Interview with Sophie Andrews

I don’t get to do interviews often, so it is a wonderful privilege to be able to host this one today. We are featuring Miss Sophie Andrews in today’s chat. I met Sophie last year when I ran across her on Goodreads, and very soon afterwards she came over to Facebook, and we have become such good friends since. She is a big name in the blog world for her book reviews. If you want to check out her blog, it is called Laughing With Lizzie.You can also find her here on Facebook.

Now grab a cup of tea, or hot cocoa, maybe a scone or crumpet, and join me for the next few minutes as we sit and chat with a wonderful up and coming audiobook producer – MISS SOPHIE ANDREWS!! 
Welcome Sophie! I am so glad to have you stop by this week and tell your story and what led you to this new adventure… and not just because I am part of it. Tehehehehe. It has been fun to see what doors have opened for you over the last few months, and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about your journey.

Thank you Sarah for inviting me to your blog today!

😀 I am happy to have you here. So let’s get started. I would love to hear what motivated you to take the big leap into audiobooks?

Well, put simply, you did! I am sure you remember the conversation back in September, after you had had the wonderful idea of someone reading an extract from your new book, Just To Hear I Love You, on video. Given that I was of a similar age to the main characters in the story and, which I think is what really clinched it, because I live in England and sound very typically British, I was an obvious candidate. So, a few weeks later, on the 1st of October in fact, the video was released, and the rest is history, so they say! The feedback and comments I received on the video were just fantastic and very complimentary, and a few suggested I should go into audiobook narration, which was something I had never thought about. After a lot of a persuasion, I had a look into it all, signed up to ACX (the production side of Audible) and bought a microphone! A few weeks down the line and I had learned the basics of recording and editing, and then in November I began recording my first ever audiobook, Snow Storms and Kissing Games!

I remember that day well! As a matter of fact, if you don’t mind me adding a bit to that – when I was setting up the blog tour for the release of my book, Just to Hear ‘I Love You’, I was trying to find something different to do, and nothing was coming to mind. Then one morning I awoke with a start, and booming through my mind was the idea of having you read an excerpt on video! So I contacted you with the idea, and the rest was history! lol. Now on to our next question: As an audio producer, what was your biggest challenge?

Um… Everything? Can I say that? No? Ok, well I think the main challenge was the terminology. There is a looooong list of ‘submission requirements’ which your files have to meet to be accepted by ACX, and most of them I had NO idea what they were going on about! ‘Each submitted file must measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values and a maximum -60dB noise floor and be a 192kbps or higher MP3, CBR at 44.1 kHz…’ um… Excuse me? As a complete technophobe that is just letters and numbers to me! Once I could work out – more accurately, was told! – the buttons I needed to press in my editing program, Audacity, I got the hang of the actual editing out of mistakes and background noise, and eventually, after having my files rejected when first submitting them, I got them to the required …. (I’m going to say) format? (I doubt that is the correct term!) and they were accepted by ACX on my second submission! While I can now tell you what to do to have you files accepted, if you ask me why, or what it all means, I still have no idea!

LOL I grew up with a dad who was a television and radio engineer, as well as a minister, so I was running a sound board before I was even in double digits in age. To me the terms are second nature, but if you don’t need to know, then who really cares about decibels and kilohertz, and other such things! I wish we lived closer so I could be of more help, but you figured it out on your own quite well! I am proud of you!

Did you have any surprises while going through the process?

 

One thing which really surprised me was that fact that I have come to tolerate and get used to the sound of my own voice! I used to HATE hearing myself on camera (as I think most people do!). However, when you are doing your own editing you have no choice but to listen to yourself back! I was also surprised that I was able to come up with the different voices and be brave enough to, well, do it! When I recorded the samples on video, I didn’t really alter my voice much – I was more self conscious being on camera! But in my own little studio in my bedroom I am able to lose my inhibitions and go for the character voices! (The real challenge will come now though, as Snow Storms had only 8 speaking parts, whereas my next one may have more like 18!). Also, still with the different voices, I was surprised I managed to remember them and maintain them throughout the book. I was very worried they would change slightly as I went through, forgetting how I voiced them in chapter one when I got to chapter 8 or something. But I was thrilled when you said the consistency with the voices was very good, especially as you were specifically listening for that! Finally what surprised me was that I didn’t realize how long editing takes! Firstly, editing out mistakes takes a while, and I did seem to make many mistakes or redo certain lines a few times until I was happy – I mean, some clips could be 30 minutes of recording which will edit down to 10-15mins of audio due to mistakes, retakes, water breaks and pauses! And secondly, listening for breaths and mouth clicks and funny noises which slip in while recording and editing them out to make your narration flow takes a while too! And a lot of concentration!

