Category Archives: audiobook adventure

“We WON!” Master of Music Takes the Ippy

When Words Fail

I’ve been able to work with dozens of authors, guest-posting, beta-reading and chiefly now in narrating their tales for audiobook release. I’ve authored nearly a million words on my own, read at least ten times that for others (pleasure reading, what’s that?), and I flatter myself to think I’ve seen every one of them, all the words, at least once.

But sometimes it doesn’t take too many.

“We WON!” That was the subject line of an email from Marla Himeda, the author of Master of Music a few weeks ago, alerting me that the Independent Publishers (creators of the IPPY Awards) had selected the tale as the Outstanding Audiobook of 2024 (one of eight outstanding books overall at the link, scroll down).

I’m appending my previous post below, to describe the work itself. In all honesty, I recommend fellow authors to check out the music links at the very least. This tale is an immersive experience unlike any I’ve worked on, and evidently the experts agree.

How Big a Deal?

Just a few more words here, to give a sense of what Marla has accomplished with this book. Two summers ago, I was privileged to work on Crow Country, another fabulous tale (of a VERY different kind), and the publisher decided to submit it to the IPPYs for 2023. That year, there was just one grand category for ALL audiobooks, no genres or other sub-categories. Crow Country was one of two Gold Award winners and I thought I could not be prouder. The story is great, and I worked hard to bring it to sound with voices, FX and more.

But this year- the fast-growing IPPY Awards now have four distinct categories for audiobook, with Gold/Silver/Bronze winners in each category. Has to be hundreds, possibly thousands, of entries. And yet Master of Music was considered THE Outstanding Audiobook of that entire group. I could not be more pleased for Marla Himeda, who has labored with love to create a unique world setting with compelling characters, and to infuse the audiobook version with music she hears, much like her main character, songs that she simply MUST bring out.

I’m thrilled to have observed a creative process unlike any other, and of course I’m also thoroughly gratified to have played a part in Marla’s orchestra as well.

(And yes, the sequel, Cry of the Kestrel, is underway at this moment!)

Long-Awaited Release (January 2024)

The most involved and ambitious audiobook project of 2023 for me is finally hitting the digital shelves. I can’t wait for you to sample the Bardic Isles Book 1, Master of Music.

Marla Himeda has composed (and I mean that quite literally) such an original story–fantasy without swords or dragons or races–yet there is strong conflict within the major characters. There are elements of mystery, suspense, and humor (as with any good fantasy) in a tale for anyone from 6 to 96. The tone is much like Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander, but the author deals with adults, their thoughts and worries just as deeply and capably as the protagonist who’s barely a teen. A mentor and his student, learning about maturity as much as music.

All this goes to a fine fantasy book, and that’s… fine. But the music.

You Heard Me. Music!

Here is a book actually-factually stuffed with music. Musicians are the main characters. The magic in the world comes from music. There are flowing, wonderful descriptions of flutes, pipes, harps, trios and ensembles including voices. And, see, there’s music too. You can hear it.

Because Marla Himeda, as we were working on the project, decided she would compose it all.

She worked instruments and voices into the descriptions she had previously written, in a seamless match between what I read aloud and what you can hear alongside it. It’s truly a unique listening experience. We went over portions of this word by word and beat by beat, syncing to the eighth-note and to every decibel of volume.

I have had the privilege to work on scores of books in my narration career, for dozens of authors besides myself. This has to rank as one of the most memorable, and I think enjoyable pieces yet. Very few projects I’ve worked on come up to this level. Hard to say for sure, but maybe none of them.

If you’re looking for hours of entertainment, strictly at 1.0x speed, I would recommend Master of Music. The author has gone “wide” and it’s available at all the major outlets, below are just a few. I am honored to have been asked (therein hangs another tale!) and I look forward eagerly to the sequel, as much as a reader as narrator.

Try the Sample, you won’t regret it.

At Amazon

At Barnes & Noble

At Kobo

At Chirp

At Google

At Libro FM

At Spotify

IPPY Gold Award for “Crow Country” Audiobook

I’m thrilled to announce that my recent project, Emily Sullivan’s gritty dystopian adventure Crow Country, has been recognized with a 2023 Gold Award for Best Fiction Audiobook by Independent Publisher.

How Did That Happen!

It’s been some time since I learned the good news from Ms. Sullivan’s publisher, and I still feel a sense of unreality about this. I think everyone enjoys recognition; several years back after being laid off, I made a decision to aim for work that I loved doing, and then see if I could make ends meet with that. If I get a three-line thank you note from a student at the end of a long school year, I honestly get all teary.

Narration is also hard work, but I hardly notice. The challenge of crafting another author’s tale into audio form is something, much like teaching History, that I feel practically born to. This project was probably the most extensive: more than ten hours, tough character distinctions, and very precise feedback from the rights holders who continually asked about this FX, that voice. Tiny changes to volume and pace, I went back over some chapters eight times for that last little fix.

I think it shows. You be the judge, here’s the sample.

What, Pray Tell, Is an IPPY?

Independent Publisher recognizes quality work from indy authors, including small publishing houses that issue fewer than a hundred titles a year. They have received thousands of entries each year since 1996.

When the publisher told me she was putting the book in for an award, I figured it would be one of those electron-microscope categories such as you see on Amazon: I hoped to be recognized for Best in Near Future Dystopian Fiction Featuring Guns and Aggressive Avians. Or something. But in audiobooks, the IPPY awards go only to Fiction and Non-Fiction.

Check it Out Yourself

Crow Country is available in all formats. Sure, I prefer the audiobook! But I read it first; it’s one of the most impressive pieces of dystopian action I’ve ever encountered. I was immediately drawn to the power of Ms. Sullivan’s writing, and of course I’m a sucker for driven, wounded characters. The closest I’ve seen in other media would be the movie Cowboys and Aliens–how’s that for a comp!


“The print version of Crow Country represents a powerful study in survival and wonder; but an audiobook’s strength rests on its narrator. In this, Crow Country also shines, powered by a reader whose clear and dramatic voice does justice to the power of the written word by bringing it alive.”
D. Donovan, Editor, Donovan’s Literary Services

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