On writing

Creation of an audio book—from an author’s POV

Linesman audio book
Linesman audio book

Paul, from Recorded Books, rang the other day, for the pronunciation list for the audio book version of Alliance.

23 February is coming up fast.

The creation of an audio book from the writer’s point-of-view

From our end, we have very little to do with creation of the audio book.

A month or two before the book is published, we get an email from Paul, with a list of words that they need to confirm pronunciation for.  It’s mostly names.

  • Ean—pronounced as Ian
  • Galenos—Gall-en-os (short a, as in hat)

We agree on a time for him to call.

You might recall from earlier blogs that Sherylyn and I don’t always pronounce words the same way, so before that call we go through the list to agree how these particular words will be pronounced.

Paul calls us, and we talk through the list.  It’s usually one of us on the phone, with the other close by.

I have to say, when you’re speaking directly to someone with a US accent, Australian pronunciation often comes across as broad and flat.

One day, when we have time, I’ll set up an audio file of the words we have to pronounce.

For Linesman, the audio came out on Audible when the book was published.  The Recorded Books CD package came out in December 2015, so we are now the proud owner of a ten-CD set audible copy of Linesman as well.  All 12 hours and 41 minutes of it.

The actor’s point-of-view

Brian Hutchison, the narrator for Linesman and Alliance. This image is from the IMDB Official Photos page (From the IMDB official photos page)
Brian Hutchison, the narrator for Linesman and Alliance. This image is from the IMDB Official Photos page (From the IMDB official photos page)

The Linesman books are narrated by actor Brian Hutchison, who has done a lot of stage work, as well as appeared on television shows.  He’s also a photographer.

We don’t know how Brian works, but Wil Wheaton talks about the process of recording audio for books and games in the first section of “This is why I support a SAG-AFTRA strike authorization for video games — and it isn’t about money“. Wil’s article is more about reading for games than it is about reading for books, but he describes it using the example of reading from a book.

We read our own books aloud, and we can do around ten pages before our voice starts to go.  If we do it every day we do start to lose our voice.  Reading a complete book aloud is hard work.

Another interesting take on recording the audio for a book is Katie Hafner’s The Unexpected Agony of Recording Your Own Audiobook.

Linesman has been well received in audio

The addition of the narrator adds an extra dimension to the story.

Probably the biggest surprise for us is how many people listened to the audio book. It’s a larger proportion of total people who ‘read’ the book than we expected.

It has been well received, and review-wise, it’s rated well too.

On writing

The LINESMAN that got us our agent is not the same LINESMAN that got published

Overheard at a literary function, one writer talking to another.

And now that I’ve sold it and the book’s doing well, you know what, I’m going to go back to that agent who passed and I’m going to say to them, “This is the book you passed on. Look how it’s doing now.”

The writer who was speaking took years to sell her book, but the published book was very successful, especially for a first novel. She and another writer were discussing a literary agent who’d passed on the book, saying something along the lines of, “I enjoyed this story, but I don’t think it will sell.”

So what’s wrong with the comment above? Other than that it’s bad form on the writer’s behalf.

Answer.  The book that is doing well is most likely not the book the original agent passed on.

Let’s talk about our own experience. The LINESMAN that was doing the rounds trying to get us an agent was a vastly different book to the one that finally got published.

The agent who took us on, gave us feedback. Great feedback. Based on her feedback we re-wrote parts of the book. I can’t remember how many times it went back and forth before she was finally happy with it.

Then she started sending it out to editors. We saw some of the feedback.

“Ean is a fantastic character, but the second half of the book needs rework. I don’t think I’d have the time to work with the authors to fix it.”

It went around for twelve months like that. Our editor, Anne, who finally took it on, initially passed on it. She liked the story, but the second half didn’t work for her. But, she said, if we wanted to rework the second half, she’d take another look.

We rewrote the second half. It was a massive rewrite. Sent it back to our agent, who sent it to Anne, who finally accepted.

But the story changes didn’t stop there. We went through at least two more big rewrites with Anne.

By the time the story was ready for publication it was majorly different to the one that got us our agent. Sure, the basic story was the same—Ean was a linesman, the other linesmen thought he was crazy because he sang to the lines—but the rest of it was dramatically different.

It was also a much better book.

