INFECTED BY AUDIOBOOKS – Marilyn Armstrong

AUDIOBOOKS – A BELOVED INFECTION

Yesterday was the 16th of the month which for me means I get to pick two book from the audiobook collection. This might not sound like such a big deal, but it kind of is. First off, I’ve been an Audible reader for such a long time now, I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve got at least 1000 books in my audiobook library and probably a quarter of them I haven’t read, largely because I wasn’t in the mood when I got them … or I just plain forgot they were there.

I have a whole set of Manning’s “Mageborn” series and since I’m finishing his Thornbear collection, I might as well read Mageborn since I’ve apparently (surprise!) owned the books for several years. All five of them. Or are there six? I know I have at least three of them.

I’m still waiting from some of my favorite authors to finish their series. Jim Butcher, for one. He owes me a couple of books and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is restless. And Mike Carey, who owes all of us the final (fifth) book of his Felix Castor stories.

A lot of books are coming out in June which is, along with the September (buy books for Christmas) collection, the favorite release time for books. Because if you are a reader, summer is the time for a hammock, lemonade, and a good, long book, whether you are reading the words or hearing them spoken. Most of the ones I’m waiting for won’t be out until June or July, but in the meantime, I picked up the first book in a long time by Stephen King because it is not one of his horror stories.  Called “The Outsider,” it sound like a good murder mystery.

It won’t be released until the 22nd, but I can wait. I’m not a horror story fan,  so I have not read all of King’s books, but I’ve read all of his “Dark Tower” stories and his time travel “11/22/63,” but when King gets his teeth into any story, he’s possibly the best writer in my lifetime. His writing can be sheer poetry.

Murder mystery is not a genre King has tackled in the past,  so I’m drooling a little, awaiting its arrival.

Since having met Barbara Rosenblat, I’ve been hunting down her narrations, so I picked up the most recent Nevada Barr  series in which she is the narrator,”Destroyer Angel.”

Also coming up, Laurie King has a new Holmes and Watson arriving in late June, “Island of the Mad.”

Scott Meyer has a new time travel book – “Out of Spite, Out of Mind.” Finally, June, June will also brings one more of Ben Aaronovitch’s stories Peter Grant stories, “Lies Sleeping.”

Just a note for crazy horse-lovers, I just read “King of the Wind,” Marguerite Henry’s story of the Godolphin Arabian, a book I loved so much as a girl I think I read it until the words fell off the page. It was read by David McCallum who, when he isn’t “Ducky” on NCIS, is a brilliant narrator. If you loved the book when you were a kid, you are going to love it again!

On days like this, it’s hard for me to find time to do other things, but I need new glasses and today’s the day. How we’ll pay for them? That is another issue entirely. No idea at all!

Reading is my great joy and I think it is contagious. So these are this months germs. Enjoy every minute of your reading time. And share the infection with everyone else. It’s a disease worth having … forever.

ODDBALLS – OR AT LEAST DIFFERENT – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Oddball Photo Challenge: April 15, 2018

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When you take a lot of pictures of anything, after a while, you are finished using them for their originally intended purpose and you get playful.

Graphic black & white LJ Ganser and Robin Miles
What light through yonder window breaks?

I took more than 600 pictures of the Tom and Ellin Curley VoiceScapes Audio Theater last weekend. I have diligently processed as many photographs as I felt made sense and weren’t simply duplicates of each other. I dare say there are more, but I’ve gotten through the main, first batch.

LJ Ganser, setting up the microphone
More setup – Sande Sherr, LJ Ganser, Robin Miles

Now, I’m into the “playful period” of trying to see what clever and unique ways I can process the same or similar shots. I think of it as “fun with filters.”

IT’S SHOWTIME! – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My audio theater group, VoiceScapes Audio Theater, has been performing live, one hour shows of short, original, contemporary pieces. We perform mostly at local libraries about an hour from our home.

Unloading
Down the ramp
Wheeling the box into the library

Libraries are a particularly good venue for us because two of our actors are popular, prolific, Audie Award winning book narrators, Barbara Rosenblat and Robin Miles. They are rock stars in the library and audio book worlds. So we get enthusiastic audiences of 30-40 people for each show.

Most important, we get the thrill of performing before a live audience!

Ellin Curley

I don’t perform because I am not an actor and we have professional actors who do all the acting. But I write most of the pieces we perform, along with my husband, Tom.

With the audience
Show time!

So I sit in the audience through the actual shows. It’s not the glamorous place to be. But I can’t tell you how awesome it is to feel the rapt attention of an audience and to hear wave after wave of laughter for something you have written. It’s an experience that is hard to describe. It’s beyond gratifying, approaching incredible!

But that’s the ‘sexy’ part of what we do. Nobody sees what goes on behind the scenes to get our show ready for prime time.

First, there’s the highly unglamorous task of packing up all our volumes of audio equipment. Microphones and mike stands, speakers, tons of wires to hook everything up, props like telephones, gaffers tape (of course), etc., etc. Tom has found canvas bags that fit most of the smaller items. These bags, along with eight bulky music stands, have to be brought up from the basement to the garage.

Barbara Rosenblat

Then we have to load the car. This is a highly precise and technical operation. Everything only fits if it’s all put in just right. We also have a giant ‘box’ that contains all the mixers and all the audio processing equipment. It’s on wheels but it weighs a ton. We have to jerry-rig ramps with pieces of wood to get this unwieldy piece of equipment up into the back of our SUV. This all takes plenty of blood, sweat and tears.

Once we arrive at our performance venue, the process has to be reversed. The giant box has to make it down the ramp and into the performance space. Everyone in the group chips in to help with all the unloading and setting up.

This involves dealing with lots of wires, which always seem to get tangled, no matter how careful you try to be. So untangling long expanses of wires is one of the most time-consuming aspects of the process. Once untangled, the wires all have to be plugged into and hooked up to the right mikes, speakers, outlets or whatever.

Once set up, all the equipment has to be tested and adjusted. If there’s more time before the show starts, we can squeeze in a quick run through of one or two of the more technical pieces.

The whole process, from arrival on site to show time, takes three hours! After the show, breaking everything down and packing it back up again, only takes about 45 minutes, with everyone helping out. It’s much faster to break down a complex set up than to get it up and running. Thank goodness!

L. J. Ganser and Robin Miles

After the show, the cast (and I ) get to go out for drinks and a late lunch or early dinner. Hanging out together is one of the best perks of doing live performances. It’s a great reward for all the hard work we put in to put on a show.

The cast – from left to right, Tom, Barbara Rosenblat, Ellin, Sue Zizza, Sande Sherr, and behind, Robin Miles and L.J. Ganser

Check out our website at https://www.voicescapesaudiotheater.com and hear some of our fully produced material. Go to our Facebook page and friend and follow us to keep up with what we’re doing as a group and as individual performers.

SO WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR SUNDAY?

I’m glad you asked.

I am a long-term Kindle user. I started using one when they had keyboards and no WiFi. They’ve come a long way since them

The Kindle is my reader and my audiobook listener. I have thousands of books and probably even more audiobooks. I also have a ton of music, too. When I don’t feel like reading in bed, I watch Amazon Prime for movies and TV.

My HDX 8.9-inch Kindle was getting old. I liked it for its size. As my eyes have gotten less sharp, I find I need a bigger font. To use a bigger font, I needed a bigger surface and my previous 7-inch Kindle was too small. It was also old enough several parts no longer worked. When I got the “big one,” I thought I would might continue to use the small one when I traveled, but I discovered there was no going back. That 7-inch device is somewhere in a dusty corner of my bedroom — long out of use.



The Big HDX has been great for the past four and a half years. Lately, the battery has not stayed charged very long. Download speed has slowed, too. While I can still download and play books or music using my Bluetooth speaker, it takes a long time to download and the device doesn’t connect well or consistently with the router.

The last time I called Amazon for help, she subtly suggested I might consider a newer model. I pointed out my older HDX was a better model than the newer ones.

“True,” she said, “but even good ones get old. Everything gets old.” I pointed out that I was getting old. She sighed and agreed. That call was two years ago. What was getting old then, got old.

Meanwhile, Garry stopped using his 7-inch Kindle because it was too small and too quiet. The email stopped working months ago and it too has just been gathering dust. I thought “I could get him a new Kindle for his birthday.” Which is in April. Except I don’t wait for holidays or birthdays. I’m not a good “waiter.”

For the past month, I was checking prices on new Kindles. Prices have dropped a lot, but the other day they were also having a sale. Wonder of wonders, a twofer sale. Two 8-inch Kindle Fire Tablets for $99! They were also available in multiple colors, so I chose one in red and the other in black. I invested in two 32 GB micro SD cards ($10 each) plus two modest covers (also $10 each) and nice pair of Bluetooth headphones for Garry.



Today, I spent all day setting them up. Normally, they are not difficult to set up and in fact, they come pretty much ready to go. All your Amazon stuff automatically downloads to your new machine. All your previous settings, your books, audiobooks, music, and games.

All I had to do was log on. Except the first one I set up was for Garry. It needed to have his email address in it rather than mine. Google went wacko. I set the password and after accepting it, it would promptly reject it. I would try the new password on the computer (Garry’s computer) and it rejected it, so I changed it, but when I tried to use the new one on the Kindle, it wouldn’t recognize it either. It took half a dozen tries until finally, one password was accepted on the Kindle and the computer. Yay me!

The last time I had this particular problem, it was an iPad that refused to recognize the password. It’s good to know that problems repeat and don’t even have to be on the same kind of equipment.

Then I paired Garry’s Bluetooth headphones and turned them on. Garry put them on his head and … smiled. Yay me again.

Then all I had to do was the same thing on MY Kindle. But at least I didn’t need to change passwords. I did have to pair my new Kindle to my old speaker, but that only took a couple of rejections before the speaker calmed down and decided it was okay to unite with a new device. I feared it might be faithful unto death.

I probably should mention that Alexa comes bundled with the Kindles. I have NO idea what to do with Alexa. Anything that works on voice never understands me. There is something in me that deeply resents sitting and trying to get me voice-activated system to understand me. So I disabled Alexa. If someone can explain to me what, exactly, I could do with Alexa, I might try it. But as far as I can tell, the only thing I could use it for is ordering stuff on Amazon. I think I’m safer doing that by hand. Accidentally ordering stuff on Amazon? Does that sound like a good idea?

So that was how I spent my day and if I didn’t get much else done, I feel I have, nonetheless, spent my time profitably.

NOTES AFTER SOME HOURS OF USING IT:


There was far too much spooling on video. I never had that problem on the older HDX. Also, I’m not thrilled with their new format, though I suppose I’ll get used to it. It’s fine for books and audiobooks, but not so fine for video. It IS much lighter. The battery is definitely an upgrade.

I may continue to use the older 8.9″ HDX for video, though. All that spooling makes me crazy.

BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS

EVOKING IDEAS, EVOKING DREAMS – BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS


Seriously, I don’t understand how it happened. I don’t have a job. I am definitely, absolutely 100% retired. Yet — I’m always busy!

It’s probably all the reading. In recent months, there have been publications of great books by some of my favorite authors, many of whom hadn’t released a new one in quite a while.

You know I absolutely had to read them. Immediately!

There were two new books and a short story by Jodi Taylor, “The Something Girl,” and “The Rest is History.” book 8 of her St. Mary’s time travel series. Both were great. I’m crazy about the time travel books. Sometimes I need a “time travel fix” and listen to them again.

Then, “Mary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense” was released — a whole bunch of short stories about Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. “The Furthest Station: A PC Peter Grant Novella” by Ben Aaronovitch was released and while it wasn’t as long as the other books, it was a day of reading.

Somewhere in there I also read the last three Michael Connelly books, two about Harry Bosch and another new one for another L.A. cop. The new Bosch stories are narrated by Titus Welliver, who plays Harry Bosch on the Amazon series, so it’s not just any old book. You can watch the series — or the movie — in your head and the right guy is the star.

I stumbled across “Strange Practice” by Vivian Shaw which is the kind of book you sincerely hope is the start of a new series. It was way too good to be a onefer! It’s about Dr. Greta Helsing who specializes in a  medical practice for treating the undead. Great book and I hope it is followed by many more!

And then, Craig Johnson came out with a new Walt Longmire book — best one in quite a while — and there was Dan Brown’s “Origins” and Peter Clines’ “The Fold” and  Neal Shusterman’s “Scythe” … and finally, to finish me off, the long-awaited “Robicheaux” by James Lee Burke. It has been a few years since his last Dave Robicheaux story and this was a honey. Simultaneously, up came this new book about Trump, “Fire and Fury” and …

You know? I just realized why I’m so busy.

As you may have realized, I’m a listener rather than a text reader. I started listening to audiobooks when I was commuting long distances. I got so into the habit of listening … and very much out of the habit of focusing on text … that I pretty much always listen and very rarely read. I do read a few things because they aren’t available as audiobooks and I want to read them … or I’m committed to reading them. To be fair, though, I love listening. It’s like watching a long movie in your head. It’s better than movies, really.

It’s definitely the books. And that isn’t all of my list, either. There are at least a dozen more still waiting for me to get to them.

I’m in the middle of “Fire and Fury” right now. Curiosity won on this book … but really, I just can’t resist a good book!

NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY – JODI TAYLOR AND THE CHRONICLE OF ST. MARY’S

Yesterday, January 2, 2018, was NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY


It was another day too, including National Cream Puff day, but I’m much more interested in science fiction. So I’d like to talk about Jodi Taylor, author of a series called “The Chronicles of St Mary’s,” a school which isn’t a school where all the historians are time travelers. Never have I found time travel so much fun as I have found in all of Jodi Taylor’s books.

Just One Damned Thing After Another cover art
Book 1

There have been nine full length books and a bunch of short stories too, many of which are free. All of them also available as audiobooks. It’s actually less expensive to buy the Amazon Kindle version and get the audiobook for a couple of dollars than to buy the audiobook by itself, by the way. But I don’t care: I’d have bought them full price too.

The Long and the Short of It cover art
Book 9

The books are funny. Not in a slapstick, stupid way, but with intelligence and lots of historic detail. I’ve learned a lot of history from these books. Lots of cool details I never read in more “serious” history books. And oh how I have laughed!

It’s hard to find good science fiction that’s funny without being dumb, but this is it. There’s also drama and violence, a bit of sex and sometimes, death. But mostly, the books are a great deal of fun. Extremely British, witty, and smart. AND well researched. If you like time travel, you cannot go wrong with any of these. They are great.

They are all available from Amazon and pretty much on every continent and also on Audible.com. Super highly recommended!

LEGEND OF A BLOGGER

Legendarily speaking, I’m a nonstop blogger who always has something to say. This is a great idea and flattering, too … but this is one of those days when it isn’t working out. And this is going to be just one of a whole bunch of such days coming right up to a theater near you.

Today we are taking Gibbs for a full winter cleanup. We also need to hit CVS for prescriptions and I need wrapping paper. And then, there are a few groceries. Owen is bringing over the new replacement vacuum cleaner because the lightweight one seems to have bitten the big one. Yes, I know, cheap is cheap and when you spend a little, you don’t get much, but the lightweight machines tend to be inexpensive and they don’t last a really long time. Like a year or two and then they pack it in. This one bit it.

Our bigger machine is too heavy for me, but I need something light that will move dirt. It’s a hard combo to get. We used to have an expensive machine to do that, but it was forever breaking down and mostly, it was more broken than not. Now, it is now abandoned, somewhere in the basement. Bye bye Oreck.

This January, it’s (again) my time to be a judge for the Audie awards. I do this every year. I no longer do the first round where I have hundreds of hours of reading. I do only the finals where I have a manageable number of books. But it is coming beginning of January and it will eat the month. This is not something I can dodge and to be honest, I don’t want to dodge it. I enjoy it. It’s fun. Reading a lot of new books is nothing to scoff at.

It does mean I won’t be doing a lot of writing. I won’t do nothing, but daily? Probably not.

In other news, many people I have enjoyed and with whom I’ve become friends are sliding out of blogging. Some are just tired. Others are angry and frustrated with the political mess and can’t find the energy keep going. I understand, but it hurts. People I lose from blogging aren’t just virtual contacts.

They are friends and I care. I hope they feel the same way. All I ask is if you are leaving, please don’t go without at least a good-bye — and maybe your email address?Also, I think this is exactly when our voices are most important.

I’m not dropping out, but I have stuff to do. Right now, with the awfulness of our political system in a tailspin, this is when those of us who have a voice and a platform — and have something worth saying — should be saying it. We need to speak up and keep speaking up. Maybe we aren’t going to change a lot of minds, but who knows? The internet is a funny place. You never know how much of an impact you are having on your world. Every once in a while I discover I’ve made someone think about something differently, see an old concept in a new light and I feel proud. Maybe it’s a small thing, but it feels good.

Meanwhile, for at least the next month, until I’m done reading for the Audies, I’m a bit busy. In case you don’t know what the Audies are, they’re the awards for Audiobooks. This means that unlike words-on-pages books, you can’t “read faster.” Audio unfolds at its own speed, so if a book is 32 hours long, that’s it. In theory, you can speed it up, but listening to an audiobook at 1.5 times normal speaking rate is downright weird. Makes your brain do flip-flops.

I really love blogging but this legend has be less legendary because I can’t fit 34 hours of work into a 24 hour day and it isn’t because I have not tried. It simply doesn’t work.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!