Friday Photos/Video: Cove Walk & Novelists Who Can’t Sing & Et Cetera

A novelist and her laptop – a love story Part One – to be continued . . .

I am The Worst Dang Singer EVER . . . I dare you to post YOUR singing – haw!

My brother composed this music for Virginia Kate

My debut novel Tender Graces and the video Bellebooks made – I was so excited!

Then when Secret Graces came out, I tried to make one – lawdy!

Okay all y’allses – I have a visitor coming who has never been to the states! Then, I’ll be flying out, leaving GMR and the dawgs here, to visit my Granddaughter, Son, and DIL in Oregon. I am hoping to post ahead of time for my first and third of the month posts –Don’t Forget Me! :D (Note new posting schedule to the right – )

Friday Photos (and a free Kindle book for mother’s day) . . .

A bit of news first – I passed this news on at my facebook page (come ‘friend’ me if you like!- I’m rather shy so I mostly stand on the corner waiting for people to come to me *laugh*), and will do so here – either Amazon, or Bellebooks, has put my first novel – the first in the trilogy – Tender Graces – on a free promo for two days only (far as I know)  – yesterday and today. It’s for a Mother’s Day promo (there are strong mother-daughter themes in the trilogy), and as a “launch celebration” for Family Graces release. I always love passing on promos, and you all know it’s difficult for me to post/talk about my books–lawdy be in  a bucket!

Tender Graces, back when it was first released, became a Kindle best-seller – hitting number 1 over The Help on the Kindle Paid list of top 100 for  a while there – it was most exciting! It then hovered there in the top 5 for a while, and that was quite exciting, too.

Now, on the Free list, it is hovering at No 1 on contemporary fiction and No 4 on over-all kindle books–this does help with people seeing an author, I do believe, but whether it does or does not, it’s a great promo for readers to try out an author. So, thank you to all you who have downloaded my Virginia Kate — I hope you enjoy it and if so, you will perhaps read the rest of the trilogy! *smiling warmly* And if you want to try out my books without risk, here’s your chance.

There is much debate about “free books” and I won’t go into what I think or don’t think or in between–but, those promos are here to stay, I do believe, and at best they give readers a chance to check out an author and as a Thank You for reading our work. At worst – well, I’m not going there because that’s not what this is about!

If you have  B&N Nook, then it is not free but it’s there as well. I want to give a shout out to Barnes & Noble, and the indie bookstores — I support them, as well, and all they do for authors.

Now . . . Photos of the day: Spider Webs

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Wednesday F4A: I am your guinea pig: Agadir Argan Oil Line (and a note about Family Graces)

(I apologize if those of you who subscribe by email receive this twice! I accidentally hit “publish” last night instead of “draft” – lawd!)

I am in love with Agadir Argan Oil line of products. On two earlier “product review” posts, I happily talked up Agadir shampoo and conditioner, and the Agadir Argan oil.

While strolling about CVS in Waynesville–okay, I don’t get out much y’allses — huhn, so CVS is close by and it has stuff in it and I can gawk and meander and look and sometimes buy something. Even though GMR has accused me of going all “girly-fied” lately. Huhn. What-EVER.

Annnyyyywaaaaay, I happened upon this lovely wonderful sight: Agadir styling mousse . . . be still my beating hair follicles! I grabbed it and with no shame whatsoever paid the full price for it instead of going through Amazon (where I see it is cheaper – if you receive free shipping) as I did with the shampoo and conditioner. But I wanted it Then. I felt completely spoiled–though may I just say and of course I may, that I have come to adore Agadir products and they are worth every penny (Dear Agadir, please do not raise your prices–do not toy with me!). Not only do they make my hair feel wonderful, but the scent is exotic and clean and soothing to my pea-headed brain.

What they sayMoisturizes, conditions, smoothes, humidity resistant. No build up and gives super shine to dry, damaged, stressed hair. Protects hair against chemicals and hot tools. Great aroma that will waken your senses! Paraben free. 24 hour, lasting shine. Enriched with antioxidants and Vitamin E. With protective sunscreen. Sulfate free. Anti color fade for long, lasting hair color. Great body, volume & shine. Hydrates, smoothes, detangles, controls frizz.

