Schmiggly’s Stories now available on iTunes and Amazon.com!

Simply because I got a pretty big kick out of seeing this, I just had to share it here.

While checking iTunes – just to see if they’ve maybe put up the audiobook production of Swan Place for sale there yet (and no, they haven’t…still waiting, but should happen soon…I’m just getting antsy…) – I happened to come across something else attached to my name! And here it is:

Schmiggly’s Stories: Mini-Stories & Songs, Volume 1 is now available on both iTunes and Amazon.com!!

So. Fun. 😀

As always, thanks for checking in! And have an excellent day. Cheers!

A Quick Update

And now back to voiceover stuff.

I’ve been so focused on keeping up my Facebook artist page, that I’ve sorely neglected posting here! My apologies for that. I do, happily, have some very good things to report:

Preschool Pond, a wonderful new kids’ iPad app (that features loads of fun character voices and narration…by yours truly) 😀 is soon to be available in the app store! Will definitely post details when that happens.

My audiobook production of Swan Place has been approved and is headed to retail! Providing it passes the final quality control check, it will very soon be available on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes! Can’t quite find words to express how excited I am about that. Again, will most definitely post details when it’s available!

Schmiggly’s Stories are still going strong on Huntley Radio. And I’m loving my role as Miss Penny just as much as ever! The storyline, the characters, the dialogue, and the overall concept of the show continue to make me smile – especially when I see the smiles on my own kiddos’ faces when they listen to it! 😉

I’ve recently been in conversation with a wonderfully talented author who writes in the Jane Austen variation genre, and who has asked me to narrate one of her lovely Pride and Prejudice variations. And I’m thrilled about it! I’m currently in the process of fleshing out some of the character voices, etc. (which include – but are, of course, not limited to – a few very dastardly pirates!!), and we should be able to get the ball rolling on production very soon, indeed. Check back in for more information on all of that in the very near future!

I’m hoping to keep these posts much more up to date from here on. Thanks for your patience. And, as always, thanks for reading!

Why My Four-Year-Olds Make Me Smarter: Segment 2, “The Art of Playing”

The other day, after finishing loading the dishwasher for the second time that day, I looked out into the living room to check on the kids. They had been laughing for some time, and seemed to have invented some sort of new incarnation of a common game I’ll simply refer to here as “jumping from the couches onto piles of cushions.”

As I watched the goings on, my son proceeded to climb up into a standing position on the living room love seat. This didn’t bother me at all, since the kids are always climbing up and jumping off of the living room furniture onto piles of pillows. It really is their rainy-day playground.

What I was not prepared to see, however, was my son launching himself purposefully through the air, and crashing right into my daughter, who was standing on the pile of pillows strategically placed right in the middle of the living room floor. As he hucked himself off the couch, I heard him exclaim a rather familiar, “Aaaaaa!!!” that sounded a bit like a squawk. I stood there stunned for a second, until I realized that both kids were laughing hysterically and picking themselves up off the pillows. Not knowing what to think of this, I shook myself out of my momentary shock and asked, “Woah! What in the world are you doing, dude?! You just crashed right into your sister!” I then turned my attention to my giggling daughter, “Sweetie, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Momma!” laughed my little girl. “We’re just playing!”

“Yeah, Mommy, we’re playing!” said my son, very matter-of-factly.

“But what are you playing? You’re launching yourself off the couch and crashing right into your sister and knocking her down!”

“But, Mommeeeeeee…We’re playing ‘Angry Birds’!” He grinned at me. “Watch this!”

And I just stood there, watching my son clamber up onto the couch again, my eyes just blinking for a few seconds, before I totally lost it. I don’t think I’d laughed that hard in a very, very long time.

They were playing Angry Birds. Literally.

I don’t know if this means that we as parents are doing something right?…or if it is simply further proof that the kids’ iPhone time must be kept to an absolute minimum. 😉

Either way, I just have to rejoice in the workings of a child’s way of creative thinking. Truly, truly amazing stuff.

“Aaaaaa!!!”…

Why My Four-Year-Olds Make Me Smarter: Segment 1, “And Out Come the…er…Legos!”

