Release day and the value of audiobooks

Today is the day! Celebrate with me the audio release of Mother of Creation, the first book of The Creation Saga, narrated by Michelle Marie. You can download it through Audible.

dfw-am-moc-cover-audio

In honor of this release, I want to take a moment to talk a little bit more about why I published an audiobook. Please bear with this. It’s important stuff.

My grandmother is blind. So was my great-grandmother. There’s a good chance my mother will be headed that way, once she hits seventy – that seems to be when the eyes go in our family. It’s hereditary. The condition is called macular degeneration. It is a deterioration of the retina, and currently there is no cure for it. You can read more about it at that link. What it boils down to is that my grandmother has never read any of my books, published or otherwise. That’s not to say she necessarily would want to read them, as I’m not sure fantasy writing is her thing. But the point is that the option is not even there.

Being blind has never been as scary for me as some things, because my great-grandmother was one of my primary caretakers growing up. Macular degeneration doesn’t happen all at once, and blindness, as with many disabilities, exists on a sliding scale. In the early years of her blindness, again probably in her seventies or so, she continued to live independently, landscaping her entire yard, keeping koi, making wine, and generally being a badass. We only moved her to assisted living when the other ravages of age started to pile on – she broke her hip, and started to forget things. It wasn’t about the fact that she couldn’t see much at all by then, but the other typical factors that put someone in a home. Honestly, if I have a hero, it is probably Lucille – not because of the blindness, mind, though that was cool, but for all the things she kept herself busy with that were just beautiful.

My great-grandmother listened to audiobooks pretty regularly. They came on these big bulky tape cartridges that you just slammed down into the player – I suspect they might have been 8 tracks. She also had this eyeglass she used to read things sometimes that magnified them exponentially, but that was only good for bills and the like. She never learned braille, so these were her only pathways to the written word. My grandmother is in a similar situation. It’s audiobooks or bust for her, and likely will be for both my mother and I if we fail to dodge this particular hereditary bullet.

Given all that, I think it’s pretty apparent where I stand on audiobook access. I can’t say I would be as aware of the need to record books if it weren’t for my family history. I like to say that I would be, but a lot of times we don’t think about the world from other perspectives until those perspectives are knocking at our door, demanding to be let in. But I am aware. And I’m lucky to be. There are so many people who deserve good stories, but don’t have the ability to access them. Oftentimes, these are the people who need those stories the most. Living with a disability in the United States is incredibly difficult. Our reliance on cars instead of other forms of public transportation is a huge barrier to people who, for one reason or another, cannot drive. Not being able to reliably get from one place to another means that people with disabilities often are isolated in their homes. Contact from the outside world comes in the form of family members, friends, and home health workers or other caretakers who come to pick them up and make sure they get groceries, perhaps take them to one or two events a week. It is definitely possible to build a healthy life in spite of these challenges, but it doesn’t change the fact that, systemically, the challenges are there. Us able-bodied folks (by society’s norms) don’t have to think about those challenges.When we go to the store to pick up a book, we don’t have to think about the guilt of asking our daughter or cousin to drive us.

Ebooks have been a great advantage, but for the visually impaired audiobooks are still incredibly important.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the audiobook if you haven’t read Mother of Creation in its print form already. And look forward to Daughter of Madness early next year. I’m almost done with the zero draft!

The Hugos: An unscheduled post

Hey, folks! I wanted to post links to the coverage of the Hugos from last night! So excited for everyone who won.

To read the full coverage from the Guardian on this year’s winners and a little bit about the Hugo award controversy, click here. Also, N.K. Jemisin wrote a lovely acceptance speech which I teared up over a bit, here.

I’ve got to say that I am so happy for Jemisin. The Fifth Season definitely made my Favorite Books of 2015 post last year and is just a most amazing example of writing. I am humbled to be in the same genre as her, honestly. That book is an example of the kind of poignancy and tension and sheer chutzpah that we should all strive for in our writing. Not to mention the quality of prose, awesome world-building, and amazingly written characters.

Some other brief updates while I have you here.

I HAVE KITTENS. They are, in fact, currently wrestling against my feet. JOYOUS DAYS.

Their names are currently Orca and Fidelius or Spot and Fido, depending on how I’m feeling.


Also, we have a release date for the audiobook! October 1st, girls and boys. I will be doing some promotions, so if you are interested in hearing more I encourage you to hang around here or sign up for my mailing list.

Some thoughts on audiobooks and performance

I may have mentioned that I have recently been listening to a few audiobooks. It started last summer, when my fiance forced me to listen to Dune through his Audible.com subscription. I say forced like he had to twist my arm, but it wasn’t hard. I hadn’t read Dune yet (I know, bad Amanda) so it was something that I wanted to knock off my list. And he loved it so much, which was surprising, since he typically is not a huge fan of fantasy or science fiction.

Anyway, I listened to Dune. And then I listened to The Fifth Season. And then I downloaded a few nonfiction books, and most recently I listened to The Water Knife.

What’s so interesting about each of the books above is that they are read by very different narrators. Dune, for example, is read by a white man. His voice is vaguely British, and there are all sorts of little flourishes and sound effects that really brought me into the story – blowing wind on the desert, that sort of thing. It was almost like listening to a radio play. The Fifth Season is narrated by a black woman, which is appropriate because both the author and the characters are black. The narrator of this book doesn’t do as distinct a set of voices for the different characters, relying more heavily on dialogue tags. Her voice is rich, and listening to a black woman tell the story within the context of the plot – that of slavery and prejudice and racial violence – is particularly chilling. Lastly, The Water Knife is narrated by a woman who, based off her proficiency in Spanish narration, is at least fluent in the language if not a native Hispanic Latina. It was fascinating to hear her manipulation of different accents – the Mexican-born Angel, a man, was voiced very differently from the probably-Canadian Lucy, a woman, for example, or even the bilingual Texan girl Maria. The way that she managed to capture their underlying identities with accent was fascinating.

Listening to these different books has taught me more about writing than I could have imagined it would. Before listening to these separate humans from separate backgrounds narrating these stories, I had sort of imagined that every book had a firm, definite way it should ‘sound’. That is to say, emphasis should be put on certain words and not others. There was a way I read, and I interpreted that way as the way the author intended the words. Now, I’m not so sure. there have been several moments when listening to these books where I have found myself absolutely taken aback by a stylistic choice in delivery of a sentence or paragraph. I could, in those moments, hear the sentence as it was spoken, and hear, in my head, the way I would have interpreted it from the writing. These two things did not match up. The whole text transformed before me, unlocking new meanings, clarifying characters. It was an epiphany each time it happened.

It makes me realize just how little control I, as a writer, have over what the reader will understand of my work. Sure, we writers do our best to be clear. We comb through, searching for misunderstandings or bulky phrasing. But in the end, the reader has their own voice, their own experiences, that must be laid out over the story we have made. We’ve provided, perhaps, the line drawings. The reader has to color in everything. The picture will always be of more or less the same thing, but that doesn’t mean that any two readers will end up with identical pictures. I don’t think I had ever really understood that before. I certainly had never realized that all of those ways of coloring inside the lines are totally sensical and valid. That all of them can add something, some essential essence, to a story.

So, in closing, I’m very excited about listening to more audiobooks, and about working to get my book into audio form. Speaking of, the audiobook should be done over the next week or so. I will be reviewing it and then it will be ready to publish! I’ve still got to get the cover finalized for upload, so I’m looking at a August 20th roll-out, in all likelihood.