Sunday, December 17, 2017

More on Making Audio Books

     Six months ago, I embarked on getting four of my books out on audio.  It's a long process. I put four of my titles out there: Goals for a Sinner, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, Mardi Gras Madness, and Trashy Affair. As I mentioned before, the narrators get to decide what books they will do.  I quickly discovered, they don't like to do long books. Evidently, it takes three or four months to record a short one, say 65,000 words or less, and up to nine to do a 100,000 word book. That eliminated Queen at 112,000 words, no takers there. I did have one try out for Trashy at nearly 100,000 words, but found the voice to be too serious and mature for this humorous novel and turned it down. No others have applied. Now, I had been warned not to be too picky as these are readers and not actors. They literally read the story to the listener rather than create voices for each character, but still you want to get the right person.
     Two people auditioned for Goals for a Sinner. I turned down the first voice as being too young and giggly for twenty-nine year old, jaded with men, Stevie Dodd, but accepted the second, getting a little scared I wouldn't have any more. Hey, she did a nice job recording it over four months. As I listened to every word of the proof, I found only a few errors and in one chapter with some missed paragraphs. I noted this and hope they were put back in as the story makes an abrupt move forward at that point. So, six months from start to finish and Goals for a Sinner is now available on audio easily ordered from Amazon!
     One person offered to do Mardi Gras Madness. At 87,000 words, I was nervous it also would not be chosen. But, I liked her sample reading well enough and went for it. The project was thirty days late in arriving for me to proof, not a good sign. It also showed up just after Thanksgiving when the holidays take over my life, but gamely, I sat down and started to listened to ten hours of tape. The first three chapters were good with only a minor error or two.  Then, chaos entered the process. Every chapter after that had numerous repetitions, some coughs and sneezes and throat clearing, over twenty such incidents in each chapter. Finally, when I got to six errors in the opening minutes of a chapter, I skipped to the next. Thirty chapters later, I found that the final chapter and epilogue were free of errors--but no way could I accept this book! I returned it with the note that it was unacceptable and had to be redone. My publisher took a brief look lest I was being picky--and agreed. She offered to pull the contract.
     The narrator's excuse was that she had changed editing software in the midst of doing the recording. However, it also appears she didn't check her work before sending it on to me. I believe we are giving her a second chance, but no telling if the audio of Mardi Gras Madness will be out for Mardi Gras, which I had hoped, or if it will be good enough to accept. Hoping for the best.
     Publishing is fraught with disasters like Ashy Affair being issued on e-book with only one third of its pages. Audio books are no different, I've learned. In the meantime, enjoy the audio of Goals for a Sinner and the whole New Year ahead of us.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My Favorite Reviews

      Though bad reviews still hurt me, I've had far more good ones and want to celebrate a few of them in this post. I didn't use any written by relatives, friends, fellow authors, or wonderful bloggers, which are greatly appreciated by the way. No, these were all posted on Amazon or Goodreads by total strangers which makes them extra special.
      By far my bestseller is A Trashy Affair with its just trashy enough hero on the cover. It garnered lots of wonderful reviews, but I selected just a few. One I've seen but couldn't put my finger on said the book wasn't nearly trashy enough, but she enjoyed it anyhow. The theme of the book is really recycling, both trash and people. Here are some I got a kick out of: "The story is a big ass good time. There's heat and politics along with small town flavor, bien sur"-Reader5309. Here's another:"I laughed out loud many times while reading and read some of Jane's battle with Nadia to my husband who worked in state and local government many years"--J.M.Struwe. Just one more for Trashy. "This is a great book mostly because anyone who has dealt with a small municipal government knows the politics involved. Add in some local flavor and this is truly entertaining"-Amanda Altenhofen. There are over forty more for this book which you can read yourself if you want. And yes, a few folks didn't like it.
     My very first published book,Goals for a Sinner, garnered these two. "I am a sports photographer and though I have not been sacked by a play, I have been tackled by a sideline player! It does hurt! The way Stevie protected her camera...I am right on with that too!"-Tracy. "I really got into it on a snow day and couldn't put it down until I finished."-James Corsones. I truly love when men read my books, and many have taken to the Sinners football series.
     Another in that series, She's a Sinner, about the first female NFL player, a punter, earned these remarks. "Such a fun and flirty read. It was also a fun look at what it would entail privately and publicly to be a female in a male dominated sport."-Janet. "I liked this book. I loved Tom and Alix together. They complimented each other,"-andrewsheath, who might be another male reader or not.
     Never a Sinner, the latest Sinners book, about the handicapped son of the Billodeaux family is getting some great ones. "This story was a welcome change from books featuring 'alpha-holes' and shows a hero who is manly, caring, and protective of those he loves."-lilymay. Lilymay often drops a review for me. Maybe I know her. Maybe I don't.
     Sometimes, I just love a quirky review. The Convent Rose was trolled badly the day it was published, but in time, other readers came to its rescue, and it ended with a number of good reviews. This one tried to encompass all the characters. "This was a romantic story about arts; nuns; cow bull riders;ranchers;the way nuns can make people think about themselves."-Amazon Reader. Or to put it more exactly, two nuns facilitate the romance between an ethereal, religious artist and a professional bull rider.
     While my Sinners books by far get the most reads, locally here in Acadiana the Cajuns prefer my Mardi Gras series.  Here's one regarding Mardi Gras Madness. "A romance with a bit of mystery and mayhem. Cajun lifestyle 101 at its best. While the heroine learns of Cajun life, so does the reader. I actually gave up precious sleep to finish this book."-pingmckay. I do like to think that when a person reads any of my books, they will learn something as well as enjoy a good story.
     I can also tell you that the one thing every author wants for Christmas is a good and thoughtful review. Don't be daunted. These need not be book reports like the ones assigned in school. Just a few sentences saying what you liked about our story warms our hearts and fends off the trolls--and I don't grade for punctuation or spelling. It's the sincerity that counts with me. Whether a new release or a book you've just recently discovered, go on--post a review.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Home Again,Always Inspired

