Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Christian Fiction Releases for August 2018

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

My big recent release was the audiobook version of my mystery novel Whispers of the Bayou. I'm so very thrilled that this story made it into this format!

If you aren't yet subscribed to Audible, I'm giving away a FREE autographed paperback to anyone who joins Audible and makes Whispers of the Bayou their first purchase. Details here

And now, on to August releases in Christian fiction!

Contemporary Romance:

Out of Their Element by Angela Breidenbach, Robin Lee Hatcher, Vickie McDonough, and Deborah Raney -- They are totally out of their element! Four mismatched couples find unexpected romance. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Redemption Road by Christa MacDonald -- As Alex awaits retribution, he means to keep Annie safe at any cost, but she knows it’s redemption he needs and she’ll pay any price for him to find it. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Scarlet Tears by Laura Hervey -- Caught in a romantic triangle with her brother’s best friend and a charming pastor, former call girl Carly Lawrence struggles to start a new life. (Contemporary Romance from Alabaster Box Press)

Historical Romance:

Rebecca's Legacy by Betty Thomason Owens -- After a threat against her family, a spoiled heiress is sent to the country to work on her aunt’s produce farm and finds love. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)

The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse -- Faith Jackson is a wealthy widow, friend of George Washington, and staunch supporter of the Patriot cause. Matthew Weber is friends with both Ben Franklin and his son William, who increasingly differ in their political views; and Matthew finds himself privy to information on both sides of the conflict. When a message needs to get to a spy among the Loyalists, Faith bravely steps up and in turn meets Matthew Weber. Suddenly she believes she could love again. But someone else has his eye on the Faith she portrays in elite social circles. What will Matthew and Faith have to sacrifice for the sake of their fledgling country? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Cozy Mystery:

Deadly Harvest by Marissa Shrock -- Georgia’s biggest challenge in the farming town of Wildcat Springs, Indiana, is figuring out how to win Evan Beckworth’s heart. Until the day she discovers the body of a former student in the woods. When she starts to suspect this wasn’t an accident, memories stir of her father’s murder nine years earlier. A murder never solved. As Georgia works with the sheriff's department’s newest detective, Cal Perkins, she finds her heart slipping into his hands. But her head is pummeled with conflicting evidence and anonymous threats of severe consequences if she digs any deeper. In the end, Georgia faces a paralyzing choice. Ignore the dark secrets inside the family and friends who surround her or be willing to risk her own life to uncover the truth. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Unknown Enemy by Janet Sketchley -- A young woman with a traumatic past must discover the truth about who's playing mind games with the Green Dory Inn's owner. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Hiding in Plain Sight by Mary Ellis -- When a Charleston PI rents a room above an Italian restaurant owned by a handsome chef, she lands in the middle of a family feud with robbery, arson and murder for the daily specials. (Romantic Suspense from Severn House Publishers LTD)

Wildfire by Gayla K. Hiss -- A female wildfire scientist and a firefighter team up to solve the mystery behind the outbreak of wildfires in the Rockies and find themselves at the center of a firestorm. (Romantic Suspense from Mountain Brook Ink)

Amish Country Ambush by Dana R. Lynn -- A police officer and a dispatcher travel deep into Amish country to rescue her nephew and to escape a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Imperfect Promises by Elizabeth Noyes -- When a homegrown terrorist threatens the woman he loves, former Special Forces soldier Jonas Cameron calls on old friends to help him eliminate the danger. (Romantic Suspense from Write Integrity Press)

Cold Fear by Susan Sleeman -- When a sniper’s ex-girlfriend, a musician, is framed for murder during her summer tour, he jumps to defend her from an imminent arrest and a killer’s deadly rage. But the evidence against her stacks higher as three bodies are found with her name tattooed on their wrist. (Romantic Suspense from Edge of Your Seat Books, Inc.)

Cold Case Cover-Up by Virginia Vaughan -- The first thrilling Covert Operatives tale An infant is believed to have been murdered thirty years ago—but investigative journalist Dana Lang is convinced she’s that baby. Now someone’s willing to kill to stop her investigation. And only secretive deputy Quinn Dawson, whose grandfather may have faked Dana’s death to protect her, can keep her safe. But a killer’s dead set on burying the past—and them—for good. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Pretense by John Di Frances -- A dark cloud hangs over Europe after the brutal murders of two heads of state just days apart. A diabolical plot appears to stretch westward to the United States, implicating the CIA. But do the facts reflect reality or is there a sinister force working behind the scenes to destabilize Europe and NATO? The team of investigators led by Interpol’s Marek Frakas, 'The Wolf,' moves quickly to track the perpetrators and uncover the identity of the unseen mastermind behind the conspiracy. This cadre includes the lovely Adrianna, a young forensic weapons expert who can hold her own on the male-dominated international team of investigators. Together they seek to understand reality versus the shattered mirror-like reflections meant to obfuscate the truth and shroud the mastermind’s identity and ultimate purpose. (Political Thriller from Reliance Books Publishing, LLC)

