I never know what combination of good luck and synchronicity brings a batch of nice comments and reviews to one book and not to another. Bottom line, whenever a reader leaves a review on Amazon or on Audible, I’m thankful they took the time to say what they thought (especially when they liked the book).
Emily’s Stories has some great reviews on Audible, for the story and for the audiobook’s narration. Seeing this makes my day.
Here’s what people are saying:
I recommend this audiobook more than any other
What a beautiful, beautiful story
A sweet YA paranormal fantasy story
An excellent book for young adults and others
Touching, great fantasy/paranormal stories
And those are just the titles for the reviews. At present, Emily’s Stories has a 4.5 average rating.
Actually, it’s not all luck. Since my hearing is terrible, the publishers’ skills in selecting prospective readers, listening to reading samples taken from the text of the books, and negotiating costs and schedules are more important than the luck. My audiobooks are available on Audible and Amazon. Those are good places to check out if you’re looking for your first audiobook. Or, you can go to the primary publication covering the market, AudioFile. In addition to industry information and profiles of narrators, they also publish reviews. What you want to look for there are reviews in the books have been designated as Earphones Award Winners. Those not only have a great story but a great narrator (also called a reader).
The audio edition of my novel Conjure Woman’s Cat has a wonderful narrator with lots of presence in her voice and style, that I wasn’t surprised when “AudioFile” liked her work and awarded her with a pair of red earphones in the review. Wanda J. Dixon turned in what, in the movies, would have been an Oscar-winning performance.
The first book of mine to come out in an audio edition was Emily’s Stories. (The e-book and paperback editions are out of print, but I’m happy to say that the audio edition narrated by actress Kelley Hazen is still available). It was strangely wonderful to hear (to the extent that I can) the voice of an actress I’d seen in movies and television reading my lines. “AudioFile” liked the book but didn’t award it with a pair of red earphones. That surprised me because the narration is spot on with multiple tones of voice for the different characters, including a bird and a ghost.
The second book in my Florida Folk Magic Trilogy, Eulalie and Washerwoman, was wonderfully narrated Tracie T Elice Christian. We’re currently in audiobook production for Lena, the final novel in the trilogy. An early satire of mine, Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire is, sad to say, out of print. However, the audiobook, with R. Scott Adams providing the realistic narration is alive and well on Amazon.
If you’re heading out on a long trip, maybe you should grab up several of these to relieve you of the boredom of hours and hours of clouds outside your aircraft or the trash trees and sagebrush outside your car window. Of course, it’s still legal to listen to audiobooks in your hot tub or recliner.
Our earliest memories of stories often come from the gentle voice of a parent or a grandparent reading to us just before we fell asleep. If we’re lucky, we also heard them on rainy Sunday afternoons when the family was gathered with icy glasses of homemade lemonade on the porch in the summer or with cups of hot chocolate next to the living room fireplace in winter.
Even as adults, we love to relax and listen to a professional storyteller performing in a theater or a library, or on an audiobook on long car trips. Here are several ideas for the season’s hot chocolate days.
Conjure Woman’s Cat
Recipient of the prestigious Red Earphones Award from AudioFile Magazine: Wanda J. “Dixon’s warmth and gorgeous singing voice are superb in this story about Conjure Woman Eulalie, which is told through the voice of her cat and spirit companion, Lena. Dixon zestfully portrays Eulalie, who is “older than dirt” and is kept busy casting spells, mixing potions, and advising people–that is, when the ‘sleeping’ sign is removed from her door. Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and ‘Colored Only’ signs were routine.”
Also available in paperback and e-book from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, this is the first story in the Florida Folk Magic Trilogy.
Eulalie and Washerwoman
From AudioFile Magazine: “Narrator Tracie Christian’s spirited style is ideal to portray the fantasy world of conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins and her shamanistic cat, Lena, who live in Florida in the 1950s. Christian captures Eulalie’s shock when she learns that Jewish merchant Lane Walker, who’s always traded fairly with the local African-Americans, is being forced to give up his store to the Liberty Improvement Club, which forbids serving blacks. Lively descriptions of Eulalie reading possum bones and casting spells; tender scenes with her old beau, Willie Tate; and feline Lena’s communication with Eulalie via secret thought speech add to the local atmosphere.”
