Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rain for Halloween: Less Fun For the Kids

As one can see from the shot of the weather radar, tonight is going to be filled with rain and some 20-30 mph winds.

The rain is slowly moving to the north east
Again, this year my younger daughter will have to cover her costume. I remember what a bummer that was the couple times it happened to me as a kid.

This year requiring a rain coat (She's dressing up as The Black Widow from the Avengers). Last year it was damp, drizzly and bitterly cold (She even borrowed my outer jacket I'd brought along). At least this year the temperature be in the mid 50s.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Narn vs. Shadows: An Analogy of Humanity vs. the Crax, in Relic Tech

I am nearing the end of proofing the galley of Relic Tech for my publisher (Gryphonwood Press). As I re-read a portion of the novel where the Crax have invaded human territory and mankind is scrambling to marshal the ships and an effective defense against the more technologically advanced Crax (and their allies), this scene from Babylon 5 came to mind.

Does humanity fare better? Find out when my debut novel in the SF genre is released in November.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interview with Audiobook Narrator Jeffrey Kafer

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Jeffrey. Please, tell us a little about yourself, your interests, and how you became interested in narrating novels.

I'm an audiobook narrator and general voice over guy living in Seattle with my wife, two kids and two dogs. I first got interested in audiobooks when I was doing the 9 to 5 thing. I would listen to audiobooks voraciously on my commute to Microsoft. You can imagine how many audiobooks I burned through during my ten years of commuting. So, while I was still employed, I did a couple of free books for distribution on Then I got laid off and decided to turn that passion into my main gig. Luckily, Jeremy Robinson hired me to do Kronos as a podiobook and then Beneath. When his other titles, Pulse and Instinct were picked up for production by Audible, he very kindly requested that I narrate them. That was my proverbial foot in the door.

What skills did you have when you began your career as a narrator/voice over guy? What skills have you picked up along the way?

Any good audiobook narrator (or voice over artist in general) needs the ability to act. I grew up in theater starting at the age of 13. And while I still certainly have lots of things to learn, I started my narrator career with a good base of knowledge and instinct. Since I began, I've been learning to take what I know about stage acting and use the skills in a related, but different discipline. For example, where a stage actor needs to play to the whole house, audiobook narration is a much more intimate venue, with a one-to-one relationship between the narrator and the individual listener.

What three individuals would you love to discover have listened to and enjoyed your work—would make you say, “Now that is totally awesome!”

Stephen King, Dan Brown and William Shakespeare. The first two because maybe they'd convince their publisher to let me narrate their next books. The last guy because he died a few hundred years ago and it would prove the existence if time travel.

Didn’t expect time travel in the answer J

What things influence your decision to take on a project and narrate a novel, and what are some things that cause you or to pass on potential projects?

This is where I'm supposed to get artsy fartsy and say something like: "I like to do books with a rich narrative and complex characters that let me stretch as an actor." But in all reality, I'll narrate pretty much anything that comes with a paycheck. I know, I know. Some of your readers just threw up in their mouths a little, but let's be honest: this is a job. I have a wife and two kids who need food and pedicures and an eventual vacation to Hawaii. So while I certainly enjoy books that are fun and let me do actor-y things, I'm not a snob. I do my best to make sure even the most pedestrian of books come out as best they can. After all, I narrated books by David Wood, right?

Hahhahaha. David Wood visits this blog on occasion, but I suspect you know that ;)

Many novels have a variety of characters. How do you determine the voice of each character, including tone dialect variations, mannerisms, cadence, among other things to use when portraying them?
A lot of the time, the author is clear in their description. The other times, it's up to me to come up with something based on how the character feels as I'm doing the initial pre-read. That's when I get to be all actor-y. Really the key is to differentiate the main characters. There's no reason to do a full-on characterization for a character who shows up briefly, a waiter, for example. Those are throwaway characters and we don't focus on them as much. The main and recurring characters are the distinct ones that we focus most on and usually it just comes to us in the reading. What's really fun is when I interpret the character differently than the author intended. I suppose that's the subjective nature of art.

Are there any words or word combinations/phrases that, for some reason, your tongue always stumbles over and you sort of dread seeing in a novel you’re about to narrate?

Yep. "Community" is a tough word, believe it or not. "Clasped hands" is the bane of my existence. Can we just say they shook hands? Is there really that much "clasping" going on? I'm also look at you, "Grasps". On Facebook, I often have an audiobook "Could Not Say" status update in which I post words or phrases that trip me up that day. Like "Isthmus." Seriously? There is no reason for that word to exist.

Do you listen to audiobooks, for example, when driving? If so, has your experience as a narrator affected how you select, listen and enjoy them? Does anyone in your immediate family listen to any of the novels you've narrated? If so, has anything they said about them surprised you?

