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Audiobook DJ

We Have a Winner!

Actually, we have three winners of the audiobook, THE MYSTERY BOX. It's a compilation of 21 stories by many well-known writers of the mystery genre. Seventeen different narrators perform various stories, and Jo Anna Perrin is one of them. Which is why she will be contacting the winners and giving them a code to download their free copy.

We also want to again thank Michele Cobb, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio and Downpour for their generoisty in providing three digital copies to help celebrate June is Audiobook Month. And a special thanks to Bryan Barney of Blackstone Audio who steered us in the right direction. 

If you listened to any of the wonderful stories read to you by various narrators during the month of June for GOING PUBLIC...IN SHORTS, then do yourself a favor and go to downpour and order a copy of the compilation of GOING PUBLIC...IN SHORTS. The proceeds go to a worthy cause - the REACH OUT AND READ literacy advocacy organization.

I was delighted to be a part of the celebration and want to thank Xe Sands for inviting me to host the talented Jo Anna Perrin on my site. I look forward to hearing much more of her work in the future! Until next year's celebration of June is Audiobook Month, keep tuned-in to that special kind of music you'll only hear by listening to audiobooks.


To Celebrate June is Audiobook Month, Jo Anna Perrin and Virginia Woolf Go Public...In Shorts!

June is Audiobook Month (JIAM 2013) and to celebrate, the audiobook community is giving back! The Going Public Project is offering a serialized audio story collection: Going Shorts. 30+ narrators have recorded a short piece from the public domain, and throughout June, 1-2 stories will be released online each day via the Going Public blog.

All proceeds will goto the Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization. As a "Thank you!" to listeners, stories will be available to listen to online for one week following their release. The full schedule of story release dates and  narrator appearances is available at Going Public.

I'm very happy to be hosting narrator Jo Anna Perrin, who is reading "A Society," by Virginia Woolf. After listening to her performance, I have a few questions for Jo Anna and she has a great giveaway opportunity for you!

I imagine it's not often that narrators have the chance to select what they'd like to perform. What drew you to A Society and why did you decided to narrate this particular story?
No, that’s quite true Susan. Generally someone else casts us for a particular audio book based on their assumptions of our expertise in a genre or style, and we gratefully accept, but we don’t have input into the selection. I think that was one of the reasons, aside from the obvious one of giving back to the community, that this project attracted so many of us. Essentially, the Public Domain world was our audio oyster! An exciting and overwhelming prospect when you consider the surplus of literature out there that is in the ever growing Public Domain arena. I actually stumbled upon A Society accidentally. I had no idea that Virgina Woolf was available as an option until I discovered
a list of authors who had entered the Public Domain in 2012.

I was familiar with Woolf’s modernist writing and arty style from reading the usual cast of suspects such as A Room of One’s Own, and To the Lighthouse. However, I was unfamiliar with her short stories, and when I found her first collection, Monday or Tuesday, I was pleasantly surprised by A Society. It was written in a thoroughly modern style, but without Woolf’s usual winding prose or deep psychological meanderings. It had a light-hearted touch, a phrase that certainly doesn’t leap to the forefront in conjunction with Virgina Woolf!  The story has a comic sense that seemed foreign to my usual encounters with her work. She starts off with a good-humored take on social commentary and the meaning of Art, seduces us in with gender-bending and double entendres until, true to her writer’s nature, she ends on a more somber note of the loss and inevitability of war. The moment I read it, I was hooked.

When preparing to narrate, does a short story require a different approach than a novel? Do some things made a short story more difficult to narrate. For example, does less character development make it harder to decide on how to voice characters? Is pacing different?

I don’t think the narrator’s approach or preparation is any different toward a short story. At least it’s not for me. My job is still to be true to the text and the author in as honest a way as I can.  In terms of pacing, regardless of the length of a narration, I see a novel or a short story in the same way I visualize a play. There are three acts. The first act is the call to action, the second act the journey along the way, and the third act the reward or in some situations the punishment, but in any case, the wrap up. Obviously in a short story the acts and their beats are shorter, and arrive faster, but they are still there in the bone structure of the narrative. So the pacing, if you are true to each “act” sho uld just flow naturally. In terms of characters, I guess the one caveat about voicing characters, is that you have less time to convey them or endear them to your audience, so an annoying voice choice might seem amplified over a shorter time span; if you have the character sporadically over 300 pages, it’s not as grating!

