The Magic Shop Audiobook and Narrator Interview

The Magic Shop Audiobook and Narrator Interview

The Magic Shop is out on audiobook format today for the first time! If you don’t have audible yet, you can click this link for an audible 30-day free trial and get The Magic Shop for free. If you want to check out an excerpt of the audiobook version of The Magic Shop, check out this post.
 
Equally awesome news is that the wonderful Steve Barnes (narrator of The Codex) is back to narrate the cast of crazy characters for The Magic Shop. I recently caught up with Steve to ask him a few questions about narrating books, and the process he goes through to bring them to life. 
 
steve-barnes

Steve Barnes – The Mii version 🙂

 
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
 
steve barnes

Real picture of Steve Barnes—Not a Mii.

I feel incomparably lucky to have existed this long without having been eaten by anything yet.  (On the whole, that’s an unusual privilege.)  On top of that, there’s interacting with goats, and looking at stars, the Internet, and built-in imaginations, for God’s sake – it’s absolutely incredible.  Um… you’d think that might not be specific to me, but feeling as though I’ve apprehended the situation in that way probably is the jumping-off point for my choices in life.
 
What was the inspiration behind becoming a voice actor?
 
I’m relatively new to published voice work – I’ve spent a lot of time working on music, art, stage shows, films, web pages, games… all of which function as gateways to allow someone to swim around in the imagination of someone else.  (And: oh hai, VR.)
 
I probably received the inspiration for audiobooks specifically through other performers.  I remember planning to record a Terry Pratchett novel or something just for fun before Audible existed.  I love the format itself because it combines an actual performance with intimacy and virtually limitless leisureliness which film versions of books can’t afford.  (In a way, one of my favourite films is that ages-long episodic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth simply because it seemed designed on the principle that it should match the book detail-for-detail; it evidently treats the author’s words as the truth about the universe rather than some kind of malleable brainstorm, which I think is how it should be.  If an author says something happened, then it happened – it doesn’t even matter whether it makes sense.)
 
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of narration? What does your recording setup look like (what kind of mic, audio software, etc.) and where is it located?
 
I’ve been asked by curious people whether equipment is prohibitive, and it’s not.  As with most things audiovisual, reaching a technical quality of 90% of professional requires a little money, but approaching 100% requires a lot.  And it’s better to skillfully use okay equipment than to unskillfully use great equipment.  I’ve tried a few mics for narration, and I’m just using a sub-$100 cardiod mic at home – again, this has mostly been something I’ve done in my spare time for fun.  I hear narrators often experiment with crannies and closets to optimize their recording conditions.
 
What has been your favorite book to narrate?
 
I’m not sure I can pick one.  I’ll always have a place in my heart for Michael Wallace’s Starship Blackbeard universe – a sort of futuristic British Empire world with a colourful mixture of regular and transitory human and alien characters.
 
Any funny or interesting things happen while recording?
 
Perhaps funny to bystanders if they saw how stifling, haphazard and bizarre the internal journey can be – improving within countless hours of recording sessions feels robust and gruelling.  It’s amazing how quickly you become aware of your own idiosyncratic speech habits, and how many of them you discover up and down a seeming hierarchy of subtlety.  And since it all happens in isolation, it’s possible (and useful if done wisely) to become obsessive in examinating and updating them.  I’ve never done a novel without having felt like I’ve improved, and the “improvements” are usually the ticking-off of another handful of such subtleties.  Not to mention your awareness of external noises – I’ve never felt so much like anthropomorphizing the neighbour’s faucet or passing internal combusion engines just so I could momentarily be angry at them.  As though we needed another reason to applaud renewable energy.
 
How do you get into a book/story?
 
Occasionally time has only allowed me to sit down and cold-read – one perfectly respectable approach to narration is to read the text pleasantly and clearly with minimal interpretation – but I really prefer the chance to ingest a book, become a fan of it, envision the world, and most importantly, envision and empathize with the characters.  In theatre, it’s rare not to spend weeks on just one role, so it seems almost jarring not to take time preparing to perform an entire book by an author you may just have met.
 
How do you prepare for all the different characters and their tones/vocal ranges, and/or do you have a “library” of voices that you’ve created that helps you match voices to characters?
 