Book two in the Florida Folk Magic Trilogy from Thomas-Jacob Publishing. Also available in e-book and paperback through online booksellers and bookstores.
From AudioFile Magazine: “Kelley Hazen’s spirited delivery enhances Campbell’s descriptive writing in these three stories about 14-year-old Emily Walters. ‘High Country Painter’ present a talkative Emily and a realistic-sounding bird that directs Emily to magically draw obstacles to divert a grizzly bear. In ‘Map Maker,’ Emily meets an eerie-sounding ghost who helps her save a sacred forest from developers. In ‘Sweetbay Magnolia,’ Hazen captures Grandma Walters’s elderly voice as well as her persistence and wit to perfection. Young listeners will enjoy hearing Emily explain about TMI–too much information. Hazen’s skill at creating believable bird and ghost voices adds to the listening pleasure.
This three-story collection was released by Vanilla Heart Publishing.
Listen and experience the wonderment of being a child again.
In this word from your sponsor (me), I thought I’d mention–just after getting back from a one-week vacation–that when you collapse into your hotel room after a day of sightseeing, you need entertainment. But, sometimes there just isn’t anything to watch on TV except the Weather Channel.
The answer: audiobooks. Here are some for your list:
Editorial Review (Excerpt): “Kelley Hazen performs the narration in a solid voice that is exhilaratingly fresh and young and old sounding as appropriate. Her accent is accurate and captures the essence of each character perfectly. I found her voice mesmerizing and comforting at the same time.” – Audio Book Reviewer
Reader Review: I like it when kids are smarter than adults in stories like this. It gives me hope. The author ‘s writing had a ‘Peter Pan’ feel to it – not that it reads like ‘Peter Pan’ but it’s a kid being powerful and doing something positive. And there is also a magical ‘The Secret Garden’ kind of feel in here.The kid is powerful because she can see & hear the beauty and the magic in Nature. This audiobook has the coldest, scariest ghost voice in the world and also the wonderful open, free and uninhibited voice of ‘Emily’. AND the voices of birds and much more. The widest range of voices I’ve heard from a narrator. And all seemed real, not forced. I believed it – I believed this could happen.
Told through the narrative voice of Lena, Eulalie’s shamanistic cat, the fast-paced story comes alive. The approach is fresh and clever; Malcolm R. Campbell manages Lena’s viewpoint seamlessly, adding interest and a unique perspective. Beyond the obvious abilities of this author to weave an enjoyable and engaging tale, I found the book rich with descriptive elements. So many passages caused me to pause and savor. ‘The air…heavy with wood smoke, turpentine, and melancholy.’ ‘ …the Apalachicola National Forest, world of wiregrass and pine, wildflower prairies, and savannahs of grass and small ponds… a maze of unpaved roads, flowing water drawing thirsty men…’ ‘…of the prayers of silk grass and blazing star and butterfly pea, of a brightly colored bottle tree trapping spirits searching for Washerwoman…of the holy woman who opened up the books of Moses and brought down pillars of fire and cloud so that those who were lost could find their way.'” – Rhett DeVane, Tallahassee Democrat
“A simply riveting read from beginning to end, ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. – Julie Summers, Midwest Book Review
I’m a disorganized writer. My den, and especially my book shelves, is a mess. When my publisher sends me free author’s copies of my books and/or I order books for gifts, reviewers and book signings, I often order more copies without checking to see how many I already have. Extra copies are everywhere.
Here’s my solution. The following is a list of extra copies of some of the books I’ve written. All of them are available on Amazon, Smashwords and OmniLit so you can check them out. If you decide you would like a copy mailed to you (continental U.S.), you can have one at no charge. Limit is one per person on a first-come, first served basis.
With the exception of the last item on the list, all of these are from Vanilla Heart Publishing.
If you would like a copy, send me an e-mail with the title of the book you want, your mailing address and whether or not you want the copy signed. If you have a second or third choice, include those titles in case somebody else gets to your first choice before you do.
Send the e-mails to me at malcolmrcampbell [at] yahoo [dot] com.
