Conversation with a Voice Artist

My audiobook narrator is the guest on my latest podcast, Get the Knaak. Learn more about Cheryl May, the audiobook recording and narration process, her career and much more.

Another Step Along the Way

dark-terror-book-mock.jpgI usually try to keep this blog and my novel writing endeavors separate but there always seems to be some crossover. The book creation process has so many milestones and touch points and I never seem to grow tired of them. Maybe it’ll wear off some day, but that day is not today. My latest novel, The Dark Terror, just went out for pre-order.

Let me break it down for you, at least the way I have done it.

Step 1: Write the story. I am what is commonly referred to as a “pantser.” I fly by the seat of my pants. Meaning, I don’t plot and I don’t outline. When I started The Dark Truth in 2016, I had a character and a premise in mind. It just went from there. Not outlining or using a complicated novel writing application like Scrivener did lead to some continuity errors, however.

Step 2: Editing. Lots and lots of editing. Not so much with the story, more spelling and grammar. As much as I’d like to say I have command of the English language I do still have trouble with sentence structure, word usage/choice and of course, spelling and grammar. Writing is a discipline. If you can’t spell, if you don’t know basic grammar and if you have no concept of sentence structure, then what are you doing? Funny, I can always tell the writing sessions when I had a few too many adult beverages, that’s where all the damn typos are.

22237098_10212510335852055_114300165_nStep 3: Query. I got lucky. I got a contract offer from a publisher on my first go-round. No rejections. I just had to agree to make some revisions. They weren’t unreasonable, so I added some things and re-wrote a few others and voila. You get your release date in your contract or shortly thereafter. In my case, we were able to release the first book early. Press releases go out and, once you have a release date, e-mails to bookstores for book signings go out.

Step 4: More editing.

Step 5: Cover design. This is fun. This is when it gets real. You start to see what the finished product is going to look like.

Step 6. Pre-Sale. Several weeks before publish day, the book goes up for pre-order. That’s where we are with my third book right now. The Dark Terror is now available for pre-order. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the prep work that went into getting ready for this stage with the creation of a brand and a social media presence. Hopefully there have been a few interviews here and there, blogs, podcasts, radio and TV and other outlets. I’ve been lucky that way. More press releases and media advisories go out to promote what hopefully is now a book tour.

Step 7. Author copies arrive. I am anxiously awaiting my copies of The Dark Terror, which should arrive sometime this coming week. This is the moment I relish. When I first received the book of copies of The Dark Truth, I lost my mind. My words, printed, in a book. Sweet, sweet nectar, and I’m not talking about the Scotch I drink when the box arrives.

IMG_3227.PNGStep 8. Publish day. Wooohooo! Readers start getting copies of the book they pre-ordered. This is a day that is also celebrated with a dram of good Scotch. My publisher, Trifecta Publishing House, and I have hosted online Facebook parties to celebrate my book launches.

Step 9. Marketing. Lots and lots of marketing. Book signings, social media posts, paid social ads, more press releases and media advisories. Full court press on getting the word out. I am a regular Vistaprint customer. Nothing makes me feel more like a rock star than a book signing, I can tell you that.

How long does all of this take you might ask? Good question. It took 13 months to write The Dark Truth. I finished in February 2017. The book was released in November 2017. I think it took roughly six-seven months to write The Dark Descent and it was published in April of 2018. My deadline was New Year’s Day. The Dark Terror took nine months to write, my deadline was the end of October 2018, I beat it by three weeks, and the book is due out March 18. In just over three years, I have written and had three novels (and two audiobook versions) published. I didn’t even mention the production that went into those audiobooks.

Not too bad for a guy with a day job and a hefty commute.

Check out my official web site, www.jerryknaak.com, for more information about the books and how to get them.

Christmas Blog Re-Gifting

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I am not above re-gifting, yesiree Bob, I’ll re-gift. I don’t make a habit out of it but I have no shame in doing it. A few of my readers have enjoyed the Countdown of My 100 Favorite Horror Movies, both on Facebook and here at the The Jerry Project. After putting together my favorite Christmas songs, I crafted a list of my 10…er…11…favorite Christmas specials and counted down until Christmas.

