Shock Totem Radio
- Ugly As Sin—Now Available!
- Closed for Winter Break
- Star Road
- A Conversation with Voice Actor Georgie Leonard
- Cellar Door: Words Of Beauty, Tales Of Terror Review
- King Revives Our Favorite Demons
- A Conversation with Author Todd Keisling
- Ugly As Sin Cover Reveal
- Blood, Sweat and Drool: A Conversation with Director Jeremiah Kipp
- Chatting with Author Seanan McGuire
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Author Archives: Mercedes M. Yardley
Georgie Leonard is a playwright, screenwriter, voice artist, and actor from Bristol, United Kingdom. She was chosen to play the female roles in the audiobook Exquisite Death put out by In Ear Entertainment. She reads both of my stories in the audiobook, and she did a wonderful job on two very different pieces. I asked Georgie if she’d be down for an interview, and I’m so excited that she agreed.
Mercedes M. Yardley: So Georgie! Please tell us how you came into voice acting. And why audio books? What’s the draw?
Georgie Leonard: I’ve always loved the idea of voicing a character in a Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli (HMC’s Sophie is my spirit animal) or Disney film (ideally I’d play Belle in Beauty and the Beast, but I guess I’m a little late for that!) but even with that interest, my foray into voice acting was almost more of a happy accident than a planned move.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with Mark on a couple of different voice-based projects in the past, which is how I became involved with this particular recording.
Why audiobooks in particular? I love, love, LOVE reading and I think getting to read books to people as part of my career is pretty damn awesome!
MMY: I’ll agree with you about Studio Ghibli. I think anybody who takes part of their work in any form would die happy!
How does an audiobook differ from other voice work?
GL: I’ve been lucky enough to have varying voice work over the few years I’ve been professionally working as an actor, with projects as diverse as session-singing to radio dramas. From my experience, audiobooks are different in that it’s just you and the mic—there’s no accompaniment in the form of music or another person in there with you. Whereas when you are working on a radio drama/online podcast drama, then you tend to have at least one actor in the room with you. Even if it’s just to deliver one line! Though it really does depend on the project!
MMY: Have you had any favorite projects that you’ve worked on? What made them memorable?
GL: Each project I’ve worked on has been so different to the last, and so it’s rather difficult to compare them to each other! As this is the first set of (hopefully many!) audiobooks I’ve worked on, it’ll always be special to me! But I always love projects where I get to work foley as well as act.
MMY:What do you do if you have a piece you’re not particularly excited about?
GL: I’m yet to have a piece of audio work that I’m less than enthusiastic about, but I suppose the trick is to treat it as any other job. If you’re that unsure about it before you perform it, then you shouldn’t take the job!
MMY:How do you prepare for voice work? Can you share any tricks of the trade?
GL: Plenty of water, and try to avoid dairy for at least a day before! If I have time beforehand, then I also try to run through a few vocal warm-ups- there’s nothing worse than sounding croaky when you’re supposed to have a light and clear voice for something.
MMY: Tell us what a basic recording session is like. (the room, the mic, what you do, etc.)
GL: Well, it differs from place to place. One recording I did for a songwriter had me standing in a booth made of mattresses and duvets for sound dampening!
For In Ear, the recording studio is pretty bare, but fully functional. It’s not like you need much in the way of anything other than the recording equipment, a chair, and something to rest your script on anyway, so it’s a good room without any distractions.
MMY: What projects do you have coming out, and how do we contact you? (this is the chance to pimp your stuff!)
GL: At the moment, I am currently working on a BBC drama production that will be televised next year, and have a few projects lined up to begin after that is done shooting. Plus there’s hopefully some more work with In Ear Entertainment coming my way!
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Lee Thompson’s work. He writes fast, he writes hard, and he comes up with beautifully tragic stories that are both engaging and soul-crushing.
Gossamer: A Tale of Love and Tragedy is no different. From the very beginning, we’re tossed into an uncomfortably unflinching look at love and loss. Dorothy is a little girl forced to watch her father denounce her mother as a witch. As the sentence is passed, Dorothy hardens her heart and promises revenge.
The main story has to do when Dorothy has lived several lifetimes. She resides in the small town of Gossamer, guardian of an area filled with people that she grows to care for. Then her loneliness puts the residents of Gossamer in danger, and everything changes.
Lee has a clean, easy prose that still manages to be beautiful. He’s especially gifted at writing women, which is rare to see from a male writer. His portrayal of Dorothy and her aunt are both strong and chilling. Later in the book, we are introduced to two more strong mother/daughter characters, and the ineffectual boyfriend. It’s interesting to see the spine and determination in these women, and how far Lee is willing to push them until they either push back or break completely.
This book is full of witches and vampires. It’s full of magical carousals. It’s also full of betrayal, love reciprocated and not, and cowardice. Lee takes the unlovely parts of real life and sets it in a setting so deliciously bizarre that you think you’re simply reading a story, when in fact you’re listening to a man sitting across from you and telling you all about pain.
Gossamer goes down easy and leaves a bitter aftertaste. It’s dark and lovely. I’d recommend it.
This is Mort Castle and Mason Bundschuh jamming together after the 2013 Bram Stoker Awards ceremony. Mort just walked away with two Stokers, one in the Superior Achievement in an Anthology category for Shadow Show, and Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection for New Moon on the Water.
In D minor, the saddest of all keys.
The photograph was taken by Stacy Scranton-Morgan.
It has been quite some time since I read H.G. Wells, and I have to say that it was certainly a pleasure to dive back into him.
If you’re not familiar with his work, you should be. If you have young adults in the house, they should be familiar with him as well. His work is dark and lyrical, with an elegant charm to the language. And a story! That man can certainly tell a tale.
This book, Steampunk: H.G. Wells, has three of his stories compiled together and beautifully illustrated. It contains The Time Machine, the short story “The Country of the Blind,” and perhaps the most famous of all, The War of the Worlds. Zdenko Basic, the illustrator, fills the collection with many finely detailed pictures that manage to be both foreboding and whimsical.
The Illustrations are what make this collection. They’re gorgeous and fit the tone of Wells’ tales nicely. The first, The Time Machine, was my favorite of the three. It was delightful to see the main character and his friends depicted in their steampunk scarves and goggles, standing in the middle of the drawing room. The Time Machine looked like a grand motorcycle. These pictures were a delight, and made an already engaging read even better.
This is one book in a series. Zdenko Basic also illustrates Steampunk: Poe and Steampunk: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I love that they don’t change the stories at all, but merely accentuate classics with gorgeous art. It’s a series that I’m definitely planning on picking up.
Should you read this? Yes. Should you pick it up to tempt struggling readers? Definitely.
Stacy Scranton-Morgan is a popular photographer, and I’ve run into her at several different conventions. She’s not only great at taking pictures of the panelists and speakers, but also takes wonderful behind-the-scenes pictures of moments that wouldn’t otherwise be captured. Stacy also takes headshots, which is a necessity for every author. I tracked her down and asked for a little advice on how to take a decent author’s photo.
Mercedes M. Yardley: Hi, Stacy! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. As authors, we’re used to using words and phrases to convey nuances and emotions. As a photographer, you do things visually. It’s a completely different world.
Take the subject of author’s photos. They can be quite daunting to a writer. Suddenly one photo is going to basically encapsulate us as a person. They’ll be used online, on the backs of our books, and as promotional tools. The experience of taking an author’s photo can be terribly awkward. This is where your expertise comes in.
Is it possible to take a good photo if the author is extremely nervous? What would you suggest is the best way to calm down?
Stacy Scranton-Morgan: The first part of the question reminds me of the episode of Friends when Monica and Chandler were having their engagement portraits taken. Chandler was so nervous that he just could not get a good picture. So I would say there are those extreme cases. Most people, especially ones that are not used to having their photographs taken, do get nervous in front of the camera. The best thing you can do is try to relax and have fun with it. Take a few deep breaths. When I’m photographing people, I try to have fun with them. I like to joke around and get them laughing a little bit. By being a little goofy, it usually helps to loosen up my subject. Just remember, you have the easy job. You just have to sit there and be yourself.
