The Last Forest is now available in Audio format, narrated by Lesley Dessalles.
When humans come to fell the last forest, they are in for a nasty surprise.
A short dark fantasy tale of the wrath of nature.
The Last Forest is now available in Audio format, narrated by Lesley Dessalles.
When humans come to fell the last forest, they are in for a nasty surprise.
A short dark fantasy tale of the wrath of nature.
Spawn of Dyscrasia is the second book in the Dyscrasia world fiction – a reader doesn’t have to have read the previous book, but I think it helps. I shall be reading the others soon.
This world is dark, corrupted and filled with monsters – giant insectoids, twisted humans, bird-creatures and hybrids. Sickness has left its mark on the world, and most of the humans live in fear, ignorance or semi-enslavement to magic, monsters and dark forces. There are, of course, good people – Helen is a curer – an artist who uses her craft to heal the strange lords, who protect the lands from the disease and dark forces. That, I think was the most fascinating aspect of this unique world. Art is power and magic. It heals and gives strength to Lysis – the skeletal necromancer lord who rules. I loved this idea – Helen’s art is her power, her salvation and, in many ways, her curse. Helen is young, naive, afraid, confused but brave, loyal and the hero of the piece. She has her burgeoning magic and strength of will which keeps her alive. Helen is awesome!
The narrator for the audio is well chosen, her voice is powerful, yet easy to listen to. I was captivated.
I am definitely going to read the other books – I want to know more of this world, and it’s history – and listen to other audiobooks by this narrator.
*Name: Stephanie Montalvo
*Tell us a bit about yourself: I’m a retired professional dancer. I’m also a trained actor and singer. 14 years ago I started a production company. We’ve produced videos, voiceovers, shows and special events for private clients, municipalities, Fortune 500 companies, and brands such as Nickelodeon. I also have a strong connection to nature and so I founded a non-profit dedicated to environmental education and inspiration. Creativity and nature are my life force.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? As a multi passionate artist it was natural to move my storytelling skills into audiobook narration. I love to tell stories and create characters.
Is this your day job? Yes
Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? I’ve narrated a wide range of genres. I love voicing children’s books because they have so many fun characters to create. I also like working with authors who really understand their characters and have created a detailed background story. Knowing the story behind each character helps you bring them to life.
Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I enjoy Romance, Comedy, Sci-Fi. I’m pretty open to all genres if the writing is engaging. I don’t think my voice is the right fit for historical work, although I do love to listen to them.
What are you working on at present/Just finished? I just wrapped the Healing Springs by Rhavensfyre.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) I like to read the whole book cover to cover first. I make notes about what touched me and any questions I might have for the author. Then, I like to meet via phone or Skype with the author and talk about their inspiration for writing the book and get to know them. I find that hearing the author speak about their characters helps me get a good idea of where they are coming from. I ask for specific details about each character even the smaller characters. I like to know what the authors are thinking about their characters. When an author can give me examples or match characteristics to popular figures it really helps create a better sense of the person and how they would sound. Then, I go and pull images or I draw features I like about the character and start working with my voice to give them their sound. I do lots of research on vocal styles for specific regions. I always keep samples of the voices I’ve created for each character to reference later on. If I need more information or confirmation on a particular character I contact the author with a sample. Once I feel solid about each character’s voice I go into the studio and start to tell the story.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? I love creating characters and telling their story. It feels good to listen back and hear their voice, not yours.
What do you find least enjoyable? Editing is hard at times. You spend many many hours in the studio all alone looking at a waveform on the screen. Your arms can fatigue which isn’t enjoyable.
Have you ever found an author you couldn’t continue to work with? How was this resolved? Unfortunately, yes. I’ve had an author that just disappeared. I didn’t hear from them for months. I had to move on to the next project. Sometimes life happens, I understand. I’ve never had any issues with a difficult author. I research them before accepting a project.
Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? Yes, I do consider royalty share. I’m happy to collaborate with an author if they have a nice following and good reviews.
Do you listen to audiobooks? I sure do. I love them!
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? Yes, I do believe that audiobooks are the future of storytelling. You can listen on morning commutes, while waiting in line, anywhere!
Why do you think audiobooks are becoming so popular? Audiobooks are calming and comforting. I’ve found that humans, and some animals, love to listen to stories. It is like having a good friend in your pocket. Audiobooks let your brain relax into the drama of a character instead of the day to day stress that many people encounter. They also stimulate your imagination. You create the imagery to the story. That is powerful!
Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I had books on tape as young as 5. We would get them from the library. I loved them then too.
If you are an author, do you produce your own audiobooks or do you prefer to look for an independent narrator? Why have you made this choice? I’m currently working on a book and I will produce it. I made this choice because I know the work and the story and would enjoy telling it.
Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) I truly enjoy working with ACX/Audible. I find it easy to use. I’ve met some great authors there. It is a fantastic platform.
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? I’ve had some authors that don’t explain their vision well upfront which makes it harder to produce but nothing negative.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve had? The devil is in the details. Always find out exactly what the author’s full vision is for the main character from start to finish. The small details can shift a book and that is very important to know before you record the complete work.
What is the worst piece of advice you’ve had? Don’t read the book before you voice it. Ouch!
If you could narrate any book you wanted which would it be and why? I’d love to narrate the Wizard of Oz. There are so many fun characters and it is a wonderful story.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I love bunnies. I had 12 at one time, all spayed and neutered rescues. They are not the easiest animals to care for but if you love them and learn their language you will get mountains of love back.
Where can we learn more about you? www.stephanievo.com
Social Media links:
2018 seems to have flown by. Isn’t it odd how individual days appear to last an age, but the year as a whole just zooms past?
Politics has lost what little mind it had – the US government – probably the less said about that the better as I’ll only start an argument. The UK government has been dominated by Brexit, leadership problems and everyone is thoroughly sick of it all. I will say this year there has been a revolving door both at the Whitehouse and the Houses of Parliament. Jeez – grow a spine, some balls or get rid of the person who is the problem and do it quickly….
Reading-wise – I’ve read over 60 books from true crime to historical to mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. I am planning to read a bit more fiction next year, and pick up some new authors.
Writing-wise – not as productive as I hoped and I’m not going to bore you with excuses. Let’s focus on what I have done.
Lovers in Hell What a fun universe to write for! Anything can happen – but it usually backfires in ironic, dastardly and hellish ways. (See interviews for Hell Week).
The Kitchen Imps won the NN Light Fantasy book of the year.
Here Be Monsters (no longer available)
Remembering Warriors (no longer available in 2019)
Spring Surprise (no longer available)
Summer Shimmer (no longer available)
Frisky February (no longer available)
There were also audio editions for The Watcher (a Jack the Ripper Tale)
And audio and print editions for the two current Legacy of the Mask Tales:
What will 2019 bring? That is a good question…
Hopefully more Kitchen Imps, working on book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm, Heroika 2, another Heroes in Hell (assuming I can get the damn story finished), and possibly the completion of at least one novella.
I’m also learning Photoshop (steep learning curve), and have completed a course on Copyright, GDPR, Ancient Egypt, and DSE.
I’ll be a better blogger too….
Reading for the Blind interview
Name: Matt Jenkins
I understand you are involved with one of the services providing spoken word material for the visually impaired – tell us a bit more about this work.
Yes. I am the “technical editor” for the local Talking Newspaper charity. Every two weeks we take the local newspapers from the past fortnight, pick out the 30-or-so most interesting and relevant pieces, and record them to audio CD. My job involves the technical aspects of the work – the recording, editing and mixing of the audio. I rarely get to do the actual reading – there is usually a team of 4 or 5 readers that do the reading – although we do also provide audio recording facilities to a couple of other local services – the local housing association and the support services for carers – and I get to read on those, which is nice.
How did you become involved with this?
A friend of the family is one of the trustees of the charity. She heard me reading at my parents’ church one christmas (yes, I sometimes get roped in for that kind of thing…) and said “We need you!” so I went along. I rapidly progressed from reading to editing (by rapidly I mean instantly) since they had a lack of anyone with any skills whatsoever in that regard. Now I’m in charge of that side of the operation.
Why is this an important part of your work?
It’s what got me into audiobook reading. A friend at the charity mentioned ACX one day and said I should read audiobooks – so I did. And now here I am. Without the talking newspaper I’d never have heard of ACX and never got into reading audiobooks.
Do you think there are enough resources available to support those who are visually impaired enjoy books, newspapers and magazine? What more can be done?
