The Audible release of The Mona Lisa Sisters on October 9, 2023, marked my first foray into putting my work on audiobooks.
After listening to author Alec Peche talk about the number of books she has released as audiobooks, I reached out to Lois Winston for help understanding audiobooks. Lois took the mystery and fear out of ACX in about a half hour. I was able to begin the process.
After completing all of ACX’s questions—extremely easy— I uploaded my manuscript. When these tasks were complete, I began the search for a narrator. There was a simple choice among a mere 200,000 or so. What!
I found the project tool and narrowed the search to over one hundred.
Listening to maybe twenty narrators, I narrowed the search to six or seven. The three at the top of my wish list were all royalty-sharing listed artists. I listened again to all three and dropped one. I sent an offer to my top choice. Her response was, “I belong to SAGA/AFTA. I can’t work for less than $250.00 an hour.” I didn’t care for her response when I pointed out she was listed as available for royalty sharing. I hope she corrects that before another new author wastes time listening to her.
On to my second choice, Connie Elsberry, she accepted my offer. Connie was a dream to work with, responsive and always timely—a consummate professional. Her voice was perfect for my female protagonist. Connie captured the protagonist and the story as if it were her own. I especially appreciated how she was able to communicate and deliver the emotions where I envisioned them. Listening to her recordings, I had to wipe my eyes once or twice.
Will I do it again? You bet.
I created a new project for Robbers and Cops and have asked several narrators to audition.
The Mona Lisa Sisters at Audible is waiting for you.
Galveston Author Saralyn Richard
Saralyn Richard is the author of award-winning mysteries that pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature.
Her favorite thing about being an author is connecting with readers like you.
Detective fiction, also known as police procedurals or crime fiction, began in the English-language literature in the mid-nineteenth century with Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, a brilliant thinker who used “rationcination” to solve crimes. (The word detective hadn’t been invented yet, but Dupin’s name has its roots in “duping” or “deception.”) The enormously popular Dupin was followed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
All three of these fictional detectives became larger-than-life and inspired generations of mystery authors. Thus, a subgenre of mystery fiction was born and has grown into one of the most preferred types of novels today. I’ve enjoyed detective fiction since I was a young girl (Nancy Drew), so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to analyze what makes it so engaging.
1. First, we have the age-old concept of good vs. evil. The detective is the force for good, seeking truth, determined to restore order by bringing evildoers to justice. How can the reader help rooting for that kind of hero?
2. A well-written detective novel invites the reader to follow the clues to join in solving the intellectual and emotional puzzle of the mystery. This participatory involvement brings readers close to writers who have laid out the puzzle for them. Whether I’m able to figure out the puzzle before the big reveal at the end or not, I’m thoroughly in sync with the author as I read along.
3. Detective novels reaffirm certain principles of culture and life. They underscore that bad things happen; that sometimes people fall prey to sin, corruption, and inhumanity; but also that when injustices occur, there are those who will work hard to right the wrongs. Crime doesn’t pay.
Detective Oliver Parrott, the righter of wrongs in my Detective Parrott Mystery Series, (whose last name is a nod to Poirot), carries all the charm of a good guy up against extremely difficult odds. Young, African American, and raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood, Parrott is an outsider in the opulent Brandywine Valley, where many of America’s wealthiest and most powerful live. Parrott’s intelligence, ambition, and strong moral compass give him the power to see beyond the glitz and secrecy and dare to challenge it.
Unlike Poirot and the traditional detectives, Parrott shares much of his life’s experience as he goes after criminals. His fiancée is doing a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Navy. His cousin has recently been killed as an innocent bystander by police fire. Parrott’s struggles are woven into the mystery in a way that makes him authentic and relatable. In each of the three books in the series (and a fourth coming before year’s end), the reader comes to know Parrott in a deeper way—he becomes as close as a neighbor, a relative, a friend. Like many other readers, I can’t wait to go along on Parrott’s next adventure. How about you?
Follow Saralyn and subscribe to her monthly newsletter at http://saralynrichard.com.
Ella Ahrens writes from the Piedmont Region of the Southern Appalachians. She grew up on stories of hard times and harder decisions, including her grandparents “running shine” through the coal mines of Southeast Kansas. She is a trained court reporter turned professional copywriter, teaches GED Prep, and writes crime thrillers about ordinary people and deadly decisions. Her most recent publications include short stories for Writer’s Digest Online and Shotgun Honey.