I bet that does take a while to get down properly! I was very impressed with the quality of your recordings! Whose voice is your
greatest pleasure to read?

Well in Snow Storms the major characters to narrate were Lizzy, Jane, Lydia, Darcy and Bingley. Caroline Bingley and Mr and Mrs Bennet also had a small speaking part. So out of these characters, however unsurprising it seems, my favorite has to be Elizabeth Bennet, for many reasons! 1. Because, come on, what Jane Austen fan hasn’t dreamed of being Elizabeth? I think being cast as her in an adaptation is the closest you can really get, and unless I suddenly become a famous actress, being able to voice Elizabeth in an audiobook is the closest *I* will ever get! 2. I have seen or heard many, many interpretations of Elizabeth so it has been a fun challenge to come up with my own ‘Elizabeth Bennet’. And 3. when I started my blog a few years ago, I chose Elizabeth Bennet (well, Elizabeth Darcy) as my persona or alias, so it has been really fun to bring her to life!

Even my mom made a comment, when I first played your audio recording of chapter 1 to her, that your voice was simply perfect for Elizabeth – she was impressed from the start! I am curious now to find out – whose voice is your greatest challenge to read?

Well, when thinking of all the characters in this one, I expect you would think it would have been the two young gentlemen, but actually they weren’t the main challenge. I thought the hardest would be Lydia, trying to get the whiny and childish voice right, but she was easier than I imagined and good fun actually! The challenge was actually Jane, or perhaps I should say finding a voice for Jane which sounded different enough from Elizabeth. They are quite similar really, compared to say Elizabeth and Lydia, so finding, and then maintaining, a voice for Jane which sounded different from Lizzy was quite hard! Darcy was quite hard, not because of trying to get my voice lower so as to imply a man speaking, but because he is such an important character to me, and close to my heart. I just wasn’t happy with how I was voicing him; trying to live up to my own expectations of what Darcy sounds like, let alone the brilliant portrayals on television, was hard! I am lady, so I really couldn’t get close to what I wanted Darcy to sound like – Bingley I didn’t mind nearly as much, I wonder why? 😉

 

LOL 😛 You definitely did better than I anticipated with the voices – honestly, I didn’t expect voices so much as just narration, but the final product was perfect. I remember the first time I listened to one part, when the five are all playing a game and Jane teases Elizabeth, suggesting a penance of a kiss be paid. Elizabeth’s answer, when I wrote it, was one of those moments as a writer where I could just see it all playing out before my eyes, hear them talking, smell the logs in the fireplace, etc. But when I heard your take on Elizabeth’s answer, it made the character come even more alive, even to me! That is the moment I knew you were the perfect choice for this project. 

 I am curious to find out if there is anything particular you do before you start a recording session? (Favorite drink,
calming methods, etc.)

 

I tend to record at the same time of day, about midday, and I don’t eat anything just before recording. I stick with water and before recording I just tend to remind myself of my character voices. You mention calming methods, well I don’t actually get nervous if I am honest. I just feel as though I am reading aloud to myself, as I am tucked away in my cozy little make-shift recording studio in my bedroom. *Now* I am nervous and could use some calming methods! (Any suggestions?) Now that it is for sale and I know anyone can listen to me, it feels much more real, and very scary! Whereas when recording, it just felt like something I was doing for myself, as I often used to read aloud to myself when reading anyway.

 

That is such a talent you have – and I am glad you are as comfortable as you can be with it. It makes me nervous to do any recording. I did dramatic reading and such at speech competitions back when I was in junior high and high school, but the only way for me to do them justice was to have it memorized. I was never any good at just reading and making it have good flow. Looking towards the future, what are your other upcoming projects?

Well I am about to start my next book, Pride and Persistence by Jeanna Ellsworth, which is a full length novel and a really fun story so that should be good. I need to invent some more voices before I start that! I also am hopefully soon to be working with Monica Fairview on her book Mr Darcy’s Challenge. I have also had interest from Joana Starnes, Cassandra Grafton, Heidi Ashworth, Joy King, and I am looking forward to narrating some more of your books soon too Sarah!

I cannot wait to hear Jeanna’s story – I have to say, it is one of my favorites! Are there any specific titles or authors who would be an automatic YES if they asked you to produce their audiobook?

