Post #152: Meet the Voice of Rainey Cobb

Advice, publishing, The Writing Craft
Voice Actor Nicola Fordwood

First off, have you gotten your copy of Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze yet? Click HERE to order the paperback, e-book, or audiobook! Also remember to add it on Goodreads HERE.

Now…on with the program!

Collaborating with voice actor Nicola Fordwood to bring the audiobook for Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze to life was one of the most joyful and surprising parts of the publishing process. I sat down with Nicola to talk about her journey into voice acting, what it’s really like to record an audiobook, and whether she would consider taking the plunge again.

How did you become a voice actor?

It was actually a friend who introduced me to the VO world. I was working a corporate job and kind of losing my mind because I wasn’t being creative. My friend thought doing voice acting would allow me to act again and release some of that creativity. I took one character class and I was hooked!

This was your first audiobook. What made you decide to take the plunge?

First, audiobooks have always scared me a bit because they are a big commitment. You also need to have great stamina to keep your energy up throughout the book. But when you step outside of your comfort zone and try the things that scare you or intimidate you, that is when the magic happens. Second, I got a small sample of the book to audition and when I read it, I could just feel it. I could feel Rainey. I know it sounds insanely cheesy. But I wanted to tell her story. I wanted to know more about her journey. I also LOVE the 90’s, thoroughly enjoy young adult/coming of age books and feel very strongly about the power of a mixtape.

How do you stay focused while recording for long periods?

I am an introvert. I love silencing the outside world and just concentrating on one thing. I think both of these things really help me with being in a small dark booth for hours by myself everyday. Once I am focused on something that I really enjoy, I get hyper-focused. I would do most of my recording in the morning to early afternoon and then I couldn’t stop thinking about anything but the book and the characters. I would fall asleep just wanting to wake up and continue working on it. It was kind of exhilarating. 

How did you approach creating the voices for the characters in Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze?

Acting, even voice acting, is a very physical thing. So for me it was first talking with you (Benjamin) about the characters and then actually standing and playing with the voices. I stood how I thought the characters would stand. Do they lean back on one hip when they talk? Do they hunch over? Do they fidget with their hands? I would then write down any of those notes of how I was standing or the placement of my mouth or hands to help me get back into that character.

What surprised you the most about this process, both good and bad?

How emotional it was. How attached I got to Rainey and also how much I enjoyed it. I recorded this book every day over the course of 2.5 weeks and on the final day when I finished the last chapter, I cried. Not a sad cry, but almost that overwhelming, surprised cry when you finally complete something that has been your focus for so long.

How was voicing an audiobook different from other kinds of voice work?

Voicing an audiobook was like performing a play just instead of one role. I got to play all the parts/characters, including the director. It was the closest I have been to being in a play in a long time and it reminded me of why I love acting/performing. I love bringing a character’s soul to life and sharing that with an audience and hopefully making them feel something.

How did it affect your process to have access to me (Benjamin) to talk through things?

It was amazing! I have never had that opportunity before where I can ask the author about each of the characters: what are their dreams, what are their biggest fears, etc. For most character work I have to make a lot of it up if it isn’t obvious in the script, but instead I got to go to the source. It was so nice.

How did you consider the audience/listener while you were recording?

Audiobooks are so intimate. Most of the time you are literally sitting directly in someone’s ear telling the story. So as a narrator, you have to keep that in mind. That being said, I found this book to be very intimate. It is told in the first person through Rainey, so the listener is hearing her innermost personal thoughts. The listener is basically her daily diary entry. There is an emotional rawness to that and especially to Rainey herself that I really wanted the listener to hear and I hope comes through with my delivery.  

Rumor has it that a sequel to Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze may be in the works. Would you consider voicing Rainey again?

My heart just jumped a bit when I thought about getting to see Rainey again and continuing on her journey with her. This book is one of those books that has just stuck with me. I still think about it a lot. About a lot of the characters, but especially Rainey. Yes, absolutely. I really would be honored to.

Click HERE to learn more about Nicola’s voice acting and hear samples of her work.

Post #151: Listen to a FREE Audiobook Sample

Music, New Writing, publishing, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

Click HERE to listen to Track 1 of Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze for FREE!

I love audiobooks. The immersive experience they provide, especially when in the company of a good narrator, creates a literary journey that’s second to none. I struggled for years to get through Moby Dick, that is, until I started listening to the audiobook narrated by the peerless Frank Muller, whose raspy voice sends the sea spray right into your eyes and makes the quarter deck slick with whale blubber. That’s what a good audiobook can do.

