Thursday, April 8, 2021

Fun with audio

It's a busy time right now. 

I just finished the final edits on the third book in the Tudor Court series and submitted it to the publisher. While I wait for them to look it over again, I'm working on the audiobook for A Wider World. As I work, I am ever more grateful for my years of volunteering with local theater, because it has given me a pool of actors to barter with. 

This book is turning out to be easier than Songbird, probably because it's more recently written and edited, and I don't have to read along at quite the same level this time. I know these words; I've been over them half a dozen times in the last year. Some parts of Songbird were so old that they surprised me when I heard Jen read them out for the first time. 

The actor and I have a system going. He records several chapters and uploads them to a shared Google drive. I download and listen to them through Audacity, which is a fabulous free audio recording/editing software. I do basic cleanup then, looking for background noise or breath sounds, but what I'm mainly listening for are mistakes or mispronunciations or incorrect emphasis. 

I make notes of the sentences that need re-recording and send them back to him. When he does those edits, I can then cut and paste them - just like in Word - into the original audio file. After that, I check the levels to make sure that they're even, divide the files into chapters, and put the correct, Audible-mandated amount of blank space at the beginning and end. Then I convert them into .wav files.

Once that's done, I upload the files into another shared folder (this time with my publisher), and they'll take it from there for final mastering. It's more of a process than many authors with publishers go through, but they understand my control freak tendencies, and I really enjoy being involved in all levels of the production process. 

Eventually, when I self-publish my 1930s book, I want to be able to do all the steps myself - other than logical things like paying for cover art, etc. I might know what I want, and I might know the trends, but I don't have the graphic design background to make it good enough. My time is better spent on words than pictures. Part of being an effective control freak is knowing when somebody else does something better than you do. 

I guess that's also called delegating.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021



I do still sew, in case anyone is curious. Not as much as I used to, especially since in-person craft shows didn't happen in 2020, but I do still enjoy it.

What sewing I did last year was mostly custom work, and this was a job I was happy to get. A former co-worker reached out to me in February. Her mother-in-law had just died and her husband wanted to do something with four of her favorite nightgowns. (She had been house/bed bound for a long time and cycled through the same several gowns, and they were what everybody thought of her wearing). 

Remembering what I used to do on the days when I wasn't in the office, she suggested that I make bears out of them - and then ordered ELEVEN.

She drove out to visit and we had a lovely masked chat on the back porch when she handed over the gowns.

Sewing-wise, I flinched when I opened the bag, because they were all very stretchy polyester, and not even all the same. Some were two-way stretch, and some were four. Some were fuzzy and some smooth. All were going to be a nightmare to make small pieces with.

I decided that it would slow the process initially, but speed things along in the end, and I used fusible interfacing on all of it, then cut out the pieces. It kept them from stretching in every direction at once, and saved me from embedding too much profanity into what were supposed to be nice memorial bears.

A while back I had ordered safety joints for use in future bear projects, and I tried to use them here. First off, I think I ordered them slightly too small, but also, the fabric was just so limp that no matter how I tried, the arms and legs just dangled off the body. I removed them - no small feat with a locking joint - and went back to my original method of stringing them through the shoulders and hips with hemp cord.

The longest part of the process was trying to decide on the fabric arrangement. A red plaid, a pink and gray paisley, an ivory with navy blue toile, and a bright white with red cardinals. Other than the plaid/cardinals, none of it really worked. After some thought, I decided to tie them together by using the plaid in the same place on each one - head panel, inside arms, and foot pads. Then the rest of the pieces could be of the different fabrics, and each bear would be trimmed with lace from the neckline of the "head" nightgown. Each bear got a red ribbon to finish.

She picked them up the other weekend - another coffee/chat on the patio, this time rainy and chilly - and she carried them off to Delaware. They'll be distributed to her husband's various siblings and relatives once it's safer to gather as a family, but judging from the photo she sent, he seems pretty happy with them, and maybe his family should be worried about getting them from him at all.

Friday, March 19, 2021

One year later...

So it's been a while. How can it be hectic when time still doesn't have the same meaning it used to?

So we've just passed the one year anniversary of nearly everybody staying home. Remember when we thought it was just going to be a few weeks? I'm thrilled to be past the rubber gloves and wiping down the groceries phase, and I no longer forget my mask when I leave the house, but the fact that it's been a year astounds me. 

I'm very lucky that I was working from home already and the pandemic has changed my work life very little, other than that I actually got more done than before (having few places to go). I have some guilt about my productivity, but that's not useful, and I'm trying to get past it. 

I'm also extremely lucky that Mario has the kind of job he can do from his office upstairs - and that my office is downstairs. I love him to death, and I always thought it would be nice if he could work from home. I still feel those same things, but when life opens up and he starts going back to work, at least part-time, I'll cope. I read an article recently that talks about "aloneliness." We know that loneliness has been a problem - so many people were isolated who had never experienced it before. But what about those of us who need significant amounts of alone time to feel at all normal? We are "alonely," we're lacking in loneliness. 

Mario's presence in the house doesn't affect me that much, but when I'm working, I like to read my writing aloud, and that usually elicits a "what did you say?" from upstairs. I also sing - albeit badly - to the cats, and eat, or not, depending on how busy I am. It is disconcerting to find that most people want to eat three meals a day, and on a somewhat regular schedule.

All this is to say I have nothing to complain about. We're well, and so are our nearest and dearest. I've known people who've gotten sick, but they recovered. The most fragile people I know have been vaccinated, and even Mario and I have achieved our first vaccinations, with our second shot scheduled in the beginning of April. A local clinic had more vaccine than they had arms to put it in, and put out a call for neighbors because it was almost time to shut down, and the Pfizer vaccine doesn't keep. We grabbed an elderly neighbor and made it in just under the wire. 

I have been terrified of needles my entire life, and was a little nervous about this, but was going to suck it up, because what's worse, a jab in the arm or Covid? Mario finished first and sat on the floor next to my chair and held my hand, but I won't need him to do that for the second shot. What I mostly felt, when it was done was gratitude. It's not over yet but it's finally feels like it's beginning to end. 

And that's enough for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Cover Reveal and excerpt

Well, here it is, folks! The gorgeous cover for A Wider World, designed by Anthony O'Brien and featuring another ancient ceiling. (I'm sensing a theme here).

The book will be released on April 25, 2021, but if you're an e-book reader, you can pre-order it now on Amazon. I can't tell you how much pre-orders mean to the way Amazon decides to promote a book.


Chapter One

November 10, 1558

Winterset, Yorkshire


“They said I would not end well.”

“And so you have not.” The young man has an air of self-importance, something he should have outgrown by now—but perhaps not. He has, after all, arrested me; mayhap he should feel arrogant.

I walk toward the fire, smiling as he moves out of my way. “I did not begin well, I will grant you that. And my middle was…middling.” The heat warms my face, masking any flush of anger. “But my end is not yet accomplished.”

He speaks again, his confidence recovered. “For your nefarious history with Thomas Cromwell, for your role in the destruction of the monasteries, and your attempts to dismantle the one true church, for promoting Luther and the English Bible, Her Majesty charges you with heresy.”

I ignore him. “You, who have interrupted my supper with your warrants and demands, who are here to see me to that end—you have no idea of my beginnings.”

Mongrel, they called me. Bastard. Unloved, I should have withered. I did not. I forced myself to flourish, to prove the world wrong.

“The world did not, early on, consider me of enough importance to care whether I lived or died. Now, I have achieved importance in the eyes of some—though only some see my true value. Whether you come to see it remains to be seen.”

The young man—William Hawkins—snorts. A laugh? A sound of disbelief? He drops into my empty chair, his black boots stretched toward the blaze.

I watch him in the small convex mirror, which stands on the cupboard, a memento of my Venetian travels, just unpacked. “You were told I was clever, to beware my words. I do not appear dangerous, do I?” A man of fifty-odd, dressed in clerical black. Thin to the point of gauntness, though seemingly healthy. A man with few attachments in this life, and those well concealed. “I can see you are interested.”

Hawkins demurs, but his eye stretches at my words, and I continue, “The storm will not abate before morning. It is not solely in my own interests that I suggest you ask your men to stand down.”

Hawkins is unwilling but sees sense in the end. I try not to listen as he speaks to his men. Nine of them—as if I require an army to be brought to justice. They shed their wet cloaks and settle themselves in the hall. I’ll have ale brought out; their goodwill will be more easily won than my captor’s.

I look at him again. He gives the impression of wearing armor, but in truth, he has nothing more than layers of damp wool, like the rest of us, with a well-cut doublet on top to show his status. “We may as well pass the evening in conversation.”

Friday, February 5, 2021

Coming Soon - A Wider World

We not only have a publication date, but we have a blurb!

Mark your calendars for A Wider World, the story of Robin Lewis, the chorister-turned-royal-secretary who first appeared in Songbird. He's all grown up now, and in a rather tight spot, as explained below:

Memories are all he has... 

Now they could save his life. 

Returning to England after almost five years in exile, Robin Lewis is arrested and charged with heresy by the dying Queen Mary. 

As he is escorted to the Tower of London, Robin spins a tale for his captor, revisiting his life under three Tudor monarchs and wondering how he will be judged—not just by the queen, but by the God he stopped serving long ago. 

When every moment counts, will the journey—and his stories—last long enough for him to be saved by Mary's heir, the young Queen Elizabeth?

Monday, February 1, 2021

Book recommendation: Empire's Legacy

Even though I'm supposed to be writing, I still read. A lot. 

My public school education was decent, but it wasn't what taught me to write. Reading did that.

One of the best things about becoming a published author is becoming friends with other writers on social media (and eventually outside of social media, once we can travel again).

I've read Marian L Thorpe's Empire's Legacy trilogy before - in its separate volumes - but because she recently commissioned a new cover for the combined trilogy, I was lucky enough to receive her author copy (she lives in Canada and Amazon has issues, and the post office has issues, and it was just easier for me to review it for her). But that means I know have a whomping big paperback trilogy that she'll soon be giving away to US readers on her mailing list. Which you can join here

Amazon files these books under alternate history / historical fantasy. It's a hard genre to pin down, because to most people, "fantasy" means elves and magic systems, but in this case, it's a variation on post-Roman Britain, with different names, a slightly altered map, and a thoroughly reimagined history, including a society (logically) divided by gender. The history is so well done that I feel like I'm reading about a time period I've just never explored - it doesn't feel "fantasy" in the slightest. Which makes sense - one of her reviewers actually calls it "Fantasy for people who don't read fantasy."

Monday, January 25, 2021

Songbird Book Trailer

My publisher put together a quick trailer for Songbird using some of my reference photos, with Bess's signature song, The Cuckoo, performed by Elizabeth Larsen. If anyone has seen my Facebook live reading at Songbird's launch, I paused the reading to have a small breakdown play this at the appropriate point in the story.

This was a pleasant surprise for me, and I hope you enjoy another look into Bess's life.