Posts Tagged ‘audio book’

My friend Matt Williams, who introduced me to Castrum Press nearly eighteen months ago as a prospective client, has published two books with Castrum. One of them, The Cronian Incident, has recently been released as an audio book. I’d previously read the book when it was released, so I was curious as to what it would be like as an audio book. Would my opinion of the book change because I read it with my ears instead of my eyes? Would the narrator totally ruin the story?

I started listening on the ride home from Mansfield on June 2nd, and finished it up today. And I have to say, I have some thoughts. Not on The Cronian Incident, though if you like hard science fiction and you enjoy a little mystery as well, I recommend it. No, on the experience of listening to a friend’s book on audio.

I’ve long held the opinion that authors have two or three different voices. There’s the one we use in our day-to-day conversations; the ones we use in our social media and blog posts; and our writing voices, the ones we use for storytelling. Our blogging voices may share similarities with our speaking voices, but our writing voices are another animal entirely. That voice is separating itself from us, the writers, to note details, describe point-of-views, and philosophize through the eyes of various characters. It’s storytelling, in other words, and that may have nothing to do to whichever writer that voice belongs to.

So here I am. I’m used to Matt’s blogging and social media voice. We often talk on Messenger and occasionally on each other’s blog posts. And his writing voice sounds nothing like that voice. It sounds instead like a lot of the sci-fi novels I read in high school and college, building this world for me involving space travel and cybernetic implants and robotic doctors and so much else. There’s a diverse vocabulary, incorporating more words than used in daily conversation. The characters see things differently than Matt might in a similar situation. It’s a bit of a change. One I’ve done more than a few times (comes with having so many writer friends) but still a change.

And then there’s the audio book. You recognize the scenes and the words, but it’s a voice different than what you read the book with. It’s someone independent of the author, your friend, telling you the story anew, giving their own takes on how the characters sound, deciding whether a specific passage should sound tense or humorous, etc. It’s kind of like if, in a creative writing class, your best friend shares their work with the class, and then instead of your friend’s voice, Neil Gaiman’s voice slipped out! It’s a bit of a shocker.

The good thing is, it’s a shocker you can get used to. Most of the shock comes from knowing the author, so once you get used to having someone other than your friend (unless your friend narrated their own audio book, that is), it’s an enjoyable experience. You can dive in and become immersed in the story. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what every writer wants to happen when people read their books.

But tell me, have you ever listened to an audio book based on a friend’s novel? What was it like? Let’s discuss.

Oh, and if you’re wondering if Rose will ever make it into audio book format, let’s just say my publisher and I have talked a bit about it, but it’s waaay too early to even get excited about it. Let’s just focus on making sure the paperback/ebook release goes well before we start planning anything else.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If this post got you curious about The Cronian Incident, you can find it on Amazon and Audible. And remember, Rose comes out this Friday, June 21st. I’ll hopefully be posting preorder link tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that post. And until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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My car, the Unholy Roller.

This past weekend was a busy one for me, all due to it being the Jewish holiday of Passover (which, if you’re unfamiliar, is us celebrating the events movies like Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypt are based on). Among other things, I somehow ended up tying the musical Hamilton to two different dinners, played a prank on my stepmom that I posted on YouTube (you can watch it here), ate more food lacking in yeast and drank more wine than is probably recommended, and watched a lot of anime and Lucifer.

However, what feels for me like the highlight of my weekend was something quite different. As some of you know, I only got my driver’s license this past July after nearly ten years of on-and-off instruction and practice, and my car, the Unholy Roller, this past October. Since then, I’ve had a number of firsts: driving to work, driving to the movie theater, driving on the highway without anyone else beside me, driving at night, driving in the rain, driving in the rain at night, driving at night in the rain on the highway (not something I’m ready to repeat anytime soon). And this past weekend, I racked up another first: my first road trip.

You see, I live in Columbus, Ohio and my dad lives in Cleveland, which meant I had to drive up to Cleveland to attend his Seder (Passover ritual meal), and then drive back the next day. And I was driving up by myself.