I don't have time to listen to any books. The last one I listened to was Ready Player One, narrated by Wil Wheaton and that was because we were on a family road trip. Aside from that, in my daily life, I don't have time to listen. As a matter of fact, I haven't even *read* a book for pleasure in several years. Whenever I have time to read, I'm always pre-reading the next book to narrate.

I don't think any of my family has listened to my books. I don't know of any family members that listen to audiobooks. As an unforgivable as that is, I don't want them to provide feedback, because family feedback is never honest or unbiased.

Better hope the local library doesn’t get word of your talent and recruit you for the children’s story hour J

What do you like to do to relax or blow off steam after a long day of recording?

I watch way more TV than anyone should ever admit in public. I was also a film student, so I love movies.

Especially over a long project, how do you keep consistent with character voices, including accents, inflections and pacing? Are there procedures or techniques you've developed?

There's a really simple trick: The first time I give a character a certain way of speaking (accent, nuance, whatever), I save a clip of his/her speech into a file called Bob_Jones.mp3 or whatever the character's name is. That way, I have a file to refer back to if the character hasn't been seen in a long time. But as I get more and more audiobooks under my belt, I'm finding I need to do this less. I guess I've just trained myself to make mental notes. But it's always good to have that character file tucked away, just in case.

Many people think their voice sounds far different recorded as opposed to how they hear it when they speak. When you record and save the clip, did it take time to develop the ear to match the voices and keep them consistent, or is it something that came naturally for you?

The biggest shocked question from people when they first begin is "OMG, is that how I sound?" And the answer is unequivocally, "Yep, sure is." But you get used to the sound of your own voice pretty quickly and learn how to use it as the tool that it is, not how you wish it would be.

As far as being consistent and matching, this comes from two things: 1) experience and 2) The context. A good author will make it so obvious how the character should sound that the clip is only necessary as a reminder. The rest is just the actor instincts of the narrator.

If an editor from a small press, or a self-published author heard some of your work and was interested in you narrating a novel, what would be the best route to take? Through Contact you directly? As already stated, if it comes with a paycheck, there’s a good chance you’d be interested. What would get you to say, “Yes”? A sales threshold (if you were to consider royalty share), or a guaranteed fee? Or something else?

If someone is ready to get started and would like to hire me, ACX is the best way to go. Just head over to my profile (Jeffrey Kafer ACX Profile) and make an offer. I recommend ACX not only for its ease of use, but because it has the most generous royalty going: 50% of the revenue. And it's run by Audible, so your book will be on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. They really are the only game in town.

As for my criteria, I'll narrate darn near anything if it's pay-for-production and meets my base rate. It must be completely done and edited. There is no "hey, I re-worked this chapter, can you do it over?" If there's sexuality in it, it must be consensual between the characters and they must be of legal age. It's sad that I have to say that, but I've gotten some books that.....

Royalty-share is a different story. I'm VERY careful about the titles I do on a royalty-share basis. The reason is that I hire a proofer, so out-the-door, I'm in the hole for a couple hundred bucks. I can't afford to take a huge risk. I'm more inclined to do a royalty share if 1) The book looks fun and not too difficult, 2) If you've got at least 1000+ sale per month (paid SALES, not free downloads), and 3) If you're a prolific author with lots of titles and are continually writing. I also take a look at amazon sales ranking and social media presence.

Seems reasonable.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Jeffrey, is there anything you’d like to add or say to the readers here at Up Around the Corner?
A lot of authors find wading into the audiobook waters daunting. And it should not be tread lightly. There's significant cost and risk involved. But hopefully, I've been able to shed some light on it and clear the muddy waters a bit. I love talking audiobooks and the more the general public becomes aware of them as a viable medium for reading (and yes, it IS reading), then the better for all of us.

Where I can be found online:

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions and I encourage readers/listeners to check out some of Jeffrey’s works. Top quality.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

John Wayne Quote

I posted this quote about three years ago:

“Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid.” --John Wayne

This statement is:
a. A bit humorous
b. So true
c. From a far less politically correct time
d. All of the above

I have been and will always remain a John Wayne fan. I'd have to say my favorite John Wayne movie is Big Jake. My dad liked John Wayne movies too and Big Jake was his favorite as well.

As I write this I'm able to conjure in my mind a time many years ago when I was watching it with my dad.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Interview with Author Misha Gericke

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Misha. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

Thanks for having me over, Terry. Well about me… I’ve grown up and still live in South Africa and like to do all sorts of random things when I’m not writing. At the moment, my main activities are fencing, singing, yoga, quilting and horse riding.

My writing interests are about as eclectic. Fantasy (any subgenre goes), sci fi, historicals, romances, mysteries, spy stories…

Quite a variety, indeed. I am guessing your reading selections are similar. Let’s put my prediction to the test: What was your favorite book as a child, what is your favorite novel, and what was the last novel you read?

