Posts Tagged ‘audiobook’

Words I Can’t Say: Pronunciation Guides for Audiobook Recordings

What do you do when the  producer of the audiobook version of your novel asks you to provide a pronunciation guide for words you have no idea how to say?

Many folks who grew up as voracious readers have probably experienced the embarrassment of knowing the meaning of a word before learning its pronunciation. This phenomenon tends to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times—most often when one is trying to sound erudite in front of new acquaintances. In the company of learned peers, such a faux pas can feel mortifying.

After I graduated from college I had thought this particular nightmare was behind me. By that point my spoken vocabulary had mostly achieved parity with my reading level. Encouraged by the prospect of a future in which I would put words on pages and let others puzzle over them, I let myself get comfortable. Then I got lazy. And I got cocky.


What Do You Say, Writer-man?

In early December of 2017 I received an e-mail from the producer of the audiobook version of my original novel The Midnight Front, a story whose premise involves ceremonial black magic being practiced as part of a behind-the-scenes conflict during the Second World War. The producer asked me to do something I had done before for audiobooks of my previous novels: provide a pronunciation guide for specified proper nouns and exotic words in my manuscript, as a reference for the actor who would record the audiobook. But this request was different.

As I skimmed through the list of words, I realized I had dug myself into an inescapable pit. Having reproduced verbatim in my novel the content of Renaissance-era black-magic rituals, it had never occurred to me that I would at some point have to tell someone how to pronounce these words. The rituals included obscure phrases in bastardized Latin, consonant-heavy names of demons, and other archaisms for which no easy reference exists.

Off the top of my head, I had no idea how to say “Vindicta! Morietur, et draconi,” “Occidere monstrum,” “Iustitia et libertas,” or “Adiuro animae meaeanima tua potestate mea sit potestate, in condicionibus foederis.” And I found myself at a loss to think of anyone I knew who could.


Nice Place to Visit, But I Can’t Tell You Its Name

The producer also asked me to offer pronunciation guidance for the names of foreign cities. Some were Polish, some Scottish, but all were baffling to me. Loch Duich, Dębniki, Podgórze, Płaszów—try reciting that list five times fast. I can’t pronounce it even once.

The further down the list I went, the more befuddled I became. My producer wanted me to offer spoken examples of “Ut fulgur gladium meum,” “Audite vocem meam, et dolore esse parcendum,” and, perhaps most tongue-twisting of all, “venité, venité, submirillitor.” And don’t even get me started on Novgorodskaya Oblast.

Over the course of forty years I’ve gone from reading words that I don’t know how to use in conversation to writing books that contain words I can’t be trusted to speak without embarrassing myself. In the long run, I suppose, this might count as progress. If only I’d known what to tell my audiobook producer.

If you pick up a copy of my exciting new contemporary fantasy The Midnight Front in audiobook format and all the Latin phrases and foreign cities’ names are mispronounced, please don’t send angry mail to my producers. I assure you that the blame will rest with me alone.

Now you can hear The Calling

And I mean that headline literally. My first original urban-fantasy thriller The Calling is now available, complete and unabridged, as an audiobook on

In case you need a refresher on what this book was all about, here’s the back-cover blurbage:

Meet the answer to your prayers.

No one would guess by looking at Tom Nash that he’s extraordinary, and that’s just fine with him. A tall, broad-shouldered jack-of-all-trades from Sawyer, Pennsylvania, Tom has a knack for fixing things. He also hides a secret talent: he hears people’s prayers. Stranger still, he answers them. Maybe it’s because he’s a handyman, but Tom feels compelled to fix people’s problems. Which is all well and good — until the soul-shattering plea of a terrified girl sends him on the darkest journey of his life…

Heeding the call and leaving his home for New York City, Tom discovers a secret world beyond the range of mortal perception — a world of angels and demons and those who serve them. With the guidance of a knowing stranger named Erin, Tom learns that he himself is one of The Called, born with a divine purpose and a daunting task: to help the powers of Heaven in the war against the agents of Hell, an army of fallen angels known as the Scorned. Thrust into an epic battle of the sacred and the profane, Tom Nash must find the girl who prayed for his help — because her fate will determine whether humanity deserves to be saved, or damned for all eternity…

So, if you prefer to listen to your fiction, I hope you’ll give The Calling a turn on your playlist someday soon.



My first book trailer! Sort of…

While skimming through the status updates on my Facebook page this morning, I noticed a curious call-out by the German publisher of Star Trek books to a trailer for Star Trek Vanguard, the series I developed with editor Marco Palmieri and on which I alternate writing duties with Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore. So I clicked through…

Lo and behold—my first-ever book trailer! Except…

  • It’s in German, so I don’t understand more than a smattering of words spoken in the voice-over;
  • It’s for the German-language audiobook of the first Vanguard novel, Harbinger;
  • The design of Starbase 47 is completely wrong in the trailer; they appear to have taken a model of Deep Space 9 and stripped away the outer pylons, which is inexcusable since they had my book’s cover and could see what the station looked like (and also could have been given skinned 3D models if only they’d asked); and…
  • They also got the logo wrong, using a mix of early movie font plus an unrelated font instead of the original-series typeface.

It also raises a couple of questions in my mind:

  • Why hasn’t my American publisher ever made book trailers to support my work?
  • Why aren’t there audiobooks of any of my English-language books?

Anyway, if anyone reading this happens to sprechen sie Deutsch and can translate the trailer’s voice-over for me, I would be most appreciative.

ETA: Just received a translation from a German friend on Facebook. The trailer’s V.O. translates (roughly) as:

KIRK: 2260. Captain’s Log. Taurus Reach.

The U.S.S. Enterprise is returning from its first mission. It is urgent that we let the ship undergo extensive repairs. At our current speed we would need seven months to reach the nearest Federation base. Yet today we received a call from one of our starbases, Starbase 7, also known as Vanguard. We will go there, but something puzzles me: This station should not be finished yet. This could not have been done without help from outside.

To make matters worse, the Klingon Empire is very skeptical of our research efforts in the Taurus Reach. I can’t shake off the feeling that something is not right here. I must get a complete report on this. Because if my suspicions are justified, something is terribly wrong out here.

A few problems here. First, the year is wrong — it should be 2265. Second, the voice-over misidentifies Vanguard as “Starbase 7” when it should be Starbase 47. Third, the mission depicted in the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was not the Enterprise‘s first mission, nor its first under Kirk’s command, but merely the first episode of the series. (And technically it wasn’t even that; it was the second pilot, after “The Cage.”)