Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Hi there! This is Brittany Ragan, the fourth (and favorite) child of Theresa Ragan. I am a freelance graphic designer based in sunny Santa Barbara.
I’m here to report on my journey so far with becoming an audiobook narrator/editor. I’m working in tandem with my boyfriend, Dillon Yuhasz. A little bit about Dillon: He majored in theater and has a real knack for doing character voices. You should hear his Frank Underwood impressionit’s like I’m dating Kevin Spacey.

Anywho, when my mom asked us to record the audiobook for Dead Man Running, Dillon and I were very excited and quickly agreed to help. The plan was for Dillon to narrate and for me to edit. We thought it would be easy to figure out what equipment we needed and how to get started… but boy were we wrong! There was little to be found on this subject on the Internet, which is what inspired me to write this post. If you know of any useful sites or How-To-Audiobook articles PLEASE share in the comments because I would love to read them.

These are the steps that Dillon and I took in order to get our audiobook narration business going:


Get to know what different narrators sound like. We listened to Stephen King’s IT and absolutely loved the narration by Steven Weber. We also surveyed clips of other audio books and found some narrations that we... didn’t like so much. It’s good to figure out what things you like and don’t like as a listener so you are educated when getting into audiobook narration.


The Microphone
We knew we needed a good microphone, so we talked with our friends who had gone to school for production and read reviews of various microphones and packages online. We finally settled on the Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package for $229 on Amazon. It comes with the mic, a mic dust cover, a pop shield, a shock mount (NOT A MIC STAND), and a 20ft microphone cable.

Mic Stand
We also bought a decent desk mic stand, for $12.33. It’s sturdy and has a heavy base, which is nice because it stays in place.

Audio Interface
We got the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Recording Audio Interface for $150. You need an audio interface. This turns the analog sound from the microphone into digital information that is read on the computer. While your computer most likely has a sound card of its own, an audio interface is designed to operate with lower latency, or lag, than the sound card and is necessary for good audio recording.

Audio Editing Software
I am a graphic designer so I use Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign on the daily. Because of this I have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, which includes the program Adobe Audition. You need audio editing software so you can edit and export the video. There are many programs out there, but Audacity is a free program you can download and use for editing as well. If you do not have experience with using an audio editing platformHave no fear! Dillon and I didn’t either. Whichever program you choose I recommend using YouTube to look up tutorials for your specific audio editing software on how to record and edit the audio. One YouTube video that I used to learn more about Adobe Audition can be found right here.


FIND A QUIET PLACE. There are plenty of articles out there discussing the do’s and don’t of recording audio. My favorite tips were:
  • Steer clear of unnecessary noises. Turn off appliances, shut windows and doors, and try to avoid hard surfaces for fear of the sounds reflecting.
  • Do not record in the middle of a room. Something known as “standing waves” exist and frequencies can build up and add unwanted sound.
  • Have a chair that you can sit comfortably in. As the narrator, you’ll want to make sure you can be comfortable in order to be on your A-game.
My apartment isn’t exactly the ultimate space to use as a recording studio but we found that the quietest room was the bedroom. We set up two foldable tables and a chair and made a makeshift recording studio between our closet and bed.


Dillon works full-time as a teacher, so he doesn’t have a lot of extra time. He’s been recording every Saturday for a few hours so we can get this book done. His tips on recording include:
  • Do any type of vocal warm ups. A few examples can be found here.  
  • Don’t worry about messing upthat’s when you will mess up!
  • Too slow is better than too fast. Work on timing and try to keep a good, listenable pace.
  • Read from your kindle, phone, or computer. You won't want to edit out the sound of pages turning.
  • Have a glass of water nearby and stay hydrated.
  • Make sure you are engaged in the storyyou can’t just read it. You need to understand what the story is about so you can convey the emotion that the author is going for.


Dillon has been editing as he records. If he makes a mistake he just deletes and re-records. When he’s done, I listen to the tracks in search of any noise that isn’t a part of the book (like a slight creak in the chair, outside traffic, or anyone moving around in the other room).
I’ll be writing Part Two to continue this post once Dillon and
I have finished recording the audio, exported, compiled,
and uploaded the audio files.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Woman Power

Hey, everyone! It’s been a long time since my last blog. Needless to say, since signing with Thomas & Mercer in 2012, I have been busy! I finished the Lizzy Gardner series with Evil Never Dies. Lizzy, Jared, Hayley, Jessica and Kitally became so real to me that when it came time to say goodbye, I had mixed emotions. On the one hand it was time for me to try something else. On the other hand I had come to love these characters and I hated parting ways. 