How did you become interested in narrating audiobooks?
I became interested in audio books in a kind of non-linear fashion. I am an avid reader and I always thought that nothing could compete with my own reading. However, as my fiancé is a narrator, it was pretty hard to avoid them. So slowly I began to pick them up and listen. And, soon I picked up a few more from other narrators and I began to realize there were voices out there that could actually give my own reading, my own imagination, a run for my money! I’m an actor and a voice actor; I’ve done commercial, documentary and even film voice-over work, but I had never done an audio book. I guess the seed was planted in the back of my brain, you know, maybe I can do this?

You are also a professional photographer, even lending your talents to take a picture of some good lookin' legs for the kickoff post of Going Public...In Shorts. Would you share a little about your photography interests?
Yes, those were quite the gams! I certainly had fun with that…as soon as the guys asked me to drop in, that little montage was fixed in my head.

My main interest in photography is really two-fold. Firstly, I enjoy photographing people, and in a non studio, organic environment.  I’m intrigued by faces and expressions, and there is a moment when you are shooting, when someone’s eyes, the inner and the outer, discover the sweet spot on a camera, and the machine and the person connect.  You can actually see that connection in the finished picture. I’m not even sure I have anything to do with that connection, other than knowing the moment to snap the picture. If I have talent, knowing the moment to take the shot may in fact be that talent.

We’ve all heard the story that primitive tribes, when faced with a camera for the first time, will fear having their picture taken, because they really feel the camera will steal from them, actually rob them of their souls. I think that connection moment you can see in a person’s face, is where that fear stems from. It is quite dynamic.

My other favorite project is abstracts. Photographing things you pass by everyday without a second look, and isolating parts of those things so that they lose their sense of familiarity, and acquire a kind of beauty. I’ve been working on a theme of wheels, doorways and staircases for longer than I can remember. Someday, I hope to get it right.

What do you enjoy most about narrating audiobooks?
Wow! I think just the idea that I can. I get to perform, for better or worse, and do it for a living. It doesn’t get any better than that. I get to read books, one of my favorite pastimes, and I get to act and hone my skills. It’s also the challenge that I appreciate. I record a lot from my own home studio which is very different from being in a studio with a director and/or engineer. There is no one to bounce ideas off of or brainstorm with, so you have to make choices on your own. That is the hard part. Sometimes those choices work, and sometimes they may fall flatter than the proverbial pan-cake. The reward is in the trying, the striving, to get it right.

What's one of the most difficult things about audiobook narration?
Well, going back to the home studio theme, the isolation is difficult. It’s always more fun to be with at least another ear nearby. There is also the irritation of noise. I live in NYC so noise is a big factor. Plus, I have to narrate, direct, and, be my own engineer.

Those are all technical issues though. The hardest part of audiobook narration is making the right choices, the honest choices for each book and each character. Even if your character is the author in a non-fiction book, that person has a personality that shines through in their writing, and you have to grasp what kind of delivery, what sort of tone and pace that speaker will have for the audio book. Going back to the play and three act theme, you have to remember that you have to be present from the curtain to the curtain. That is the hardest part.

Can you tell us about any projects you're currently working on? Or interesting works you've recently completed?

 I just finished an eye-opening book on the economy post-recession by Meredith Whitney, Fate of the States: The New Geography of the American Prosperity, through Tantor Audio. It is due out later this month.

Just prior to that, I had the pleasure of working on Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up by Joseph Kapacziewski and Charles W. Sasser with narrator Johnny Heller – our fifth audio book collaboration by the way - for Macmillan Audio.

And, I was part of a wonderful collection of mystery short stories for Blackstone Audio, Mystery Writers of America Presents The Mystery Box. I was tasked with a very funny story by Karin Slaughter that takes place in the swamps of Okefenokee. Suffice it to say that it’s not the type of narration I usually get, and I had a ball doing it.

And on that note, Susan, you and I are doing a giveaway of The Mystery Box. We have been given, through the generosity of Michele Cobb, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio and Downpour - and thanks to Bryan Barney of Blackstone Audio who steered us in the right direction - three digital copies of this enjoyable mystery short-story compilation.

There are 21 stories by many well known writers of the mystery genre, and 17 different narrators are onboard—so if my voice sounds like chalk on a blackboard to you, you still have 16 other wonderful voices to buoy you on! And, as an added bonus, some of the narrators on this collection are also available on Going Public…In Shorts: Robert Fass, Paul Michael Garcia, Hillary Huber, John McLain, Simon Vance, Adam Verner and Karen White. Once the winners have been decided, I will personally email you with a special one-time promo code so that you can download your copy from Blackstone’s audio download site, Downpour. Enter the drawing here!

