If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.













June Interview Schedule:
6/5 Daphne Contest Finalists: Joyce Woollcott, Amy Drayer, and Margaret S. Hamilton
6/12 Susan Van Kirk (new WWK Blogger)
6/19 Julie Mulhern
6/26 Barbara Ross

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 6/1 Julie Mulhern, 6/8 Andy Potter

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 6/15 Gloria Alden, 6/22 Kait Carson, 6/29 E. B. Davis

*************************************************************************

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:


KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

LINDA CASTILLO


                                                                   LINDA CASTILLO

One of my favorite authors is Linda Castillo. I first learned of her when Amanda Flower, a member of Northeast Ohio Sisters in Crime Chapter interviewed her at the library Amanda works at.  I found Linda Castillo fascinating because she writes an Amish series and had met a lot of Amish people in Holmes County near where she lives. Since I have Amish who live near me and have enjoyed other books with the Amish in them. too, I bought the first three books in her series: SWORN TO SILENCE, PRAY FOR SILENCE and BREAKING SILENCE. I now have more than ten of her books.

The main character is Kate Burkholder who was born Amish but left them when she went to collage and ended up being a police officer briefly in Columbus before she returned to her home town Painters Mill when her father died. Eventually she was hired as the police chief of Painters Mill. The other main character was John Tomasettia who was sent to Painters Mill to help Kate solve the murder of a family of seven.

Both Kate and John have backgrounds that worries them. Kate had been attacked when she was a teenager, while John's wife and two young daughters had been murdered and he'd tracked down the murder and killed him. His superiors are sure he's the one who killed the guy, but they didn't have any evidence of it.

Although they take some time getting used to each other with each book they become closer and closer so we not only have some thrilling mysteries with Kate often being in danger, but the two of them falling in love even though Kate has never even had a boyfriend so both of them are not too sure of how the other one feels. Tomesetti gets upset with her often because he feels she's not being careful enough.

Have you read any of Linda Castillo's Amish series?
Would you like to read them?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Sherry Harris Interview by E. B. Davis


The biggest literary find in years had slipped through my fingers three times in a
few short hours. I’d failed to protect it. Hemingway must be rolling in his grave.
Sherry Harris, The Gun Also Rises, Kindle Loc. 707

TO RECOVER A PRICELESS MANUSCRIPT . . .

A wealthy widow has asked Sarah Winston to sell her massive collection of mysteries through her garage sale business. While sorting through piles of books stashed in the woman’s attic, Sarah is amazed to discover a case of lost Hemingway stories, stolen from a train in Paris back in 1922. How did they end up in Belle Winthrop Granville’s attic in Ellington, Massachusetts, almost one hundred years later?

WILL SARAH HAVE TO PAY WITH HER LIFE?
Before Sarah can get any answers, Belle is assaulted, the case is stolen, a maid is killed, and Sarah herself is dodging bullets. And when rumors spread that Belle has a limited edition of The Sun Also Rises in her house, Sarah is soon mixed up with a mobster, the fanatical League of Literary Treasure Hunters, and a hard-to-read rare book dealer. With someone willing to kill for the Hemingway, Sarah has to race to catch the culprit—or the bell may toll for her. . .
https://sherryharrisauthor.com/


The Gun Also Rises, Sherry Harris’s sixth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series was released yesterday. Sarah multitasks with aplomb as she’s on the run from reporters and literary treasure hunters, all the while pricing Belle’s mystery books for a charity sale, organizing a fundraiser for a serviceman suffering from PTSD to bring his dog from Afghanistan to the States, and preparing to testify in the trial against a stalker. But she’s not superwoman. While she’s finding clues to solve the murder of a thief, she’s also second-guessing her decision to end her relationship to her ex, CJ, and wondering what to do about DA Seth Anderson, who still is pursuing her. And then, after successfully dodging reporters, her brother shows up to help her, but he also happens to be a reporter.

Sherry weaves an interesting tale around the legend of Earnest Hemingway’s lost manuscripts, a wonderful premise for bibliophiles. She knows her readers well.