     In Iceland, our guide told us the word in their language for a dull and stupid person was one that never left home. They do have a strong Viking heritage there to go wandering and encourage their children to see other countries. Travel truly does open our eyes to the rest of the world which has much to offer. If, however, you cannot afford to take trips but are a reader, you can wander through books and learn much, even from fiction. Want to visit Cajun Country vicariously? Read nearly any of the my books, and you will experience the culture and almost taste the cooking.
     What did I learn in Iceland? Much. It is almost impossible to experience a dip in the Blue Lagoon without adjusting to full frontal nudity in the locker room as there are no changing stalls and one must shower in the buff before entering the large, warm pool, nice even on a rainy day. Just try getting a bathing suit on or out of one when wet! Well, the Japanese family I changed with didn't care, so neither did I. Other trivia: chocolate-covered licorice is great, their utility bills are only $50 a month for everything as it is all provided from geothermal power plants, though the water smells vaguely of sulfur, and hamburgers cost $24, but lamb and fish are wonderful, abundant, and cheaper. I missed out on trying puffin, but learned that marinated shark and dried whale are truly awful. Also, all the puffins leave on August 19th to spend the winter at sea, so we didn't see a one of them. Icelandic horses (never called ponies), cows,and sheep, came over with the Viking settlers and are the only breeds allowed as they are adapted to the climate and very hardy. Those Vikings also "stopped off" in Northern Scotland and Ireland to pick up some women for the colony, whether by force or purchase was not made clear, but genetically, the modern men test as 60% Scandinavian and the women as 50% Celtic. Now that might be inspiration for a romance novel.
      As usual, I met interesting people, our great guide Harpa who is also an artist, our bus  driver, Stenin, a vigorous woman who liked four pats of butter for breakfast because it is good for you along with skyr (like Greek yogurt) with cream and sugar on top. My fellow travelers included an eighty-two year-old woman who had been a child advocate most of her life, the delightful David taking a break from caring for his husband who suffers from Alzheimer's, the professor who pretended to be a vegetarian because she hates fish of which we had a lot, but then missed out on the delicious lamb and dairy desserts because they assumed vegan. She always ended up with fruit, but I did share my brownie with her one evening when she fessed up. Not so pleasant or so much fun, a hypochondriac woman who told my daughter and me to isolate ourselves at the end of the table because my kid had bronchitis and coughed a lot--even though she'd been told it wasn't contagious. Everyone asked if they'd end up in one of my books--maybe their characteristics will, but probably not on a trip to Iceland.
     Came home and left a week later for St. Louis where I caught a virus that did not allow me to enjoy the barbecue I so looked forward to. In fact, I ended up getting an IV for dehydration at an Urgent Care and living on soup for most of that short trip with my husband. However, I did get to see my two main wishes--the King Tut Exhibit at their Science Museum and the ancient Indian site of Cahokia. On my birthday I stood at the foot of the enormous Monk's Mound a little too weak to climb it, but I did enjoy the very nice museum on the site. They downplayed the human sacrifice elements of that ancient culture which always fascinates me (very large scale there), but I appreciated the many recreations of day to day life. Never know when you can use that in a book. As a consolation for not being able to eat cake, my husband did buy me a lovely pendant containing fossils and crafted by a Native American. I bought some whimsical clay wood ducks based on figures found in the area,too. I love the get my souvenirs in museum shops because it helps the site and the artists.
      Hope this hasn't bored you like the neighbors' slide show of their vacation (which I incidentally always loved as a kid). Next year--Australia!

