The Growing Trend of Audiobooks

By Cammi Woodall

We have come full circle. Humankind’s rich story telling tradition started with nomads huddled around a campfire, listening to the elders spin tales and lore. We graduated to words written on animal skins, papyrus, clay tablets, paper, and even a digital screen. Now, with the popularity of audiobooks, the spoken story is once again skyrocketing in popularity. With sales in 2017 reaching multi-billions of dollars, oral story telling has once again become the norm.

Audiobooks started out as a reading alternative for the visually impaired. In the early 1930’s, the American Foundation for the Blind and the Library of Congress joined to create vinyl records. Now the blind could enjoy works by William Shakespeare, Helen Keller, and Edgar Allen Poe, along with selections from the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. These early recordings were about fifteen minutes long per side. To help with distribution, the United States Postal Service agreed to send ‘talking books’ free of charge through the mail. This allowed people across the nation to benefit and enjoy literature with ease.

From vinyl records, the recordings graduated to cassette tapes. During the 1970s, most audiobooks were abridged books produced for the visually impaired, but companies began to see other opportunities for a wider customer range. Professional voice actors were hired and studios were opened to produce better quality recordings. By the 1980s, new technology allowed twice as much recording on a single cassette. This allowed unabridged versions of classics and best-sellers. Audiobooks became more mainstream and available through such places as Time-Life or the Book-of-the-Month club. Soon CDs became the standard as technology marched forward.

In 1997, Audible.com (pre-Amazon) introduced the ‘Audible Player’, a mass-market digital media player dedicated solely for audiobooks. Retailing for $200, the device held two hours of audio. Up to this time, people were limited by the physicality of cassettes and CDs. You had to go to a library or bookstore to get one, or wait for one to come through the mail. Digital downloads meant you could get a book anywhere and anytime you could get online.

Then Amazon came along and bought Audible. The two companies combined to become the biggest seller of audible downloads. On the chase behind them is Apple iTunes, Google Play, and Japanese-based Rakuten. Healthy competition benefits the readers – I mean, listeners – of audiobooks. More titles are released each year, with publishers pouring over backlogs or asking authors for original works.

So who listens to audiobooks, and where do they listen to them? Simply put, everybody listens everywhere. Approximately 54% of listeners are 18 to 44 years of age. They read or listen to 15 books per year on average, with the most popular categories being suspense/thriller, romance, and science fiction. At home and in the car are the most common places to listen, usually on a Smartphone.

Audiobooks have achieved sales increases in the double digits for the last six years. With advances in technology, these numbers are expected to keep growing over the next few years. So what does this mean for an author? New avenues for your stories. Today’s technology means we no longer have to rely upon traditional brick-and-mortar publishing houses.

Those nomads around the campfire would be overwhelmed by the technology we have to access information and entertainment. I think they would be glad however, that we have returned to the voice, to a tale enriched by the human emotions and nuances that bring a story to life.

 

Prompt – She jumped as she heard the crashing sound behind her. Pulling out her earbuds, she spun around.

What Genre Is This Book, Anyway?

By Nike N. Chillemi

Blood Speaks, Cover

All you have to do is look at the cover and it’s plain to see that BLOOD SPEAKS is a Christmas mystery. The title screams mystery novel and there’s a Christmas wreath on a Christmas red cover. Well, that still begs the question, is it a Christmas novel or a mystery novel?

This conundrum has been cleared up somewhat by calling these types of novels Mixed-Genre, or Cross-Genre, or Blended-Genre. 

The old adage was that genre fiction had to fit neatly into an easily recognizable single category: romance, mystery, historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc. Today, the lines are fading and elements of one genre are blending into one another.

In the past brick-and-mortar world, staying within a specific genre was necessary because the bookstore needed to know on what shelf to place the novel. And shelves were labeled by genre. Pretty much, they still are. However, today a novel can be listed in one blog’s mystery favorites and another’s paranormal favs. books-2596809_1280

So, what genre is BLOOD SPEAKS? First of all, it’s Christian fiction. It took the first two novels in the series for Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels to become comfortable in her relationship with the Lord. Now that she is, BLOOD SPEAKS opens with Ronnie and her BFFs on a bridal shopping trip to that one special bridal shop in the snow-covered Maryland mountains. Ronnie and Taylor County, Texas sheriff’s deputy, Lt. Dawson Hughes, have a wedding date set.

Then, that begs the question with all this bridal shopping going on, is this a mystery or a romantic suspense? Ronnie is a private detective and Dawson is a sworn detective. So, is this a detective novel? I tend to think of the series as three detective stories, but that’s a mystery sub-genre. I also think the series has a strong love story element. Not only are Ronnie and Dawson falling in love, but Ronnie’s best friend and Christian mentor, Bertha, has fallen in love with a Gabby Hayes look-alike. Bertha is the sweetest fifty-plus, plus-size Christian lady. Many fans of the series instantly fall in love with her.