What I love about it: Every.Little.Thang!

What I do not like about it: There’s nothing so far that I can say negative. If I had one teeny thing, even though I said it’s worth every penny and it is; well, folkses, it is a bit more than some of the other “over the counter” brands and more in line with “Beauty salon” items. But again, worth the money in how it makes my hair look, feel, smell. Whoopeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

You will only need a bit of the mousse – so be careful. I splorked a big-arse glob of it onto my hand, accidentally. It’s thick and creamy-rich–feels like a cream instead of a mousse. I put it all in my  hair because I didn’t want to waste it, but it was a bit much, so I’ll be careful next time. The scent is the same as with the other products, and I had a whiff of it all day as I went about my business.

I have baby fine hair, but this product, even though it has the word “oil” in it, does not weigh down my hair.

I can’t say enough good things about this product.

Now, while I am here, might as well tell you that FAMILY GRACES is on Amazon Kindle; it’s there in trade paperback, too, but since the release date isn’t quite “official” yet, there’re still doing their thang and all (the trade paperback is at BelleBooks/Bell Bridge books now and they always enjoy readers contacting them, of course!) It should be out in all the usual places soon. I guess they are trying something different by slipping in the kindle book first–I do not know!

I’m excited and terrified that it’s finally out *pant pant pant!* – My goal (and I have no control over it, so I guess it’s more of a hope than a goal *laugh*) is for it to reach the top 100 of Kindle – or as Tender Graces did, the No 1 spot on the Kindle paid bestseller’s list—yes, TG was No 1 over The Help for a little bit–lawdy! Ohhhhh doggies, wouldn’t that be excitervating? :-D

So, at last–  my Virginia Kate Sagas, the Grace’s Trilogy, is at last complete. What a journey. It feel so bittersweet. I spoke of this hope and love for the characters and writing here when this blog was MSN spaces, so some of you may remember those days *smiling*

I’ve loved this character dearly. I’ve loved writing about her and all the others. She has been such a part of my life — I think I just may cry. And here they are–the three books that I have spent so much time with. The entire trilogy. Lawd. *sniffle* I’ll miss you Virginia Kate . . . Micah, Andy, Bobby, Rebekha, Katie Ivene, Frederick, Mee Maw, Miss Darla, Amy and “Mr. Husband” Campinelle, Jade, Soot and Marco–and all the rest.

Monday Classroom: Behind the scenes–Ann M. Richardson, Audiobook Narrator, Voiceover Talent

I became intrigued by voice-over talent/audio book narrators when voice-talents auditioned with Bellebooks/Bell Bridge books for my novels and the novella. They’d send me a sample and I’d listen and  see if there was a “fit.”

I loved Ann Richarson’s voice as Melissa (narrator in Sweetieright away. Ann was/is perfect as Melissa–she is Melissa. I became so fascinated by a profession I didn’t know much about,  I was happy and honored when Ann took time to talk with me about what she does.

What led you to become a voice-over talent?

I had the great fortune to be read-to by my mother and grandmother.  Both were great readers, adding inflection and emotion to the stories, and stopping to explain words or innuendos when I didn’t understand.  It was not uncommon for them to become so involved in the stories that they cried or laughed when the situation became sad or funny.  My grandmother perpetually read Mary Roberts Reinhart’s “Tish” series to us, and my mother was especially gifted at doing voices; we loved when she read to us from the “Uncle Remus” stories.  In college I majored in broadcast journalism, but I got married in the middle of that and moved from Nebraska to California.  I took a break from full-time college in order to work full-time. I managed to take night classes at community colleges nearby, focusing on literature, composition, and business communication.

When we had children, of course, then, I read to them almost every night, the way I had been read to.  I volunteered in their classrooms and libraries at their schools, reading aloud. When my job evaporated with the economy in the early 2000’s, I began to contemplate a job that could enable me to stay home with the boys and still contribute to the household income. I went back to my original direction and took two community classes introducing the basics of voiceover and giving an overview of the industry.  Each class gave students the opportunity to record samples and receive a professional evaluation.  Both instructors gave me very high marks and I decided I would tackle it.