Honestly, I was more than a little nervous. I’ve never driven that long or that far on my own, and while I’ve gotten comfortable driving on highways, I’ll never like doing so. But I got some good advice before I embarked, and I made sure to have caffeine and snacks, as well as a full tank of gas, before setting out. And you know what? It went well. Very well. In fact, the ride back home was almost enjoyable. I listened to an audio book both ways, Red Rising by Pierce Brown,* which is one of my favorite science-fiction stories and which kept me calm in the absence of music. This allowed me to enjoy the passing scenery (Ohio has some lovely mountains and farmlands) and keep an eye on the road without getting antsy.

It was fine. Even better, it was fine. And dare I say it…it was fun at times. Lots of fun.

I guess this makes sense for Passover. The ancient Israelites had never been outside Egypt prior to the Exodus, and had no idea of what to expect, though they had been prepared for the trip for a while now. But they left, crossed the Red Sea, and…found numerous instances to complain and want to go back to Egypt, which eventually led to no Israelites entering Israel until all the generation who had known Egypt died off forty years later. But if they hadn’t freaked out and tried to turn around anytime they faced a small inconvenience, they would’ve enjoyed life in the Holy Land instead of dying in the desert.

And I went on a trip, with only a vague idea of what to expect. But I didn’t freak out every time a driver cut in front of me without signaling and tried to turn off and go home. And in the end, I got to my hotel in one piece, enjoyed dinner with my family, and somehow ended up rapping a mini-medley of Hamilton songs with the lyrics changed to reflect Passover (yeah, that was a thing. And it is something only heavy demand will make me repeat). And the next day I got home, easy as pie, with enough time afterwards to relax before cooking dinner.

I would love to revisit the Reformatory and reconnect with the ghosts there someday soon.

And perhaps I’ll do the trip again. I’ve applied for some vacation time at work, and I’d like to spend a few days in Cleveland with my dad and see some of the city’s sites, including the cemetery where James Garfield is buried (yes, I’m bringing the dowsing rods), as well as go back to the Ohio State Reformatory and check out some other haunted locations in Ohio. Now that I know I can, it should be a breeze.

Oh, and before I forget, on the way up I made a pit stop in the village of Bellville, Ohio, which I found to be quintessential small-town Ohio at its best. The Waze app on my phone had me drive around the place a little bit in order to get back on the interstate, and I was charmed by what I saw. Bellville feels like the perfect place to set a novel, and I even have an idea for one cooking in my head. I’ll have to visit again at some point so I can write it and make it feel real. Maybe after visiting my dad and the Reformatory?

I just hope nobody in Bellville minds their town being the setting of a horror novel. Otherwise, I might never be able to return!

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to have dinner and then do some writing. In the meantime, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose, being released by Castrum Press. The story follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is you read it and consider posting a review after the book is released. If interested, please email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*They’re slight, but there are some parallels between Moses and Darrow, the main character of Red Rising, which is why I listened to it. Totally recommend the book, by the way. If you want a science-fiction story about a revolution of the have-nots against the haves in a dystopian world but want it to be much more immersive and smarter than Hunger Games, the Red Rising series might just be for you.

There’s a reason why one of the first lessons in the art/business of fiction writing is to read, read, read. Long or short, in or out of your preferred genre, good or terrible. Reading the works of others, even if the story is not to your taste, can give you new ideas, show you what to avoid in your own stories (*cough* the orgy scene in It *cough*), and sometimes how to write something you didn’t know how to write before.

Let me tell you a story right now: as many of you know, I’ve become a big ballet fan since last year. Consequently, a lot of ballerinas and dancers have been showing up in my story ideas lately. It wouldn’t be too crazy if I had to write a dance scene or dancing someday in the future. I figured it would be a good idea to find other stories where dance features prominently, in the hope that from reading about dance there, I might pick something up. I asked one of my writers groups on Facebook if they had any suggestions, and one woman recommended a book to me that sounded good, so I downloaded the audio book onto my phone and started listening this week.