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig -- Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for its enemies' blood. Cole "Tox" Russell wants only to put the dangers of his past behind him and begin his new life with Haven Cortes. First, though, he's called to complete a final mission: retrieve the sword and destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order. The AFO, however, is determined to reunite the sword. With the Wraith team slowly being torn apart, things worsen when Mercy Maddox, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news that the artifact is tied to a string of unsolved serial murders. Tox and the others are forced to set aside fear and anger to target the true enemy. No matter the cost, Wraith must destroy the AFO . . . or join them in the flames. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Announcing the Winners + An Interview with the Voice Behind Whispers

Now that Whispers of the Bayou has been released as an audiobook, I've had fun with some recent posts, including: 

• A behind-the-scenes peek at the audiobook creation process from the point of view of the author and publisher. This week, we'll take a look at that same process from the other side, that of the Producer and Narrator. 

• An offer for a free paperback book of your choice as a "thank you" for joining through this link. That offer runs until August 15th, so there's still time to sign up! You can find more info here.

• A drawing for two free copies of the Whispers of the Bayou audiobook. Thanks to all who entered! And the winners are...

Carol Edwards and Patricia Jurado

Congrats to both–and enjoy!

Introducing Audiobook Producer and Narrator Jill Smith

I have a feeling I’m not the only audiobook listener who’s curious about how audiobooks are made. That’s why I recently asked Jill Smith, the narrator of the audio version of Whispers of the Bayou, if I could interview her for my blog. She graciously agreed, and this is that interview. Join us as we discuss the audiobook creation process from the producer’s side of things and what it’s like to be an audiobook narrator and voiceover artist. 

Producer and Narrator Jill Smith
Mindy: When you look at various projects open for audition, what makes you decide which ones you want to try out for?

Jill: I’m looking for projects that are a good fit for my voice but also challenge me in new ways. When I was starting out, I just auditioned for everything in an effort to figure out where my narrator strengths and weaknesses lie. Now I can be a little more selective. I LOVE when I find a book with strong characters whose personalities come across even in a two-page audition excerpt. If I connect with the characters in an audition, then I’ll happily spend 15+ hours with them in a booth.

Mindy: How much time do most producers spend creating an audio clip that they’ll submit for their audition?

Jill: I can’t speak for other producers, but I perform and edit an audition the same way I would a chapter in a book. I rehearse a couple of times, record (usually about a 5-minute selection), and then edit. That takes anywhere from half an hour to an hour, usually.

Mindy: Once you get a job, how do you approach the project?

Jill: I like to read the book and make some notes about the main characters. It’s very helpful when the author has production notes too, and then I can kind of merge my ideas about the characters with whatever the author has given me. I’ll usually record a few character samples for my own reference, and to let the author listen to if they want, in case they want a voice adjusted.

Mindy: Prior to recording, how much time do you usually spend preparing?

Jill: It depends! I usually spend the longest time on characters with accents, because I want to get comfortable enough with the accent that that’s not what I’m thinking about when I’m performing. For characters whose accents are different than mine, I don’t want to cheat them out of a fully realized performance just because I’m focusing so hard on getting the dialect right. I love the prep work, because I get to watch lots of fun YouTube clips and movies and TV shows to give me ideas for voices or help with a regional dialect.

Mindy: Do you mark up your copy of the manuscript in some way, for example making notes along the sides or color coding with highlighters the various characters, etc.?

Jill: I’ll usually make some notes in a separate document and reference that when I need to. A lot of times I‘ll experiment while recording. If I come across a line that I think could be read a number of different ways, then I’ll just record it 15 different ways and then go back and pick my favorite later.

Mindy: About how long does it take to produce an entire audiobook?

Jill: It usually takes me about a month. It depends on the length of the book, whether I’ve hired an editor or am editing it myself, how many projects I’ve got going at the same time, etc. But my preference is to take at least four weeks. I like having time to think through what I’m doing and experiment with different voices.

Mindy: How long are each of your individual recording sessions? What happens if you try to push it longer than that?

Jill: Haha! My voice lets me know when it’s done for the day. I can usually record for several hours at a time. But if I push too hard, then my voice starts sounding strained. Recording seems to work best if I do it every other day and have a day of rest between sessions, but that’s not always possible. A lot of things affect how long my voice can go: the weather (humidity makes it sound strained more quickly), what I’ve eaten, the time of day…it’s really interesting to suddenly notice things about my voice that I haven’t paid much attention to before.