What brought you to writing? Storytelling is a big part of my family heritage, but it never occurred to me to write fiction until much later in life. I was lucky enough to travel with my husband’s career for about ten years and became an expert at reinventing my own. But the one constant was that I was always writing something. An article, an online blog for a parenting magazine, you name it. So, I totally understand people with crazy and unconventional schedules. I finally realized I could write from anywhere. Along the way, I picked up writing classes and started writing sales copy for everyone, from Washington insiders making their own career moves to an inventor who revolutionized the solar panel industry. Add a couple of tattoo artists, an assisted living community, a non-profit or two, and several personal coaches—you get the picture.
One evening, my husband tossed me a copy of Writer’s Digest magazine and dared me to enter their fiction contest. I love working with my clients but was craving something more creative, so I took his dare. I wrote my first fiction piece and won. I still have a copy of the check framed over my desk to remind myself it’s okay to be a bit cheeky and aim for the big publications, even when you’re the new kid on the block.
Writing fiction became my guilty pleasure when I wasn’t writing sales copy. If I have any regrets at all, it’s that it took too long to write what I love. And here we are, with a new career twist when most people my age are checking their retirement funds.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? You bet! I’ve lived in eight states (a couple of them twice), and as the saying goes, I’ve seen a thing or two. People-watching is a writer’s superpower. We watch. We listen. And then we weave everything we absorb into a very sophisticated experience. It’s how writers, especially fiction writers, hit that pure note of realism readers crave. Sure, there’s an occasional neighbor who tempts me to immortalize them in some shady deal gone wrong, but so far, they’re all safe. So far. I live in an HOA, so there’s still time…
My secret to finding the perfect character is going out to breakfast with my husband. Stick with me here. I find a small local diner and order coffee. I promise, that if you can’t find a character before you hit the bottom of your cup, you need sleep.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I used to hate that question because someone always feels you don’t understand them. It’s a very either/or situation. When I write, I’m solidly in the gray, and nothing is what it seems. The same is true of my writing process. The Virgo in me wants a neat and tidy, formal, multi-tiered outline, complete with Roman numerals, and fully color coded. Notebooks of location scouting should also be included. It’s the control I need to assure myself I might be talented enough to pull this off. But the honest answer is that the best thing I’ve ever written was when I was up against a deadline and had a 102 fever. I just let it play in my head and took notes on the screen. See, nothing is as it seems.
I’m a recovering outliner. But I am in total awe of those who can pull it off.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? When you’ve been writing for more than twenty years, it’s daunting to realize changing from commercial writing to fiction is essentially starting over. I was looking for a been-there-done-that story, and my search took me to Sisters in Crime. I joined, took a few classes, and realized I found my tribe. They led me to our local Sisters in Crime of Upstate South Carolina, and I have to say, the support from both is what keeps me at my desk. As I write this, no fewer than three have checked in to see how my writing day is going. They keep me challenged, encouraged, and most of all, loving the process. I’m also a member of the South Carolina Writers Association, and, after a long search, found the perfect critique group. They do exist!
Do you have any advice for new writers? It’s such a cliché to say the best advice is to write, but there it is. Let’s get a little vulnerable here. When you write, the inspiration you’re afraid you might not have on any given day shows up with a synchronistic flair; the energy flows and the skills improve. When you write, you chase away any doubt and silence the voice in your head that reminds you that real estate is still an option. And if you’re a writer choosing this as a second, third (or tenth) career—and I want to shout this part—don’t hesitate! You have experience to draw from. Give yourself permission to screw it up and do better the next day. Fall in love with the process because it’s intoxicating.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Crime. Loads and loads of crime. I knew my genre was crime writing and thrillers from day one. My dad was an attorney and a judge; I am a trained court reporter. Most kids my age grew up watching Leave It to Beaver, but I grew up with private investigators reenacting potential crime scenes in my living room and watching The Rockford Files. I enjoy writing short fiction and have half a dozen pieces submitted because they challenge me. So, there’s a lot more of that in my future. If you can write a tight short story and take a reader on the same emotional ride, with the same attachment to the characters—and still feel the heat, you’ve done your job as a writer. What I didn’t realize was they provide a perfect place to audition characters and locations. So, my love of short fiction has me deep into writing my first novel, Good for the Game, coming in 2024. Which, by the way, began as a short story.
