Sunday, December 28, 2014

Award-winning Shelby Lewis narrates YA fantasy, THE LABYRINTH OF TIME

Welcome to Shelby Lewis, a classically-trained actress who treats every title like an adventure. She narrated my young adult fantasy novel, THE LABYRINTH OF TIME.

Click here to listen to a sample

Click here to enter giveaway for free copy!

At a young age Shelby attended Interlochen Arts Academy, garnered several awards, and enjoyed such title roles as Juliet in Shakespeare’s star-crossed classic. She continued her education at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, in Paris at a prestigious avant-garde voice program, and with the top commercial and animation trainers in Los Angeles. After winning the inaugural narration contest for up-and-coming audiobook platform ACX, Shelby has been featured as a contributing writer on their blog and a panelist at a national voiceover conference alongside industry legends. She’s enjoyed producing numerous titles with self-published authors through ACX, as well as providing the voice for various Young Adult novels with established publishing houses Brilliance Audio and Random House. Her demo and select audiobook samples can be found at

Why & when did you decide to do audiobooks? I’ve always been a sucker for voices – playing with accents or doing impressions of animated characters – so I came out to LA with the lively dream of getting into voiceover. Just as I completed my first demo and was ready to “go to market,” I attended a voiceover conference that happened to have an audiobook contest as one of its events. The contest was sponsored by Audible & Amazon to promote the launch of their audiobook fusion platform: ACX. So I auditioned… and won! This blew my mind since I’d never considered the audiobook section of the industry before, but after recording my first title – in which I played over 60 different characters – I was hooked.

In a way, the audiobook industry is just as hard to break into as any other, but ACX has succeeded in making it an accessible and rewarding process for everyone involved. I’ve gotten plucked here and there to do titles with established studios such as Random House Audio, but I continually return to ACX because I get to work with the authors directly, choose which titles I take on, and I’m able to work at my own pace. Reading out loud for hours and hours is harder than it sounds!

How do you choose which books to narrate? I consider these elements equally when choosing a book: the work, the sales, and the author.

First of all, I want to make sure I like the concept of the book and that it’s a natural fit for my voice. I’m a fairytale/fantasy fan, so I gravitate towards anything with a little magic, and I have a young, spritely, female voice, so Young Adult titles are right in my wheelhouse – and in my natural voice range. As a classically-trained actress, I technically could attempt a dinosaur erotica novel in a gruff Russian accent but… I prefer to keep it a little closer to home. And authors should too! The nearer the bulk of the narration is to the talent’s normal voice, the more consistent your title will sound. It can take up to 3 months to record a full audiobook, so you want to make sure nothing slips over time -- and accents definitely can. Lastly, it is icing on the cake when the audition sample is well-written (which translates to a smooth read) and the characters are people I’d like to spend some time with. Hint: Choose audition pages that contain a lot of dialogue so you can test how versatile your potential narrator is.

Next, I look at whether the book will sell. This is most important when I consider a Royalty Share, since no one gets paid until the book sells. So, if an author has a reputable Amazon sales rank, a decent social media and/or blog presence, and has an obvious excitement for and belief in their title, I consider that package a worthy investment. Hint: Show enthusiasm about your title and its prospects when soliciting narrators for auditions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a best-seller yet, but it certainly helps to know that you’re working hard and happily to become one!

Lastly, I need a collaborative author. Now that I’ve achieved a certain level of experience, I’m fortunate to be a little selective of who I work, and I ADORE when an author is energetic and communicative. The process of producing an audiobook is absolutely a team effort. It’s my job to bring the voices in the author’s head to life, and the more insight and tools I receive from the original creator the better! Hint: Write messages to narrators you’re interested in to audition for your title. We narrator/producers have a long list of titles to search through, but we are much more likely to audition for your title if we already know that you’ve listened to our samples and had a positive reaction to our performance. Voice actors are still actors, so… flattery gets you everywhere!