So, without further adieu, I re-gift last year’s blogs featuring my 10…er…11…favorite Christmas specials and why (updated for this year of course). Let me know what you think.

The temperature has dropped, the halls are decked and the Christmas programming on television began a few weeks ago. I do love the trappings of the Yuletide season. From the music (which I’ve written about previously) to the decorations and gift-giving, Christmas is one of my favorite things in life.

I have such fond memories of Christmas past. I spent a good part of my early childhood poor, although my parents did a wonderful job of hiding this from me. I always had good birthdays, plentiful Thanksgivings and Easters, and best of all, wonderful Christmases. Now that I am older and understand how little we could afford, I am ashamed of myself for being the selfish snot that I was as a little boy.

Santa Claus was always so good to me. I’ll tell you more about that some other time.

One of the things I do so enjoy about this time of year is the Christmas specials and movies. Since the countdown of my 100 favorite horror movies, and my Top 15 Christmas songs were met with such glee, I thought I would count down my Top 10…er…11…favorite Christmas specials/movies.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 8.17.48 PM11. A Charlie Brown Christmas – 1965

This is usually the first Christmas special I watch each year (it was the second this year) and I’ll watch it multiple times from the DVR recording before Dec. 25. Last year, a 50th Anniversary Special accompanied the annual airing. I’m not one for the Thanksgiving or Halloween specials. The Great Pumpkin doesn’t do much for me and Peppermint Patty’s presumptuous nature and bad attitude kill the Thanksgiving show for me. However, I adore the Christmas special. From the skating scene to Linus’ monologue and Charlie Brown’s tree purchase – there is so much to like.

[Check out the IMDB entry]

I remember trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue as a kid. Snowball fights. Sliding around in the snow and on the ice. Playing with my friends in the snow. So many of the activities Charlie Brown and his friends engage in remind me of my own childhood.

The one thing that stands out to me about this show is the music. Vince Guaraldi’s score has become iconic and the songs have become Christmas classics on the radio, SiriusXM and online streaming services like Pandora.

Director Bill Melendez truly captures the spirit of Charles M. Schulz’s iconic comic strip characters in this production. It has a sweetness, innocence and charm that, for me, is the perfect way to kick off the season.

It’s not particularly well-animated and the editing is a bit uneven. But it’s sweet and not heavy-handed and I enjoy it.

 

Christmas Tunes are in the Air

261421_471407609572269_662459190_nAs much as I enjoy Halloween and horror movies, I must say, I enjoy Christmas even more. I have such fond childhood memories of this time of year. When I wrote my Thanksgiving blog last year it got me thinking and feeling about those times with my parents and of Christmas past. So I crafted this list of my favorite Christmas music, and decided to re-post it for you here.

I am a traditionalist when it comes to the holidays. Meaning that you must celebrate one before you can even think about celebrating the next. Christmas creep is one phenomenon I’d like to see go away. Stores decorated for Christmas and advertising holiday sales before Halloween is obnoxious.

So, I have a bit of a rule, a tradition if you will. I will not start listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. SiriusXM’s Holiday Traditions channel started Dec. 5, and I kicked it off on Pandora with my Johnny Mathis holiday station on the day after Thanksgiving.

I usually start with the Christmas music the Friday or Monday after Thanksgiving. So, this could go from four to five weeks depending on when Thanksgiving hits. I don’t get tired of hearing the same tunes throughout the month of December. Since some of my readers enjoy the countdown of my 100 favorite horror films each year, I thought I’d present my 15 favorite Christmas songs. As I mentioned, I am a traditionalist. I only like what I consider to be the “definitive” version. I don’t care for recent or modern remakes (with very few exceptions) and I really don’t care for attempts at new Christmas compositions, with one exception.

So, without further ado, here are my 15 Favorite Christmas songs and why.

15. Jingle Bells. There is a version out there with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. It is a rehearsal for an Armed Forces Radio broadcast and there is a very funny blooper as Crosby blows a line near the end of the song. It’s one of those rare recordings that I would’ve never heard if not for Pandora. Jingle Bells isn’t so much a Christmas song as it is a winter song. But with the use of sleigh bells, it has become associated with Christmas.