So, from the moment my debut novel was accepted for publication, even though my publisher doesn’t yet do much audio, I knew that an audiobook version of Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze was a must, even if much of the legwork fell on me.

The process wasn’t easy, but once I found my dream narrator in the amazing Nicola Fordwood, whose work ethic and friendship inspired and humbled me, I knew that we had a chance to create something special. A uniquely immersive way to experience the world of Rainey Cobb and her journey through being fifteen. Listening to the final audio files…well, let’s just say tears were shed. That’s how good Nicola is at making the words sing, at making you feel these characters all the way down to your tippy toes. It was almost like experiencing my book for the first time, or as if it had been written by someone else.

All this as a very long way of saying I’m beyond thrilled that the audiobook is now available and ready for your ears.

I’m so excited, in fact, that I want you to hear the first chapter right now. Click HERE to listen to Track 1 for FREE! Try not to get hooked.

Then, once you are hooked, click HERE to listen on Audible or purchase your copy today!

As always, thank you for being here and supporting me and my work.

Post #148: The Waiting is the…(say it with me!)

New Writing, Parenting, publishing, Shaking My Head, Writing Advice

First off, have you pre-ordered Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze yet? Click HERE to pre-order your copy now–thank you! Also remember to add it on Goodreads HERE!

Now, to business.

After years (and years) of trying, my debut novel finally comes out next month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of time, and how time gets soft and stretchy around moments of great expectation. Why is that? I hate to fly and in the days, hours, and minutes before I board an airplane, time seems to puff up, to press in on me. Minutes fall into quicksand and drag interminably. Similarly, as I await my book coming out, time has gotten labored and unreliable. I’m simultaneously wishing I could wind the clock forward to July 22nd and my moment of jubilation, but also trying with every shred of my being to savor the experience, to soak it up. To look around. Remember how I feel. But time has me in a strange grip as of late, and it won’t seem to let go.

Be in the moment, I tell myself. Be here now, I say. You’ll only publish your first book once, don’t try to race through it. But how exactly do you do that?

I have two sons, and when you’re a parent, you come to realize that parenting is a journey that makes one hyper aware of time. I remember when my first son, Felix, was perched in my lap, only a few days old, barely able to hold up his own head or make conscious facial expressions, totally unable to control his own bladder, and even then I was already thinking: won’t it be wonderful when he can walk? I was thinking: I can’t wait until he’s older and I can teach him to play tennis and take him to hear live music and share with him all of life’s wisdom. And then he’d smile quite by accident, the way babies do, and I’d be hurled back into the moment, feel his warm soft skin against mine and I’d kick myself for drifting, for not being as present as I would like to be. For not being right here, right now.

Does this happen to you? (Please say yes)

The strange thing is that it feels almost impossible to stop this from happening. Even if you gain momentary control over your sense of space and time, if you find yourself in a moment that you’re so deeply in that time ceases to exist, it’s fleeting. At least for me. Before long, I’m thrust back into the weigh station of anticipation. Thrown into a box with high walls and just enough air. Forced back into asking that perpetual question I will forever associate with The West Wing: What’s Next?

But still I try.

My book is currently in the hands of early readers and reviewers, some of whom I know but most of whom I do not. As a professional writer (my day job is as a copywriter), and soon to be published novelist, I dine out on feedback. Everything I write gets picked apart in one way or another. I’m used to it. I like it. My writing being critiqued is literally my life. And yet, awaiting the judgment of strangers on the relative quality of my novel is a uniquely out of body experience, the likes of which I’ve never known before. I’m genuinely proud of my book, and I know I did the best I could. My conscience is clear. I know even bad reviews won’t change that. Nor will good reviews. And yet…the goddamn waiting.

I hope you’re not over there rolling your eyes at me. I hope, at least in part, that you’re nodding your head just a little bit in understanding.

Time makes fools of us all.

Post # 146: Book Giveaway!

New Writing, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

Would you like to read an advance copy of my debut novel, Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze, before it comes out on July 22nd? Of course you would! And I’m doing a giveaway just for followers of my blog to make it happen. Because I do love you so.

The rules are simple:

Be among the first 5 people to click HERE and send me a message saying you’re interested.

Then, I will send you a secure link where you can download the e-book to read on your Kindle, Nook, or e-reader of your choice. Or you can download the digital ARC (advance reader copy) version of the paperback.

Did I mention it’s FREE? Clink the link and let’s make this happen! Yay books.

Post #145: I Know a Writer Who Can Help With That

Editing Services, New Writing, The Writing Craft, writing news

Much like getting a golf ball to fly in the direction you intended it to go when you hit the damn thing, writing is way harder than it looks. That goes for whether you’re sweating your college admissions essay, or trying to get your novel’s opening to work a little better. And it’s why it helps to have an experienced guide along for the ride. Someone who can look at your writing from an honest distance, give you tips to hone your craft, and help you build confidence.

And, you’re in luck. I happen to know a guy.

I’m thrilled to be offering my services as a freelance editor, copywriter, writing coach, consultant, and spirit guide.

Why should you work with me?

With an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, twelve years of teaching experience, five years as a professional copywriter, a debut novel on the way, and around a billion hours polishing manuscripts until they shimmer and shine, I can help you see what’s working in your writing—and what needs work. 

Are you applying to college and need that college essay to really pop? I got you.

Need a gut check on your novel’s opening pages? I got you.

Looking for big picture feedback on your completed manuscript? I got you.

Need to improve the copy on your website or in consumer facing materials? I got you.

Just getting started and not sure how to move your story from your brain to the page? I got you.

I’m professional. I’m punctual. I’m supportive. I’m honest. I promise not to waste your time.

But mostly, I think you should work with me because I love words and stories more than anything in the world, and I genuinely believe my experience can help you accomplish your writing goals.

Click HERE to get learn more about the writing services I offer.

Or, simply go to my CONTACT page and send me a message.

Let’s get to work.

Post #143: Cover Reveal

New Writing, The Writing Craft, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

Friends, I’m so glad you’re here to see this. You’re looking at the cover of my debut novel, Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze, which comes out on paperback, e-book, and audiobook on July22nd on Deep Hearts YA. I’m revealing the cover on social media later this week, but you’ve been with me from the beginning, so I wanted you to be the very first ones to see it.

I love it so much, and I hope you do too. It so perfectly captures the essence of this book, and my main character, Rainey Cobb, who I can’t wait for you to meet soon.

I plan to do a deep dive into the story behind the cover art and my amazing cover designer, Chloe White, in the days and weeks to come. But for now, I’m beyond thrilled to able to put it in front of your eyes.

Thank you for being here and supporting me. This is just the beginning of so much awesomeness to come. Stay tuned.

By the way, if you’d like to keep up with me on a more frequent basis, I have a new Instagram account for my writing life: @benjaminroeschwrites

Give me a follow!

Post #100: Steinbeck Saw All

Things You Should Be Reading

east-of-edenI’m reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden for the first time. It’s really great, by the way. And though he’s not normally a writer, like, say, Ray Bradbury, that makes you think he had the power to predict the future, or whose writing was even meant to evoke or imagine the future, a passage I read earlier felt so modern, so of our time, that I went back and read it several times, then decided I had to share it with you.

Keep in mind this a guy writing in the mid 20th century about events that take place in the early 20th century.

The scene in question transpires at a train station, mid day, where Adam Trask, along with his son Cal and his house man Lee, await the return of Cal’s twin brother Aron home from college.

“Train schedules are a matter of pride and of apprehension to nearly everyone. When, far up the track, the block signal snapped from red to green and the long, stabbing probe of the headlight sheered the bend and blared on the station, men looked at their watches and said, ‘on time.’

“There was pride in it, and relief too. The split second has been growing more and more important to us. And as human activities become more and more intermeshed and integrated, the split tenth of a second will emerge, and then a new name must be made for the split one hundredth, until one day, although I don’t believe it, we’ll say, ‘oh, the hell with it. What’s wrong with an hour?’ But isn’t it silly, this preoccupation with small time units. One thing late or early can disrupt everything around it, and the disturbance runs outward in bands like the waves from a dropped stone in a quiet pool.”

In addition to being a writer of uncommon grace and insight into the human experience, it seems that Steinbeck also knew that someday we’d be annoyed at our smartphones for taking three seconds instead of two seconds to load information we used to wait half a day for without blinking an eye.

By the way, if you haven’t read East of Eden, do so. Like me you’ll wonder what the hell took you so long.

PS…I have to add a totally random aside. Today I was getting my oil changed and a woman in the waiting room who was big time squirrely because her car was taking so long saw me reading this book and told me that she’d written a memoir about her time living in Indonesia and one of the rejected titles was Least of Eden. Ha. Another was The Bali Jar. Double ha.

Post #96: I Notice You, Tom

Things You Should Be Reading, Things you should be watching

200px-Gatsby_1925_jacketFew books live in my nervous system the way The Great Gatsby does. Having loved and taught the book for many years, it occupies a hallowed space, an untouchable cloud of perfection in my soul. Though I re-read it every year, along with my students, it’s the only book I can think of (another one that comes close is Of Mice and Men; perhaps Invisible Man as well) whose freshness only grows, as if your experience with the novel is happening in reverse. Somehow the more I read Gatsby, the more I haven’t read it. The newer it feels.  

