How to Speak Southern

188447565627779614S50hYWWqcNathan Maxwell, my dreamy hero in my WIP, Ship of Dreams, is from the South — Georgia to be specific.

I was born in Florida, but I come from a family with deep Southern roots, and growing up, I spent my summers with my grandparents in a small town in Georgia. I left Florida at the beginning of the summer speaking, er . . . Floridian, but would return speaking true Southern. It took weeks for the drawl to wear off.

Here are just a few of my favorite words and phrases I remember my grandparents using:

Of course, we all know the ever popular “y’all” which never refers to the singular. It always refers to the plural.

I remember my grandmother guarding her pocketbook as she pushed her buggy down the aisles of the Piggly Wiggly.

My grandfather was fixin’ to cut the grass, meaning he was about to cut it.

I would get a spanking if I sassed my grandparents or pitched a hissy fit. But my grandfather could have a conniption, and that was okay. Now, you must understand, there is a difference between a hissy fit and a conniption. A hissy fit is more akin to a tantrum.  A conniption, on the other hand, is a justifiably violent emotional outburst. Like when someone steals the parking space you’ve been patiently waiting for.

When company was coming over, my grandmother would give the house a lick and a promise, meaning a cursory cleaning, just to make it presentable.

Bless your heart is never intended to be literal — or kind. It’s a snarky way of saying,e6b41a9dbe935601fd57c685bf69687d “Are you that stupid?” As in, “She’s wearing white after Labor Day. Well, bless her heart.”

Just before he loaded up the bass boat and pick-up truck with supplies, my grandfather would say, “I got a good notion to go fishin’.”

A come to Jesus meeting happened when you confronted someone over continuing unacceptable behavior, as in, “Billy and me are going to have a come to Jesus meeting if he don’t clean up his room.”

Contrary means obstinate or perverse, as in, “That is one contrary woman.”

Addled means confused or disoriented. “Jim looks right addled at the moment.”

Pecan – that’s pronounced PEEcan, not PeCONN. As in, “Melba makes a right tasty Peecan Pie.”

Supper is the evening meal, not dinner.

CG2751Do you have any funny sayings or word choices in your region of the country, or even in your family?

 

 

An Interview with Narrator and Producer Laura Bretz

Last week I blogged about my maiden voyage into the audiobook world. This week I’m interviewing Laura Bretz, narrator and producer extraordinaire, and the voice of Rescuing Lacey.

Welcome Laura, Why don’t you start by telling us a little something about yourself.

Hi!  I’m Laura Bretz – a 24 year old living in south central Pennsylvania. I love reading, singing, being on stage when I can and playing games with my friends. I’m also an author of a handful of books that is continually growing so I’m usually pretty busy!

Sounds like you’re a Jackie-of-all-trades! What do you look for when choos­ing a book to audi­tion for?

First of all, the book has to be something that is well written. There’s no sense in reading a book with terrible sentences, poor editing or full of horrendous cliches. The conversation between characters also needs to be logical. Awkward phrases absolutely destroy a good story. It also has to be a genre that my voice fits into. You can generally tell all of these things just by reading the brief audition script. For every 10 books I would look at, I will typically only “save” one of them to try to audition for later.

Do you prefer fiction over non-fiction? Do you have a favorite genre?

I absolutely prefer fiction stories. There haven’t been many non-fiction books that I’ve read strictly for entertainment purposes that have really struck my interest enough to record them. I’m always open for the opportunity, though! For now, I don’t have a favorite genre to read as I’m still relatively new in the audiobook producing (i.e. narrating) business but my voice really lends itself to romance novels.

I’ll say! You have a lovely, silky voice. Just one of the many reasons I loved your audition so much! How long does it take to nar­rate a book?

It really depends on the length of the book. The last book I recorded, Rescuing Lacey, was approximately 260 pages and it took me roughly two months to record and edit it. I spend about 4-8 hours on the project for 5-6 days a week. It takes some serious time and dedication.

Wow! That’s a lot of hours. What’s your process and preparation? Do you read the entire book first, make notes? Do you do any independent research?

I read the chapter over two or more times, check out any of the words I’m unsure about, make notes and then go from there. If I need to see what the place is that’s being mentioned or a specific “voice” I need to hear, I’ll absolutely research it as much as I can. I like to know what I’m talking about because if you know it, then it absolutely translates through in your voice. The listener can hear if something is genuine. That believability is my job.

Rescuing Lacey has several emotionally-charged scenes. How do you deal with highly emo­tional scenes?

You have to “feel” it otherwise it’s fake. I make myself become the people I’m reading, so that feeling is even stronger when the scene is emotional. During a particularly moving scene in Rescuing Lacey, I was definitely tearing up as I was reading it. It makes the entire process easier, believe it or not. The aftermath is a bit harder to deal with, but it’s nothing some hot tea and a piece of chocolate can’t fix. : )

Chocolate. A girl after my own heart. Do you have your own equipment or do you use a studio?

I currently just use my own equipment. It’s nothing fancy, but it works!

How did you get into audiobook narration and production?

I’ve been part of the theatrical world since I was in 6th grade. My voice has always been very distinct. I worked in various call centers and regularly got complimented on my voice. My boyfriend is an author and suggested I check out ACX.com and maybe audition for a few books just to see what happened. When another friend of mine suggested the same thing, I decided to give it a shot.

Well, I for one, am very glad you did. What background does a narrator need?

I don’t think you really “need” a background at all. If you can read well, speak well, have a pleasant voice to listen to, know how to create different voices, and have tremendous patience, you can accomplish a lot. My background came from an active imagination, the theater, and years of voice lessons. If you don’t have a solid foundation of a good speaking voice, there’s not much else you can do.

What advice would you give aspiring narrators?