Yes, I think there probably is enough. With the likes of Audible and iTunes making it easy and cost effective to get audiobooks while at the same time always increasing the library of available books, enjoying books has never been easier. Magazines and newspapers, on the other hand, are a different matter. Most areas in the UK have a talking newspaper service, but certainly, more rural areas are somewhat lacking. Magazines, however – I am unaware of any commercial publications that provide any audio formats for their magazines, but RNIB do provide some of them with thanks to third-party readers. But, with the advances in speech synthesis and screen reading, if you’re online you can get most articles read for you by your computer. It’s not quite the same as a real human voice, but technology is going a long way to filling the gap.
If a person wanted to become involved with this kind of work how would they go about it?
There is a good chance there is a talking newspaper in your area. The best places to go to find out about it would be your local newspaper (all the papers we read from are donated by the local newspaper), or speak to someone at your local council services offices or library. If there are any local visual impairment charities they may also know of (or be instrumental) in your local talking newspaper.
The RNIB also provide a service for national publications (http://www.tnauk.org.uk/) if you want to get more involved at a national level.
How does this differ to narrating an audiobook?
It’s a lot more rough-and-ready. We have limited time between the papers being published on Thursday and the CDs being dispatched on Friday. We get about 3 hours to do all the recording and editing. It’s more important to get the news out on time than to make it sound studio-quality perfect. Although we do strive to get it as good as possible, we don’t mind the odd mistake and stumble over words – to edit out and re-take all that would take longer than we have available (we rent a room from the local Royal Volunteer Service to do all our work).
Anything else you wish to add?
Talking Newspaper societies are always looking for more readers. And if our society is anything to go by they’re crying out for people with technical audio production skills.
But thanks to the internet and technology our listenership has dwindled away to a fraction of what it was. There is still a demand for our services, and we will keep going until the last subscriber cancels.
Where can we find your work?
The Talking Newspaper is not publically accessible – it’s a subscription service. And unless you’re a carer in my local area (and it’s not just people that with visual impairment that like audio versions of documents – there are those that can’t, or have difficulty, reading, or don’t read English well enough) you won’t have access to the material we record.
When murder and mystery begin at the Opera House, one woman knows who is behind it and what really lies beneath the mask. Secrets, lies, and tragedy sing a powerful song in this “might have been” tale.
A short, tragic tale based on characters from The Phantom of the Opera.
Audio Edition narrated by Matt Jenkins
Available on Amazon, I tunes and Audible.
*Name: Matt Jenkins
*Tell us a bit about yourself: Born and raised in a church (literally, in a church – the graveyard was my playground…) I have been reading in public since I was able to see over the lectern. Then I got dragged down the dark path of technology and computers consumed my soul. At least for a while. Then, thankfully, I escaped. Now I’m a Buddhist (much to the chagrin of my Christian folks) and a freelance electronic designer. One side-effect of all the technology is an understanding of audio production, and I am the chief audio engineer for the local Talking Newspaper for the Blind. I also sing in a number of local choirs.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? One of our reading team at the Talking Newspaper mentioned ACX to me one day, so I thought I’d look it up and see what it was. Sometimes when reading a book I’d secretly visualise myself producing it as an audiobook, and ACX has opened that door to me.
Is this your day job? Nope. As I mentioned above I am a freelance electronic designer. I spend my days sat in front of my computer drawing lines on the screen. Industrial control and monitoring systems are my thing.
Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? This is a tough one to answer: I have only produced two books so far – The Watcher: A Jack The Ripper Story, and Beyond The Vale, by Kerry Alan Denney. I’m not sure which is my favourite, as they are like chalk and cheese. Both have been enjoyable to produce, and good stories that I enjoyed reading. I hope for many more to come.
Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? Not really a preferred genre. I do, though, think it’s important to enjoy the stories you read. If you’re not enjoying the story it comes across in your reading. You have to enjoy the story to take a proper interest in it and bring the story to life. There’s no genres that I won’t touch, but if the book doesn’t appeal to me I won’t bother with it. Mostly I gravitate towards fantasy and science fiction, but I’m not fixated solely on it.