If you’re wondering, I’m not really here to write about the new film. Not broadly, anyway. A lot of ink is being spilled about it at the moment (on places like…The Internet) and I just don’t trust myself to add anything that would seem fresh, except to say it’s excellent and worth two and a half hours in the dark wearing a weird pair of glasses. It’s visually sumptuous, acted with immense care and skill, and with the exception of an added frame story for why Nick is telling the story (he’s cracked up and telling it first to a shrink in an asylum and then as “novel” therapy), quite true to the book, both the final draft and earlier iterations of the same story that F. Scott Fitzgerald worked on for years before the final manuscript was accepted. Next time I see Baz Lurhmann, I’ll slap him on the book for trying to do justice to Fitzgerald’s characters. 

movies-great-gatsby-joel-edgerton-tom-buchananI’d like to focus at the moment on The Great Gatsby‘s most misunderstood and under appreciated character, that great galoot Tom Buchanan. A couple of things got me thinking about Tom. One was Joel Edgerton’s fantastic portrayal of Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s just released 3D triumph. Edgerton’s performance is a marvel, though in the shadows of Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire’s quiet and dopey Nick Carraway, not to mention Lurhmann’s star power as a director and the natural hype that stems from adapting the great American novel, Edgerton’s performance is one you’re pretty much guaranteed not to hear much about. But that’s too bad. Because though DiCaprio is stunning and probably worthy of the Oscar nod he’ll likely earn for his work as Gatsby, Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan is the performance that’s still on mind the next day. The other thing that put TB on my brain (sorry…I can see that abbreviation is not going to work) was an article in The Daily Beast that discusses the nearly century long discussion about Tom’s far more famous and thought about wife, Daisy Buchanan. I highly recommend Katie Baker’s article, which you can read here, that takes on the deep and consistent maligning Daisy has experienced by the critical establishment over the years. It tries to contextualize Daisy’s behavior/character and the accompanying commentary and does so rather brilliantly. 

One can’t really defend Tom Buchanan all that well. You’ve got to hand it to Fitzgerald for writing a basically indefensible human. But what I’ve always felt compelled to defend is not Tom himself, but to defend him against both Nick’s, and most readers, defense of and love affair with one James Gatz, turned Jay Gatsby,who is often read as Tom’s foil and masculine opposite. The softer side of man. The soft treatment Gatsby gets in the novel, and from many readers, has always bothered me a little. Partially because it’s different from how I see Gatsby (otherwise known as the right way), and partially because I think it’s different from how Fitzgerald saw Gatsby. In a novel so brisk, it’s easy to miss how complex and nuanced Fitzgerald’s characters really are.

Given what we know, at best, Jay Gatsby is a liar and a criminal. Though we never know the exact source of his riches, they almost certainly come from a host of illegal activity that everyone except Tom ignores and, in keeping with the loose morals of the age, seem entirely unconcerned with. But Gatsby’s character has such a strong pull on our romantic tendencies that we are endlessly drawn back to his inherit gorgeousness, as experienced by Nick Caraway. Gatsby’s got love in his heart and we love him for that. It seems that if a man is doing it for love, it doesn’t really matter what he does.

Ironically, it’s Nick’s fault that we idolize Gatsby at Tom’s expense. Because our story teller is so enamored by one and so repulsed by the other, we feel dirty feeling sympathy for Tom and are, in some ways, denied the chance. Mostly (no coincidence in a novel about class) it’s because Nick’s upbringing is closer to Gatsby’s than to Tom’s that Nick is so taken with Gatsby. (And because Nick may want to sleep with Gatsby but never says so.) Tom represents an honest expression of what Gatsby so badly and nakedly wants but will never have, that for many the only way to deal with Tom is to hate him and cast him aside. 

And, to be fair with those who will likely disagree with my assessment, Tom Buchanan doesn’t deserve much better. He’s an entitled jock douche bag who cheats on his wife, beats his mistress, hates blacks, is snide and crass, and in a round about sort of way, has Gatsby killed to get him out Daisy’s way. So why defend him? Because Gatsby isn’t much better. In fact, I’d argue that Gatsby’s capacity for self-delusion and manipulation of virtually everyone around him are perhaps the novel’s most grotesque, and most enduringly sad, characteristics. It’s only because Tom is the one who’s there to call Gatsby on his bull shit that we hate him so much. The confrontation scene at The Plaza on the hottest day of summer, by the way, is Edgerton’s best moment in Luhmann’s film. Gatsby and Daisy truly love each other and we want love to happen and so when Tom shits on it, then plays the class card to humiliate and enrage Gatsby and direct his wife back home, his tactics are so brazen, so practiced and predictably classist that we can’t get over it. It’s deeply ironic that in a book full of liars, Tom is perhaps the most honest of the bunch, and it’s his capacity for truth telling that wins him Daisy back. 

Fitzgerald wanted to make it hard on us, but I think, at least for most people, he failed. I’ve taught the book for years and class after class of junior readers loathes and despises Tom so much it’s become an annual Buchanan hate fest. Fitzgerald didn’t want us to like him, but I’m sure he wanted us to feel conflicted about out hate. To question its fairness. To wonder about Tom’s worth as a man compared to Gatsby’s, not solely at the expense of it. That’s why he makes Gatsby so cold and uncaring about Myrtle’s death. That’s why, you see, he gives Tom the scene in Wilson’s garage. Tom sees Myrtle’s body lying upon the table and he’s genuinely heartbroken by her loss. He begins to shake. To lose control. And a man who we’d never believe even knew how to cry fights back tears and seeds of rage sprout from his pain that eventually lead to Gatsby’s death and Wilson’s suicide. I don’t know if Gatsby has a scene that unguarded in the whole novel. 

 

 

 

Post #75: C’mon!!

Shaking My Head

If you didn’t know, it’s Potentially Irrational Rant Day here at The Almost Right  Words in which I bitch about the following:

Earlier this year, I read, demolished is more like it, Cheryl Strayed’s wildly celebrated and wildly wonderful memoir Wild, about her solo trek up the Pacific Crest Trail. If you haven’t, read it. Immediately. If Oprah’s recommendation scared you away, take mine instead. It’s wow-tastic. But I’m not here to talk about Wild, the book, but Wild the book cover. It looks like this.

28book-articleInline

Stark and memorable, isn’t it? Love that close up of the mud caked boot. The clean all white background so the writing fires and pops. Today’s rant begins with a trip to Phoenix, my local book store here in Burlington, where, while browsing the new hardcover books, I saw Wild featured. I thought, golly gee, that’s weird, Wild came out months ago, what’s it doing among the new books? Except that further review proved it wasn’t Wild at all. It was Goldberg Variations, a new book by Susan Isaacs, whose cover looks like this.

4101ZB8hstL._SL500_AA300_

Now, you’ll just have to take my expert word for it that the similarity, while certainly striking here, is only a pale imitation of how much of a knock-off cover this actually is and feels like when you hold the books side by side. This is mainly because in the Goldberg pic above you can’t see the book’s spine, which is the EXACT SAME lipstick red with white writing that you see on the profile view of Cheryl’s book above. So incensed was I that the other night, I made my wife, who’s also read Wild, go into the bookstore with me to see the evidence, at which point I corralled both books, held them up for her perusal and intoned, “disgusting, isn’t it? I mean, can you believe those corporate pricks would stoop so low as to try to create a subconscious link between an established bestseller (Wild) and a brand new book so as to inflate sales? I mean, this has got to be some kind of copyright violation, right?” I was loud. People were looking at me.

My wife noticed what I noticed, but her disgust, while apparent in the raise of her eyebrows and the slight curl of her lip, did not reach the fever pitch of my own. Okay, she barely seemed to care, and continued looking at something else.

But, c’mon! You’re with me, aren’t you. That’s bullshit! Am I right?

 

 

Post #57: Stocking Up

Things You Should Be Reading

Excited to have grabbed some new books from Phoenix Books in Burlington yesterday.  I went in to buy one and ended up brining home three.  Oh well.  It’s hard to feel bad about money spent on books.  I’ll let you know how they are.

 

I’ve long wanted to read Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin.  It’s been lauded and recommended by a number of trusted friends.  It was time to give it a go.

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad is a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since it won the Pulitzer last year.  Plus, it’s got a chapter that’s a Power Point presentation.

 

 

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt was the real surprise here.  I was scanning the shelves at random looking for something choice and liked the sound of this one about a pair of brother hit men in the old west.  The real kicker for me was the Los Angeles Times quote on the cover which says “If Cormac McCarthy had a sense of humor, he might have concocted a story like Patrick DeWitt’s bloody, darkly funny western.”  Doesn’t that sound awesome?  I know, I know.  You shouldn’t judge a book by its…but I loved that quote.  And look at those guys.