Thursday, October 5, 2017


     On Friday, October 6th, I'll be extensively interviewed on Char's RadReads.  If interested, be sure to check this out--and leave a comment or questions if you will.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On the Road Again!

     After a long, hot, slow summer, Never a Sinner came out to good reviews, and all the work is done for A Place Apart for its November first release.  Great covers on both books which capture Teddy Billodeaux's joy of life, and the isolation of Jacob Day, a damaged veteran to wants nothing more than to be left alone on his deserted island which is suddenly claimed by a socialite also seeking solitude.  Sparks fly!  I've also made a start on The Heart of a Sinner, Annie Billodeaux's story, but must put it aside to satisfy my wanderlust again.
     I am off to Iceland shortly to tour the island and bathe in the Blue Lagoon and other hot springs. When I return home, I have a week's break before going to St. Louis to see the ancient mounds of Cahokia and eat good barbecue. The question recently came up as to whether I plan to site a book in Iceland.  Probably not, but I never know.  When I started writing Sister of a Sinner last year, I had no idea that my brief cruise to Cozumel and my tour of the ruins there would come to play a part in Xochi Billodeaux's story, but that is where her kidnappers take her.  Sister only came out this spring, again to good reviews, but I don't want to spoil the story for you, so no more on that. A trip to Wisconsin provided Alix Lindstrom with a home state, though it doesn't figure heavily in the story. A spring visit to Minneapolis might give me another. It is quite a vibrant, multi-ethnic city, not bland and white at all.
      I finally got the courage to write A Place Apart several years after a visit to Maine.  When out of my comfort zone of south Louisiana, I always fear getting the details wrong, but favor Road Scholar for my tours. They are dubbed Learning Adventures, and you do learn! I save reams of information they give me for future use. In Place Apart, I recreate a sloop ride on Penobscot Bay early in the book and spin off on a legend I heard there--besides eating lots of lobster, one of my favorite foods. Although a man of education and many talents, Jacob Day chooses the hard life of a lobster fisherman to avoid others. The title came from a quote I heard at the Island Institute, founded to preserve the way of life on the many coastal islands, places apart indeed. It is my first book based entirely on one of my trips. I yearn to write one about western Ireland where I went a couple of years ago, but again, the devil is in the details.
      On my Road Scholar tours, I also meet so many interesting people like a Navajo code talker, sadly now deceased, the first woman to run the Iditarod in Alaska (she lost badly but did finish the grueling race), a shaman with a sense of humor, and many glib-tongued Irish men.  My traveling companions are equally interesting, folks who have worked with NASA, a nurse who who served in World War II, people who are so talented they can learn to play a penny whistle overnight or write an limerick in minutes to amuse the group. Any of these are worthy of a book of their own.
     So, off I go again.  Undoubtedly, I will fill my Facebook page with tales of Iceland in the next month. I'm counting on my daughter, an excellent photographer, to supply the pictures. See you later!

