Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Audiobook Basics—Getting one produced is not as hard as you’d think

There’s been a good bit of buzz the last few years about audiobooks and how the market is growing and how indie authors should get audiobooks made. But before you throw your hands up and say there’s no way you can afford it or do it on your own, read on. It can actually be quite affordable—as in no upfront capital to get a professional narrator to do your audiobook. And depending on your distribution and production payment  choices, your royalty rate can be up to 40% of the retail price (20% if doing royalty share). And since many audiobooks are $15.00 or up, that’s a nice way to increase your income and provide great stories to people who prefer or rely on that format.

I’ve been thinking about getting an audiobook done for my first novel, The Rose and the Wand, for some time, so a few weeks ago I started the process, and I hope to have a completed audiobook soon. The process has been a blast so far, and I’m already planning to get my second novel made into an audiobook as well.

A lot of audiobook narrators are also theater and film actors, and since theaters are closed because of Covid-19 right now, now is a good time to get an audiobook done. The narrators have more time and could probably use the extra cash.

Here’s a brief run down of audiobook production basics and my own experience. (I know I said brief and this post is anything but brief, but I wanted to give enough information for a good background—you can visit the websites and other blogs for more in-depth information.)
Audiobook cover The Rose and the Wand
I created this temporary audiobook cover to use
until my designer reformats the book's cover for me.

Audiobook 101: An outline of the process

1) Upload book information to ACX or Findaway Voices
2) Decide on method of payment and whether you want to go exclusive or non-exclusive with the distribution
3) Upload audition script
4) Listen to narrator auditions and choose a narrator. Then work with the narrator to set a timeline for completion and decide on rates, if paying upfront
5) Sign the contract, send the manuscript, and wait
6) Review the first 15 minutes of audio. Once you accept it (or reject, if needed), then additional chapters can be uploaded
7) Be patient as narrator produces and uploads each chapter, one chapter at a time.
8) Upload an audiobook cover
9) Accept the finished product, pay and/or sign final papers
10) Market

Audiobook 101: In a little more detail

1) Decided who to partner with for your audiobook production and distribution

Right now, I know of ACX (acx.com) and Findaway Voices (https://findawayvoices.com/). These two companies act as a go-between for authors and narrators and as distribution companies.

Working with ACX

ACX (connected to Audible and Amazon) offers several options to help connect authors and narrators and get audiobooks produced. Narrators can create profiles on ACX, and authors can search this database for a narrator of their choice and then approach the narrator via ACX message system. Or the author can upload an audition script with information about the book and production payment choices, and narrators can audition for the book.

If you use ACX, you have two distribution options: Exclusive (Audible, Amazon, and iTunes; 40% royalty) and Non-exclusive (can sell anywhere; 25% royalty). If you plan to go wide with your audiobook and can afford at least half of the upfront cost, you should consider Findaway Voices as well.

ACX offers three options for paying for the audiobook: 

Pay for Production 
Author pays the narrator (who is also the producer) upfront. Narrators charge a set price for each finished hour of the audiobook. This is call the Per Finished Hour (PFH) rate. A narrator’s PFH rate depends on their experience. Consequently, the rate can vary greatly. Some newer narrators may only charge $50-100 PFR while the more experienced narrators charge several hundred per hour. If you choose Pay for Production, you can choose Exclusive (Audible, amazon, iTunes; 40% royalties)  or Non-exclusive distribution (you can set up wide; 25% royalties).

How do you know how long your audiobook will be to help you calculate the cost? ACX will give you an estimate of how long your audiobook will be once you tell them your book’s word count. My ~90,000 word novel has an estimated length of 9.3 hrs. So if I did Pay Per Production for this book with a less experienced narrator (say one new to audiobooks but with theater and film experience and so still a great narrator) at the $100 PFH rate, that would be about $930. Findaway Voices has a very nice tool that gives you an estimate of the final cost based on your word count; however, their tool’s lowest PFH rate is $150. (https://findawayvoices.com/pricing/)

Royalty Share and Royalty Share Plus
In this option, the author doesn’t pay anything upfront. They must choose the exclusive distribution option. This is the 40% royalty. This royalty is split between the author and narrator, 20% to each. Check out ACX’s webpage and other blogs for more information on how you might buy out of this eventually, if desired.

In Royalty Share Plus, the author pays some of the production cost upfront and splits royalties.

As you’ve probably guessed, the more experienced narrators generally prefer Pay for Production, as it’s less of a gamble for them getting paid, but you can still get good narrators in the Royalty Share option. Of course, if you choose the latter, it’s especially important to work hard marketing to make sure your narrator gets paid back for their hard work.

Also, when exclusive with ACX, retailers set the price of your audiobook (and I think your royalty is from that retail price). ACX has a general estimate for retail prices here (https://audible-acx.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/6656)

Working with Findaway Voices 

Findaway Voices offers Pay for Production and also Voices Share, where you pay half up-front and then split royalties. If using Findaway, you can distribute through 40 audiobook retailers and library platforms (so you can go wide), set your own price, and keep an 80% royalty. But note that this 80% is after the retailer’s ~50% cut, so it works out to about 40% of the list price (the same as ACX’s exclusive rate). So say you set a $10 list cost for retailers, e.g. for iTunes or Audible. The retailer (in this case iTunes) keeps 50% ($5) and sends the remaining 50% ($5) to Findaway; Findaway keeps 20% of that $5 ($1) for handling distribution and sends you the remaining 40% ($4). In Voices Share, it’s 60% to the author and 20% to the narrator; this requires some exclusivity (so Findaway can handle splitting the royalties, but it is still wide) and comes with a buy-out option. https://blog.findawayvoices.com/voices-share/

2) Choose a narrator

Audiobooks are basically theatrical productions for the ear alone, which means your narrator needs to be able to do a lot of voices and emotions. To gauge whether a narrator is right for your project, you upload an audition script for narrators to perform. You only have 2-3 pages for your audition script (so about 5 minutes of audio), so choose your script carefully. Don’t just take the first few pages of your book. Choose two to three scenes that include your main characters and any other characters who are particularly important. Choose scenes with a range of emotions portrayed. You need to get a feel for how well the narrator “acts.”

When you set up your project, ACX will ask you about your narrator preferences.
a) Do you want a male or female narrator? Or both?

b) What kind of accent? General American? Scottish? Cockney? Southern US? There are a whole host of accents to choose from, and this can be intimidating. If you need help, you can open another browser tab, go to ACX’s narrators page and do a narrator search using the different options (different accent or voice style, for example). Narrator voice samples will come up, and you can listen to those to get an idea of what that accent type sounds like. You might also find a narrator you really like.  https://www.acx.com/ss

c) Voice style and age? What kind of voice do you want? A refined voice? A rough voice? Flirty? Cynical? Very young? Old?

Once you’ve made those decisions and posted your audition script (for ACX, Findaway will suggest narrators), wait while narrator create and upload auditions. Listen to those and contact the narrator you want to work with. Finalize details, including the Per Finished Hour rate, then sign the contract. I started out on ACX Royalty Share, but decided to ask the narrator I wanted to work with what her PFH rate was. While she was very talented, she was new to audiobooks and so had a lower rate. I offered to pay her upfront, and she agreed, and the book was switched to Per for Production. So you can switch methods from what you originally said, if your narrator agrees.

3) Set a timeline and be patient and wait for uploads

You will need to set a date for the narrator to upload the first 15 minutes for your approval. Talk with them about how long it takes. Don’t rush them, since you want a quality product. Once you’re approved the first 15 minutes, the narrator will start working on the rest and upload it chapter by chapter.

4) Be flexible and considerate of  your narrator’s time and effort

Have you ever written out a speech word for word and practiced and practiced it, and when you delivered it, you ended up speaking freely and changing up the words a bit? Well, some audiobook narrators will do that too. As I’ve listened to my chapters while reading along in my book, I’ve noticed some of those little words editors tend to cut but that we use in speech tend to get put back in. The meaning hasn’t changed, but it isn’t exactly word-for-word. Sometimes, narrators may accidently switch a word or two to something else, especially if they are working quickly for a fast turn-around time. Before you get upset, ask if it’s worth mentioning. Does it change the meaning substantially? If not, then it might be best to ignore.

Some narrators may be able to go in and change a word or two without re-recording, others might not without it sounding unnatural. Forcing them to re-record a twenty-five chapter over one word or two may not be worth it in the long run. Be gracious, but also be firm on what is really important. Look up the policies for what you can expect in the way of redos if you have significant issues. But do make sure you listen to all the chapters and make that the chapters uploaded in order.

5) Upload an audiobook cover 

This is not the same as your ebook or print cover. These are square covers about 2400 by 2400 pixels. Check the cover requirements and talk to your cover designer about getting your ebook/print book cover formatted for audiobook. If you can’t get that done, you might consider using a place like fiverr to get a cheap cover done. It won’t match, but not all do. ACX doesn’t like you to just put your vertically designed ebook cover on top of a square background either.

6) Finalize 

When you have all the chapters and the cover, accept the finished product, and pay and/or sign final papers.

7) Market

ACX and Findaway have advice on how to market. Check those out and get to work (especially if you used a Royalty Share option).

Do you like listening to audiobooks? I’ve only listened to a few, mostly non-fiction, but I am loving my narrator’s production of The Rose and the Wand. So I might have to start listening to more fiction audiobooks. Do you think you’ll get one done? If you have an audiobook? How was your experience? Any tips?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Weekend Reads: Shadow Light by Sarah Delena White (Laurie)

Welcome to this week's edition of Weekend Reads! And to the blog tour for Shadow Light by Sarah Delena White! I'm excited to share about this brand new fairy tale, which just released on March 31st!

In Shadow Light, the world is under attack by shadow creatures seeking to rid the world of light. Aeric, who wields the sun and brings day each morning, fights the creatures relentlessly but can't win the battle alone. He seeks out Layla, who has charge of the moon and stars but hides in a remote tower after the people rejected her. Aeric slowly draws Layla from her seclusion, but even when they fight together, the loyalties of the people they desire to save are fickle and the darkness is more powerful than they could've imagined. Can Day and Night overcome their doubts and insecurities to bring light and hope back into the world?

Shadow Light is described as a short fairy tale, and it really is! I finished it in a little over an hour. Its feel is much more like a fable or a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen than a modern fairy tale retelling. The narrative was told in an allegorical way from an omniscient point of view, which gives it the sense of being told a story rather than experiencing one. I'll admit that I wouldn't typically consider most of these items selling points, but in this case the writing is beautiful and the storytelling is really well executed, which makes all the difference! The personifications of day and night are creatively handled, the descriptions are lush and vivid, and the message of light and love conquering darkness is a reminder we could all use right now. Plus, did you check out that amazing cover?!

I'd recommend Shadow Light for fans of lyrical prose and classic fairy tales looking for a quick read! You can find it on Goodreads and Amazon.

And here's a little more about the lovely author (you may remember her from past visits to Lands Uncharted, in which she shared this post about her Top 3 Faeries to Meet in Halayda and this behind-the-scenes post about unconventional families in her books)!

Sarah Delena White was raised by wolves in an alternate dimension. She writes eclectic speculative fiction that reworks mythology with a fine balance of poetry and snark. She's an experienced world traveler who loves to weave world folklore and ancient concepts into vibrant, original story worlds. She is the administrative manager for Uncommon Universes Press. When she's not writing, she can be found making elegant designer bead jewelry, traveling to festivals as a professional ballad singer, drinking tea, and seeking to create the perfect latte. She can be bribed with dark chocolate.

Find out more about Sarah (and follow the rest of the Shadow Light blog tour!) by connecting with her on her Website, Facebook, Reader Group, or Instagram.

Congratulations on your new release, Sarah, and have a great weekend everyone!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Sneak Peek of Heartbreaker (Heartmender #2) !!! (Vanessa)

I am SO excited to be sharing a Story Snippet with you all that includes a sneak peek of Heartbreaker, book two in the Heartmender trilogy! The prologue picks up right after Addie ran through Schism's red door and what happened to her home land of Barracks.

Heartbreaker comes out September 2020. I hope you enjoy!

            The blood-red door slammed shut as the first Reigner traded their heart away. The usual cool weather plummeted to a frigid chill. Damien frowned, crossing his arms over his chest as the crowd buzzed around him, thick with anticipation and desire. Something wasn’t right.
           "You, stupid humans!" the vendor, Schism Breaker, laughed as his fingers elongated into midnight claws. His skin stretched as his limbs transformed; a horrid creature with red eyes and decrepit wings soon took the place of the beloved vendor. "It's time for a new reign in this dismal realm."
            Before anyone could react, Schism attacked.  Bodies flew through the air, striking buildings and crashing limp onto the cobblestone streets. The crowd exploded into screams of terror and panic, scattering away from the popular vendor.     
            Damien’s arms fell limp as he stepped back, but his mind was clear.   He knew something like this would happen. Turning  to his lady  on his right, he placed a hand on her cheek, his forehead touching hers before he whispered, “Run.”
With her eyes wide with fear, she threw her thin arms around his neck, squeezing him tight before sprinting away from the chaos. Damien ran behind her, glancing over his shoulder to make sure the creatures stayed away until she was far from the market. Relief lifted Damien’s shoulders as her Small form disappeared between the trees, safe from the slaughter.
The cracking of bones snapped his attention back to the market and he rushed to the blacksmith forge, knowing Gladio had weapons somewhere. Every spring he would visit the old blacksmith to buy a new dagger for his collection. 
            Streams of people swarmed around him, screaming and pointing in horror. Damien stopped and turned. This time he did panic. The odor of decaying flesh filled the air as a flood of sickly-looking beasts poured through the red doors. Their elongated limbs and gray skin were grotesque, but the moans coming from their sewn lips made Damien’s knees weak. Bile rose to the back of his throat as they ingested the blood of people. His people.
            Forcing himself to move faster, Damien pushed the terrified citizens of Barracks out of the way, commanding them to hide or escape into Wintertide.
Jumping over the fallen displays of the once-jovial festival, he arrived at the forge. Damien froze as he saw the blacksmith’s apprentice, Silas, bending over Gladio’s portly body. The blacksmith’s vibrant olive-tone flesh was dull and lifeless.
            “What happened to him?” Damien gasped, barreling toward the apprentice.
            Silas stared back at Damien, his face blank, but his eyes dilated, filling with horror. “I—” he began before sprinting out of the forge.
            “Wait!” Damien cried, reaching out, trying to stop the apprentice. “Wait, I need your—”
Silas’s blond locks disappeared among the chaos and Damien lowered his hand. It was too late. He was already gone.
            Fury boiled in Damien’s chest as he turned back to the deceased blacksmith. He closed Gladio’s eyes then covered him in a canvas. Anger churned his stomach as Damien ran to the opposite end of the forge. How could his apprentice leave the kind blacksmith in such a dishonorable way? His eyes landed on a wall of gleaming knives. The apprentice may be a coward, but he, Damien, would fight for his people.
Grabbing as many as he could, Damien armed his body with every knife he could find. The screams of the massacre outside sent his hands in a fury as he strapped the knives onto his belt and held a different dagger in each hand.
            Rushing out of the forge, Damien sprinted through the streets, the metallic stench of blood weighing heavily in the icy air. Grasping a knife in each hand, Damien lunged at the gray creature chasing young Willy Travis. The poor child was only seven.
He stabbed each knife in a different location, retracted them, then tried a knife in the creature’s head and stomach until the beast’s limbs went limp and it fell forward, squashing little Willy. Damien’s chest heaved as he pulled Willy out from beneath the monster. Thankfully, the boy had nothing more than a few scratches.
“Run to Wintertide and hide,” Damien commanded.
With wide eyes and tear-stained cheeks, Willy nodded and took off.
Deep moans ricocheted off the broken displays as the creatures preyed upon the people of his home. But the weakness Damien felt before was gone, a cool, burning rage replacing it. He wouldn’t allow these monsters to kill the people who had helped him when his father wouldn’t. Though it had taken him several tries to kill one beast, he was ready to destroy the rest.
            With a cry, Damien ran toward the center of the market, daggers still in each hand, and tackled the first monster he saw. He pierced the knives anywhere he saw gray skin. Sweat dripped from his brow, and his arms strained after multiple strikes, but he continued from one creature to the next.
Grabbing one of the knives on his belt, Damien flung it at a monster pulling Old Man Chank through the crowd. The bronze hilt protruded from between the soulless black eyes of the creature and it crumpled to the ground. Old Man Chank almost fainted but was caught by Chandra Dunkis, one of the seamstresses from the market. The two scrambled toward the white birch trees of Wintertide.
Wiping the sweat from his forehead, Damien narrowed his eyes as he scanned the chaos. Though the monsters were attacking many people, there were some that they were didn’t kill. Damien’s heart fell to his stomach as the headmaster was pulled by his legs by two monsters. What did they want with him?
Damien turned, ready to stab the next creature trying to kill or capture, when his eyes landed on an angel in the chaos. Blonde hair flowed from her head as she glided through the horrific battle.
            “What do we have here?” Her voice danced over him like freshly fallen snow. She lifted a hand, and the monster to his right ceased its attack. “A hero among the cowards?”
            “If you’re not a hero, then what are you?” She smiled sensuously at him, her lips as red as the blood staining the ground.
            Damien had seen such a look many times before. He had not been swayed by it then, and he certainly wouldn’t be swayed by it now.
            “Nothing you would like, madam.” He held his knives pointedly at the woman, suddenly thankful for all those hours of lessons.
            The woman let out a sultry laugh, sending Damien’s nerves on end. Yes, his judgment about this one had been correct.
            The woman stroked the yellow stone on her necklace, a staticky sound popping from the jewel, before she pointed her slender finger at him. An electric-blue light zinged through her skin at his body. He held his stance and smirked when nothing happened.
            “Interesting,” the woman mused, studying her fingertips. “I can’t harm you.”
            “Don’t you hate it when that happens?”
            The woman pursed her lips. The playful tone of her voice fleeing as she tapped her small chin. “There must be something else.”
             Her eyes darted behind Damien and a vicious grin split her face. With a flick of her wrist, a group of monsters groaned before sprinting away. Damien tried to follow when his legs were swept out from under him. Groaning, he quickly spun over his shoulder and lodged his dagger in the face of the creature trying to stop him. It hissed as black blood dripped from its wound on to Damien’s face. Damien threw the monster off of him and got back up, only to be hit by more creatures.
Damien stabbed and punched as many as he could, but they kept coming. His eyes searched for the other group of monsters that had gotten away. He had to stop the beasts. He couldn’t let the creatures find them.
            With a yell, Damien simultaneously pierced two monsters in the back of the head before breaking free of the pack. His feet flew across the snowy ground, trying to catch up with the first group of monsters, but it was too late. The woman pointed the creatures straight toward the direction of the people he valued most dear. High-pitched screams echoed against the gray clouds and Damien fell to his knees, allowing the monsters to pile on top of him. He sobbed as the creatures killed them, one by one. And he would be next.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Weekend Reads: Brine and Bone by Kate Stradling (Sarah)

I’m a huge fan of fairy tale inspired stories and retellings. That said, The Little Mermaid has never ranked among my favorite tales. While the themes are meaningful, the plight of the mermaid in the original tale is a tragic one. And I’ve only ever seen bits and pieces of the Disney movie, perhaps the most well-known variant of the story.

So it’s saying a lot that I actually picked up Brine and Bone, Kate Stradling’s version of The Little Mermaid—and that I ended up thoroughly enjoying it! Brine and Bone offers a hope-infused retelling with an original stamp that still remains true to the key elements of Andersen’s tale.

Instead of a mermaid protagonist, Stradling presents Magdelina, a healing magician with a prickly personality, who has known and loved the prince since childhood, but harbors no hope of him ever returning her affection. When he disappears at sea, the kingdom goes into mourning.

After all expectation of his recovery is lost, Magdelina finds the prince washed up on shore and helps restore him back to health. But she soon discovers there’s a mystery surrounding his survival, one that may threaten him still. When an enchanting newcomer appears at the palace, her suspicions are roused, and she’s determined to protect her friend from the snare laid for him. But how, with dark and powerful magic arrayed against her?

The mermaid in this tale far more closely resembles that of classic folklore than the enchanting mer-creatures featured by Disney. She’s an eerie, at times even frightening figure, but one that in the end wins some sympathy. She has her own redemptive road to travel—or not—as she chooses, right alongside Magdelina.

While only novella length, the story grapples with the concepts of love, immortality, and sacrifice. And it all winds together in a satisfying way, touched by sorrow, yet on the whole uplifting.

Are you a Little Mermaid fan? Do you have any retellings you’d recommend?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Writer's Life: Dress for Success (Or Yes, I am Wearing Pants)

My typical fall through spring attire

City Girl Interrupted

This is not only a Writer's Life but also a life-life post. Over the past couple of weeks, many of you became sudden teleworkers.
That was my story nearly twelve years ago. My husband took a new job in a small town just as the economy was about to do a nosedive. Suddenly this city girl was the mom of a preschooler and newborn over 3 hours from the nearest office. The day I came back from maternity leave, I began the process of becoming a remote worker.
What does that have to do with writing? Well, my writing journey began about three years after our move.
By the time I began writing, I had the discipline of working from home and thinking of myself as a professional writer (even if I wasn't published) was an easy transition.
So let's talk about how to take your writing seriously, and it starts with your shirt.

Cliches Abound

There are so many cliches and stereotypes of remote workers and that are applied to writers as well.
The whole unshaven teleworker in grubby sweats image has been around since my first job in the mid-90s when I was a remote worker in the nascent days of laptops and the internet, back when we had dial-up modems.
It's partial truth that needs to disappear or at least be re-imagined.

Dress for Success

This afternoon ironing button-downs and not just as an excuse to binge on Anne with an E. Most days I wear button-down shirts to work although I rarely leave my home office, even before COVID-19 and social distancing.
I get up and get ready each morning like I have to go to an office. Over the past 12 years, I've become more diligent about this because I realized dressing nicely gives me confidence, and the routine of "going to the office" makes me more efficient at work. Writers, this applies to you too. They say to dress for the job you want. Obviously, writers don't necessarily have to "dress up" for their writing days, but there are book signings, interviews, teaching at conferences, etc. Professional authors, are well, professionals and on occasion have to dress professionally. If you want to be a professional writer, entering the mindset by donning the uniform can be a good start.

There Are Exceptions

That isn't to say, if you dropped in on me, I'd be dressed. I live in the western U.S. and some days I don't get around to showering until the afternoon. I work with team members and clients who are Back East and up to three hours ahead of me. Depending on my meeting schedule, I occasionally start my day before my kids are on the bus and don't have a good break until well after lunch. And sometimes, especially in the summer, I don't bother taking a shower until I've gone for a run.

How else would I have my "how I scared away the religion peddlers" story? It's one of my favorites. A few years ago, I was having a busy day and still in pajamas in the afternoon, not just any pajamas but Hello Kitty with fuzzy bottoms pajamas. The doorbell rang and assuming it was a package, I answered the door to proselytizers. They haven't been back...

How I Do It

I pretty much dress casual Friday style with jeans and a button-down and real shoes (Converse, Pumas, Doc Marten Boots, other cute but comfortable boots or shoes).  In the summer, I have to admit I mostly wear geeky T-shirts and denim shorts; in the winter, especially when I'm behind on ironing, I wear a fair number of long-sleeved t-shirt. Starting this year, I'm planning on phasing out my super-casual summer clothes and opting for more tops and pants, tunics and leggings, and comfortable dresses.

I have embraced this because I am a professional and dressing like one helps me "get into character". The same goes for my writing life too. Although, since most of my writing is at night, I see a lot more pajama time during my writing hours.

Does how you dress help you "get into character" for roles in your life?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Weekend Reads: The Mapmaker's Daughter (Katie)

Weekend Reads (Katie) and a vlog!

Hi everyone! I'm excited to bring you another vlog from Katie's Thoughtful Spot, (1-2 minute videos where I talk about books!), in which I'm featuring a book for St. Patrick's Day.

You can see which book I'm referencing below, and I hope you'll check out my vlog to hear my thoughts about it!

The Mapmaker's Daughter by Joanna Emerson

A Steampunk Novel
Winner of the 2018 Realm Makers Award for YA Fiction

The Potato Famine is almost a decade behind young airship builder, Paddy O'Brien, but its effects still haunt him.

Then he finds his mother dead in the garden. But he has no time to investigate her murder, because a refugee falls from a strange airship, practically into his arms.

How did a gorgeous Asian woman ended up on the south coast of Ireland? Under usual circumstances, her company would be more than welcome. But she's being pursued by pirates, and Paddy's been drafted into a militia. These are anything but usual circumstances.