Offer expires May 30, 2014
Titles and Copies Available
Emily’s Stories (three short stories set in north Florida) – 1 copy
The Seeker (magical realism with fantasy elements) – 4 copies
The Sailor (magical realism with fantasy elements) – 3 copies
Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire (comedy/mystery, original cover) – 2 copies
The Sun Singer (fantasy) – 3 copies
The Sun Singer (fantasy, iUniverse edition; same as VHP edition except that it blurs the real locations used in the story) – 2 copies
If you find anything that sounds like your cup of tea, e-mail me and I’ll send it to you. There’s no obligation, but if you love it, an Amazon review would be nice.
I used Glacier National Park’s Iceberg Lake in “High Country Painter,” of the three short stories in my family-oriented e-book/audio book Emily’s Stories.
Where Is It?
Iceberg Lake is a 5.9- mile hike from Many Glacier Hotel on the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park. The lake, which is frozen over during the winter months, is named for the chunks of ice that float in it throughout the summer. It’s one of the most popular trails in the area.
En route to the lake from the hotel, the elevation increases 1,200 feet, however most of the uphill sections of the trail are gradual. For those who haven’t yet gotten used to the elevation or long walks, the hike provides a half-day of exercise.
In his book The Best of Glacier National Park, Alan Leftbridge lists Iceberg Lake as one as one of Glacier’s seven best day hikes. His level of difficulty for the hike is moderate. Hiking in Glacier calls the hike strenuous. (I guess it depends of whether or not one is out of shape!) If you don’t have a hiking guidebook, this web site provides a good overview of the trip.
How I Used it In the Story
Young Emily Walker and her family travel from Florida to Glacier National Park for a family vacation. She accompanies her father on the hike while her mother spends the day around the hotel. Since she occasionally talks to birds and spirits, she knows something unusual will happen at the lake.
Why I Used the Lake
Emily and her father are used to the sinkhole lakes and blackwater rivers in the Florida Panhandle. I wanted to put them into a new environment. The arête in the picture is called the Garden Wall and it not only provides a lot of ice and snow to look at, but frequent mountain goats as well.
The lake sits in a cirque, a carved-out bowl left by ancient glaciers, and since it’s such a popular spot, hikers will almost always find ground squirrels and chipmunks there begging for food. The lake sits in bear country, so it’s always good to check with the rangers for to see if there have been any grizzly bears in the area before you begin your hike.
The hike also features many wild flowers as well as some very different views of the mountains than one sees from the hotel. There are good views of many rock formations and other features of glaciation,
The first mile of the hike is on the paved road that connects the hotel complex to the camp store and the campground; park your car at the store to save a bit of walking.
Excerpt from Emily’s Stories
The horizon was hidden by a grey wall of rock which, according to the pack, also concealed incoming storms; now, carrying rain jackets on a sunny day made sense. By the time they passed the noisy waterfall and strolled through lacey-white bear grass (without bears) and scattered Indian paintbrush that gentled the grey rock (“limestone,” her dad said, descriptively), Emily was ready for lunch.
Deep snow lay hard-packed around the lake’s far shore where the limestone wall created a playground for mountain goats running across their grey and white world as nimbly as Southern chameleons ran along the Walters’ brick house. Sunny Florida was, as advertised, sunny and hot, but here deep summer had only melted the ice off half of the lake’s surface.
“I am astonished,” said Emily, dropping her knapsack on the ground and running down to the water. The water was as cold as it looked.
“Punkin, ‘astonished’ is a new word for you,” her dad said. He knelt down and splashed water over his
Summing Everything Up
My teenaged protagonist talks to birds and spirits, so her stories are always set outdoors. Like other visitors to the hotel, the hike to the lake is one she would probably take. It provides great scenery for Emily to experience with her father as long with the possibility a bear might appear.
I worked at the hotel as a bellman for two summers and walked up to this lake many times. Using it in the story is an example of a writer writing what he knows.
Today’s guest on Malcolm’s Round Table is Kelley Hazen, an artist who has appeared in multiple stage, screen and television productions. You may have seen her in “Nightingale in a Music Box,” “What Women Want,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” She also lectures for the renowned Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, CA.
