Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book I is now an audio book narrated by Janis Ian

Book I of the When Women Were Warriors trilogy is now an audio book!

It's available directly from Dog Ear Audio and many other audio book distributors and libraries. Here's the link:

I've been meaning to blog about the recording experience, but it's been such a busy year that blogging has had to wait. Now that the audio book has been officially released, I can take a bit of a breather and try to catch up.

We raised the money for the project through Kickstarter, and one of the perks was a daily email about the experience of making an audio book with Janis Ian and Dog Ear Audio. I was thinking I would put a condensed version of those emails here on my blog for everyone to read, but as I looked them over, I realized that the best part was the immediacy of the experience that I was able to share with the folks who funded the project. So I am reproducing them in their entirety here.


Sunday, September 22nd, 2013:

Karen and I arrived in Nashville yesterday (Saturday) and had a lovely dinner with Janis and her wife Pat at their favorite sushi restaurant, where we talked for almost four hours about everything under the sun. I have never met a famous person who is as real as Janis. Her talent aside, she is a first class human being, which I think most of you already know. If you haven't read her autobiography or listened to her Grammy-winning audio book, please do, because you will discover an extraordinary person. I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say about Janis as the week goes on, but that's enough for now.

This afternoon Karen and I went to see the studio where we will be recording. I think Karen will be putting up some pictures on Kickstarter and telling you more of the technical details. From the author's perspective, it looks to be a place where some serious work gets done. Karen had a very technical talk with our engineer, Randy Leago, while I gawked at an impressive collection of electronics.

This evening we had dinner with one of my favorite authors, Liz Bradbury, and her wife Trish. Although we've worked on a few projects together and spoken on the phone, we had not met in person, so she drove a bit out of her way to see us and wish us luck. If you aren't aware of Liz, she is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Diversity Network, and is a powerhouse working for LGBT civil rights. I hope she gets everything sorted out soon, because I'm waiting impatiently for her next book. (The Ginger Thai Restaurant in Nashville is excellent!)

It's past my bedtime, so I'm going to sign off now. I need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for tomorrow!

Monday, September 23rd, 2013:

Karen and I are beyond bushed right now, but we had a GREAT!!! day in the recording studio with Janis. What can I say about Janis except that she is the consummate professional. That she came prepared goes without saying, but the heart she brought to the work is so above and beyond that I'm still in awe. She knows the characters through and through, and her voice brings them to life.

I asked her, Do all the authors weep when they hear you read their work. She said yes. And of course I did too, because the story is not only close to my heart, but buried deep inside it, and her rendering of my words moved me to tears more than once.

As the author, I am hearing the story read (performed is a better word) with emphases and intonation that are different from the way I heard it in my head, because, as Janis warned me when we started, the work will be her interpretation of the book. What that does for me is show me the story from another angle, which only makes it richer.

The technical part of the recording went very smoothly. Karen and Randy Leago, our engineer, made it look easy, but having worked in broadcasting in a previous life I know the degree of expertise and talent required for this kind of work. It's enough to ask of an artist to give her best performance, but when the work is constantly interrupted by technical glitches, it's much more difficult. I think we had two or three technical glitches (a vanishingly small amount in my experience), and a few interruptions by airplane and car noises. Karen can tell you more about Janis's error rate (# of goofs per page) which is also vanishingly small.

Thank you all so much, and special thanks to Liz Bradbury's wife Trish for the lucky socks she knitted for me. I'm going to wear them every day!


Tuesday, September 24th, 2013:

We had another great day in the studio today. Janis is getting through the material more quickly than we had anticipated, which is good, because if we run into trouble later, we'll have time to deal with it. First thing this morning we had a strange hum. It turned out to be the incandescent bulb Janis was reading by. Gremlins like that happen in every project, and they tend to appear and disappear capriciously. Randy, our engineer, figured it out in record time, and the rest of the day went smoothly.

While Karen and Randy are watching the script and the waveforms and listening for extraneous noises like airplanes, I just sit with my eyes closed and listen, and Janis takes me there. She conjures the settings--both emotional and physical--and brings the characters to life. Just wait till you hear Gnith!

Janis did the most lovely thing. You may recall that when the folks in Merin's house celebrate midwinter's night, they have a little song they sing. Janis, on her own initiative, wrote music for it. I heard it today for the first time, and it is stunning! And yes, she made me cry again. ;-)

Here's something I didn't anticipate. While we all know Janis has a lovely singing voice, her speaking voice is just as beautiful. Now I understand how lucky we are to be working with a musician, because her sense of timing and the way she renders emotion come from that sensibility. The story is a heroic epic, and Janis is making it sing!

Tomorrow morning we'll be joined by four of our Kickstarter contributors. I hope the experience is as magical for them as it has been for me.

Thank you all so very much!!!


