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Not Feeling the #MondayMotivation

It’s been three weeks since I posted on the blog and I’m feeling the pressure from my boss…yes, me.

I’m not particularly inspired.

Normally by this time I could throw up some photos of my beautiful garden. Sigh. We’ve had cold, rainy weather and my garden is just starting to appear…

My birthday came and went, but that’s not really blog material.

I harvested my fava beans and thought about posting about fava beans like I did with the scarlet runners last fall…but I lost inspiration.

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I even started a post about Prescription Farmshares–have you heard of those? Where CSAs or other small farms provide fresh produce and the doctor actually writes a prescription for healthy food? But, alas, didn’t finish that one either.

I also got a new piece of technology recently and have been spending time figuring out if I’ll be able to utilize its full potential. An iPad Pro with pencil. Maybe that will be a future post.

For whatever reason, I’ve fallen off the writing wagon again, both with the book and the blog. Hard to get back on.

So for now, I’m checking in to let you know I’m still here and waiting for inspiration. In the meantime, here are some cute pictures of baby skunks we had for a week after “mom” was accidentally live-trapped and released before we knew she had a family. We subsequently deposited them to a wildlife rehabilitation center. I miss them.

Over and out.

S.

 

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Review of Green-Light Your Book by Brooke Warner

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In April I attended the IBPA PubU in Portland. More about that event here.  Included in our free tote bag with the regular goodies of pens, notepads, etc., was the book, Green-Light Your Book by Brooke Warner of She Writes Press.

I read the book pretty quickly, but unfortunately didn’t write the review right away. As I look through it now, checking my underlines and attempting to write this review, I realize I could write several pages, much too long for a blog post. I’ll do my best to condense.

First, I really enjoyed Green-Light. Although it seemed meant for the person who has just finished their first manuscript and is still “waiting to be published,” as someone who’s already published several novels, I still found Green-Light to be thought-provoking, inspiring, and contain some useful info (for example, the section on the advantage of forming an LLC).

Anyone who has been involved in or followed the publishing movement for the past ten years knows the landscape has changed drastically. “Self-publishing” is not what it used to be and neither is traditional publishing.

I heartily agree with Warner’s assertion that discrimination toward self-publishing exists in review outlets, contests, and associations. I would personally add some (not all) bookstores and school organizations. For example, the Oregon Battle of the Books handbook lists as criteria for book selection: books must be “published by a recognized, mainstream publisher (no self-published titles will be considered).” Very disheartening considering many students and teachers have told me Treasure would be great for OBOB.

We must, Warner says, write letters to these discriminatory organizations to change the rules. What matters is not who pays to have the work published, but the work itself. Amen to that.

At the same time, I find it odd that Warner advocates “playing by the rules” in other instances, such as making your paperback books “returnable.” Even after discussing how devastating returned books are for a small publisher and that the practice is a holdover from the Great Depression, she recommends not marking your book as nonreturnable, calling it the “kiss of death,” because no bookstore will touch it and “you’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing.” I think we need to go with advice from earlier in the book and set about changing the rules on this practice.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and hopefully I’ll go back and try some of the things that were new to me. However, I must note that it is written from the perspective of traditional- publisher-turned-Indie. Plenty of totally Indie author/publishers make good money without playing by the rules.

That being said, this is a great book for those aspiring authors huddled over their manuscripts, carefully querying agents day after day, week after week, year after year. If you truly believe in your work, say to yourself, as Warner says on page 41, I deserve to be published. My work is worthy. Then go out there and do it.

You might want to pick up a copy of Green-Light Your Book while you’re at it.

C1cg0H2FBnS._UX250_S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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6 Audiobooks for Kids

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With summer approaching, parents and teachers might be wondering what they can do to lessen summer slide, or the learning loss that occurs when not in school.

Keeping the mind engaged by reading books has always been a great answer, but what about audiobooks, do they count as real reading or is that “cheating”? In fact, it’s not. Audiobooks have long been known to be beneficial to children with dyslexia and second language learners.

In fact, Audiobooks are great for all readers. This article lists the many benefits. And if you are looking for scholarly research on the subject, this article summarizes the powerful impact on literacy gained from simply listening to books.

Where to find audiobooks? Libraries are a great source. Audible has also made it easy.

I’d like to share with you now six audiobooks that are appropriate for the entire family. Remember, you can go to the book’s site on Audible and listen to a sample and read more reviews and descriptions to make sure it’s right for you!

Without further ado:

1.Treasure (Seed Savers, 1) by S. Smith: Perfect for summer, Treasure takes place in a future where gardening is illegal and real food practically unknown. Three children learn about seeds and gardening and begin a quest to find a place of food freedom. Find out more.

2.Dragon’s Future (Dragon’s Courage, 1) by Kandi J. Wyatt: As the title implies, this one is for all the dragon lovers out there. Find out more.

3.The Candle Star (Divided Decade Trilogy) by Michelle Isenhoff: Looking for historical fiction? Civil War era. Find out more.

4.Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by D. Robert Pease: A science fiction time travel adventure. Find out more.

5. Beggar Magic by H.L. Burke: Fantasy filled with magic and music. Find out more.

6. Leandra’s Enchanted Flute by Katy Huth Jones: A teen battling cancer enters a magical world where she battles evil with the help of her enchanted flute. Find out more.

Authors and readers, please feel free to add other suggestions in the comment area below. This list is for family friendly audiobooks only. Thank you!

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Treasure on Audio

It occurs to me that although I mentioned in my last post (the interview with Treasure‘s narrator) that Treasure had just been released on audio, I had no official announcement post. So here it is.

Drum roll, throat clearing: The first book in my Seed Savers series–Treasure–is now available as an audiobook!! Yay! Treasure can be downloaded from Treasure’s Amazon page, iTunes, and of course, Audible.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, Seed Savers takes place in a not-so-distant future where gardening is illegal and real food is forgotten by the younger generations. Treasure begins with three children trying to figure out the connection between seeds and food. The story is perfect for families who love gardening, or for schools and clubs with gardens. It’s also just a fun adventure story that offers up important questions to think about.

Here are what readers have said about Treasure and the other Seed Savers books:

“It’s fast moving and interesting, with a zippy and action-filled plot.  There’s also a lot of good information presented in a clear and nonpreachy fashion.  It’s a great way to open up discussions with your kids, and you’ll come away learning something, too.” – Willamette Woman Magazine

“In this future, dystopian world, there is no need to worry about post-apocalyptic warfare and violence. The problem is much more subtle in this original and clever story.” – Mother Daughter Book Reviews

“Everyone should read this book.  Especially if they aren’t sure how the food in their stores comes to be there.” – Jemima Pett,  author of The Princelings of the East Series

Seed Savers is a wonderfully written tale about the underground operation against a government that outlaws growing your own food. My 3rd grader loved this story, where the children are brave protagonists against the government agency GRIM and laughed out loud at some of the humorous exchanges between the kids. – Amazon review

My 10 yr old daughter says this series is the best she has ever read. She hopes volume 5 will be out soon. She said when she was finished reading this last book she felt like throwing a fit because she couldn’t read another in the series. My daughter is an avid reader and has never thrown a fit or said she had ever wanted to until she finished this book. Hope there are more to come in this series. –Amazon review

LISTEN TO TREASURE NOW

If you’d like a chance to download Treasure for free from Audible, please leave a comment below. This is in exchange for a review of the audiobook. Thanks!

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Interview with Julia Farmer, Narrator for Treasure

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Available now on Audible, coming soon to Amazon & iTunes!

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Julia Farmer, the narrator for Treasure’s audiobook. Julia is based in Chicago and has narrated over twenty audiobooks through Actors Audio and Publishing / Cerny American Creative. She also lends her voice to television and radio commercials and is the voice of Sarita in the Walking Dead: Season 2 video game.

 Q: Julia, I’m very excited to have you be the voice for Treasure. How did you get started as a voice artist?

A:  Thank you, Sandy!  I grew up doing theater and writing, and have always been an avid video game fan as it brings both cinema and storytelling together in a truly immersive experience for the player/audience.  Looking into the video game industry, I had an inkling that voice over might be for me, so I took a few workshops in Chicago.  It was in one of these workshops that I met the owner of the studio we were using, JoBe Cerny, best known as the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy.  He saw potential in me, helped me produce a demo, and walked me into an agency where I was signed right away.  I couldn’t have imagined that things would happen so quickly — and a couple years later my big dream came true when I got an actual video game role, as Sarita in The Walking Dead: Season 2.

Q: That’s so exciting! Of the projects you do–voice over, video characters, audiobooks–which do you find most challenging?

A:  Each type of gig has its own challenges.  With commercials, you’re most often working within a very limited time frame – 15, 30, or 60 seconds – for maximal effect.  The clients are extremely particular about wording and nuance, and getting all of the copy to fit within the length of the commercial.  You have to be able to take direction and adjust on the fly.  In the case of video games, where scripts are closely guarded, you are usually only allowed to see your own lines and maybe a few others before or after for context – it’s like driving through a fog – and it’s up to the director to describe the situation and get the best performance out of you.  Then there are the long sessions recording various sound effects – running, fighting, crying, even screaming, which can be very taxing, vocally.
Speaking of long vocal sessions – how about them audiobooks?  Reading aloud for hours upon hours a day definitely requires vocal endurance.  At the same time, you have to make sure that you’re keeping your read fresh so that the listeners stay engaged, and that you keep all of your character voices distinct and consistent, across ages, accents, and genders (having to do multiple male voices within one book is particularly a challenge).

Q: Speaking of multiple characters, how do you decide the way to make each voice distinct, or is it that important? How do you keep the voices straight?

A: My producers and I have talked about this often.  With sound effects and ensemble casts, any novel can be turned into a theatrical radio drama – but when an audiobook is 7-plus hours long, it can be exhausting for the listener to keep up (compare that to epic films stretching to 3 or 4 hours, or watching a film trilogy or tv show in a marathon – even if you break it up into sessions, it’s still a bit of an ordeal).  It’s my belief that audiobooks are more pleasant to listen to when the narration and characters are modulated in order to give the listener’s imagination room to stretch and breathe.  Also, if they’ve already read the book, they’re sure to have their own ideas of what the characters sound like, so I do my best not to push too hard in any one direction.  I’ll try to make each character distinct to a certain degree in tone, but it’s mostly a matter of attitude.  Keeping the voices straight *can* be difficult, but so long as I can hook into the right attitude for each character, it’s easier to switch between them.

Q: The attitude; very interesting.

I found you through the audition process on ACX. Was it you or your producer who saw and responded to the audition script for Treasure? What made you (or them) choose to audition for Treasure?

A:  My producers and I are always keeping track of ACX for any projects that look fun and interesting.  One of the producers spotted Treasure and brought it to my attention.  Young adult fiction is a favorite of mine, but what makes Treasure extra special is the educational focus.  I’m a foodie who lives in the city, and I know how removed we can get from the food we eat – where it comes from and how it’s produced.  We’ve got an area in our local zoo dedicated to farm animals and farm life because so many urban kids, during their youth, may otherwise have no way of obtaining any tangible experience of farm life.  That’s a very curious thing to me.  I also work with a volunteer organization that partners with our local organic city farm, allowing folks to come in and help with weeding, harvesting, and bundling crops, and tending to egg-laying chickens.  The produce is sold to various restaurants in the area, and at an on-site market stand to members of the community who may not be able to purchase fresh organic produce (or at such a variety) through other stores.  It’s been a wonderful experience for me and I’ve become keenly interested in the idea of urban agriculture.  Long story short: Treasure has an important story to tell, and tells it in a way that is exciting and empowering to young people — I was (and am) very excited about the series!

Q: Thanks, Julia! You’ve done a fantastic job. I’m sure it helps when the narrator feels a connection to the book they’re narrating. Aside from YA fiction being a favorite, what other genres do you enjoy narrating? Is there something you look for?

A:  I am a huge mystery and espionage buff!  Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie’s anti-Sherlock), anything by John Le Carre…  I wish there were more great female detectives available to narrate.  Other than that, I’m all about sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult books with complex characters striving to become more than who they are at the outset.  I want to read about everyday people becoming heroes!

Q: What is your advice for someone who wants to become an audiobook narrator?

A:  Read out loud!  Whatever you’re reading: a web article, the news, a novel, etc. — read it out loud, pay attention to when your energy starts to flag or your tone goes flat or you slur words or stumble over the tongue-twisters.  Build up your vocal endurance.  Record yourself and listen at another time when your ears are fresh.  Look for workshops in your area, or perhaps online, so you can get feedback from others.  Beyond that, build relationships with local audio engineers and studios who can record you with high-quality equipment.  It will give you a professional edge that a lot of narrators starting from home just won’t have.  Oh, and get some good sleep and stay hydrated!  As much as I love my coffee with cream – I have to advise keeping away from the caffeine and dairy when you’re going on-mic because it mucks up your voice.

Q: That’s great advice. Do you have advice for authors seeking narrators?

A:  With the internet, it’s so easy for anyone to get out there – as narrators and as authors.  With such an in-flux of people, it can be difficult to find real quality.  A narrator should be able to offer numerous samples of their work to showcase their strengths and their versatility.  I also support professional sound – the greatest voice in the world still won’t cut it if the book is recorded in a noisy environment, at inconsistent or inadequate sound levels, with sloppy editing.  It should be seamless, so the focus remains anchored firmly in the story being told.  Make sure the narrator has acting chops, and access to professional-level audio mastering.

*Bonus Question: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

A: Can I claim spumoni even though it’s a three-in-one?  I am always on the look-out for a true pistachio custard, along with great real cherry and chocolate scoops.  It’s such a luxury!

 That does sound like a luxury! Yum!

 Julia and I have recently finished working together on Treasure. For me, at least, it’s been a great experience. Treasure received many terrific auditions. I chose Julia because of her youthful voice, excellent pacing, backlog of work, and what I believed would be her ability for versatility. Also because the recording studio offered quality sound.

 Thanks, Julia!

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Julia Farmer, Voice Artist

DON’T FORGET TO DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY OF TREASURE, THE AUDIOBOOK HERE! 🙂

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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#EarthDay Matters

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Today is Earth Day. Established in 1970 and paid tribute to in some way each year since, never before has it seemed as important as now. For the first time, scientists are banding together to “March for Science” on Earth Day. One wonders how, in the year 2017, we got to a place where scientists feel threatened, but that’s another post.

Today, as I see pictures of people gathering around the country and the globe, I can’t help but think of the little book series I’ve been working on since 2010. Two days ago I returned from a week in the woods spent working on the final book of the series.

In Seed Savers, ordinary people have lost their right to garden. They’ve lost access to real food; instead, the government takes care of everyone with their highly efficient, manufactured Food Groups. The EPA has ceased to exist as corporate agriculture and government have merged. Communication in the new technological age is restricted in order to keep people safe.

But the resistance is growing. In the fourth book, Keeper, what begin as Earth Day rallies, soon turn into protests about the food laws. State governments are beginning to pass their own bills allowing the freedom to plant gardens. A sleeping public is demanding more.

I hope, in fact, that the future in my books never takes place. I hope we all stand up and make our voices heard before it’s too late.

There are a lot of things that constitute earth care. The water, the trees, the atmosphere, the soil. My thing happens to be our food supply. So if you can, get out there and garden. Garden like you mean it.

HAPPY EARTH DAY 2017! I think our planet is great. 🙂

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S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Expect the Unexpected

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The doll she made to match the character in her book.

This weekend my hubby and I took the train up to spend time with family for Easter. After the weekend I’m taking a few days off to get back to my writing. Which means I shouldn’t be thinking about social media now, just writing the book.

But I had the most extraordinary experience on the short ride up here. And it’s not like similar things haven’t happened before…but I tend to forget. I tend to forget to expect the unexpected.

I tell myself a lot of things, and then I ignore them. What I mean is, I have ideas, inspirations, thoughts of things I should do. Then when the time comes to carry through, I shrug it off. “Nah, that was dumb; Or, too much trouble; Or, there are more important things to focus on.” Case in point: Before the train trip I was thinking of what I could do as an AUTHOR on the train. If you read my last post you know I recently returned from a wonderful writing/publishing conference and am on fire about it. I am also reading a terrific book by Brooke Warner called Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing. I’m trying to have confidence in myself as a writer and publisher. Own it, as Brooke says.

So a day or so before we left on the train, I had this idea to take my first Seed Savers book and put a sticker on it letting people know they were free to read the book and pass it on, and then I’d  leave the book on the train. Maybe put some hashtag on it like #bookonthetrain and encourage whoever reads it to let me know. Something along those lines.

Then I wigged out. I didn’t bring even one of my books with me. Sigh.

So what happened? I ended up sharing a table in the lounge car with a girl who was an avid reader. She had at least three print books stuffed in her backpack. We talked about our favorite books and our love of writing. Our affinity for print books over ebooks. We talked about our urban chickens and our cats. About Star Wars. She was in 8th grade, the same as the characters in my books.

I could have kicked myself for not listening to that voice to bring one of my books along. I really wanted to give her one right then and there.

The train ride passed swiftly because of our enjoyable conversation. And here’s the thing: We were both shy people. But I pushed a little beyond my normal shy limits and it opened up a magical interaction that could easily have been missed. Unfortunately, I didn’t even leave her my card, but I hope she remembers my website. I hope I will hear from her again.

So, reach out, people.

Listen to your inspirations.

And expect the unexpected.

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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