Friday, November 26, 2010

Cenizas and the Ash King

My first fullcast fiction production went live earlier this week at the Dunesteef Audio Fiction MagazineCenizas and the Ash King by Lizanne Herd.

Because I'm recovering from fighting the Black Friday crowds*, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here by describing my involvement, and instead am cutting and pasting some of my comment from the story listing:

When I offered to produce one of the Broken Mirror Stories, I warned Big and Rish that I’d never put together a full cast production and had no experience with sound effects. I was a little stressed out about that part of it because I know how much time and finesse can be put into sound effects and I don’t have the experience or the temperament to do them well. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the Cenizas experience! Putting together a fullcast fiction podcast is story-telling and I hadn’t realized that before. I always love story-telling.
The best thing about producing the story was that I got to hear the unedited lines from Big and Rish! So entertaining! And really, it was easy to edit the voice track into something that sounded good because they do such a great job with the narration and their characters. It was also fun to give lines to Rhonda, EMZ, and Kenn. They were awesome about getting them back quickly and did a great job with them! Kenn also helped me with the production–the lines that were said in unison–because I was not getting that to work. My kids had a blast doing the kids’ voices and they also liked hearing the story come together.
The crowd noise was probably the biggest challenge–well that and the sound effects for the fountain scene, which I think could have been much better. Oh and all of the spitting, which wasn’t challenging, but wasn’t my favorite part to listen to. I was provided with lots of loogie-hawking that didn’t make it into the final version!

One more somewhat unrelated thing: because it's Black Friday, that means the holiday shopping season has officially begun! I want to remind you all that the print version of Dreaming of Deliverance is a mere $9.99. Maybe you have someone on your shopping list who loves to read and isn't into podcasts. You could share DoD with them! And if you'd like me to send you a signed book plate to stick inside, just let me know. 
I'll try not to be too obnoxious about reminding you about the now-inexpensive nature of the print version. I'm just exited that the price is low enough that people could give it away as gifts! And I'm really hoping that you take me up on receiving the signed book plates. I have a stack of them all ready to personalize and send out!

Have a nice, relaxing weekend!

*Okay, I didn't really fight the Black Friday crowds. I prefer to celebrate B-F by vegging all day!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Guild of the Cowry Catchers, by Abigail Hilton

As most of you know, I'm not the best at self-promotion, and I don't always put myself out there when I should. Thankfully, I have friends who give me self-promotion nudges from time to time. One of those nudges led me to a story that has become one of my all-time favorites.

The nudge? Craig Roberston told me a friend of his was looking for people to do Stories so Far for her podcast novel and that he thought I should offer to do one. If you're not familiar with Stories so Far (SSFs) they come at the beginning of each episode, and summarize what's come before.

So I wrote Craig's friend, Abbie, and she sent me the text of the SSF she needed. It contained lots of tricky to pronounce names, but I gave it a try. One I butchered so badly, despite the pronunciation guide, that she suggested I listen to an episode or two so I could hear it. I did and was hooked. Really hooked!  I've now listened to every episode that's available--most multiple times.

The Guild of the Cowry Catchers by Abigail Hilton is a full cast production that you can find for free on itunes. Book 1 is also at It has terrific voice actors, beautiful background music, and absolutely stunning artwork that accompanies each episode. But to me story is always paramount and Cowry Catchers has an incredibly gripping story with characters who are complex and three-dimensional. There's beauty, and cruelty, and romance, and action. The premise and the plot are unique and original. It's impossible to predict what's going to happen next. Abbie also does something that I think is so difficult but makes for such great fiction when it's done well. She has a character who is basically amoral, but you like him and root for him and forgive him for the terrible things he does.

Why am I telling you about this? Well, two reasons. One is that I love this story and want to share it with you! The second is that I get to voice one of the upcoming characters! Her name is Dakar and she first appears in Book 3, which is in production right now. So start listening to Cowry Catchers and get caught up so when I start giddily blogging about Dakar, you'll know what I'm talking about!

The Guild of the Cowry Catchers is such a great story. I know you'll love it too!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Some thoughts on endings: Dreaming of Deliverance's ending in particular!

Where the Red Fern Grows: With Connections

I've wanted to blog about story endings for a long time, but I've put it off because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't reached the conclusion of Dreaming of Deliverance. Actually, I'm still not sure how to do it! I guess I'll put a warning here. If you haven't finished DoD and don't want to have any inkling as to how Dreaming of Deliverance ends, skip this post. I'm not going to outright say what happens, but you'll get a sense of the tone of the ending.  Consider yourself warned!

A few years ago I was reading one of my favorite childhood books, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, to my daughter. If you're not familiar with the story, it's about a boy in the Ozarks who works for years to save enough money to buy some hunting dogs. He and the dogs develop an incredible friendship and at the end of the book the dogs are killed saving his life. (It's a little more complicated, but in a nutshell, that's the story.) So I'm reading this book to my 7-year-old daughter and she's laughing at the dogs' antics and the cute, smart things they do, and as we get closer to the end of the story I start to stress. I feel like I'm guiding her to her doom. My dilemma was, do I warn her about what's going to happen and spoil the story for her, or do I blithely go on, knowing that it's going to be rough for her at the end? Wimp that I am, I ended up telling her that the dogs would die, but that it still was a great story, and I asked her if she wanted me to finish it. She said no. We've still never gotten to the end of that book.

When I was podcasting DoD I had a similar concern. People would write to me and tell me how much they loved the characters and I'd think, "I'm sorry! Don't hate me when you get to the end!" I felt like warning people to brace themselves. But I didn't. And I know the way the story ended was tough for many.

Sad endings have never ruined a story for me. Like Where the Red Fern Grows, some of my favorite stories have sad endings: The Time Traveler's Wife, Dragonfly in Amber, Shakespeare in Love, Before Sunrise. I don't like stories that are complete downers--where there's no upside. But that's not the case in DoD. There is a lot of positive at the end, both for Lindsay and most of the other characters. It's not all bad. And with DoD, a completely happily ever after ending wouldn't have fit with the rest of the book. It's a dark story.

Besides, I don't pull any punches when it comes to story. I guess I'm brave that way. If you're one of my characters, you have to realize that I won't keep you safe, just because I like you.

Still, I apologize to anyone who was upset by DoD's ending.

One of the tough things about being an independent artist is that there's no paid mentor to ask for advice. I've wondered for months if I should come right out and reveal something that might make you feel better about DoD's ending. However, being independent, I don't have an agent or editor to consult. And my knowledgable friends, who I know would be happy to advise me, are fans of the story. I haven't wanted to ruin anything for them just because I wanted some guidance.

But I did end up telling one person something about the ending, something that I think most people missed. (It's okay that they missed it, I kept it subtle intentionally.) Then I asked her what she thought I should do: tell or not tell.

Her advice was this: allude.

So here's my not-so-cryptic revelation:

Go back and listen to the last episode. Or read the end one more time, if you're a reader not a listener. If you pay close attention to exactly what's described (and what's not described) you'll probably feel better about how the story ends.

And there is a sequel. Don't forget that. I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this month, but I do plan to do a lot of writing on DoD2. Before too long, I think I'm going to release a few excerpts from it to whet your appetite for the next part of the story. Possibly in video form, now that I have a taste of being on camera!

Yay! My post on endings is finally complete. Feeling any better now? I hope so! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on endings in general and DoD's in particular. I'm happy to talk more about it!