Wednesday, September 25th, 2013:

We had another outstanding day today. This was the day that our four Kickstarter contributors joined us. Pam, Terri, Wendy and Lori met Karen and me at Randy's studio, and we had time to show them the studio layout and take some pictures before Janis showed up. Then we all took pictures with Janis. Karen is going to be posting some of them to the Kickstarter project page.

Today's energy was different from the first two days as we were all getting acquainted, but once the work began, our guests settled down to listen. We were all on headphones, so speaker noise wouldn't bleed into the sound booth. Since we were well ahead of schedule, we took a long lunch break. Our guests had come from as far away as Seattle, Florida, and Iowa. They are an impressive group of very accomplished women, and they had been so well-behaved that Janis invited them to stay for the rest of the day.

After we finished, Janis hung out with everyone for an hour or so. She usually finishes the day on empty, but the energy of the group held her up, I think, and she regaled us with insider tales of the music industry.

Karen and I took our guests out to dinner and we all got to know each other a bit better. Terri and Wendy are one of the funniest comedy teams I've ever met. Someday they're going to have to take their show on the road. Lori took a picture of my lucky socks. When she gets home in a few days, she'll post it to Facebook and then I'll steal it and put it on the When Women Were Warriors page.

Janis was, of course, her brilliant self, and she made me cry again in front of everybody, but I didn't mind at all.


Thursday, September 26th, 2013:

The folks who haven't read the book might find this update a bit of a spoiler, so I'll set it off with a spoiler alert.

********  SPOILER ALERT ******

Those of you who have read the book may recall the Spring Festival chapter. It was the one part of the book I was most worried about, because a less than perfect reading would have been a disaster. Not to worry. Janis was flawless. She just about blew the top of my head off, and my skin has only just stopped tingling.

The Spring Festival is a celebration of sacred sexuality, when both humans and animals participate in the creative principle with the goddess, or the Mother, or whatever you want to call her. There is a beautiful pagan prayer, The Charge of the Goddess, that was my inspiration for that chapter, and especially this part:

Ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in Her praise. For Hers is the ecstasy of the spirit, and Hers also is joy on earth; for Her law is love unto all beingsā€¦ Let Her worship be within the heart that rejoices; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.

Janis read the chapter as if these words were engraved upon her heart.

********  END SPOILER ALERT ******

As if it wasn't enough that I get to come to Nashville and record an audio book with Janis Ian, tonight Karen and I went to Puckett's Boat House in Franklin, Tennessee, to hear our engineer, Randy Leago, play with the Cajun Zydeco Band, Ya Ya.

I live in a tiny town in the mountains of central California, and we don't get a lot of live music close by, so it was a real treat for me. They put on a great show. It was all I could do not to get up and dance, but a little old lady rocking out to zydeco isn't what most folks want to see. ;-)  It was a great way to unwind after an intense day.


Friday, September 27th, 2013:

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's in the can, as we used to say in the olden days.

We finished up by lunchtime, took care of a few details, and now I can heave a huge sigh of relief while Karen gets to start thinking about the editing job ahead of her.

I cannot thank you all enough for your contributions to this project. It could never have happened without the help and encouragement from each and every one of you, and it has been a privilege and a pleasure to share this journey with you.



I think you get the idea from these emails that recording with Janis was an extraordinary experience, and I'm hoping to repeat it twice more in 2014 when we do Books II and III.

I'll announce the Kickstarter campaigns here and on Facebook, and remember, for as little as $1 you can become an official supporter and receive our email updates in real time as the recording happens.

To all of you who supported Book I, and to future supporters of Books II and III, thank you so very much for making this project possible. You are true patrons of the arts.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Janis Ian will narrate Book I of When Women Were Warriors!

I'm thrilled to announce that Janis Ian has signed with Dog Ear Audio to narrate the first book of my trilogy. Janis read the books in late 2011 and was kind enough to review them on Amazon. Then she wrote to me and asked for my autograph. [gobsmacked!]

We exchanged autographed goodies, but at the time I was between editions and didn't have any of my books to send her. When I learned she would be coming on tour to Santa Cruz, California, not far from where I live, I took her a set of paperbacks. She had just won a Grammy for narrating her own autobiography, so when I introduced myself, almost the first thing out of her mouth was, Are you going to do an audiobook?

I replied that I had just signed with Dog Ear Audio and we were looking for talent. And she said, I'd love to do it! Now, I am not one to let gifts from the universe go unrecognized and unappreciated. We were off and running!

We're raising money for the production through Kickstarter. Karen Wolfer of Dog Ear Audio has done a tremendous job of putting some great perks together. If you're at all interested in an audiobook, you can get an early release copy, either by download or on CD, by donating to the project.

I will be blogging about the whole recording experience, and for supporters of the project, I will be sending out a daily email with insider info and fun anecdotes, so you can follow along with us.

Here's the link to Kickstarter, with lots more information about the project:

Friday, November 30, 2012

What race is Maara?