Saturday, July 29, 2017


     I recently finished writing Putty in her Hands, a story about a woman who is a master plasterer and restorer of old homes. When an architect purchases an hisotric hotel she wants to revive and put up modern condos, they bump heads and other body parts.Then, I mentioned on Facebook that the next step in getting it published was the rewrite. One non-writer friend asked me why I had to rewrite my book, and I replied, "Only a fool would send in a first draft." Maybe a little too blunt, but true.
     My first drafts are usually pretty clean because I revise the pages I've written the day before prior to settling down to write the new words of the day. Also if I do a plot change, I will go back and incorporate into the book at the moment I decide to go ahead. I pay attention to Spell Check, too. So, my revisions only take about three or four days, my usual time for reading any book,
     What do I look for when revising?  Anything and everything: making sure blue eyes don't turn to gray, saying a person had been to Italy in the beginning of the book, but hadn't in the end (caught that one in Putty!), consistency of plot in case I missed one of those changes, making sure my characters stay true to their back stories, etc.  Reading the manuscript as a whole over a few days as a reader would is invaluable since it has been written in bits and pieces over three or four months, and those months might have been fragmented by a vacation, an illness, a need to do edits on another book in line for publication, or take time out to publicize a new release. Does the new story hang together and make total sense?
     Spell Check doesn't catch every error either. It is perfectly happy to allow the author to use to, too, or two anywhere you want since all are spelled correctly. When I am typing fast, hot on the trail on my story line, I often drop the second o on too. It won't save you from dropped articles. Again when working fast I tend to omit the, an, and other pesky little words my mind fills in for me, but my fingers don't pay any attention to in a writing frenzy. My editor catches lots of these since I seem to skim right over the gaps any time I read the passages.
     I always think I've ferreted out all the little glitches, but usually my editor finds a few more, and I am ashamed to say, I've caught some really awful ones in the final galley proofing. Folks, always reread every word in your galley which is the last time you see the book before it goes into print. In A Place Apart, due to be released November first, I discovered I'd changed the hero's sister's name from Jeanine to Jeanette mid-story. It wasn't a conscious change since she is mostly called Jen. If I want to change a name and am aware of it, I do a search and find and make a global change, though this can be dangerous.  At one time, I decided a man's name should be spelled Grey instead of Gray and did a global change. Suddenly, gray eyes, clouds, dogs, horses, and clothes were all spelled grey, creating a total mess during revision. Also, global changes don't account for the possessive apostrophe s unless you also do an intentional change on that, too. Fortunately, I only needed seven changes to get Jeanette back to Jeanine.  So glad she wasn't the heroine! Same book, I also called the dog salon The Pampered Pooch in the beginning of the story. Somehow, it changed to The Pampered Poodle at
the very end, only one correction required. And that is why I revise.
     Time for the advertisement.  Never a Sinner, the fourth in the Sinner's Legacy series, is coming out on August 30th. This is Teddy Billodeaux's story. Born with spina bidifa, he has been on crutches or in a wheelchair his entire life.  No, he will never be a player on the Sinners'team, but he has carved out a career as a sport announcer and writer. His life is about to be upset by the arrival of a pregnant teen and newly crippled young woman, both of whom need his help. He rises to the challenges each presents, though it isn't easy. Hope you enjoy the read.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Audio Books

     At last my publisher has given its authors a chance to get their books recorded. I really wish this had happened when my mother was still alive as I dedicated Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, one of my best, to her. By the time the book was in print she'd developed macular degeneration and could no longer read, one of her main pleasures gone. But, to be honest, she couldn't hear either and would never admit it, so an audio would have done no good at all. Still when I got the news, I put Queen at the top of my list. It's a fan favorite along with Trashy Affair and my Sinners books.
     Obviously, I couldn't choose all of my twenty books in print.  I asked my readers to help me select, and in addition to Trashy decided on the first Sinners book, Goals for a Sinner, and the second Mardi Gras book, Mardi Gras Madness. After making the selections came the contract extension on these books for seven years. No problem there. New York isn't knocking on my door. This is evidently required by ACX, Amazon's audio arm. Recently, that giant purchased Audible, a big name in audio, so one in the same now.
     Next step, to fill in an audio spec sheet. Not too hard until you get to the sample to be read by potential narrators. I misread the instructions as a maximum of 2,000 words and couldn't figure out why only a few paragraphs showed up on my form. Ah-ha! That was 2,000 characters including spaces, sort of a Tweet sample. The instructions urge you to include both dialog and description, a lot to fit in that small space. After some frustration, I expanded the teaser scenes in the front of my books a bit and went with those.
     These scenes are now put out on a call for narrator. I'd guess some are not chosen, another reason to submit four. They do a reading of the sample which is passed through the publisher to the author to accept or reject. If rejected, another narrator gets a chance. I did note my pet peeve--that of giving people in Cajun country where most of my books take place a twang or a drawl. Really, we speak standard English around here unless older and have a Cajun accent which is not easy to do. My dialog will give the narrator some hints on how to do dat, no? Forgot to tell them my last name is pronounced Sher, not Sure. Somewhere along the line, it lost its German umlaut.
     Once the narrator is contracted for presumably a percentage of the profits, we come to the hard part, listening to the whole book for corrections exactly like a galley. I write long most times. Only Goals is a short book. I can just see me now frantically writing down every mispronounced Cajun name or word in a 100,000 word book. But, that is way off in the future if any of my chosen books fly.
      If anyone out there is jealous of this opportunity, don't be. I believe any indie writer can strike up the same deal with ACX. My audio rights belong to my publisher and so must go through them. They get a cut, Amazon gets a cut, the narrator gets a cut--and I get the thrill of having my books on audio. Not being sarcastic here. I'll let you know how the rest of the process goes as it is a long one. If any of my books comes out on audio some time next year, you will definitely hear about it.
     I hope this information is useful to all who read my blog occasionally, including that one hit in Kazakhstan. I've had readers all over the world, but this is a new one. Enjoy!