The Rising Popularity of Audio Books

grateful-54-audiobooks[1].jpgWhen I first began selling my novels at craft fairs five years ago, I was occasionally asked if they were available as ebooks, which they were, and still are. Most customers owned Kindles and a few had other e-readers. This year, however, the most frequent question is “Are your books available in audio?”

The answer is not yet, but it looks like I’ll need to do so soon. Based on what I’ve read and heard this year, other writers are saying the same thing. While audio books are rapidly rising in popularity, however, the majority of people I spoke with don’t actually buy them, but borrow audio books from the library. This is anecdotal information, of course. Still, it does appears that this is where my market is.

First, I need to research how to go about creating an audio version of my books. If any of you are aware of a good service, please let me know. I’m especially looking for Canadian options to avoid the high U.S. exchange rate.

Also, please note that I’ll be away this week from Wednesday to Friday, but will catch up on your comments and thoughts then. Thank you!

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Researching the Ten Pound Poms

Sydney_Opera_House_Sails_edit02[1]Last week, I blogged about listening to a radio show on coded knitting that inadvertently sparked ideas for a new novel. This week, novel research is being approached from the opposite direction. The work is written, but now I need to flesh out the details.

One section of the contemporary fantasy I’m writing takes place in York, England in the 1950s. My protagonist, a widow with two young children, needs to flee the country to escape her wealthy, predatory father-in-law who’s scheming to take her children away.

Originally, I thought she’d go to South Africa, but after reading a few pages aloud to my critique group, two key questions came up. Why South Africa and how could she afford it? Good questions indeed. I began some research and soon came across an article about the “Ten Pound Poms” as the Australians once called British citizens who migrated to Australia and New Zealand after WWII.

You see, after the war, the Australian government decided it needed British workers (partly due to the Australian government’s racist whites-only policy back then) to build its economy, so they offered passage for only ten pounds, including free passage for kids. Tired of food rationing and probably the weather, among other things, nearly 400,000 Britons applied in the first year alone. The catch to the offer was that the Britons would have to stay for two years before they were allowed to return. Otherwise, they’d have to pay back the full fare.

Many built new lives there, but a minority loafed around not doing much of anything until they could return home, according to the article HERE. Also, those without money were shuffled into former army barracks when they arrived, so needless to say, conditions were less than ideal.

It’s a fascinating story to me, most of which I’ll never use in the book because my protagonist actually winds up in Canada, due to a dramatic change in circumstances. Still, like last week’s knitting story, this is a bit of real history that I knew nothing about until I began the research, and for that I thank my critique group!

The Secret World of Knitters

knitting_250x251[1]When I was a girl, my grandmother taught me to knit. I kept it up for a few years, but then stopped. I’m not sure why, but it was probably because school and the many ballet classes and practices that demanded my time. Perhaps I haven’t lost interest completely, though, as my most recent Evan Dunstan mystery novella has a ball of yarn on the cover and a couple of key characters are knitters.

What really sparked my interest again was part of a radio discussion I heard while driving home from work last week. It was about women who had used knitting to implant coded messages during WWII. In fact, apparently Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities has a French character who knitted the names of people who were being beheaded into her work.

After I got home, I googled coded knitting and found interesting articles on the topic. In a book called Writing Secret Codes and Hidden Messages it’s stated that after Morse code was invented it was soon realized that yarn or well would work quite well as a way to send messages.

I learned that an ordinary loop knot can make the equivalent of a dot, a knit stitch looks like a ‘v’ and a purl stitch could look like a horizontal line or a little bump. Even a dropped stitch had meaning, so you can see how messages could have been embedded in a scarf, for example.

A great example in the article HERE tells the story of a female secret agent who parachuted into Normandy in 1944 and began speaking with the Germans, pretending to help them. The information they inadvertently gave her was then embedded in her knitting and passed onto the British.

The other article (HERE) indicates that the Office of Censorship (in Britain) banned people from sending knitting patterns through the mail in case they contained encoded messages. Did you know that older Belgium women whose windows overlooked the railyard were recruited to note the trains coming and going, and embed that information into their knitting?

All this got me to thinking about the whole concept of coding, from early times to what we think of as coding today (something my son learned in computing science courses). Maybe there’s a mystery novel to write that incorporates different types of coding. The idea’s percolating in the back of my brain. If it has merit, it’ll surface, and a new novel will begin. Meanwhile, perhaps I should take up knitting again. Their world sounds pretty awesome.

#amblogging: Wicca: Where Everything Old Is New Again

I don’t have a strong religious background. My Sunday school education ended at age twelve. Neither my parents nor any of my grandparents went to church. Lately, though, I’ve become interested in reading about all types of religious beliefs.

In particular, I’ve been reading about Wicca, primarily because it’s at the core of an urban fantasy I’m writing. I also took an introductory course on the topic last year. That six-evening session was so interesting that it inspired further reading. Our instructor recommended books by Scott Cunningham, so I picked up a couple. Here’s a snippet of notes I made from his work:

. Wicca is a loosely organized pagan religion centering toward reverence for the creative forces of nature, usually symbolized by a Goddess and a God.

. Wiccan’s spiritual roots accepts magic. Wicca doesn’t solicit members because it doesn’t claim to be the one try way to deity. (I like that part.)

. Wicca is a joyous religion that stems from a kinship with nature. It is a merging with the goddesses and gods, the universal energies that created all in existence. It is a personal, positive celebration of life.

. Wicca arose from shamanic beginnings, which the author says was the first, original religion. (I know plenty of Christians who would disagree, but there you go, diversity of opinion, right?)

. The Wiccan rule of morality: do what you want, as long as you harm none. Also, do nothing that will harm yourself. Concern and love for the planet is at the heart of Wicca.

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Wicca has gained a lot of popularity over the last twenty years. You could say that it’s been making a slow but steady comeback. As hard as some people tried in earlier centuries, this earth-based religion never really died. If practitioners are true Wiccans, they use magic solely to make the world a better place, to heal and to help.

As with most fantasy novels, authors who write about witches are actually writing about Wiccans gone wrong. It’s where a writer’s imagination takes off, and why I love this genre as a reader and a writer.