Sweet Words to My Ears: Why I Love Audio Books

A few years ago a friend suggested I listen to audio books. Like many, I was skeptical. Really? Listen to a book? Seeing as my life was in the throes of wrangling busy young children (and it still is…), I gave it a try. I had started and stopped reading The Fiery Cross (Diana Gabaldon’s 5th book in the Outlander series) countless times. Her books are long tomes and at the rate I was going, I would never finish the series…I did a lot of driving in my car, so why not?

Game changer!

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Davina Porter’s narrating blew me away. I listened in the car on drives to work, on long stretches to stores, and during errands around town. Granted, once my youngest picked up on his name in the dialogue (one of the book characters has his name), I decided, okay, no listening with kiddos in the car! At least not those books (btw, Harry Potter as audio book is fabulous!). I flew through the rest of the Outlander series, then devoured a few of the novellas (so good, btw!). I now read across genres on audio.

Now audio books are my go-to.

As a writer, I do prefer holding a book in my hand. However, audio books save me time, whisk me off to a distant place, and help me actually get reading done. Authors spend so much time reading and writing their own words that the hobby of reading goes to the back-burner. Not with audio books! My least preferred method is e-book reading, but I do plenty of that, usually to read and review other authors’ books. So I dabble in all: print, audio, and e-book.

So if I’ve not yet won you over, how about a list of reasons to listen to audio books?

  1. Multi-tasking! Driving, housework, whatever. Great to listen while doing other things. Fills those long commute times.

  2. The art of narration. Most producers are voice artists trained to do this for a living. Some are mind-blowing.

  3. Libraries carry them. Audible and iTunes are not the only places to dig up these lovelies. My first go-to for a book club I attend: check the library (thank goodness for inter-library loan!). I never feel bad about reading a library book. I support the author (it was a purchase to the library), write reviews, keep the library in business, and recommend the books. Future post idea: why I love libraries!

  4. It can be (but not always) quicker than reading. I am a slower reader. Average novella length is 4-5 hours of listening. A typical 350-page book: ten hours. Granted, Outlander is way longer than that. Like 20 hours? Even so, bleary-eyed at night makes for slower chunks of reading for me at least. Before you ask, yes, non-fiction books are in audio book formats, too! The audio book industry is booming.

  5. Gives your eyes a break! As an author, my eyes need breaks!

  6. It can be BETTER than the print book. My historical novels can be a tough read for those not used to reading historical. I’ve had more than one person say they loved the audio-book…easier to understand and keep going. We run busy lives and are tired, and sometimes reading works our brains.

  7. You learn interesting pronunciations and accents. I did mention the narrators/producers/voice actors are artists, right? Admission: I do thorough research for all my books. Dot the i’s, cross the t’s, then do it all again. However, I did NOT know that Caoimhe, an Irish/Gaelic name (a character in A Hundred Breaths), is pronounced “Kee-va.” My narrator for the book series is amazing and did her homework. I also provided her pronunciations of Gaelic words (thanks to my editor’s Gaelic-speaking mother), and she relied on a Norwegian friend for the Norse words for the current book she is producing, A Hundred Breaths. I just finished reading a book that had a host of accents: British, American, and Scandinavian. It was great.

  8. More accessible. For those with reading challenges, audio books have opened doors!

Have I listened to a bad audio book? You bet. Like print books, reading (listening) is subjective. Quite often if I’m not digging a book in print for whatever reason, I give the audio book a go.

How do you get your hands on my books?

GOOD NEWS! I have few free Audible codes to give away for A Hundred Kisses.

Even better…this fall, the other 3 books will be released on Audible/iTunes…and I will have free codes!

If you are interested in listening for free, in return for an honest review (on e.g. Amazon, Audible, and Goodreads), please drop me a comment below or email me. If you’ve not yet done so, feel free to join my newsletter I distribute quarterly (so as to not flood your inbox) which has deleted scenes, interviews with other authors, giveaways, and sale information and bunch of other fun tidbits.

Happy reading…or should I say listening?

Do you listen to audio books? If so, tell me your favorite reasons why!

Swept Away by Words: A Hundred Kisses on Audio Book!