Then again, since this novel is set in a quaint holiday decorated village in December, is it a Christmas story? Well, the answer is BLOOD SPEAKS falls squarely into the mystery category. The story is driven by the need the heroine and hero have to find the killer. It also fits neatly into the detective story sub-genre and it has strong romance elements. Then it veers outside of the box with a strong secondary character who is a lovely plus-size widow who falls into her own fifty-plus love story. And, yes, it is also a Christmas mystery.

I guess we have to say BLOOD SPEAKS is mixed, crossed, and blended.

Click to Tweet:  Today, the lines are fading and elements of one genre are blending into one another. #Mystery #amreading #Mixed-Genre 

Writing prompt:  This time there would be no witnesses.


Moi 2017 Ponte Vedre LibraryNike N. Chillemi writes contemporary detective and/or suspense novels with a touch of wry humor, and there’s often a national security twist to them. She likes her bad guys really bad, her good guys smarter and better, and a touch of the comedic. Her newest endeavor is COURTING DANGER.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and its Chair, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series (out of print), set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. The first novel in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series HARMRUL INTENT won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense category. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network.

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Genre Month: Horror, Part One

By Cammi Woodall

Ho, ho, horror! Not your typical December greeting, is it? My topic for today is horror literature. The first part of this article focuses on classical horror, up to the 20th century.

We are all scared of something. Maybe your fear is something concrete – spiders, clowns, darkness, thunder, taxes. Maybe you are scared of intangibles – loneliness, death, imprisonment, hatred, racism.  A typical definition of horror is ‘a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay.’ Horror writers attempt to make some sort of sense of the senseless, bring order to the chaos, and scare the daylights out of you!

Horror in literature actually dates back to ancient Sumer with tales of a supernatural being called Emikku who could inhabit dead bodies. Its roots began in early Church essays describing how to combat witchcraft and devil worship. Works such as Dante’s The Divine Comedy took these essays and put the Church’s warnings into a fictional account of the atrocities of Hell and Purgatory.

William Shakespeare might be an odd choice for an article on the horror genre, but the Bard’s work has several overtones of horror – the Weird Sisters of Macbeth, the Ghost of Hamlet’s father running around plotting and encouraging revenge, Hamlet’s slow descent into madness.  Alas, think of poor Yorick! Hamlet stands in a cemetery speaking to the skull of his dead companion while he contemplates the finality of death. It doesn’t get much creepier than that! His macabre elements still inspire authors today.

The first true horror book is often credited to Horace Wadpole.  His Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, was published in 1765 and contained the elements that would become standard for Gothic novels to come. A creepy mansion, underground passages, maidens in distress, ghosts, and mistaken identity depicted a supernatural fantasy at a time when most authors strove for realism. Critics considered the story in poor taste, but the public loved it.

The early 1800’s saw the rise of horror’s most well-known author, Edgar Allen Poe.  Poe’s use of short, staccato sentences and use of first-person view throughout his work heightened the tension, drawing the reader in to the terror happening on the page. Stories and poems such as The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cask of Amontillado, Annabel Lee, and The Tell-Tale Heart still enthrall readers today. Who can ever forget the epic poem The Raven, never flitting, still sitting, and the ever lost Lenore?

The 19th century saw a turn away from Gothic elements to what is considered modern horror. Tales such as Jane C. Loudon’s The Mummy, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man relied less upon creepy atmosphere and drew inspiration from science and alchemy. Many of the novels during this time went on to become iconic classics immortalized in film, stage, and television.

No article on classical horror would be complete with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Both are available as public domain books, so no true sales figures exist, but together they are considered the highest selling horror novels of all time.

Frankenstein is considered by many to be the first modern horror novel, as well as the first science fiction novel. During a bout of bad weather and boredom, Shelley’s companion Percy Bysshe Shelley a contest for best ghost story. Mary was fascinated with galvanism, a scientific fad at the time of using electrical currents on animals and convicted criminals to stimulate muscle contractions. Study of her journals also reveal that she constantly thought of a baby she’d lost a few years earlier. Her emotional state helped her craft a true tale of horror, with both Dr. Frankenstein and his creation.

Bram Stoker spent seven years writing his masterpiece, Dracula. Many believe he based his story on Vlad the Impaler, and that is was the first vampire story. Actually, Transylvania and its famous nocturnal inhabitants had been popular in literature for many years. Stoker just took these basic elements and crafted a true tale of horror and suspense. His influence lives on today, with popular vampire stories like Joe Hill’s Nosferatu, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and Stephanie Myers Twilight series.

Horror even spilled over into tales for children. The stories written by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen have been sanitized for today’s market, but children gathered around their mother’s knee or tucked into their cozy beds in the early 1830’s were familiar with very different versions of these beloved tales. The Little Mermaid suffered excruciating pain with each step, her feet bleeding, till she flung herself into the sea after her prince married another woman. The Evil Stepsisters cut off pieces of their feet to make the glass slipper fit, only to have their eyes pecked out by birds at Cinderella’s wedding. The Wicked Queen is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and dance till she dies at Snow White’s wedding.

