Before I get to the mushy stuff, I just want to let everybody know that I will be posting my review and thoughts about Claire C. Riley's book, Odium on Friday...so if you are reading along, I hope you will share your thoughts here as well as on the assorted review sites. Reviews DO matter to writers. A good review is a nice thing to see, and made more special when it comes from a stranger. We love that some of our friends pick up our stuff, but that is different. When a total stranger reads your stuff and says nice things...that is something hard to explain when it comes to how that feels. As for a well constructed critical review...they have their place as well (notice how I did not say negative? If done right, a less than glowing review CAN be helpful).
Now, for the reason behind today. Many of you know that I dipped my toe into the audio book realm recently. ACX makes it very easy to do and I suggest it to all of my writing compadres. My early experiences were mixed, and in one case, an absolute disaster. However, that disaster actually led to something VERY special.
I started with my non-zombie offering, Dakota. It has some good stuff...but now that I have learned more and heard a wider variety of audio selections, there are some production issues that I should have been more aware of and vigilant in regards to before giving my "okay" on the final piece. It is still good...but it could have been better. Next, I tried one of my shorts, Exoterrestrials, and I wish this got more attention because I REALLY dig how the narrator brought this to life. Johnnie Hayes has a very "noir" sort of sound.
I ventured farther out and decided to put my Gruesomely Grimm Zombie Tales up for audition. +Darla Middlebrook nailed it! Imagine if your grandmother tucked you in at night with a zombie story? I still pull that book out and listen every once in a while just to smile and marvel at how much a voice talent matters.
Once I felt okay, I put Zomblog out there. This started good, but the production team imploded and that was AFTER they had committed to also do my DEAD series. Let me say that I really do like how the Zomblog books were brought to life. However, the collapse of that team is what led me to Andy McFerrin and the crew at Falcon Sound. More on that later...
Next up was That Ghoul Ava. I really struggled to find the perfect voice for her. When I found +Aurora de Blas, I was very happy. She was silky and sexy and did a great job, unfortunately for me, but good for her, Hollywood took her out of my price range.
That led me to +Pamela Lorence. I fell in love with her voice. She has a fun, perky, spunky quality that brought more fun out of Ava than I realized I had written. She took Ava and made her her own. I was glad that she did it her way and did not try to replicate Celia. Don't get me wrong, I loved Celia's performance, but I think Pamela has stamped Ava with HER voice. Change can always be dangerous and unfair to the person who picks up the gauntlet...but different is not bad. Think of Bewitched and the "Darrin swap". Or, more recently, the "Becky change" on Rosanne. If you just give it a minute, you will see the magic rekindle.
Now I can't imagine Ava any other way. Pamela is my Ava and I would be heartbroken to lose her. She gets better with each episode and this latest one is magic. She causes me to shake my head in disbelief when I listen. She makes me sound WAY better, and since it is bad form to post reviews for your own books, let me just say a little something here about her performance in That Ghoul Ava Kicks Some Faerie A**. From the opening title, she is in character. Seriously, I got a message from her in the early stages of production and she had a few ideas for the opening title...when I heard her idea, I had to call my wife and make her listen. She has Ava's attitude down perfect. You can hear the insecurity as well as the bluster of Ava Birch. Comedy relies heavily on timing...and Pamela has that down to a science. So, I just want to thank Pamela for what she does. I hope you will give her a listen...and if so, take the time to put a review up on Audible.
Along those same lines, I had to re-cast my last two books in the Zomblog: Snoe series. Enter Jodi Bricker of Falcon Sound Company. She did not even bat an eye at coming in after somebody else and making the last two books her own. And I could not be happier. She is the perfect example of how different something can be from the original, yet surpass the mark and make it even better. She has completed Zomblog: Snoe's War and is at work on Zomblog: Snoe's Journey to complete the series. I loved that the first thing she asked for after we made the deal was for a copy of all the previous books so that she could sink into the world surrounding Snoe and better understand her. That told me I had the right person, not just for her voice, but for her attention to the little details.
That leaves my DEAD series. I have made it clear from day one that this is the book series that I want to be known for. It is very special to me, and when I lost my initial narration team, I was very frustrated. I had to go back to the auditions. Fortunately, I had one that stood out when I'd first listened. That is what led me to +Andy McFerrin and Falcon Sound Company. Starting with DEAD: The Ugly Beginning, Andy has plunged in to bring the apocalypse to life. As this is being written, he is hard at work on book 4 of the series and hopes to be caught up on the back catalog around the time I release book 9 this summer.
The wonderful and horrible thing about performance is that you will never please everybody. However, I think that WAY more people will love what Andy has done than those who do not. He has given voice and life to over a hundred characters in my DEAD world. His characters range from a five-year-old Hispanic girl to the creepiest man to ever appear in a story (and if you shudder at the name Garrett McCormick, wait until you hear Andy breathe life into that monster!). Could he put more of a pause between the vignette scnes? Maybe...but do we really need the old "Turn the page when you hear the sound of Tinkerbell waving her magic wand" prompt from the old Disney read-along story albums? I guess I give people enough credit to follow the story and know that a scene change has happened.
So, how do I review the performance? Well, my best compliment is that I won't let anybody else touch the narration of the series. Andy is my guy. Period. I look forward to each edition being completed so I can listen to it and shake my head in disbelief. As a writer, it is hard to read my stuff, but I enjoy hearing it and actually thinking, "Wow! I wrote that? Pretty cool!" It is also interesting to hear how another person emphasizes certain things. It lets you hear if your story is clear. Andy has transformed my work into what I believe to be one of the best zombie series out there. Some might consider that bragging, but I don't really care. If I were not confident in my work, why bother doing it?
So, to my amazing and talented voice talents...I thank you all. You have given me a gift that I doubt you will ever know just how much I appreciate. You breathed life into my words.