Recently Kelley founded Storyteller Productions in Southern California with her husband, Bruce Carver. The boutique, state-of-the-art studio offers full recording services featuring intuitive narration. My three-story collection called Emily’s Stories, from Vanilla Heart Publishing, was Storyteller Productions fourth audio book.
Malcolm: When I listened to your narration of “Emily’s Stories,” I was reminded of my childhood when parents and grandparents read my favorite books to me on long, rainy afternoons and before I fell asleep at night. How do you achieve the being-there-with-the-listener effect?
Kelley: We have an amazing microphone – the vintage Sound Deluxe E49 – we selected that mic because of its perfect union with the timbre of my voice. As an artist and reader of audiobooks, I strive for a sense of…almost “sitting on the listener’s shoulder,” a quality of being in their heads, in their imaginations – a very intimate experience. I think when you combine that artistic goal with the technical mechanics of the right hardware you have the opportunity to create that sense of “being there with the listener.”
Malcolm: When you appear on the stage or work as a lecturer at the Griffith Observatory’s planetarium, there’s constant feedback from the audience. Is it difficult to change mindsets and figuratively work in a vacuum with voice-over work and audio book narration?
Kelley: No not at all, it’s actually strangely freeing because quite simply the story’s the thing. There is no hidden agenda, no coughing while I’m trying to make a point. : ) It’s just me, the mic, the story.
Malcolm: Can you walk me through what a typical narration project includes beginning with the first time you see the book or printed manuscript through the final production of the audio file? How do you prepare?
Kelley: We’ve usually gotten a feel for the book or the writer by either submitting an audition or pitch for the book, or because we’ve dealt with the publisher or author before. So we’ve either seen excerpts or been able to ascertain some sense of who we are dealing with. We believe that often, if not always, artists (writers/actors/publishers & editors if they do their job fully) have an underlying sense of how they want to be perceived in the world, what message they are sending, how they want to impact the greater good. At Storyteller we try to embody that – after all we are a conduit to get across the message that the writer is trying to convey by gathering these particular words together in this way.
Malcolm: I like that approach. Once you grok the story and its message, what additional preparation do you have?
Kelley: Then we just start breaking it down – a chapter at a time. That’s why it is most helpful when an author can send us the manuscript in electronic form. Although I will say our last two books were old school – regular ‘ol page-turning bound books. And it was a welcome respite from iPad’s and Word docs. But we always need two copies because the engineer, my husband Bruce, follows along as I record to watch for missed or mis-spoken words, but also has his own notations as he works for the editing and clean up. So I take it a chapter at a time – realizing the story, assessing the number of characters and their demands, looking up words I don’t know, learning languages.
Our last two books – I learned fragments of three different languages and multiple dialects for the 25+characters in Petty Magic. For Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue, a nonfiction about the life and efforts for canonization of a 17th century cloistered nun, I not only had to go to school to understand the Old World process of becoming a saint, but since the book was almost entirely set in Spain, accurate pronunciations of Kings, Viceroyalty, Popes, cities, mountain ranges, etc. were essential. For Emily’s Stories I found pictures of the birds that became such important characters for Emily and clips on YouTube by avid birders who had recorded the cry of each of these birds. Then when I gave the bird characters voices or imitated their calls, I tried to make it sound as much like that bird in real life as I was able. Also something just as simple as knowing where to take the breath to maintain the understanding of a line as it is read. All this work is done beforehand.
Malcolm: The pine siskin in my story “High Country Painter” thanks you! There’s more pre-narration work involved here than I imagined.
Kelley: Then we go into the studio and begin to record. We have to make sure that I don’t consume too much dairy so there is not too much phlegm to cause constriction in my voice. I have to eat so my stomach doesn’t growl. You would be amazed at what the intimacy of and the quality of these current day mics can pick up. It’s like HD for the ears. We usually record in two hours sessions. We can often do two session a day depending on our schedule. We keep separate files of snippets of new characters when they come along, once I’ve found their voice, so that when we come back to them I can hear how I did it the first time and keep it consistent. Consistency is key for the structure of a good audiobook.
Malcolm: Do you alternate the studio work and the preparation ?