If you've finished Book I, you'll be OK, but if you have yet to read it, try forming your own image of Maara before you read this.


So, what race is Maara, anyway?

Short answer: whatever race you see her as.

Long answer:
When I was working out Maara's place, or lack thereof, in Merin's house, I knew, for the sake of the plot, that she was going to be an outsider, and that she would always be seen as "other" by the people of Merin's house.

The problem is, that's hard to do, because when we get to know somebody, no matter how prejudiced against them (or people like them) we may have been at the start, we learn to relate to their human qualities and our differences seem less "different" somehow.

Maara needed to be clearly "other" in a way that people weren't going to forget about or be able to ignore, so I hit on the brilliant idea of making her racially different from Merin's people.

Who were the various races running around the British Isles during the Bronze Age? Rosemary Sutcliff includes glimpses of the "little dark people" in her stories of Roman Britain, and European fairy tales feature the little people, the fairy folk, leprechauns, etc. Those tales come from the folk memory of the people who populated Europe before the Celtic people showed up.

I saw Tamras and her people as being part of an early migration of pre-Celtic people, but closer to the Celts racially, i.e. fair and blond. The "old ones" in Book II represent the remnant of the hunter/gatherer tribes that were pushed into marginal lands by neolithic farmers. No doubt some of those early tribal people would have mixed with the newcomers and settled down to farming, much as some of the North American native tribes did when faced with European settlement. It's this mixed race group that Maara comes from.

Now we're going to switch topics for a minute. Brace yourself!

Something that has always bothered me is how little diversity we find in the stories we read or watch or listen to. When I was a child, back in the Dark Ages of the 1950s, I had friends who weren't white. I never saw them, and they never saw themselves, in picture books, in movies, or on TV. Just like girls never saw themselves as the hero in adventure stories, and gay people never saw themselves at all.

As it happens, a few of my early beta readers were people of color, and one in particular didn't find my book very interesting until Maara showed up and it was obvious she was non-white.

And that reminded me. We always want to be included, to see ourselves as belonging in a story, as in life, just as we are.

So what started out as a plot device turned into an aha! moment. Even though When Women Were Warriors is set in a particular place, at a particular time in history, it isn't about Britain or the Bronze Age. It's about people!

Some of my readers have transposed the story into another place and time that feels more real or more relevant to them. Fine by me!

Here's the definitive answer from the horses's mouth:
Maara is whatever race you see her as, and that goes for the rest of the cast of thousands!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Last rant! Well, for the time being...

This is the last in a series of rants that began here:
Rant #1: Change!


In reply to someone who suggested civil unions are adequate because all gay people want is the rights that go with marriage, I wrote again about respect:


When you rush to the hospital because your beloved has been injured or taken ill, if you say, That person is my partner, or That person is my civil union person, or Drat! I left my power of attorney at home, the nurses may well invite you to take a seat in the waiting room, or tell you that they will only admit "family" to the patient's room.


When you say, That person is my wife, you get shown in right away. You get treated with respect.


Further, when our government and our institutions treat gay people with dignity, they teach the people by example to treat gay people with dignity.


The rights are the practical side--a way to ensure that ALL families are protected and supported. The respect gay people are demanding is what will prevent much of the very real harm done to gay people every day.


It is still OK to bully gay kids. Why? Because people don't respect gay people, and therefore young people believe they don't have to respect them. Many people think it's OK to hate gay people because God hates them. Kids are killing themselves because it is not OK to be gay in this country.


Are you aware that several state legislatures now considering anti-bullying legislation are excluding gay kids (or kids perceived to be gay) from protection because that would infringe on the free-speech rights of religious people. I don't know of any religion that says it's OK to bully people.


This battle was just fought in Michigan, and while the legislators were dithering over the issue, ten gay kids in Michigan who were victims of bullying killed themselves. They finally passed a watered-down law that opponents say is a "bullying is OK in Michigan" law.


The suicides (and they are more than you would ever believe) of gay kids are an extreme example of what happens when you set a group apart as different. The corrosive effect of anti-gay rhetoric on gay people (married or not, wanting to get married or not) undermines our sense of self-worth and reminds us every day that we are second rate, not quite good enough, and by some actively hated.


When I was young, it was OK to make racist and ethnic jokes. It was OK to say the n-word. There are plenty of people alive today who believe that people who are different from themselves, racially or culturally, are inferior. There are plenty of people alive today who are racist, but it's not OK anymore to say racist things in public.


My point is that as a society we have decided that certain things (racist hate speech) are NOT OK, and we criticize people who do and say those things. Someday I would like hate speech against people like me to be included in the list of things that are NOT OK.



And finally, when someone once again brought up the old testament, I said:


Note that the old testament says not one word about same-sex relationships between women.


Here's an illustration of just what people are so afraid of. Warning! It's really scary!!!