Audible listeners seem to have adopted the term “character differentiation.”  I’ve come to think of character voices as multi-dimensional things which vary along individual axes; the more aspects there are to vary, the more voices you can potentially create that a listener can distinguish.  Suppose pitch is a basic one – a listener can tell a higher voice from a lower voice, all other traits equal.  But if there are three or four characters, not so easily.  That calls for another attribute along a second axis – high-pitched and gentle, low-pitched and gentle, and low-pitched and irritable.  And so on, until you’re able to be as specific as “low-pitched, frontal, somewhat nasal, irritable, hurried and articulate.”
 
And even that’s pretty technical compared to the ideal of just feeling like you “know” a character, which for me sometimes happens over the course of a few chapters.  (Sometimes I’ve re-recorded certain characters’ earlier chapters for that reason.)  And that’s not even to mention regional dialects, which add another distinct dimension when appropriate.
 
What’s the best piece of voice acting advice you’ve received?
 
I’ve seldom sought acting advice, except maybe to listen to what the narrators I consider models say when they talk about it.  (Though I’ve worked with hundreds of interesting actors.)  I think that’s because I’ve done so many kinds of things previously that I’ve concluded the only real mistake you can make is to forget your own whimsy is the main ingredient.  Anyone relying overly on advice could forget that.
 
If you could choose any book to record, which one would it be? And which would be your worst nightmare?
 
Maybe a hypothetical book written by one of my closest friends, all of whom I think would be great authors.  I’ve enjoyed projects least which feel like attempts to capitalize on readers through flashy marketing in lieu of substance, or which neglect conventions and aren’t well-edited.
 
Any other projects you’re working on now, or recently finished?
 
I’ve hardly ever taken a break since starting, so I’d suggest anyone genuinely curious just search Audible.  Surprisingly, I’m still the only Steve Barnes narrating Audible releases – I don’t imagine that will last long.  (I once had a phone invitation to speak at a convention on the understanding that I was Steven Barnes, the sci-fi author.  Perhaps accepting it would have been a smart career move.)
 
There you have it. You can check out more of Steve’s voice work here if you’re interested! Don’t forget to check out The Magic Shop on audiobook here
NaNoWrimo Templates

NaNoWrimo Templates

NaNoWriMo 2016 is nearly upon us, and if you’re planning on participating, it’s probably time for you to start getting ready to write your guts out. Below I’ve included a list of NaNoWriMo templates that will help you get organized, and ready to plot, track, and write your way to the end of November.

If you’re a Scrivener user, you might find my free scrivener templates #1 and free scrivener templates #2 posts helpful for NaNoWriMo as well. You can also check out my Scrivener resources page. By the way, you can get a 20% discount on Scrivener just for participating in NaNoWriMo. So, if you haven’t bought it yet, get a free trial here, and if you decide to buy, use the discount code NANOWRIMO.

If you’re already a Scrivener user, and you’re just looking to get some top-notch training, you can go here for that. Now, on to the templates and other NaNoWriMo goodies!

NaNoWriMo Templates

Evernote’s blog has several templates for you to use for this year’s NaNoWrimo, including  Story Premise template, the Three-Act Story Plotting template, the Story Beats template, the Snowflake Method Checklist template, the Character Profile template, and the Worldbuilding Basics template.

Curiouser Editing wrote a post with a Novel Outlines worksheet.

NaNoWriMo Calendars and Progress Charts

The folks over at Byzantineroads have a bunch of themes calendars and progress charts for NaNoWriMo 2016. Here’s a list of them: The Typewriter Theme, A Neutral Theme, A Horror Theme, A Sci-Fi Theme, A Romance Theme, and A Punk Theme

David Seah has created a beautiful and detailed NaNoWriMo 2016 calendar that you can get here

Do NaNo Better With Scrivener

Do NaNo Better
With Scrivener

NaNoWriMo Word Count Trackers

Justin McLachlan created an Excel tracker here that tracks your progress to your goal, and the other basics, like daily word count against your target, and the like. If you want to donate to him, he has a link for donating.

Story a Day has created a google doc word count tracker with conditional formatting that will make your word count go green when you hit you goal. Check it out here. 

 Mark Feenstra’s tracker is pretty cool too, especially because it tracks against the entire year, and not just November for NaNoWriMo. You can get that one here.

Svenja Gosen has created a more complete tracker for the writer that wants to keep tabs on character and plot information, as well as the standard stuff. You can download it here

Cameron Mathew has built another detailed tracker that not only tracks the basics, but tracks your morale, number of writing sessions, scenes completed, and other things.  Get it here.

If you don’t like any of the trackers above, you can always create your own. Nerds and Nonsense has written a nice post on how to create a word tracker for NaNoWriMo.

The Magic Shop Audiobook Edition

The Magic Shop Audiobook Edition

The Magic Shop Audiobook Edition

After a failed attempt with my first narrator, The Magic Shop is finally going to come to life in audiobook form, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic! The talented Steve Barnes, my narrator for The Codex, came back for another go with The Magic Shop. I just finished listening to and approving the whole production, and I am just astounded at all the character voices Steve was able to pull off (this includes various magical creatures.) It’s surreal listening to someone else not only read, but act out your writing. I know that sounds cliché, but that’s how it truly feels. This is an especially

 

steve barnes

Steve Barnes, Narrator

satisfying moment for me because I tried to bring the book to life once before, and when the narrator abandoned the project, I thought it might never see the light of day.

But we persevered!

According to Amazon, the audio version of The Magic Shop clocked in at 11 hours and 29 minutes. That’s a whole lot of listening time. Apparently that’s what 512 pages translates to. 🙂

Below I’ve included a retail sample of The Magic Shop for you to listen to, and the table of contents so you can get a sense of the book contents. Here’s a link to the Goodreads page in case you want to read some of the reviews.

The audiobook should be out on audible within the next couple of weeks. It’s likely that I’ll be running some contests for free download codes, so keep your eyes open if you’re interested!

(Let me know what you think in the comments.)

 

 

The Magic Shop Audiobook

by Justin Swapp | The Magic Shop Audiobook

 

The Codex Audiobook will contain the following content:

  1. Opening Credits
  2. Issues
  3. Mental
  4. Blue Room
  5. The Magic Box
  6. A Strange Sale
  7. Full Circle
  8. A Strange Visit
  9. Heist
  10. Aftermath
  11. Elba’s Test
  12. The Crypt Keeper
  13. The Catacombs
  14. A Gypsy and a Bottle
  15. The Great Faustino
  16. A Promise is a Promise
  17. Reservation
  18. A Matter of Time
  19. The Keeper
  20. The Kabbahl
  21. The Summoning
  22. The Shrieking Forest
  23. The Gnarliguts
  24. Their Uncle, Caleb
  25. Nevada State
  26. Homecoming
  27. The Brimlets
  28. The Fall of the Kabbahl
  29. Closing Credits

Some Fan Art

Writing Podcasts for Writers

Writing Podcasts for Writers

Improve Your Writing and Productivity with Podcasts and Audiobooks

As a writer, I’m always looking to improve my workflow and channel extra productivity from somewhere. I added a commute for work a few years ago, and I started to stream writing content to listen to in order to get more out of my drive time. 

Outside of audiobooks, podcasts have really become a go-to move for me. There’s a ton of fresh, free content that surfaces regularly. Here’s a list of my favorite writing podcasts. I was going to try to order them by my preferences, but man, the top 3-4 podcasts are really close. In my opinion, these are the best out there:

1. Writing Excuses

This is a superb podcast consisting of four writers with vast / varying writing experience across different genres (even comic strips.) This really comes out in their writing tips and techniques. They’re pretty good to keep the episodes to 15 minutes, even though I wish it went longer. Their humor, experience, and real interest in helping the writing community shines through in this podcast.

This year’s theme is particularly interesting as they are going over “elemental genre” by breaking down and defining genre expectations in a way I’ve never heard before, exactly. This is an amazing podcast. It’s always easy to listen to.

Here’s the link: Writing Excuses

2. The Story Grid Podcast

The goal of this podcast was really an experiment of sorts. Could you take a serious veteran of the publishing industry in Shawn Coyne and pair him up with an amateur fiction writer in Tim Grahl, and make his writing a hit? This podcast is hosted by two writers, veteran author Shawn Coyne and amateur writer Tim Grahl. Their goal? Help writers create great stories. The twist? These hosts put their own work up for critique.

This podcast truly covers A—Z as they brainstorm his book and get to work. Shawn gives him amazing feedback. If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall for a conversation between a professional writer and an amazing agent, this is the closest thing to that out there. This is an absolutely fabulous podcast. I could literally listen to Shawn Coyne non-stop. His feedback and insights are stellar. 

Here’s the link: The Story Grid podcast

3. Odyssey Writing Workshop

This podcast consists of excerpts from an exclusive, annual writing workshop. The frequency with which they post these podcasts is only once or twice a month, which is far less than I would rather, but the quality is stellar, and there is a huge backlog you can download with whatever podcast software you use.

The authors and topics covered on this podcast are vast, and without fail, each one I’ve listened to has been useful many times in its own right. The quality is A +.  

Here’s the link: Odyssey Writing Workshop podcast

4. Helping Writers Become Authors

K.M. Weiland is has produced a high quality, buttoned-up podcast on all things writing. After listening to an episode, I often find myself wondering how one person can put together such great content, and produce it with such high quality at such a high rate.

Like the podcasts mentioned above, it’s just top-notch from a content perspective, but she also produces them frequently.

Here’s the link: Helping Writers Become Authors

5. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Grammar. There, I said it. Every writer has to deal with this at some point, and this is probably one of the longest running, most popular podcasts on the subject. Short, and to the point. High quality. Is what it says it is.

Outside of having a wicked name, Mignon Fogarty delivers useful tips about grammar and the art of storytelling, 

Here’s the link: Grammar Girl

Honorable Mentions

 

 

What are your favorite podcasts?

Did I miss a great podcast? Post a link in the comments and give us the 411, por favor.

 

The Codex Audiobook Edition

The Codex Audiobook Edition

The Codex Audiobook Edition

 

I couldn’t be happier this evening. Recently I decided to give the audiobook market another college try after my first partnership didn’t work out. I reached back out to the original narrator that I was going to go with, and after we caught up, found out that he has gone on to narrate a ton of books, and that he was interested in narrating some of my fiction. I listened to a few samples, and he sounded great. 

steve barnes

Steve Barnes, Narrator

So, Steve Barnes will be narrating The Magic Shop this fall. It should be completed by the end of September.

Once I sent The Magic Shop off to Steve, he asked if he could narrate some of my shorter fiction between now and when he would start hunkering down on The Magic Shop. So, after discussing what I had out there, he thought The Codex sounded interesting enough to start there. 

Today, I’m pleased to announce that Steve turned in his final draft of The Codex, which will include the origin story, “Failed Crusade,” by Patrick Tracy and Paul Genesse (they were gracious enough to allow me to include it.) I just got done listening to it, and I have to say that I am totally impressed with what Steve was able to do with all the characters, and the gritty nature of the stories. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Oh, wait… Here’s a sample!  The full audiobook version of The Codex will run almost 3 hours, and should be available within the next 30 days. I’ll probably be running some contests for free download codes, so keep your eyes peeled!

(Let me know what you think in the comments.)

 

 

The Codex Audiobook

by Justin Swapp | The Codex Audiobook

(The sample above is from “The Transition” listed below)

The Codex Audiobook will contain the following content:

  1.  Opening Credits
  2.  Preface
  3.  Failed Crusade, Part 1
  4.  Failed Crusade, Part 2
  5.  Failed Crusade, Part 3
  6.  Failed Crusade, Epilogue
  7.  The Transition
  8.  The Merging
  9.  Club PK2
  10.  Closing Credits
Casting Call for The Shadow’s Servant

Casting Call for The Shadow’s Servant

In preparation for the launch of The Shadow’s Servant, I thought it would be fun to do a “casting call” for some of the characters in the series. What’s a “casting call?” It’s when the author shares his vision of the characters in his book as portrayed by actors. So, here is my casting call for The Shadow’s Servant, book 2 of the Shadow Magic Series. It’s due to launch this spring. You can bookmark it here on Goodreads.

I actually collect pictures as part of my writing process. I think more and more writers are doing this. For me, great pictures help inspire my writing, or, at a minimum help me articulate a feeling I have about a character or a place. Here’s the link to my The Shadow’s Servant Pinterest Board if you want to check them out.

Marcus Fith

I’ve always envisioned a younger Freddie Highmore as Marcus Fith, the main character of this series. Marcus impetuous, and curious, but more than anything, very brave. He makes a lot of mistakes because it’s the only thing he can see doing to save the day. Sometimes he’s blinded by his need to take action.

Ellie Fith

A young Dakota or Elle Fanning would fit the role of Ellie just fine. Ellie was actually named after my daughter (I’ve told my children that I will include one of their names in each book that I write.) Ellie’s character is very smart, quirky, and a bit of a know it all. There is more to her than meets the eye. She has a good heart, and where she doesn’t play as present a role (on camera) in The Shadow’s Servant, she’s sorely missed.

Winston Fith

Winston Fith is Marcus and Ellie’s grandfather. He’s old, eccentric, and quite powerful. I’d envision Sir Ian Mckellen, perhaps my favorite actor ever, to play this iconic role. Sir Ian McKellen has a way of bringing out little details in the parts he plays. It would be fun to see what he would do with Winston.

Charlotte Fith

Charlotte, Marcus and Ellie’s grandmother, is very strong willed, yet loving—in her own way. She’s the backbone of the Fith family. There is more than meets the eye with her.  I would love to see Julie Walters play this part.

Caleb Fith

Uncle to Marcus and Ellie, and husband to Anabell, Caleb Fith was almost destroyed by Sol at one point. He went through quite a transformation in The Magic Shop. He’s gallant, and chivalrous, and will do anything for his family. Richard Madden would make a fine actor for this role, I think. He has a quiet, but strong vibe about him.

Anabell Fith

Aunt to Marcus and Ellie, and wife to Caleb, Anabell Fith has sacrificed much for her family. She’s deceivingly and uniquely beautiful, but sort of ordinary and simple in her way, at the same time. Like the rest of the Fiths, she’s strong, and, when it comes to things that matter, she’s a little impetuous, like Marcus. She takes action. Uma Thurman would portray Anabell’s quirky style, and unique beauty well.

Elba

Elba is one of my favorite characters of the series. My favorite thing about her is that you never quite know who’s side she’s on. She plays a critical role in the events in The Magic Shop. Lucy Liu would be so fantastic in this role as she would bring out Elba’s mysterious side, without overpowering her shrewd or capable sides. She can be beautiful, and yet haunting at the same time.

Sol

Sol is a critical character throughout the Shadow Magic Series. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but a younger Anthony Hopkins would be masterful at portraying this complicated character. Sol has many priorities competing for his attention, and some of them are noble, and others are maniacal. Anthony Hopkins could bring these complexities into line, and make this character accessible to the reader.

Mirella

Mirella is yet another complicated character, and I believe that Catherine Zeta Jones could do her justice. Like Sol, Mirella finds herself caught between injustices shown her regarding that which is rightfully hers, and a larger plot to which she is a critical element. In her way, she’s loving and caring, and in another way, the author of many evil deeds. 

Gunnar

Gunnar is a relative that comes to visit Marcus under unfortunate circumstances. After getting to know each other a bit, and overcoming a strange start, they learn to get along, and eventually help each other— seemingly, anyway. Gunnar is a bit of a teenage rogue, and I think Kit Harington could do a bang up job of portraying this bad boy.

Exum Payne

Exum is a sort of pirate, or transporter for hire. I guess you could call him a smuggler. He’s Marcus’s way into the new world in The Shadow’s Servant. Idris Elba, another one of my favorite actors, would do a great job portraying this chracter

Erasmus

Erasmus is, well, Exum’s pet, or, as he would prefer you to say, his partner. He’s more than just a monkey—he can speak after all. I can’ think of any famous monkies I’d have play his part, but I’m sure there are many of them out there.

 

dividing line

There are plenty of other characters I could mention here, but I figured that this post was getting a bit long. Perhaps I’ll do a part 2 at some point. For now, this hopefully serves as a fun way to bring to life some of the characters from The Shadow Magic series.

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