It seems we have very few true recognized rights of passage in our modern western culture today. This is something my husband and I have lamented and discussed periodically, recognizing that rights of passage help an individual find and internalize personal identity, dignity, strength, sense of belonging, and value. Within the separate spectra of religion and spirituality, education, certain elements of individual cultural heritage, and age landmarks, we do have some. And a few very unofficial rights of passage in daily life, as a whole. But quite often, I believe, we actually experience certain very common, rather subconscious rights of passage, without really recognizing them as such.

This morning, after realizing that things upstairs had been rather quiet for a while, I went up to check on the kids. As I stepped into my son’s room, my eyes were immediately drawn to the expanse of his carpeted floor. Covering pretty much every inch, were brightly-colored Legos. Tons of Legos. A massive amount of Legos. And my son was standing in the midst of it, with the biggest smile stretched across his little precious four-year-old face. He grinned at me, big blue-green eyes wide like saucers and crinkling at the edges, and he said, “Mommy! Look what I built! It’s a spaceship…well, actually it’s a superhero turtle that’s also a spaceship…‘cause, look, it carries it’s home on it’s back, right here…and also it can fly through OUTER SPACE!” Infinitely creative, this kid.

“That’s so cool, buddy! Wow! Way to use your imagination!” I responded, and he then went on to explain a bit more about his superhero-turtle-spaceship. “And who’s this guy, then?” I asked a few moments later, as I reached down to inspect another creation involving a little Lego guy, pieced together – in true Frankenstein’s-Monster fashion – out of various parts from a motocross figure, an alien, an astronaut, a sheriff, and a couple of different Star Wars characters, and was apparently wielding a gun/sword/lightsaber thing and standing on some sort of ship.

“That’s Aragorn, Mom!” said my little boy, in a voice that told me I might just be a little slow on the uptake for not knowing that automatically. “Because, Mom, look…(and here he let out a little huff with a very tiny hint of exasperation)…I’ll show you,” and he began to take a step toward me. Then he suddenly stopped and looked down at his bare feet. After a moment or two of consideration, he oh-so-cautiously resumed his forward movement, very carefully picking his way across his floor on his toes, finding any little inch of bare carpet. I didn’t think this venture would end well, but my son soon surprised me by deftly managing to avoid the classically catastrophic results of a pointy-edged Lego coming into direct contact with a bare foot. And at that moment I was struck by a thought: This is a right of passage. Legos. Walking across a floor covered in Legos. Seriously. In some small way, it’s our culture’s kid-version of fire-walking. Pour out the Legos on the floor, and…GO! If you can make it across without massive and incapacitating pain, you win. And you then get to continue making bigger, better, and more complex inventions out of thousands of tiny plastic interlocking pieces.

Pretty much every kid – and every parent – just has to step on a Lego at some point. We’ve all done it. It’s a common and uniting experience. Even a nostalgia, of sorts: (and I quote) “So how bad is the pain? On a scale of 1 to stepping-on-a-Lego…”

So I smiled at my son as he explained all the things that his “Aragorn” character could do. Apparently he and the spaceship-turtle were both superheroes who were chasing the bad guys through space…and Aragorn was the turtle’s dad…or something along those lines. And this made perfect sense in the vast expanse of a four-year-old mind… Of course.

All that said, Hooray, Legos! We’re thankful for you…even for all the pointy edges. Though I’m pretty sure I’ll stick to wearing shoes when my son calls me up to his room to check out his latest creations. 😉

Audiobook In Production: Swan Place by Augusta Trobaugh

And here it is, folks! The audiobook I currently have the honor of narrating and producing is Swan Place, a lovely work of Southern fiction written by much-lauded author Augusta Trobaugh.

And here’s the scoop – as far as plot goes – in a nutshell (from Belle Books, Inc.):

“Dove, Molly, Little Ellis and Crystal are runaways with nowhere to turn and no one they can trust until they arrive at a secret sanctuary called Swan Place, where they are taken under wing by a remarkable group of women.”