Researching serial killers ended up being light reading compared to learning about sex trafficking, modern day slavery happening right here in Sacramento—the subject of my new Faith McMann series. I am working on the third book right now and although the subject matter has been eye opening and terrifying, you’ll be happy to know that Faith McMann, the protagonist, wife, schoolteacher and mother of two, is not afraid to go head to head with these horrible thugs. She’s a fighter and these guys are going to wish they never messed with Faith and her family. Furious will be available March 22nd. A few early reviews on Goodreads compare Faith McMann to Lizzy Gardner. How could you not? They’re both survivors, they’re both strong women, and they’re both fighters who take matters into their own hands.

And being that it happens to be Women’s History Month, I thought I’d talk a little bit about strong women. I grew up with a resilient, stubborn, and opinionated mother and four amazing sisters. I also have the privilege of being on a few Facebook groups with more than a few awesome women. They say what they mean, and they mean what they say. They don’t waste time complaining. They get things done. They are do-ers because actions really do speak louder than words. 

I don’t believe being a strong woman means you can’t say please and thank you. It doesn’t mean you can’t smile at complete strangers. It doesn’t mean you can’t give warm hugs or cry at heart-warming commercials. It does mean you have boundaries and you know your limits. It means you do what you want. You do what needs to be done to make yourself happy.

The day I started putting my needs before others, is the same day I learned that it wasn’t a selfish act to do things for myself. It turned out to be the opposite. By choosing to put my needs first (exercising instead of making dinner for family or meeting with a friend instead of staying home to clean the house), I became a happier person, and in turn, I began appreciating the people around me. I became more patient and understanding. 

Put your needs first whenever possible. And then find that one thing you want to conquer and do it. Don’t ask others to show you the way. Find your own way to make yourself happy. Read, research, do it. Whatever it is. 

You are strong. You are powerful. You are amazing.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Ever think of writing fan-fiction? Me neither. It never once crossed my mind...not until Amazon contacted me to see if I was interested in making my Lizzy Gardner series into THE LIZZY GARDNER FILES on Kindle Worlds. The idea intrigued me. The thought that Lizzy Gardner fans could try their hand at writing a story in Lizzy's world made sense. What the heck? What did I have to lose. As it turns out...absolutely nothing!

Recently, I asked one of my favorite mystery writers and good friend, Jana DeLeon, if she might be interested...pretty please...in writing a short story in Lizzy's world. Jana is so awesome, she said, YES! 

Although Jana writes cozy mysteries, she also writes horror and in this short story, Jana's dark humor shines through. Get your copy of UNSAVORY today. You're going to love it! 

Hey, Jana. Thanks for agreeing to talk to me and BIG THANKS for writing in my Lizzy Gardner World. I know you’re super busy and it wasn’t an easy decision to make time to write in someone else’s world. What made you finally say YES?

It was probably three things. First, I love your Lizzy Gardner series and I think you’re awesome. And I thought it would be fun to get WAY outside of my normal box and try my hand at a little thriller. The thought of being able to get in a little dark humor may have also tempted me.

I wrote my own short story for Kindle Worlds in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines world. I have to say it took more time learning about his world than actually writing the story. How about you? What was the most difficult part of writing in Lizzy’s world?

I’d already read all three books, but my recall is not all that great. I definitely spent time looking things up and asking you questions. J  Heck, I can’t remember my own story timelines when I’m writing, so trying to remember someone else’s well enough to add to it is a lost cause. So yeah, probably more research and fact checking than actual writing.

Your cover is awesome. Can you tell us about it?

I wanted something that looked similar to your covers. I am a hack at Photoshop, but I can do simple stuff. I went with a single image, like your covers, and felt the knife on the black background was the perfect combination of simplicity and foreshadowing. I found fonts for type that were similar to the ones used on your covers. I’m glad you liked it!

How was the process overall? Fun, stressful, horrible? Or let’s put it this way…is this something you would consider doing again—you know, writing in someone’s else world? And please give us details…for instance, were you complaining to your husband every night? Ha.