It's here! I am ecstatic (yeah, okay that's a bit over the top, but hey I'm excited!) to announce that A Hundred Kisses is now released in audio book format through Amazon Audible and iTunes! Interested in a wee listen? Well, I have that for you: here.

It is my pleasure today to introduce Rosalind Ashford, Voice Actor and narrator of A Hundred Kisses audio book. It's been a surreal experience to have gone from listening to audio books in my car (while writing my own novels) to having my OWN audio book to listen to! It was a joy to delve into this process with Ms. Ashford, and admittedly, I squealed with glee each week when I received the latest chapter to review.

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I enjoyed the process and the final product to the production of A Hundred Kisses, so I knew I wanted to invite Ms. Ashford to my blog. She is a Voice Actor and an Audible-Approved narrator and producer, member of both Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) and SAG-AFTRA, the unions for professional performers. Having been my first experience with narration, I picked her brain a bit...

What drew you to this career choice?

I was born and raised in Worcestershire, England and trained in Dramatic Arts—dance, drama and film—in conservatory programs at Madeley College and Keele University, UK. I moved to NY in part to pursue a career in theater, in part to satisfy a strong wanderlust. Whilst I have, since then, performed onstage from Off-Broadway to regional theater and on film and TV, I also detoured into other fields over the years. 

Microphone training and a great deal of valuable voice experience was acquired as a radio presenter, and for a number of years I read Books for the Blind live on the air—great on-the-job training for audio book narration! I have also done many voice-overs and radio commercials for national and international markets.

Author note: How interesting that I live north of Worcester, MA...funny, these things. Also, that my editor at the Wild Rose Press is Scottish and from the Scottish isles and has the last name that was the descending clan name of my heroine, Deirdre. Small world indeed...I love life's little coincidences and overlaps.

Did you need special training to learn various accents?

I received a great grounding in elocution in high school and had training in college, but it really helps to have a good ear for accents and dialects. I listen to people’s speech all the time and file away interesting patterns and dialects in my mind for later use when I’m developing a written character’s “voice.” It’s a fascinating pastime.

What advice do you have for people interested in this type of career?

Audio book narration is so much more than just reading. Many of the best voice actors are also trained stage and/or film actors. It is acting with the voice and requires well-honed technical and performance skills and excellent cold-reading ability, as well as specialized equipment and the knowledge to use it.

I would recommend mastering the basics first: microphone technique, proper breathing, voice control (timbre, pacing, emotion, etc.), plus acting technique, character development and so forth. Narration is the long-distance marathon running of voiceover work so it also requires great breath control and voice stamina. Like an opera singer, a narrator’s voice is his/her instrument and it takes a lot of practice to play it well.

Then, to produce as well as narrate means also becoming proficient at the editing and mastering of computer sound files using proprietary software. In essence, becoming a sound engineer in addition to being a good voice actor! 

Finally, to record anywhere other than in a professional sound studio it is essential to invest in the best sound equipment you can afford. Being able to slowly upgrade to studio-quality equipment in order to record top-notch audio at home has been a game changer for my career.  A few years ago I had the amazing luck of finding an uber-expensive professional sound booth going for a song on Craig’s List (who knew?!) which improved the quality of my audio output a hundred-fold. And oh, what blissful working conditions compared to the hours I’d previously spent stuffed into a tiny, hot and airless foam-clad bedroom closet, affectionately known as my padded cell! 


How many books have you narrated? 

I don’t know for sure but it must be scores! I started as an on-air reader and read many books live, so sadly they were not recorded for posterity.  I moved to digital recording in 2006 with a series of educational audio books. I was later hired by Disney to narrate an interactive version of “The Aristocats” and then a re-recording of the BBC classic, “Muzzy in Gondoland” which was heard by a NYC audio book producer who hired me as a studio narrator for online audio books. Now I narrate for Audible Studios, Harper Audio and Brilliance Audio as well as Indie publishers and authors such as you. I currently have 56 books available on Audible/Amazon/iTunes and a very full recording schedule. 

I feel grateful to be a busy, working actor in what is a VERY competitive and difficult business, and to have the ability to work from home—in my bedroom slippers, no less!