The novel has received impressive media reviews. Here’s a bit of what’s being said about Swan Place:

“[Augusta Trobaugh] streamlines her rich Southern style and creates a narrative as delicate as a line drawing” – USA Today

“Both inspirational and down-to-earth.” – Publishers Weekly

“The powers of religion, family, and love work together to combat racism while offering hope.” – Library Journal

“A touching story of people finding sanctuary and kindness in unlikely places when they need it most.” – Booklist

And now for a bit about the author. Augusta Trobaugh holds a Master of Arts from the University of Georgia, with a concentration in American and Southern literature – and her expertise definitely comes through in her writing. It is almost melodic at times, the kind of writing I would describe as (in a differentiation – concerning works of fiction – that I’ve always tried to make clear for my English and writing students over the years) not simply fiction, but literature. And I’m certainly not alone in that opinion. Her work has received funding through the Georgia Council for the Arts, and in addition to Swan Place, her other acclaimed titles include Music From Beyond the Moon, The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society, Sophie and the Rising Sun, Resting in the Bosom of the Lamb, and Praise Jerusalem!, which was a semi-finalist in the 1993 Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Competition. For further info on any or all of these titles, please visit Trobaugh’s author page at Belle Books, Inc.

In recent correspondence with the very helpful and supportive Audio Management contact for Belle Books, Inc., I shared that this production has truly become a labor of love. As a writer, I am familiar with how characters can become very much like real people, as they are – in a rather mystical sense – brought to life through the creation of a story. As a voice actor, I am also familiar with how characters brought to life by a great writer can then be given breath and a living voice that brings them into the tangible world. I am thoroughly excited about being the one to give that breath – and those voices – to the wonderful cast of characters and beautifully woven storyline brought to life through this touching novel.

As always, dear readers, thank you so much for journeying along with me.

More updates to come!

“Dude, Seriously? Do I Really Have An Accent?”

Accents are entertaining things. Particularly those considered to be the more stereotypical accents. I’ve always been fascinated by dialect and accent – especially by those various dialects heard all across the British Isles, Australia, and New Zealand. But it wasn’t until I was in my early ‘tweens that I finally became more aware of the wide array of accents and dialects dispersed all across the United States, and discovered that I, myself, actually had a quite discernible accent – not discernible to me, of course, but most certainly to someone who had grown up anywhere outside of California. And I came to the very beginning of this realization the first time I ever met my cousin Jecinda.

I can recall with near-perfect clarity the moment we first met Jeci. This is partially due to the fact that my sister and I had – up until that point – grown up for most of our childhood without having any first-cousins at all – a very sad thing, to our way of thinking. So, when our youngest uncle married a lovely woman from Bristol, Tennessee – who had a daughter only a few years younger than us! – we found out that we had suddenly gained a ready-made cousin to hang out with at family get-togethers, and we were as happy as could be.

I remember running with giddy steps alongside my sister through my grandparents’ screened-in patio and mudroom, and on into their warm and sweet-smelling kitchen in North Oaks, Minnesota. Rounding the corner, we were met by two of the biggest, brightest brown eyes I had ever seen, peeping out from under an adorable mop of bouncing brown curls, and the biggest smile you could imagine. Just picture the children’s book character Fancy Nancy – but with dark brown curls instead of red – and that was her to a tee!

(Amazingly coincidentally, my little niece – my sister-in-law’s oldest daughter – is, almost literally, Fancy Nancy come-to-life…and she constantly reminds me of my cousin Jecinda, as a result! But back to my story…)

Well, my sister and I walked in and, amid exuberant hugs and smiles, babbled out all the excitement that would be expected, under the circumstances, for two upper-elementary-aged California girls voicing their excitement at meeting a brand new cousin.

“Jeci, it’s sooo RAD to meet you!!”

“Ohmygosh! It’s so AWSOME to finally actually have a cousin! We’ve been, like, the only kids in this family for waay too long!”

And Jecinda just started laughing. Laughing so much that she had to cover her mouth with her little hands. She crinkled up her nose and was smiling so big and laughing so hard that she almost had tears in her eyes. And then she looked up at us and said the funniest thing that could’ve come out of that adorable little Tennessee girl at that particular moment.

