The making of the audiobook “Widen” by Chris Rice

IMG_6323I have a good friend named Chris Rice who’s a brilliantly creative guy with an incredible singing voice. (“Tell Me The Story Again” is one of my favorite songs of his. Check him out on iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, etc). His lyrics are beautiful, deep, and thought provoking, while almost always light-hearted and loving. He’s also an amazing musician and can write a musical composition that’ll tug on your heart strings even without any lyrics.

Anyway, Chris has a book out called “Widen: A Collection of Poems” which is currently available on Amazon and Kindle) and I just love it.
Over coffee the other day he quoted John Milton and explained that poetry is a conversation of poets across centuries, or should be anyway. In his poetry, he makes references to a lot of great American poets, along with other great artists like Shakespeare, etc.
I have often taken my copy of Widen out under a tree on a windy, autumn day and just read and thought. That’s how poetry is meant to be “used” as I see it.
Recently, I told him that he should turn it into an audiobook. He agreed. I then told him HE needs to narrate it because there’s nothing like an author reading his or her own work to draw a reader in. He said absolutely he wouldn’t do it, and that I should. I argued that he had an amazing voice. He argued back that his voice only sounds good when he sings (which is ridiculous, by the way) and that he’s not an actor.

So after much back and forth, we decided that I’d narrate his poetry book.
So very soon, “Widen” will be coming to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes in audiobook form.

This weekend, we rode around Nashville shooting “content” for some short, ridiculous, but hopefully funny videos to promote the book, and had a blast doing it.
We’ll be posting them soon and hopefully I can figure out a way to post them on here as well.

T.K. Lee is one cool Southern Gothic cat


T.K. Lee is a playwright, author, theatre actor, professor in the MFA program at Mississippi University for Women, and an all around great guy and funny fellow.
His poetry book “To Square A Circle” is a wonderful tribute to coming of age in rural Mississippi, and sits beside Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson on my bookshelf.

T.K. was kind enough to sit down with me on my podcast and talk literature, poetry, and the performing arts, and then read some selections from his book as well.

You can listen here!
Interview with T.K. Lee

Also check out T.K.’s web site at: http://www.tkleewriting.com


Continue reading “T.K. Lee is one cool Southern Gothic cat”

O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief” is an all-time great

“The Ransom of Red Chief” is one of my favorite stories by one of my favorite American authors, O. Henry. The storytelling is superb, the villians are hilariously well developed (they were a real life “Apple Dumpling Gang” years before Don Knotts and Tim Conway made America laugh with their antics), and the whole scene is idyllic in its innocency. In the story, two “desperate men” decide to make some quick cash to fund another of their fraudulant ventures with, and kidnap the only son of the wealthy Mr Dorsett in a tiny southern town. They bring the boy back to their hideout where he absolutely terrorizes them with his bratty ways til one of the bad guys begs the other to let him return the child. Now I don’t suppose that there is such a thing as a spoiler alert after 100 plus years, but nevertheless, in case you haven’t read it I wont spoil the ending.
I do hope that you’ll listen in to me reading it in its entirety on my podcast “The Cultured Bumpkin” which can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, and many other platforms.
If you get a chance to listen, I hope you’ll let me know what you think!
Here’s a link to it:

The Cultured Bumpkin

Last week I launched a podcast called “The Cultured Bumpkin,” and it focuses on American short fiction and poetry.
I plan to have a little background on the author, the time period it came out of, perhaps the authors “world view” etc, and then do a reading of a short story, essay, or poem that they’ve done. So far I’ve posted two episodes featuring humorous, slightly obscure Mark Twain essays, and yesterday I interviewed author/playwright/theatre actor T.K. Lee where he talked about poetry and the things that have influenced it in America from our days as British colonies up until the present day. He then performed a reading from Emily Dickinson and then three more poems from his new book “To Square a Circle”. Hearing an author read his or her own work is great, but when that author is an award winning theatre actor, it’s an absolute delight. I look forward to posting that interview very shortly.

If you enjoy good ole American short fiction, I think you’d enjoy it and I’d love to have you check it out.
It’s available on:

Google Play

Have a good one!

A Backyard Walk to Clear the Head


Sometimes I have so many ideas bouncing around inside my head that it starts to affect me. Does that ever happen to you? What do you do to about it?

When this happens, I find myself getting stressed out. I get more irritable and easily frustrated, and my creativity takes a steep nosedive. Not a good situation!

Time for a “reset”! My favorite way to get back into a relaxed, loving, and creative frame of mind, is to do the following:
I go outside (without my phone!) and then walk out into my country back yard for a little solitude, if only few a few minutes. I walk slowly. I take in the sunshine and feel the breeze. I listen to the birds. I try to smell as many things as my nose will allow- The earth, the vegetation, any wildflowers that I happen to pass, the abundant pine trees and rugged oaks. I try to notice small things-perhaps a honey bee hard at work collecting pollen, or an even smaller ant crossing my path with a burden several times her size, followed by a thousand of her closest friends. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll see a pair of bluebirds flitting in some nearby bush.