You’re quite correct! Favorite book as a child was this old hard cover Robin Hood story that was in my grandmother’s house. Can’t remember the author or the title. But it’s one of the few books I’ve ever reread. Deeply regret that the book got lost when my grandmother moved in with us.

My favorite novel tends to be the one I’ve read most recently, although the one I finished last night was an exception.

Last novel I’ve read was The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.

How do you choose books to read, and how do you balance time for reading and for writing…and for everything else?

I actually take weekends off from writing to read. As for picking books, I choose at random. In other words, I put the many books I still want to read and use a randomizer to pick the ones I’ll read next.

Sometimes, though, I just follow a whim.

You have a book soon to be released. Can you tell us a little about it, and how you came up with the idea for it?

Mmm you can check out the blurb below, but basically, my first novel is book one in a YA Epic Fantasy series. It’s different from other fantasies, though.

As for how I came up with the idea, the story’s a bit long. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, though. One of my main characters walked into my head while I was re-reading Chronicles of Narnia.

I was actually not writing at the time, because of a book I wrote before that. It was bad for me to write it, so I’d burned the whole thing and stopped writing. The plan was to take a break for a year and clear my head. Darrion showed up in month four and convinced me to give the story a try by inviting his co-stars in as well.

The story itself came out of each character’s motivation. Each one wants something. And some of those desires are mutually exclusive.

Mutually exclusive suggests conflict. If you had to rate your writing, where would you put it along the spectrum of plot-driven vs. character driven?

Right down the center. My plot does come out of certain characters wanting certain things, but it’s one mean-ass plot.

If you could sit down to lunch with any three people, deceased or currently alive and language not being a barrier, who would you pick, where would you eat and what would you hope to discuss?

Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce and Oscar Wilde. Location and food wouldn’t be so important, I expect, but it would be one rowdy evening.

Okay, so what might be discussed isn’t to be discussed ;)

What is one of the most difficult things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, and how did you manage to overcome it?

Oh that’s easy.  I needed to overcome my own perfectionism while drafting and rewriting. Before I wrote The Vanished Knight and its sequel, I used to edit my stuff to death before the story had a chance to become strong.

I ended up combating it by drafting by hand. If it’s in pen, I can’t erase something, so I have to work with what I have. In the end, what I would have edited out before, ends up being what makes the story great.

Great method to overcome a hitch in your writing process.

Sometimes authors write worlds that they’d love to dwell in, at least for  a while. Others, not so much. Is the world encompassing your upcoming novel one you’d want to live in? If so, why? If not, why not?

To be honest, the answer is yes and no. My world is pretty much as big as earth and Tardith the continent on which the series is set is a bit bigger than Europe. I would love to live in Nordaine, which is this walled off country in the north. Their whole culture revolves around an interesting mixture of honor, loyalty and being a bad-ass.

Maybe I’d live in Ladrien which is a small land-locked country in the middle of Tardith. They’re a scrappy, brave lot too, but my Nordian characters would just roll their eyes and call me a fool.

There are, however, places I know about in Tardith where I wouldn’t live for all the money in the world. You know… where dragons eat humans and that sort of thing.

A lot of people who visit my blog have never visited South Africa. Could you share a few neat things (places, culture, history, neighbors, opportunities, or whatever) about the city or region in which you live?

Mmm… Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, but we’re a pretty young country. The first colony was established in 1652. It was based around a castle by the sea. But over the years, the ocean seems to have receded and the Castle of Good Hope is now surrounded by buildings.

If you’re ever in Cape Town, I suggest you visit Table Mountain, Cape Point and the V&A Waterfront.

But please do drive out of the city. There are some spectacularly beautiful landscapes farther afield.

As we're approaching the end of the interview, is there anything you'd like to add or say to the readers here?

Just thank you for reading and that I hope that those who buy my book enjoys it. And thanks for hosting me, Terry.

You’re welcome, Misha. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

Below is a blurb for Misha’s novel, brief bio, contact information and links.

Since the death of her parents, Callan Blair has been shunted from one foster family to another, her dangerous secret forcing the move each time. Her latest foster family quickly ships her off to an exclusive boarding school in the Cumbrian countryside. While her foster-brother James makes it his mission to get Callan expelled, a nearby ancient castle holds the secret doorway to another land...

When Callan is forced through the doorway, she finds herself in the magical continent of Tardith, where she’s shocked to learn her schoolmates Gawain and Darrion are respected soldiers in service to the king of Nordaine, one of Tardith's realms. More than that, the two are potential heirs to the Black Knight—Nordaine's crown prince.

But when the Black Knight fails to return from a mysterious trip, the realm teeters on the brink of war. Darrion and Gawain set out to find him, while Callan discovers there is more to her family history than she thought. The elves are claiming she is their princess.

Now with Darrion growing ever more antagonistic and her friendship with Gawain blossoming, Callan must decide whether to stay in Nordaine—where her secret grows ever more threatening—or go to the elves and uncover the truth about her family before war sets the realms afire.

M. Gerrick (AKA Misha Gericke) has basically created stories since before she could write. Many of those stories grew up with her and can be seen in her current projects.

She lives close to Cape Town, with a view over False Bay and Table Mountain.

If you’d like to contact her, feel free to mail her at warofsixcrowns(AT)gmail(DOT)com, Circle her on Google Plus or follow her on Twitter (@MGerrick1). If you'd like to see her writer-side (beware, it's pretty insane), please feel free to check out her blog.

Links: Amazon     Amazon UK     Barnes & Noble

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why Less Active Here?

This month my posting rate has slowed down. Why?

Work is hammering me pretty hard with grading and other responsibilities. Duties with the Village Council has taken up more time than usual, and I am working hard to push through an editing project, and preparing for the release of Relic Tech...then there's e-courses grading, all that and trying to be a husband and father...oh, and I have to mow today too.

I do have some things in the works for my blog here...interviews and such are on the horizon. Now, back to the briefcase filled with papers in need of some reading and evaluation and comments.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What's Coming Next

Those who've followed what I've been writing,through my website, this blog, at signing events, in person, via Facebook and Flankers, probably know that my science fiction novel Relic Tech is soon to be released (look for it in November). The cover art is well under way, final edits are in process, author blurbs are being returned.

But what's coming after that?

I am 90% finished with the first draft of Soul Forge, the third novel in the First Civilization's Legacy Series. My publisher, Gryphonwood Press, is waiting on it. My goal is to get that first draft finished before the January 2014, and hopefully it'll be released by July 2014...maybe sooner, maybe later.

Once that is released, I have more than a few novel ideas I'd like to get to. Most prominent among them are:

At least two more novels in the First Civilization's Legacy Series, the next of which would be Sun Fox (working title).

Two more novels that follow the adventures of Security Specialist Keesay, Relic Tech's protagonist. (My publisher and I are working on a title for the series). I have the two novels planned out, and the first two chapters of the second novel in the series written.

Then I have three other novel ideas:
  1. An alien invasion novel.
  2. A zombie apocalypse novel.
  3. A YA novel where a teen ends up in Asgard, caught up in the struggle between the Norse gods and Jotuns/frost giants (working title: Icebox to Asgard).
(Okay, flower bullet points? Guess BlogSpot has a funny idea of what should be associated with zombies and frost giants and alien invasions.)

Having discussed the ideas with my publisher and a few other folks, I am leaning toward the alien invasion novel. The odd thing is, I don't have a working title for it. Normally, with short stories and novels, that's one of the first things that comes along in the process. I have, however, written the first 500 or so words and have a pretty solid idea of the novel's direction and major plot events.

The zombie novel would be fun, but I think the market for that sub genre has begun to recede. That doesn't mean a solid core of readers wouldn't be interested. It's outlined on several sheets of blue paper...put in a notebook so I won't forget about it.

Icebox to Asgard, I'd started some time back, before I began writing short stories after having finished Flank Hawk and began submitting it to publishers. I have the first two chapters written and extensive notes to carry me through its writing.

The last thing of note is the anticipated release of Blood Sword in audiobook. Currently, I and my publisher are waiting for the narrator (Michael Slusser) to finish the audio production end of the process. It may be released before Christmas 2013.

I also have to finish the revision of my website. There's a whole 'nother' story with that that I'll address in another blog post.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Captain America Sort of Parallels Security Specialist Krakista Keesay

My soon to be released science fiction novel Relic Tech was written long before The Avengers was released. Even so, there are some parallels between Captain America and Security Specialist 4th Class Krakista Keesay.

As in the video below, Captain America has some firm ideas about how things should be and he's willing to step forward to enforce or uphold those beliefs, even when outmatched. A similar trait of Specialist Keesay, even though many of his notions aren't quite so high-minded or noble as Captain America's.

In addition, the reference to Captain America being "a man out of time" rings true with Specialist Keesay as well: A man serving aboard a space-faring transport, serving as part of the security team, yet counting on equipment and technology that was cutting edge in the late 20th Century. Although this leaves him at a disadvantage, Kra is rarely deterred, especially when he has a trick or two up his sleeve.

As an aside, my younger daughter's favorite movie is The Avengers. I've teased her on occasion that she wants a hat like Loki's, which she vehemently denies. And the title "Reindeer Games" issued by Iron Man when addressing Loki at the end of the clip--well, my daughter thinks its funny but definitely doesn't think it's a cool nickname for her.