Be patient, don’t be too hard on yourself and pay attention to the details. If you have to re-record half of a book because you hated what it sounded like, then you re-record the book. I had to do that for Rescuing Lacey once I was getting around to the final edits.  The audio quality was completely wrong and I didn’t like the tone of my voice for the chapters. It was so frustrating to see that work get thrown away, but the final product was so much better because I was patient and diligent with the work.

Not much different from writing a book and having to re-write, or completely discard, scenes and chapters because they don’t work. What do you like to read?

If I’m reading just for fun, I love horror/psychological thrillers, fantasy, sci fi and action.  My favorite series of books right now are by Preston and Child; the stories about Pendergast are so addicting. I also love Stephen King – both his old stories and his new ones. Doctor Sleep (one of his newest) was just terrific even if it was a slight departure from his usual stories.

Thanks so much for joining me today, Laura. I’ve enjoyed working with you on Rescuing Lacey and look forward to working with you on future audio productions.

Rescuing Lacey is now available at these fine retailers:

Audible.com | Amazon | iTunes

Listen to a sample

Hearing is Believing

People often ask me if my books are available in audio format. I had thought briefly about audio book production, but I had no clue how to go about it. Did I have to submit query letters to audiobook companies just like with book publishers, and hope one of them liked my book enough to produce it in audio format? That seemed a daunting task, and not one I was up for while still working on new books to release. Thanks to a series of posts by author Terry Odell, I learned it’s so much simpler than that.

Before you take the initial step down the audiobook road, review your publishing contract to determine if you have the audio rights to your book. If in doubt, contact your agent (if you have one), a literary attorney, or your publisher.

ACX, or Audiobook Exchange, an Amazon company, makes it super-easy to produce your books in audio format. They offer several options, from posting your book so that narrators and producers can find it and audition for it, to searching the ACX database to find producers you’d like to contact, to allowing audio publishers searching ACX to contact you about buying the audio rights for your book.

Step One.  Assert your rights. Just do a quick search for your book on ACX and claim it. Next, create a title profile for your book, which includes the word count, language, blurb, and a description of the type of narrator that best suits your book (i.e. female, no accent, sarcastic tone), etc. ACX determines the estimated length of your audiobook based on the word count. You can also include additional notes about the book like reviews and awards, and about yourself like how many Twitter or Facebook followers you have, how many books you’ve published, etc. Then upload an excerpt from your book for auditions.

Step Two. Find your narrator. After posting your title profile and audition excerpt, you can post it for open auditions where producers and audiobook publishers can upload audition recordings. Or, you can listen to sample narrations already posted and contact narrators you like and invite them to audition for your book. I chose the open audition route.

Step Three. Listen to the auditions. I received auditions a few days after I posted my books. After reviewing them, I selected a narrator and contacted her. All the communications are exchanged via ACX’s message system, which sends an email straight to your inbox.

Step Four. Make an offer. I contacted the narrator and made an offer. The narrator and I reached a 50/50 royalty-split deal using ACX’s contract. I’m a lawyer, so I felt comfortable reviewing the contract. If you’re not sure, check with your agent or a literary lawyer before “signing” the contract. You also have the option of paying up front for the cost of production and keeping all the royalties. Since this was a new venture for me, I thought the 50/50 split was the way to go. I also felt that the narrator would have a vested interest in the promotion and sale of the audiobook, thus expanding my reach.

Step Five. Provide feedback. You’ll receive the first 15 minutes to review for sound quality, tone, performance, and editing, and have the opportunity to give feedback before the remainder of the book is produced.  

Step Six. Review the audio-recording. You’ll receive a message when the production is complete. Listen to the entire recording, making notes of errors, where you’d like a different emotion expressed, or where you think the voice is off, and the location of the needed edits. Send your edits back to the narrator. If a word is mispronounced (I had a fair amount of Spanish in Rescuing Lacey), there are sites with audio pronunciations. I inserted these links in my feedback. The narrator makes the changes and sends them back to you for another listen.

Step 7. Approve it. If you’re satisfied with the recording, you approve it and the sound engineers at ACX review it for sound quality. Once it’s approved by ACX it’s distributed through Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes, and it can be distributed worldwide. If you grant ACX exclusive distribution rights, they oversee the distribution, and you receive a higher royalty than if you choose to grant non-exclusive distribution rights. They also set the price. I chose the exclusive distribution, as I didn’t want the headaches of figuring out distribution.

My first foray into the world of audiobooks was positive. The process was simple and when I did have a question that wasn’t included in ACX’s FAQs, I received prompt attention from customer service and technical support.

Hearing my words read aloud by an actor was amazing! It’s enlightening to hear someone else’s interpretation of your work. Their interpretation my be completely different from yours . . . and sometimes it’s better! As writers, we all suffer episodes of self-doubt. Am I good enough? Should I continue to pursue my craft. Hearing my own words, long after I’ve written them filled me with pride. I had some wow moments, when I thought, I wrote that!

I had a terrific working relationship with the narrator. And the best reason for going with ACX — the process didn’t take loads of time away from work on my latest manuscript. I’ll still have the marketing aspect, but that’s no different from my print books. One draw-back, however, is there doesn’t appear to be many avenues for audiobook promotion like there are for digital and print books. No blog tours, no virtual book tours. It may be strictly social media. We’ll see.

Rescuing Lacey will be available soon at these fine retailers:

Audible.com | Amazon | iTunes

You can also enter to win a free audiobook copy from Fresh Fiction during the month of December. If you’re not a member of Audible.com, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial mem­ber­ship pro­gram, and when you join, you can get your first book free. Maybe even Rescuing Lacey!

Next week, Laura Bretz, my narrator and producer, will be my guest, so stop by and see what it’s like from the narrator’s perspective.