The book, Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson, follows a young ballerina’s trip into the world of professional dance, while at the same time she encounters a particular aspect of that world’s dark side that changes things for her forever. It’s not horror, but it’s decent so far. And I have gleaned a bit about describing dance steps in prose, while at the same time learning a bit more about ballet culture (I had no idea ballerinas were called “bunheads.” Seems obvious now, but I didn’t know it until this week). And while I expected those, one thing I didn’t expect to find is a lesson in a type of character:

The story’s protagonist, Mira, seems on the outside to have it all. Her family doesn’t abuse her, she’s talented at ballet and has an upward-moving career. She even has a sort of mentor/sponsor in the form of Maurice, an older balletomane. She also seems to be mentally and emotionally all there. However, ballet and Maurice are really an escape for her. Her parents divorced rather suddenly; her airhead mother is a mess who can’t pay bills and takes in a creepy boarder; her dad is in a relationship with another woman who’s also in a divorce, and it’s moving a little too fast; and all this occurs after seeing her parents’ marriage erode for who knows how long. All that can really mess a kid up.

I’m sure even more will mess her up as the story goes on.

Mira’s a type of character I don’t see very often: one whom no one, not even themselves, would see as troubled, but is deeply troubled nonetheless. She’s a perfect example of this character type, the “seemingly untroubled troubled person.” I don’t know if there’s a proper name for this type of character like there is for others, but that’s the one I’m going to go with. And she’s teaching me quite a bit about writing this sort of character.

So like I said, reading a diverse amount of work can teach you all sorts of things that you can apply to your own writing. Sometimes you even learn things you weren’t expecting to learn, like how to write a certain type of character, or writing about a complex war in another world, or even just some random facts about Spanish history, religion, evolution, art, and technology (looking at you, Dan Brown). Sure, you might find some stories you’ll hate or that will teach you absolutely nothing, but then there’s a lesson to derive from those stories as well: what not to do when you’re writing your own work. I’m certainly learning a lot from Girl Through Glass and the other stories I’ve been reading lately. And I can’t wait to learn more.

Have you ever gotten an unexpected lesson from a story you read/are reading? What was it?

Halfway there! And woo-boy, is it going well. I haven’t missed a single day, somehow. Let’s hope I can keep up the pace!

So once again, I’m doing the Ten Day Book Challenge, which started on Facebook and should’ve stayed on Facebook, but why should I do what everyone else is doing? I never have, unless other horror authors are suddenly collecting dolls and going to the ballet while also supporting the Ohio State Buckeyes and practicing Judaism to the best of their ability, and I probably never will. So thank my cousin Matthew for getting me started on this, and let’s get onto the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

I wasn’t sure whether to do the other Stephen King novel or something else today, but in the end, I decided to get the second novel out of the way and save a particular novel for Day Six. For Day Five, I’m going with another example of quintessential Stephen King: Needful Things.

This is a novel that is both terrifying and hilarious, campy yet deep, and full of all the weirdness that we love about King. It’s also one of those thousand-page whoppers he churns out every couple of years, and I absolutely love it! The story takes place in Castle Rock, the same little town that’s the setting for King’s new show on Hulu, Castle Rock. A man named Leland Gaunt opens up a shop called Needful Things and starts selling the most amazing products to his customers…in exchange for a favor. And each favor exposes a darker side of the town, a domino in a Rube Goldberg machine, all leading to one inevitable conclusion.

I’ve had the chance to reread this book several times since I first read it about three years ago. To be more precise, I listen to the audio book, which is narrated by His Royal Scariness Stephen King himself. And it gets me every time. On the one hand, you have all the scares that you’d expect from King: a villain that appears human but soon reveals himself to be so much more, a spider-creature that Gaunt uses to great effect in the novel, people who are just assholes on a bad day but under Gaunt’s influences become psychopaths and murderers, full of rage and jealousy. On the other hand, you have weird ad hilarious moments like two overweight housewives both believing they’re having very intense romantic/sexual affairs with Elvis Presley, a woman who gets off on having feuds and fights, and a town sheriff whose love of magic tricks proves important to saving the day! And somehow, it all works wonderfully! I hope someday I can write as well as that, because let me tell you, it might come in handy for some of my weirder ideas.

