 1), Blackwell’s Paradise (book 2), and Blackwell’s Homecoming. To find out more about the Blackwell’s Adventures Trilogy visit veulett.com or the publisher’s website Old Salt Press.

VE-Ulett-author-photo-150x150

 

 

 

 

Why make an audiobook?

How we Write; a series of guest posts about the art, craft, and business of writing

SeymourHamiliton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today my guest is Seymour Hamilton, author of the Astreya Trilogy, an historical fantasy adventure in a maritime setting.

Seymour and I have been discussing the pros and cons of audio formats.  My novel, Looking for Redfeather,  read by Aaron Landon,is for sale as an audio download from Audible.  Seymour has taken a different approach with his audio format — he is giving away downloads through Podiobooks.  Read more about his process:

Should I make an audio version of my book?

Short answer: Yes.

Here are some reasons to record, then some of the decisions you need to make before you start.

Reason #1

Reading (and recording) your novel is the best investment you can make in editing

your work. As you read — and as you listen to the playback — you will notice infelicities

in phrasing, awkwardnesses in order, accidental repetitions, purple flourishes,

unconscious mimicking of other writers, and occasions when you are beating the

dead horse of too much detail. You will be doing what good and great authors alike

have done for centuries, and as a special benefit, you will understand what is meant

by ‘finding your voice.’

Reason #2

Some people like hearing books as opposed to reading them. Some want to listen as

they drive long, boring distances. Some are visually impaired. Some just like hearing

someone read them a story. They constitute an audience that isn’t served by print or e-
books.

Reason # 3

People who listen to books sometimes buy them. The jury is out on how much this

is true, but my preliminary analysis is optimistic: in the two months after Astreya:

The Voyage South was available in podcast audio, sales of the physical and ebook

improved significantly, some of the bump being sales of volume two of the trilogy,

presumably purchased by people who wanted to know what happens next. Moreover,

I received fan mail asking me when they would be able to listen to the next book in the

trilogy.

Reason #4

Audiobooks offer instant download, just like e-books, but with audiobooks, you can track

where you’re selling as well as how much. Podiobooks.com and its technical provider

LibSyn provide detailed analysis of when and where your podcast version is being

downloaded and read. I discovered that (as I expected) my major market was the US,

then Canada, then the UK, New Zealand and Australia. However, I was surprised and

delighted to find that I also had listeners in Norway, Germany, and a long list of other

places including (!) Thailand. Why? — My guess is the ex-pat community of people who

speak English in countries that don’t.

 

OK, you’ve decided. What’s next?

Before you start, you should know that you are about to invest time (for sure), money

(a little to a lot) and effort (above and beyond what you have already put into your

completed manuscript).

 

Sell or Give?

Decide whether you want to sell your audiobook version, or give it away. I give mine

away, free. Podiobooks encourages listeners to “tip” the author. So far I’ve received

nothing, but I’m encouraged by Reason # 3, above, to believe that far from hurting

sales, my audio version is encouraging them.

You can make your audiobook available through your website, but you need a server

“behind” your site. At SeymourHamilton.com you can click on podcasts of my books,

chapter by chapter and either listen, or download to listen later. The recordings

themselves are not on my site because that would cost far too much beyond the cost

of standard site, because there is no “room” on most sites to store, provide access and

manage the recordings and the accessing needs of people all over the world. You need

a specialized sound service such as SoundCloud or Podiobooks. Podiobooks.com

specializes on books. Its servers contain and manage, my books and many, many

more by authors old and new. Podiobooks offers people in search of free audiobooks a

“bookstore” where they can browse, knowing that they will find an acceptable technical

quality of recordings and the electronic delivery thereof. Behind Podiobooks is LibSyn,

the server/technical service, which is system of servers “where the recordings are” and

where I go to find constantly updated statistics on how my books are doing.

Free is fine, but on the other hand, who can argue with a royalty check? However,

before you go to an on-line company that will pay you per download, consider both your

percentage of the take, and your up-front costs. There’s a saw-off between a turnkey

approach wherein you send someone your manuscript and wait for the money to roll in

(don’t hold your breath); and taking control of the process in one of more of the roles of

producer, reader and technician.

Cost/Quality decisions: Hire a reader or read it yourself?

There are lots of out-of-work actors out there who would love to read for you — at a

price. Don’t decide only on the basis of how the actor sounds to you — still less on

how he or she looks. Work “blind” by email, listen to recording samples. Have the

actor audition by reading a page or so of your book. Insist on credentials, preferably

in podcasting, radio or voicing animated cartoons. Find out if he or she is sufficiently

qualified and experienced to do the electronic technical work. If not, either get yourself

a producer or do the sound-editing and processing yourself.

On the other hand, do it ALL yourself. The cost of recording at home is low. You need

a quiet room and a good microphone — not just the one that comes in your computer. I

use a Blue Snowball for around $200. A friend loaned me a more expensive mic, but

it was so sensitive that in the context of my reading, it was like putting a gold link in a

copper bracelet. Software to record and process is free-to-inexpensive. I use Audacity

to record and Levelator to process, both of which are free.

Recording your book takes time. A lot of time. I’m on my third book and getting better,

that is, more efficient, but I find that every hour of completed, published podcast of 45

minutes to an hour requires at least five hours of recording, editing and processing at

my desk with a microphone and my trusty MacBook Pro.

Caveat: this isn’t my first rodeo. I acted in plays at school, was subjected to singing

lessons, did free-lance work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 70s, and

lectured at universities about Dead English Poets for more than 20 years during which I

always read the poems out loud.

 

Now go back to Reason #1. Whether or not you go audio, decide to read your book out

loud into your computer, and then listen to what you have recorded. Once you get over

the fact that your voice sounds completely different from what you’ve been listening to

for years while you were talking, you’ll find that you have a secret weapon for improving

what you write. So, read what you write BEFORE you send it away to be published! If

nothing else, your descendants will be able to hear you reading your stuff, long after you

are no longer punching away at your keyboard.

 

Seymour Hamilton

Seymour Hamilton was born in 1941 during an air raid on London, England.  After the war, his family moved to Mauritius for three years, where he was home schooled, and read books by Ransome, Kipling, Henty, Marryatt and Slocum.  In 1949, his family moved to Canada, where he remained, apart from trips and holidays and one horrible year at school in England.  He studied English, because he liked reading, which led to a BA, an MA and Canada’s first PhD on Science Fiction. He spent half his working life as an English teacher at Canadian universities from east to west coast, and the other half as a writer/editor for government and industry.  He retired in 2005, and by 2011 completed The Astreya Trilogy, which features a mysterious inheritance, sailing ships, treacherous relatives, night escapes, knife fights, secret passages and a long voyage to a lasting love.  The Laughing Princess, twelve stories involving dragons, was published in 2012 and a translation by Jessica Knauss, La Princesa Valiente a year later.  A new edition of The Laughing Princess, illustrated by Shirley MacKenzie, appears in time for Christmas, 2014.
You can listen to him reading his books (free!) at Seymour Hamilton.com.