Jem Barbary spent most of his early life picking pockets for a wily old crook named Sarah Pickles—until she betrayed him. Now Jem wants revenge, but first he needs a new job. Luckily Alfred the bogler, the man who kills the child-eating monsters that hide in the shadows of Victorian London, needs a new apprentice. As more and more orphans disappear under mysterious circumstances, Alfred, Jem, and Birdie find themselves waging an underground war in a city where science clashes with superstition and monsters lurk in every alley.
This is a fun Middle Grade (MG) read of life on the street, and these young people, Jem, and Birdie, make there way by searching out bogles. This book (or listen in my case) reminded me a bit of the Bloody Jack series. Told in a strong accent that is fun and I think would engage young listeners, A Plaque of Bogles would be excellent for a family road trip.
Last week I had the privilege of being part of a group set up to be in on a conference call to Best Selling Author David Baldacci. David (I am going to call him David 😉 ) has been writing fiction since 1996 starting with his book Absolute Power. Most recently, two books have been published; The Escape (part of the John Puller series), and The Finisher, David’s first dabble into the Young Adult genre.
Our group all had an opportunity to ask David a question or two, and here are some of the key points I walked away with.
When David was asked by his Scholastic Editor Rachel Griffiths about his portrayal of strong women characters in his books, David replied,
I guess I don’t write about damsels in distress because I don’t happen to know any. I have a lot of guy friends that need a lot of help and not so much the women. I grew up with a force of nature in my mother. And I am married to a force of nature with my wife, Michelle.
For myself, I was interested in hearing about his book, The Finisher, which is a new genre for him. When David was asked about this book and the reason for writing something completely different he said,
I have always felt that as a writer if you do not stretch yourself you sort of wither on the vine. So for me, it was a challenge to get out of my comfort zone and write in a genre and in a way that I have never written about before.
As David went on and discussed the books he loved growing up and now shares with his own kids, I adored the fact that he said that the Harry Potter series was the first series they did together as a family and they listened to it on audio; David praising Jim Dale’s narration (as do I!).
Another big take away from this interview was the fact that David and his wife Michelle started a foundation called The Wish You Well Foundation. This foundation supports family literacy in the United States by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of new and existing literacy and educational programs.
The foundation has been in existence for fifteen years and receives around 5,000 applications a year for funds across the country. David says it is a lot of applications, but they go through every single one of them. They also have a book collection drive where they gather books and send them home with people in need of books. They have given out over a million books in the last four years. If interested in knowing more about that program you can check it out here.
My question was about his love of the library. I had heard that David was a library advocate and I wanted to hear more about that. David said,
As a kid I went to the library every day. I had favorite Librarian’s. They would let me check out more books than you are supposed to because they knew I would read them all and come back next week for more. Even though I never left town growing up, I seen the world through books.
In our little town where we live in Virginia we did not have a local library. So my wife and I got behind a movement and helped build a public library here in our community. Filling a place with books and walking in and seeing those ideas on a shelf is the coolest thing in the world. We are a nation that is built on that type of concept, and we are a nation of libraries. That’s something we have to keep and hold dear.
I found out that David is the chair for National Library Week 2015. (SOOOOO COOL!) He also sits on the National Book Festival Board for the Library Of Congress, and was on the state board in Virginia.
(Dang… I asked the right question! 🙂 )
There was so much more great things about this interview, and I could go on and on! David was a wonderful author to talk to, very personable and clearly someone who has a passion for books and literacy. I will link to the other participants (below) who were in on this conversation and I suggest you check out what they all are writing about this amazing interview as there was a lot of good things! 🙂
I’m Allyson Johnson, and I took a rather circuitous path to becoming an audiobook narrator. First let me just say that I have always, always loved books! One of my fondest childhood memories is going to the Chicago Public Library with my mother, choosing and checking out books, then taking them home, where I would proceed to read them aloud to my stuffed animals. (As an only child, this was as close as I could get to having someone listen.) So I guess, in a way, I was a narrator from the beginning.
It wasn’t until 7 ½ years ago, however, that I actually incorporated audiobook narration into my career. After moving to New York City with a Psychology degree, I did social work for a number of years, before making a career shift into tv production. It was there that I began doing voice-over work and found a calling, of sorts. After I left television, I started working with a coach, to learn the craft of voice acting, mic technique, etc. This led to work in commercial, promo, and industrial voice-over, which I’ve continued to do for almost two decades. But I longed for opportunities that would expand my skill set…that would allow me to depict characters who didn’t necessarily sound like me.