I am always somewhat stressed because I live at least one month behind on deadlines. I need to just accept that’s the way it will always be and move on. LOL In addition to writing in your world, I am also challenged by the short story format. Until last year, I’d never written one. Ever. UNSAVORY is my third short story and I’m getting better at it. Because I write mysteries, I’m already used to writing tight and fast pacing, but what I have to dial myself back on with short stories is plot. I usually have several twists and turns in my mystery plots, and I simply don’t have the room for that in a short.

I didn’t complain about writing it at all. There are so many other worse things that I wore my husband out with. I had a lot of fun coming up with the characters and the scenario. In one way, it was much harder because they weren’t mine so I had to figure out how to mimic your voice and style. But in another way it was easier because the main characters and the setting were already established, so no creating them from scratch.

If I could find more time, I would definitely consider doing it again.  

I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to do this, Jana. You already know that I think you’re super special, but now I owe you one. Thanks a bunch.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Foreign Translations

On June 10th Amazon Crossing, a division of Amazon Publishing, released two German translations: SPIELZUG INS GLÜCK by New York Times/USA Today bestselling author, Theresa Ragan, and DES NEBELS KINDER by international bestselling author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif. Today these authors are going to share their experiences with foreign translations by interviewing each other.

Theresa: Do you mind telling us a little bit about the process of getting your book translated? For instance, when were you approached, and how long did it take to get your book translated?

Cheryl: On August 24, 2011, I was contacted online by an agent who had a client that wanted the Turkish rights to THE RIVER. That deal went ahead and GIZEMLI NEHIR was released about a year later as well. It was actually prominently displayed at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In March 2012, I signed a two-book deal with a Chinese company for the translations of CHILDREN OF THE FOG and WHALE SONG. I believe it took about a year for the ebook editions to come out. However, they are illustrated inside and much went into their production.  

On October 18th, 2013, I was contacted by a representative from Amazon Crossing. Here’s what she said: “We’re launching an invite-only beta program focused on literary translation for select KDP authors to translate their works into German. We think your title, Children of the Fog, would be a good fit for this program.” I was elated! It took just under 8 months before DES NEBELS KINDER was released.

I was paid an advance for my German and Turkish translations. I received no advance for the Chinese editions, but I did not have to pay them. I did pay for the Spanish translation of my non-fiction marketing book.

How about you, Theresa? When were you approached, and how long did it take?

Theresa: In October, 2012, Amazon Crossing translated Abducted which I had sold to Thomas & Mercer. Abducted, IM NETZ DES SPINNENMANNS: THRILLER, hit #1 on Amazon.de and stayed there for over a month. The book did so well I decided to look into finding a German translator and having my KDP books translated. I ended up finding the Libelli Agency in March 2013 and I signed a contract to have them translate HAVING MY BABY, a contemporary romance. Nine months later, in November 2013, Having My Baby (Plötzlich Vater) was released. The entire process for that one title cost me a little over $8,000, but at 70% royalties, I made my initial investment back in the first week! Getting 70% royalties is nice, but it takes money to make money.

By the time Amazon Crossing approached me in July, 2013, I had already signed with the Libelli Agency to translate two of my books. Since I like to try everything, I signed three of my books with Amazon Crossing. I signed a contract in October and eight months later, on June 10th, SPIELZUG INS GLÜCK was released! Two more books are coming soon.

Cheryl, what was your first reaction to seeing the cover? Did you ask for any changes?

Cheryl: My first reaction was absolute joy when I saw the cover for DES NEBELS KINDER. Like most authors, I am very particular about my covers, and since Amazon Crossing was new to me, I was hoping I’d get a cover I liked. Not only do I “like” it, I LOVE it! They perfectly captured an element of the story, the mood and the atmosphere. Then there’s the way they stacked my name. Funny thing, I had once stacked my name like they did, and for some reason I didn’t like it, so I changed it. Yet on the cover of DES NEBELS KINDER it works. Maybe it’s the font, I don’t know. The cover was perfect, so I had no reason to ask for any changes. I am also very happy with the covers for my Chinese, Spanish and Turkish translations.

Theresa, how do you feel about your cover? Did you suggest any changes or tweaks?

Theresa: My biggest problem with being an independent author is choosing a great cover. I go back and forth and I swear I can’t always tell a great cover from an okay cover. It’s so subjective, in my opinion. Anyhow, I didn’t like the font on one of the books, so we played with that for a while and then I wasn’t sure about the color of the font, so I ended up choosing black for the author name. I am so original. Ha! Lucky for me, Amazon Crossing is easy to work with. And patient!

Did you do anything different with the editing process, Cheryl? How involved were you in the process?

