Research with Google Streetview

Ambassador 6 and 7 are set on Earth, and therefore I get to look at real locations.

Ambassador 6 is mostly set in The Hague, which the home of the Nations of Earth court. This is, of course, and offshoot of the international court. I’ve built a new building for the Nations of Earth court, and renovated sections of the inner city (heh! Things you get to do when you set your story in the future).

The building on the left is where I’ve put the hotel:

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The canal on the other side of the grassy strip features prominently in the story.

When Cory and his team catch the tram and are followed by someone on foot, this is where they catch up with him:

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In Ambassador 7, Cory and his team are on holiday at his father’s beach house in the Bay of Islands in the northern part of New Zealand:

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He lives in a small community along Parekura Bay:

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Also featured in the story are the game parks in the northern part of South Africa. This is where Robert Davidson has his property:

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This is Fred, Cory’s father’s dog:
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What is coming up?

A little news post.

Sand & Storm went live on 24 June and the sequel, Sea & Sky, is set to release on 20 September. I’ve actually just received the final files today, but will probably stick to the schedule because the audiobook of Ambassador 1 should be dropping in August!

I’m writing the final volume of the Moonfire Trilogy, Moon & Earth, and should finish the first draft within a few weeks. I mean–I’ve “only” got 25k to write, and of course All The Freaking Plot Threads to be tied up.

When that is done (or, I should say, when I boot that one off to the editors) I will start on Ambassador 6: The Enemy Within. This will involve an ever-increasing party of varied people travelling to Earth for a trial. They will take two toddlers who get up to all sorts of mischief (no, none of them are Cory’s–yet). There will be spies (Klaus Messner), there will be shooting and there will be some very big ethical questions asked.

Tag line:

In order to save the earth, he has to betray it

There may or may not be New Zealand, and camels (you know I have thing for camels in books), but those things may also be moved to book 7, for which I lack a title. If I’m on a roll, I might write book 7 as well (providing I can come up with a title).

Anyway, I’ll start bugging Tom for a cover soon.

After that (and we’re talking 2017 now), I’m thinking to start the first set in my Ilk Urban Fantasy series. The book will be called The Hunter. There will be a Sydney setting, local councils, developers, corruption, murders and a guy who may or may not resemble Eddie Obeid 😛 There will also be “Ilk”: were-possums, were-ibises, were-frogmouths, were-fruitbats, were-kookaburras (basically, insert all obnoxiously loud local wildlife). And a journalist from Adelaide called Bindi Winslow who is looking for her slippery brother.

I’d like to start one totally new project every year.

Meanwhile, I’m taking part in some cross promotions, so don’t forget to sign up for the Ebookaroo newsletter.

Milestone!

Ambassador set FB ad

Today, Ambassador 1: Seeing Red reached the milestone of 150 reviews on Amazon US. I have one book that has more reviews, and one that’s very close, but as you may all know, the Ambassador series is very close to my heart.

I love writing these books, they are easy to write, I know the characters very well and they’re always fun.

But I trunked the book for three years after the anonymous editor from Harper Collins at the Authonomy site so famously said “No one will publish this”.

Over the past two months, this series has done amazingly well.

So, 150 reviews today, another book later this year, a raspberry to Authonomy. Long live Cory, Nicha, Thayu, Veyada, Sheydu and the ever-expanding gang.

Adventures in audio

As some people already know, I’ve been getting ready to move into audio books.

This is not a decision to take lightly, because 1. it’s expensive, and probably only worth it if you have books that sell, 2. I’m in Australia, and I don’t have direct access to ACX, 3. You have to spend some time selecting a narrator and listening to examples to know what you want, 4. Quality really matters, taking us back to point 1.

In short, it’s not without risk and you don’t want to have to mortgage your house to do it.

ACX (the audio book exchange) is your gateway to audio. You upload a sample and narrators send in auditions.

First, you have to set up an account. If you’re not in the US or the UK, you can do this through this company.

Then you have to decide how much you’re willing to pay per finished hour of narration. A finished hour of narration will in general take the narrator a couple of hours to finish, record and edit.

You can also opt not to pay outright but share royalties with the narrator. Professional narrators are not interested in this option, because anyone who’s got money (= who sells well) will be paying outright.

Aggregated wisdom says that you should expect to pay at least $200 but probably more like $300 per finished hour for professional level narration.

Armed with all this wisdom, I uploaded a snippet of text from chapter 6 of Ambassador 1. Why this snippet? Because it includes dialogue and you want to see how the narrator handles it. It includes some made-up names and I wanted to see how the narrators interpreted those without pronunciation guide (if they’re close, they’re likely to be on my wavelength).

I was also happy that the snippet includes a bunch of swear words, because as it turns out–and I had no idea–there is a lot of difference in the capabilities of narrators to swear convincingly.

Accents. Aggregated wisdom said not to be too esoteric, but I flipped that the bird and asked for a New Zealand accent, and said in the comments that I figured it was unlikely to happen, and I was happy with a general British or American accent.

I got 42 auditions, all male, because I asked for it. Not to be sexist, but Cory is male, and the book is in first person. A woman would be just… weird.

Out of the 42, most were American. A good number were British. One or two I suspected of being Australian, and one stated that he was from New Zealand.

At this point, I found that a lot of other factors come into play. Voice quality varies a lot. Things like age, tone, speed of speaking all determine the type of character, and some just didn’t mesh with Cory. He’s of slight build, thirty-five, so you can’t have a narrator with a very deep voice who sounds like a gruffy detective of sixty. Just doesn’t work.

In the book, I also make a point of de-Americanising the world, and some had American accents that were just waaaayyyy too strong. I did put some Americans on the shortlist.

When you have voice quality, age and accent sorted, you need to consider the sound quality of the sample. Are there hisses or echoes and is the speech clear? This is determined by the type of equipment the narrator uses, and it needs to be professional.

After listening repeatedly to the best audition samples, I chose one, and I’m happy to say that he has accepted. He’s a Brit from London, trained as actor and his sample was near-flawless, the sound quality is great, his voice is not too deep, he speaks clearly without missing syllables (this is really common, by the way), and he knows how to fling an f-word or two without making it sound like a hot potato. He responds to correspondence in a professional way, and has assured me that the first book will be done by 19 August.

Watch out for further news!

Ambassador 5 is out!

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The next Ambassador book went live!

Read about it and get buy links here.

With the previous book, Coming Home, I finished the arc that I started at the end of book 2, involving the ancient ship. Blue Diamond Sky is a complete story, but at the end you will see that it leads into a bigger arc that I will spend the next few books exploring. We are going back to Earth. There is an election looming and things are looking dicey.

I am really enjoying the series. The characters are like friends to me and I know them very well.

My favourite character? There are a couple, actually.

Veyada, because he talks no bullshit.

Sheydu, because she talks no bullshit either, and because she is an older woman with a penchant for explosives.

Thayu, because Cory does not quite know the depths of her previous experience. He doesn’t really know what she did before she came to his household. He knows she has upper level spy training, but he doesn’t know what she did with it.

Asha, because he leads the most powerful army in the galaxy, because he finds Cory curiously interesting and toys with him like a cat with a mouse, giving him scraps of information or positions not normally available to outsiders to see what he will do with it.

More news!

I’m auditioning Ambassador 1 for audio production!

Supanova Melbourne: Come and say hello

I’m leaving tomorrow to go to Supanova Melbourne.

If you’re in Melbourne or are also coming, come and say hello. I’m in the Artists’ Alley at table 36.

We’re leaving tomorrow, because on Thursday, my daughter and I are planning a photography trip to the Twelve Apostles. Let’s hope the weather behaves!

It’s likely that you won’t hear from me on this blog until I’m back. I may or may not have internet. The accommodation says there is free wifi, but seriously, you know what free wifi is like, so I’m not holding my breath.

In other news, I just heard that Bookbub is finally taking Ambassador 1 on 11 May. This is going to be very, very big, especially since it’s so close to the release of book 5.