Saturday, 23 November 2013

Audiobook legend Simon Vance to record my genealogical crime mystery series.

Jefferson Tayte
Simon Vance

Jefferson Tayte = Simon Vance!

An uncanny resemblance?
Yes, it's true. Ex BBC Radio 4 presenter and multi award winning narrator of many hundreds of audiobooks, Simon Vance, has confirmed that he will be recording my Jefferson Tayte mysteries, which means that my books will soon be joining company with authors such as Hilary Mantel, Stieg Larsson, Neil Gaiman, and classics such as Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and Anthony Trollope. I could go on and on... Somebody pinch me!

So how did this incredible honour befall me?

I've got to hand it to Amazon Publishing (again) for keeping their writers involved in the publication process. In a recent blog I said that I'd received guide sheets to fill in about my books and characters to help Brilliance Audio select a suitable narrator for them. When I filled those forms in and sent them back, I had thought that was that. So I crossed my fingers and hoped that my input would help Brilliance make a good choice. Then about a week ago I received some recording samples from the second chapter of In the Blood, and was asked for my feedback, which really came down to allowing me to pick my own narrator from the shortlist Brilliance Audio had put together. I thought that was amazing, but I suppose it makes good sense as who could be closer to the characters in a book than the book's author?

I must confess to having been quite nervous when I clicked the play icon on my laptop for the first sample. I listen to audiobooks all the time so I knew what to expect, but there's just something strange and wonderful about listening to a professional recording of your own work for the very first time - and probably every time thereafter.  I was also apprehensive about whether any of the voices Brilliance had sent me would be suitable as I thought it was a big ask to find a British voice actor for the narration and most of the voices, who could also become American genealogist Jefferson Tayte. I listened to all the samples with a fixed grin on my face, and when I'd finished listening, I knew there was a winner in the pack. I hadn't checked any of the names prior to listening, so I had no idea who anyone was. It was only when I wrote back to Amazon Publishing to say who I thought we should go with that I looked at the filenames properly and discovered it was Simon Vance. I found his narration totally engaging, his cadence perfectly matched to my own writing style, and I just know he's going to have a great time with the many and varied characters in my books, whose lives span many centuries and locations. There will be some challenges in there, I'm sure, but I really can't wait to hear Simon breathe life into every one of them. 

Simon contacted me via email before any decision had been reached as to who would 'get the job' as it were. In that email he told me that he was 'eager' to work on my books and I also thought that was a very good sign. We've since exchanged a few emails, and having already established a connection, I'm sure it will lead to the betterment of the finished product. So, the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Crime Mysteries are in very safe hands, and I couldn't have hoped for better. I'm very excited about it.

Simon, if you're reading this, are you also available to record the voices for the Jefferson Tayte action doll? I had this idea that the figure has a detachable battered old briefcase and interchangeable tan linen suits (they're always getting ruined in my books), and when you press his tummy, he speaks one of several phrases such as "I'm a genealogist for Christ's sake! What am I doing here?" and "No smoke without fire..." and "Talk to the family - it's the first rule of genealogy." Not to mention "I need a Hershey's fix!" Although, I guess the JT action doll idea is a way off production yet. :o)

If you're a fan of audiobooks, or would just like to discover more about Simon Vance, please visit his website HERE.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Featured in Family Tree magazine

How I became a signed storyteller

I talked to Helen Tovey at Family Tree magazine recently about my transition from independent author to being a signed author with Amazon Publishing.  Helen asked some great questions about what it means to me, as well as how I go about writing my genealogical mysteries.

Click to enlarge

The December issue is out now and contains some great features including 'How to trace your living relatives' and 'How to write a family history to remember.' There's also a piece that was of particular interest to Jefferson Tayte called 'understanding gravestones - the symbolism of Scottish memorials.' Did you know that it's possible to tell the former profession of someone by the symbols on their headstone? Very useful for directing your search to the right apprenticeship records for example. It's also a great way to link research when writing fictional genealogy-based mysteries, and very useful to know when tracing real-life ancestry. You can read the full Family Tree magazine interview 'Becoming a best-selling storyteller' by following this link to  Family Tree Magazine Online

Friday, 1 November 2013

What's been going on with me this week?