What are you working on at present/Just finished? Just finished The Watcher. Nothing lined up at the moment, but I do have a few auditions out there – one I’d really like to get selected for is Among The Dead – a Zombie book.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) My first book was produced all manually. Lots of reading and re-reading, then cutting up, splicing together, etc afterwards. The editing took longer than the reading. That was the worst part of reading, actually – the editing. So, being a technofreak, I decided to do something about it and wrote my own software to do it all for me. Now the editing is done while I’m reading by the program itself at the press of a key and afterwards is just a brief cleanup to make it sound as good as possible. The editing for The Watcher (it’s only a short story) took about 30 minutes, and 25 of that was just listening through.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? Getting to read books I’d otherwise never think to read – and (hopefully) getting paid for it 🙂
What do you find least enjoyable? The post-reading editing. Hence the spiel above….
Have you ever found an author you couldn’t continue to work with? How was this resolved? Not yet. But that’s only after 2 books…
Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? Yep, I do. Being a freelance designer my income tends to come in lumps, with vast expanses of poverty in between. With royalty share, I’m hoping to get a little bit of regular income to help smooth over those dearths.
Do you listen to audiobooks? Indeed I do. They’re great to keep the right side of my brain occupied while I’m working with the left.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? I don’t know if it’s the future, but it certainly has a prominent place in the future.
Why do you think audiobooks are becoming so popular? They’re great for when you’re commuting, jogging, working, whatever it is you do. You can listen and do other things (which is important in this fast-paced, need it yesterday, world).
Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? Probably a Terry Pratchett (read by my hero Tony Robinson). Sourcery + The Colour Of Magic I think it probably was. On cassette.
If you are an author, do you produce your own audiobooks or do you prefer to look for an independent narrator? Why have you made this choice? I’m not an author (yet).
Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) I’ll let you know next year 🙂
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Not as yet.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve had? Pause. Just that. Pause. The silence is as important as the words.
What is the worst piece of advice you’ve had? Is there such a thing as bad advice? If you learn from the experience it’s still positive, yes?
If you could narrate any book you wanted which would it be and why? Well, there’s The Wheel of Time series (Robert Jordan). That’d keep me in work for the rest of my life. I am (of course) a Terry Pratchett fan, but there’s no way I’d be able to match up to Tony Robinson’s readings. I quite like Tom Holt’s works – they combine fantasy with the kind of warped humour that appeals to my twisted psyche. Plus doughnuts.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I spent 3 months living in Sweden when I was 4. When I came home, and started school, the teacher asked: “Who can count to 10?”. I put my hand up, stood up, and counted to ten, perfectly. In Swedish. Ett, två, tre, fyr…
Where can we learn more about you? I keep my personal life off the internet. But you can check out my company site if you like: https://majenko.co.uk
Social Media links: Social media is a mug’s game. You won’t find me on there. Twatter, Basefook, etc – not for me. I value my sanity, and I don’t need the rest of the world to tell me I’m fat: I already know.
*Name: Ella Lynch
*Tell us a bit about yourself: I am a 31 year old mum of 1, with a passion for reading and living authentically. I love food, books, living in each moment, my family, crochet, camping, fires, the ocean… I’m vegan and was brought up as a vegetarian. I suffer with anxiety and OCD, and have found that being open about this helps others to realise that we all have our demons, but they don’t make us bad people, just human. I got a triple distinction in my National Diploma in Performing Arts from Truro College in Cornwall. I am trained as a dental nurse, started training to be a midwife (!) and am finally now living my life-long dream of narrating audiobooks!
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? I have wanted to be a narrator and voice actress for as long as I can remember. I studied Performing Arts in College 15 years ago, and when I didn’t manage to get into Drama school afterwards I was so crestfallen I pushed the idea of following my passion to the back of my mind. My anxiety felt too big to be able to find a way to realise my dream, so I didn’t try…
Fast forward 14 years and I have had many different jobs, am married with a 5 (nearly 6) year old daughter and 2 cats. I had recorded a couple of picturebook audios on YouTube a couple of years ago, and loved it, but my technical knowledge was nil, and what with working part-time as a waitress in a vegetarian restaurant and being a full-time mum I had no time to really invest the energy in to researching how I could make my dream into a reality.
My daughter started school in September and I thought maybe finally I could dedicate some time to at least *trying* to find a way to read storybooks out loud for the enjoyment of others. I was visiting a friend Claire, and she asked me if I had started to do the voice work I so desperately wanted to, I said no, I didn’t see how, I didn’t know where to start, I would probably fail any way, so what was the point. My wonderful friend said that that was fine, I could live like that, but I wouldn’t be living my authentic self. I would only be realising half my potential. She said she would help me find some voice acting courses and made me see that actually, you know what, I WANTED this. Really badly. And if I did try, and fail, I wouldn’t have lost anything. And at least I would have tried.