You can connect with Ella at her website, EllaAhrens.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Groups I belong to:
Sisters in Crime-National
Sisters in Crime of Upstate South Carolina-Treasurer/Website Committee
Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers
Triangle Sisters in Crime
South Carolina Writers Association
Instagram: @EllaAhrensAuthor https://www.instagram.com/ellaahrensauthor
Twitter/X: @EllaKAhrens https://wwwtwitter.com/ellakahrens
Facebook: EllaKAhrens https://www.facebook.com/ellakahrens
Upstate SC Sisters in Crime https://www.facebook.com/groups/upstatescsistersincrime
Spirit of Ink https://www.facebook.com/groups/spiritofink
Short Mystery Fiction Society https://www.facebook.com/groups/608752359277585
Jamie fell in love with books at an early age. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott opened her imagination and sparked a dream to be a writer. She wrote her first book as a school project in 6th grade. Living in the Ozarks with her husband, twin daughters, and a herd of cats, she spends most of her free time writing, reading, or learning more about the craft dear to her heart.
Homicide at High Noon – Money is missing from the gold mine, and Lily is a suspect! The company auditor is determined to prove her guilty, but turns up dead, making Lily a murder suspect. Will Lily find the missing money and the killer before they set their sights on her?
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, I do, but not at the same time. This past year, I’ve been working on cozy mysteries, which are fun to write. I’ve self-published several historical romances. I grew up watching old westerns with my dad and have a passion for that era. There are several genres I enjoy reading, and I can’t help but want to try them as a writer. I’ve been working on a time travel story for several years, off and on. It has been so much fun to work on.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? A year ago, I would have said plotting was the more challenging part of my writing process. But after having some help from my amazing publisher, I’ve learned to look forward to plotting before I write. My stories used to be very character-driven, but plotting has given the book more balance. Today, the most challenging part of the process is finding time to write.
What are you currently working on? I’m midway through the Ghost Town Mysteries series. It is a new genre for me, and I wrote all my other books in the third person. After reading several cozy mysteries, I discovered it’s almost a 50/50 split between telling the story in first person and third person. I’d always thought writing in the first person would be too difficult. But wanting to challenge myself, I tried it and found the story developed so much easier when written in first person.
What are you currently working on? As I write this, I’m working on book four of the series. Still untitled, the story continues with my main character, Lily, and her sisters living in a small town with a popular ghost town attraction. In Grady, California, everyone knows everyone. The tight community has a few skeletons in the closet, and one not so secret is a family feud, giving the book a Hatfield’s and the Mcoy’s kind of feel with a twist. The death of one participant reveals more family secrets, one of which puts a target on Lily’s back.
What kind of research do you do? Research is one of the best parts of writing a book. I love to read and learn new things, so while it’s necessary to do research, it can easily distract me from the primary goal. Digging deep to make the story authentic was entertaining for my historical romances. Cozy mystery writing has led me in different directions that have had me looking over my shoulder. I used the internet to gather most of the information I needed. For book number three of my current series, I had to research how to hire a hitman. One of these days, men in black wearing dark glasses may show up at my door.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? So far, they have all been fictional. Sometimes, I use a familiar area like the woods around our house and our long gravel road when describing details, but the setting itself has always been fictional. I sketch a rough-looking map to keep buildings and locations in order.
I love to hear from my readers. You can learn more about me and my books at:
Book two of The Ghost Town Mysteries, Homicide at High Noon, is now available in digital and print: https://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com/jamie-adams
Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly has been a handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a Colorado-based narcotics K-9 company—since 2005. Her debut novel, Chasing Justice, won a Best Book Award from the American Book Fest and was a 2023 Silver Falchion finalist in the Suspense category and Readers’ Choice Award. She lives near the Colorado foothills with her husband and four-legged coworkers. Sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter to receive her free short story eBook collection, Working Tails.
Hello friends, and thank you, George, for having me as a guest today on your fabulous blog. This is my second visit here, and I’m excited about the release of Hunting The Truth, Book #2 in the National Forest K-9 series. Here’s a little more about my writing background and process.
