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Author: adele

Follow the bouncing ball

“Are you published yet?”

This may be the writer’s least-favorite question from non-writing friends. Or perhaps it comes in second to, “How long does it take you to write a book?” Wow, does that depend on so many factors.

The question writers are more likely to ask each other is, “How do you cope with the waiting?” Because so much in publishing is about waiting. Waiting on feedback from beta readers and critique partners. Waiting on responses to agent queries. Then waiting on editorial feedback from your agent. Then waiting on editor’s responses to submissions. Then…

You get the idea. Writers wait a lot. So you need a coping strategy, especially if you’re as impatient and twitchy a person as I am.

My coping strategy is to write more. Production of what is (hopefully) my debut novel, ACTING UP, was followed by writing METHOD ACTING. I recently finished initial revisions on the third book, ACTING LESSONS and sent it off to my beta readers. LESSONS was, for a lot of reasons, a difficult book to write (which isn’t to say it’s not fun to read–hopefully. It just came out much more slowly than any other manuscript I’ve ever written before. I cut my usual 1,000 word/day goal in half and still struggled some days).

So having that book in my rear-view (for now, until beta reads and critique partner feedback starts coming back and I begin to re-revise), I embarked on a new project, FAST ACTING. This is a novella that foregrounds the good friends of the protagonists in METHOD.

It’s a project that’s living up to its name. Folks, this one has been super fun to write so far. A fun, flirty story between two wedding guests at an intimate destination wedding? A perfect follow-up to a more difficult project.

And as much as I hate the “How long does it take?” question, I do keep track of word counts and timing. I see this as practice for when (hopefully) I have externally imposed deadlines. I want to know what I’m capable of, what is realistic, and (very importantly) what isn’t. What I can promise and what I can’t. Also, setting my own deadlines is an exercise in professionalism.

As much as I love Scrivener’s word count tool for daily and overall goals, I’ve found Pacemaker’s more flexible and visual tools to be a valuable tool for charting historical output and tracking your progress. It has a nifty share-able widget. So if you’re interested in following the progress of a novella, by all means, follow the bouncing ball…

Some thoughts on audiobook narration and narrators (with recommendations)

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have strong opinions about audiobook narration. I tend to have strong opinions about a lot of things (my own mother, in her inimitable way, says that I am, “Never far from an opinion.”)

Ever since Audible instituted a return policy I’ve been both more adventurous about trying new narrators and absolutely ruthless in returning books that aren’t doing it for me. As a former actor, I not only hear things that drive me nuts, but I can identify them with specificity. A non-comprehensive list of narrator tics and traits that will have me reaching for my phone and muttering, “Nope,” are:

  • Strange accent choices that aren’t rooted in the text (one book I listened to had someone from Colorado speak in a weird, nasal, Annie Potts-in-the-original-Ghostbusters Brooklyn accent. It made my face contort in very…interesting ways. Not good ones.)
  • Ditto for character voice choices (one book I DNF-ed had a main character who sounded unnervingly like the “Sexy Baby” girl on that episode of 30 Rock. You know the one.)
  • Reading fight scenes in an INCREDIBLY! AMPED! UP! WAY! That indicates the narrator doesn’t believe it’s exciting enough as written.
  • Immature voices in general. This isn’t 100% fair of me, necessarily, because voices are what they are. But an audiobook narrator needs to convey a lot of different characters at, usually, a lot of different ages, and very childlike voices don’t have a lot of range.
  • Badly performed accents.
  • Narrators who. Have what I call. Shatner’s Disease. They pause. In weird. Places.

Basically, what all these boil down to are: this is distracting. It calls attention to the narrator, and away from what is being narrated. A good audiobook reader lets the story flow through the voice. You might occasionally notice something about their voice or characterization, but it should be something you notice that you like.

At the same time, I feel for audiobook narrators. I’ve probably committed some of the same “sins” in the one (to date) audiobook short story I recorded for my friend Jacob Clifton. (Ignore the random cats – they have nothing to do with the narrative and were just the photo I slapped up on SoundCloud when I created an account).

Basically, narrating a book is hard. It’s difficult to keep track of the characterization choices you’ve made, it’s vocally challenging (especially if you’re a woman trying to produce a creditable-sounding man’s voice), and meanwhile you have to read the text…perfectly. Which sounds like it should be the easiest part. It isn’t.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer up some of my favorite audiobook narrators and some of my favorite books that they have read:

  • I’ll start with the divine Kate Reading. I once described her thusly:

    Then she blew my mind and responded:


    I don’t know when I first encountered her, but it may have been when I bought her rendition of one of my favorite books, Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. Since then, I’ve listened to at least a hundred hours of her work and have only ever returned a book because I didn’t like the book. Never because of her reading. She also narrates either all or the vast majority of Loretta Chase’s excellent historical romances (Lord Perfect and Not Quite a Lady are personal favorites, but I have at least liked all of them).

  • Nicholas Boulton. The man I once described as:


    He has a sense of humor. He responded:


    In ensuing tweets I proceeded, apparently, to make him blush. It was among my finest hours. He brings gorgeousness and grit to the medieval The King’s ManHe’s also up for an Audie for Glitterland: Spires, Book 1 which I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet, but well believe is worthy of the nomination.

  • In the mystery genre, I really enjoy the marriage of Barbara Rosenblat’s voice and the Mrs. Pollifax series. These globe-spanning books have to be an incredible challenge both in terms of consistency of recurring character choices over a long period of time and a cast of, if not thousands, definitely hundreds from seemingly every country on the planet.
  • In fantasy, Kyle McCarley’s reading of The Goblin Emperor was simply fantastic. And, frankly, having read this book multiple times with my eyes and at least once with my ears, the narrated version makes the incredibly complicated names and nicknames much easier to navigate.
  • Some (a few) authors are also excellent narrators. Neil Gaiman reads his own work incredibly well. I’d recommend anything, but I especially enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
  • The actor Alan Cumming is also an excellent narrator (you’d think all good actors would be good audiobook narrators. Nope. Some of them suffer from Shatner’s Disease). His readings of Scott Westerfeld’s YA, steampunk Leviathan series are especially fun. David Suchet reading Agatha Christie’s Poirot series is a particular delight, especially if you’re a fan of his small-screen portrayal of the Belgian detective. And, of course, Juliet Stevenson reading anything Austen.
  • I’m a huge Georgette Heyer fan and most of them are read by narrators that range from good to great, but my favorite of her books, A Civil Contract, is also read by my favorite of her narrators, Phyllida Nash. Ms. Nash also reads seven other Heyers.

Not all audiobooks that have ever been created are available (or they’re not all available in the U.S.). But if you can lay your hands on these via your local library’s audiobook CD collection, do:

  • Carole Boyd reading Stella Gibbons’ delicious Nightingale Wood. A favorite I’ve returned to again and again. Funnier even, I think, than Gibbons’ more well-known Cold Comfort Farm. If you can’t find it, console yourself with anything else that’s still available, including the fantastic Josephine Tey, Brat Farrar.
  • Ian Carmichael reading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books. The late Mr. Carmichael was an absolute master of character, accent, and pacing. If you can’t find any of those, you can still get him reading three of P.G. Wodehouse’s comedic masterpieces.

I have to stop here or I might be here all day. At any rate, if you have any recommendations for great audiobooks and narrators, please leave them in the comments!

Good news!

I am thrilled to be able to announce that as of this morning I am represented by literary agent Amy Elizabeth Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

Getting an agent is a huge milestone and I’m really excited to work with Amy. She’s smart and enthusiastic and so, so very nice.

I’d give more details but I’m brain-dead with happiness right about now.

#Scrivathon16 – The Home Stretch (Raffles!)

Hello lovely visitor – we’re in the home stretch leading up to Scrivathon 2016. Scrivathon is basically a fun-run for fingers. A group of us are pledging to have butt-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard the day of November 12.

You can support us by pledging money (all funds go to Syria Relief), and if you’re a writer-person and would like to enter raffles for nifty things like page critiques or edits, Scrivener software, and other fantastic items and services.

More information on the raffles and how to enter are on our lovely hostess’ blog. And if you want to donate to my campaign (I have $0 raised so far and it is making me saaaaad edit: I got my first donation, YAYYY! Thank you Jenn!!), my Justgiving page is here.

bloghost

Check out these other participants in the Scrivathon:

A.Y. Chao || Gurpreet Sihat || Hoda Agharazi || Deborah Crossland Maroulis || Morgan Hazelwood || Dante Medema || Miranda Burski || Maria Guglielmo || K.J. Harrowick || Rochelle Karina

NaNoWriMo

Well, November is here and I’m NaNo-ing. Getting things off to a bang, because my in-laws will be arriving this evening for three days. That’s sure to be fantastic for productivity.

At any rate, I’m being a NaNo “rebel” this year. Instead of embarking on a fresh, new idea, I’m doing that top-to-bottom rewrite of Persuading Anna that I talked about here. Is two months enough time to have mulled it over? I don’t know–we shall see! I gave it a new title and even created a cover for NaNo:

Let’s do this.

Doing NaNo and want to be buddies? I’m here.

Shelving Anna

Persuading Anna was my first completed fiction manuscript. It started life as an attempt at “Literary Women’s Fiction.”

“Wait – doesn’t your bio say you write comic romance?”

Yes, reader, it does. Thank you for allowing me to put words in your mouth just this once. I promise I won’t do it again.

I had a lot of ideas about what I might want to be if I became a writer. I went to a prep school that cranks out amazing writers like Susan Minot, Sebastian Junger, and Matt Taibbi. As such, I was terrified of doing anything that wasn’t “serious.”

I picked at this manuscript for years. I thought long and hard about why I couldn’t get more than a chapter or two of it out. After all, it was a contemporary spin on my all-time favorite novel, Austen’s Persuasion. (In fact, its first title was The Energy and Devotion of Our Youth which is from a Benjamin Disraeli quote that ends with “…was all my persuasion.”)

Finally, I realized why I wasn’t writing the damn thing. It wasn’t fun. Frankly, it wasn’t what I wanted to read, let alone write.

So I started again. Some of the original stayed, and the book grew over weeks and months. It became fun. The characters surprised me. A friend of mine who is a literary agent agreed to read it. She told me it had promise, but I should find a critique group to help me with some issues, pacing (especially at the beginning) being at the top of the list.

I joined RWA, found a critique group, and over the next few months did a fairly serious revision while I wrote my second manuscript, Software and Sensibility (yes, I have a pattern). I started querying and got a few requests for the manuscript and a whole lot of rejections. I began to learn the real definition of “waiting.” I finished Sense and moved on to Acting Up, which is still Austen-related (a very loose spin on Lady Susan) but getting into more original territory. Taking the training wheels off, as it were. It is also set in my first workplace, the theater, which is fertile ground for both bad behavior and humor.

My beta readers told me that while they had enjoyed my first two books, Acting Up represented a marked improvement. They got really excited about this book. I finished that and started to write the next one in a proposed series of three, Acting Out.

Around this point, I entered Anna in Pitch Wars. I was excited about the possibilities of redrafting it, as I knew it still had problems despite the feedback and the rewrites. I knew my odds weren’t great, so I kept my expectations in check. I didn’t get a mentor, but I got another couple of critique partners out of the experience, as well as a whole new community. Though lots of people seemed to like the premise a lot, additional feedback from a couple of the mentors told me what I already knew: the pacing issues that plagued the all-important beginning of the book were still there. That and the fact that it’s written from her point of view only made it a funny muddle between “women’s fiction” and romance.

I reread the whole thing. I commenced another round of revisions on it. And a few days after Pitch Wars’ picks were announced, I found myself in a miserable funk. Impostor syndrome, tears, the works.

A few days after that, after a lot of thought, I decided to shelve Anna for the foreseeable future.

My reasons for doing so involved both my head and my heart. Head-wise, I know that statistically the first book that usually clicks for an author is their third. This makes sense. You learn by writing. I know I’ve learned a lot. Up is intentionally a “category” romance – short (50,000 words), punchy, and fun. Anna and Sense are longer, 70 and 75,000 words, respectively. The shorter format of the Acting books made me structure them differently, and they move along a lot more readily.

On the heart side, I realized I had become invested in the trilogy and, while I didn’t quite resent the idea of spending time on Anna when I could be working on my newer stuff, I wasn’t as excited about it as I might be. As my friend Anne said on Twitter, you have to work with what engages you (at least now, while I have no deadlines and the space to be indulgent about such things).

Will I go back to Anna one day? At this point, I’d say, “Probably, yes.” I agree with everything everyone said about it: the premise has potential, but I failed the premise.* That’s okay. With four completed manuscripts and another started (Acting Lessons), I’m still a baby at this game. If I approach Anna again, it will probably be with opening an entirely new Scrivener project and starting (sort of) from scratch. I don’t want to do that just now, but it sounds like it could be fun.

Someday.

*Nobody but me used the verb “fail,” to be very clear.

Let’s talk about critique

There are a lot of articles going around right now about critique and a lot of them are very good. I’m going to try to address the power and the pain of critique from a slightly different angle. Because emotional response to critique is where 99% of the rubber ceases to meet the road in my experience.

Who am I to talk about this? I was an actress in a past life (like, seriously, I haven’t been on stage in 26 years, but I was an actor for 11 years*), and I am here to tell you that being critiqued on a performance is really nothing like having your writing critiqued.

It’s worse.

Imagine standing on stage (or more realistically, in a windowless, dingy rehearsal space) and feeling things. Making the lines someone else wrote personal to you, being passionate about something. Throwing yourself into a performance and feeling everything your character is supposed to feel.

And then being told, “Huh. I didn’t see it,” by just about everybody in the room.

This was you. Your voice, your body, your face. Attempting to convey emotion and meaning that nobody saw.

My point isn’t to play “which artist has it worse.” My point is to say I have some experience with dealing with intensely personal critique and to offer some of the strategies and techniques I learned to take the pain of critique and turn it into something better.

  1. Breathe. Really. Sometimes critique can make you feel like you were punched in the gut. It robs you of breath. Breathing helps you think, helps you relax and take in information. So check in with your body. Are you breathing? If not, do.
  2. Nod. Now maybe you’re thinking, Is she daft? Nod? Yes. Nod. What you’re hearing may be hard, but it’s probably true. Unless you have a critique partner (CP) who is intent on submarining you (and if you have one of these, get out. Now.) they’re relating their honest experience. The physical experience of accepting the criticism will hopefully soften your resistance. Your CP is telling you how s/he reacted to your piece. Is their experience universal? No. Is their experience valuable? Yes.
  3. Try to think of at least one thing you could change that might change your CP’s experience of the manuscript. I’m not saying to make those changes. I’m saying to think them through. Your CP has given you a lens to think about your manuscript differently. Use it. Take notes. You might make those changes. You might not. You might make entirely different changes. The point is, your CP is giving you a pivot point to work with. Work with it.

These are brief, Saturday evening thoughts. I’d be delighted if I got more suggestions in comments.

*I’ve spoken at conferences a bunch in the intervening years (fun fact: Adele Buck is my pen name, so looking me up that way won’t help much, but I’m also not hiding, so if you’re super diligent you might find me…though I can’t imagine why anyone would WANT to).

#PimpMyBio – VERSION 2

Hello #PitchWars mentors!

I’m Adele Buck, writing adult contemporary romance. The book I’m submitting is Persuading Anna, a contemporary retelling of Austen’s Persuasion (and yes, right out of the gate, if you have a better title, I am ALL EARS.)

The book has been critique-grouped and edited, but definitely still needs work! I’m eager to get a fresh set of eyes on it. Want to tear it to pieces and put it back together?

Bring. It.

Who would want to read this book? Well, do you like contemporary Austen retellings?

How about a heroine in a male-dominated job and industry? (She’s the Chief Financial Officer of a computer gaming company).

(I love me some competence porn.)

A best friend who’s not afraid to say things like, “Do you always braise your birth control, sweetie?”

And last but not least,

A flawed but redeemable second-chance romantic hero who looks like this:

A bit more about the story:

Successful gaming executive Anna has overcome discrimination and outright abuse to get to the top of her career. But her legendary cool composure is shaken by the reappearance of her seductive high-school sweetheart, Rick. The possibility of future love could bind them together but their differences also have the potential to ruin Anna’s career and separate them forever.

(Oh, and did I mention there’s a Caribbean vacation? No? Well, there’s a Pinterest board if you’re interested in the…extensive research I did for that. It was a CHORE, let me tell you.)

Why Me?

  • I’m a former actress, so I take criticism well.
  • I make it my life’s mission to make people laugh. So hopefully you would find me not only hard-working (which I am) but fun! (Hey, with this book I coined the term, “Chekhov’s Bikini Top.”)
  • I am on my third career (first: actress, second: financial markets and corporate communications executive, third: academic law librarian) this means I’m flexible and open to change, as well as the hard work that significant change brings (each career change required a new degree…)
  • I’ve learned a LOT since I wrote this book (it was my first, I’m now writing my fourth. The third got a nod from an editor in the last #PitMad and is currently on submission at Carina Press). But I need the help of someone with some distance from the manuscript to help me apply those lessons.

Some of my recommended recent reads:

Some of my all-time favorite reads (an entirely un-exhaustive list):

7/23/16 ETA Some more random facts:

  • I have 2 cats. One of them is on Twitter.
  • My husband is a fantastic cook.
  • I am dead serious about working out. Favorite workout is Bar Method, which a MMA friend of mine referred to as, simply: “Pain.”
  • Somewhere in the last three or so years I became a morning person. No, I don’t know how that happened either. No, I won’t make you wake up at six on a Saturday.
  • I live just outside Washington, D.C. which is currently hotter than Satan’s balls. I’m originally from New Hampshire where the mosquitos are the size of helicopters. Still can’t figure out which is worse…
  • Some favorite non-book media (definitely not an exhaustive list):
    • Movies: Monsoon Wedding, Holiday, Bend it Like Beckham, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Persuasion (duh. The one with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds), Sense and Sensibility (also duh. I once made my husband take my photograph in front of a costume from that movie because I was out of my mind over standing that close to something Emma Thompson once wore).
      IMG_2040
    • TV Shows: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Leverage, Orphan Black, Lip Sync Battle, Supergirl, Agent Carter, and I’m still not over the fact that they cancelled Terriers after only one season (on a cliffhanger, too).
    • Where does the ’96 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice go? Because that.
  • Yes, I’m both very feminist and very silly.
  • I’m a librarian (subtype: academic, sub-subtype: law). So when I find out something you like, I will almost inevitably surprise you by sending you stuff about that thing pretty much forever (or until you tell me to stop). It’s a hazard of the profession.

Looking forward to submitting!

Check out other prospective mentee bios here.