So I got signed up to 2 courses that very day, a voice acting workshop with a renowned voice coach Jacquie Crago, and a podcasting course. From that moment I spent hours and hours researching how to make the best studio and how to get work. Another friend Ruth got me in contact with a friend of hers that has done voice work and he sent me the most invaluable email detailing all the things I needed to know, but didn’t know how to ask. I bought the equipment and I started practicing. I applied for jobs on Mandy.com and joined lots of different websites trying to find work. I didn’t get anything, but I was fired up and excited. I didn’t feel like every job I didn’t get was a failure, I felt like it was an incentive to do better, to try harder, to learn more, to hone my skills. And then I came across ACX.com via a brilliant voice actor Howard Ellison; we met on the Jacquie Crago workshop. I built my profile and started to audition for books. I was then approached via my ACX profile and asked to audition for a book. I couldn’t believe it, was this some kind of hoax? I auditioned, and got it! I had landed my first real narration gig and I was so thrilled!
Is this your day job? It is my day job, my evening job, my everything in between job! As I said I have a 5 year old, my husband works all manner of shifts for the NHS so I have to do the school runs, and I am still working part-time in my local veggie restaurant. I have just dropped a day waitressing, so now I have 3 days in the studio, and every week-day evening too.
Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? I have narrated a range of titles so far. The genres are quite funny in that I have narrated an erotic thriller alongside children’s books, short stories and lesbian romance! My first job was “Always In My Heart” by M Claire Gager. I loved it, but it was a bit of a baptism of fire as it was nearly 6 hours long. However, by the end of producing that book I had learnt so much about editing, and that gave me confidence and valuable knowledge.
I don’t think I do have a favourite, as they are all so different, and they are all good! I narrated “Photo Shy” a short story about an abuse scandal in the modelling industry – I enjoyed the challenge of making something enthralling in such a short space of time. I loved narrating the Zeena Dragon Fae series as I had to think of different voices for the various magical characters, and it has a lovely moral message at the end of it all.
Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I have really enjoyed narrating from all genres so far. I don’t have anything I won’t produce yet, but you never know. If something didn’t sit right with me then I don’t think I could narrate it. I need to be authentic to myself, and to the listener. I am a good actor, but I think anything I felt uncomfortable with could come across in my voice, and that wouldn’t be fair on my listeners.
What are you working on at present/Just finished? I have just finished narrating and producing the Zeena Dragon Fae series by Victoria Zigler. This series is about Zeena the faerie dragon. She doesn’t think she’s special, even though she’s the only one of her kind to have mastered the magic for all five elements equally. But when a dryad named Kishi comes to her for help, she doesn’t hesitate. Together with her best friend – a mischievous pixie named Saarik – Zeena sets off to free Heidi the earth fairy, as well as to save the woods and the creatures of Earth. The first 3 books in the series are available for purchase now from Amazon, Audible and iTunes, and the 4th title is just going through ACX’s quality checks, but should be available in the next few weeks too.
I am currently in the editing stage of “The Road Ahead” by A E Radley, which is a novel about 2 women from very different backgrounds, forced to share a long car journey home, and the relationship that forms between them.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) I like to read the whole book through in my head first, so I have a feel for the story, and know how many characters there are, and what is going to happen. Then I get to work! With ACX you have to submit the first 15 minutes for approval before you continue with the whole book, so I narrate the first 15 minutes and then I edit it and submit it. I use a Rode NT1-A microphone and pop-shield, with a Behringer Uphoria UMC204 HD interface, and MacBook Air. I use Garageband to record and edit.
Once the first 15 minutes is approved I will narrate the rest of the book. Depending on how long it is I will either record it all in one sitting (eg if it is a short story, or a children’s book less than 2 hours long) or I will record in a few sittings. I record mostly in the evenings as that is when it is silent in my house! I always do a vocal warm-up before I start recording, I guess I should say a body warm up, because you use your whole body when you are narrating, not just your voice. I do head, neck and shoulder rotations, along with different vocal exercises. I have a big glass of water near by, and I record. I tend to read standing, but sometimes if it’s a long read I will sit down for a bit.