Mindy: What do you wish you could say to authors whose books are being turned into audiobooks?

Jill: Ooh, hmm. I guess just that the more info is supplied up front the better. I love working with authors, so I’m fine with authors who have a very clear vision of what they want and like to be very involved in the process—but obviously, it helps if I know that vision from the get-go, instead of finding out sixteen chapters in that the author doesn’t think Character X should sound that way. I don’t think that’s ever actually happened. But it could!

Mindy: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Jill: I love recording. Is that too broad? I love the part where I’m actually being the characters. I can get lost in that so easily. If I’ve got a great book to work with, then it’s really exciting to feel the rising and falling action of a story as I read it aloud. I get that when I’m reading silently too, but there’s something different about performing it. I’ve recorded scenes where I was surprised by how completely swept up I got in the characters’ emotions (No spoilers, but AJ had a speech in Whispers that really got me). 

Mindy: Trust me, your reading of that speech really gets me—and makes me cry every single time I listen to it!

Jill: Thanks!

Mindy: So what’s your least favorite part of the job?

Jill: Editing! I usually hire an editor for about half my projects, and I do the other half. At first I really hated it, but now I’ll admit that I’ve become pretty interested in sound engineering. It’s still my least favorite part of the process, but I do like learning new things about it. 

Mindy: To my mind, the best narrators are also great actors, because you’re not just reading the story, you’re actually “becoming” every single person in that story. What other skills are required to be a good audiobook reader?

Jill: Patience! It’s a slow process. I do some commercial VO too, and I’ve had other commercial actors ask me why I do audiobooks—why not just all commercial all the time, since with commercials you’re usually recording in 30 second-2 minute segments, often for comparable money. But I love audiobooks so much. I think with audiobooks, you have to go in knowing that it won’t be over quickly. And that you’ll have days where you record for five hours, then go back and listen and realize you want to do 30% of it over again.

Mindy: How did you get into the business of audiobook production?

Jill: My mom is one of the most amazing readers I’ve ever known. She used to read to my brother and sister and me all the time when we were kids. I wanted to be just like her. We would listen to audiobooks too on car trips, and I always hoped I could do that someday. I wasn’t sure how to get into it. I got my BA in theater and had connections there who helped me branch into commercial work, but they didn’t know much about the audiobook market. For several years after college, I moved away from performance and focused on writing. It wasn’t until one of my own books was put into audio and I got a chance to meet the narrator that I learned about ACX, and how I could produce audiobooks independently. He showed me his studio and editing program and everything. I’m really grateful to him for helping me get started as a narrator.

Mindy: If someone were interested in pursuing this line of work for themselves, where would you advise them to begin?

Jill: If you don’t have a home studio yet, there are a number of blogs that can help you create a temporary or permanent recording space in your home for a reasonable price. I recorded my first auditions in someone else’s studio, but quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to afford studio rental prices, so I built my own studio. But I absolutely wish I had done that FIRST, and had a chance to experiment with different equipment/spaces before I landed my first book. Because the acoustics on the first book I recorded were terrible! If you set up your space first, and find the mic that’s right for you, and practice in that space, then by the time you start recording somebody’s book, you can focus on the performance, and not “Is this where my mic should be placed? Wait…let me try it here instead…or maybe here…”

So my advice would be to start with the space, then check ACX to see if there are any projects up for audition that interest you. Audition as often as you can, and don’t get discouraged by rejections, because every audition gives you a chance to hone your skills.

Mindy: Do you do other voice work such as commercials, radio, etc.?

Jill: I do some commercials, yes. I really like that too. It’s a different ballgame than audiobooks, and every now and then when I’m doing an audiobook I’ll listen to myself and be like, “Jill, you sound like you’re selling acne cream, not telling a story. Do it over.” J My next goal is video game VO. I think video games and animation sound really fun.

Mindy: That does sound like fun! One last question, when doing your own personal reading for pleasure, do you prefer print, e-book, or audio?

Jill: Print, 1000%. Sorry, trees. I think ebooks were an awesome innovation, but for some reason, for me, reading on an e-reader has never clicked. (I do love my Kindle for travel, though.) I’m such a book sniffer. I like to smell the books and flip the pages and buy old books that have other people’s names written in them and stuff. I love audiobooks too.

Mindy: Well, your love of reading definintely shines through in your performance, that's for sure. 

I really appreciate you answering my questions today and giving my readers such an insider's perspective on the audiobook creation process. Thank you so much, and best wishes on all of your future audio projects!