For all of these reasons, my latest title – The Labyrinth of Time – was a no-brainer to accept:
  • The author messaged me, sighting that she’d listened to my samples and was “impressed with my versatility.” She politely asked me to audition, included the book’s details and a link to the title’s audition page, shared a bit of her plans for promotion plus and showcased her enthusiasm for the project. I liked her energy right away and couldn’t wait to respond.
  • Next green light: the audition selection was well-written, full of different characters, and had a good balance of narration and dialogue. I wanted to keep reading once the excerpt was done, and that was a positive sign.
  • The efficient communication continued when the author responded quickly with both an offer and another encouraging note of why my performance was such a great fit for her title. Not only did this boost my confidence before heading into the studio, it reminded me of what elements of my performance she responded to best and offered me a clear direction to work from as I began recording.
So to recap this extremely long yet hopefully helpful answer…
  •  REACH OUT. Let’s be honest, any artist loves to be complimented. Plus, I always take the time to consider titles that contact me directly.
  • EXPLAIN. Tell them why you liked their voice. Most actors have a lot of different options to choose from in their toolbox, so giving them specific direction (such as “I like this sample of yours” or “The character portrayal in that sample is spot on”) will help them give you the read you’re looking for.
  • GET EXCITED. If you get excited about your book, I will too!
  • BE NICE! You’d be surprised by how many messages I get that are asking me to audition for their project and yet simultaneously aren’t that complimentary of my voice. I suppose it’s a negotiation tactic? But I just casually move on, preferring instead to work with uncomplicated, genuinely pleasant people who like what I do.
  • SHARE YOUR PLAN. Especially if your title is a royalty share project, you are “auditioning” just as much as the narrator is. Your producer needs to know that their investment will pay off, so make sure to do a quick pitch of how awesome you are at getting the word out about your projects.
Recently a friend received several auditions on her book. She liked their voices, but thought the inflection was wrong (too little or too much). Is it appropriate to give feedback and ask for “re-auditions”? YES!!!! I’m so glad you asked this question. Actors should be flexible and collaborative, and anyone who gets “offended” by being asked to do their selection a second time is neither of those things. This attitude is a personal pet peeve of mine, and – especially on a platform like ACX – there is no room for it. Since your narrator is not only the talent but also the producer, you need to have an open, honest, team-minded relationship from the start. If they think they’re too good for your book, then your book is too good for them :)

That said, a way to politely cushion the blow when asking for a second read is to highlight what part of the performance you did like. Emphasize that you are giving them another chance for a reason, and that you respect their training and versatility enough to offer them direction. Specific direction allows performers to succeed! Just try and stick with actionable words when describing what you want more or less of, since those are easiest to implement from an actor’s perspective. Reference a vocal style you’re looking for – such as flirtatious, mature, warm, spunky, intimidating, etc. – or pull some active descriptive words from this GREAT list:

What makes you want to work with an author again? Communication and genuine collaboration – as I mentioned before – but also trust. I trust you as a writer to write, and it means the world to me when you trust me as the narrator to narrate. We all have our gifts and honoring those gifts allows the project thrive.

Is there any particular type of book you’d love to produce but haven’t yet found? What a delicious question! Hmm… The first thing that comes to mind is “Goddess Girls,” a young adult series set in Olympus at a time when all of the Greek gods & goddesses we know and love are only in high school! I adore clever, witty premises that are full of metaphors, magic and accidentally teach you something along the way. My ideal genre: “Fairytales with a Twist.” If I could narrate a series like this, then be a voice in its animated series… well, I would feel quite bless by the gods indeed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Post-war Norway sets stage for love triangle gone wrong--ebook 99c in Dec.!

Welcome to MARIANNE WAGNER, who grew up in Norway before leaving her studies of Law in Oslo and traveling to London where she sang and played in bands. While in London, she studied Existential Psychotherapy and embarked on a journey of physical and spiritual healing. She has a son and now lives in Devon.