I don’t edit until I have recorded the whole book. Once it is recorded I will work through it systematically chapter by chapter, and once each chapter is retail ready I will upload it to ACX so that I know it is good to go.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? The recording! I love it. I get totally in the zone.
What do you find least enjoyable? When my Mac has technical issues and corrupts files. That is infuriating! And when aeroplanes or too many cars drive past when I am recording. I don’t have a completely sound-proof space so I have to just pause and wait for them to go past and then carry on. That can be very frustrating when I am mid-flow.
Have you ever found an author you couldn’t continue to work with? How was this resolved? Yes I did have an author I couldn’t work with. This was due to the content of their book. It wasn’t clear in the book description when I auditioned, but once I started reading I knew I didn’t feel comfortable with the subject matter, and it wouldn’t be fair to me or them for me to continue with the job. It was fairly easily resolved. I sent their agent a polite email explaining how I felt, and apologising. They offered for me to narrate under a pseudonym, but I declined, and then we contacted ACX and the contract was dissolved.
Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? Yes I do plenty of royalty share deals.
Do you listen to audiobooks? YES!! I love them! I grew up listening to audiobooks every night to go to sleep. They were on cassette tapes, so they were “story-tapes” to me. I had a few firm favourites that I listened to for years. Five on Treasure Island, The Sheep Pig, Elidor and Danny The Champion of The World. If I could tell my childhood self that I am narrating audiobooks as a grown up I would be absolutely over the moon.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? I think that it is great that more people are engaging with books now because of MP3 players. Some people struggle to find the time to sit down with an actual physical book or kindle, but listening to an audiobook allows them the freedom to enjoy the stories in a different way. I think there will always be space for real-life storytelling, you can’t take away from the magic of sharing a book with a loved one in person, so I don’t think people will stop physically reading to their children or partners, but I think that listening to an audiobook is so magical and relaxing, and the current market seems to be ever-expanding, it can only be a good thing.
Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? I guess like I said above, it’s a way for people to enjoy a story without necessarily having to sit down and dedicate their full attention to it. They can listen in the car, on the bus or train, whilst walking the dog, or out for a run. People like to be entertained, and audiobooks are entertaining, but in a relaxing way. They don’t ask anything from you except your ears. What’s not to love?!
Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I think the first one was this tape which had 2 stories on it – “The Princess and The Dragon” and “Scaredy Cats”. I can still hear the Scaredy Cats song in my mind now.
Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) Yes. So far, so good. It has only been 4 months since I started getting work through ACX so earnings wise I am a bit thin on the ground so far. But I am so happy to be able to apply for any book that is up for audition, and to be getting work regularly doing my dream job. It’s great.
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Not yet, no.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve had? It was from my friend Claire, telling me that if I didn’t try then I would only be living a half life. I wouldn’t be being true to myself. I will forever be grateful to her for making me realise my potential, and jump in head first, giving it my best shot.
What is the worst piece of advice you’ve had? I haven’t had any bad advice with regards to narrating yet. Everyone has been very positive and supportive. I don’t have any other narrator friends though.
If you could narrate any book you wanted which would it be and why? Oooooh, the Harry Potter series because I LOVE HARRY POTTER, but Stephen Fry did an exceptional job with that, so I wouldn’t want to try and improve upon that. Maybe an Isabel Allende novel. I absolutely love her work, or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. That book really got me. It was amazing. So raw and painful, but so beautiful at the same time. As long as I could narrate it with my British accent I would love to narrate that.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. When I was pregnant I had a mad craving for Broccoli. At the time there had been flooding on the farms and all the broccoli harvest was destroyed. I went into my local Tesco after a yoga class like a woman on a serious mission. I couldn’t find broccoli anywhere and I was getting very wound up about it. An employee managed to find me a bag of pre-cut carrots and broccoli, the only one in the store, and I could have kissed her I was so happy!!
Where can we learn more about you?