Cheryl: Amazon Crossing was very easy to work with and very diligent about keeping my story intact. We had a minor challenge in one chapter where we had to come up with different items as the first letter of each was to spell out a message. But we were able to agree on those items. And there was a poem in the English version that had to be replaced with a different poem so that everything would flow. Other than these, I left it up to my translator. Trust goes a long way to making the process easy. All in all, I would have no problem with them translating any of my books.  

With the Turkish and Spanish translations I trusted the process. With the Chinese ebooks I did have to explain a few times what a character was doing or saying. I had a fair amount of input into the editing and the creation of the illustrations, which are beautiful.

How about you, Theresa? Was your editing process challenging?

Theresa: The editing process for all of my translations have been fairly simple and straightforward. Like you, I did have one problem in that one of my characters, a small child, had a lisp. That lisp did not translate well, so we had to do some tweaking to make it make sense for German readers. I believe the character ended up having a problem with “S” instead of “L”. To tell you the truth, any of these foreign books could be someone else’s story altogether. I don’t mean to scare anyone. I took two years of German when I was very young, but unless you are Tina Folsom and you speak the language, how can you be sure every sentence is your own? It’s called trust. I trust the people at Amazon Crossing and I trust the people at the Libelli Agency. I trust them to care about the books they put out and their reputation. So, overall, it’s been fun.

Is there anything else you’d like to add, Cheryl?

Cheryl: Just my extreme gratefulness to my translator, Ingrid Könemann-Yarnell, and my Amazon Crossing representative, Katrin Mueller, for making my first German translation such an enjoyable experience. I hope to have more works with Amazon Crossing soon. I love that my works are available to those who speak/read other languages. Now if only I had some French translations—half of Quebec might buy them (all the Tardifs). J

Any last words, Theresa?

This has been fun, Cheryl. I’m so glad we’ve had a chance to meet and blog together. I must say I do love your cover for Des Nebels Kinder. Very eerie…which I love. Congratulations on your success in the foreign markets. I would also like to thank Katrin Mueller with Amazon Crossing, and Birte and Ute with the Libelli Agency. I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with.

One last thing…I also had a book translated in Spanish. The book is doing great. I have 15 five stars, which tells me that my translator did a great job. También es hijo mío has been doing well in the U.S. and Spain. For anyone interested in having a novel translated in Spanish, feel free to contact Angeles Aragón. Her website is http://www.elregalodesuvida.com. You can email Angeles at geleraragon@gmail.com and ask her for a quote on what it would cost to have your book translated.

Author Bios:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Theresa Ragan grew up with four sisters in Lafayette, California. She has garnered six Golden Heart nominations in Romance Writers of America's prestigious Golden Heart Competition for her work. After writing for twenty years, Theresa decided to self-publish in March, 2011, and has sold over one million books since that time. In 2012, she signed with Thomas & Mercer and is having the time of her life. Theresa writes medieval time travels, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and thrillers under the name T.R. Ragan. OBSESSED, the fourth book in her bestselling Lizzy Gardner series is available for pre-order. To learn more about Theresa you can visit her website at www.theresaragan.com.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an award-winning, international bestselling Canadian suspense author represented by Trident Media Group in New York. Her novels include Divine Sanctuary, Submerged, Divine Justice, Children of the Fog, The River, Divine Intervention, Lancelot’s Lady (written under the pen name of Cherish D’Angelo) and Whale Song, which New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice calls "a compelling story of love and family and the mysteries of the human heart...a beautiful, haunting novel." Cheryl also has three Stephen King-inspired works: Dream House (short story), Skeletons in the Closet & Other Creepy Stories and Remote Control (novelette). Cheryl is also the owner/publisher of Imajin Books, a hybrid publishing company.

Booklist raves, "Tardif, already a big hit in Canada…a name to reckon with south of the border."

Cheryl's website: www.cherylktardif.com
Imajin Books: www.imajinbooks.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Meet Thriller Author, Jude Hardin

Hey, Jude, how’s it going?

Huh? Are we on the air already?

I first met Jude Hardin on a boat in Seattle. We had both been invited to a Thomas and Mercer’s writing conference, which was also a meet and greet for authors. Read Lee Goldberg’s summary of our weekend HERE. Somehow Jude and I got talking about serial killers and we had an instant connection. We both figured anyone on the boat that day, including the two of us, could be serial killers. Is that how you remember it, Jude?