Please welcome Sherry Harris back to WWK.                                                   E. B. Davis

Hadley and Earnest
I’m not a true Hemingway fan so I wasn’t aware of Hemingway’s lost manuscripts. Was it something youalready knew? Tell our readers how the manuscripts became lost. I didn’t know about the story until I ran across it while I was doing some research for the novel. As soon as I read it, I knew I had to use it. In 1922 Hadley Hemingway was taking the train from Paris to meet Ernest in Lausanne, Switzerland. She thought he might want to show the manuscripts he’d been working on to a friend so she packed them along with the carbon copies in an overnight bag. When she got on the train, Hadley stowed her luggage and went to buy a bottle of water. When she came back the piece of luggage was gone. The conductor helped her search the train, but the overnight case was never seen again. Back then Ernest Hemingway was known as a war correspondent and hero but not as a novelist. I pictured someone throwing the manuscripts in the trash and taking their nice new piece
of luggage.

Belle was a wonderful character. After the little old Southern belle wielded a shotgun to ward off an armed intruder in her house, I was surprised that Sarah was still suspicious of her. Why? I’m so glad you liked Belle because I do too. Sarah doesn’t know Belle well—only as her employer. And while she wants to trust Belle, there is a nagging doubt about her that Sarah can’t shake. Who doesn’t know they have Hemingway manuscripts in their house?

Belle married into an old wealthy Boston Brahmin family. What does the term Brahmin mean and why is it applied to those early Boston settlers? The term was first used by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1861 to describe a group of wealthy Boston families—many of them descendants of the Puritans. Even though they were wealthy, the Brahmin’s believed in Puritan values of hard work, education, thrift, and culture. They thought you only should be in the newspaper when you were born, married, or died.

Belle was not well received by her husband’s parents, especially her mother-in-law, Winnie, which was the reason they settled in Ellington, not Boston. I was surprised that Belle was charitable toward Winnie. Why, when her husband has died and she can be free of personal contact, would she choose to bring Winnie into her home? Belle has a generous heart and she knew taking Winnie in was something her late husband would want her to do. Thankfully, she lives in a large house and can afford fulltime help for Winnie. That makes it easier for Belle.

Why is Sarah questioning her decision about CJ? Is it due to her looming thirty-ninth birthday? In my mind it’s because of how young Sarah was when they got married and how long they were together. She was with him half of her life and will always have feelings for him.

Sarah’s transparent. She lacks the guile of the poker face. How does this actually help her sleuth? Sarah cares deeply about other people and that authenticity makes her trustworthy. She’s likable and a good listener, which means people will open up to her when they might not to someone else. Sarah wishes every thought that flickers through her head wouldn’t show on her face. But so far, any attempts to conceal her thoughts have failed.

Sarah’s military friend James, who served under CJ for a time, is trying to help a friend, after his fourth tour in Afghanistan, bring home a dog he befriended there. She agrees to help with a fundraiser to bring the dog to the U.S. Why does it take up to five thousand dollars to do so? There are a lot of costs associated with bringing a dog back to the US from a worn-torn country. One of the highest is the cost of the flights. But there is often also medical care, boarding, and food needed along the way. Here is the link to an organization that helps reunite dogs with military members: https://pawsofwar.org/worn-torn-pups/

Belle mentions to Sarah some people are negatively judgmental about mystery books, which I’ve heard before and never understood. Why are people condescending about mysteries? I have no idea although I’ve heard people say it isn’t “real” fiction. I remember a class I took in college called “Teaching Reading in Secondary School” where the professor said it doesn’t matter what you read just get people to read. She even recommended reading comic books if it was a reluctant reader. So, I don’t care what anyone reads – just read!

Sarah doesn’t like rare book dealer Roger Mervine, although she’s just met him. Why? Right after they meet Roger makes a snooty comment about Sarah working with the lesser books and that if she finds anything valuable to let him know. His attitude put her off from the start.

Having been military spouse, you know that for spouses “there’s an unspoken rule about keeping a stiff upper lip when things are tough.” (Kindle Loc. 333) But that’s changing somewhat. Do all bases have a Military and Family Life Center? Most bases would have one or something very similar. It provides free short-term, non-medical, and most importantly, confidential counseling. If they don’t have a center on base help can be accessed online. Here’s a link: https://www.militaryonesource.mil/confidential-help/non-medical-counseling/military-and-family-life-counseling

Can kleptomania be inherited? Yes, according to the research I did. Sources like the Mayo Clinic say if you have a first degree (parent or sibling) relative that has kleptomania it is a risk factor for the family member to have it.

I was surprised to find that Winnie had an embarrassing fault. Is her self-righteousness a defensive maneuver or is she caught up in her own rhetoric without a thought of her own behavior? Winnie is a prideful, snooty woman. She has moved through life thinking she is always right. Part of it is her upbringing and part of it has worsened with age.  

Carol, Sarah’s friend, reveals her bitterness about having been a military wife. But Sarah doesn’t seem bitter. Was the difference due to Carol having children or that it took time from her own artistic pursuits? Overall, Carol isn’t a bitter person and for the most part she liked being a military spouse. It was interesting to me that after her husband’s retired that some leftover resentment spilled out in this book.

Is Sarah finally good and well over CJ? I have had so many fans write asking me if I would bring CJ back and hoping that he was off for some important secret mission. Stay tuned!

What’s next for Sarah? Thank you for asking! Book seven, Let’s Fake A Deal, comes out July 30, 2019. Sarah is opening a garage sale when the police come racing up. Sarah finds out everything she’s selling is stolen and her employers have run off.

Thank you for having me on your wonderful blog!

         
Sherry's dog Lily
                   
                                                                                                                     


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Selling the First and Planning the Second Book by E. B. Davis

I’ve written the first book in my series. It’s taken a long time—too long. My writing life took a hit when I relocated three years ago. But I’m back on track because my situation has changed and due to WWK writer Grace Topping urging me to get moving. Thanks, Grace, I needed that kick. But more, I also needed to hear that you remembered my book fondly from beta reading it four years ago. Knowing just one other person thinks my book has value soothes those insecure and emotional fears that lurk just below my carefully engineered fa├žade of professionalism.

The Writers Who Kill blog has created a community for writers regardless of their position on the ladder to fulfilling their writing career goals. I learn from the experiences of my blogging peers. Case in point: Grace Topping. She found an agent, who sold a three-book deal to a publisher. Her first in the series will be released at the end of April. What’s she doing now? Writing the second book.

What have I learned? Plan the character arcs of your characters before it’s forced upon you by deadlines. Plan the series, at least a rough outline, of each book to take your characters through the experiences they need to grow. Plant the seeds of the second novel in the first or at least make nonspecific situations in the first so you have a clear slate upon which to build the second plot.

Why didn’t I think about this sooner? I’ve had plenty of time. But the fact is that when you haven’t yet sold the first book you wonder if your time was wasted. If you invest more time creating the entire series, are you building yourself another black hole of wasted time?

Grace’s experience has taught me the answer is no. Whether or not you sell the series, the process of planning the series, building your characters arcs, and developing plots for subsequent books is a crucial skill set that will serve you well even if you end up selling a different book and perhaps a different series.

What am I doing? I’m going back through the first manuscript, tweaking characters to set them up for their development and taking out specifics that may hamper the plot of the next book.

What I have to do next? Get my promotional pieces to sell the first book as much as I hate writing about my work. What will entice an agent or publisher? I find making comparisons of my work to others problematic. I don’t want to misrepresent my book, and I also feel boastful comparing my work to the success of others. Do I have to do this?

Similar to Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic mysteries,
my cozy main characters meet at a Naples, FL resort,
a la Neil Simon’s California Suite, which is hosting the set and crew of a movie,
where the murder of a screenwriter takes place, much like the Red Carpet
Catering mystery series written by Shawn Reilly Simmons, and solve the
murder along with hotel detectives, as per Alan Russell’s Hotel Detective series.

Really? Elements of those other works may occur, but as a whole, it’s not like them at all.

Have you ever compared your book to others? If so, how do you feel about it?

Monday, January 28, 2019

DECISION by Nancy Eady


If you’ll take a minute to look down the left side of this blog, you’ll notice that each of the Writers Who Kill has a picture showing their nefarious side – except for myself.  As a champion procrastinator, I’ve known I’ve needed to add my own picture for months, but there is one giant obstacle – I am the least nefarious person I know.  It’s beyond just looking harmless.  People stop me in stores to ask for help when they can’t locate an employee.  When I was among the 10 to 15 people who walked around the local junior college on a daily basis for exercise, I was the one whom strangers pulled up beside to ask for directions.  Unfortunately for them, I’m not great at giving directions.  In the pre-Google-map era, I sent an attorney trying to find my office past our town to another, smaller town 18 miles to our northeast. 

          I digress.  The point is that I am harmless and look helpful, which on a scale from 1 to 10 places my nefariousness somewhere around -5.  Then there’s the whole inferiority complex sparked by the creativity of my fellow bloggers.  I am still star struck by the other writers in this group and the amusingly nefarious pictures on the left hand side of the blog are yet one more indication of how talented the rest of them are. 

