Author: E.A. Sandrose
Narrator: Ulka S. Mohanty
Length: 13 hours 44 minutes
Series: The Gempendium, Book 1
Publisher: E.A. Sandrose
Released: Mar. 5, 2020
Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult
On the planet Precios, gemstones can cure everything from heartache to heartburn, unless you’re one of the children doomed to Devil’s Crown to mine them. All Yrund wants is to get back to her beloved home in the Sky Country, but escaping the powerful Mining Wield will take more than just courage. Especially when Yrund accidentally steals the only living gem found in centuries.
Journey into a rich new world where wonder and peril are never far apart – a tale of poetry-loving pirates, rebel bands of herders, invisible forest creatures, and a mysterious gemstone with a mind all her own.
By turns heartwarming and harrowing, The Every Stone is about friendship, survival, and finding your power where you least expect it.
E.A. Sandrose lives in the mountains with her husband and many animals. She’s an expert at cloud watching and picking up rocks. Tools of the trade include a library card, a squat brown teapot and wooden pencils. The Every Stone is her first novel.
Actor, voice actor, dancer, choreographer and chef, Ulka S. Mohanty has voiced numerous video games and audiobooks, is the recurring voice of Dr. Kapur on NBC Universal’s Nina’s World, Echo in Crackdown 3, and the voice of multiple live shows throughout Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park. Film/TV credits include: The Moodys (FOX); Doggoned (Arshad Khan); Closure (JFA Productions); SEAM (Rajeev & Elan Dassani); Rearranged (Shawn Parikh); Cutthroat Kitchen (Food Network); and a supporting role in the upcoming sci-fi film Needle in a Timestack (John Ridley). She has choreographed multiple dance works for Disney World, including Up! A Great Bird Adventure and Rivers of Light. Latest dance/theatre credits include: House of Joy (San Diego Rep); Women Beyond Borders (Rubicon Theatre); Monkey Love (Sacred Fools Theatre); In|Expiration (Sheetal Gandhi); Indian Mythology And Me (Dancing Storytellers); Pray To Ball (Skylight Theatre); Sherlock Through the Looking-Glass (Porters of Hellsgate); The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus (Mainline Theatre); and Amazone: A Very Violent Love Story (Vangarde Productions).
How to Not Hate Your Voice (And Other Lessons Learned From Listening to My First Audiobook)
By Author E.A. Sandrose
Like many people, I tend to cringe at the sound of my own voice in a recording, so I’m always surprised when people ask if I narrated the book myself. Um, no. Obviously. Though if it was obvious, they clearly wouldn’t have asked.
The truth is that it never occurred to me not to hire a professional to narrate The Every Stone. (Interesting tangent—according to a TED talk I watched, our voice sounds deeper and more musical to us live than played back because of the acoustics inside our skull.) Being mildly tone deaf and an introvert, I recognize my limitations in the performance department. During high school I enjoyed hanging out with the artsy kids in the drama crowd, but preferred to be behind the heavy green velvet curtain, helping with villain mustaches and stage sets. Which turned out to be good training for world building, now that I look back.
However, when it actually came time to pick a narrator for my first-ever book, I was pretty apprehensive. How in the world to find someone who could convey all the wildly different characters—an imprisoned, thirteen-year-old herding girl, a big burly pirate, a sentient gemstone? Magically, it turns out that this is what actors do, especially the really good ones.
Enter Ulka S. Mohanty, an experienced audiobook narrator, voiceover actor and screen and stage performer. Out of over a hundred contenders, many of whom were excellent in their own right, Ulka matched all the nitpicky criteria I’d set. Non-western accent, check. Able to embody a philosophical forest monster with big feet in one scene and arguing sisters in the next, check. Farting gemstone, check. I’d found my match.
My job was to provide her the manuscript, some notes on pronunciation, a few character sketches and a glossary…then wait. There might have been some agony involved. What if I loved the auditions but was disappointed with the final performance? Worse, what if I was disappointed with the book I’d written? The what-ifs were endless.
And then the day finally came when the audiobook was done. I steeled myself for the torture of hearing my own words read back to me. All I had to do, all I really could do this late in the process, was listen for syncing errors or sound issues. The first few minutes, all I could hear was the quality of the writing—that paragraph should have been longer, that adjective was used twice… Slowly though, Ulka’s voice broke through. Not just Ulka’s narrator voice, which was so beautifully soothing, but Yrund’s voice too—angry, defiant, despairing. Then the memory of her mother’s voice—calm and chiding. Next came the villain, whose cruel deceit made my skin crawl. I put down the manuscript and my pencil, and lay down on the floor with my eyes closed, listening to Gem Beard thump Yrund on the head, growling in his Douarrian accent. At the end of the chapter, I was stunned. I wanted to hear the next one—author mistakes and all.
Remember, I know how this ends. I wrote the book.
But there are a few things the narrator can do that the author alone can’t, apart from entertaining accents and impeccable timing. First, they give us their voice, a sound that we crave, not just out of nostalgia for our sleepy parents reading to us when we were children, but as an entire species. The first written language didn’t occur until sometime around 3000BC, while the first printing press wasn’t invented until the 1400s. Generation after generation passed on their history, their knowledge and their experience through their voices. Even now, in the era of news at a glance, our brains are wired to listen, whether to a murder mystery set in a scone shop or an adventure fantasy set on a planet with life-altering gems.
The next element the narrator adds is themself. When Ulka reads the story out loud, she imbues it with her own personality and insight, her own experience and imagination. It’s like adding an extra pinch of spice to the pot. So even though I knew all these characters inside and out, I only knew them from my perspective. One of the odd things about writing is just what you include without realizing it. You also become so familiar with the overall story, you can’t really see the parts. Listening to the characters speak was a jolt, like hearing a penpal on the phone after so many years writing letters.
The last thing that struck me was how fully the narrator became one with the story. There’s no self-consciousness in Ulka’s performance, no distancing, no holding back. She’s not on her phone or thinking about her unanswered email. She is Yrund. Stuck in a dark, damp mine with her enemies, facing certain death. My fists are balled up along with hers. Ulka has brought Yrund to life. This is what it sounds like to be brave. To be afraid. To be human. To be a hero. It’s everything I want the girl inside me to hear. It’s everything I want the girls (and boys) out there to hear.
What I thought would be torture for me turned out to be a revelation. When we listen to a story out loud, it creates a sound memory separate from our own inner voices. We identify with the characters. We become them. And we carry that memory around inside us—that time we stood up for ourselves, that time we spoke our truth, that time we were tender.
I might always hire a professional to narrate my books, but the next time I have to read out loud, whether it’s to a small gathering at a bookstore or to myself as I edit, I’ll try to remember—we don’t have to love the sound of our voice to love having a voice. And our voices have power.
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