Click to tweet: Horror writers attempt to make some sort of sense of the senseless, bring order to the chaos, and scare the daylights out of you! Find out more about the genre known as “horror.” #horror #amreading

Not exactly the Disney versions, are they? Where are the grouchy lobsters or birds who help clean house? These stories often served as cautionary tales for children, much like modern day warnings of the Boogey Man.

The next part of my article tomorrow will focus on the 20th century. Stay tuned!

Writing Prompt – It was a dark and stormy night.

Genre Month: True Southern Fiction

By Jennifer Hallmark

The woods are full of regional writers, and it is the great horror of every serious Southern writer that he will become one of them.” Flannery O’Connor

The Deep South: South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and of course, Alabama. That’s the definition I found online. Some added in Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, and Florida—but everyone knows Florida isn’t too Southern since its population is from everywhere.

Why is this information important on a genre-based post? Look at Flannery O’Connor’s quote again. Anyone can write a book and throw some Southern lingo and sweet tea into it and call the work Southern fiction. To me, fiction of that sort is more of what O’Connor calls a regional book.

True Southern fiction has to be lived. One must mingle with the people of the Deep South, taste black-eyed peas, embrace the aroma of jambalaya, the texture of freshly picked cotton, the humidity, the Bible belt, and the redneck. Southern fiction is about family, not just one generation but how our ancestors shape each and every character.

You must be able to write in such a way where it’s not like reading about a foreign country, for those who’ve never set a foot below Kentucky. It must have its own flavor but be relatable. One must be able to feel the emotions and live the story as if it could happen to them. Readers need to feel the sweat, swat the mosquitos, and relish the fried okra right along with the characters.


Only then do you have a story that is immersed in the culture. That’s the kind of Southern fiction I read.

 

New to Southern fiction? Classic writers include:

And some of my favorites are authors I call friends:

Check out any and all of these to put an overall face and voice to the South. And don’t miss my debut Southern fiction release, Jessie’s Hope, releasing on June 15, 2019, published by Firefly Southern Fiction.

Click to Tweet:  Southern fiction is about family, not just one generation but how our ancestors shape each and every character. #South #amreading

Writing prompt: Dixie grabbed a red solo cup and filled it with sweet tea. She made her way through the church fellowship hall toward…

Genre Month at Inspired Prompt

An Overview of Genre

By Jennifer Hallmark

We’ve all heard the term and struggled to pronounce it. I personally try to say the word “genre” with a French accent but my natural Southern one makes it come out all wrong. 🙂

So what exactly is a genre? Vocabulary.com says “A literary genre is a style of writing.” Your favorite literary genre might be science fiction or romance, for example.

The word genre means “artistic category or style,”…When you use the term literary genre, you make it clear that you’re talking about books and writing. Bookstores sometimes use literary genres as a way to separate books into different sections, like “classics” or “mysteries.” The word genre is French, and it means “kind, sort, or style.”

And then there are sub-genres which are simply subcategories within a particular genre. The academic mystery is a “sub-genre” of the mystery novel.

Here’s a partial list of genres in literature.

  • Action/Adventure
  • Chick Lit
  • Classic
  • Comic/Graphic Novel
  • Contemporary
  • Crime/Detective
  • Dystopian/Utopian
  • Fable
  • Fairy tale
  • Fanfiction
  • Fantasy
  • Fiction narrative
  • Folklore
  • Historical fiction
  • Horror
  • Humor
  • Magical Realism
  • Mystery/Cozy Mystery
  • Non-fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Southern
  • Steampunk
  • Suspense/Thriller
  • Tragedy
  • Western
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Young Adult/New Adult

    Fairy Tale Re-Tellings

I try to read a variety of different genres because I believe it will make me a more well-rounded writer.  Some of my favorites are women’s fiction (especially stories based in the South), mysteries, and fantasy. I just finished a Southern fiction book collection that I loved called A Southern Season-Stories From a Front Porch Swing.

I’ve also read a Steampunk book by Edie Melson called Maiden of Iron: A Steampunk Fable. Steampunk is a genre (or perhaps sub-genre) of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

For a combination of Classics and Mystery, the latest series of books I’m reading are by Georgette Heyer.  She also writes Regency romances, a sub-genre of romance novels set between 1811-1820 with their own plot and stylistic conventions.

So you can see there are many genres and sub-genres. And I’ve not included a mishmash of genres, where a writers mixes two or more genres. The problem with mishmash is when it comes to finding your market. Let’s say you mix historic romance with science fiction. You’ll need to find a reader who likes both and that could prove difficult.

We at Inspired Prompt want to hear from you. What’s your favorite genre? sub-genre? List it in the comments below and tell us about one of your favorite books within that category.

Click to tweet: What is genre? sub-genre? Mishmash? Find out at the Inspired Prompt blog. #genre #amreading

Writing Prompt: Lillian ran down the street and pushed past the crowd into the library. Her favorite author had a new novel out and she had to have it. It was a…