So in our experience, that agent the writer at the function was talking about was probably right to pass on the original book. It wasn’t right for her, and she didn’t love the book enough to help turn it into something she could sell.

On writing

How honest should a writer be about themself?

Judging a work of fiction

There’s a book, I can’t recall which one at present, but it won a major award for fiction.  The Miles Franklin or the Man Booker, or something like that.  It was a memoir.  After it had won the prize, the memoir was exposed as a fake.

My memory is hazy.  I thought the whole kerfuffle happened last year.  (I also thought it was Norma Khouri but her book was written back in 2004 and she didn’t win any major awards that I can see.)  Google, normally reliable, couldn’t help me.

I still can’t find anything about it, so maybe I imagined the whole thing.

What I remember was the fuss that surrounded the outing of the memoir as a fake, and the calls for her (I think it was a her) prize be taken away.

At the time I remember thinking, hold on, this is a prize for fiction. Why should exposing the story as a piece of fiction make a difference to whether she won the prize or not?

It would be different if the prize had been awarded for a memoir rather than fiction.

Surely a work of fiction should be judged on its literary merit.  Shouldn’t it?

And yet, as readers, we can’t help judging the author

There are layers of—let’s call it understanding—between the author and the reader of his/her book.

There’s the reader.  There’s the story they read and interpret.  There’s the story the author thinks they wrote—which can be very different to the story the reader takes away.  There’s the reader’s opinion of that author, based on what they read in that story. And there’s the author him/herself.

As a reader, you start off with little to no idea who or what the author is, except by their writing.

If you like them enough, maybe you go onto the internet and do some research. Read their blog, follow them on social media sites, even interact with them. If you follow them long enough, eventually you get an idea of who you think they are.

If you’re not honest, expect an impact on your readers when they find out

A well-known m/m author who writes under a male pseudonym recently admitted that ‘he’ was a ‘she’.

When I heard, I shrugged, and said to myself, “So what.”  It wasn’t even unexpected. Most m/m writers are female, and a goodly proportion of them write under a male pseudonym or use their initials.

Yet when this writer’s latest book became available I realised I was reading it more critically than usual. Further, the reason I was reading it so critically was that this person who I had thought such a role model for young gay men, wasn’t.

Note that it wasn’t the author who had let me down so much as my perception of that author. I had an idealised image in my mind of who that author was and what they did.

Reader expectations—be honest about the big things

As in the case of the fake memoir I mentioned at the start of this post, the readers who called for the prize to be withdrawn had their own idealised version of who that author was, too.

I understand better now why they were so upset.

Of course, the writer is not responsible for what the reader thinks of them. They can’t be. Every reader has different thoughts, anyway.

But it made me think about the type of things an author should be honest about.

If I had to give advice to a writer about honesty

In these days of internet, especially when authors are encouraged to do some of their own marketing, it’s a rare author whose readers cannot find out something about them.

If I had to give one piece of advice to a writer about honesty, I’d probably say, “Be honest about the important things.”  Don’t pretend to be what you’re not. One of the reasons fake memoirs cause so much angst is because the reader has more invested in the author than they do normally, because this is the author’s supposed story.  And when that turns out to be lies …

You can’t control what a reader believes about you, but as a general rule, if the reader goes to meet you in a public author-reader space—such as a convention or a book-signing—it shouldn’t be a shock.*

*One piece of advice often given to authors is that your author photo should be close to your real age.  Sure, have a good photo if you can, but if you’re a portly 65 year-old, don’t make your author photo a picture of you back when you were eighteen, and skinny as a rake.

On writing

Stranger in a strange land

Ideas come from everywhere.

On Twitter at the moment there’s a tweet going around about Pet, the sheep, who was brought up with family dogs.

According to her owner, ‘Pet’ was an orphaned lamb who was brought up with the family’s four collies. She thinks the oldest dog is her mother, sleeps in the same basket and followed her everywhere from a very young age.

Watch the video. Watch this one too.

This one’s from a site called Tastefully offensive.

Look at the way she jumps, at the way she wags her tail, at the way she pricks her ears up. This sheep considers herself a dog. I don’t know if she’s ever met another sheep? How would she fare if she did?

How does she get on with strange dogs?

There is so much to Pet’s story. All you need is a little imagination.