Oh now that is a mean question as I am bound to leave someone out! Well, all the authors mentioned above, of course, and many others. Anyone’s books I have read before and enjoyed (which is most I have read as I am quite easy to please and open to the most bizarre variations, so long as they are well written!) I would be happy to narrate. I have to say, the more upbeat and funny ones would be a preference as those sort of scenes I enjoyed narrating the most in yours. While I don’t mind doing the more emotional scenes, it is harder to portray the emotion of a scene through just the voice. What might make me hesitate would be if the story contained any more steamy scenes. I am not overly fond of reading such scenes myself and so I feel narrating them would be …. difficult and embarrassing!

A few books in particular which spring to mind that I would like to narrate would be any of KaraLynne Mackrory’s books, particularly Haunting Mr Darcy which I think has to be one of my, if not *the*, favourite variation I have read so far. It was so unique and different and I think it would be really fun to narrate. Also Kara Louise’s books I really enjoyed reading, again because they are very unique variations. Mr Darcy Came to Dinner by Jack Caldwell is just hilarious and would be good fun, if I could stop myself laughing that is! Rose Fairbanks has some fun novellas and stories which I would enjoy narrating I think. A Noteworthy Courtship by Laura Sanchez is a favourite, and also The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams. Amanda Grange’s diary series would be fun as well I think. Also, I have to say I love the books from Julianne Donaldson, Edenbrooke in particular. It isn’t JAFF but a brilliant regency romance. I love the story, and again, it is a lot of fun, and also it is written in the first person which would be a different narrating experience. (I don’t see this ever happening as she is far too successful an author to turn to the likes of me, and I think she has already done audio versions anyway!) I am also hoping to be able to record my own versions of Jane Austen’s own stories before too long. 

Oh how fun! Do you plan on sticking only with JAFF stories, or will you expand to other genres?

Oh no I am open to genres other than JAFF. I would like to stick to historical books as that is what I enjoy reading myself, and I don’t think I would be able to narrate a book I didn’t want to read at all well. I don’t particularly enjoy reading modern day books, so while the offers for historical romances and JAFF are coming in I will stick with those thank you!

LOL I think we can keep you occupied with JAFF stories for a while. And now for my final question before we get to the reader questions. What was your favoritepart about doing this first project? 

I think it has to be discovering a completely new talent (so people tell me anyway!) I didn’t know I had for story telling! Also, while it has been stressful, just learning about something so completely new and different has been fascinating. I was a complete novice in the world of audiobooks, narration, recording and editing when I started this. I did rather jump in at the deep end, being completely clueless, and I am just about still swimming so that must be a good sign! It has been a real learning curve, and it has been great proving to myself that I can do something I never imaged I would be able to do!

Oh you are definitely talented, my dear!! And now, we have been collecting some questions from your fans, so let’s see what they would like to know. Joy King sent quite a few, so we will go through them first. Her first question is:

Which Bennet sister would you describe yourself as closest to in personality? Which one would your parents choose?

 Honestly, it has to be Elizabeth Bennet. I enjoy good debates and exchanges of lively and witty repartee, my philosophy on love and marriage is just like her (I am determined that nothing but the very deepest love will induce me into matrimony) and I enjoy the outdoors and a long walk (resulting in many petticoats – or rather coats – becoming 6 inches deep in mud!) – and people do say my eyes are particularly fine. 😉 My friends may say I have Jane qualities and that I always try to see the good in people. While this isn’t wholly untrue, I do have the fault of judging people. I will keep my thoughts to myself, but I don’t think Jane Bennet would even think judging thoughts whereas Lizzy certainly would! My parents… well my father doesn’t know much about the characters but my mum would probably say Lizzy, especially as my older sister is certainly more of a Jane Bennet. My sister would say… Well when in a good mood Lizzy, but may also compare me to Mary; I wear glasses, I read a lot and I play the piano!

I have enjoyed watching to your piano videos on your YouTube channel. (And I have to interject here that if you have not caught them, check out Sophie’s YouTube Channel here). Joy’s next question is: Have you ever had a Lydia moment and would you share?

Oh I certainly have! Last September at the Jane Austen Festival Promenade in Bath. My Lydia side really come to the fore! Once we had reached the parade gardens, I practically ran around trying to have as many photos with gentlemen as I could – and I did very well! 😉 I also realised I was a little Lydia-ish as every time I saw the red coats I got a little bit excited – the gentlemen who were dressed as soldiers were the ones I got the most excited about!

**sigh** I have to say, as a military wife of fifteen years, a man in uniform definitely sets my heart to pitter-pattering! Speaking of things that make you sigh or swoon, Joy’s next question is sure to please all the readers today. What was the most sigh and swoon-worthy sentence of Sarah’s project?