“I had to promise not to make fun of you all’s accent!” And she covered her mouth again amid bubbling laughter.

Now, if you are reading this and have never heard an authentic, born-and-raised Tennesseean speak before, then you need to understand that what came out of her mouth sounded something like a rather sped-up version of this:

“I haay-ed to praw-miss not to maay-eek fuuun of you awll’s ack-say-ent!”

It was seriously one of the most adorable things I had ever heard in my life. And one of the most hilariously ironic…at least that’s how it struck me at the time.

My sister and I stood completely still for a few shocked moments, and then – after a few moments of consideration – we looked at one another, grinned, and burst out laughing, ourselves. I don’t think that it had ever occurred to either of us that someone might actually chuckle at us for sounding…well…different. But it was a very pleasant way to wake up to the fact. And, honestly, I don’t think we couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to our becoming a happily larger – and slightly more vocally diverse – extended family.

* * *

This little (and hopefully pretty accurate) retelling of my own personal recollection was inspired by my current audiobook project for Bell Bridge Books and Audible.com. The first person narration in the novel is that of a fourteen-year-old girl from North Georgia, and, as the Southern Appalachian dialect is one of my personal favorites, I’m quite glad to be able to practice up a bit for this narration and character dialogue.

I must mention here, as well, that, years after the above-mentioned incident, I distinctly recall laughing heartily with my aforementioned uncle (who also, by the way, has quite a Tennessee accent, himself) about all the possible uses – and inflections – of the word “dude”. It was awesome. We tried to come up with all we could: “DUDE!!” “Duuuude.” “Hey, dude!” “Um…dude?” and the list goes on and on… It was a great moment, totally making fun of my own way of speaking, and yet being completely stoked about – and proud of – my own accent, all at the same time.

All that said, I’m glad – for many reasons – for this particular audiobook production. And thanks to the various members of my extended family from Tennessee, reading with a Southern accent definitely feels quite a bit like…well…home.

Love and thanks – to all y’all! – for reading.

Letterboxing on the Central Coast

Hello again, lovely readers. This one has nothing much to do with voiceovers…mostly because I completely lost my voice for about a week and a half over the holidays, and I needed to expend my creative energy elsewhere. So this is a bit about that…

A few of my family members have recently gotten into letterboxing. Now, if you’re like me, and had never before heard of this particular pastime, I will tell you here and now that it is actually tremendous fun. What is letterboxing, you ask? Well, it’s a bit like geocaching, actually – in the sense that letterboxers adventure outdoors to various locations in search of little hidden boxes containing mysterious and unique items. But with letterboxing – unlike geocaching – participants aren’t focused on GPS guiding them there. They rely, instead, on a series of written clues that lead to little journeys out into some very beautiful places in the natural world. (If you’d like, check out letterboxing.org for more info!)

So here’s the drill. You decide which box you’d like to go find (based on the online database for your geographical area), you read the clues (I’d recommend printing them out, as well, for reference), put on a comfy pair of walking or hiking shoes (and, er, well, any and all other appropriate clothing for whatever the weather’s doing that day), jump in the car (or on a bike, skateboard, scooter…kayak…) and off you go! And you bring a little notebook, an ink pad, and a homemade stamp with you. Yes, a homemade stamp. As a personal trademark signature. The whole thing is very much a kid-style treasure hunt for grownups…rather, let’s just say, kids of all ages. And it’s an awesome way to get the whole family out of doors and into nature.

So, over the holidays, our extended family did a bit of letterboxing. And, to begin on the right foot, we first made some homemade stamps. I made seven altogether…not kidding. Suffice it to say, I got just a bit carried away…

(Disclaimer: I was totally ill at the time, with a horrid sore throat and no voice, so I was feeling pretty stir-crazy and – as I couldn’t hardly talk at all – was very much in need of some sort of artistic outlet.) So I really got into the stamp-making thing. The art of delicately carving pictures out of thin blocks of pink stuff that somewhat resembles soft pencil-eraser rubber (not the erasers on classic number-2 pencils, but the kind found on the ends of pencils you’d get in party favor bags as a kid, with the shiny, swirly, printed paint on them…the kind that never sharpened quite right but it was oh so worth it ’cause you had a pencil with My Little Pony faces all over it…you know what I’m talking about). Where was I?… Oh, right. Stamp carving. It was some pretty intense detail work – the designing, especially – but I truly did enjoy the process of crafting each new stamp more than the last. (If things ever go bad with voiceovers, well…at least I have yet another hobby to add to the growing list of things to keep me busy.) ;P

Our adventures took us first to Point Lobos, where we hiked along coastal forest paths through scraggly oak and cypress woods. We caught far off glimpses of whales surfacing and spouting. We avoided (for the most part) the frequent, scrubby outgrowths of poison oak, and meandered past random clusters of red and white speckled mushrooms that looked like they came right out of some Nordic fairytale.

And finally, we came to the spot where the box was hidden. Being secretive while unearthing a letterbox is all part of the game, but this proved a bit difficult for us, as there were many people out on the trails on that gorgeous – though quite frosty – coastal afternoon. But we eventually managed to retrieve the little plastic cache from its hiding spot, and found inside a little handmade notebook and a beautiful handmade stamp. A detailed carving of the local coastal bird for which that particular letterbox happened to be named. And as this particular hike was a very last-minute excursion, we hadn’t brought a notebook or a handmade stamp, but – thanks to a bit of foresight on my sister’s part – we did have a couple of tiny pre-made stamps with us. So my sister used a bit of the ink off the bottom of the stamp in the box, and got enough on there to leave our own little mark in the notebook. Someday, I think we’ll go back and revisit that letterbox, this time leaving behind an imprint of our own homemade signature stamps and a little note to accompany it.

And that all leads me to this. I’ve come to appreciate letterboxing for many reasons. I love the artistry of the stamp-making, and the uniqueness of the handmade stamp journals and notebooks that can be found in some of the boxes. But the thing I absolutely LOVE about letterboxing is simply…well…the letters. Along with stamping the box’s book, most letterboxers bring along some sort of writing implement, and leave a note in the journal. Or fun little drawings to supplement their stamps. It’s a wonderful little handwritten connection to other treasure hunters. The kind of little message that most of us don’t often receive these days. We’re so used to texts and emails and tweets and Facebook posts. But I feel rather at a loss (with the once-yearly exception of birthday cards, etc.) when I try to think of the most recent time I’ve received an actual hand-written note…

So letterboxing gets my vote. An excellent excuse to get out into the great outdoors, go on a little treasure hunt, appreciate some handmade pieces of unique art, and to take a moment to write a friendly message in a handmade journal to other adventurers who will come along after, searching out that little hidden box and connecting in some small way with one another.

Cheers, everyone! And have a lovely rest of the week.

New Professional Audiobook in Production

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve very recently accepted an offer through ACX.com to narrate and produce an audiobook of a wonderful work of fiction for Audible.com!!

As soon as I know how much info I can divulge about the project, I’ll post more here. Until then, suffice it to say that this marks a new and thrilling level of voiceover work for me.

Exciting stuff. Very, very exciting stuff.

For this novel, I’ll be doing first person narration in a soft Southern accent – with loads of fantastic additional character dialogue along the way! I absolutely loved the main character right from the start of my first read. She’s wonderfully endearing, insightful, and with such a dauntless spirit.

Overall, it’s an engaging novel with a great storyline, well-developed and meaningful characters, and a beautiful heart…and I just couldn’t wish for more than that! 😀

(And, though it’s not essential to my excitement about the project, it is a pretty cool little fact that this particular work has received some highly laudatory media reviews from publications including USA Today and Publishers Weekly. Bodes quite well for gaining listener interest in the completed project!)

Hope to be updating much more frequently over the course of production. More details to follow. Looking forward to the journey!

And a huge THANK YOU!! as always, to all of you who read my updates along the way. 🙂

Professional Voice Work Update…

…and despite having lost my voice yet again to another scratchy sore throat, I’m SUPER excited about this!! (And thankful that at least my typing is in no way affected by my not being able to speak.) 😛 Loads of good things to report from these past few months. So here goes.

