Write Life Wednesday - Recording an Audiobook

The Rhythm Within Me: the Experience of Recording an Audiobook 

by Ann Campanella


This past year, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to record an audiobook. The book is Motherhood: Lost and Found, a memoir about my mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s at the same time I was trying to become a mother and struggling through a series of miscarriages. My mother was ill for 14 years, and much of that time, I leaned on my horse Crimson, who happened to be a grandson of Secretariat. His presence on the farm was a stabilizing (no pun intended) force in my life. While this period of my life often felt hopeless, it changed me as a person, and eventually I was blessed with the birth of a precious daughter.  It seems like divine timing that after a year of working on various aspects of this project, the audio version is due to be released around Mother’s Day.

What was involved?

Recording the book was another transformational experience for me. I’ve always been a reader, but I hadn’t thought much about how this trait had been developed until recently. Every evening when I was a child, my mother came and sat on my bed. She would tuck me in and turn on the reading light she had asked my father to install above the headboard of my bed. She often read pages from a little green book by A. A. Milne called When We were Very Young or from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Sometimes she let me choose a book from the stacks on my bookshelf. I could stretch out bedtime and get her to linger if I asked for one more story or one more poem…which I always did.

Now, over 50 years later, I realize that my mother’s voice has become embedded within me. The week of her memorial service at the family graveyard in Upstate New York, I wandered through the old headstones under the pines and heard her voice, “The woods are lovely dark and deep….” from Stevenson’s “Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening.” It suddenly struck me that my poetry, which had provided the seeds for my memoir, was based on a rhythm I had unconsciously absorbed from her. This same rhythm is woven through the prose of my memoir. It is a language of love.

How did it get there?

Along with me my mother, I credit my writing groups. They provided an audience to whom I was able to share out loud the sections of my journal that eventually became chapters in my memoir. I didn’t just read these sections once. But over and over. As I wrote and revised, I wanted every word to be right, delicately woven into the tapestry, creating living scenes where the stitches of the story were invisible. My writing group members listened as intently and lovingly as my mother would have. Their nuanced feedback helped me toward my goal.

How long did it take?

Twenty years. Gulp. No, that’s not a typo. It was a long and arduous process, but I loved every minute of it. Each revision was an opportunity to study the prism of my mother’s life, to nestle against her again and feel the refrain of her love and tenderness wash over me.

There were long breaks in the editing process because I was in the midst of caretaking both my mother and my young daughter. But I was always drawn back to the page, lured by the embrace of my mother’s words. The rolling language that she had planted deep within me was familiar and became a treasured gift as Alzheimer’s gradually took away her ability to communicate.

Towards the end of her life, I couldn’t help but be aware that I was now passing this gift of words and reading on to my daughter, the way Mom had passed it down to me, and her mother had passed it to her and so on. Like I had done with my mother, my daughter snuggled against me at bedtime, and always asked for “one more book.”

Amplifying the senses

Recording my audiobook expanded my sense of what I had written. I was now able to share my story on another sensory level. As I read the words out loud, I re-entered the experience of my book, not just the writing of it, but the living of it, moment by moment. Speaking into the microphone, I lost track of time and simply allowed the rhythm of each scene to carry me away.

I felt the warmth of my mother’s presence, her soft voice speaking under the glow of my reading lamp. I sat with her on my couch when she was agitated because she didn’t know where she was. I walked the hills of her childhood home with her, sharing stories she had long forgotten. I stroked her rice-paper skin as she lay dying. 

Each sentence, paragraph and chapter was another opportunity to be with my mother, to feel her gentleness and the vibrations of a life deeply felt. 


To order a copy of Motherhood: Lost and Found, click here. For the audiobook, click here.
Connect with Ann on her social media:
Website: www.anncampanella.com
Blog: Fields of Grace
Facebook: @anncampanella.author
Instagram: @horses_2nd_time_around
Twitter: @authorAnnC

An Interview with Jennifer Hallock, Author of Under the Sugar Sun

Under the Sugar Sun full.jpg


What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?

I’m a sports nut. Though I don’t write sports romance right now, I actually do coach football—the kind with helmets and everything. It’s like contact chess: no matter how athletic your players, a coach’s mistakes—either in poor training during the week or in play calling on game day—can cost the team a game. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s always a thrill.

Tell us Scribblers a bit about Under the Sugar Sun, and what inspired you to write this story.

My first completed manuscript was a football book—with a quarterback stepbrother hero, before that was the thing. But my husband said: “Why are you writing Midwestern contemporary sports romance when you’re a history teacher living in the Philippines? You should write something set here in the American colonial period. They sent American schoolmarms just like you over to the islands in 1901. What if one fell in love with, I don’t know, a sugar baron or something…isn’t that Jane Austen-y enough for you?”

I’m paraphrasing, but not much—the original character ideas came from my husband. And you’d think that at first I’d be like, “What a great idea! Thanks, honey!” But I was a little intimidated by the task.

Fortunately, I got over that fear quickly and dove into the research—one of my favorite parts of writing. The research showed me that the sugar industry suffered from American trade restrictions, so there was Javier’s struggle right there. And I found a letter published in the Manila Times in 1902 entitled: “Sister Hunting for Brother: He is Supposed to Be in the Philippines.” There was Georgie’s backstory. Voilà!

I fell in love with Georgie and Javier: they were smart, funny, and sexy, flawed and intriguingly complex. What traits do you believe are an absolute necessity that will keep the reader turning the pages?

Both heroes are stubborn and opinionated, but they are incredibly loyal, too. All of these traits are part of their attraction for each other. Right from the start, Javier falls for Georgie’s fire. (When you read chapter one, you’ll get what I just did there.) Even if she is rather misinformed about the Philippines at first, she does pay attention. She questions everything, including the racist underpinnings of her own colonial mission.

The problem is that Georgie does not really know she’s in a romance novel. She thinks that she’s living a Gothic adventure story, which is part of her appeal to the American reader. Having never left Boston in her life, she heads off to a very foreign land at a time when trans-Pacific travel was arduous and time-consuming. And she doesn’t do it for love, either—at least, not the romantic kind. Her challenge will be to set aside some of her old loyalties in order to embrace the new ones right in front of her.

Javier’s loyalty is more straightforward. Once he gives her his heart, it’s hers forever. The problem is that he falls in love with a woman who may signal the end of his way of life—quite literally. Not only does she represent the foreign government squeezing his sugar industry, but she also questions how he runs his hacienda. As the daughter of an Irish-American seamstress, she is a working-class heroine with some radical notions. He needs to keep his family’s legacy alive—but part of that legacy is to marry and pass down his land, which he has never cared to do until he met the exact woman who could unravel it all.

The story of Georgie and Javier is one of an interracial romance, which is not so unusual. However, the Philippines is not a culture much written about. What drew you to set your story here and in this culture?

At the heart of Javier and Georgie’s romance is the important issue of race, but in a specifically Filipino way. Javier is wealthier, more educated, and more widely traveled than Georgie—typical for his class in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the American colonial order, for all its talk of merit, made him inferior solely because of color. Telling their story without recognizing this dimension would have gone beyond romanticizing history all the way to fairy tale. (I should note that the opening novella in the Sugar Sun series does involve two white Americans as the primary characters, but this is because a real life adventurer named Annabelle Kent inspired me to consider a different kind of diversity. Look her up!)

Again, though, what drew me to this whole endeavor was our countries’ shared history. The Philippines was the first major U.S. venture in overseas imperialism and one that launched over a century of intervention abroad. It started with both sides fighting a nasty guerrilla war—one that angered Muslim separatists and divided the U.S. in the midst of a presidential election. Sound familiar? At the same time, the Yanks were successful in teaching English and exporting American culture, everything from basketball to beauty pageants. In 2015, the Philippines had the highest approval ratings of the United States out of any country in the world, including the United States itself!

Part of my hope is to bring this important period of history to life. I lived and taught in the Philippines for four years, and visited for far longer than that (as my husband worked there as a photojournalist). This country—and particularly its people—helped me through a difficult time in my life, inspired my romance writing, and won my heart. Even now, while I live in New England, they are supportive. There is a thriving English-language indie romance community in the Philippines called #romanceclass. They write contemporary and new/young adult romance, yet they still spread the word about my historicals. And, truly, they are the innovators: if you want fresh contemporary romance with feels galore, check out http://romanceclassbooks.com.

What is the one thing about your heroine, Georgie, that drives her hero Javier crazy? And what is the one thing about Javier that drives Georgie crazy?

Crazy sexy or crazy frustrated? I’ll do both.

Javier is driven crazy (sexy) by Georgina’s intelligence and strength of character. Georgina is driven crazy (sexy) by Javier’s old fashioned courtship, called ligaw in Filipino. Imagine an unchaperoned London Season, but in the tropics while the hero and heroine have to hold down full-time jobs at the same time. That’s this story.

Both Javier and Georgina are driven crazy (frustrated) by one essential barrier: Javier wants all of Georgina. She came for a two-year contract, but he wants her to settle permanently, accept his country in her heart, and raise children with him. That is a lot to ask in 1902, even without the colonial-racial component. The sexual frustration is one thing, but happily ever after is another.

How much influence do your characters have on the direction the story takes?

I think characters should direct the story. There are at least two layers of conflict in any good romance: (1) the relationship itself (is he/she The One?); and (2) each character’s own personal objective. If the characters are fully-developed people, their hopes and dreams cannot be shoved aside, even for love. For example, Javier wants to save his hacienda and see a strong, independent Philippines. Georgina wants to find her brother, an American soldier lost in action in the Philippine-American War, and take him home. Had these two characters not met each other, they would have been working on those missions independently, but because—boom!—they meet, and—wow!—they want each other, they have to find a solution to their individual conflicts that allows for the relationship to blossom. Romance does not erase everything about a person outside of the relationship: that is co-dependence, not love.

Do you figure out deep backstory for each of your characters before beginning, or invent it on the fly as you write?

You often hear authors say, “My characters live in my head,” and it sounds so trite and, honestly, a little precious. So, I’ll put it this way: my characters and I drive each other crazy. I can’t get them out of my head, but at least while they’re there I ask them why they do the things they do. I end up with lots of backstory that I do not put in the books. My software, Scrivener, allows me to save detailed files and deleted scenes about each character. Even my villains have backstories and—sometimes—redemptions and quasi-redemptions (even if only in my head).

Do your stories have a common thread apart from the romance element?

My take on historical fiction is unusual. I look for the outliers—the obscure, strange, and even dangerous people in what is called micro-history. Though they may not be average, they are real. Real vignettes pepper my writing, including: the cholera house burnings, a missing soldier brother, the snake scene, the dinner with Pedro, the shooting on the hacienda, and so much more. I lead a workshop on this process for writers because it is that important to how and what I write.

Who was your favorite secondary character to write, and do you see them having their own story to tell?

Just one? That’s a tough choice. My readers would probably say Father Andrés (and, yes, he has his own story in book three, Sugar Communion), but for me it was Allegra (who is the heroine of book two, Sugar Moon). During my research, I found an old lantern slide of a beautiful Filipina with a “WTF?” look on her face. Knowing that she is looking at an American photographer that way, I thought: “Wow. Who are you? I like you.” And, thus, Allegra Alazas was born. She needs every ounce of audaciousness in order to handle her anti-hero, Ben Potter, Georgie’s brother. (By the way, the slide is on my Under the Sugar Sun Pinterest site.)

How much time do you put into research before you begin writing?

I have over 1800 sources in my bibliography, which—now that you’ve read my other answers—probably doesn’t surprise you. You might say that I do too much research. If I have a character taking a steamship from Manila to Dumaguete, I look up the name of a real ship that plied that route in 1902: the S.S. Elcano. That’s compulsive, I know, but I love the challenge.

On the other hand, I am not as historically strict with diction or accents—though I do make sure all vocabulary was available at the time, even if not common. My style is modern because I want the story to read smoothly.

Are you a panster or an outliner?

Under the Sugar Sun was pantsed, which meant it took me twelve drafts or more to get it right. I don’t do that anymore. I still brainstorm for a while, jotting down all sorts of ideas that I get while I run, while I commute, or while I lie down to sleep at night. It’s a jumble and a mess, but I do believe that’s where creativity starts. That’s my pantsing phase.

But then I plan. Once I find a coherent story line, I write out a synopsis. I show this to my husband, who is great with story arcs and conflict. He asks questions or gives me notes, and I go back to brainstorming until I hand him a synopsis he likes. I turn that general plan into a chapter outline. On Scrivener, I create files for each scene with the appropriate part of the chapter plan in the notes sidebar. Once that’s ready, I write. Whew!

However, some flexibility is key. I may veer away from the plan as I write a scene, but I must achieve the designated objective. Each scene must move the plot forward. In the end, I hope to only rewrite a book five or six times, which is about where I am with Sugar Moon (coming in late 2016).

If this story were to be made into a movie, and you could cast anyone to play the roles of Georgie and Javier, who would you choose?

I think about this all the time—not as a movie, but as a Filipino teleserye. This is why Pinterest was created, in my opinion. I have actors, sets, and costumes on there. In my mind, Javier was always singer Enrique Iglesias, a Filipino-Spaniard; and Georgina was actress Karen Gillan, the clever redhead of Doctor Who fame.

Do you have critique partners?

I’ve used critique partners in the Philippines and in my home RWA chapter (NECRWA). However, my most important CP/editor/proofreader/cover designer/technical expert is my husband. He is the entire back end of our small indie publishing enterprise, and I could not be luckier to have his input and support.

Do you write to a specific word count daily or write to the inspiration and mood of your muse?

While teaching at a boarding school (sometimes a 24/7 job), it is hard to demand a daily word count out of myself, but I require that I touch an active manuscript, brainstorming board, or even blog post at least once every day. Sometimes, though, the busier I am at the day job, the more I want to write—and the more productive I am at it. Compared to grading piles and piles of adolescent essays, writing my own stuff is pure joy.

On the weekends or during the summers, I write every day. If I am writing new words, I try to draft a full scene at a time (around 2000 words or so). If revising, I can comb through three or four scenes in a day, and then go back to them the next day. I polish and polish until I feel I can move on.

If you were going to give only one tip to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Write what you love.

Because I work in a high-powered academic community, I first tried to write the Great American Novel. Nothing less would do. Sure, I dabbled in genre fiction—science fiction first, then romance—but I kept hitting my head against a wall of my own literary snobbery. Guess what? I got a concussion. I was not meant to write highfalutin “literature.” Frankly, I do not even like reading it.

I like romance because it is character-driven storytelling with an uplifting ending. I won’t write anything else now. Since I came to this realization, I have completed five books and published two so far. I barely finished a chapter of my Great American Novel.

This lesson can apply to subgenre, too. Don’t write erotica if you’re squeamish about genitalia. Write what you love because that’s the only way to get your butt in the chair.

What books or other projects do you have coming out in the near future?

The Sugar Sun series will be three full-sized novels with a smattering of novellas. One of the novellas—a redemption of a secondary character named Rosa Ramos—is in the editing stage now. That will come out in September or October of 2016.

Ben and Allegra’s story, book two of the series, will hopefully come out before the holiday season. I am doing one last rewrite before the editor gets a hold of it.

Finally, there is Andrés’s story, which is eagerly anticipated by some of my readers. Andrés himself is a little concerned about exactly how eagerly they anticipate his fall from the priesthood, so he says I can hold off on that book a while. But it’s planned and started, and it will be out in 2017, no matter what my noble priest thinks! (See, I told you, the characters haunt me all day long. Sometimes, when I am doing something else, they stand and tap their feet impatiently. Psychologically, it is not a good sign.)


Jennifer Hallock spends her days teaching history and her nights writing historical happily-ever-afters. She has lived and worked in the Philippines, but she currently writes at her little brick house on a New England homestead—kept company by her husband, a growing flock of chickens, and two geriatric border collie mutts.

Blog: http://www.jenniferhallock.com

Buy links: http://bit.ly/jenniferhallock

Twitter: @jen_hallock

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferhallockauthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/undersugarsun  



An Interview with Tinthia Clemant, Author of The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish

What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?

Just like Annah, I’m an earth witch. 

Tell us Scribblers a bit about The Summer of Annah, and what inspired this story?

The story was inspired by real life events—my search for love. It tells the story of a 55-year-old woman’s search for love. She soon learns that finding love isn’t the hard part—it’s trusting her instincts and recognizing love that challenges her. 

The decision to write The Summer of Annah came on the eve of my 59th birthday. I had all these wonderful stories about love clambering around inside me and Annah was the loudest. She spoke to me as I went about my day-to-day life, asking for a chance to have her story told. I like to say I live vicariously through my characters. Annah has the brave qualities I wish I possessed. And she has Eric.

I found it interesting how you begin with a love spell; did you simply make one up?  Do you think spells such as this work? 

As an earth witch, I am a believer in the power of spells, which is nothing more than channeling energy to bring about change. We do this whenever we make a wish for something, such as picking up a heads-up penny or blowing out birthday candles. Would I cast a spell for love? Well, let’s just say I lit my cones of sandalwood incense this past Midsummer’s Eve.

The older woman, younger man is not the typical in Romance stories. What drew you to taking on this topic in an industry that has hardly (if at all) addressed it?

Baby boomer women may be aging but we haven’t stopped our search for love. In many ways, the Romance industry is forgetting we exist, except to pair us with men our own age. Having the hero, Eric, be younger than Annah, appealed to me because I believe many women are missing opportunities by looking for love in packages we’re told we must accept—women fifty or above must fall in love with someone fifty or above. That’s stifling. If a person has a good heart, pure soul, and we feel the connection, love can spark and survive, despite an age difference. We need to be open to all possibilities.

Your heroine, Annah, and your hero, Eric, immediately intrigued me. What traits do you believe are necessary in creating characters that will keep the reader invested in their story and turning the pages?

Characters must live, breathe, love, and behave like real people. If they don’t a reader won’t invest the emotion the story will need to succeed. All my characters have backstories no one will ever read. I know their shoe sizes, when they first tripped and scraped a knee. By creating three-dimensional characters off the pages of the story, the characters will be three-dimensional on the pages of the story. They’ll come alive and, if I’ve succeeded, stay with the reader long after the story is finished.

What is the one thing about your heroine, Annah, that drives her hero, Eric, crazy? And what is the one thing about Eric that drives Anna crazy?

Hmm, well since Eric is the perfect man, there isn’t much that would drive Annah crazy. However, if she had to choose one thing, it would be his stoic temperament. For Eric, it would be her quick-temper. In truth, however, they balance each other. Eric is the tethered line that keeps Annah grounded, while Annah is the fire that Eric uses to fuel his decisions. 

How much influence do our characters have on the direction the story takes?

This question made me chuckle. There are days when I have a scene all played out in my head and just need to get it into the computer. The characters have other thoughts. They’ll pull me in directions that are completely out of line with my goal. 

When I first started writing, I used to fight this tug-of-war. Now, I’ve learned to trust them and allow them their freedom. Quite honestly, there are times when I sit back, close my eyes, and ask the character what she/he wants. For example, I struggled with the opening scene in The Summer of Annah. When I listened to Annah, the prologue came alive. It’s a wonderful experience to hear your characters whisper, and sometimes shout their input.

If this story were to be made into a movie, and you could cast anyone to play the roles of Annah and Eric, who would you choose?

I’ve had fun thinking about the casting of my characters for my fantasy movie. Without a doubt, Diane Lane would play Annah. Annah needs someone who had a spark to her, which Ms. Lane possesses. Eric, ah Eric. He’s more than a handsome face. He requires an actor who will bring his soul to life. I would love Chris Hemsworth for the part but I’m open to holding a casting call and getting my hands dirty during the selection process.

What is your opinion of traditional publishing versus self-publishing?

An article I read stated that over 60% of the books loaded to Amazon on a daily basis are self-published books! Self-publishing is here to stay. I knew I wanted to self-publish The Summer of Annah from the moment I typed the title. Why? I despise rejection. (By now, one would think I’d be used to it after being divorced from the same man twice. Alas, that’s another story waiting in the wings.) 

Going the traditional publishing route conjured visions of long days waiting for the rejection letters while empty containers of Chubby Hubby buried me. Moreover, I’m a control freak. Self-publishing affords me the opportunity to call the shots. It’s a great feeling. I’m free to choose my story arc, name my characters, color their hair, the list goes on. It’s wonderful to be in complete control, which I didn’t want to relinquish to a publishing house.

Soon Barnes and Noble will be featuring self-published books in their brick and mortar stores. Self-publishing is the sleeping monster and she’s waking up.

Do you write to a specific word count daily or write to the inspiration and mood of your muse?

I don’t write specific word counts. Each day is different. I choose to write in the early morning, each and every morning. Some mornings I’ll only get 300 words written and other times, I’m able to push into the thousands. It’s all in the content. If the story is flowing, I won’t stop, unless I have to. If a brick wall stands in my way, I admit defeat and reach for chocolate.

By the way, my muse is Jacqueline Suzanne. Obviously, on the days when the voices in my head are silent, she’s off helping some other writer.

If you were going to give only one tip to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Never, never, never take criticism personally. Use comments and critiques to sharpen your skills but let the pain roll off like water off a duck’s back. Buy plenty of chocolate. Finally, write every day. Every single day! Even if the words are junk, write them down. You’re only going to improve by working on your skill. Remember what Raymond Chandler said about writing. ‘Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean it up every noon.’ (My bad, I gave three pieces of advice.)

What books or other projects do you have coming out in the near future?

I’m writing the first book in a new series due to launch at the end of 2016. The second installment of The Summer of Annah will continue Annah and Eric’s story in June, 2017, and I’m working on a darker story due out in the autumn of 2017. I’d like to dabble in science fiction and there’s a murder-mystery in my head. I also want to write a time-travel story. My fear is that I’ll die with all the stories I’ve kept bottled up still inside of me. 


Tinthia Clemant was born in Medford, Massachusetts, over sixty years ago. In other words, she's old! As a child, she lived happily in a loving home with her three siblings and mother and father. She always wrote. From the time she first picked up a pencil, or perhaps it was a crayon, she wrote. Love stories. Happy stories. Stories about love with happy endings. Her first book was self-published. (At the tender age of seven, she stapled the pages together and presented it to her mother on Mother's Day.) As contemporary women's fiction's newest author, Tinthia fell in love with love stories and true love when she first learned about true love's first kiss. That did it for her! Unfortunately, she has yet to find that special kiss. Throwing her arms up in defeat, she decided to write about it and live vicariously through her characters. Tinthia lives on the banks of the Concord River and spends her time teaching science at a local community college, gardening, painting, feeding her multitude of Mallards (follow her natural history blog at: concordriverlady.com), reading, and, of course, writing contemporary women's fiction about romance, relationships, and true love. She also enjoys Chunky Monkey and American Dream Cone and other enticing flavors produced by Ben and Jerry.

Interview with Tracy Brogan, Author of LOVE ME SWEET

What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?

My birthday is on Christmas day, and since I’m the youngest in the family, my older sisters refer to that as “The year Tracy ruined Christmas.” I’m pretty sure they’re over it by now but I’m not placing any money on it.

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