 

Oh just a sentence? Wow…. Um…. No, sorry, I have to say two!

In the context of the scene this line is taken from, this is a very romantic line…

“I cannot but follow my heart, and if you must crush my spirit today, then know this,” he said quietly, just inches from her mouth again, “I will not stop until I win your affection.”


But for a real romantic one liner, despite the context of the scene, it has to be this…

After seeing the love that shone between the two when they looked at each other, he joked that theirs was a storybook romance, to which Mr Darcy immediately replied, “only if the storybook never ends.”


Awwww – That is so sweet of you to say! I would have to agree, about both of those lines – they are clear favorites of mine as well. Now for Joy’s last question, and I am sure you are going to laugh when you hear this one. If a 30 year old Colin Firth, a 30 year old Matthew MacFadyen, and a 30 year old Richard Armitage all rushed at you to help you out of your car, who would you give your hand to?

 Ohhhhhhh well sorry Macfadyen but you are out. I loved his portrayal, and he was my first Darcy, but he is not my favourite. Firth or Armitage… That is hard! I love Firth as Darcy, and in everything else I have seen him in. But the same goes for Armitage. I think Colin Firth would have to be the one to clinch it for me, as I have seen him in a lot more than Armitage, and I have been a Colin Firth fan for a lot long than I have a Richard Armitage fan. Besides, I just really want to meet Colin Firth – and I do prefer Darcy over Thornton. Very hard choice though!


(I am so glad that question was not asked of me, cause I have no clue who I would pick!) 

Our next question comes from Kathy Langstein Berlin, and its one I have wondered as well! She would like to know:  Sophie, when you visualize Mr. Darcy, what does he look like? I admit, my Mr. Darcy does not look like any of the popular versions of him in the movies. Are you visualizing Mr. Darcy, or indeed, any of the characters, when you are doing the audiobooks?

 

Well, for me he is similar to Colin Firth. Unfortunately, I saw an adaption before reading the book so I never really came up with my own Darcy in my imagination. Having said that, he isn’t Colin Firth exactly in my head. He has the same hair but the facial features are blurry actually! And his voice is… in between Firth’s and Macfadyen’s. His clothing is always an outfit Firth had in the series. So I do sort of have my own Darcy in my head, albeit very vaguely, but he is definitely Colin Firth influenced. While voicing Elizabeth I am definitely thinking about Jennifer Ehle. I really think she captured Elizabeth’s spirit and vivacity in the series, but again she doesn’t look like Ehle in my head when narrating – I think she looks more like… me if I am honest! (As you saw in an earlier answer, she was my favourite to narrate as I liked pretending to be her, so that is why I imagine myself in that role in my head I suppose!). As to the other characters, I am not really seeing actors from the adaptations. Mrs Bennet perhaps Alison Steadman a little. But generally they all seem to take on a character of their own in my head and really, other than Elizabeth, I don’t feel as strongly influenced by specific portrayals as I thought I might be when starting this recording process.

Another reader, Balcita Blue, has a great follow-up question to that one. She would like to know: Sophie Andrews, what do you have to do to get different voices for different characters, like men or women?

Well, as mentioned above, some are easy and some are not. Characters like Lydia and Mrs Bennet came easily. Elizabeth was also easy for me, but being able to come up with a voice which sounded different for Jane was hard. I think it is going to become more challenging as I move to other books and there are more characters – I am not sure how many voices I will be able to invent! Being a lady myself, voicing a man is certainly a challenge. I didn’t want to sound so low that it did actually sound quite like a man, as that would just be very silly and sound too comical. So I went as low as I dared with the men.

Another reader, Ann Weiler, also has a question about voicing the characters: How do you decide on a voice for the character? And then how do you develop the character voice?  

Well I have touched on this already, but it depends on the character. I am not as influenced by the adaptations as I thought I might be. My imagination seems to want to invent its own versions of the characters! Elizabeth, as I said, I do think about Ehle, and so she didn’t need much developing. I just *knew* how to voice her. Lydia was another easy one as I knew she needed to sound childlike and a bit whiny. She took a little experimenting as I didn’t want her to sound comical. I found her lines in the story and would say them in different ways until I was happy with how I voiced her. Jane was hard. I couldn’t hear a Jane voice in my head very well. I knew she needed to sound calmer and quieter than Lizzy, but yet quite similar, as Jane and Lizzy are the most alike sisters. To develop her I just experimented with different ideas until I was happy that Jane could be distinguishable from Lizzy! For the male characters, I experimented with tone as I wanted it lower to imply a man speaking, but not so low that it made people laugh listening to me. Darcy was a nightmare actually. It took me ages to be happy (enough – I am still not entirely happy!) with how I was voicing him. He proved the biggest struggle as I went through the book as well, with trying to maintain his voice and sound deep enough and manly enough during the more emotional scenes. I remember one moment in particular, when he asks the important question, “marry me?”, I think I said that about 50 times – no exaggeration! I just couldn’t say it how I knew it should sound in my head! The editing took ages for that, listening through my 50 tries to find one I was happiest with! So, as you can see, some I just know, others I have a good idea and just need a little experimenting, while others will be a real challenge and take a lot of work and cause problems throughout the recording!

Our last reader question comes from Hazel Mills. She would like to know: When you were reading for your audio book, did you read to yourself or imagine an audience?

I have touched on this in another answer, but I am definitely reading to just myself! If I imagined an audience, I would become very nervous and self-conscious! I would never be able to do all the voices if I thought I was being watched! As I mentioned, when recording my video clips for book promotions (of which I have done a few now) I couldn’t bring myself to alter my voice very dramatically, as the camera made me very self-conscious and shy! So to be brave enough to go for all the voice changes, I think that it is just me, in my cute little recording studio in the corner of my bedroom, all alone and just reading it out loud for my own pleasure!

 

Are there any final words you have for our readers, Sophie?

Thank you everyone for all those wonderful questions! I really enjoyed answering them and really thinking about the whole process and what I did enjoy and everything; I hadn’t really thought about it before!

We have one more thing to take care of before this interview is completed. In the launch party we held last week for my newest book, Whispered Kisses, Sophie was gracious enough to do a video message for everyone. She asked a question of the readers and we promised an EBook of Whispered Kisses to the person who could answer it correctly. In the story, Elizabeth receives flowers anonymously from a secret admirer – of course we know who that is!! So I will now turn the floor back over to Sophie for her to give her answer. 

I had some great guesses of lilies, forget-me-nots, lavender, orchids… Thank you to all who had a guess at what my favourite is, but no one guessed it! 

My favourite is the snowdrop. It is the flower of January, my birth month, and I love how it is the first flower of the year, giving us a glimpse of the spring to come during the cold winter. It is a very beautiful, pure white flower which I think is so elegant. Therefore, it my favourite flower!

Although no one guessed it, the winners have to be Hazel Mills and Joana Starnes, as they guessed The Pride and Prejudice Rose, which is a very good guess! In fact, I had forgotten about the rose when I was deciding on my favourite flower, as it is a recently developed flower.  But since having it in my front garden it has become a firm favourite, and so as no guessed my actual favourite, the prize has to go to Hazel and Joana for 1. Reminding me of my rose and 2. Guessing my second favourite flower!

 

Congratulations Hazel and Joana!

You have each won an EBook copy of Whispered Kisses!

 

Thank you everyone for the questions, and the guesses, and I will be in touch with our winners about your ebook. I had such fun doing this interview, and I hope you had just as much fun learning about what is new and exciting in Sophie Andrew’s life right now. Thanks!


And the Winner Is…

Last night was the launch party for our celebration of the newest release, Whispered Kisses, as well as the release of my first audiobook, Snow Storms & Kissing Games, produced (narrated) by Sophie Andrews. I have to say – it was a BLAST!!! If you were not able to make it, you sure missed out on a fun time! Very intense, very fast paced, but definitely one for the books!!

 

If you were there, THANK YOU!!!! I enjoyed all the games, all the goofs, and all the pictures – but most of all I enjoyed just getting to hang out with some fabulous women – and man – and talk about Jane Austen’s books. I was so busy last night that I was unable to enter into the conversation as easily as others, but my supporting team helped out in enormous ways and I loved every minute of it.

 

Speaking of my supporting team – I cannot forget to mention them, so I guess I better put that in here now. I have never even been to one of these parties, but Rose Fairbanks talked me into doing it, and in fact donated a bunch off the gifts. So thank you Rose!! My other cohorts in planning the details of our every 15 minute rounds were Zoe Burton, Eileen Brown, and Sophie Andrews. Even though the time difference did not allow Sophie to be there for long (she lives in England), she did get to pop in during the early minutes to give us a video introduction to start our night. If you missed that, I will post it here below. Although the prize from last night has already been chosen, you still have a chance to be entered to win another prize to be given out here on my blog on Fridady when I interview Sophie about her first job as producer of an audiobook. So stay tuned!

 

 

We also had some wonderful prizes donated, so a quick shout-out of thanks goes to Jeanna Ellsworth, KaraLynne Mackrory, Melanie Schertz, and Joy King, (as well as Rose, who I have already mentioned). THANK YOU to all you ladies for your generosity!

 

And now for the winners. These are the winners of each of the timed slots:

6:00-6:15   Kathy Langstein Berlin – Winner of autographed print book of ‘Whispered Kisses’ (donated by author, Sarah Johnson)

6:15-6:30   Regina McCaughty-Silvia – Winner of EBook of ‘Whispered Kisses’ (donated by author, Sarah Johnson)

6:30-6:45  Tina Carter -Winner of EBook by Jeanna Ellsworth (winner’s choice) (donated by author, Jeanna Ellsworth)

6:45-7:00  Lynn Bischoff – Winner of Shirley’s Soaps (donated by Rose Fairbanks)

7:00-7:15  Stan Hurd – Winner of autographed print book of ‘The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter’ (donated by author, Rose Fairbanks)

7:15-7:30  Balcita Blue – Winner of EBook by KaraLynne Mackrory (winner’s choice) (donated by author, KaraLynne Mackrory)

7:30-7:45  Kathy Langstein Berlin – Winner of print book by Jeanna Ellsworth (winner’s choice) (donated by author, Jeanna Ellsworth)

7:45-8:00  Debbie Fortin – Winner of Bingley’s Teas (donated by Rose Fairbanks)

8:00-8:15  Sylvia Claire Chan – Winner of autographed print book of ‘I Promise To…’ (donated by author, Zoe Burton)

8:15-8:30  Lynn Bischoff – Winner of audiobook ‘Snow Storms & Kissing Games’ by Sarah Johnson and Sophie Andrews (donated by author, Sarah Johnson)

8:30-8:45  Kathy Langstein Berlin – Winner of print book, winner’s choice, by Melanie Schertz (except new book) (donated by author, Melanie Schertz)

8:45-9:00  Lynn Bischoff – Winner of Shirley’s Soaps (donated by Rose Fairbanks)

9:00-9:15  Amanda Henry Roe – Winner of autographed print book of ‘Letters from the Heart’ (donated by author, Rose Fairbanks)

9:15-9:30  Angela Winthrow – Winner of the EBook ‘On the Road to Ramsgate’ (donated by author, Melanie Schertz)

9:30-9:45  Amanda Henry Roe – Winner of Bingley’s Teas (donated by Rose Fairbanks)

9:45-10:00  Melanie Schertz – Winner of Shirley’s Soaps (donated by Rose Fairbanks)

 

**Any of these prizes can be traded for an ebook of Whispered Kisses or an Audiobook of Snow Storms & Kissing Games. I will be in contact with each of the winners individually, so no need to tell me which you would prefer here.

 

 

AND finally, the GRAND PRIZE WINNER is:

 

LaunchParty-CelebratingKisses-GrandPrizeWinner-DebbieFortin

 

Thank you all for coming, and I will be in touch with you to work out the delivery of your prizes.

The Peculiar Ramblings Library – Grand Opening!

 

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As many of you know, my friends and I have had a monthly newsletter, Peculiar Ramblings, for nearly six months now. It is exciting to see it grow and bring us all together in amazing ways. I have found an wonderful group of co-workers, and most of all friends, in the ladies who help me every month. – Leslie Diamond, Zoe Burton, Rose Fairbanks, and Eileen Brown.

 

We are all authors, and what an author needs most is readers. So, in an effort to provide our Peculiar Ramblings authors with a safe place to post our stories, whether short or long, for everyone to read, we have built a digital library. It will be ever growing as we each add more of our stories, both old and new, to the library shelves. We hope you enjoy the site and come back often to visit, keep up on the postings going up, and comment – after all, your comments give us authors the boost we sometimes need to push through a difficult writing session.

 

In order to provide the safety needed to have these stories remain free to all, however, it is necessary that our library be password protected. So please keep the following case sensitive password in mind when logging in:  AustenClassics!

This is the same password we use for our Peculiar Ramblings Newsletter every month. Hopefully that will keep things easy for you (and us!!).

 

I would be remiss if I did not mention my special thanks to Stephanie Hamm for her help in dealing with the coding issues that came up. I am not as adept at coding as she is, and she was able to fix the small details that boggled my mind. She was a true Godsend in the last few weeks of preparations, and the wonderful look we have achieved is due to her efforts. So thank you, Stephanie!

 

The library can be found by clicking the images in this post, under the new Library tab on the menu, or at the following url:  http://sarahjohnsonbooks.com/library/

 

So now, we take out the virtual scissors and cut the ribbon on the brand new – Peculiar Ramblings Library! WELCOME and ENJOY!

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It’s a Fabulous Friday!

I don’t know about you, but I love Valentine’s Day. It falls just under Christmas as my favorite holiday on our calendar. I don’t necessarily love the commercialization of it – the candy and flowers and stuffed animals that no one truly wants – but the concept of LOVE is well worth celebrating. Don’t you think?

 

I am reminded of that song – All You Need Is Love. Yes, that is true…that is all we need. We humans are made for relationship. Whether it be parent and child, or brother, sister, aunt, uncle, friend, spouse, God – we draw our value and our inner strength from the relationships surrounding us. Even the Bible puts love in high regard.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13, NIV)

 

We all long to hear that we are loved… that we are valued above others in someone’s eyes. For some, expressing that is easy, but for others it is difficult. I fall into that difficult category. I don’t remember my parents ever saying they loved me. Not that they didn’t show it in other ways, but words were not as important to them. Life has since changed my mom and she freely says it now, but growing up I did not have that example. My kids make it easy for me to say “I Love You” – their love is so pure and simple. Now the teenager, well…

 

So this year, I challenge you to find someone to say “I Love You” to – unselfishly and unashamedly. Find a reason to celebrate, even if it is nothing more than the smile it will give someone (even yourself), or the moment of peace others will have from being loved on a little. Find someone – the checker at the grocery store, the person delivering your mail, your own family or friends – everyone needs a small spark of love this Valentine’s Day!

 

If your schedule happens to leave you free on Sunday, Feb 15, between 6 and 10 (CST), I would be honoured to have you join me and my wonderful friends as we Celebrate Kisses at our launch party on Facebook for my newest novella, Whispered Kisses, as well as the release of my first audiobook, Snow Storms & Kissing Games. We have lots of prizes to give away, including some wonderful books that will give you a reprieve from the woes of life for a few hours, as well as other pampering items that are sure to please! Just click the picture below to view our event, and gather together with us in celebrating love…and kisses!

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Exciting News!!

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Such exciting news this week – Snow Storms & Kissing Games is now in audiobook format, and is available through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Here are the links to purchase it:

Amazon   |   Audible

(Sorry, I can’t open the UK and CAN sites to add those links, so these are just for US, and I cannot open the iTunes one on my computer to get the link for them.)

 

This has been a fun project and even though there were a few stumbling blocks along the way, I am grateful for them as they led to a final product that is so much better than I could ever imagine!

 

The narrator for this book, and hopefully for future audiobooks as well, was the lovely Sophie Andrews of Laughing with Lizzie. She is from England and put a fun twist to the story, especially for me. She was able to bring out the personalities of each of the characters so well, even at some points making them come alive more than I even had in my mind when I wrote them.

I will be hosting Sophie’s first blog interview for her new audiobook business next Friday – February 20th, and would love to have some reader questions for her. So please comment, send me a message, or email me with your questions for her.

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: All You Need Is Love

Our guest this month in the Peculiar Ramblings Newsletter is Joy Dawn King. She is an avid reader, but did not read Jane Austen until she was 55 years old.  It was love at first read. While living in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador last year, she wrote her debut novel, A Father’s Sins: A Pride and Prejudice Variation. Joy is currently living back in the US, in the beautiful state of Oregon, with her husband, John, and is finishing the revisions for her Bingley/Jane story called Finding Their Way. I hope you enjoy this guest post as much as we all did – and thank you Joy!!
If you would like to receive our newsletter every month, with guests posts like this and other articles, games, and stories, you can sign up here.
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“Love Is All You Need” – The BeatlesYesterday at the grocery store checkout I found myself surrounded by pink and red heart shaped boxes of candy. The store was softly playing love songs from the 1970’s and there was a display of gaudy greeting cards for the last minute shopper that had apparently been rejected by Hallmark. It must be close to Valentine’s Day.Even though I do not celebrate the holiday, my thoughts turned to romance. Would I personally think it romantic to receive these gifts? If we did celebrate this day, would my husband think to purchase these treasures in plenty of time or would he be one of the hordes that would attack the shelves at the last minute in an effort to scrounge something to please his wife of almost 35 years?I knew the answer.

One week after we married, all those years ago, my husband, John, had one dozen long-stemmed red roses delivered to me just an hour before he came home from work. He wanted to mark our anniversary. This was the first time that I had ever received roses and it made tears come to my eyes. Then my eyes swelled and my nose started running. Then, I could feel the skin on my face and neck burning and looked into the mirror to see big hives bursting out all over. By the time John got home my throat had started to swell and we thought a trip to the hospital emergency room was in order. However, a dose of Benadryl and removal of the flowers to the back porch took care of the crisis. Apparently, I was allergic to roses. John was crestfallen and I was miserable though the thought behind the gift had been lovely.