First, finished my VO work for a couple of kids’ educational iPad/tablet apps, with more on the way. Super fun stuff! So many great character voices…and even some occasional singing to boot – complete with getting to engineer my own soundbed and providing my own musical accompaniment! 🙂

Second, more than elated about my role of Miss Penny for the children’s radio show Schmiggly’s Stories. Three episodes have now been completed, and I must say that I continue to fall in love with this role more and more with every new episode’s script. The characters are lovable and zany – with great voice actors (not intending to make any comment on myself there, but merely to praise my fellow talents on the show) to wonderfully match each unique character! The show’s creator, Ann Knipp, is a fantastic writer, and I’m finding loads to admire about her creativity and talent as we go on. And the show’s mission is awesome: to inspire kids with the love of story, the joy of reading, and the encouragement to write what’s in their own imaginations! I love it. I’m so thankful to be a part of this project. If you’d like, check out the show’s website or listen in on Huntley Community Radio.

Third, have recently done some good miscellaneous work for IVR/phone systems, etc., and that’s been great. Even got hired for a phone survey/commercial job out of Montreal! Fun experience, that.

Fourth, I’m looking forward to a run of amazing training coming up here soon. Not only do I get to continue work with my fantastic all-around voiceover coach and invaluable mentor, Cammie Winston…but I’ve now begun character-specific training (via Skype) with the hilarious and crazy-talented Richard Horvitz, one of Hollywood’s top character voice actors. I have only done a couple of sessions with him so far, but each one has been absolutely awesome. (Made extra awesome by the fact that – in addition to being an excellent actor, voice actor, and coach – he’s also a super fun, insightful, gracious, and all-around-super-cool person.) I am anticipating great growth in my character work…and actually already seeing some marked improvement. For all of this, I am SO. VERY. THANKFUL. Much more info on all of this to come.

So, as soon as my voice decides to come back, I’ll be raring to go with loads of new auditions, a few new tablet app projects, ongoing Schmiggly episodes, and hours of determined practice and stellar training.

And I couldn’t be more excited. 🙂

As always, many thanks to you all for reading.

Two Small Bits of News

First bit:

The professional side of things continues to go well. Very well, in fact. And it makes me grin when I think of it. I’ve recently listened through the first draft of the pilot episode that will launch the new children’s radio show for which I’ve been cast. It’s sounding great so far – great story premise, great creativity throughout, imaginative writing, and a cast full of great voice actors (and I’m making no comment there about my own skill, merely highlighting the fabulous voice talents with whom I get to share space on the cast list). And have I mentioned that I absolutely LOVE my character? She’s wonderfully fun. Sweet, intelligent, good-humored, kind-hearted, and strong. (In my mind’s eye, she’s rather like a cross between Disney’s Belle and Rapunzel…or maybe that’s just my own perception based on a subconscious wish to somehow actually become a Disney princess.) And I’m doubly happy to share that the second episode (for which I’ll soon be recording) will be my first lead role in the series. I’ll post more info regarding the program – and my character’s role in it – as soon as I can!

Second bit:

I’m currently playing the part of Ellen in a LibriVox dramatic reading of Wuthering Heights, and as such, I’m getting loads of practice speaking with a (somewhat understated) Yorkshire accent…or at least my attempt at one. And I’m thrilled about it. (Though I’ve not been able to get much practice or work in for several days, as I’ve been extremely under the weather with a nasty sore throat, and lost my voice for a few days…which is never a fun thing, in general, but really never a fun thing for a voice actor.) One particularly great element of this role is that I actually get to narrate a good portion of the novel…as Nelly is a tad bit, shall we say, long-winded in her storytelling. Makes for a great dialect workout! I often go in my mind to Joanne Froggatt’s character in Downton Abby. Now, if I could get my voice to do that…well! (But considering that she’s actually from North Yorkshire, I might be aiming pretty high in trying to emulate her.) No matter. Must keep practicing, if I want to get it as close as I can to right!

Wishing a very lovely day to any and all who read this!