Kelley: Anywhere from two to five chapters are prepped at a time. And during my prep time Bruce begins to edit. He listens to the whole thing all over again watching the book to look for missed words or times when I started again on a section but also any kind of outside noise or mouth noise or popping. He looks at an actual wave of my voice frequency–its in a program called Pro Tools. So he can hear but also see when extraneous sounds are present and cut them out or re EQ them by changing the sound around the errant noise. If I’ve missed anything or there is anything he can’t get out, we have a fix session.
Then he renders the files from a very sophisticated WAV file that is very “lovely dark and deep” to an Mp3 format which is a much smaller file and easier to download, etc. And then we “deliver” the book electronically to the publisher. Usually they have some kind of review process and if they find any mistakes, they write us and tell us, we fix it, send it again. And at some point they sign off and it goes up for sale. But just as important as consistency, there is a point where I must get lost in the story, become enveloped in it and in the world the writer has created. And that is the lift off, the miracle, the joy of it for me.
Malcolm: On your Facebook page, you said narrating a book is almost like living in your own imagination. How does this differ from getting in character and performing in front of a camera or an audience?
Kelley: When I am in front of a camera or an audience I am always aware they are there. That awareness gives me information to shape my performance to be effective. When I am reading in my dark little room behind my heavy sound barrier curtains and walls, I can be transported in my imagination anywhere I want to go, anywhere the authors take me, and no one is looking. I am there – wherever “there” may be. It is very easy to get lost in the moment, to be completely free. It is, quite literally, transcendent.
Malcolm: What led you and Bruce Carver to start a recording studio that includes the production of audio books?
Kelley: When you try to make a living via your art, all the work you take is not always as fulfilling as you hoped it would be. Particularly for an ‘educated’ artist – I’m an MFA, Florida State/Asolo Conservatory and Bruce is a Masters of Music, Northwestern Univveristy. That sounds very snobbish. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great, fun work when you get it, but also, – well let’s put it this way – I’ve played about a dozen different moms for TV whose child has been either murdered, raped, kidnapped, abandoned, abused, molested… the list goes on.
Likewise, I lost my dad in 2012 and that is always a big wake up call. Bruce and I at the same time came to the realization we wanted to do work we cared about, we wanted to do work that moved people, that felt important, we wanted to support other artists who were trying to get their voices heard, we wanted to work together, we wanted to hold the reins and we wanted to be able to take our dogs to work. Go to the Dog Blog page on my website. and you can meet Angel and Maggie – our husky and lab/chow that work on every book right beside us. They are Quality control.
Malcolm: I like the great critter pictures. Our three cats are constantly checking up on me while I write, purportedly for quality control purposes. In addition to the audio books, what other projects do you have at Storyteller?
Kelley: We are also very excited that we are about to embark on a new recording angle – audio description. Audio Description has been described as “a literary art form. ” It’s a type of poetry – a haiku. It provides a verbal version of the visual: the visual is made verbal to convey the visual image that is not fully accessible to a significant segment of the population. These services apply in various multimedia settings including theater, dance, opera, television, video, film, exhibits, museums, educational venues, but also circuses, rodeos ice skating exhibitions and a sporting events.” The 2010 Telecommunications Act, signed into law by President Obama will, in a series of progressive requirements, make audio description a required part of our cultural accessibility. I am attending a conference this week, offered by the American Council for the Blind & the Audio Description Project to learn those skills and Bruce and I would like to make that a part of the services we provide in our studio.
Malcolm: How do coordinate studio work with the ever-shifting demands of the film and television productions in which you appear?
Kelley: Because film and TV are ever-shifting its become a way of life for us. Because our studio is in our house we can ‘go to work’ whenever we want or need to – Middle of the day or middle of the night. But also because our lives are ever-shifting we decided to pursue our own business in recording for some structure, some calm, some control.
Malcolm: Where will film and television audiences see you next?
Kelley: I have a new independent film coming out this fall, BLACKMAIL – very fun, smart, black comedy about truth and consequences. Also a new comedy BOOT THE PIGEON is in production, about dating and the adult male. Bruce will be the signature sound for the upcoming Starz series (pirate prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island) out in Jan 2014, BLACK SAILS. Like us on Facebook at Storytellerproductions and we will keep you up to date on what we are up to.
Malcolm: Thank you for visiting Malcolm’s Round Table, Kelley.