Sadly, this novel has not gotten the same amount of love as some of King’s other works. Hell, the only adaptation is one terrible movie that came out a little over two months after I was born. I think it’s due for a graphic novel or a TV adaptation (which is why I hope it somehow features more prominently in Castle Rock season 2)., but then again, Hollywood doesn’t listen to me that much. They certainly haven’t heard my pleas for an adaptation of The Library Policeman as of yet.

Still, if you’re in the mood for an unusual horror novel with weird and hilarious moments peppered here and there, you can’t go wrong with Needful Things.

And now to tag someone. I hereby nominate my good friend Kat Impossible from the blog Life and Other Disasters. I know you’re busy starting a new job in Berlin, Kat, but I hope you’re able to find the time to do this. Especially since you tend to enjoy book related tags and challenges.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

So that lovely and occasionally terrifying thing known as the Internet has informed me that April is Autism Awareness Month, and as someone who is on the spectrum, I felt I should contribute something.

The only question is, what should I contribute? I haven’t had any experiences like when I was asked to give advice on how to help someone’s autistic relative; I haven’t been prompted to record a video or anything like the one below, detailing a specific issue involving disability (by the way, that video recently passed the one-year anniversary of when it was uploaded, and also passed five-hundred views soon afterwards. I find that pretty cool); I haven’t had any revelations about my relationship with my autism; and no one’s asked me point-blank if I’m autistic recently. What’s there to talk about? What can I say that not only needs to be said, but I feel strongly speaking my mind about?

 

Well, I guess one subject I can broach is how autism affects adults, especially in terms of job searching and job security.

A lot of people associate autism with children. When they associate it with adults, I think the popular image is low-functioning adults who are being taken care of by their parents or at facilities. And while there is a segment of the adult autistic population that do need that sort of care, the popular image ignores the segment of the population who don’t require full-time care from facilities or parents, those who can and seek to live independently. And they face their own unique challenges and issues.

Now, I”m just going off my own experience and the experiences of others who have or are related to people with ASD, but the fact that we’re either experiencing or hearing about this says something.

I’ve mentioned before how, between October 2015 and about March or April 2016, I was on the worst job search I’ve ever experienced. Every day I would send out resumes and applications, only to either not hear anything back or to be passed over after being interviewed. One reason this may have happened is because I was open to my potential employers about the fact that I have ASD, and that it sometimes made social situations awkward. I have no proof, but it’s possible that knowing my diagnosis may have scared them off. People have this association with people with disabilities in general that we’re unable to do anything. And even if we’re skilled at something (sciences, writing, mathematics, painting, music, whatever), our needs are too much for them to handle as employers.

The reality, I assure you, is much different. At work, part of my job is being a disability advocate, and I can attest that people with disabilities not only do things, they do them very well. Not only that, but employers who treat disabled employees well find that not only are these employees hard-working and loyal, but several times less likely to turn over than the general population. Not only that, but accommodations for their disability usually aren’t burdensome: a quiet or obstacle-free workspace, or flexible schedules, or leave for medical appointments. And when it does cost money for accommodations, it’s usually not expensive. Seriously, I help handle accommodations at work. I rarely see the cost get anywhere near five-hundred dollars.  My own accommodations cost the organization nothing: I just listen to my iPod or audio books while I work (I pay for any new music or audio books) and I have a chair designed to ease my back pain (we already had the chair to begin with, so it didn’t cost any money to give it to me).

But still, a lot of employers are wary of employing the disabled, especially folks with ASD. They have this idea of a Rain Man-type character, someone who may excel at one very special skill, but needs all sorts of help in every other area of life and can’t do anything but certain tasks. For many autistic adults, this simply isn’t the case. Each of us may present our diagnosis differently, but it doesn’t affect each and every one of us that badly, and we are suited for a variety of tasks.