OTTI'S ESCAPE will be 99 cents at ebook stores for all of December!

What brings fiction into focus for you? When a character comes to life--you recognise a part of yourself within the fictional persona and start wondering if it could under some other circumstance have been you thinking and feeling as he/she does, perhaps in a different place, amongst different people? At times through a fictional person you can gain some deeper understanding of yourself or those close to you.

What do you think readers will like about your bookI think the readers may be able to identify with some of my characters, which all have some very positive sides but are also all flawed, caught up in their own insecurities, needs and desires. In their struggle to get through their days and find some happiness they create obstacles and general havoc both for themselves and the people they love. – and then when they think they have found some stability the unexpected happen…

What makes your book/characters unique? This story, about Othilie, her two husbands and four daughters, is set in post-war Norway and gives a unique insight into Norwegian society and culture, much influenced by the prevalence of the icy climate as well as repeated loss of sovereignty to other powers, first the Danish, then the Swedes and lastly during Otti’s own childhood, five years of German occupation.

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? The theme song to Otti’s Escape would be Wonderful life by Black: Alluring and bitter-sweet.

OTTI'S ESCAPE: During the post-war euphoria of new possibilities and freedoms, Othilie decides to marry the wealthy Fredrik Holst, in spite of a warning from their mutual friend Bernard before the wedding insinuating that Fred has a mistress.

However, Otti soon discovers that her new freedom comes at a price. As their relationship becomes increasingly acrimonious, Fred finally goes too far and finds himself in a position where he can no longer return to their home.

Finding comfort in her old friend Bernard, Othilie. tries to move on, but disaster strikes and Ottis inability to conceal her grief throws open the door on the charade that is supposed to be her new love. As her family disintegrates around her, the echoes of her flight from the Nazi invasion ring down through the years, as again Otti has to flee her home. Can Otti escape her fate this time?

Otti's Escape will be 99p on ebook stores for all of December!

You can find Marianne Wagner at: Webpage:

Friday, December 19, 2014

NYT Bestselling Author Angie Fox: Writes what makes her smile

Welcome to ANGIE FOX, the New York Times bestselling author of several books about vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night. She’s best known for the Accidental Demon Slayer books that follow the adventures of a demon slayer and her Grandmother’s gang of biker witches. The first book in that series, The Accidental Demon Slayer, is available for free right now from your favorite e-book retailer. Also be sure to check out

What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? For me, it’s the characters and the basic idea of their world. Then I put pen to paper. I like to know where the story is going, but not too much because when I’m having fun, that’s when the story itself takes on a lot more energy.

With The Accidental Demon Slayer, I started with a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a fifth level demon? Ohhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?

I started writing and let the story evolve based on the characters and that central issue of what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations. I knew the story was working when I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard every day.
What makes your book/characters unique? I wish I could say something profound here, but really, I just tend to write what makes me smile.

For example, when I sat down to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer and there are some very scary, very angry creatures on her tail, she takes comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’

I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where Lizzie can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, Lizzie can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier.

How do you find time to write/what keeps you going as a writer? The key for me is to have that certain time, every day, when I sit down and write. Sure, the laundry may be piling up and I should return my mom’s phone call (sorry, mom), but not during writing time. Giving myself the space to create is important. My brain is trained to know when it’s writing time.

Also, I think you need to give yourself the permission and the freedom to make the story as big as you can. I had a lot of trouble with this one initially, because it was a hard concept to get my head around. I had to push my writing to a level I had never gone to before. My characters had to take bigger chances, have more to risk and lose. It’s easy to say, but a hard thing for a writer to do. It’s a vulnerable, risky place to be. I knew my story was big enough to sell when instead of ending my writing sessions thinking, “I hope that’s good enough to impress an editor.” I ended them thinking, “No. I didn’t not just write that. I did not just make my character defend herself with a toilet brush and a can of Purple Prairie Clover air freshener.”

What are the benefits and dangers of being a hybrid author? The benefits are huge. I like having a series I own. I can schedule my own deadlines, write the exact story I want to tell, hire the same level editor I get from my NY publisher, work directly with the cover artist who does all my NY books. I can turn the books around faster, which makes my readers happy, and I earn more money per book, which is important because I write full-time for a living.

As far as what to watch? It’s a matter of keeping the lines of communication open. I can’t have an indie book competing with any of my releases from St. Martin’s/Macmillan, (nor would I want that) so I space the indie releases in between my traditional releases. I keep my editor up to date on when my author-owned books are coming out, and I assure her that I’d never miss one of my traditional deadlines because I’m busy with a different project. The key is communication and respect. I also like to point out to my publisher that when they see an unexpected surge in sales, it’s usually at the exact same time when I’m releasing an indie book. They like that.

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? You made my weekend more fun, or you helped me forget about my crazy job, my crazy kids or my crazy mother-in-law. I want to write books that make people smile and take them out of daily life for a little bit.

Fill in the blanks: Writing/Editing books is like alligator wrestling.  You never know if you’re wearing steak for underwear.

Name a book that you wish had a sequel (or another sequel) and what kind of story you think that literary remix would tell. Pride and Prejudice. I’d love to see what happens to Elizabeth and Darcy.

Not every idea is a winner. Written or not, what’s the most ill-conceived story idea you’ve ever had? Oh, I had this idea about a hair salon in hell. One of those 3:00 a.m. revelations that seemed so brilliant at the time.

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? The Monster MASH by Bobby “Boris” Pickett

If you could meet one of your characters, who would it be and where would you meet? I’d love to ride with any one of the biker witches from The Accidental Demon Slayer series. They’re a hoot.

Newly anointed with demon-fighting powers and suddenly able to hear the thoughts of her hilarious Jack Russell terrier, a preschool teacher finds a whole new world of dark and dangerous, including a sexy shape-shifting griffin she's not entirely sure she can trust.

Accidental demon slayer Lizzie Brown and her grandma's coven of biker witches have rolled into Sin City to take out a super-sexy succubus who has her eye on world domination-and worse, Lizzie's man.

 Lizzie Brown would just like to have one normal date. Instead, she gets a towering inferno with a message: her long-lost dad is a fallen angel in danger of becoming a demon. Not good. Especially since she's a demon slayer.

Lizzie Brown is about to have the destination wedding of her dreams. Only now it seems one of the guests at the eclectic, seaside mansion is trying to kill her.

Demon slayer Lizzie Brown isn’t exactly a diamonds and champagne type of girl. But when an ancient cult becomes the “in” thing in Beverly Hills, she realizes there’s more to it than youth potions, parties, and priceless Egyptian artifacts. There’s a demon involved…and Lizzie’s not on the guest list. 


The Accidental Demon Slayer -

The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers -

A Tale of Two Demon Slayers -

The Last of the Demon Slayers -

My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding -

Beverly Hills Demon Slayer -

Night of the Living Demon Slayer – coming May 2015

Immortally Yours -

Immortally Embraced -

Immortally Ever After -

Southern Spirits - coming January 21, 2015

Some Like it Hexed -

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Versatile writer Jean Gill offers promo on story collection ONE SIXTH OF A GILL

Buy ‘One Sixth of a Gill’ at
** On Countdown promotion: ebook at 0.99c (instead of 3.99) or 40% off print book from Dec.11-17**

Welcome to Jean Gill, a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D700 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? That’s a good question for me as I’m a photographer as well as a writer and I usually picture a character and scene from the novel-to-be, which stays in my mind until I write the whole story. J K Rowling said she ‘saw’ Harry Potter on a train and it’s like that for me except that it’s all in my mind’s eye. Also, it might be a minor character and I don’t know how the scene fits into the whole until I write the novel. These are some of my focal points: a teenage tomboy leaping by a pond, surrounded by baby frogs (‘San Fairy Anne’); a medieval troubadour in a ditch with a Pyrenean mountain dog (‘Song at Dawn’); a schoolgirl with her left hand tied behind her back at tea-time so she could understand how left-handers have been discriminated against (‘On the Other Hand’). I write partly to find out who these imaginary people are.

What inspired your latest book? One Sixth of a Gill is a full collection of shorts, inspired by all kinds of experience, both my own and imagined: by the title ‘Going to the Dogs’, by a visit to the gynaecologist(!), by a memory of my baby sister. I was chatting with other writers about publishing a short story and suddenly I decided to break all the rules about keeping to one genre. My writer friends were encouraging (always dangerous), my editor was enthusiastic and the work began.

What do you think readers will like about your book? 
Reviews suggest that the format of ‘five-minute reads’ suits busy people; it allows for the book to be picked up, put down and enjoyed in between. Some of the pieces pack a punch and I’ve been told that the book evokes ‘emotions I didn’t know I had’. I like that feedback very much. And of course dog lovers like it because there are a few canine stories, fictional and true.


How much fact is in your fiction? Two of my novels had real starting points. I’ve never talked about it but I witnessed a real tragedy and described it in ‘Snake on Saturdays’. I felt that I owed it somehow to the victim to make that event part of a story. The characters themselves are completely invented but people often assume autobiographical details where there aren’t any. I enjoyed the rumour that I’d had a passionate affair with my vet and it’s true that we met in the pub to talk about cow diseases...

‘Someone to look up to’, written from a  dog’s viewpoint, is based on the many true stories dog owners have told me over the years I’ve worked with top dog trainer Michel Hasbrouck. One particular Pyrenean Mountain Dog, who was abandoned but did indeed keep faith in humans, was the basis for the story of Sirius. It’s my husband’s favourite of my books, perhaps because he recognises the dog characters and incidents. At one point, Sirius steals a hunk of cheese and has it wedged in his mouth, filling his cheeks like a hamster’s, and no-one notices. That was one of our Blanche’s adventures and if you’d seen her expression, you’d have laughed too.

Since writing the book, I’ve adopted two abandoned dogs and the similarities between fiction and fact are uncanny, horribly so in what I’ve seen for myself going on in animal ‘refuges’.

Not every idea is a winner. Written or not, what’s the most ill-conceived story idea you’ve ever had? At one time I tried to get into writing for television and I won the opportunity to work with a BBC script-editor, one to one. She tore my drama script and me to shreds, and I came out of the interview in tears.

Apparently, two women fishing would break laws on representing animal cruelty and was morally unacceptable even if it had been well written... A lot of modern jargon followed. She was fresh from a Media Studies course and I wasn’t (but had published three books). I do have an Eng Lit degree but you know what? It doesn’t help one bit in actually writing – just gives me jargon that’s out of date now.

Now that you’ve reminded me of that awful humiliation, I might take another look at that play. I co-wrote it with a friend and I think it would make a rather good short story. I shall see what she thinks!

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? I’m working on the third book in the Troubadours series at the moment and each of my 12th C books has a key ‘chanson’ of the period. The lyrics actually shape part of the story. In the one I’m writing now, ‘Plaint for Provence’, the song is Hildegarde von Bingen’s ‘O Ignee Spiritus’ from ‘The Origins of Fire’

I think that’s the first time I’ve revealed the title of the new book: ‘Plaint for Provence’ should be out in 2015.

If you could meet one of your characters, who would it be and where would you meet? Dragonetz, the troubadour, in a bedchamber, where we could discuss 12th C politics :) Maybe this is why my husband suggested it was time I killed off Dragonetz :) but, instead, there will be at least one more book after this one, before the grand finale. That means I will be spending more time with my dark knight.

Praise for One Sixth of a Gill:

'A rare treat' - J.G. Harlond, author of 'The Empress Emerald'

'An eclectic mix - quite unputdownable' - B.A. Morton, author of prize-winning crime novel 'Mrs Jones'


Five-minute reads.