The Going Public…in Shorts project is a giving back to the community, an offering from we narrato rs, and we hope you will join in, give a listen, and if possible, take a cyber-walk over to Downpour and donate by purchasing a story or two. So, if you too have a hankering to give back, please join in with us now, and all month, during June. And remember, June is Audio Book Month, so get out there and listen.

Thanks Jo Anna - and an easy way to take her advice is to purchase this title directly from Downpour. Then take a look at the blog posts appearing before and after this post - Books, Personally and My Books, My Life. The full compilation will be for sale beginning June 30th. Engineering and mastering provided by Jeffrey Kafer and SpringBrook Audio. GraphicGraphic design provided by f power design. Published by Blackstone Audio. Project corrdination and executive production provided by Xe Sands.



June is Audiobook Month!

June is Audiobook Month and I'm celebrating by participating in an extremely cool project orchestrated by Xe Sands. Narrators were asked to perform a story of their choosing from the public domain and this collection is a result of their efforts. So what am I doing? Well, there will be at least one short story released each day during June and I am thrilled to be hosting Jo Anna Perrin's reading of "A Society" by Virginai Woolf on June 6. This complete series is going to be fantastic! You can read all about it at Voice Over Times. You can also see a complete list of titles, performers, and locations at the Going Public website.


Earth Unaware - Audiobook Review

Earth Unaware: The First Formic War
Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki and Cast
Macmillan Audio, 14 hours

Victor is an apprentice mechanic to his father, the person responsible for maintaining life-support and other essential systems on board the mining ship, El Cavador. A gifted student with a natural ability to understand all things mechanical, Victor is already a valuable member of the ship’s crew, although he’s still a teenager. But it is his dedication to ideals instilled by his family and his sense of responsibility that may catapult him into the history books of the First Formic War.

Moored to an asteroid out in the lonely Kuiper Belt, El Cavador’s crew is made up of a large Venezuelan family that eeks out a living by mining heavy metals from space rocks.  They are only one of a far-flung group of independent family clans known as Free Miners. Free Miners are always on the lookout for other clan ships which they can dock with in order to exchange news, trade for supplies and arrange marriages between the clans.

 When El Cavador’s sensors pick up a small speck in distant space, it’s obvious this is no lumbering sister mining ship. In fact, it’s travelling too fast to be a human ship of any kind and when that realization sets in, attention turns from concern about each other to a growing fear for the entire human race.

For those of us who’ve always wondered what happened before Ender Wiggin’s decisive defeat of the Formics, Orson Scott Card is finally revealing those events in a trilogy prequel to Ender’s Game. Subtitled The First Formic War, it holds out the promise of epic battles and unflinching heroism to defeat the ant-like alien invaders. However, while there is plenty of heroism, this first title in the trilogy only teases with a few small skirmishes between humans and aliens.

 The story is told from three different vantage points. The majority of the story is related from the perspective of the crew of El Cavador – their encounters with the Formics and their attempts to warn an unsuspecting Earth. The concept of a society built upon the existence of “family” ships, with each ship representing a different nationality or ethnic group is a part of Card’s universe I particularly enjoyed. My only complaint with the Free Miners is that too much time was spent with character development at the expense of action and moving the story forward.

 Listeners are also introduced to a likely villain in the form of Lem Jukes, son of corporate mining mogul Ukko Jukes and a force to be reckoned with in his own right. He and a select crew are also in the Kuiper Belt, testing a new piece of mining equipment. The success of this prototype has the potential to make millions for the company and Lem is determined to make it work at any cost.

 The third perspective comes from Earth in the form of an elite fighting force recruited from top special forces recruits from nations across the globe. Their commander will stop at nothing make his squad the most deadly group of fighters on the planet. Ironically, most of the military action and battle scenes are provided by this group – the only ones stuck on planet Earth. Still, it doesn’t take much extrapolation to see that men brave enough to fight and defeat the human terrorists, dictators, and drug lords of this world will undoubtedly be up for fighting the aliens from another world.

The book is narrated by Stephen Hoye, Arthur Morey, and Stefan Rudnicki; with Vikas Adam, Emily Janice Card, Gabriel de Cuir and Roxanne Hernandez.  In general, scenes that focus on female characters are read by female narrators, while scenes with males are voiced by male narrators.