I’m lucky that I was able to get a job in an office where everyone is kind and gets that I’m not always the savviest person socially, in an organization that emphasizes disability hiring, accommodation, and inclusion. But not many people like me are that lucky. They have trouble finding jobs because employers see their disabilities as a huge barrier. I’ve heard from friends who’ve had this experience, as well as from others. And not just with jobs: I’ve heard from people who have told me that they or their relatives had had trouble finding services that help them cope with their ASD once they reach adulthood or when they’re diagnosed in adulthood. There’s plenty of help for minors, but for adults, it can be a challenge.

So this Autism Awareness Month, I’m writing a post urging people not only to support autism awareness, research, and therapy, but also to rethink how we approach adults with autism (and disabilities in general). The majority of us aren’t helpless individuals. We’re hardworking and want to be part of society. You just have to give us the opportunity, whether that be funding for programs that offer counseling, education, and job training to autistic adults, or actually giving a job to someone with autism. Quite possibly, you’ll be amazed at what you receive in return.

Thank you for reading, and have a good month of April.

I discovered this novel, which came out on Halloween last year, on Audible as an audio book while looking for my next listen/read. It sounded interesting, and nothing else I was finding in the catalog was really grabbing my attention, so I decided to listen to it. I’m really happy I made the decision to do so: this is probably one of the best scary stories and one of the best novels I’ve come across in a while.

Kill Creek follows four famous horror novelists: Sam McGarver, a writer with a past who’s struggling to start his fifth book; TC Moore, an abrasive novelist who likes to explore the blurring of pain and pleasure in her stories; Daniel Slaughter, a religious man who writes Christian horror fiction aimed at teens; and Sebastian Cole, a veteran horror writer who’s considered the King of Modern Horror. They’re invited to Kill Creek, a house in the middle of rural Kansas that’s considered one of the most haunted houses in America, for a Halloween publicity event. This results in the awakening of a powerful entity, one with plans for the authors. Plans that will not only jeopardize their sanity, but their very lives.

I loved this story. For one thing, the book’s language. Thomas doesn’t spend time floating around with flowery language or writing confusing passages. Every word is there because it’s meant to be, which keeps the reader (or listener) invested in the story. I never once felt lost, wondering what the heck just happened or thinking that this or that word or paragraph was unnecessary. And that also helps create the unsettling atmosphere: when they’re at the house, you feel like you’re there with the characters, and you’re feeling every uneasy feeling they’re feeling. For horror fanatics, that’s a great feeling.

I also like how the story is unpredictable. Plenty of times I was sure that I knew where the story was going to go, only to be proven wrong a chapter later. And I’m the guy who prides himself on being able to predict where movies are going to go couldn’t predict each twist or the change of direction the story goes, so that says something about how well-written and unique this story is. The story itself is even a cool and clever twist on the haunted house trope!

But my favorite part was the main characters. They all felt like real people, and we’re given enough time with each of them to reveal their hidden depths. My favorite character of the bunch was TC Moore. My God, was she entertaining! I always looked forward to the narration switching to her perspective, when she would swear like a sailor and just eviscerate anyone who rubbed her the wrong way (which was everyone). I doubt I’d get along with her if she was a real person, but as a character, you just have to love her (kind of like Sheldon Cooper, but even harder to get along with).

And by the way, I count the house as a character. And it is a freaky character, let’s leave it at that.

On the whole, I only had two real problem with the story: one was there’s a minor character who appeared in the story for maybe two or three pages. Honestly, you could’ve kept them entirely off-stage, mentioned only in flashbacks or in exposition, and I would’ve been fine. They really didn’t add anything when they were in the story. The second is that there’s a scene in the first half of the book that I felt was kind of gratuitous and unnecessary. It could have been left out and the novel would’ve been fine.

Other than that, I absolutely loved the story, and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas is a wonderful example of modern Gothic horror. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.5. A great debut novel from an author I hope to read more from in the future. Check it out and get lost in the madness.

And if you get it in audio book, you’re in for a treat. Bernard Setaro Clark is a great narrator who gives each character their own particular sound and whose voice goes great with the book’s language.