As I feel the tension starts to melt away, I tell the One who made all these things how amazing He is and how there’s no One like him. Then I thank him for leaving me His Book to tell me about all the “wondrous works” that He’s done so that I might have fellowship with Him.

At this point the tension has completely gone, my head is clear, my heart is singing, and I whistle a tune as I go back to whatever it was that I was doing.

And that’s how I clear my head.

A fun “paranormal” romance

I love a good love story. I’ve always been a big Jane Austen fan (Persuasion being my favorite), Shakespeare (although I prefer happy endings), John Donne/Christopher Marlowe/Elizabeth Barrett Browning/Lord Byron poetry, etc.

Recently, I read a “paranormal” romance by author J.L. Salter and published by Clean Reads Publishing called “The Ghostess & Mr Muir”, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
It’s about a young military vet named Levi Muir who moved to a small Alabama town to be near his aunt and teach high school English. While there, he meets a fellow teacher named Lucy that he really starts to like. Well, his apartment is in the located in the upper story of an old mansion, that turns out to be haunted by a very pretty ghostess who needs a favor, and who he ends up falling in love with. The love triangle which ensues is both interesting and humorous. I won’t spoil anything other than to say that I am a fan of good endings and I really liked how things ended up. Ok, no more. Go read it.

The story has a lot of great characters and I love J.L. Salter’s writing style. It flows easily without feeling rushed, with just enough detail to visualize everything perfectly but not enough to bog it down (details aren’t a bad thing. Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors and it takes him 10 minutes to describe someone crossing the street! But “The Ghostess & Mr Muir” is not Dickens-esque in its details, which suits the story perfectly). I am definitely interested in reading more of Salter’s books!
You can check out the Kindle version HERE.

I recently was able to narrate and produce it in audiobook form for Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, and it was so much fun!
Here’s the link to it on Audible.com.

I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.

How to make your book into an audiobook

If you’re an author or an aspiring author, you ought to check out ACX.com. Audiobooks are becoming more popular by the year, and ACX is a great platform for turning your work into an audiobook. How does work?

-Go to ACX.com and create a free profile (If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, just login  like you would on Prime)

-Fill out a book profile and post it (for free)
-then you can wait for people to audition, or you can find narrators and ask them directly if they’d like to do it.

-you can pay the narrator/producer a per-finished-hour rate, or do a royalty share deal where each of you split the 40% royalty. The former allows you to keep all the royalties, and the latter allows you to get it made into an audiobook without any money up front)

-once you find a narrator, you can agree on a timeline for finishing, and then wait to review the finished product.

-after the narrator/producer uploads the sound files, make sure that you review them all before approving and sending to ACX! (Every once in awhile a mistake, repeat, etc will make it onto the track, and you don’t want that)

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Hamilton, and history

History is and always has been one of my absolute favorite subjects. Although I mostly narrate fiction titles, I love doing history, and reading it for pleasure as well.
American history with an emphasis on the Revolution is one of my favorites, and more specifically, the war in the “Southern department” in 1780-81.

I recently did a short bio on Alexander Hamilton (you can find it  HERE), and I’ve got two more that should be out soon.
If you get a chance to listen and rate it, I’d love to hear from you! (email at the top of the page. And I’ll send you a free download from something else I’ve done)

Re-charging those “creative batteries”

Oh man, this past weekend was awesome. I had kind of a creative retreat up in Nashville, TN, and I came back feeling recharged, refreshed, and ready to create.
I arrived at my (super creative) friends house just off 12 South in Nashville early Saturday, then we went and got coffee at the Frothy Monkey (the one in West Nashville) and talked about our upcoming projects (Audiobooks for me, and music albums for him). After that we went for a day hike in park west of Brentwood, then went to an awesome new burger place on 12 South (I forget the name, but not the burger!). After that we listened to some new music in his studio, walked around some more, got supper at the Tap Room, and then painted for the rest of the evening.
The next morning we went to Frothy Monkey again (I got a vanilla latte and a Blueberry Lemon scone), and then I hit the road.
It was a chill, slow moving weekend, and it was fantastic.

Hope to do it again soon and I hope you’re finding ways to stay creative too!

“Negativity” can be good

In this day and age it’s fashionable to “cut all the negativity out of my life” and “remove myself from toxic people” etc, etc. If that’s what you’re ACTUALLY doing then that’s great,  but I’ve found that when a lot of people say this they are referring criticism of any kind, even if they could learn from it and get better at whatever they’re trying to do.
Anything short of applauding adoration is, to some people, considered “negativity” that needs to be “cut out”.
Now that’s great when it truly is catty, non-thought-out criticism designed to get a reaction out of you. This stuff really is worthless and you can’t let it keep you down.
Blow it off. Keep trucking.
However, if you get too used to dismissing anything you don’t like, then you may end up disregarding some pretty sound advice from time to time from people much wiser than you who would like to help you improve and WANT you to succeed.

Anyway, keep things positive, but don’t be afraid to listen to and learn from criticism when it inevitably comes your way!