Narrators do not take individual character’s “parts” but read entire sections or chapters. I’m still debating the advantages of this approach. It doesn’t eliminate men voicing female characters or women voicing male characters, because the readers narrate chapters at a time – chapters which often have dialog between men and women. I suppose the different voices do add variety and if the sound of one particular narrator is not particularly pleasant to your ear, you at least know it won’t be long before someone else will have their “turn” to narrate a passage.

 Whatever the reason for multiple narrators, the entire cast does an excellent job and it’s a pleasure to listen to the book. Everyone reads with emotion and captures the essence of the characters they voice. Switching between different voices is not jarring at all, Surprisingly, the various voices helped to hold my attention, which was not an easy task as the story has a slow start. You’ll need to be patient with this one while it lays the groundwork for things to come. It gradually picks up steam and by the midpoint, both the pacing and the narration seem to become tighter, creating energy and excitement about what’s going to happen next.  

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Ender’s Game, so I can’t speak to continuity issues or how characters in this novel may relate to events in Ender’s Game. However, I don’t think this is a novel that stands on its own, as its main purpose feels like a set-up for the second volume in the trilogy. But endings count for a lot, and in this case, the ending is a cliff-hanger that makes the slow start worthwhile. It has me looking forward to the inevitable confrontation and to see where all of the pieces from this first book will fit in the next installment.

As an added bonus, there is a short interview with Orson Scott Card. He discusses his enjoyment of audiobooks and how, when he writes his books, “I write them to be performed.” As an audiobook fan, it’s nice to hear an author say that – I sure wish more had that same attitude.

For those who’ve never read Ender’s Game, or maybe read it many years ago, this book offers a convenient way to ease into Card’s classic work for the first time or as a re-visit. But for die-hard Enderverse fans, the jury may still be out until round two of this trilogy is published.

Thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing a review copy of this title.


Zombie Awareness Month - Paul is Undead

The following is an audio review of the audiobook, Paul is Undead. This was done as a podcast for and the review includes clips from the book and comments from the author and the narrator, Simon Vance. If you were ever a Beatles fan, this is a hilarious ride and what makes it special is the incredible narration by Simon  I'm still stewing that he didn't win an Audie for this one.


Zombie Awareness Month - Zombies Like Audiobooks!

I have been sorely remiss in not adequately getting the word out about May being Zombie Awareness Month.


Flood in the Backwater or Going to the Big City?

The Echo of One Hand Clapping
Notes on Audio Publishing and Production by Brian Price

As an independent audio theater producer I sometimes think back on what first attracted me to radio drama.  I’d like to say I was immediately drawn to the little things one could do with nuanced sound and language, the subtleties, the poetry.  That’s what I’d like to say, but of course, what got me first about radio theater was the BIG stuff—the closet falls, the cherries dropping into Lake Michigan, the space ships exploding—BOOM, BLAM, SPLATT.

Then, of course, what totally sucked me into radio theater as a “lifer” was that one could happily produce a lot this wonderful noise oneself.  With the wonders of 4-track cassette recorders, pot and pans, and scratchy sound-effects records we could blow up planets, stage barroom brawls, and hold bowling tournaments in the jungle. Read more...


Pyxis: The Discovery -- Audiobook Review

Pyxis: The Discovery (The Pyxis Series), By K.C. Neal, Narrated by Lisa Cordileone. Published by StoneHouse Ink, Dec. 17, 2011. Length: 5 hours, 35 min. Availability: Audible

The mysterious wooden box labeled “Pyxis” belonged to Corrine’s recently deceased grandmother. Filled with glass vials containing various colored liquids, Corrine doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do with the box, but she does realize it’s intended for her use. If only there had been time for Grandma Doris to talk with Corrine before her unexpected demise!

Being a somewhat typical teenager, Corrine divides her curiosity about the box with other pressing matters, like working at her dad’s café, planning schemes with best friend Angeline, and obsessing over the return of her maybe-boyfriend Mason, after his year-long absence on a mission trip with his family. And don’t forget plotting against her arch-nemesis, Sophie, who lives to make her life miserable.

Author K.C. Neal does a lovely job of intricately weaving the magical world of the pyxis into the day-to-day concerns of a group of small-town teenagers. It’s not long before they discover sinister forces from an alternate reality that threaten those they love. It’s up to this unlikely group of teenagers to discover their own latent powers, compliments of the pyixis, which will help them in their fight to save their community.

To the author’s credit, both the real and magical worlds are made much more compelling by her development of the characters. Learning more about each of the main characters drives the story as much as the mystery and suspense of lurking danger.