I just remember being really hungry, and not getting to eat much because I spent the entire lunch period talking to some really cute blonde about thrillers. Was that you?

The moment I returned from Seattle, I read Jude’s short story, RATTLED. It’s 32 pages. I loved every word. I raced through it with a smile on my face. Nicholas Colt, a private investigator, makes the mistake of picking up a hitchhiker! Don’t do that people! Never pick up a hitchhiker. On the other hand, maybe that would make for a great romance novel: A woman who has hit rock bottom picks up a dangerous looking hitchhiker because she figures she has nothing to live for. The hitchhiker is dark and dangerous, complete with knife hooked to his belt, and so begins their road trip. She falls in love, of course! That’s how I get my ideas. They randomly pop into my head. I’m not going to ask Jude where he gets his ideas because he talks about that HERE. Instead, let’s talk about Jude’s past vocations: fence installer, pizza delivery man, convenience store clerk, freelance journalist, film extra, professional drummer, bartender, avionics technician, carpet cleaner, chemical plant supervisor, substitute teacher, and registered nurse. 

Wow! Can you tell us which of these jobs you liked best? I believe you told me you played the drums with Stephen King’s band…or maybe I imagined that.

Yes, Steve and I are old pals. Not Stephen King the author, of course. Stephen King the heating and air conditioning technician. We’ve been talking about getting the old band back together, and this time we’re going to get SERIOUS.

But really, my favorite out of all those jobs would have to be film extra. You get to goof off all morning, and then you get to have lunch with Bill Murray, and then you get to goof off all afternoon. And they pay you for it!

Jude is a naturally funny guy. He is the king of puns and jokes on Facebook. For example, here are a few examples:

My friend lost his strongbox in a poker game. It was a safe bet.

My friend wanted to try the craps tables in Vegas, but he said they looked a little dicey.

Jude’s latest:  A man walks into a bar...a few minutes later he's taken to the hospital to be checked for a concussion. One of his commenters had a funny reply: A Priest, a Minister and a Rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Is this some kind of joke?" 

Okay, Jude. What’s up with the jokes? Do you have a zillion joke books laying around or do you make these up yourself?

I steal them from Stephen King. The HVAC guy. He’s a real corker!

Ha! How many books have you released with Thomas and Mercer?

Four. And you want to know something really wild? There are intersecting streets in Seattle with those exact same names. Thomas and Mercer. Talk about a coincidence!

But yeah, four books, and the experience has been quite positive overall. Especially the free food and booze they gave us at the conference!

T&M published four of the seven titles in my Nicholas Colt series: CROSSCUT, SNUFF TAG 9, KEY DEATH, and BLOOD TATTOO. Each one is available in ebook, paperback, and audio.

Do you still self-publish, too?

Absolutely. I guess I’m what they call a hybrid author. And I want to make it perfectly clear that there’s a big difference between hybrid and GMO. Enough said about that.

My self-published books include COLT, SYCAMORE BLUFF, and BAD NURSE, all thrillers.

Self-publishing is a lot of hard work, but I enjoy being in control of the process from start to finish. And you can’t beat the royalty rates!

What are you working on now?

A near-future short story called “A Time for Dying.” I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not as cheerful and upbeat as it sounds. You’ll just have to trust me on that for now. When that’s finished, I’m going to start working on something that might actually sell. Like cupcakes. I understand they’re very popular at the moment.

And now, what we’ve all been waiting for, Jude Hardin’s newest release, iSEAL, the first in a series.

A civilian contractor for the Department of Defense has created an implantable brain-computer interface that will make the fiercest warriors on the planet exponentially smarter, faster, and deadlier.

Codename: iSEAL

After years of painstaking research, the device is finally ready for human trials.

Desperate to be reinstated as a Special Forces candidate, Nathan Brennan reluctantly volunteers for the study. Four weeks as a lab rat and his military career will be back on course.

Unfortunately, by the end of day one, he finds himself on the run from the police, the CIA, and a mysterious criminal mastermind named Oberwand.

With no memory of his past, and with little hope for a meaningful future, Brennan must utilize every weapon in his binary arsenal just to stay alive.

I can’t wait to read iSEAL!! Thanks for being a good sport and answering my questions, Jude. Do you have anything you would like to add?

Just that you’re one of the coolest people I’ve ever met, and that it was super generous of you to feature me and my work here on your website. Thanks so much, Theresa!

To learn more about Jude, go HERE
To buy iSEAL, go HERE