I’ve mentioned it before, but short stories are often hard for me. And one aspect of writing those that I often have trouble with is the very first part of any short story. Openings. They give me grief.

With novels, I have a lot of room to maneuver around. After all, even a short novel is around sixty-thousand words (and mine are never that short). With all those words, I can take a lot of time and space just setting up the scenario of the story. Take my novel Rose, for example: if we count Chapter One as the opening, that’s sixteen pages and nearly five-thousand words just devoted to setting up the story. And I’m very used to writing this way. I like long, expansive stories. I grew up on a diet of Harry Potter, and in my teens delved into the novels of Anne Rice, Stephen King, and Dan Brown. No one could accuse those guys of being short.

But if I’m writing a short story, the highest word count to still count as a short story is ten-thousand. And if I want to get published in most magazines, the limit is usually around six-thousand. So while I’m used to opening a story with about five-thousand words, or half the length of the longest short story, I now have to try to contain my openings into a much shorter length.

The struggle is real.

Because of this need for brevity, one of the things I sometimes end up doing when I write a short story, at least in the beginning, is to use a lot of exposition. And in some stories, exposition is good. It helps fill in essential information. But in other cases, exposition is just…bad. Instead of actually presenting the story,  the author is just explaining things. Telling you stuff. It’d be like if instead of actually showing Harry Potter growing up, learning about his heritage, and going to Hogwarts, it’d be like JK Rowling wrote, “There was a boy named Harry Potter. One day he found out he was a wizard, his parents died saving him from an evil wizard, who disappeared and gave him a scar in a process, and then he went off to wizard school.”

I often worry that when I do exposition in short stories, it’s the latter kind. Which probably means it is the latter kind. That may be cynicism on my part, but when you’re still inexperienced at something, you’re prone to making mistakes. So perhaps I really am using exposition, and in all the wrong ways too.

Luckily, there are a few things I’m trying to remedy that. One is that I’m keeping in mind something important: I’m writing first drafts. And first drafts are always terrible. Even if they contain intriguing stories, they’re rife with issues that require lots of fixing. This is why we writers edit, multiple times if necessary, before we publish. Heck, Rose had to go through four drafts before I felt it was ready to be sent out to a publisher. And likely if a publisher does like it, they’ll probably have me do a fifth or even a sixth draft before they’re ready to publish.

So if I feel an opening needs work, I can edit it in the next draft, and remove any bad exposition or other problems with the opening I spot.

Hopefully I can improve this part of short stories.

And sometimes, I don’t even need to wait (and this is my second method, by the way). Sometimes a way to fix a short story’s opening comes to you just while you’re writing it. On Friday, I started a new short story that I think has potential. I think I got four hundred words in before I stopped, but then I was like, “Is this really the opening I want?” And as I thought about it, it wasn’t. But how to fix it? And yesterday at some point–I think it was right before I saw Winchester–a way to change the opening occurred to me.  I think this is the right way to open the story without going into exposition. So the next time I work on the story, I’m going go back and rewrite the opening, see if this produces better results. And if it doesn’t, there’s always something new to try. Or I can go back to my original opening. After all, it’s a first draft. I can make as many adjustments as needed.

And finally, I’m reading a lot more short stories than I’m used to. I learned how to write novels partly from reading novels, so reading short stories should help me get an idea on how to write them. I’ve already listened to two anthologies on audio book, and I just started reading the Stephen King collection Night Shift on Friday. So far, they’ve been very helpful, but I’ll need to read a lot more to get a better sense of short story writing.

And finally, I just need more practice. After all, you become a writer by writing in the first place, and continuing to write no matter what. With any luck, more practice with short stories will lead to better ones. Hopefully, anyway.

I’m still trying to be a better short story writer, and openings are still hard for me. But with practice and exposure to good ones, I can hopefully make some progress on that. And who knows? Maybe even produce some stories that a magazine will be proud to publish. Anything’s possible, right?

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve been looking at a screen for most of the day, so I’m going to take a break and read something. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!