For our one month anniversary, John had the same florist deliver a gorgeous potted plant with a small card attached reminding me that he loved me. I placed the plant on a small table in front of our large living room window where it would be the first thing that anyone entering the room would see. I was so proud and my tender feelings of gratitude for my wonderful husband grew. Then, I noticed that small brown things were falling off the green leaves. What could it be? Bugs! The underside of the leaf that it fell from was covered with them. Filled with terror, I swiped that plant off my beautiful table and plopped it onto the back porch. Again, my poor hubby was thwarted in the romance department.

By this time, John was ready to give up on romance. I tried to convey how much his attempts meant to me, but he was feeling like a failure. We hugged, and …. well, the rest of my efforts to soothe him are private, but I’m certain that you get the point. Romance is important in any loving relationship, is it not? John had hit a 10 on the romance meter two months before we wed and he wanted to try to top it or at least equal it for these milestones when he realized how much joy it brought his new wife, but things were not working out. What had he done to reach the pinnacle of success before?

Early in our relationship, John had expressed an opinion about a friend’s ex-wife who had demanded a large diamond engagement ring. When the marriage ended, she was particular about her desire to keep that ring. What this woman did not know was that her husband had picked out a cubic zirconium because he couldn’t afford the real thing. This left a bad impression on John, so he told me that he would NOT spend money on a fancy ring. Two months before we were married I pulled him into a local jewelry store and showed him the wedding set that I coveted. In all our years together, it was the closest that he ever came being disappointed in me. I got over it as he had been clear how he felt about making such a purchase. Two months later, on April 25, 1980, he slipped a ring on my finger. Then he held my finger and started shaking it as the ceremony continued. He kept it up and it was starting to irritate me. Then I looked down. Instead of the plain gold band that I’d paid $2.00 for at a discount store, IT WAS THE RING!!! It was a good thing that Reverend Love at Love’s Chapel in Lake Tahoe, Nevada had probably seen and heard most everything as I squealed and grabbed my almost-husband in a tight hug before he could pronounce us man and wife. Yes, the romantic pole had been set rather high.

Over the years there have been many moments between us that pull at my heart strings when they are recalled to mind. Well thought-out gifts, tender expressions of love and concern, fidelity, loyalty, care and respect have been a constant part of our relationship. Is this not the type of romantic hero that we all enjoy reading about? Isn’t this the kind of husband that you imagine Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy would be to his Elizabeth? It is exactly the kind of man that I married.

So, would John need to grab one of those tacky red boxes off the shelf of our local discount store? Would he give me a card that has a cat with BIG lips puckered for a smooch on the front and hearts floating randomly above those lips? Would he wait until the last minute in a frantic scramble to keep the peace by providing a gift offering of red and pink tulips? No! Why? Because romance is much, much more than just one day a year.

So, think of what your expectations and hopes are for February 14th. I am absolutely convinced that the store hopes and expects that the displays of the candy, cards, and flowers will be cleared before the end of that business day. Undoubtedly, none of it will find its way into my house. If you do celebrate this holiday, I hope that all of your personal expectations are met. If not, remember the words from Nicholas Spark’s book, The Notebook, where he says,

“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I’d hoped to give you forever.”
Much better than chocolates in a pink heart, don’t you agree?
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Protected: A Peculiar Ramblings Story: Words of Love

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Peculiar Ramblings Stories

 

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Cupid’s Throes – password is: Cupid

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If this is you, please refer to your emailed newsletter. If you did not receive the newsletter with this password, you can contact one of our editors: Sarah Johnson, Eileen Brown, Rose Fairbanks, Zoe Burton, or Leslie L Diamond. To be added to the list so you know the password in the future, please go here and fill out the simple form: http://mypeculiarworld.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=a21c14a627c8cc417d69b2f31&id=aa01f39e22

 

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A Peculiar Ramblings Game: Valentine Puzzle

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Peculiar Ramblings Games

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We had such wonderful success with our puzzle last month that we decided to do it again this month. The first person to solve the message and email it to me will win their choice of ebook from any of our published authors (Sarah Johnson, Rose Fairbanks, Zoe Burton, or Leslie L Diamond). Please email the solved message to: zoeburtonauthor@outlook.com

 

Online jigsaw puzzles from JigsawSite.com

 

 

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