          But I had to find some way to look nefarious.  So I started by taking a selfie wielding a knife.  The result?  I bear an uncanny resemblance to the Swedish Chef on the Muppets. 





Since I found the selfie unimpressive, I decided to think through things a little more, and enlisted my husband to help me.  After rummaging through our hall closet (since it’s distantly related to Fibber McGee’s closet, that counts as hazardous duty), we came up with another idea to establish nefariousness.  


The dog in the foreground does rather spoil the effect, but she’s our “helper” dog and insists on being involved with everything.  However, with the magic of modern technology, she is easily edited out, leaving me with the following:


          My husband said the picture would look better if I wasn’t smiling, so we tried again.  You will note that the dog still found it necessary to be in the picture. 


Cropped, the final result comes out like this:



So, gentle readers, which picture is the best candidate for nefariousness?  I could use your advice. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

“THE END” is the Beginning


by James M. Jackson

Last Friday I typed “THE END” to the first draft of the manuscript I’ve worked on for the last three months. It’s a domestic thriller and its 104,201 words took longer than I expected for a variety of personal/family reasons.

Getting to the point where one can legitimately type “THE END” provides physical proof that the first step in producing a marketable novel is complete. It’s a step many wannabe writers never achieve and always a reason for celebration.

For me there is another reason to celebrate. By the time I typed THE END, I had finally figured out who the bad guy(s) is/are for this story. [See this 2018-11-04 WWK Blog in which I discuss my approach to determining the villain(s)] Once again, I didn’t figure it out until close to the end. This time was worse than most. I finished the manuscript on a Friday afternoon, and this is where I left it Thursday:

Niki opened the door slowly, standing well back from it in case someone inside had a gun or tried to charge her. She protected her gun hand, holding it close to her body.

Inside was dark.

She sensed more that heard a movement and assumed a shooting position, training her pistol into the void. “Come out with your hands up so I can see them.”

“That won’t be necessary,” a voice from behind her spoke. “Lower the gun to waist height and drop it. You just couldn’t leave it alone, could you?”

I read that passage to Jan before dinner. She asked, “Do you know who’s saying those words?” I replied that I thought so, but you never knew what might change overnight. The next day I found the last 2,105 words to complete the story and knew for sure the mind behind the mayhem.

My celebration of finishing the first draft was brief; I know typing “THE END” is just the beginning. My first drafts are an unholy mess: They include subplots that no longer make sense. They rarely include enough setting. Four of the five senses are under-represented. Some subplots must be expanded. I have transitions to add, many to shorten. Word choices need much work. Although I probably have the right number of commas, they need to find their proper places in sentences.

My second draft will fix most of the story issues. Later drafts improve the writing. I’ll use as many drafts as it takes to get it right. But the first thing that needs to happen with this WIP is rest. The worker bees under the surface of my conscious will keep thinking on this novel even while I turn my attention to polishing the final draft of False Bottom (Seamus McCree #6) I expect the bees to unearth a few gems; I’ll include them in my notes of things to change in the next draft. Sometimes after reflection, I’ll reject those suggestions. Mostly they are good, and I’m glad for them.

Readers do you enjoy knowing how the book-sausage is made? Authors, what’s your process?

* * * * *

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.



Saturday, January 26, 2019

I have seen the future – They were right, by Kait Carson


The future is a funny thing. You can miss it if you’re not paying attention. Maybe that’s because by the time it happens it isn’t the future anymore. It’s evolved around us and it doesn’t seem quite as bizarre, or even as futuristic, as it sounded way back when.

What was your first foray into the future? Mine was at the 1964 Worlds’ Fair in the ATT/Bell Pavilion. Bell Laboratories unveiled the Picturephone. The recollection that I have of it is different to what I have read. I’m not sure if the reality evolved over the course of the Fair or if it’s one of those cases of memory trumps reality. I remember that Picturephones were set up in futuristic phone booths. Two callers entered the booths and each caller saw the other on the screen. The phones looked like a business phone with push buttons which were considered posh since most home phones were rotary dial in those days, and the screen was oval like a Jetson house. Research suggests the calls were completed in Disneyland, not between booths in New York. If that’s so, then someone teleported my best friend Bernie. Now THAT’S advanced technology and no one is talking about it even today.

I’d forgotten all about Picturephones until I read a blog that cited a New Yorker article. The article rehashed 50-year old predictions of what scientists and engineers expected to be commonplace in 2018. One of those things was the Picturephone. It seems Bell was quite serious about the 1964 technology and hopeful to have it in common usage in the 1970s. Bell’s timeline was off, but it’s undeniable that the seeds Bell planted in 1964 at the World’s Fair have turned into Skype, FaceTime, and a multitude of other Internet face to face communication services.

In 1964 I saw the future, but in 2019, it took someone who looked at the event as history to point out the event.

How about you? Have you seen the future? Did you recognize it as it happened?

Friday, January 25, 2019

Seventy by Warren Bull

Seventy by Warren Bull

Image by Bailey Zindel from Upsplash




I woke up this morning and I was seventy years old. And not for the first time.
I was seventy when I woke up two and a half months ago. I still am. My ninety-five-year-old mother and I were talking the other day. She said, “It’s hard to believe you’re seventy.” I replied, “Tell me about it.”
Seventy is an interesting age. It has some unexpected twists. For example, I am one of those men who is not attracted to girls. No, not what you’re thinking. I’m not attracted to boys or men either. I’m not knocking that. It just doesn’t apply to me. I am attracted to women. I am now old enough that some of the women I’m attracted to are young enough to be my daughters. If I had any daughters. Which I don’t. Or my nieces. I have nieces. They are very pretty. We won’t get into that.
I’m seventy mostly because I have not died yet. I came pretty close three times, but it didn’t take. It might be genetics. My father flat-lined three times before was completely and sincerely death. After he flat-lined, I asked him if he saw a bright light and angels telling him he wasn’t ready to stop living yet. He said he didn’t see anything.  He sounded disappointed.
Some people my age are old. They putter around. The highlight of their week is gardening, playing golf or playing bridge. They watch the evening news and get upset about young people. They do fewer and fewer things with fewer and fewer people. They dry up and contract like a sponge. I do not want to be a sponge.
When I turned sixty-five I started taking voice lessons. That was a great decision. Singing is one of a quite limited number of things I continue to improve at. Now that I am seventy, I need to add something to that list. I don’t know yet what it will be. When I find out, I’ll let you know.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

COLD JANUARY DAY by Gloria Alden


Okay, I don’t live in Alaska, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Idaho, Montana, Upper Michigan or any of the states further north, including upper New York State or the northern New England States, but even in N.E. Ohio it’s been darn cold these past weeks. In fact, on this past Sunday all the churches in the area were closed. It’s not just the cold. It’s also the heavy snowfall we’ve been getting. The road in front of my home has been plowed regularly and had something like salt put on it enough to keep it open to the many cars and trucks that speed down it. My son came over several days ago with his tractor with a plow in front of it and plowed out my driveway. There is still at least six or more inches there because it has continued snowing. He also shoveled my rather long sidewalk, too, and the next day I noticed he plowed a wide trail from his peacock pen to my barn which made it easier to walk over there to feed our peacocks (his, the male pea cock and mine, the female pea hen) Until recently I was letting my ponies out in the daytime, but when the snow started getting deeper and deeper, I'm now keeping them in their stalls.
I haven’t driven too much, although about five days ago I went to Aldi’s grocery store to stock up on food and other things because it was supposed to snow with the temperature really dropping. I stopped at the Dollar General next to Aldi’s to pick up doggie treats and snacks for my Maggie.
My son, who lives next door, and my daughter, who lives about eight miles away, have come over and brought me food for supper. They call to check on me, too. But except for going out to take care of my ponies, two hens, a barn cat and the peacocks next door, I’m not outside any more than I have to be. I pick up my newspaper on my way back from the barn. Maggie likes to go out, but she doesn’t stay outside too long.
After I wrecked my car last fall I had to quit delivering Mobile Meals. Eventually my son found another car for me so I again have a red Ford Focus to drive. However, I’ve decided because of the weather and the roads I’m going to wait a few months before I sign up to deliver Mobile Meals again. My daughters don’t think I should be doing it, but I’m not going to pay attention to them. I like delivering the meals, and it doesn’t take that long because my route doesn’t have that many people signed up for them.
Meanwhile except for going out to care for my animals, get the newspaper and the mail, I’m pretty much inside. Last week I did go to a restaurant in a small town about 12 miles south of me where I met my two sisters and my sister-in-law for lunch at a restaurant run by a Greek family. My sister-in-law’s parents were Greek so she enjoys visiting with them. The food is always delicious there. We enjoy visiting and were there about three hours or more. Because it was a weekday and later in the afternoon, there weren’t a lot of people there so we each left decent tips for the owner/waitress who took care of us.
So am I unhappy about the weather? Not really because I’m spending a lot of time in my nesting chair reading. Sometimes I put on one of my Andy Cooney albums and play it. I’m in love with him. At the beginning of December, I went to the Warren Civic Music Center with a friend to hear him sing. I had never heard of him before, but he’s a well-known tenor singer. I ended up buying four of his CDs and, except for the one I sent to my Washington State sister and her husband, I still have three to listen to. Because he’s an Irish Tenor who sings Irish music, I love not only his voice but the songs he sings. He wasn’t born in Ireland, but his grandfather was and he has visited Ireland a lot. He also writes music, too. Some of his music makes me want to get up and dance to it. Of course, Maggie stares at me wondering what in the world I’m doing. I consider it my exercise for the day.
So do I wish I had the money and a companion to go with to Florida and leave this winter weather? Not really. The positive aspect of winter is I don’t have to mow my yard, weed my flower beds, and I don’t have to suffer from the hot days. My house is cozy and warm and I’m pretty much surrounded by books to read in almost every room in my house. I like having friends and family around to have lunch with or go to plays with. I like the church I go to and my church friends. I enjoy the two book clubs I belong to also. I’d miss my ponies and especially my sweet collie Maggie. I’d miss my nesting chair where I sit to read. Just having warm springs, summers and fall is enough for me to have warm weather.
What about you? Do you hate or enjoy winter weather?