On writing

Halfway through November – you know what that means

Halfway there

NaNoWriMo is half over.

If you’ve managed the word count, you’ll be 25,000 words by now. You’re halfway there. Keep it up and in another fifteen days you’ll have 50,00 words.

If you haven’t … don’t panic.

Sherylyn and I both enjoy NaNoWriMo, and we’d love to do it every year. Unfortunately, life often gets in the way.  We’ve both been trying since 2009, but we’ve only managed to finish twice with more than 50,000 words.

Sometimes we don’t start. This year, for example, we’re too busy writing book three of LINESMAN to even consider it. Another year we both had major projects due at work.

Sometimes we start and work—or life—gets in the way.

It’s not a competition

Note that I said ‘finish’ and not ‘win’.

I don’t know when the idea of ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo came about, but I don’t really like the term. It’s not a competition. At least, not to me.  It’s a marathon, and most people don’t enter a marathon to win, no matter how nice that would be. They enter it to run in it. To do it. To beat their own personal best.

It’s not a life or death situation

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t can’t get the word count. The important thing is to keep writing. Don’t stop just because at your current writing rate you’ll only have 30,000 words at the end of the month.

Keep writing.

30,000 words is pretty awesome anyway, but it’s the habit of writing regularly that you want to cultivate.

Again, it’s like a marathon. Just keep working at it.

You’ll be surprised where you get in the end.

On writing

A writing break


After GenreCon we took a few days extra leave and went down to the Gold Coast to chill out for a few days.

We went to Kirra, which is close to Coolangatta, and the one criteria for where we stayed was that it must be close to the beach.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a break like this. We spent most of our time sleeping, and relaxing, and looking at the view, and swimming in the apartment pool. And eating, of course. Far more than we should have or needed to. But it was relaxing.

The apartment itself had the most perfect view. It was easy to get up at five-thirty in the morning (Queensland doesn’t have daylight saving), write for two hours, shower, go out for some breakfast, come back, write some more, think about lunch or a swim, have an afternoon siesta, then go back to writing for a while before thinking about dinner on the terrace.

I have to say, by the time we were ready to come home I would have killed for an ergonomic chair, but there was something about looking out at that view that made it so much easier to get into a writing rhythm.

On writing

The golden rule in martial arts

What’s the golden rule in martial arts? Run away.

View from the hotel, by day. It looks even more spectacular at night, but my night photography just doesn't hack it. Note the cloud cover. I'm very happy about that. We have to walk from the hotel to the State Library. Cloud cover is good.
View from the hotel, by day. It looks spectacular at night, but my night photography just doesn’t hack it. Note the cloud cover. I’m very happy about that. We have to walk from the hotel to the State Library. Cloud cover is good.


We’re here in Brisbane for Genre-Con. Somewhat busy, attending sessions, so not a large blog today, but so far, every session has been truly good.

My favourite sessions so far:

Friday workshop: Write the fight right with Alan Baxter. Tremendously entertaining, as well as being informative.

What’s the golden rule in martial arts? Run away.

After this session we’re going back to look at some of the fight scenes in Linesman#3. Although, given the golden rule, we can’t have our hero run away, can we?

Saturday panel: Mining Myth and History. Kate Forsyth, Sulari Gentill and Christine Wells, chaired by Lisa Fletcher.

Three different points of view on writing historical fiction.
Sulari Gentill sounds like my kind of writer. I’ve got to look up the Rowland Sinclair mysteries.

Saturday night banquet: Mary Robinette Kowal.

An entertaining speaker, and loved the way she used rejection in the puppetry world and compared it to rejection in the writing world.
Loved the puppet show at the end.

To date, the standard of the panels has been excellent.

On writing

Revisiting Do You See What I See

We spend a lot of time with each other as co-writers, which means we share a lot of things, including bugs.

A rather nasty cold-like thing (too nasty to be an actual cold, or otherwise colds are becoming a lot more vicious) has downed both of us this week. We haven’t done much writing. Not even a blog, and to be honest it’s hard to dredge up much enthusiasm for a blog post, so today you get a recycled one. This is from back in 2006.


Because it’s so old, I need to give you some context on the novels we were writing back then.

Potion is a massive, sprawling epic fantasy. It’s the second novel we finished and rewrote enough to be respectable. It’s a trunk novel, but one day, if we ever get time, we’d love to rewrite it, just for fun. We have learned so much since then. It’s the type of fantasy you’d write twenty years ago. Fantasy has come a long way since.

Trivia fact for you. We did send this to our now-agent, Caitlin, and she asked to see the full manuscript. Nothing came of it, but it’s funny how things turn out.

Shared Memories is science fiction. Sherylyn calls it young adult, I call it adult with a young protagonist (but I think Sherylyn’s probably correct). Right now it’s a trunk novel as well, but it was a great idea. If we ever get the time we’ll revisit the idea.

Satisfaction is another fantasy. This one is still in the story folder. We remember this one particularly because when I described the original idea to Sherylyn it was an edgy, sexy adult novel, but the actual story we plan to write is the story Sherylyn saw after I described it to her. A whimsical coming of age tale. She took my idea, turned it around, and in half an hour we had a story we both wanted to write.

Also, we mention writing as a team. How we co-write has changed since this post. We still do some of what we mention in that link to another old post, but an article we did recently for Qwillery describes our current process better.


Do You See What I See?

It wasn’t until the fourth draft of Potion that Sherylyn and I realised we didn’t see the characters the same way.

Tegan, one of the point-of-view characters in Potion, has long dark curls that frame her face. We mention her eye colour—blue—when comparing her to someone else but that’s pretty much all the description you get of Tegan’s physical features.

We were talking one day and realised that Sherylyn’s Tegan had rich, chocolate brown hair with chestnut highlights. Her hair fell half-way between her shoulder and her waist, and the curls were quite, well, curly. My Tegan, however, had hair that fell past her waist. It was darker, and the curls were more waves than actual curls.

In another story, Shared Memories, the point-of-view character comes from a world called Nuan. Sherylyn pronounces it “Noo-one”, I pronounce it “Nah-wonn”.

Does it matter?

Not in the least?

The vision we share for a book depends less on the physical than on how the characters act and react. Yes, there are some physical things we know about each character—Tegan’s long dark curls, for example—but it’s more, “Tegan wouldn’t muck around like this. She would unleash a magical firebolt instead, and it would all be over in minutes”, than “That’s not how Tegan looks”.

We do, however, need to share a common vision for the story, and where it’s going. I mentioned in an earlier blog about writing as a team, that before we start writing we talk about the story, finessing it until we have a story we can both visualise and are prepared to work on. Satisfaction is the most extreme example of this to date, where my original idea was changed totally. Changed for me, that is. The final concept of Satisfaction, the one we’re going to write, is the picture Sherylyn saw in her mind in the first five minutes as I described it to her that first day.

That was unusual. Normally we meet somewhere in the middle.

Writing a book with a writing partner is a lot like reading a book you both love. What each of you gets out of a book when you read it is totally your own. But it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story for either of you.

On writing

Our first list

Another pirate moment. The first time Linesman appears on a list.

Locus bestseller lists, October 2015, and look who's number seven on the mass market paperback list
Locus bestseller lists, October 2015, and look who’s number seven on the mass market paperback list


Thanks to everyone who helped put it there.

On writing

Authors—a simple way to make your book easier to order

Recommending library purchases

I buy a lot of books, but I also borrow books from the library.

If I want to read a book and it isn’t in my local library, I will request it. Most of the time—if the book is available in Australia—the library will purchase it for me.

This has lots of advantages.

I get to read the book. If I like the author, I then go on to purchase his or her books. Not just that one, but potentially future books.

Even better, because it’s in the library system, other people who might never have seen the book get a chance to read it as well.

But it has to be there for them to read.

Some things authors can do to make it easier to get their books into libraries

Today I tried to recommend a book for my library to purchase. I knew the book was out because the author had tweeted about it, and the details were on her website.

Unfortunately, it was hard to get details to put into the Spydus request form. It took some digging to find out. I was about to give up, when I finally thought to click on the first chapter excerpt. Luckily for me, the information was there.

If you’re an author, I strongly recommend you make this information available on your website. The easier it is to find, the more likely people like me will request it.

The information you require:

  • Name of the novel
  • If it’s part of a series, the name of the series and the number in the series
  • The name of the author
  • The date it was published
  • The name of the publisher
  • The ISBN

Eat your own dog food

I’m off to ensure all of this is readily available on our website.