But it wasn’t until I began volunteering for Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic (now known as Learning Ally) that I discovered that narrating audiobooks was really the direction I wanted to pursue.  I still do website narrations, phone system messaging, and the odd voiceover job here and there, but narration is my passion.

You have a beautiful, clear-distinct voice, so it’s no wonder you received high marks! For anyone interested in pursuing this career, where do they start? What kind of training is required?

If you think you have the chops for it, sign up for a voiceover class (there are tons available, just Google it!) and become voracious in your search for information.  There are lots of groups on LinkedIn that you can join and learn from reading the discussions posted there.  Most important, DO NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB.  This is a highly competitive industry, and 90 percent of it is marketing.

Unfortunately, there is no minimum requirement of training in order to be a voiceover talent or narrator.  Recently the market has been flooded by those who have lost their jobs in the economic downturn, and since the voiceover industry has become predominantly a home-based industry (you can set up a good in-home studio for as little as $2000.00) there are many, many people auditioning for the same jobs.  Because I want to be the best I can be, I attend at least two training workshops a year, attend webinars and tele seminars as often as I can. I also read industry blogs, articles, and meet with voiceover people whenever I can. My goal for this year is to take acting lessons.  If you are more focused on long-form narration, volunteer reading aloud somewhere.  I will explain this further on in this interview.

Sweetie's mountains (mine, too)

You were consistent in Sweetie and I was amazed by how each character always sounded the same—lending an authority and exactness to your work. How do you keep up with all the characters’ voices?

When I get a narration project, the first thing I do is read the whole book.  The next thing I do is begin a journal, keeping track of each character, their history, their physical description, mannerisms, basically anything that can give me clues to how they will sound. For “Sweetie” I wrote in my notes that Sweetie herself was a cross between Pippi Longstockings and Nell (from the movie “Nell”).  She was sassy and had a heavy accent.  Melissa’s mother, I noted, was aristocratic, condescending, and pretentious, with no accent.  The bully, TJ, reminded me of Nellie Olsen from Little House On The Prairie . . . you get the picture.

There is also a lot of research that goes into the rest of the book, aside from the characters.  For example, I spent hours on the internet finding and listening to snippets of the songs that Sweetie would sing occasionally.  I watched documentaries on TV about the Appalachian region’s language, and I googled the accent.  I also found, in a weird way, that all those years watching NASCAR with my husband paid off.  Many of those drivers are from North Carolina, and I could hear all their voices in my head while I was reading!

Wow! You do your research—but it shows. And you also sing quite well, by the way. :-D. (The NASCAR reference made me laugh.) So, d
o you have any favorite kinds of books?

I absolutely love young adult literature.  Especially if it’s colorful and exciting, like “Sweetie” was. I love it when the characters are well-developed, and authors use colorful descriptive words. Oddly enough, I’ve been cast for several memoirs lately, and that is a much different style; very low-key and almost informational in delivery, but I enjoy that as well.  My passion for reading revolves around communicating, and making sure the reader understands what the author is trying to get across.

How about some funny, or uncomfortable, or weird, or just plain “Oh Dear!” moments in this business? 

I’ve had a few bloopers.  Most of them just get edited out, but one was pretty funny and I ended up sharing it with the author, who shared it on her website, as did the publisher, Oasis Audio.  The book was “Moonlight on Linoleum” by Terry Helwig, and there came a point in the story where the main character got herself in a pickle, and even though I’d read the book before I started, the scene suddenly struck me funny and I got to laughing and couldn’t stop.  I didn’t stop recording because I was just lost in the moment, and I couldn’t help myself.

There was another book I narrated, a textbook on Protestantism, where I pronounced “pastoral” not as “PAStoral” but as “pasTORal” every time I came across the word.  Hey, I was raised on a farm, whaddaya expect! I had to go back and fix all of those. Very tedious.


Another aspect to consider when you begin recording is how quiet your recording environment is.  My biggest enemies are leaf-blowers, FedEx trucks, and my dog snoring.  I can put the dog outside but there is no remedy for the others.  My family has also had to make adjustments for my career.  They must be very quiet in the house while I’m recording.  Spring break and summer are especially difficult.  But things have become much better for them since my sister-in-law got me a neon sign that says “VOICEOVER RECORDING!”  I turn it on every time I record and they can easily see when they should be quiet.  This has also led to an interesting problem.  I forget to turn it off.  This prompted my 13 year old to make a sign for me that he taped to the wall outside my booth: “DFATLM” (Don’t Forget About The Light, Mother).

See, one Saturday afternoon, I’d finished recording and had forgotten to turn it off. My husband was working on the car (he was heavily into racing cars up until a few years ago, and so he has all the good air-impact tools) and this day he saw my light on and so rotated all the tires, changed the oil and various other tasks, all using hand tools. He came in from the garage rubbing his sore, wrenched shoulder.  He was NOT HAPPY when he saw me sitting on the couch, and my light was still on.


*laughing!*–oops! By the way, my brother, who lives in Oklahoma, raced cars for a while.  Ann, how are you and books/authors connected?

I am not shy about contacting authors, if the publisher is ok with that, but sometimes publishers prefer to be the go-between, which is fine.  I love to connect with the authors for pronunciations, clarification on confusing situations, or to make sure I’m on the right track. I want to do the story justice, and present it the way the author wants it painted.  A good narrator disappears; the characters emerge and it’s not my voice anymore, but theirs.  My mom gave me the highest compliment on a book once.  She said, “I forgot it was my daughter narrating, and got lost in the story!”  My first paid audiobook was a memoir of a sight-impaired professor, who was learning to use a guide dog.  She was very actively involved in the reading of her story, and guided me through how she wanted it read, inflections, pronunciations, and pacing.  She was really a blessing in disguise, and it was very hard work.  But as they say, “No pain, no gain!” and that long, arduous book taught me so much about recording, pacing, characterization, and consistency, and proof-listening, that I felt I should have paid her!

Does your voice ever give out? Do you have to do special things to keep up your voice/vocal cords?

A brand of throat coat that has licorice root! Sweetie gave Melissa tea with licorice root! :-D I love coincidences . . .

Audiobook narration is a marathon, whereas voiceovers such as commercials, website narrations, etc, are like sprints.  When one narrates, he/she should be able to record for hours at a time.  This means you learn what your body can handle, and still deliver a good product (pay attention to consistency!)  You learn what foods make your stomach growl, what drinks produce mucous in your throat, what foods make your mouth sound sticky, and what remedies work best for a cold, sore throat, or congestion.  You learn not to party hard the night before you narrate, and to get plenty of rest and of course DRINK LOTS OF WATER.  I feel that being in good physical shape is paramount to good breathing, and so I run a lot. I don’t consume dairy of any kind before I narrate, or you can’t hear me over my stomach, and I never drink orange juice, or I sound like I have a mouthful of peanut butter.  There is an awesome tea called “throat coat” that I drink non-stop while I narrate.  It keeps the mouth lubricated, but not “clicky”.  And if I begin to sound hoarse, I stop talking COMPLETELY for about an hour.

Are there characters you don’t like and find distasteful to voice-over?

eeek eeek eeek, eek?

I have not yet come across a character whom I didn’t want to voice.  The nasty ones are fun to get down and dirty with, and the more colorful, the better!  Technically, though, I find myself the most challenged to portray elderly men.  I have to practice that.  That’s part of why I want to take acting lessons this year.  I want to learn more techniques that will enhance my skills, and be a better, more versatile narrator.  I once was narrating a children’s book for Learning Ally, and had to voice a hamster for a whole chapter.  That’s A LOT of squeaking! There were literally no words, just “eeeeeek, squeak, eeeek weeeeeek!” for a WHOLE CHAPTER.

Well, I liked what you did with Zemry, the old man in Sweetie. Any advice to offer for those interested in doing voice-over work?

Google everything.  Do your homework!  Listen to as many podcasts or tele seminars as you can; read books; sign up for an introductory class.  This is not for the faint of heart, but there is much work to be found, if you’re dedicated, ambitious, and tenacious.  Here are some resources to check out:,,,  If you want to find out if you think you’re able to do this kind of work, I STRONGLY encourage you to find a program where you can volunteer reading for those who need this service.  I volunteer weekly for Learning Ally,, where I record two hours at a time.  No matter how busy I am, I make time to continue this.  The members who use this service depend on us to record textbooks, including such intricate and complicated volumes as calculus, physics, math, and chemistry (we’re talking elementary through college level here!) to children’s literature, fictional works, and even stage plays.  Some of the members have made it through college using our services, and are working on their masters or doctorate degrees!  They are truly motivated and amazing in what they accomplish. Please visit the website.  This is a non-profit organization run ENTIRELY on volunteer readers.

In addition to providing a valuable service, recording such a variety of texts hones one’s skills as a narrator and gives you a chance to try things you wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise, such as accents, character voices, learning new recording software, etc., while still keeping in mind your must produce a high-quality, pleasant-to-listen-to recording.

Thank you Ann! Appreciate you! And thank you for bringing my characters, and the characters of other authors, to life.

For more information on Ann and her work, visit her website, or Learning Ally, or email Ann  at .

Also, coincidentally, after we finished up this interview, this weekend Sweetie the audiobook went on sale at Amazon, itunes, and Good timing! :-D

A short sampling to listen to: Sweetie & Melissa at Whale Back Rock (as well, there are samples on the links above)

(Hamster image – Visit the ASPCA, animal shelters, and other wonderful animal-lover places!)

Stop. Sit in your chair. Open a word doc (or pull out pen and paper) and Begin

We not only have holiday company for a few days at the little log house at Killian Knob, but I am up against a deadline, or two! The post below is a repeat post from 2009 but bears repeating. And it applies to more than just writing!

As for me, I am right now doing some last minute edits on the final Graces novel in the Graces Trilogy. The contract is signed. A date of March/April is planned for its release, and as well, Bellebooks/Bell Bridge Books is re-doing Secret Graces’s cover so that all three Graces Sagas bookcovers are similar, so they look like a trilogy (I had a lot of mixed letters/comments on the original cover for SG-some hated/some loved). I can’t wait to see what SG and the third Graces novel covers will look like – I still become excited; I still am giddy about it all.

And as well, Rose & Thorn will go live January 15 – we are busy preparing the winter issue. My New Years Holiday will be busy, but in a good kind of way.

So now –

What someone wrote in a comment one day: “You know all that is what kind of halts mein writing. It just overwhelms me and then I block. I like blogging because Ihave the feel of freely writing. I guess it is a bit of a quirk.”

Never never never never never never never never never nevernever never never never never NEVER NEVER NEVER let anything stop you fromwriting if this is what you want to doand you are ready to discipline yourself to it—no one else on this earth orbeyond should stand in your way: no advice from well-meaning writers, no rules,no nuttin’.

 Trust me when I say that if you really want to write anovel, or stories, then you must practice your craft and the only way topractice is to just sit down and write. As you practice, you will figure outwhat works for you, what your “voice” is, what your “tics” are, what yourweaknesses and strengths are, what delights you and urges you on and whatfrustrates you and makes you want to stop writing. You will find out your ownpersonal style of writing in both how you write and what you write.

 But listen! If you are happy writing blog posts, what iswrong with that? If you write a successful blog and people come to your siteand leave happy interested comments, areyou not a success? Are you not writing for an audience who loves coming byand seeing what you have written?

 When I began writing Tender Graces, I didn’t have a clue whatI was doing; I didn’t even know how to write dialogue! But I had desire. I haddiscipline. I had want. I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and thingsbegan to come clear as to my own style and voice and what made me feelcomfortable. I wrote 200,000 words and most of those had to be trashed orre-cast or fiddle-dee-deed, but, boy did I have fun, and boy did I learn muchabout what kind of writer I’d be. I was writing for an audience of one: Me.That is free-ing, let me tell you!

 Don’t let the “rules” or advice of others stop you or scareyou or make you feel as if you are somehow lacking if you don’t write in acertain way—just write and in the writing find out who you are, what kind ofwriter you are, what you love to write, and how you will write. I can’t stressthis enough. Find what makes you happy and do it.

 If the writing feels strained and you want to back away fromit, then find out what is hindering you: Are you writing for someone else? Areyou listening to too many writers (like me!) give advice and it confuses you?Are you straining towards something that isn’t meant for you?

 Stop. Sit in your chair. Open a word doc (or pull out penand paper) and Begin. Just have some fun, see what comes out. Who cares if youhave so-just-very-little; who caresif there are many adverbs and presentparticiples and dangling participles andsimiles and blah blah blah blah—how will you know what you want, or whereyou want to go, or how far you will take things, until you sit down and begin?How will you know what makes you happy until you write it without restraint?

I had to get to acertain point in my writing before the advice I read made sense –Hear that:I had to know how to sit down and writeand find out what kind of writer I’d be before all the “rules” began to makesense, and only then could I use them, manipulate them, have fun withthem—and I’m still having fun, and I’m still learning my craft—there is alwaysroom for growth, never become complacent even if you are a best-seller.

You all would laugh your arses off if you could see some ofmy first attempts at writing stories. So what? I laugh too! Haw! But I also seehow far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned and how much more I can learn.  Lawd, even some of the works I’ve had published I want to go in and change the heck out of them!

Sit. Breathe. Tune out the voices. Have fun. And, write howand what you want, and where and for whom you want. Be sincere.

Dig it out from the you that is uniquely you.
See y’all Friday for Links Day! Hope you are having a wonderful holiday.

Random, and not so random, Links, Videos, and Photos . . . Rose & Thorn & Handsome Men in Showers & et cetera

Today’s links/videos/photos will be done lickity spit, because Angie Gumbo Writer, I, and our wonderful staff are working hard this week to ready the winter issue of The Rose & Thorn Journal and our newsletter. We hope you will stop by and say so long to the writers and poets from our fall issue. Send a note if you enjoy a story or poem or the art- or let us know what you think about R&T.

Our newsletter will go out to email inboxes on January 15, the day the issue goes live. If you haven’t signed up, we hope you will–it’s free and your emails are protected.

Also, our R&T Blog is chock full of gooey-good-stuff – about writing and writers and books and literature and people and places. Today R&T staffer Dr. Adnan Mahmutovic’s (author of Thinner and [Refuge]e and more) review and interview of Jo Cannon’s Insignificant Gestures will be up at the R&T blog. We’ll be posting Adnan’s interviews and/or reviews about once a month. We’d love to have you subscribe to the blog while you are there! And I had to put that Dr. there in front of my friend’s name – he worked so hard for that Ph.D. Go Adnan!

Because I love my publishers, Bellebooks//Bell Bridge Books and want to impress them with how hard I work and for them to think I am loved by multitudes, *laughing* I’ll post this link again if y’all want to go check it out on BB’s new blog and my first post with them . . . Bullies, Outcasts, Prejudice and SWEETIE

Though I am doing well on Kindle, I’d love to see more of my books in bookstores and in libraries, so I encourage you to ask for them in your local bookstores and libraries if you are so moved- my dream would be to have my books in every library – oh! I love libraries and librarians. Epecially when he talks about them:

Diane still has the week-long give-aways, and a signed copy of Tender Graces is still up for grabs last I looked.

[I still can’t remember how to make the links open to a new page, so sorry. I am quite surprised blogspot doesn’t have this feature included. I know somewhere we are to put a target=”_blank” but danged if I can figure out where/how.]

Danged if this video doesn’t make me laugh every time.  The look on Mrs. Lincoln’s face as ole Abe takes his time . . . laughing!

That’s it for now, folks. See you all Friday! Now I’m going to finish my coffee before a snowy walk in the cove.

target=”_blank” . . . where oh where does this go? dang.

PS! I almost forgot – Small Footprints’s Art Tist (click pic) painted this from one of my photos! Oh, I do love this: