Do you love ’em? A lot of people do. I’ve enjoyed several over the years, I think the first I ever listened to was Brother Odd from Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. But I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve read far more than I’ve listened to.
That’s changing, and I’ll tell you why.
There is an app called Discord. It’s free to download, free to use, and can be utilized in many ways, but it marketed as being a digital meeting place. My exposure to it has come through my introduction to an amazing community of artists, namely audiobook narrators.
Now as with many things, my personal portal into the community was the same guy who opened a lot of doors for me in the writing world, my friend, business partner, co-author, and my dog’s guru, Craig A. Hart, who in recent months has begun doing a lot of narration work himself, in addition to working like a madman (appropriate – he is a madman) to establish and develop Northern Lake Audio, about which you’ll be hearing on this forum again in the coming months.
But back to Discord.
The moment I entered the first listening lounge, I realized I’d discovered something special. I was made to feel welcome instantly. Of course knowing Craig helped, but I hadn’t been there long before I’d been given the nickname Scratch, which was mainly just because the first two letters were the same as in Scott, but it was kindly bestowed, and even though we all know each other now, it occasionally still gets used. One narrator, the wonderful, talented and completely insane Mandy Prater Stribling, greeted me whenever I came into her booth, with a Tennessee girl version of “Cat Scratch Fever.”
Discord is fun. The people are great. One of the narrator servers is called The Haven, and that’s where I loiter most of the time, and that’s where I met the Haven’s creator, Aven Shore.
Our first interactions were pretty much standard “Hi!” but then Northern Lake put out a call for auditions to be the voice of Jelly Jars. We got a bunch, but there was one I kept coming back to. It was Aven’s. At the time, aside from the fact that she did a great read of the sample, there was something about the audition file that I couldn’t place my finger on, but when the deadline for submission rolled around, I had a very short shortlist. I picked the only name on it: Aven Shore.
To say she was enthusiastic about it may be one of my better examples of my mastery of the understatement. Allow me to share her post, (not mine), from the day she began recording. [Ed. note – please see the link to the Haven server in the post to receive an invitation to join the server and begin listening yourself.]
Let me first say that as an author, hearing this from a professional with over 100 books to her credit, reading something like that feels pretty swell.
Things only got better. Thanks to Discord I was able to hear, and because Aven generally turns on her camera when she records, see the process. It did not take long before I understood that almost intangible quality that made her stand out to me.
She had tapped into the same energy that I had utilized when writing the book, and she immediately wrapped herself in the roles of the lead characters, Peggy Neiman (who is the novel’s story-teller) and Bradley Sinclair. She, through her pre-read and other preparations, began on page one being Peggy. When Bradley is introduced, in the very first line he speaks, “It’s champagne. It calls for a certain level of decorum,” I realized that she knew Bradley’s heart as well.
And I suspected that I was in for a hell of a ride.
Maybe that is the sentence that will land me in the Understater’s Hall of Fame. I don’t know.
Over the next few days, (she finished with amazing speed), we both ended up on something of a journey as we navigated the story.
Different narrators have different opinions of having the author listen to or watch the recording of their book. Aven considers the author to be a resource, and as long as the book’s writer understands that they are in the booth as an asset and not as the director of the recording, I can understand why she feels that way. She didn’t have a ton of questions for me, but she had a few, and one or two were key to important aspects of the story itself, and of the soul of the character.
But most of the time I ended up sitting in my office, being an Aven Shore fan. My GOD, what a talent! If you didn’t click on her name which is a link to her website above, you need to. Listen to her samples. Then come back here and join Discord through the post embed! And you’re welcome, and this counts as your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza present this year. Don’t worry. You won’t feel cheated. It’s not like one of Aunt Bitty’s hand-knitted sweaters with unmatched sleeve lengths. It’s like getting every toy you ever dreamed of.
And yes, this is still all understatement.
I had already realized this by the time the recording of Jelly Jars commenced, but although the word “narrator” is used as a label for these people, other’s could be substituted with no lack of integrity, such as artist, and in a very, very real sense, actor.
This is what I got to see for however many days we worked together (correction – she worked – I was entertained – I was blessed): an actor.
The lead guitarist and founding member of the band King Crimson, is a guy named Robert Fripp, a long time hero of mine. He uses a phrase, specifically in terms of rock bands: First Division. A first division rock band is composed of virtuoso players and the music they produce tends to be iconic.
Aven Shore is a First Division actor. I watched her deliver the same line three, sometimes four times, and still not be satisfied. I lost count of the number of times I heard her say, “I can do it better.”
And then she did.
Now I should make clear that listening to the book being recorded is not the same as listening to the finished audiobook. There’s a lot more cussin’ for example, (and there’s plenty in the book already!) There are frequent stops. Frequent stumbles. If you have never read aloud for an extended period of time, you may not realize how physically exhausting it is. Especially when the narrator is putting everything they’ve got into every sentence spoken.
And there’s still a good deal of work to do in terms of mastering and whatnot, (all handled by Northern Lake’s top producer, sound engineer, and my dog’s guru, remember, Mr. Craig Hart), but before those winter holidays that I already alluded to transpire, Jelly Jars will be available in print, ebook and audiobook. Buy either or both of the text versions. In fact, if I could just ask each of you to buy a couple million copies that would be great, but I’ll understand if you can’t.
But no matter what, get your hands, or your ears, I guess, on the audiobook. Get it for your sister. Get it for your brother. Yes even your brother Tad, who you still haven’t forgiven for stealing your baseball cards.
This will not be the last Jelly Jars post before release. In fact one of said posts I’ll actually be announcing the release date.
But for now just get yourself on Discord, and start listening to this … magic!