I am on Instagram as @voice_and_narration_with_ella
Twitter as @narrator_ella
Facebook as @voice.and.narration.with.ella
You can find Ella and Tori’s books here:
Book 1 – Zeena And The Dryad
Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, I books, Monadori, Indigo
Book 2 – Zeena And The Gryphon
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Zeena and the Gryphon – Itunes
Book 3 – Zeena And The Mermaid
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Book 4 – Zeena And The Phoenix
Universal Link Zeena and the Phoenix Universal Link
*Name: Danny Letham
*Tell us a bit about yourself: Raised on a Scottish moorland farm, I spent much of my adult life in various Scottish and English cities and now live near the North Wales Coast. My work background is software development and systems analysis, specialising in commercial, financial, and manufacturing systems. Born into a musical family whose other stock-in-trade was teaching, I was a mobile deejay in my teens, and these days I can gossip for Britain about many musical genres.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? While I’ve always liked to talk, the impetus came in the form of the usual story: suggestions from friends and relations. I was very aware that merely being the “natural” that those good folks suggested was not enough, and indeed the well-intentioned encouragement might not even have been true. So, from about 2012 onwards I researched and self-trained with the help of Patrick Fraley’s tutorials and a few other sources. Meanwhile, before my wife’s death in 2016 I had gradually withdrawn from the world of I.T. to become her full-time caregiver, and since then I have reinvented myself as a narrator, video maker, and digital artist. I first encountered ACX through Mr. Fraley.
Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? You’ll have worked out from the foregoing that I have only just taken the plunge. So, for the time being I don’t have much to say here. I have a computer full of material that will never be seen or heard in public, kind of like those early Beatles recordings made in Hamburg. (Dream on, Danny!)
Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I’m a non-fiction kind of a guy really, who aspires to biography, history, the education sector, and corporate reads. I have a high regard for the better fiction narrators and am not averse to characterisation, but not every title is an Agatha Christie mystery and although I have my moments and can run the gamut of SATB timbres (baritone and mezzo are my best) I’m not quite in the same league as David Suchet. What folk tend to overlook, though, is that within the vast tract that is non-fiction there is every bit as much of a need for nuance and sense of scene. Which isn’t to rule out the right novel, of course; never say “never”. That said, I am minded to avoid so-called “Adult” material but I’d not reject an otherwise suitable title just because it had some adult content; however it would have to be very good read. On the other hand, given that I have a well-developed avuncular style for kids’ books there is an obvious conflict, so “Adult” is not a market I would target.
What are you working on at present/Just finished? I have just arrived on Audible as narrator of a kids’ title written by Victoria Zigler, called “Eadweard: a Story of 1066”. That title attracted me partly for its historic interest but significantly also because of its ethic; as a lad who never wanted to be a soldier myself I identified with its busting of the myth. The ten-year-old Danny repulsed by the “It’s a Man’s Life” TV recruitment campaign would have loved that book.
Ongoing, from a business perspective I am looking at ethical advertising both in sound and on video more so than audiobooks, but additionally in the medium term I have my eye on a couple of older works which are now in the Public Domain and for which I would assume the role analogous with rights holder as well as that of narrator.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) Step One is, sample it and improvise reading one or two previously unseen passages. See how it FEELS. That instinct is important, and I try to carry it with me throughout the creative process at the same time as balancing it with self-directing. Next, read the thing end to end; if you don’t do that you can paint yourself into a corner either with a wrong characterisation as the plot unfolds or, in non-fiction, with a compromised counter-argument. Try a few more passages as you go along, and revisit former ones. Note how different the passages you improvised feel when they are re-encountered. Rehearse. Mark the text with cues and emphases while progressing, considering any surprise inflections that might work to keep the audience engaged. Rehearse again. Set milestones. Go on the mic, for no more than half an hour at a time; after that amount of time mistakes will multiply. Avoid becoming a slave to the punctuation, especially if that punctuation is mechanised. Repeat whole sentences or at least clauses where you notice at the time there has been a blooper, without pausing. Then get technical with NR, EQ, and all that stuff. When editing bear in mind that sometimes it’s better to splice than merely to cut. Sometimes there is no option but to overdub, but don’t do that yet. Open a list of overdub requirements. Listen back, repairing any pops or clicks etc, while identifying any more overdubs. Listen again, following the text closely looking for misreads. Rely on it; there will be some, and consequently more overdubs. Each overdub is a miniature run of the “mic NR EQ pop click etc.” cycle. Cry, scream, and yell, when the sound palette of the overdub doesn’t match the main body of your narrative. Rinse and repeat. FINALLY (um, not really finally) submit your Thing Of Beauty. Cry, scream, and yell, some more when the rights holder sends a list of …. overdub requirements! Rinse and repeat. Oh, and that other chap who waves his arms? Me too.
I didn’t mention mixing just now. I always record vox in mono but where music or SFX is involved I will decide based on the specifics of the case whether or not to mix in stereo. If it’s narration only, it stays in mono unless I need to emulate physical activity. However, they never needed a stereo mix in the days of Steam Radio, did they? We have lost a lot these days, with the “live” imperative supplanted by all this tech, and yet I am mindful of babies and bathwater. I prefer to use Adobe Audition. Some freeware is absolutely magnificent, but Audition’s visualisations and its brush and lasso repair tools in particular are all but indispensable. In the end you get what you pay for.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? In a sentence? I like the sound of my own voice! No, in all seriousness, performing is the buzz; I can’t say that I love the technical aspects. I did discover recently when invited to do a live reading that the dynamic is entirely different from studio work, so now I am looking to add that to the repertoire on a permanent basis.
Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? I certainly do. I think it unwise to dismiss either royalty share or finished-rate. Every project has its own business case. It depends on what balance you need to strike from time to time between visibility, prestige, and cash flow.
Do you listen to audiobooks? Not very often because in my limited leisure time I tend to read, looking for performance material! I spend more time listening to podcasts online. The audiobook that I have enjoyed the most – ever! – is David Suchet’s reading of “Death on the Nile”. Such characterisation! He is especially able when “doing” the women, and then there is all that over-the-top emoting, and excellent timing resulting from the great sound editing and audio engineering. What’s not to love? It is a lesson in the proper use of tech to give an enhanced performance experience. One of my bugbears is that the unavoidable pauses in “he-said-she-said” dialogue passages go unedited because of production time constraints. And people have been trained to like it, even to consider it best-practice. For me, while it’s fine in a live situation on a recording it just jars.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? Yes and no. It’s unfortunate in some respects that the old way is almost extinct, of Wise Old Heads occasionally reading from a book but frequently improvising around a detailed memory. There is nothing quite like a live performance in which the narrator responds to the audience’s cues and maybe interacts with them. The best stories can be retold with near-infinite variation – consider how folk music works. In my dreams at least, I foresee that style of performance returning as ordinary people’s reading comprehension skills continue to diminish – which I believe they are doing regardless of the A-level statistics. For now, though, as a society we are going through a “more of the same” loop in which hearing the same story repeatedly in exactly the same formulaic way is the “four legs good” of our era, and whether we like it or not the playback device is king. Equally, the playback device is an ideal medium for disseminating listen-once material, superior to radio because of its on-demand nature. In that context word-of-mouth, social media ads, and the Infernal MP3 Machine are the narrator’s best friends. Just as the phonograph paved the way for excellence in musical performance we must hope the MP3 does the same for narration, although in my view we aren’t quite there yet.
Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? The commuter lifestyle has a lot to do with it. The world of the past that I have described has largely been mechanised out of existence, and indeed that is the case even away from the urban cycle – in agriculture, for example, productivity demands shackle us to our tractors and our milking machines more than ever before. Changes in the popular music scene have made recorded music significantly less attractive to many than it has been previously, so the advent of affordable and – importantly – portable technology with which to hear something interesting is bringing the audiobook to the masses just like the Dansette did popular music half a century ago.
Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) It’s too early to say as regards earnings, but actually, I think it more realistic in my situation at least to seek prestige and visibility than it is to expect Big Bucks directly. It is an easy platform to use in the technical sense, while in another respect it falls somewhere in between an effective hiring fair and a useful additional networking tool, not so much with peer-to-peer networking (to steal an I.T. term) as in the wider literary community. Having said that, I think the signal-to-noise ratio in terms of networking opportunity is less than ideal.
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Every experience is a learning opportunity. If you don’t see it that way, that is a negative in itself.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. People perceive me to be fearless but… while obviously, I wouldn’t choose to do so I would wrestle a Rottweiler (and probably lose), and yet I have an irrational fear of chickens.
Where can we learn more about you?
Website with onward links is here: http://www.thevoiceofdaniel.com/
For repertoire and samples , go straight to soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dannyletham
If you want to check out Victoria and Danny’s work – please use the links below.
Barnes & Noble:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
The Book Depository: