Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Makings of a Bad Narrator

As most of you know, I listen to a lot of audio books. I’m fortunate enough to have a job that works well with me listening to novels that can sometime have racy language/text and no one will know because I have my own office.

There are some things that annoy the heck out of me with audio books, and I suspect some or all of these things I’m about to list is part of the reason some people don’t like listening to novels.

What makes a bad narrator?

I talk LOUD, I talk low.

This is the fluctuating voice. I’ve listened to audio books that force me to turn the volume down only to turn it way up because the narrator has gone from shouting to whispering in a matter of seconds. Here’s a hint, narrators, if the text calls for you to whisper…DON’T ACTUALLY WHISPER! We can’t hear you! There’s a way to mock whisper so we get the point and still hear important plot points. If you’re a man with a deep voice, talking low will making it virtually impossible to hear you. Has no one told them this?

Angry when I should be Sad.

Actually, you can insert any emotion in those two spots. Whatever it is, the narrator has gotten it wrong. I actually listened to a novel where the narrator was shouting at the love interest, sounding very angry, when he should’ve been scared and shaken. Somewhere toward the end of the monologue the narrator got it and killed the shouting, but the scene was just all messed up by then.

I Put the EmphAsis on the wrong SyllAble.

Mispronouncing words. Man, this gets me steamed. I don’t know what goes into being a narrator for an audio book, but I’d imagine it’s more than just walking into a studio, cracking open the book, clearing your throat and reading. Is there a run through? Do they get a chance to look over the text to get a feel for the characters, decide what voices to use? Figure out that you don’t pronounce short-lived with a long i. Hint, lived—long i—isn’t even a word. Hard to say names are one thing, but to mess up on everyday words just kills me and pulls me right out of the story cause I’m thinking, “Did you seriously just pronounce that word like that?”

Listening to the Paint Dry.

This is the dull voice that will even put someone hopped up on no-doze, red bull and espresso to sleep. I’ve never been able to listen to one of James Patterson’s novels because the narrator was like listening to the man from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller….” Man, I’m falling asleep just thinking about it.

Oh No You Di’int.

This is where the narrator makes all black people sound like they just got off the plantation or out of the ghetto. I want to scream when I hear this. Maybe this annoys me most because I’m black. I kinda understand what they’re trying to do, inject soul into the voice, but if you can’t do it, then don’t try it. If the author has told us that the character is black or African American and doesn’t go out of their way to mention how this person speaks, doesn’t show it in their dialogue then DON’T DO IT! It’s offensive and just wrong. The novel I’m listening to now has a woman who is a dean at a private school for crying out loud, she would not speak like some chick out of the hood! I almost took the CD out, but the story is really good, and I’m hoping this character won’t reappear.

Okay, so now that I’m done with my rant. Any of you have these issues with audio books? Are any of these the reasons why you don’t listen to novels?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beetles, Wine and True Blood…How’s that for Random?

Saturday I went to Boordy, one of Maryland’s local vineyards. I’m lucky to live close by and to have good friends who like to do these types of things with me. Wine, music and good company…what more can you need?

It was singles night last night, but no one pays attention to that. There were families and couples and I’m sure singles there too, but I couldn’t find any-lol.

The band was a Beetles tribute band—The Mahoney Brothers—and as the Beetles were a bit before my time, I’m not a diehard fan. I do have my favorites of their songs: Come Together, Hey Jude, Twist and Shout, and Penny Lane. The funny thing was, while this band was great, even down to the costumes, the people were freaking out when they hit the stage like the REAL Beetles were there. I was like, whoa, these people are serious about their Beetles tribute bands-lol.
Before I went off to sample wine and lay back in my chair listening to music, I worked on my manuscript, Light Bringers. I got a pretty good amount of attention on that one, so I’m not willing to shelf it completely. I’ve pretty much made up my mind that once I’ve roped an agent, I can present Light Bringers as a second or third project, once I’ve proven I can sell. Look at how confident I am and not the least bit delusional *clasps hands together in prayer.*

When I wasn’t drinking wine, listening to music and doing rewrites, I was catching up on TV shows on my DVR. Can I just say how much I freakin' LOVE Glee.