***Please let me know how I can pray for you during this stressful time. I am more than happy to do so, and I'll be checking in throughout the week. {{{HUGS}}}

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Story Snippets - Meet Mathias (Kimberly)

Hi everyone! I'm excited to share my first Story Snippets with y'all where we meet one of my favorite leading men, Mathias from the Rogue Spotter series. The first book, Threats by Numbers, was so much fun because it was my first time writing a sweet but electrifying pairing and Lauren was a very different heroine for me as an introvert who survives by hiding her true nature. While Mathias is this giant lightning rod for danger, lol. He also makes an unforgettable first impression as you're about to see. Enjoy! 

Picking up the phone from its cradle, I dialed the number for Sally's Savory Salmon. Despite the alliterative naming penchant, Sally's was one of the best catering businesses for local paranormals. Sally and Samson were pixies which meant they not only knew how to cater to our clients' tastes, they were also very good in situations like these when we couldn't call in the order until as late as possible. Any meeting involving a Coyote trickster required last minute arrangements to prevent further inciting incidents.
A gravelly voice answered, "Sally's Savory Salmon, whatcha want?"
"Hi, this is Lauren at Halliman's. I'm calling to arrange catering for a lunch meeting between two parties." My nerves steadied as I launched into the regular spiel. A lunch between Miriam our best relocator and the chief of the local Saquatch clan was normally easy to handle, but the topic of today's meeting made things tricky. No pun intended. The Sasquatch clan was appealing to Halliman's to have a Coyote trickster's pet Shunka Warakin removed since he kept letting it escape into their land. Given how particular Sasquatches were about their diets, we couldn't risk the trickster calling in any changes to the chief's wild caught fish and veggies. Not if we wanted to prevent the Sasquatches from going to war with the entire trickster clan, something that could quickly spread from Olympia to Seattle to the whole Pacific Northwest. A PR nightmare.
I started rattling off the order only to be told to wait right before I was put on hold. I listened to the eerie music playing before deciding it was whale calls intermixed with the occasional sea monster. The sound of voices coming from the hall directly to the left of my station caught my attention, and I lowered the phone slightly as I looked. I hadn't realized anyone was in the meeting rooms. Perhaps it was a budget meeting for the accountants we shared the floor with . . .
I put the phone back to my ear. Still on hold. Then, a delicious sound caught my ear. A British accent. No one at Halliman's had a British accent, much less a particularly delicious one. Curiosity made me look up again as the voice, male but not too old or too young sounding, came again. "The cameras will be replaced tomorrow and the rest of the updates to the lower floors shall be carried out in time to be operational Monday, Mr. Halliman."
Mr. Halliman's voice I recognized even as he came around the corner nodding and looking rather pleased. "Good, good. I knew you would be an excellent addition."
His words faded to a shrill ringing in my ears as I stared at his companion. He was long and lean, towering over Mr. Halliman who wasn't much taller than my own five-foot-two, with an air of classical handsomeness. I could see why Beth and the other girls called him a hottie, but that wasn't why I stared. Above his light brown hair floated a number I had never seen before, a 10 that seemed to blaze with searing heat.
I jumped when the phone hit the desk with a clatter. I glanced at the phone and then back up. Mr. Halliman and the man were both staring at me. I could feel my cheeks warming as I hurriedly mumbled an apology and picked the phone back up. The whales were still singing. 
"Miss Hope."
I jumped again, almost dropping the phone a second time, as I realized the men were now standing by my desk. I met Mr. Halliman's concerned gaze and forced a smile. "Yes sir?"
"Have a puppy brought to Miriam's meeting. It will smooth things over."
"Yes sir, right away."
Feeling watched, I hesitantly peeked up only to freeze under blue-green eyes that looked more green than blue at the moment. They were piercing and considering as he studied me with an intensity that made my muscles tense with the urge to flee.
I quickly looked down again and prayed he couldn't hear how hard my heart was pounding. Everything in me screamed at me to run, but I forced myself to stay perfectly still in the chair. Mr. Halliman and Mr. 10 entered the lobby, their footsteps loud against the marble floor, as they headed for the elevator. But not before Mr. 10 stopped in front of the statue of Hermes positioned in our lobby. I tore my eyes away from him and stared unseeing at my notepad. It was all I could do to sound normal when Sally herself got on the phone. My mind whirled with one question. Did he know what I was?