It's still all go at Amazon Publishing...

If you've been tracking my word count monitor over there on the right, you'll know that I haven't added any new words to my next Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery since I last posted, but it's with good reason. In my last post, I said that the copyedits for In the Blood had come in and that things at Amazon Publishing seemed to be moving at a pace.  Well, I spent last week working on those copyedits and this week I've had the copyedits for To the Grave in so I'm now cracking on with that. I had initially thought that I would write in the mornings and edit in the afternoons, but I can't seem to write well like that, and given that my copyeditor is sending me new material to edit almost as fast as I can return it, it made sense for me to stay in edit mode until it's done. Then I can focus 100% on writing the new book, all the way to the finish line. I've come to realise that I write best that way - without distraction. I like to immerse myself in my imaginary world and stay there for as long as I can. I'm sure that's the same for most writers, and I have to say that I really envy and respect any writer who can dip in and out of his or her writing for no more than a few hours at a time, especially those writers who are forced to write that way because of their circumstances, be it their work, family life, etc. So anyway, I expect to be in edit mode for about two more weeks, and then that word count will hopefully start to shoot up.

Apart from moving on to editing my second book, a couple of other things have happened since my last post. The second round of jacket cover designs came back and they're shaping up nicely.  I can't wait to see what the next round looks like.  I've also noticed that my books under Thomas & Mercer have started to appear on, with a release date of March 18, 2014 - and it's the first time I've had books on Amazon with pre-order options! Yay! I was also pleased to see that the price of the paperback is $11.66, down from the current price of $14.99, so that should help to make them more competitive, and of course, better value for readers.  Here's a link to In the Blood if you'd like to see how it looks, although there's not much to look at just yet.  Maybe they'll add video at some point, which would be very cool.

Something else has got me excited this week.  I received an email from the author relations manager at Amazon to say that production was soon to begin with Brilliance Audio on the audiobooks for my series.  Now, as well as being excited about this, I'm also a little scared.  No, maybe scared is too strong.  I'm nervous, that's it.  The main reason for this is that my books are written with a British English narrative, they're predominantly set in England, and the majority of the characters are English.  But Jefferson Tayte is the lead character and of course he's an American.  My worry is that JT's voice won't sound right, because I feel that the narrator needs to be a Brit (for all the reasons above), rather than an American.  I'm sure I'm worrying about nothing though as that's what voice actors do - accents.  I did suggest Hugh Laurie (with tongue in cheek) as he's a Brit who has managed to speak as a convincing American, but I think he's probably outside the budget.

I listen to audiobooks all the time and I've also heard a few Brilliance Audio productions and they're very good, so I'm confident that my series is in good hands.  What I really like about them, and the whole process with Amazon Publishing so far, is the amount of involvement I have.  I had questionnaires from Brilliance Audio to fill in for each of my books, allowing me to describe my characters, such as where they were from, how they look and their mannerisms.  It also allowed me to voice my concerns, which I'm sure will help the production team choose the right narrator for the job - or narrators, as I can see how it would work well to have a female voice for the past narrative in To the Grave, because that part of the story is told entirely from sixteen-year-old Mena Lasseter's point of view.  So, it's great to be involved and it's certainly helped to put me at ease over how things are going to turn out.  That said, I'm sure it's still going to be odd hearing Jefferson Tayte speak for the first time, and I'm sure that however good the voice actor is, my old friend JT won't sound the same as he does in my head when I'm writing his dialogue.  If he's very good though, his voice will most likely be the one I adopt when writing JT's dialogue in future. The audio editions for the series are also set to be released on March 18.

I'm in London in a couple of weeks to meet with my main editor and the author relations manager for the first time, which I'm also very excited about.  After lunch they're taking me back to the Amazon offices where were going to have a conference call with the marketing manager in Luxembourg, and he's going to talk about the marketing plan for my series.  Now, I don't know what life is like with other publishers, but I get the feeling that it's probably not as interactive as this, and as an author who has become used to managing my own production, sales and marketing over the last few years, I can't imagine how it could be any better.