My first books were Children / YA titles, from early readers like “Corduroy”, to a lovely series about race relations in Depression-era Mississippi, by Mildred D. Taylor. Her “Let the Circle Be Unbroken” remains one of my favorites. I also voice the ongoing Honor Harrington space opera series (a genre that is such fun to record), by David Weber. I recently had the privilege of narrating “Harmony”, a wonderful sci-fi classic by esteemed scenic designer, Marjorie B. Kellogg. And I was honored to be chosen by author Ntozake Shange to read her poetic memoir, “Lost in Language & Sound”.
When I’m assigned a book, the first thing I do is get out notecards, a pen,and a pencil (some initial choices might need to be erased later). Even in this digital age, I prefer having hard copies of my notes to refer back to. Those cards have come in handy on more than one occasion. You should see the stack I’ve compiled for the Honor series! Next I open a couple of bookmarked dictionaries on my computer. Sometimes I need foreign language dictionaries, in addition to the English ones, depending on where a book is set. You’d be surprised how many words you think you know until you actually look them up! Rule of thumb – if there’s even a chance that you might get it wrong, check the dictionary.
Once I’m all set up, I settle in to read the book. The whole book, from start to finish. It’s important (especially with fiction) to know in advance where the story is going and how the characters develop / interact with one another. I also find it essential to know which characters, besides my protagonist, are going to talk a lot. Because I don’t want to give them voices that I can’t maintain for several hours. And there are many times when an author does not indicate where a character is from, therefore what accent s/he should have, until quite a ways into the story.
My performing background is more musical than anything else. So I’ve always approached narration from that viewpoint. As I prep, I’m hearing the characters speak in my head and taking notes on any vocal traits the author gives me. There is an inherent rhythm to sentence structure, so I’m also marking places where I know I’ll need to breathe, and underlining words that need emphasis. Unlike rehearsing a play or a song, I won’t have the opportunity to go over and over a line (unless I mess it up in the booth…which happens all the time) so I find these little cues save me time. If I stay “in my head” while prepping, I can stay “out of my head” while recording.
If I stay “in my head” while prepping, I can stay “out of my head” while recording.
As I read, I’m marking my script so that I can tell who’s talking before I say the sentence. For me, this generally means writing the first letter or two of their name in the left margin. Some narrators highlight different characters in different colors, but my mind is a little more linear and a little less visual. Occasionally, I mentally yell at authors who have a predilection for creating multiple names that start with the same letter, but overall this system works for me. I like to keep two sets of notes for each book — one with character names, brief descriptions, and vocal choices, another with words and phrases that I need to look up, or ask the author about, later.
Nowadays, you can find many resources online, some with audio pronunciations (a godsend). For instance, there are sites like http://www.dialectsarchive.com/ where you can hear people speak English in a variety of native accents. http://www.forvo.com/ is useful for hearing foreign words spoken by natives. In addition, you can find all sorts of things on YouTube, like the way a “real” person says his or her own name, or how someone from a specific place says the name of a town. And I’m a huge fan of calling a local Chamber of Commerce or Embassy. The folks who work in these places are always friendly and eager to help you get their regionalism right.
Once all of the preliminary prep is done, I go back over my notes and make choices about how I’m going to do each voice. Frequently, I can simply write these down in shorthand. I don’t rehearse them, per se. But for books with lots of characters, I get out my digital recorder and read a few sentences in that person’s voice, so that I can refer to them in the session. With a series, this consistency is particularly important because sometimes you go months or even years between books. However, a listener might be listening to them back-to-back. I prefer to record with an engineer, whenever possible, to have another person’s ears helping me maintain my energy, my accents, and catching those mispronounced words that I was oh-so-sure I knew!
The hardest part of narration? Hmmm…. I guess that would be when there are lots of characters who are the same-sex, same basic age, from the same place, all speaking to one another in a scene. You have to come up with creative ways of distinguishing them, without taking the listener out of the story.
My favorite part of narrating happens in the booth itself. You know…the part most people assume narration is but that, like most worthwhile endeavors, can only happen after much work has been done. At this point, I get to sit down and do what I love to do best…tell a story. I can stop thinking about the book intellectually and just flow with the prose, living in the characters’ worlds for those blessed hours when I get to leave my own world behind. It is this experience of breathing life into the writer’s words that is the most fulfilling.
I asked Allyson a bonus question, “if she were to write a memoir, who would she want to narrate her story?” To be honest, I’m not sure who I would want to narrate my own memoir, besides…er…the obvious 🙂 I can’t really give you a specific name. But I’d want it to be one of my fellow journeymen…an audiobook narrator who’s had lots of experience recording books, who shares my reverence for the craft and art of making words sing.
To see more information on Allyson, please check out these links:
The Friends of The Brainerd Public Library sponsor each June and July our Brown Bag Author Series. This is a series of Minnesota authors who come and speak each Monday from noon to one at our library. This event is open to the public, and the authors are able to sell their books at the end of the hour.
Our first author for the 2014 line up was Nathan Jorngenson. Nathan is the author of three books, Waiting For White Horses, The Mulligan, and A Crooked Number. For Waiting For White Horses, Nathan was the winner of the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award, Best New Voice 2005 Foreward Magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist 2005 Independent Publishers Book Award Finalist. The Mulligan was 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist and 2007 Independent Publisher Book Award Finalist for Book of the Year.
Nathan is a delightful speaker. He was able to capture the attention of the 70 people who showed up to listen to him talk about his books. (An excellent count and kick off to this years events!) Each cover, has a story, and I was thrilled to find out that the cover of Waiting For White Horses is actually a picture of Nathan and his dog. The Mulligan, Nathan said was said to be “too dark a cover”. “Too brown” he was told, yet, “The cover won an award.” A Crooked Number, also has a story and the pictures on the back are actually some of Nathan’s own pictures. I LOVE the personal touch he has put in his covers!
Nathan read a little out of both Waiting For White Horses and A Crooked Number. He shared a funny story about book signings. He was encouraged once to take his dog with him to a signing. “Everyone loves dogs” he was told. Nathan said that every time someone came up to sign a book, they just reeked of a foul odor. He had no idea what was going on, finally his wife said, “You have to get the dog out of here, he is farting every time someone approaches”. Nathan said it was a sad day that he had to fire his dog from future signings. 😀
Writing, is like getting naked in public.
Nathan spoke on writing. You expose yourself to the world, for better of for worse. “You must write from the heart, that is all you can do.” He shared another funny instance where at a signing an elderly woman came up to him and said, “Why are your books so pornographic?” (For the record here – they are not… not even close!) A man standing behind the woman chimed in and said, “We love your books. In fact our Pastor has recommended two of them from the Pulpit.” It is all a matter of opinion.
Nathan enjoys reading Harlan Coben and Scott Turrow. He admits to writing his first two books with a #2 pencil. “I am pretty old school,” he chuckles.
I purchased copies of Waiting For White Horses and A Crooked Number. The first being a book I have been told time and again that I must read, and the second a book I have wanted to read for a while now. Nathan generously donated copies of all three of his books to our library, and another set to be auctioned off at our Fall event, Wine and Words.
It was two years ago when I last listened to this book. It was my first John Green. It was the Fourth Of July. I was on the back of a motorcycle with my ear-buds in and tears streaming down my face… ~Sheila
16-year-old Hazel Grace has stage three cancer. She is depressed and has little to do with anyone besides her parents and a couple of friends. When encouraged to go to a support group for other kids with cancer, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, the once adorable basketball hero who has lost a leg to cancer and is now in remission. The two quickly form a friendship, drawn to each others quick wit and the way they look at the hand they have been dealt in life.
As the two teens get to know each other Hazel shares that her favorite novel of all time is a book called Imperial Afflictions, a book that has left her with questions she has always wished she knew. She has written the author who lives in Amsterdam several times but has never heard back from him. When Augustus asks Hazel is she has used her make-a-wish yet, Hazel says she has.
“Please, please tell me it wasn’t on Disney World.” Augustus groans.
Hazel remains silent,
“Oh no! You didn’t!!!! Disney World? Really? It is so cliché!”
Hazel shrugs… “I was 13”
Turns out though, Augustus has not used his wish.
Why did I choose to listen to this book again? If you have to ask…. clearly you have never read or listened to this book. 🙂 John Green writes a powerful story of two young people with cancer brought together by circumstance but soon it gowns into something more.
This story is written so beautifully you just fall into it and I listened to the 7 hour audio in one day during the recent on-line read-a-thon. It is beautifully narrated by Kate Rudd. And while yes it is a book about two kids with cancer, it is also very witty, very funny, very passionate…. as a reader you do not drown in sorrow, instead you embrace the lives of these two amazing people.
A quote from the book:
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
That’s the way I feel about this book. If you have not read it… READ IT. If you have read it…. READ IT AGAIN. The movie is coming out this year… I can not wait!
Fun fact about author John Green: After announcing he would sign all 150,000 copies of this title’s first print run, it shot to the top of Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s best-seller lists six months before publication.
Whirlwind week already and I am finally getting a chance to chat with you! Weekend away, start of the week out of town for work, and then…. what I want to tell you about today… the Patrick Ness event in ST Paul Minnesota at Magers and Quinns book store.
To bring you up to speed, Patrick Ness is the author of the Chaos Walking Series, the first book being The Knife Of Never Letting Go, which I read in fall of 2011 and flew through the following two books in the series.
When I read that Ness was coming to Minnesota I could not believe it. Currently living in London, his only Minnesota stop on his tour for his new book, The Crane’s Wife , was the day after the books release date, this past Tuesday. Honestly – I really did not even know what the book was about. This for me… was all about Ness.
My friend Amy (crazy adventure friend and book club cohort) joined me, having also read and loved the Chaos Walking series. We arrived early as we expected there would be quite the crowd, purchased our Crane’s Wife books at the book store and asked the nice book store guy if we would hold two spots once they set the chairs up, for the Brainerd girls who drove two hours to the event. He said he would… and we went down the block to my favorite Thai restaurant.
When we came back, sure enough, two seats were saved for us right up front. RIGHT UP FRONT. Like, Patrick could have spit on us close. 😀
When he came out to talk he was funny, although admitting he wasn’t feeling well and therefore was requesting that someone out of the audience come up and read him the questions for his time with us…. and so…
Amy did. 😛
The first question on the page was, “So Patrick, tell us a little about yourself?”
He was fun and interesting. He talked about his books, and then her read a bit out of The Crane Wife, explaining that it stemmed from a story his teacher used to tell to the class when he was 5. He said he loved that teacher. He wanted her to be his mom and his wife…. at 5 years old, he felt they could work out the age difference somehow.
When Patrick read from the Crane Wife, although he denied it, his voice was perfect for narration. I fell in love with the story – through him… and suddenly couldn’t wait to read it. He has a personal story within the book that he shared with us…a childhood happening that he tied into the read. Again… I wanted to read the book more that ever.
Patrick talked about his YA books, which included the Chaos Walking series *sigh* and a book he released last fall, More Than This. He says each book he writes has a theme song that he listens to over and over again during the writing process. I found that fascinating.
I wish I would have taken notes, but early on in his talk I was uploading that first picture of Amy to Facebook and he called me out of the crowd …ok, not the crowd as I was sitting about 18 inches away from him and asked if I was playing Candy Crush. Oops! Embarrassing! I put my phone away which is what I take notes on too… 😀
Patrick had some advice for want to be writers:
If you think you have a good idea, wait. If it is good… things will be added on to it to make it grow in your mind.
Write something you want to read. Do not write for the masses thinking you will create the next vampire story, or dystopian war story because that is what is popular… you have to LOVE it. You will never make it through the writing if you do not love the story yourself.
Be original. No one knew that they wanted a Harry Potter, until we had him. No one knew we wanted Twilight or a Hunger Games.
If you ever have the opportunity to see Patrick Ness in person, please do. If I could have him come for Wine and Words this fall I would, but the man’s schedule is crazy busy. Absolutely if you have the chance to pick up the Chaos Walking series – do it. I love these books. There is a little buzz saying they will be movies and oooohhhhhh I hope so. 😀
I found this one Amazon under his description of himself and loved it:
Things you didn’t know about Patrick Ness 1. I have a tattoo of a rhinoceros. 2. I have run two marathons. 3. I am a certified scuba diver. 4. I wrote a radio comedy about vampires. 5. I have never been to New York City but… 6. I have been to Sydney, Auckland and Tokyo. 7. I was accepted into film school but turned it down to study writing. 8. I was a goth as a teenager (well, as much of a goth as you could be in Tacoma, Washington and still have to go to church every Sunday). 9. I am no longer a goth. 10. Under no circumstances will I eat onions.
So in answer to my Patrick Ness question this morning, what would Patrick do? he would write… he would run… he would keep it fun and keep it real.
Let me just start by giving you my background story with this author. I read Randall Arthur’s books Wisdom Hunter as well as Jordan’s Crossing and Brotherhood of Betrayal and enjoyed them so much I became a stalker of his work… waiting and waiting for that next great read. As time went on I could not find any info of any upcoming books so sadly, stopped checking. Then, he contacted me several months ago to let me know he had a new book out and asked if I would review it. Has the word “yes, ever been typed faster? Forgotten Road was everything I enjoyed about Randall’s writing and more… it was real, and painfully so and that was exactly what I had always enjoyed about his writing… Randall does not take the easy road…
but the real one. The one that I walk, the one that many of you walk… the hard one at times.
Please welcome, Randall Arthur.
Should I call you Randall or Randy?
Randall: Randall. It keeps things more consistent with my recognized name as an author.
Randall it is. Are you a coffee drinker? And if you are, how do you take it?
Randall: This is no exaggeration; I drink maybe 5 cups of coffee a year. A couple of times I will drink it black, other times I will add a bit of cream.
Ummm… I am sorry, “5 cups a year” does not compute. 😛 Just kidding. So, as you know, I am a big fan of your past writing and was so excited when Forgotten Road came to be. What was the reason for the large time span between the books?
Randall: First of all, let me say I am not a full-writer. I write only in my spare time. Secondly, I wrote Wison Hunter, Jordan’s Crossing, and Brotherhood of Betrayal during the years I lived in Europe. The pace of life was a bit slower; therefore; I had a greater amount of spare time to write. Over the last twelve years I’ve lived in the United States, the pace of life for me and my family has been absolutely maddening, with many distractions. I’ve honestly had less spare time to write.
Forgotten Road was certainly worth the wait and I also found this newest book to be significantly different from your previous books. Why did you choose to write this story?
Randall: I don’t see Forgotten Road as being significantly different. In all my books, including Forgotten Road, I try to create characters who – because of extremely bad choices or extraordinary courageous choices to live contrary to the cultural norm – win the readers deep interest. We need these type of characters who will challenge our world views and our average behavior.
Very well put Randall. Forgotten Road deals with an incredibly hard subject, the death of a child; and I was amazed by the way you wrote that particular part of the book. What was writing about such a hard topic like, and what was the effect you were hoping it would have?
Randall: The death of the child in Forgotten Road is a scene-by-scene re-creation of a real life tragedy that happened to a two-year-old son of a lifelong friend. The book was written in memory of this little boy. I wanted this part of the story to draw the reader into the main character’s overwhelming shock and pain. I wept as I wrote it.
What is the one thing, if you had to choose only one, that you hope reader’s would take away from this book?
Randall: I learned years ago that any one of my books can relay myriad messages, even a few messages that I never even thought of. With that said, one of the main messages of Forgotten Road, as least from my perspective, is that God can not be manipulated by our faith, and that He is not predictable. Subsequently, we must learn to trust and love Him regardless of the pain and discomfort He allows to come our way. He knows ultimately what is best for us. We must learn – despite our massive self-centeredness – that we are not the center of the universe and are not entitled to everything good and easy.
With my fingers crossed, I have to ask, any more books in progress?
Randall: Yes. I hope that my first nonfiction book will be released sometime in the next 18 months. Beyond that, I have at least two more books of fiction that I eventually would like to put into writing.
A nonfiction? I will be keeping my eyes open for that one! Any other thoughts you would like to share?
Randall: My goal as a writer of Christian Fiction is to rip the smiling mask off American Christianity and tell stories that portray true-to-life-struggles, true-to-life-thoughts, true-to-life-reactions, and true-to-life-journeys. As a result, my first book Wisdom Hunter got me fired from a mission agency in 1992 after serving that agency for 17 years. Even though being fired was devastating at the time, I now count it as a badge of honor. Granted, Forgotten Road will not be as controversial, but I am pleased to the max that the reviews of Forgotten Road – from both men and women – have already exceeded all my expectations.
Wow Randall, thank you for sharing with us so openly. There is something powerful about being kicked out of our comfort zones. I have my own stories of such, and so do many of my friends. I know I truly appreciate that in your books… they are not sugar sweet, they are hard stories but they come across as real life if we like to admit it or not. It has been a pleasure chatting with you.
Randall: Thanks Sheila for being a fan, and for your special interest in Forgotten Road. I am truly honored.