((as I also write this post from my desk while in pajamas and with coffee in hand...))

What are your hobbies and interests when you are not narrating?

I still perform onstage but when not learning lines I love to hunt for British antiques to buy and sell, and dabble in interior design. I enjoy gourmet cooking (and eating!) and entertain often. I play golf for exercise, although not very well, and rarely read for pleasure—a sad consequence of reading for a living!

Tell us something unique about you, an experience you've had, or a memorable place you've visited.

I’ve been fortunate in my life to have traveled all over the world, visiting every continent. I’ve listened to dozens of accents and dialects and wish I could master them all!


Speed Round!

Favorite book(s)? The one I’m recording on any given day. 

Coffee, tea, or wine? Wine. Definitely, wine!

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Right where I currently am, which is on top of a mountain in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of SC. 

Your work area, messy, tidy, or somewhere in between? Very messy, except inside my sound booth which is pristine.

You have a time travel machine, do you go to the past or future? And where? To a stately home like Downton Abbey (but upstairs not belowstairs) in early 19th century England. 

To learn more about Ms. Ashford, stop by her website or Amazon.

Where can you find A Hundred Kisses?

Amazon Audible

Also available on iTunes.

Amazon Paperback/e-book

Also available as e-book from The Wild Rose Press, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

If you enjoyed A Hundred Kisses in audio, print, or e-book format, be on the lookout for its prequel, A Hundred Breaths, to be released in the upcoming months!

Exciting news...

When an author says "exciting news" it usually means a great thing...either we've found an agent, landed a publisher, or have signed a new contract. In my case, my fabulous news is that I just signed the contract for my next historical romance with The Wild Rose Press!

This latest novel takes place thirty-years before A Hundred Kisses, in 1263, and serves as a prequel (though each can be stand-alone novels). There will be much more coming from me over the next year...a back cover blurb, cover art (oh, I can't wait!), excerpt, and release date. Plus I'm working on a few more novels...

But for now a few teasers to hold you over.

First hint:

Ahhhh Vikings...and Viking ships! Our trip last spring to see the  Draken Harald Harfagre  was misty and mystical in Mystic, CT. I asked lots of questions and stared in awe as I was in research mode. The kids got to "steer" at the steer board and we learned a lot about Viking (Norse) ships. The Draken impressed me to no end: 115-feet long, 26-feet wide, and built with 10,000 planks. Oh, and the hull was filled with rocks!

Ahhhh Vikings...and Viking ships! Our trip last spring to see the Draken Harald Harfagre was misty and mystical in Mystic, CT. I asked lots of questions and stared in awe as I was in research mode. The kids got to "steer" at the steer board and we learned a lot about Viking (Norse) ships. The Draken impressed me to no end: 115-feet long, 26-feet wide, and built with 10,000 planks. Oh, and the hull was filled with rocks!

Another hint...

Eilean Donan Castle, Scottish Highlands. This was a beauty to visit! It is the seat of Clan MacKenzie (and Clan MacCoinneach from my novels).

Eilean Donan Castle, Scottish Highlands. This was a beauty to visit! It is the seat of Clan MacKenzie (and Clan MacCoinneach from my novels).

Hmm, here's one more:

Dryburgh Abbey, Scotland, former home to the Premonstratensian order of canons/priests. Though now in ruins, the building and grounds were awe-inspiring  and eerie to visit.

Dryburgh Abbey, Scotland, former home to the Premonstratensian order of canons/priests. Though now in ruins, the building and grounds were awe-inspiring  and eerie to visit.

A summary of hints:

Norse warriors...

a final battle for Scotland...

the mystical powers of the Ancients of Uist...

a vengeful Scotsman and a merciful Healer...

and a journey to heal body and heart.

I really enjoyed writing this novel, especially my research into Viking/Norse culture and my continued journey of Scotland and medieval history.

I'll leave it at that for now. More to come soon! I'm very excited for this prequel to be released in the next year!

In the meantime, if you've not read the other book, hop over to Amazon! Like trilogies? Never fear...if all goes well, I am writing the sequel to A Hundred Kisses as well.

p.s. Like audio books? A Hundred Kisses will be released later this year via Amazon audible! Stay tuned!