Friday, July 16, 2010

I drew shocked stares... a Blackstone meeting yesterday.  We were scheduling upcoming releases, and one of our acquisitions people announced that she had acquired several series of--wait for it--Amish romances.

"Oh goody!" I exclaimed.

Now, between you and me, we audiobook folks can be a snobbish bunch.  It's about great literature, timeless books in a timeless format, high art preserved for the ages by the great actors of our time, yaddah yaddah.

And, me being the gatekeeper of this great art form, I guess everyone expected me to groan and roll my eyes.

Nothing of the sort!

I love mass market fiction.  It's fun, it's easy to cast, it's a breeze to record.  Any narrator with a sense of humor and a little perspective is going to have a blast romping across the moors tossing bodices this way and that, or creeping through the sagebrush to ambush the gol-darn rustlers, or even clopping along the country roads of Ohio while the seasons turn and life's little lessons are played out against a backdrop of barns and bundling boards.  You know there's an eager audience hanging on every syllable, breathlessly awaiting the next lusty (or wholesome) kiss and the inevitable meting out of just desserts.

One of the pleasantest times I ever spent behind the mic was recording a sunny little Christian teen romance novel.  The characters were colorful and lent themselves to creative "mental casting" (a little Judy Garland here, a touch of Walter Brennan there, and some Barbara Stanwick thrown in for good measure); no violence or grueling slasher scenes; NO boudoir stuff (most narrators dread graphic sex--it's embarrassing); and everything turns out ducky in the end.  What's not to like?

Even more fun is goading skeptical actors into treating this stuff like Tolstoy and breathing life into the cliches and recycled plots.  "I dare you to make this sound great!" I tell them.  It's the satisfaction of a B-movie director who, against the odds, turns out an engrossing little picture.  I love bursting the bubble of low expectations.

So all you secret romance fans--you know who you are--get ready!  Blackstone has a great cross-section of this ever-popular genre coming up this fall, and it's going to be fun to listen to.  We've got your lusty Scottish earls with rippling abs, your winsome Amish lasses who yearn for that perfect fellow, your cozy quilting shops where small-town troubles get "ironed out" (pun intended).  Stay tuned for specifics as the release dates approach.


Monday, July 12, 2010

I am Technology's...well, you know

Can I say how much I love my new iPad?  Sorry to boast, but this thing is a marvel.  I mainly got it for reading manuscripts--I get tired of printing out stacks of paper and dragging them home and into bed with me.

[Did I say "home"?  We had a colleague over for dinner a few weeks ago and caught her staring at the piles of manila folders on the dining room buffet.  "Is" she gasped.  Well, yes it is.  When else is it going to get done?]

Anyway, now I can load a bunch of PDFs on the iPad, crawl into bed and skim to my heart's content.

But even more than that, I love narrating from my iPad.  Yes, you read that right.  I take it into the booth, punch up the wondrous GoodReader app, load the PDF, turn off the light, adjust the brightness, crop the pages a bit to enlarge the type, and off I go.  I'm amazed at how much fumbling with page turns has slowed me down in the past.  I'm generally distracted about a paragraph before, when I see it coming and start searching around for a place to stop while trying to concentrate on what I'm reading.  Then the dang pages won't separate and I spend a few seconds grappling with them.  And after the turn, it's a sentence or two before I get back into the swing.

Now I just flip my finger--quickly if it's a period, more slowly if the sentence continues onto the next page.  

I'm still getting used to it and find myself reaching the bottom of the page and sitting there dumbly for a few seconds before realizing that I didn't have to stop.

Another thing is that there's no glare from a lamp in the corner of my eye, no annoying reflection off the paper, no blurry type from a bad print job.  And best of all, I can see the whole page clearly!  By that I mean, I wear progressive lenses, and with standard size pages there's always a struggle to get everything in focus.  I would strain and crane, raise and lower the stand, move it closer then further away.  Nothing really worked.  I guess I could have invested in a pair of reading glasses--but now I don't have to!  Everything is there, clear and bright on a compact screen.  My whole upper body is more relaxed, my head position is stable and the whole fatigue factor is reduced by magnitudes.  And I so far I'm not sensing any sort of eye strain from reading off the screen.

Oh, and did I mention the heat?  It stays cooler now that I don't need a lamp.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How do you spell Mississippi?

I doubt anyone will be surprised when I admit that, in the course of casting thirty to forty titles a month, I am unable to read them all cover to cover. Some books are fairly self-explanatory--a glance at the dust jacket pretty much says it all. Some are part of a series, which means it automatically goes to the narrator who read the previous book in the series. Sometimes I have to spend a bit more time, "skimming slowly" to suss out the nature of the story and the characters. There are even books that require a good bit of slogging before they give up their secrets. And of course there are many, many books that I wish I could read all the way through, but I know I can't spare the time.

And then, every so often, I pick up a manuscript, start skimming the first few pages--and realize after a few minutes that I'm not going to be able to put it down.

Discipline flies out the window. Interruptions are a nuisance, emails and phone calls go unanswered. At home, the family is neglected, dinner gets cold. Sleep? Who needs that?

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin is a riveting murder mystery set in modern-day rural Mississippi. (The title comes from an old children's spelling trick, " M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I...") The disappearance of a local girl causes two men, one black and one white, to revisit the painful circumstances that led to the disruption of their childhood friendship. The characters are richly drawn, the plot is full of surprising twists and turns and the writing is beautiful.

I think I know who's going to record it but I'm not going to reveal that yet. Suffice it to say I'm looking forward to seeing this one take shape in audio.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter pubs October 5. Keep your eye out for it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.