Meet people you will never forget: the night photographer, the gynaecologist’s wife, the rescue dog.

Dip into whatever suits your mood, from comedy to murders; from fantastic stories to blog posts, by way of love poetry. 

Fully illustrated by the author; Jean Gill’s original photographs are as thought-provoking as her writing.

An out of body experience for adventurous readers. Or, of course, you can ’Live Safe’.

Not for you
the blind alley on a dark night,
wolf-lope pacing you step for step
as shadows flare on the walls.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

John Scherber's bioterrorism suspense novel mirrors today's headlines

Welcome to John Scherber, a Minnesota native, who settled in México in 2007. He is the author of twelve Paul Zacher mysteries, (The Murder in México series), set in the old colonial hill town of San Miguel de Allende, as well as his three award-winning nonfiction accounts of the expatriate experience, San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the HeartInto the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, and Living in San Miguel: The Heart of the Matter.  In addition, two volumes of the Townshend Vampire Trilogy have appeared, and a paranormal thriller titled The Devil’s Workshop.

His work is known for its fast pace, irreverent humor, and light-hearted excursions into the worlds of art and antiques––always with an edge of suspense. Neither highbrow nor lowbrow, his books are written as entertainments and dedicated to the fun of reading. While he has acknowledged being no single one of his characters, he also admits to being all of them.

What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? My mysteries and thrillers are always character driven. I start with a specific beginning that gets the book launched into the action as quickly as possible, but soon the characters are up and moving around and talking on their own, and they increasingly dominate the action, moving it along in their own direction.

What inspired your latest book? Terrorism is a subject on everyone’s mind from time to time, certainly since 9/11. Although the jihadists often prefer small explosive devices, I have for several years thought that the ideal device would be a disease-bearing organism. Metal detectors would never pick it up, and it could be carried in small containers. Early in 2012, I started a novel about a fictional attack on the US using a variant of the tubercle bacillus. By the time I finished it in the summer of 2014, I found that between ISIS and ebola, the headlines were doing my promotion for me.

What do you think readers will like about your book? I think they will appreciate that this book, titled, Beyond Terrorism: Survival, is not some typical formulaic CIA gung-ho shoot out. It’s the story of two people, a very unlikely couple, thrown together on the road as they try to flee the first wave of the attack. The characters are human and relatable, and their dilemma draws the reader in as she imagines herself in that predicament. The government is locked in its usual party conflict and can’t come up with much assistance. The question becomes this: In the absence of real help, what are we able to do for ourselves, and how far are we prepared to go? No easy answers can be found.

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? “I felt I was living your story as I read it.”

Would you share a bit about your next project? My next project is the thirteenth book of my Murder in Mexico mystery series. It has the same set of three core characters as the other twelve. This one is titled, Uneasy Rider, and it’s set in the equestrian country around San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I live. It’s the scene of big money, expensive properties, headstrong women, and championship horses. It’s a volatile mix.


Jihad in America travels on the wind.

While a nuclear terrorist attack is unlikely, in a bioterror epidemic, the genetically engineered plague is invisible. Our borders are vulnerable, metal detectors are useless, even as ISIS, the Islamic State, raises its menacing black flag in Syria and Iraq.

It travels from person to person, from friend to friend or family member. A cough or sneeze is a lethal weapon. It’s not just ebola anymore.

You yourself may be the one to infect your loved ones.

What if the gridlock of party conflict causes government collapse, as it’s unable to move beyond constant jockeying for political advantage while people die by the millions?

What if only the people themselves can redeem the future? But where is mutual trust when every day is a struggle for dwindling resources?

Could the answer lie in our shared humanity? Does our real strength lie in our connection as individuals, and not in our institutions? Read the story of two unlikely strangers who found a way to survive the apocalypse, the deadliest terrorist attack in history, and made a new life for themselves in a recovering world.


It's also available in Nook, Kobo, and iTunes Store editions, with links on my webpage: