Sunday, September 29, 2013

DREAM CHILD BOOK III by J.J. (James) DiBenedetto

Image of J.J. DiBenedettoDream Child interview continued

J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.





-What authors inspire or influence your work?
Everyone I read, really.  I can’t think of any specific influences, but I know that my style is heavily influenced by what I’ve read.
As for inspiration, the biggest inspiration for getting these books finished and published was a friend of mine, Jennifer Povey, who sold her first novel last year.  Seeing her succeed pushed me to want to do it myself.
-Do you need visual media to describe people or places? (Some authors use pics. out of magazines)
No.  I can see my characters and location in my head pretty clearly.  I actually have trouble thinking of appropriate actors to “cast” my books.
-Favorite snack when writing.
Anything sweet.
-Do you have a Muse?
If so, I haven’t met them yet.
-Once a character is fully developed do you set them free or do they still dance around your mind?
Oh, they’re free, but they seem to want to stay in my mind anyway.  I need to start charging them rent!
- Is the Thesaurus one of your best writing friends?
Honestly, no.  I’ve got a pretty good vocabulary to begin with and I can usually come up with the right word on my own.
 

M first four books had been out for a month before the idea of audiobooks came up.  It wasn’t even my idea; my wife’s boss is just about legally blind, and she asked my wife if the Dream Series books were available on audio.  I had never thought about that, but the question put the idea in my head.  And I’m really grateful, because the audiobook experience has been nothing but positive.

It didn’t look like it would be that way.  I looked into production companies and discovered just how expensive professional audio recording can be.  I was quoted prices of $300-$400 per hour of audio (and I was told the rule of thumb that 8,000-12,000 words equals one hour).  With a 96,000 word book, that worked out to anywhere between 8 and 12 hours…or $2,400 at the low end and $4,800 on the high end.  My budget did not include that – and that was for only one book, but I had FOUR.

Thankfully, one of the people I talked to, who kindly spent an hour on the phone with me explaining the audiobook world, told me about Amazon’s service, ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange).  You put your book up for audition, and potential narrators put themselves out there with samples of their work.  And, ideally, you connect with them.  The narrators set their own rates, and some of them will work for “royalty share” (no money up front, but you share all royalties with them 50/50). 

ACX has a great system to look for narrators – you have several variables you can select.  There are obvious ones like gender and language.  There’s also age (what age can the narrator portray, from child to elderly adult and everything in between), accent (50+ choices, some VERY specific), tone (anything from sultry to humorous to terrified, and many option in between) and genre of your book.  Using those choices, I narrowed my options down from the over 10,000 narrators on ACX to 20 or so.  I listened to their samples, chose the 5 I liked best, and reached out to them.

And one of them, the amazing Heather Jane Hogan (http://www.heatherjanehogan.com) contacted me back, liked the idea of the books, and agreed to narrate them for me.  She recorded the first fifteen minutes of the book – that’s the first checkpoint, when you can listen to make sure that you and your narrator are “on the same page.” 

I was blown away.  Heather did a better job than I imagined – she really brought the book to life in a way I didn’t dare to hope for.  Other than literally one or two words, there wasn’t a thing that I asked her to change.  And that was true for the rest of the book, when I received the files from her a month later. 

As a narrator, Heather made the production process not only easy, but enjoyable.  And ACX made the technical details and the business end of things simple and straightforward.  I am thrilled with how it’s all turned out, and we’re in the middle of recording book #2 in the Dream Series, “Dream Doctor” right now.

(I’ve got ten minute samples from both books at my website:

Dream Child Cover
“I would give anything to take this away from her.  I would gladly go back to having the nightmares myself – the very worst ones, the ones that had me waking up screaming in a pool of my own vomit – rather than see Lizzie go through this…” 
As a resident at Children’s Hospital, Sara can handle ninety hour workweeks, fighting to save her young patients from deadly childhood diseases.  But she’s about to be faced with a challenge that all her training and experience haven’t prepared her for: her four-year-old daughter has inherited her ability to see other people’s dreams…
“Dream Child” is the suspenseful third novel in the “Dreams” series.
Excerpt:
Someone’s shaking my shoulders, yelling right in my face.  “Mommy!  Mommy!  Mommy!”
My eyes open, and I’m instantly wide awake when I see the panic in the face of my daughter.  I throw my arms around her and hug her to me.  “It’s OK, Lizzie.  Mommy’s here.  You’re safe,” I say with a calm I definitely don’t feel.
“I had another funny dream!”  Oh, God.  I – I remember now, I did, too.  But that’s not important, it can wait.
I keep holding Lizzie as tightly as I can.  “Can you be brave again, like before?  Tell Mommy all about it?”
She has to think about that.  I don’t blame her – I don’t feel especially brave right now myself.  But she finds her courage, takes a deep breath and launches straight into what she saw: “Billy, Billy from the train, he was in his bedroom.  He has a big model airplane, like how Uncle Bob makes.  And he was on his bed and his door was shut, but his mommy and daddy were yelling, I could hear them through the door.  Billy was crying.  He was really sad!  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, ‘cept it was bad, ‘cause they were both yelling and they sounded really mad.”
She stops and looks up at me, with a fear in her eyes that I’ve never seen there before.  I know exactly what she’s going to ask me.  “Mommy, do you and Daddy…?”
Thank God, no.  We rarely fight, and it’s funny – the worst one we ever did have was all whispers instead of shouts.  “No, honey.  We don’t yell like that at each other.  Some – uh, some grown-ups do, but your Daddy and I love each other very much, and we would never be like that.  And you know what?  We love you, too.”
Lizzie accepts that; I think she already knew it, but she wanted to be reassured.  “I’m glad, Mommy.  They were yelling really loud.  It was bad and Billy was crying and I wanted them to stop, and I tried to open the door and go tell them to be quiet ‘cause Billy was so sad and crying, but then I woke up.”
To my surprise, Lizzie is holding back tears, but it’s clearly taking a lot of effort.  I am so proud of her – I kiss her forehead, squeeze her tight.  “You are such a wonderful girl,” I tell her.  “You have such a big heart.  I’m – I don’t even know what to say.”  I’d love to think that she’s this way because of what she’s learned from Brian and me, but we can’t take credit for it.  It’s been inside her from the start.
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