Hunting The Truth Quick Summary: “Hide, Maya. Don’t let the bad people find you.” Those are the last words Forest Service law enforcement officer and K-9 handler Maya Thompson ever heard her mother say. Returning to the Colorado mountains, ex-soldier Maya is no longer a scared little girl. She’s here to investigate her mother’s cold case. After new DNA evidence surfaces, Maya and her K-9 partner, Juniper, track a suspect deep into the forest and directly into grave danger…
What brought you to writing? I have always loved reading and writing stories. My parents believed in reading to both my brother and me when we were kids. Listening to the stories was my favorite part of the day, and it wasn’t long before I was reading as many books as I could. I would often complain to my mom that I didn’t like how a book ended or I didn’t like something that happened in the story. She would tell me to write my own story and come up with a different ending or create a new character. I was also one of those kids who would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. I would wake up my parents and tell them I was bored.
Looking back, my poor parents! I’m sure they never thought they’d get any sleep. My mom once again told me to lie in bed and make up stories. So, I did. Over time, I started to write them down. The dream of being a mystery writer came when I first read Mary Higgins Clark in high school. Here was a female author who wrote stories I couldn’t put down. I wanted to do the same thing.
I didn’t start writing fiction until I was an adult. I wrote my first full novel when I was about 30. I was hooked, and I haven’t stopped writing since. I now have three books written in the National Forest K-9 series. The first two are published, and the third book, Killer Secrets, will be out on March 26, 2024. I have many more ideas for more books in the National Forest K-9 series and a new series as well.
Do you have any advice for new writers? I would tell new writers to stay true to themselves. What I mean by that is write what you love. Write what is you. Don’t worry about trends or if someone tells you something isn’t going to work. Learn your craft, but stay true to yourself.
Go to conferences to network, take classes from other authors, and study the business if you want to publish. I would encourage new writers to learn about different paths to publication. There’s no right or wrong way.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My books are set in a fictional national forest, and most mountain towns are fictional. I did include the real town of Fort Collins, CO, in Hunting The Truth. My decisions were based on two of my favorite authors—Craig Johnson and William Kent Krueger. Before I started writing the National Forest K-9 series, I was lucky enough to ask both about their decision regarding fictional versus real locations. They both had similar answers.
When you have a fictional town and forest, you don’t have to worry about landmarks, rivers, lakes, etc. being in an exact location. You have more fictional liberty. But adding a real town can give the reader a sense of location if they look up the city on a map.
From there, I created the fictional Pino Grande National Forest and envisioned it in the area of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. In Hunting The Truth, I have Maya drive from the fictional town of Pinecone Junction to the real town of Fort Collins. I grew up in the Fort Collins area, so it was fun to include that location in my book.
What kind of research do you do? I love doing research and learning more about the jobs and settings I portray in the National Forest K-9 series. My research has included taking the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office citizens academy, talking to other K-9 handlers and trainers, and riding with a mountain deputy. I was also lucky enough to connect with a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer and K-9 handler. His knowledge has been invaluable, and I really appreciate how willing he is to answer questions.
About ten years ago, a new neighbor moved in next door to us, and I found out he was a retired Chief of Police. I asked him if I could ask some questions, and he was open to answering anything I wanted to know. His knowledge has been helpful.
A recent law enforcement expert I’ve connected with is Patrick O’Donnell, who has the Cops and Writers podcast. His Facebook group and Patrick himself have been fantastic with sharing law enforcement knowledge.
For my mountain setting, I’ve learned a ton about the mountains, which was my goal as I wanted the setting to be a character in my novels. My dad worked for the Forest Service as a researcher and is deeply knowledgeable about the forests in our area. I feel fortunate to have so many great resources so that I can make my book as realistic as possible.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I’ve taken classes from best-selling author Grant Blackwood. He was the one who really helped me figure this out. Grant called, raising the stakes, “dialing up.” Basically, this is asking ourselves, how can we make things worse for our characters? This includes both the protagonist and antagonist, and if you can play those character motivations off each other and make it personal, even better.
For example, in Hunting The Truth, Maya solves the murders of a friend, her mother, and her grandmother. In real life, that’s (hopefully) never going to happen. This was my way of “dialing up” the story and making it personal for Maya, giving her even more motivation.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m excited to have Hunting The Truth out now and a third book in the National Forest K-9 series, Killer Secrets, coming out in March 2024. I also have some new series ideas that will include K-9s and my other passion—horses.
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Where to Purchase Hunting The Truth