Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why I Love Narrators: Part 1

If I haven't mentioned before how often, in the course of casting 30 or more books a months, our narrators pull my sorry, inefficient b*tt out of the fire, now would be as good a time as any.

Here's this week's example:

When Bo Caldwell's City of Tranquil Light landed on my desk over a month ago, I took a couple of shots at reading it, but I always got interrupted by something urgent and never got a chance to delve into it as deeply as I wanted to. To judge by the opening chapter, it appeared straightforward enough: An old man reminisces about his life as a missionary in China--how he left his life as a midwestern farmer to pursue a calling, how he met his wife in China and how much they both loved their adopted homeland. But I knew there was more. Caldwell's previous novel, The Distant Land of Our Fathers, was based on family experiences and had profound spiritual aspects, and some research told me that she is considered a lyrical writer and masterful storyteller. I yearned to get a better handle on it so I could do it justice. But as the production deadline loomed and I started running out of time, I made a logical, if hasty, choice. I decided to send it to Bronson Pinchot.

If you aren't yet familiar with Bronson's narration work, you should be. He has an exceptional ability to adapt himself to just about any sort of book you can think of, from sardonic humor (The Learners) to vampire-laced thrillers (Blood Oath) to taut war dramas (Matterhorn). I've also been struck by the fact that each author he encounters (and he's not shy about contacting them) thinks that he's the PERFECT narrator for their book. Being an exceptionally well-read person, he's acutely sensitive to the style and tone of a book. And if you've seen his work on stage or in film, you know that he's preternaturally quick on his feet. It's not that his approach changes drastically from book to book--it's just that he puts all his energy into serving the text in detailed and nuanced ways.

So I figured if anyone could help me out here, it would be Bronson. Imagine my relief when I received this email:

"You mentioned being slightly on the fence about the is STUNNING. Takes her 90 pages to get going, which is, admittedly, a lot. Yesterday read the diary entries of a young couple slowly watching their baby die and wept through the whole thing, quite restrainedly of course, but it was perfect for the tone of the writing. The book is a watercolor masterpiece.


If anyone wants to know what I think audiobook narrating is about, this pretty well sums it up. Here's someone who's frankly assessing the mechanical challenges of the material, but completely giving himself over to the emotional and intellectual rewards found therein. And it's reassuring to hear him pat himself on the back a bit--it tells me he thought about his choices and likes what he's done.

Best of all, he's done a huge part of my job for me--the part I wish I had more time for! How grateful should I be for that?

Now I want to listen to it--don't you?

Bo Caldwell's City of Tranquil Light pubs September 28th.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


If you're a big Lois McMaster Bujold fan, you probably already know this.  If you're sort of a fan and haven't heard, you'll want to know.  If you've never heard or read her stuff--well, you really should.

Cryoburn is the latest installment in Lois's wonderful series featuring Miles Vorkosigan, the frail, dashing, ever-resourceful and hopelessly romantic space-traveler who uses brains and charm to overcome severe physical handicaps as he flits around the universe in the service of his home planet's security force.  If you're not familiar with these books, I can barely attempt to sum them up.  Ms. Bujold has created a finely-textured, richly detailed, eminently logical--and deeply human--universe.  The first in the series, Shards of Honor, finds Miles's future parents on opposite sides of a planetary war.  Romance blossoms and in Barrayar they have married and are attempting to conceive in the midst of a fierce political battle that turns violent, with devastating effects on the child they finally manage to bring into the world.  With Warrior's Apprentice, we jump ahead sixteen years to pick up the story of Miles and his struggle to live up to his father's--and his own--high expectations.  And on we go from there--for ten (now eleven) terrific books, plus some short stories and spin-offs--following Miles as he learns the ropes of war and politics to become ever more respected--and powerful.

I've never been a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy stuff, but from the very first book in this series I was hooked.  The characters grow and mature and take on wonderful shadings and subtleties.  The dialogue is priceless, and Lois never misses an opportunity to mingle wry humor with taut action and a sprinkling of philosophical commentary. 

I think her fans assumed that with Diplomatic Immunity, she had pretty much wrapped up Miles's tale.  To our delight, she has sprung Cryoburn on us and I can safely say that it does not disappoint.  Miles, now married and with a growing family, and thoroughly enjoying his job as an Imperial Auditor (read: galactic trouble-shooter), is sent to Kibou-Daini (also known as "New Hope") to investigate peculiar goings-on in that planet's cryogenics industry.  Getting cryo-ed is now big business and virtually everyone, at some point, opts to be frozen alive, in the hope of awakening to a cure for disease or old age, or simply a more pleasant future.  But corporate shenanigans threaten to wreak havoc on millions of slumbering customers unless someone gets to the bottom of a burgeoning scandal.

The writing, plotting and character development are as sharp as ever, and the philosophical issues make for some hair-raising contemplation.  So cheers to Lois for giving us yet another Miles Vorkosigan novel.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for more.

Cryoburn will be released October 19th.    

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

If you're wondering why I haven't blogged lately, I'll sum it up in two words:

Sixty.  Eight.

That's the number of titles we've been preparing to release for October.

Just for some perspective, twenty-five is a healthy average.  Thirty-five is a very busy month. Sixty-eight is insane.

What accounts for this madness?  Well, we've been making a big push into the library market and have been responding to requests.  Thus--eight Amish romances, eight English bodice-rippers, a smattering of young adult stuff...oh, and vampires, let's not forget vampires!  Half-dead, sort-of-dead, not-so-dead, really dead, nearly dead--you name it.

Also, a lot of topical material, mostly politics.  We won't delve into it too deeply, suffice it to say that there's a lot of anti-this and anti-that that's very hot right now and we'd be fools not to cash in on the various sentiments flying around this season.

Add to that a number of what we call "drop-ins"--hot titles that pop up out of nowhere that nobody's grabbed for audio, and which need to be rushed to market if we're going to catch the wave.

Anyway, I'll be blogging about these and other new stuff in the coming weeks.  I promise to be better!  In the meantime, picture me trotting back and forth between the copying machine and the shipping department, my arms loaded with stacks of manuscripts.  The narrator in me finds it thrilling.  The producer in me is exhausted!