The buzz is on sexual harassment in the literary world lately, especially at cons. And I’ll tell you that, as a woman, I’ve been there. I had a well-known literary name grab my butt at a con last year, and I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to do. There weren’t any roundhouse kicks to the face, or firm dressing downs. My friends didn’t rush to my defense. There was just his hand. My body. And shock. Some shame. A whole bunch of confusion.
Was this the first experience? Of course not. Will it be the last? Sadly, no. I don’t expect it will be.
At the same time, I feel like we’re getting a bit reactive about all of it. It’s almost a battle to see who can be more affronted. Oh yeah? Somebody actually touched your body? Well, somebody just looked at me wrong, and I filed a report on sexual harassment. Therefore I am much more educated and proactive than you. If only you respected women or yourself more, you could be angry like me.
I’m nervous to even publish this essay, because it’s such a charged subject. I know the flack I’m going to get about it.
There are people out there who scare me. They push so hard to make sure that they never become victims that they actually come across as bullies. I’m terrified that I’ll get nervous, say the wrong thing and affront them. I would never intend to, but sometimes I think intent has very little to do with it.
Case in point: An author told me he writes erotica and sent me unsolicited links to his work. On the page was a picture of him that can never be unseen. NEVER. UNSEEN.
Friend One (female): You were just sexually harassed! Get a rope!
Friend Two (male): I think maybe you were just sexually harassed. Should I…do something?
My Mom: You knew better than to click that link, sweetie.
I think Mom is right. I knew he was sending me stories he had written. Did I expect to be blinded by boy bits? No, I did not. But it’s like the old folktale about the little boy who carries the snake (no pun intended) to the top of the hill: He knew what the snake was when he picked it up.
I don’t consider it sexual harassment. I had an idea of what I was getting into. I’m certainly not going to report him for showing me his, ahem, work when he had given me an idea of the kind of work it is. Sure, a warning of the visuals would have kept me far away from the link, but ultimately I believe the fault was mine.
But this made me realize that most of us don’t have a clue as to what sexual harassment is, especially on the Internet. A man (or woman, for that matter) corners me at a con and says suggestive things or puts their hands on my body, and that’s definitely harassment. I know it with every fiber of my being. But online? The lines become blurry. I’m not exactly sure.
This last week I blocked somebody on Facebook for making inappropriate comments. The conversation went very quickly from “Tell me about your work” to “You have beautiful lips. And hair. And eyes.” Uncool. Uncomfortable. Blocked. Ugh.
A while ago, three other women and I were at a horror con. When the picture came up online, there was immediately a conversation about our bust size. Yes, we’re busty. No, that doesn’t give you a pass to discuss it. More ugh.
These things were obvious to me. They made me feel bad. Uncomfortable. But what about the flirty friend you have to keep reigning in? Being sent unsolicited stories high in sexual content? Being sought out simply because we’re women? The Shock Totem staff often says, “Why did So and So approach you about this and not me?” Probably because I’m a girl. Because we’re seen as easier to approach and sometimes dominate. I’ve had people sweet talk me about getting in the mag when I know they aren’t doing the same thing to Ken or John or Tom. What about when women are invited to an anthology because “the antho needs women”? So does Mars. Is that a form of harassment? My body parts gave me a free pass? Then again, how many times have we been upset because an antho or “Best Of” or, heaven forbid I say it, the Bram Stoker Awards had a glaring lack of female participants and nominees? Is it true that there just aren’t any winners here?
Let me give you a completely opposite example that was actually comical in its intent. I was at WHC in New Orleans. My friends were all at panels, and I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. I found a nice, quiet person sitting in the lobby, who turned out to be John Urbancik. (Whether or not John is nice and quiet in real life is not up for debate. It was early in the morning and he was absolutely lovely.) :P
Me: Excuse me. I’m looking for a place to eat breakfast. Do you know anywhere?
John: Yes, I went to this bar the other morning and it was wonderful. It’s located AAFD@#$@#$ Blah blah Neeeeeneeeeneeeen wigawomp.” (This is how I understand directions.)
Me: I’ll never find it. But thank you anyway!
John: W…would you like me to show you?
Me (eying him mistrustfully): Yeeeeeees…
We were so afraid of being forward. Of putting off the wrong signals at a conference and a city known for debauchery. He walked me to the bar, hesitantly, wanting to be honorable and promising that he would drop me off when we arrived there, so I wouldn’t have to eat with a total male stranger. I was grateful, but felt stupid for asking. But more than that, I was really STARVING. So we made it. Waved farewell. I bellied up to the bar and had the best breakfast I had in New Orleans, by myself. And when I was nearly done? A man sitting at the bar next to me threw down a five dollar bill, said, “It was a pleasure watching you eat,” and left.
Ugh. Again. After the “I don’t want to be offensive in any way” dance with John earlier that morning. I could have had breakfast with somebody who turned out to be a friend, instead of being tipped by El Creepo at the bar. I throw my hands in the air. I’m defeated.
Hey. I’m a woman and I’m confused about the whole thing. I thought I was supposed to know what was going on.
Let’s go back to basics. Treat me with respect and as a professional. In return, I’ll treat you the same way. I won’t go looking for ways to be slighted if you don’t go out of your way to slight me. I think we all need to act better. Just because I have Bettie Page bangs, that doesn’t mean I’m your personal pin-up girl. And just because you hold the door open for me, that doesn’t mean you have an angle. I want us to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to assume that the other person meant no offense. Wouldn’t it be nice not to be on guard all of the time? Wouldn’t that be a relief?
I yearn for a world of courteousness and professionalism. That’s all. Being a writer…heck, being a HUMAN is tough enough. We don’t need to complicate things.
And even as I write this, the events of ComicCon were brought to my attention. My mind boggles.
Respect. Let’s try it.
Here are a handful of goodies from around the Internet that we found interesting this past week.
We’ll start off this Sunday Digs with something a little more whimsical: buildings sporting optical illusions. After looking at that, here are some rather emotional pictures of suitcases left behind by New York asylum residents.
Here’s a horrifying read of some bad feelings that went down on the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel at this year’s ComicCon. Quite frankly, these are women I’d choose not to insult.
And finally, we have some advice on getting it done by Joss Whedon. His secret weapon? Chocolate. No joke.
I’m a sucker for fairy tales. We all know that. But I’m not particularly impressed by the fiercely sanitized, Disney-esque fairytales of today. I like the original ones. Grimm and Anderson and fairly dripping with darkness. The wolf gets hacked open by an axe in order to release Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood. Blackbeard keeps all of his dead wives behind a special door. Cinderella’s sisters chop off pieces of their feet in order to fit into the glass/fur/metal slipper. This is the true essence of a fairytale.
So imagine my joy when I picked up Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Collection, a wonderfully dark collection that eschews the frilly Princess fairy tales that I’ve come to expect. Amanda C. Davis, author of “Drift” from Shock Totem #3, and Megan Engelhardt have put together a book of appropriately whimsical and sorrowful fairy tales.
It’s a diverse collection, full of poems, different retold fairy tales, and the occasional story told in the second-person. Even two retellings of the same story, “Rumpelstiltskin,” had clever twists to them and ended up completely different from the original and from each other. One filled me with hope, and the other with delightful despair.
Many of the tales are written as if they were being told to the reader, and I found this to be very effective. The language is beautiful and simple. The writing is sometimes light and breathy, but often has a solid, almost grim cadence to it. This is something that I would definitely read aloud to somebody else.
My favorite of all was “A Letter Concerning Shoes,” which is written by a poor cobbler for one of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Full of charm and melancholy we see her story from his point of view. There is a clever tie-in at the end that links this cobbler to other fairy tales.
Wolves and Witches was an absolutely delightful read, and I look forward to seeing other works from the authors.