Narrator Lisa Cordileone takes these engaging characters, lifts them from their print descriptions and gives them three-dimensional personalities that are a delight to hear. Cordileone simply knows how these kids should sound. From righteous indignation to heroic confidence to self-conscious questioning to withering sarcasm, Cordileone voices it all and when she does, you know she has nailed it.

The review copy was provided by the narrator -- I did not hear the copy available from Audible. I did detect a very slight reverb or echo effect in the narration, but my ears tend to pick up on this kind of thing. The final mastered copy may not have this issue, but even if it does, it is not noticeable enough to distract from the listening experience. A preview sample is available on Audible.

Although intended for a teen audience, this title can be enjoyed as an entertaining, rather quick listen for just about anyone who likes teenagers as protagonists. The first in an ongoing series, the second title, Alight, has not yet been published.


What Do You Call What Yuri Was Doing?

The Echo of One Hand Clapping
Notes on Audio Publishing and Production by Brian Price

Award-winning audiobook and audio theater producer, Yuri Rasovsky, passed away last week, January 18th, in Hollywood at the age of 67.  He was one of the best-known, hardest working and more successful artists in the odd little niche of multi-cast audio drama in the past 40 years.  He crossed the aural landscape from radio broadcast to reel-to-reel tape to cassettes to NEA Humanities grants to digital audiobook downloads.     

He liked the classics.  He liked quality.  He liked good acting.  He pursued them.  I think that’s probably what took Yuri out west to Hollywood.  I mean look at the last few shows he produced.  SAINT JOAN with Amy Irving.  THE MALTESE FALCON with Sandra Oh and Edward Herrmann.  And the Grammy nominated MASK OF ZORRO with Ruth Livier and Val Kilmer.  Val Kilmer for crying out loud.  Yuri worked with a lot of good people telling a lot of good stories. (continued)


Greed - Audiobook Review

 Greed, by L. Ron Hubbard. Mult-cast, unabridged. Galaxy Audio, 2 hours

Greed is a collection of three short stories written by L. Ron Hubbard and published in science fiction pulp magazines during the 1940’s and 50’s.  These stories are brought to audio with sound effects and a multicast performance reminiscent of old-time-radio, with the exception of the typical sound quality of that era – this production is about one thousand times better.  

Can one man’s actions determine the fate of nations and even worlds? L. Ron Hubbard tackles this question in Greed, a short story that describes the exploits of George Marquis Lorrilard, an adventurer seeking fame and fortune in the wide open frontiers of space. As Earth lies embroiled in a war of stalemates pitting Asia against the United Continents, Lorrilard concentrates on stealing riches from various Asian ships and outposts throughout the Galaxy.

When his efforts are thwarted by a top-secret weapon called the cohesion projector, Lorrilard must use all the craft and cleverness he’s developed over the years to try and defeat the Asians’ unstoppable weapon. Hubbard’s premise that greed can be a major motivator for explorers (or exploiters, as they are referred to in the story) offers plenty of food for thought. 

The telling of this story benefits from the use of sound effects, which help move it forward, but there’s not much dialog for the performers to work with, lessening the audio impact Galaxy Audio performances usually carry. This was the last Hubbard story published in Astounding Science Fiction in April, 1950.

The second offering, Final Enemy, takes a look at humanity’s reaction when the inhabitants of two different planets tell of invading aliens who almost wiped out their respective civilizations years ago. The people of Earth join together in a concerted effort to prepare for a similar invasion.

The single-minded purpose of the entire planet changes governments, armies, and society into one big cooperative effort unlike anything the world has ever experienced. Months of careful examination of the two planets in question eventually reveal the identity of the murderous enemy, but it’s not what anyone expects.  The audio talents of the Galaxy team and the clever “gotcha” ending make this a story well worth hearing. Super Science Stories first published this story in September, 1950.

But the last story in this collection, The Automagic Horse, is by far my favorite of the bunch. Published in Astounding Science Fiction in October, 1949, it took the top slot in Astounding’s monthly reader polls, and I can certainly see why. When Gadget O’Dowd is asked to make a robotic horse for a critical scene in a highly acclaimed movie production, the gifted mechanic/engineer/inventor sets to work.

His creation passes all expectations, even fooling seasoned horsemen wagering bets at the local race track. But O’Dowd’s toughest task is fooling the new accountant who has been sent to his office to make sure all of the money he has requested for building the horse is spent appropriately. Evidently Hubbard had a good sense of humor and he unabashedly uses it here to create a story that’s a little bit silly and a whole lot of fun. Evidently the performers felt the same way, because you can almost see them smiling as they deliver this memorable audio performance.