All posts by Maria Lima

In praise of audiobooks and their narrators

headset photo by Parag DeshmukhI used to dislike audiobooks.

Not really sure why, but part of it stemmed from the fact that I read so very, very fast; part of it because I didn’t want someone else’s voice telling me how I should understand the text and another bit because the few audiobooks I’d experienced had rather monotone narrators —  a thing that some folks might not mind, but I do.

Another drawback: I tended to fall asleep while listening, or my mind completely wandered…through no fault of the narrator, but of my own mind, that needs more stimulus to concentrate. I can’t even just watch a show, without having something else to do during it. Plus, I don’t actually ever drive anywhere, so listening in a car was out. Even when I did commute to my job, I lived only 15 minutes away, so not conducive to a long story.

There were some I had enjoyed. Nonfiction, mostly humor (David Sedaris, Bill Bryson) that I’d borrowed from the library, but fiction was pretty much a nope. A wandering mind is not conducive to grasping a story. I really wanted to like audiobooks. My sister pretty much lives by them (with a 40-mile each way commute).

I even made the mistake of signing up for Audible, figuring that would make me get into listening (it did not.) I went through and bought a bunch of books (mostly ones I’d already read & enjoyed) figuring that eventually (maybe when I retired), I could spend time to listen. I let my subscription hang in there for a long time, then canceled it, because it grated on me, having those books sit in my virtual library, untouched.

After thinking about it, I realized that with the Whispersync feature, I could read along with the book while listening to the audio. So I gave it a whirl – and something clicked – well, that and the fact that I ran across a really awesome narrator: Tim Gilbert, who narrates Harper Fox‘s Tyack and Frayne books. I love this series beyond the telling and often re-read them because they are so fabulous. Now with the audio, it was like getting to discover them again.

Even thought the books weren’t necessarily Whispersynced, I could still read along on my tablet and Gilbert’s narration fit the stories properly. I ended up binge-listening, each night after dinner until I finished the series.

I then switched over to K.J. Charles A Charm of Magpies series and narrator Matthew Lloyd Davies – another brilliant voice actor. He also narrates her Sins of the Cities series and Society of Gentlemen series. Another most excellent experience.

By this time, I was all in, continuing to (mostly) buy books I already read & loved, still a bit unwilling to dive into an unknown book with only a short sample narration to go by.

Recently, I wanted to re-read Natasha Pulley‘s Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a wonderful, brilliant, complex twist of a book that I adored when it first came out. Its sequel, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, was about to be released and I wanted to be sure I remembered all the details of this complex story. I bought the audiobook (already owning the actual book) and began to listen: I was transported.

I don’t know what it was about narrator Thomas Judd, but his voice and interpretation entranced me. He simply was Thaniel and Keita Mori and all the other characters. I immediately went back and pre-ordered the audio of Pepperharrow, along with the ebook I’d already ordered. This would be the first time I’d listen to a new, not-yet-read story. It was glorious. In fact, I want to re-listen to them sooner than later.

These days, with COVID-19 anxieties, I find myself unable to focus, to have anything keep my attention. A traditional read (with my eyes) is nearly impossible. I start books, then can’t concentrate enough to enjoy them. I have tons of book in my audio library, but listening requires more brain-focus than reading, and I just can’t. If I open my computer, I usually just end up on Twitter and other social media, flitting from post to post, topic to topic, brain whirling.

Then it hit me. I could try a book of short stories, or something with discrete parts that I could get through in one listening session (usually about a couple of hours.) And I already had such a book in my audio library: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K.J. Charles. Pretty much anything by KJ is an auto-buy for me (as maybe you could tell by my previous listing of her series), and Simon Feximal was perfect for my scattered anxiety-brain: an overarching story made up of individual case files. Perfection.

I’m now happily listening each evening, and when I’m done with this, I might dive into Jordan Castillo Price‘s The ABCs of Spellcraft Collection, Volume 1, which I picked up a while ago. Fun, novella-length stories, with a great narrator, Nick Hudson.  (Side note: Jordan & Nick did a YouTube presentation about Writing & Voicing Characters that is a lot of fun to watch.)

What are your favorite audiobooks/narrators? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

 

 

 

Beyond O’Keeffe

If you’re not following the #womensart hashtag (and the womensart account) on Twitter and you love art, you ought to be.

So often, when we think of great art, it’s by a man…and that’s a result of our biased schooling. We learned about great men – DaVinci, Michelangelo, Picasso, Van Gogh. The list is endless. And sure those artists are great, but we hear so little about women artists and their work. Do a Google search on “famous artists” and all the top listings will be of men. That’s unconscionable!

I like finding out about artists beyond the few women who come to mind (Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt), and thanks to social media, there’s a wealth of information. Today, in fact, I discovered Ruby Silvious, who makes awesome miniature paintings on teabags, upcycles old materials into beautiful works and many other fascinating, talented women.

So much of social media these days is negative, terrifying and heartbreaking. Give yourself permission to find the beauty.

Te Arawa Māori women weavers (c.1898), floor mats woven for Te Rauru meeting house, Rotorua, New Zealand

Writer’s Block – is it a thing?

Oh, writer’s block. We hear a lot about it and how to avoid it/work through it, but what do you do when it’s blocking you?

I bet every single writer has a tip or trick on how to break through the block. And every single one of them are right…and wrong. What works for Person X may not work for Person Y, or you.

How do I do it?

I tend to go work on something else, or just noodle around with worldbuilding for the thing I am writing.

For example: In my project Caught (which is set in Corpus Christi), I’ve been trying to work out how I can maneuver my people in ways I need to without violating how Things Work in Real Life.

The situation: my MC is called in because of some missing fae. She will be working with the local police to help find the fae and stumbles across [REDACTED] in the course of the investigation.

The writing problem: I did not want to turn this into a police procedural, nor did I want to use actual police process in the investigation. How to make this work? It’s a contemporary/urban fantasy, so I can organize my world to work the way I want it to, but a huge requirement for me is to make it plausible. Whatever situation I create must work within the rules of the world I create.

So how to avoid a reader (or me!) saying that the investigation wouldn’t happen that way, or that I was ignoring basic police procedure?

Not so simple, huh?

First, I began by having my main police character be a relative newcomer to the area. She’s not from around here and she’s feeling her own way around. That was a start.

Then I realized, that even so, I needed either more police presence, more scenes in the local PD and how they handled officially missing persons. I needed to figure out how this all worked with my MC and her own situation…and I got waaaay too bogged down.

I had to put aside the project and work on something else. Something entirely different. So I did. I worked on a romance novella (which is neither a genre, nor a length I’ve ever tried) and made some progress.

Caught was put to the side. I didn’t work on it or do any research at all.

Then the other morning, I woke up at 4:46 a.m. – with a possible solution. I typed out notes on my phone (yay for Google docs!) and realized that this may well solve some of the issues I kept running across.

The notes are part of my Scrivener file now, and I’m more confident that I can pull this off.

To whet your appetite, here’s the first section of the book – which will probably change, because of above-mentioned Eureka! moment, but hey, consider this a sneak peek!

caught-section-1

Help! I’m running out of ideas…

Only, no, I’m really, really not.

Because ideas are cheap, easy and beyond plentiful. I get ideas every single day – all day long. Some are interesting enough to jot down, others, just fleeting thoughts that may or may not crop up again.

For many writers, it’s the lack of time that bogs them down. They either work fulltime jobs, have families, are under contract or a mix of all three.

Me? I’ve got the time, the brainpower, the ganas*–but so very little actual physical ability/energy. Isn’t that irony?

I sit here pondering on topics to post for Patreon, on where to take my projects next (two of which I still consider active), and my body is “nope, nopety, nope. Can’t do.” Frankly, it sucks.

What I want most in the world right now is utterly impossible: to remove the physical constraints of my chronic illnesses and let me feel like I did when I was in my early 40s: full of life, full of energy and ability. Sadly, that’s just not going to happen.

What does this mean for you, my readers?

Well, everything’s just going to take a lot longer. I write when I have energy bursts, and rest when I can’t write. So, please be patient, and I hope you don’t lose interest. 🙂

I’ve attached a bit of something that may actually become a real project. It’s a character note sheet from Scrivener for a secondary character. This is an idea that I had after reading a Harry Potter fanfic, specifically regarding a tertiary character in that story and some interesting background the author built. It was an original character, but I was more interested in the ideology and the theme. I started wondering, “what if…” – which is pretty much how all stories come about.

At this point, this is only a character note sheet, but who knows…if I’m lucky, I might be able to develop this further.

Enjoy!!

*Ganas = desire

 

Necromancer PDF