You know I’ve got it bad when I watch and wish I’d thought to write it as a novel. Man, I love that show. It’s weird. I always DVR it thinking I’d rather watch/do something else, and then it takes me at least a few days to watch it. It’s like my brain is like, it’s not that good, but man am I always wrong. I had two episodes to catch up on and both had the tears welling up in my eyes.

The other show that I’ve been catching up on is Burn Notice. Now this isn’t a show that makes me wish I’d written it. I don’t know anything about spies and espionage, but I wish to hell I was ON this show. I wouldn’t say no to being Gabrielle Anwar who plays Fiona Glenanne, the volatile love interest of Jeffery Donovan who plays Michael Weston. To me, he’s not someone you’d be like, “oh, god, he’s sooooo cute,” but OMG is he sexy. I’m in lust with him and that show.

I mean, look at him!

But tonight comes one of my favorite shows. I’ve suffered through months waiting for season 3, but now the time has come. True Blood! I better not get a phone call at 9pm est or there will be hell to pay! Well, actually, there won’t be any hell to pay. I just won’t answer the phone.

Wow, reading over this post makes it sound like I’ve had such a busy weekend, but I’ve enjoyed every minute. Are there any shows you can’t do without right now? Summer isn’t the time to be plopped in front of the TV, hence my DVR, but when I’m all done with writing for the day and I have my terrace door open, listening to nature, I sometimes like to catch up on shows I’ve missed.

Hope you all had a good weekend. Be safe!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Writing Out of Order

It got me thinking about how my writing has changed over the years. I don’t know how unusual this is, but I’ve never written a short story—with the exception of the writing I did when I was a kid and wrote my first story, MURDER SHE WROTE—BLOOD ON THE PORK CHOP. My parents should’ve really gotten my head examined, but they listened—and laughed—at my tale of murder with pig products.

When I started to write later in life, as a teenager, I began with a novel. The thought never occurred to write a short story. So I’ve always had these big ideas rolling around in my head. When it came time to write my second novel, I had a scene in my head of gorgeous twin brothers and the girl they grew up with. One brother thought of her as a sister and the other thought of her as so much more and they were discussing the pros and the cons of this brother pursuing a relationship with this girl who grew up with them like family. This scene kept looping over and over in my mind and I couldn’t wait until I got to that part so I could finally get it down on paper…or actually, on the computer.

For years I wrote like that, letting one scene drive me to fill in the story around that inspired scene. Over the last year, as ideas and scenes filled my head, I changed that approach. I write the scene when I think of it, get it out of my head so I can breathe again. Otherwise I find myself zoning out during staff meetings, when people are talking to me, and when I’m listing to audio books at work. Also, as long as I’m stuck in that scene and my other writing suffers.

I found that I really enjoy writing like this. I have a wip that has four files attached to it. The first is the main document to the manuscript because the opening scene happened to be one that haunted me until I wrote it. The next scene I wrote was the end. I couldn’t get this conclusion out of my mind and while it may change, the gist of it will remain the same. The other two scenes happen in the middle of the novel, but they are intricate parts of the story. So now, when I sit down to finish this novel, I’ll have most of it in pieces.

I trust my brain—for now—but it never hurts to get those nagging scenes out of my head so I can fill them with more beautiful ideas! Do you guys do this? Do you jot down ideas in little books, on napkins and then work from there? I’d love to know what your writing process is when the story comes to you out of order.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Since I'm all done with this current novel...well, for the time being, I've decided to post a scene that didn't make it into the first draft. I liked the scene, but it didn't really move the story along and I knew it almost as soon as I wrote it. So it was one of those scenes that got deleted pretty quickly. As I'm writing, I make a file of all big chunks of text that I delete, just in case I change my mind. Do you guys do something like that ? Do you keep big deletes? Would you ever share them?

Scene Summary:

Sayra and Chaz have been outside during their lunch period, in a place they have to get to through the boiler room. So while they wait for their eyes to adjust from the sunny garden to the dark boiler room, they have this conversation:

“Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you,” I said as we waited to see more than two inches in front of our faces. “I told my mother that you said her books were filled with heaving bosoms, throbbing loins and—”

“What? Why would you do that?”

“It just came out. I blame you.”
“Okay, this oughta be good.” Chaz folded his arms over his chest. “How am I responsible?”

“You fed us all that sugar and fat and it did something to my brain.”

“Uh-huh. So I guess I can forget ever meeting her. No way I’ll be able to look her in the face now.”

“She won’t remember. But the crazy part is, she made me read one of her books. I have until Sunday and then we have to discuss it.”


“I know, right? I’ve read about half of it and I have to admit it’s really good. It’s weird though, the main character’s name is Sayra.”

“Really? So your mom named her character after you. That’s kinda cool.”

“No, she wrote this book before I was born so I’m named after the character.”

“Oh. Well, it’s still kinda cool.”

“It is, but it’s weirding me out. I think I’m coming up to the part where the girl is about to, you know…do it for the first time and I’m going to freak if this dude is all like, ‘Oh Sayra, let me touch your heaving bosoms.’”

Chaz laughed so hard I thought I was going to have to resuscitate him. “Oh god, let’s hope your mom is a better writer than that.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Yay! I just finished my current manuscript, PLATINUM DIARIES. I sat down on Saturday morning and said I would not get up until my novel was finished. As I’d said that the weekend before Memorial Day, I meant it this time. And wouldn’t you know, 5900 words later, I was finished my rough draft!

Whew, I’m tired, but also excited. I know I’m going to find a lot to change, cut or expand on and that editorial process always gets my juices flowing. I’m excited to let people read it because Platinum Diaries is significantly different from my last manuscript, LIGHT BRINGERS.

So now my plan is to let it sit for about six to eight weeks and then read over it and cut, chop, change. Then I’ll line up some beta buddies and hopefully, I can be off to query land or query hell, however you want to look at it. Personally, I can’t wait to query, but I will, as I only have one chance to make a first impression.

So tell me, how long do you let your first draft sit before you go at it with the machete? And if anyone is looking for a query letter or YA paranormal ms to beta, drop me a line!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Name Game

As a writer, I’m always on the lookout for character names. Sometimes they just jump out at me and I jot them down on whatever’s handy. At other times, I have to search for a good name. Most of the time main character names jump out at me. I’ll see or hear a name and think, “ohh, I like that.” Even if I don’t have a character for that name yet, some names are just meant to be heroes and heroines.

Usually I have to hunt for a minor character’s name. Working in a doctor’s office gives me an ample supply of all different types of names. We get every ethnicity, every social class and every age…well, as I work at a Perinatal Center, we don’t get every age, but we had a 51 year old patient last week! I’ve never used someone’s whole name from work. I mostly nab a last name and make up a first name, or vice versa.

I subscribe to David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—if you aren’t signed up with this, do so. His advice is golden and I’ve learned a lot from these daily tidbits. The other day the Kick in the Pants was about character names, which is where I got the idea for this post. Mr. Farland talked about a movie he watched that he couldn’t enjoy because the names distracted him. In the end, he issued this warning: “As an author, you’re going to be tempted at one time or another to play games with names. There are a number of traps that you can fall into here, but they’re really all the same trap: your name can call attention to itself and thus distract the reader, pulling him or her from your fictive universe. Be careful!”

There’s a fine line between finding a memorable name and coming up with a name that will make your reader scratch his/her head and think more about the name than your story. Admittedly, I was very confused by most of the names in Harry Potter when I started reading The Sorcerer’s Stone. While I became enthralled with the book, I really got tangled with Dumbledore, Hermione, McGonagall—especially Hermione—and others. I guess my point with this example is, if you are going to have odd and hard to pronounce names in your book, you better make sure the story can handle it.

Personally, I’m a fan of common names with a slight twist. The MC’s in my current work in progress are Sayra—which most Americans would pronounce somewhat like Sarah, but her Cuban parents would pronounce it Say-ra, giving a little roll to the R—and Chaz. I almost named him Chad, but liked the slight difference the Z made.

So tell me, what are your favorite types of names, and how do you come up with characters names?