Jill Smith is a Chicago-based audiobook narrator and voiceover artist. Credits include the Open Tab series by JA Armstrong, the Adventures on Terra series by RA Mejia, and Game of Nations by Martha Carr. She has a background in theater and creative writing and is thrilled to have found a way to combine her love of books with her love of performance. She also narrates under the name J.A. Rock. You can find her at:



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Announcing a New Giveaway + A Peek Behind the Scenes at How Audiobooks are Made

Last week on this blog, I made a special offer for a free autographed paperback to anyone who joins Audible and makes Whispers of the Bayou their first purchase. That “thank you” gift of a free paperback will be available till August 15th, so if you missed that post, you can read all about it and learn how to request your free book here

That offer left some folks out, however, including those who were already members of Audible, and those who live outside of the United States. That’s why I’ve decided to do a drawing for a free copy of the Whispers of the Bayou audiobook exclusively for those who meet the following criteria:

• You became a member of at some point prior to     
  July 16, 2018


• Your mailing address is outside of the United States

If either of the above apply to you, then click on the button, below, to sign up for your chance to win a free copy of the new Whispers of the Bayou audiobook. But don’t delay, because the deadline for entering is midnight on July 31st. Winners will be chosen by a random number generator and announced here next Wednesday, August 1st.

How Audiobooks Are Made

Now that Whispers of the Bayou is available in an audio version, I thought it might be fun to share a little insider info about the audiobook creation process. 

The various versions of Penny, including the original set
of audio cassette tapes.
In the past, audio editions were typically handled by the publisher and didn’t involve the author at all. For example, when my first novel, A Penny for Your Thoughts, was released in audio, I didn’t even know it was happening until a package showed up at my door containing the finished product! That usually happens with things like translations and book club versions as well. But whatever type of edition it is, the author is often the last one to find out—and the first to start jumping up and down with glee. It’s always a thrilling surprise!

The entire Million Dollar Mysteries series ended up being released in audio, as did two of my later books, Under the Cajun Moon and Amish Christmas at North Star, and all are still available as digital downloads through Amazon, Audible, iTunes, and more. Much to my disappointment, however, many of my other novels never made it into audio at all.

Until now. Times have changed, and so has the process by which audiobooks can be created and brought to market. These days, the author is often among the first to know and may even be involved in the process of choosing a narrator and helping to see the project through to fruition. That’s the case with my latest release, the audio version of Whispers of the Bayou, which is now available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

My participation in bringing the audiobook to fruition was great fun for me, especially because the Producer, Jill Smith, was so lovely to work with. She’s a gifted voice actor, and the moment I heard her audition, I thought she sounded just like Miranda Miller, the main character in the story. Little did I know, Jill would end up being able to invoke the voices of all the characters in the story in turn, from the old dying Cajun Willy Pedreaux to Miranda’s five-year-old daughter, Tess. Great audiobook narration always amazes me, and the narration for this one most of all. She did a superb job, which you can check out in this audio sample.

Behind the Scenes

Here is a somewhat simplified version of how the audiobook creation process works from the publisher's side of things…

Step one is to hold auditions to find a reader/producer for the book. Professional voice actors who are interested and who meet the general criteria (as in, the right gender, age, accent, etc.) can create a brief recording of their tryout and submit it for consideration. They all record from the same script, which is usually a 2-page excerpt from the novel of a scene that includes a variety of characters from the story.

Step two is choosing the perfect reader from among the many auditions. Personally, I was blown away by quite a few of the ones we received, and in the end it came down to choosing the reader who most sounded like Miranda while also best voicing all of the other characters as well.

Step three happens once the reader has been hired and given the full manuscript. At that point, they take charge of the process, doing a studio recording of the book on their end, working over the course of several weeks or even months depending on the project, and sometimes posting chapters as they’re finished for the publisher and author to review. Along the way, the reader may ask questions as they arise—for example, how to voice a certain minor character or how to handle a few of the more unusual pronunciations—and in 
return the author can give general feedback about the recording.

Step four happens once the book is finished and ready: Any needed tweaks are made, both sides do a full final listen, and then the recording enters into a quality review process before finally being made available for sale.

Jill Smith, Narrator for Whispers of the Bayou
And that’s basically how it works—at least from the publisher's point of view. Next week, we’ll learn more from the production side of things when I interview Jill Smith, the amazing narrator whose voice brings the Whispers of the Bayou audiobook to life.  Don’t miss it, and in the meantime, be sure to take advantage of my free offer for a paperback book on last week's blog or click on the ENTER TO WIN button, above, to enter the drawing for a free copy of the Whispers of the Bayou audiobook.

See you next time!