14. Baby, It’s Cold OutsideDean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell. Ah, the “roofie” Christmas song. This is one of those songs that are rare these days with two singers basically having a conversation. I am not musically inclined so I don’t know what this technique is called. There is a line in the song that suggests the lady is swigging a spiked drink as the host tries to convince her not to go out in inclement weather. I’ve always thought the host in the song engaged in innocent cajoling. Unfortunately, this song has been vilified in recent years despite new versions.

13. Rudolph the Red Nosed ReindeerGene Autry. The singing cowboy did the original and probably best version of the song, although Burl Ives gives him a run for his money in the iconic Rankin and Bass supermarionation Christmas TV special. Autry spins the tale of a misfit reindeer, who is bullied and discriminated against until he finally gets his bloody revenge. Oh wait, flashed back to Halloween for a second. Rudolph saves Christmas and goes down in…oh hell, you know the story.

12. Let it SnowMichael Bublé. There have been many versions of this song and I do like Michael Bublé’s Christmas efforts. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and countless others have recorded versions of this great tune that, like Jingle Bells, is more seasonal than holiday, but has become a Christmas standard.

11. Holly Jolly ChristmasBurl Ives. Probably my favorite song from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Ives, as Sam the talking snowman/narrator, sings this fun, festive, upbeat tune.

10. Rockin’ Around the Christmas TreeBrenda Lee. I think I danced to this song in a 4th grade production or somesuch. This is a different kind of Christmas song that incorporates the rock-a-billy style of the 1950s and the imagery of the holiday season. Her version of Jingle Bell Rock is a lot of fun too.

9. I’ll be Home for ChristmasFrank Sinatra. Bing Crosby did this originally as a bit of a tribute to the troops stationed overseas during World War II. As a former U.S. Navy sailor, I can certainly relate. I spent a few Christmases away from home. A bit melancholy, the song tells a bit of story and has a slight twist.

8. Santa BabyEartha Kitt. Only Eartha Kitt could make blatant materialism soft and sexy. The ultimate wish list, Santa gets serenaded and seduced in this wonderful Christmas favorite. Bublé tried to spin it from the male perspective and I thought it flopped. Only a girl can sing this, and Kitt’s rendition is the best ever.

7. Carol of the BellsTrans Siberian Orchestra. This is the only traditional carol I really care for, it’s haunting and rousing at the same time. It is used ad nauseum for the computerized synchronized home light show and for good reason.

6. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the YearAndy Williams. The king of Christmas in Branson, Missouri, Andy Williams delivered the best rendition of this oft-covered classic. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

5. MistletoeColbie Caillat. As I mentioned, I don’t like new Christmas compositions but I make an exception for this one. Caillat really tugs at the heart strings with this beautiful song.

4. The Christmas SongNat King Cole. Mel Torme, the “Velvet Fog,” co-wrote this wonderful ode to all things Christmas, but Nat King Cole’s version is so silky smooth and just oozes Yuletide. What I want to know though is what the hell Chet did to deserve having his nuts roasted every December?

3. Winter WonderlandJohnny Mathis. If Bing Crosby is the father of Christmas music, Johnny Mathis is its uncle. Winter Wonderland may be a seasonal tune, but is has become a Christmas classic recorded by many. But Mathis’ version resonates.

2. White ChristmasBing Crosby. The best selling single of all-time speaks to me because I grew up in Western New York and know first hand what a White Christmas is. I was stationed in Iceland for three years and really got to know it. I miss it living in California. My job doesn’t allow me to get away during the holiday season so I have to do what Bing says, dream of white Christmases like I used to know.

1. Sleigh RideJohnny Mathis. I officially begin my Christmas music listening with Johnny Mathis’ rendition of Sleigh Ride. Recorded by many over the years, there are some excellent versions, but Mathis’ is the best and my favorite Christmas song of all, even though it is more of a seasonal tune.

The Post Election Podcast You Didn’t Know You Needed or Wanted

So much has been said and written about the 2016 General Election, why not throw a little more fuel on the fire? My good friend and Navy buddy Chris Ingalls and I dissect the election and all of the ramifications in this Veterans Day weekend edition of the Get the Knaak podcast. Follow us on Twitter: @GetTheKnaak | @Ingalls1969