#MarchToMay

Shortcut to THE RULES

  1. Pick your story. It could be something you’ve been waiting to work on. It could be a sequel. It could be a new adventure. Fact or Fiction. Just find that one story you’ve been itching to tell.
  2. 61 days. That’s it. 61 days to plot, plan, and tell your story. No, you probably won’t write the Great American Novel during this challenge. Stretch yourself a little. You are a writer. So Write!
  3. Check in using #MarchToMay Share your progress. Ask for help. No, you don’t have to give us a word count every day. That is a complete waste of your writing time. But keep us all updated. We want to know if things are going smoothly. But we also want to help if you need an idea or could use a fresh perspective.
  4. May 1st, come back and post your progress. Finished? Great! Still working on it? Wonderful! Are you going to post your story on your blog? Post a link! We want to read it. Are you going to publish? Awesome, share your title and author name so we can find you.

The March Into May Writing Challenge

Why? Why a writing challenge? Why March to May?

Let us start with a story. Once upon a time there was a young, middle-aged, older woman named Karen who loved to write. She wrote poetry. She wrote short stories. Then one day she heard about National Novel Writing Month. Being a hip writer, she quickly started calling it NaNoWriMo like all the other writers. The Challenge was simple, write 50 thousand words in a month that when read in the proper order make a good story.

She planned and prepared. Notebooks were abused, Scrivener was prepped, and research was printed and taped to every possible open space around the monitor of her computer, and on the desk, and on the wall behind the desk. November 1st, 5 thousand words. She was on fire. November 2nd, 3 thousand words. Still killing it. November 3rd, 1500 words. And so forth until around November 14th when she realized that one of her main characters needed to be taller, and from Wisconsin, and a girl. Scrambling as hard as she could to correct her writing, she never caught up. Then family started showing up in her house bringing Turkey and sides and they insisted on her leaving the computer and taking a bath. Then they wanted to talk to her and do things with her, even though her protagonist at that very moment was struggling to crawl out of that vast cavern and rescue his beloved owl.

When December 1st arrived, her story was not completed. Her Scrivener was in such a disarray her best friend thought it had a virus.
January 1st she made a New Year’s Resolution to finish the story, but like all the New Year’s Resolutions she made, it never made it past January 18th. But you knew the one about giving up chocolate wouldn’t stick.

Poor Karen. Her story lay broken, pushed to the back by filing taxes and fundraisers and so forth.

We have all been in Karen’s shoes. After January, we push it back until we have more time and the more we push it away, the harder it becomes to pick it up again until November.

But we are writers, aren’t we? Why do we respond so well to NaNoWriMo? I’m betting it’s because we feel a part of a bigger community when we write. We can Tweet about our stories and get a response from someone who knows exactly what we are talking about.

SO HERE’S THE RULES

  1. Pick your story. It could be something you’ve been waiting to work on. It could be a sequel. It could be a new adventure. Fact or Fiction. Just find that one story you’ve been itching to tell.
  2. 61 days. That’s it. 61 days to plot, plan, and tell your story. No, you probably won’t write the Great American Novel during this challenge. Stretch yourself a little. You are a writer. So Write!
  3. Check in using #MarchToMay Share your progress. Ask for help. No, you don’t have to give us a word count every day. That is a complete waste of your writing time. But keep us all updated. We want to know if things are going smoothly. But we also want to help if you need an idea or could use a fresh perspective.
  4. May 1st, come back and post your progress. Finished? Great! Still working on it? Wonderful! Are you going to post your story on your blog? Post a link! We want to read it. Are you going to publish? Awesome, share your title and author name so we can find you.

We are called a writing community. Well, here’s an opportunity to be a part of a real community. And here’s your challenge.

J. Leigh James said that we should have some sort of badge or banner that we can display showing our participation. I’ll work on it. In the Meanwhile…Get the word out. Challenge your other writer friends. Encourage students to participate.

Let’s Write!

Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, GA

This week we wanted to take a family vacation to celebrate my twins turning 13 and my son hitting his sweet 16. We always try to do something for them since their birthdays are just 10 days apart. So, we planned a vacation to Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, Georgia, just south of Atlanta.

I figured a hotel with an indoor water park would be just the relaxing vacation I needed. Time to read. Time to write. Time to lounge. I was pleasantly mistaken.

We bought the Wolf Passes and from the moment we arrived we were busy. Now, please don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t mean that we fought crowds or that we didn’t have a good time. We most certainly did have a wonderful experience. Great Wolf Lodge offers MagiQuest, a rock wall, bowling, and arcade, a three story ropes course, mini golf, character visits, bingo, story time, AND an indoor water park with a wave pool, a not-so-lazy river, tube slides, raft slides, and body slides, and and adventure park where staying dry is impossible.

So, back to the moment we arrived… Our room was a kid cabin and featured a small “bedroom” with a bunk bed and a twin size bed for our kids to camp out in. On the other side was a bed for my wife and myself. And my son slept on the fold out couch bed. Plenty of room for my whole family to have a place to wind down from the day.

Now to the important stuff. The food was a little bit more than regular fast food, but comes in pretty large portions. I’m not used to my kids leaving food on their plates. I’m not used to leaving food on my plate either. The breakfast buffet is a pay-to-eat, not included in the stay, but you can purchase the buffet when you book your hotel stay. If you only eat it one time, this is a must. Fresh eggs, chicken or pork sausage links, waffles with a little wolf paw print in them. Coffee, sodas, juices, grits, oatmeal, bacon, gravy, and more than I can remember. There is a Ben and Jerry’s and a Dunkin Donuts embedded between everything. You will not go hungry.

One of the sweetest things was the Build-a-Bear that featured the characters of Great Wolf Lodge as options. The wonderful lady that helped us build our bears was so friendly and kind.

About the staff I can only think of one word to describe them, Friendly. They were above Disney Level friendly with our kids. They always asked my children questions and made them feel important. One of the lifeguards even rode down one of the raft rides with my girls and live streamed it. And Wiley Wolf played mini golf with us for a few holes.

And speaking of the lifeguards. I have never. Never. NEVER. Seen a more active and conscientious group of lifeguards. They don’t sit in a chair and wait for something to happen. They walk back and forth actively searching for anyone in need. In fact, they were so active that, at first, I thought my kids had done something wrong. My wife thought that I had done something wrong once. But no, the lifeguards Patrol, looking around beds in the lazy river and even the steps leading to the water in the wave pool, just in case someone got into trouble. I even saw one of the lifeguards demonstrating CPR on a ResusciTimmy.

Yes, we were busy. But we weren’t rushed. At large theme-parks you always rush from one ride to another trying to get in as much entertainment as you can. We felt the urgency to complete a quest in MagiQuest, but we weren’t rushed. We felt the excitement of going from slide to slide, but we weren’t rushed. We took OUR time. And we were busy because we wanted to be busy. Busy with each other. Sliding with each other. Climbing with each other. Laughing with each other. Howling with each other, he he (it’s a thing).

Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, thank you for giving my family time to play. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not twenty anymore. Thank you for the food, the fun, and the indoor sun. We WILL be back.

Audiobookreviewer.com’s Review

I am very pleased to have had The Mage Destinies reviewed by Audiobookreviewer.com. The following is the review as listed on Amazon and Audiobookreviewer.com’s website.

Review by Rox Burkey

This is a fun, intriguing young adult fantasy centered around the Colvin family who is made up of a widow, Tempest, and her teenagers. The focus is on the siblings, Bradley and Tessa, as they begin to realize their magic abilities, yet keep them secret from one another. How they are involved in some of the overarching issues and crimes occurring in town becomes interesting as the story progresses. Teenagers have so many things to deal with during high school – intense classes, discovering new feelings, and learning how to become adults.

Brett Galen creates a complete world that feels like hometown USA, with a subtle magical aura that makes it believable. Each character is well-developed, in a small town containing all the elements teenagers explore as they grow up.

Bradley, Mr. Atomic Avenger, seems to have learned some of his abilities in advance of his sister. The anticipation increases when Tessa hears a voice in her head that seems to be her but is unexplainable. Tessa is a daydreamer who sometimes lets her imagination take her into a different world. The idea of being a Mage is confusing, as Tessa learns she can manipulate energy at the atomic level at the same time she learns her future is at risk. Coming to grips with the reality of being magical is something difficult to share with friends or siblings. This makes it an intriguing hard to put down story.

The dialogue is spot-on for teens today, totally appealing. The combination of descriptions, compelling conversations, and the evolving storyline is brought to life by the narration. The twists and turns that occur in this story kept me totally engaged through to the surprise ending.

As a perfect Young Adult story narrator, Julie T Kinn brings a balanced cadence to the story. This fast-paced story moves delightfully forward with Julie’s light-hearted rendition, especially when speaking as Tessa. Kinn makes this fantasy come to life with the various, distinctive character voices woven into this delightful adventure.

As an adult, I totally enjoyed the story start to finish listening to a delightful narrator. I can easily recommend this fantasy as well-suited to teens and young adults; boys or girls. The rest of the series is expected to be just as compelling.

 

Star Rating:  * * * * *

ACX Journey: Hurry Up and Wait

Okay, I submitted my manuscript. I found a Narrator. I signed a payment contract. Now what? Now we wait…and wait…and wait.

As the author, my job was mostly done. I created a new world in which certain characters lived. Now came the time to let them be brought to life by the Narrator. The first thing I received was the official “FIRST 15 MINUTES.” This is a requirement so the Narrator and Author can determine if the speed, mood, intonations, etc. are correct. This is so important. The Narrator will base the rest of the book on what is set here, so it was up to me to speak up or forever have my book follow the pattern in that first 15 minutes. Julie T. Kinn absolutely nailed my first 15 so I quickly approved it.

In my book I have a character that speaks but isn’t physically present and I needed her voice to sound “otherworldly” so Julie sent me multiple examples of ways to do her voice. I picked the one that sounded most like what I heard in my head when I wrote her character and Julie ran with it.

In a short period of time, Julie posted about 4 or 5 chapters for me to preview. I really had to watch out for the whole “Someone’s reading my book” thing, but I was amazed at how well she understood my characters.

Well before the Deadline, she posted all the chapters of the book and I previewed each one of them. If I found an issue, all I had to do was send Julie a messaged followed by the chapter and the timestamp. She promptly took care of the issue and we moved on.

When the recording was completed, I accepted it and fulfilled the payment part of the contract.

It was November 20 when ACX acknowledged that the files were in for quality review. They said it would take 10-14 business days to finish review. YAY! I couldn’t wait. But I had to. In fact, when the 14 days had come and gone, I got worried. I contacted ACX and they said that the file was under review. So, waiting…waiting…waiting. So 28 days after my files were submitted my status changed from IN REVIEW to SENT TO RETAIL. Yup, I squealed a little bit.

ACX says, once a book is sent to retail, it takes about a week for the retail department to set up the metadata and pricing, etc. So, to my calendar again. December 17 – Sent to Retail. Wait, that would mean it would be available on Christmas Eve, just in time for people with Amazon gift cards to buy after getting their new phones, tablets, music players and computers. Yay!

No. Christmas Eve came and went. Christmas Day came and went. Boxing Day came and went. I was so disheartened. Why was my book taking so long? I submitted it in November to a process that was supposed to only take 17 days I ended up finally having my audiobook Live on New Year’s Eve – 42 days after it was submitted.

My Journey took 86 days from my first call for auditions to the end with half of it waiting, not on production, but on ACX. But I will be fair, the wait is the only bad thing about it. Everything from the ease of contacting ACX with questions to uploading the manuscript to listening to auditions was simple and easy. In the end, I have a great product.

If you are considering ACX for your book, understand that it is a process, but a good one. One little note. ACX will not produce physical copies of your audiobook at all. Distribution is through Audible, Amazon, and iBooks only. So if you were hoping to give a copy to your aunt for her birthday, she’ll need to be able to download the Audible app and access it through them.

I hope this helps you on your journey.

The ACX Journey: Part 2

Now. Terms of Payment. Yay.

ACX gives authors an opportunity to pay Narrators TWO ways. One, Pay Per Finished Hour, and Royalty Share.

Paying for the narration outright leaves all future profits to me, and to ACX since I will only get 40% of my future profits. This means putting the cost up front, which can get expensive. But in the end, if it becomes a best seller, I get it all and no unseen future charges.

Royalty Share means splitting all of my future profit down the middle between me and my narrator – 20% – 20%. This takes all the upfront cost away from the author (me), but it puts all the upfront costs on the Narrator. ACX does give the opportunity to use both Royalty Share and PPH, which might sweeten the pot for some Narrators, allowing them to absorb some of the upfront costs.

As an author, unless you have already sold 100,000 books, DO NOT PICK ROYALTY SHARE only. Why do I say that?

Simply take a few minutes and look through YouTube videos featuring ACX Narrators. The amount of time it takes to produce a finished hour of straight vocal recording is astounding. They do not just pick up a mic and start talking. Their equipment costs money. Their studio costs money. And many of these amazingly talented people have jobs and *gasp* lives.

Many of these Narrators have been scammed a time or two as well. So, unless you can guarantee them a stream of income that will pay them back for all their work, I wouldn’t pick Royalty Share only.

Also, ACX does not take your payment and give it to your Narrator. You will need to agree to terms of payment such as Paypal, Venmo, or even just sending them a check. Some will accept credit card payments as well.

Once your Narrator accepts your offer and your deadline, you are off and running.

Next Article: Hurry Up and Wait!

My ACX Journey: How it works

I began my ACX adventure by scouring the website to try to understand the process. How do I, as a self-published author, find a narrator? How do they get paid? How do I get paid?

Amazingly enough, I wasn’t the only person who had questions. On the ACX.com site, there is a dropdown menu entitled “How It Works” that gives options like “I am an author” or “I am a narrator.” And then it explains the entire process step by step. I will not drag you crying and screaming through my learning experience, but allow me to give you a few quick thoughts.

As a author, first I set up my book, which was easy because it was already on Amazon, so all I had to do was look it up and claim it. Of course, there’s the obligatory financial/bank account information you must provide so you can be paid when the process is done. I also had to choose whether or not to offer payment only, or allow the narrator to profit share.

Now, let me stop for a second. A narrator’s work is extremely difficult and requires a large amount of time recording, editing. They cannot use sub-par recording equipment and get by. ACX’s Quality Assurance department has some very strict rules concerning narration. So, unless you are selling 10,000 books a year, profit-sharing is not beneficial for a narrator. It is better to pay them. That way, they can continue in this dream of theirs to narrate and not have to also work 8 other jobs to put food on their tables.

Then on to choosing my Narrator.

This was the fun part. I had to decide what type of voice I wanted. Young, old, male, female, British, Southern, Northern, Western. It was almost dizzying, but because my protagonist was a young woman, I chose to ask for a young woman’s voice. Next, I had to submit an audition script for the narrators to read. No more than two pages of text, so I had to be selective. Because my book was a fantasy and action book full of characters, I needed an audition script that allowed my narrators to bring them to life. I chose an action sequence and an early introduction to my characters. Yes, TWO scenes. After submitting my audition script, I gave a little information about the scene and myself then submitted it for auditions.

Then I waited.

Within hours I had my first audition. I was so excited. As I listened to the first narrator speak, I was absolutely convinced that this was the one. Then the next one popped up. And I realized that the first one read too slow. The second one read too fast. The third one sounded like she was reading a newspaper. And on and on. That’s when I first realized I was in over my head.

What was I asking for? What did I expect? I wanted my characters to come to life. I wanted my brainchild to live and breathe and throw fits and fall in love. And some of these were good, but I couldn’t hear my book. I couldn’t hear my characters. The auditions kept coming in and although I was star struck by hearing actual voice actors speaking for my characters, I was torn. But then Julie T. Kinn left an audition and everything seemed natural. She had the timidness of Tessa, the audacity of Megan, the quiet strength of Gabriel. And I knew that I had found my narrator.

So, October 16th I submitted an offer with a due date on it, November 30. Julie accepted my offer and The Mage Destinies began.