Wednesday, January 23, 2019

An Interview With Voice Over Actor Joana Garcia

by Grace Topping

During my years commuting in the Washington, DC area, the only thing that prevented me from giving into road rage was listening to recorded books, or as they are now referred to, audiobooks. My love affair with audiobooks has seen me through books on cassette, CD, and now as downloads on my iPhone. 

I’ve always been fascinated by how audiobooks are produced and wondered about the narrators or performers whose voices enthralled me. So when voice over actor Joana Garcia offered to tell me about her career and give me a tour of her recording studio, I jumped at the chance to go behind the curtain. With the popularity of audiobooks growing exponentially, writers should become familiar with what’s involved in their production.

Welcome, Joana, to Writers Who Kill.

With a background as a naval officer and a community activist, what led you to doing voice overs and book narrations?

Joana Garcia
I always say that sailors are the best storytellers. It is believed that sailors who are out at sea for months at a time weave long and exciting sea stories out of any mundane happening. After all, what else are they going to do while floating out in the middle of the ocean to stave off boredom, monotony, hunger, and even thirst? Of course, earlier sailors always had rum available, which made their stories even that more interesting.

You identify yourself as a voice over actor. How does that differ from a narrator?

I’m not sure there is a difference. I call myself an actor because regardless of whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, you are still telling a story AND you have to make it interesting, even if you are narrating a book about quantum physics.

Are different skills required to narrate nonfiction and fiction? If so, how do they differ?

My nonfiction coach says that nonfiction is much harder than fiction because regardless of content, the actor has to make the subject matter interesting and informative. For some nonfiction titles, that could be a tall order.

Is there training for people interested in getting into this field? 

Absolutely. The audiobook narration field has some wonderful coaches. I have studied under Sean Allan Pratt for non-fiction, Johnny Heller and Scott Brick for fiction, and Pat Fraley is available for coaching (I have not studied under him, although I would really love to.)

There are also wonderful voice academies and studios that teach voice acting, such as Global Voice Actors Academy (GVAA), Edge Studio, and several more. Voice acting classes can also be found at some colleges (you will have to look up your local college to find out). There are also workshops and meet-up groups available that can be found online. It takes some digging, but there is plenty of opportunity if you are willing to put the work in. 

Is it difficult to break into this field?

Yes and no. First of all, the audiobook community is one of the most welcoming, excited, and eager to help communities I have ever been involved with. Everyone is encouraging and willing to point you in the right direction. However, it can be difficult because, unlike regular VO, audiobook narrators don’t traditionally use agents or managers. What typically happens is that audiobook narrators work directly with the major publishing houses that have their own audiobook publishing departments, so you have to be well established and have a thriving narration business before ever approaching a publishing house. 

Another option is Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). ACX is an audiobook narrator and author exchange. It is a part of Audible, which is a part of Amazon, and is free for both the author and the narrator. There are a few things that need to be known before joining, but that is a whole other topic.

Where do you do your recordings?

I have a professional sound studio in my home. You would be amazed at what can be done to create a fairly decent environment to record. 

What type of equipment is needed to have a home studio?

I have an Apple laptop, a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 interface, an AudioTechnica 2035, and a pop filter, which are necessary. I also have a 44-inch flat screen to display my scripts and DAW (Digital Audio Workstation or audio software), and miscellaneous stuff to make it more comfortable. After all, I sit or stand for about five hours a day recording in a 4-foot by 5-foot room.

When doing your recordings, what are the biggest challenges you face?

My biggest challenge is being comfortable. Since I am in the booth for hours and hours, my legs tend to fall asleep or my feet start to hurt if I am standing. I don’t get bored since I love doing the work, but some days my voice will wear down quicker than other days. Breaks are a must, so I try and leave the room every hour or two just to get my blood moving.

Please tell us about some of the types of voice work you do. Which ones do you find the most challenging?

I do mostly audiobooks but have ventured out into explainer videos, public service announcements, and technical narration. Audiobooks are the most challenging, simply because of the time it takes to narrate. 

Do you have a favorite among them?

I do love doing audiobooks. I would like to get into promo work though. That is the person who says, “Next on Nightline…” or “Coming up…”, etc.

You’ve recorded a variety of works. Have you found some more difficult to narrate than others? 

Fiction for me is a bit more difficult. I haven’t yet established a repertoire of character voices, which is imperative for fiction. Not that they have to be cartoony or animation-like, but they have to be different from each other and consistent throughout the book. I will get there, though it just takes experience.

How do writers find and select a narrator? Do narrators audition?

Yes, narrators audition. Whether going through ACX or with a publishing house narrators audition. Now some narrators have a reputation and have hundreds of books under their belt, so they don’t audition. I am looking forward to that day. 

What types of contract arrangements are available to authors looking to have their books narrated? 

So far, I have used the contracts that are offered through ACX; however, there are individuals who have a service contract through their agents, managers, or individual lawyers.

With a goal of having an audiobook of their work done, what should authors keep in mind when writing?

One of the biggest challenges when recording a book that was not written with a narration in mind is the many, many speech tags associated with dialogue. When a book is narrated, the she saids get very cumbersome if the author tags each dialogue change. Obviously, any action attached to that tag, such as, she said, sighing is needed for the story. And putting the action before the dialogue line would help to indicate how the narrator should act for that line. 

An additional thing that authors have to keep in mind is that it takes four to five hours to record, proof, edit, and master one hour of finished audio. It takes about an hour to narrate 10,000 words, which translates into four to five hours to produce. So, if your book is 100,000 words, it will take about ten finished hours to narrate, or forty to fifty hours to produce. 

What is the difference between an author and rights holder or RH? Or are they the same thing?

They are not the same. The rights holder can be the publisher, the author, or another entity. It all depends. I recommend that every author consider what they want to do with the audio rights to their book when contracting with a publisher.

How much is an author or RH involved in the production? Do they have the opportunity to review the recording during the process?

The rights holder can be very involved or minimally involved. Most narrators would like direction before the start of the narration but then be able to interpret the acting during the story. I submit each chapter as I go, so the author has the ability to listen as I go. I don’t believe the authors I have worked with listen in real time; they usually listen to the whole book at one time when it is time to give their approval.

Similar to writing, doing voice work is an isolated form of work. How to do you stay connected to others in the field? Are their communities or associations of narrators?

There are several Facebook pages dedicated to VO and authors. There are also several conferences, workshops, and online instruction available.

Do listeners need a special device to listen to audiobooks?

You can listen to audiobooks from your phone, tablet, computer, etc. There is an Audible.com app and other providers such as Kindle, Nook, and others.

Is there anything you wished you had known before you entered the world of voice overs and audiobooks?

I wish I would have known that it isn’t a simple process. Especially for someone who never had an acting class in her life. You really have to have acting chops. So if you don’t, you need to take classes or workshops, etc. Since starting audiobook narration, I have taken acting classes at the local community college, improv classes at a local improv theater, and a storytelling class. Over the past two years, I have also been coached by several voice over coaches. 

What advice would you give someone entering the field?

Have patience. Most people have said that they really don’t become full time for the first two to three years. It takes time to build relationships with fellow actors and the industry professionals who make decisions on who will book the job. But there is plenty of work to go around, just be patient.

What are you working on now? Do you have samples of your work available?

I just finished my latest recipe book, Keto Meal Prep by Alicia J. Taylor. Samples are available on my website: https://www.voicesbyjoanagarcia.com/

Thank you, Grace, for the opportunity to talk about voice over and audiobook narration. It really is fun work, and audiobooks are just getting more and more popular. With the advent of Alexa and Google Home, an audiobook is perfect for background while making dinner or hanging out with family, or during a workout. Authors really need to implement a plan to convert their books to audio to reach a community that is only getting bigger.

Thank you, Joana.

You can learn more about Joana Garcia, hear a recording sample, or contact her at www.voicesbyjoanagarcia.com






Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Haunted and Haunting

For Christmas, my family gave me a special treat—the book Dreadful Places by Aaron Mahnke, the creator of Lore, one of my favorite podcasts. I am entranced by Mahnke’s stories, spun at a molasses pace, as if he were telling tales around a midnight campfire. Every account is true…as true as ghost stories and monster stories and mysterious-killer-with-an-ax stories can be, which is to say, as true as the person telling the tale believes it to be.

His book is just as spine-tingling. Dreadful Places focuses on—you guessed it—the folklore of mysterious locations, places of heinous crimes or spectral sightings or unexplained phenomena. Mahnke quotes H. P. Lovecraft in the opening epigraph: “Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.” And he does explore the usual points of interest on any haunted history tour: Salem, New Orleans, Civil War battlefields. But his opening essay is on a subject very close to home for me. In fact, it is home—Savannah, Georgia. And it is strange, yes, but in no way far.

I have recently moved back to Savannah full-time, having spent two decades inland, on the edge of the Lowcounty. Reacquainting myself with this expanse of marsh and wetland is an organic process; it requires getting personal with tides and mud and a backyard that reverts to its feral ways after any rainfall. I had forgotten how close this place holds its secrets, how its stories are written in blood and brack water, changing each time they are told. The darkness is thick here. It has weight and presence. And some nights, when I am alone with that darkness, I would bet that it also has sentience.

Even the crows speak a different language here, a wild trilling tongue like something out of a Tarzan movie, at least until they catch me spying on them. And then they revert right back to their ordinary caw-caw-cawing. Just us birds here, they seem to be saying. Carry on.

My series protagonist is from Savannah. Unlike me, a daughter of the flatlands, she was born in Savannah. Like the crows, she speaks a wilder language than I do. But we both share an attraction to between-places, especially those that lie between worlds. The veil is thin here in the Lowcountry, they say, and our history layered, the past and present permeable. Mahnke agrees. He says there is something in Savannah “lurking at the edges like a shadowy figure, waiting to reveal itself. Maybe it's those shady squares or the tangle of Spanish moss that hangs upon so many of the trees like the web of some unnatural spider. Savannah has just as much darkness as it does beauty.”

Savannah doesn’t feel like home. Home is supposed to be cozy and comfortable, a place to let down your guard. That's not Savannah. It doesn’t put me at ease. But it does feel fertile. Lush. Seductive. And really, what better setting could a writer ask for?

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Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver mysteries. The sixth book in this Atlanta-based series—Necessary Ends—is available now. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and has served as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories: www.tinawhittle.com.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Why Do We as Writers Kill? by Debra H. Goldstein


Why Do We as Writers Kill? by Debra H. Goldstein

Why do the writers on this blog kill? What perverse joy do we or our peers get from dead bodies, dismembered body parts, bashed brains, or subtle symptoms of poisoning? Secretly, do you think our families wish we wrote literary works instead of books and stories in the mystery genre?

What makes us listen to two people in a restaurant and immediately discern a conflict that will result in the death of the one of the two we least like? Do other people observe their surroundings and think about where a dead body can be shoved? Outside of our sphere of friends, are we classified as “normal
The answer probably is “no,” but who cares? I can’t speak for my fellow bloggers, but I write in the mystery genre, because I love it. Although I have written and been published in the non-fiction and literary areas, my passion is whodunits.

Despite reading every aspect of the genre, I primarily write traditional or cozy mysteries. In my other life, I traveled a lot and found traditional or cozy mysteries to be easy plane or beach reads that completely took me away from the stress of my everyday world. Often character driven and with crisp dialogue, these mysteries quickly invested me in their stories and challenged me to figure out the murderer before the great reveal. My goal in writing them is to provide the same fun for other people.

To some, the fun may seem a bit macabre, but I think I can speak for all of us --- we wouldn’t want it any other way.